In Good Times and Bad

Our country is experiencing a crisis most of us never thought possible.  The panic that has caused stores to run out of toilet paper, hand sanitizers and eggs seems a little crazy.  Yet the fear that we will not have enough – that we will get sick – and how will we pay the bills if we can’t work – that is real.

As a retired woman I do not face the difficulties many do.  I do not have to go to work, I do not have to worry about not getting a pay check, I have no worries about child care for my children.  Since it is just my husband and I our food supply should last a long time.

Still – a post I saw on FB this morning did make me laugh – but also make me realize I do need to take precautions.

That moment when you are worried about the elderly….then you realize you are the elderly.

Looking back at our country’s history we can see we have had tough times before.  To name just a few:

  • World I and the Spanish flu
  • World II
  • the depression
  • Polio scare
  • 9/11

We have always pulled together as a nation.  Although we do see some craziness as a few people have been fighting over supplies at Costco and other stores, I have seen so many reaching out to support others.

My own church is putting together food items to pass out this week for those who might need them.  Teachers are working on line setting up places for children at home to continue with their studies.  Medical professionals are putting their own lives at risk to take care of the sick.  Truck drivers and workers stocking grocery store shelves are working hard to keep up with the demand.

Again a post on FB says it all:

And all of a sudden, farmers, truck drivers and those who wear jeans to work are the most important people in the world.

At Wal-Mart yesterday I saw a woman struggling to count out her money to pay for her groceries.  It was clear she did not have enough to pay for it all.  Before anyone could say anything, the woman in front of me asked the cashier how much the customer lacked.  Told she was short $25, she pulled out her credit card and said “I’ll take care of it.”

So – hopefully this crisis will continue to bring out the best in us all.

Because I have hope in the goodness of the average American, I do not despair.  But even more my hope rests in the Lord.  At 72, I have had my share of problems but this song states exactly how I face this new difficulty in our land.

I pray you have also found it to be true and that your hope will rest ultimately not in our government but in our Lord.

 

Were You There?

I have been posting each Friday on one of the old hymns/gospel songs of the church.  The hymn selected this week is very appropriate as we are in the Lent season looking forward to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.

Almost every hymnal published in the last 50 years or so has this song in its collection.  No one knows exactly who should get credit for the song but it is believed to be rooted in the African-American spirituals.

Each stanza asks a question:

  • Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
  • Were you there when they nailed him to the cross?
  • Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
  • Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
  • Were you there when the stone was rolled away?

These questions are, of course, rhetorical questions.  Obviously none of us were there when Jesus was crucified or rose from the grave.

These questions are meant to help us recall those events that the disciples wrote about.  At this time of year, these questions are good for us to ponder as we remember what this season is all about.

For slaves in America, this song carried even more meaning.  It comforted them to remember that Jesus Christ knew their suffering and just as God was with Jesus on the cross, He was with them in the midst of their great suffering.  They could truly relate to the pain and sorrow the first verses of this song portray.  The hope that Jesus rose again no doubt gave them hope that some day the chains of slavery would be lifted and they would know true freedom.

Many music stars have recorded this song including Johnny Cash, Phil Keaggy, Marion Williams, Harry Belafonte, and Neil Tennant.

As you listen to this song, I hope you will take a few minutes to reflect on the questions asked and remember the great price Jesus paid for our spiritual freedom.

“Salvation is free, but it came at a great cost.”

If you have missed them, check out my other posts on the old gospel songs/hymns.

My Mother Sang Southern Gospel!

5,000 Songs – Or More!

Even a Sparrow Matters

“My” Hymn – Great is Thy Faithfulness

From “You Are My Sunshine” to “Dawning of the Age of Aquarius”

Recognize This Beloved Song – “Faith’s Review and Expectations”

Is It Faith in God – or Faith in Faith?

There seem to be so many articles out there on the web and in sermons today on the importance of believing in God when we pray….the importance of our words.

The Bible is clear that we need to believe in God when we express our petitions to Him.  Even science tells us that what we think – what we speak does affect us.  It is true that constant negativity will lead to depression and discouragement.

Having said that, I think we can take this “faith” issue to an extreme.  A friend once told me to never say I was sick or depressed or worried.  To her that displayed a lack of faith in God.

To me that is just a mind game.

I’m sick, I’m depressed, I’m worried, but if I don’t say it, if I don’t acknowledge I have some doubt, God will never know.  He will answer my prayer because He will think what great faith I have.  NOT!

If God is our Father, then isn’t it better to have a honest, open relationship with Him?  A loving father would be one to whom we could express our deepest feelings and one who would love us and do what He could to help us with those feelings that are not good for us.

I’m so thankful that I believe God loves me not because I am such a great woman of faith, but because I am his daughter.

In the Bible a father brought his child to Jesus to be healed.  When Jesus responded that all things were possible to one who believed, the man’s answer is one I have often prayed.  “Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief.”

I think of the early church that was gathered in prayer when Peter was put in prison.  In answer to their prayers, an angel came and rescued Peter.  Hurrying to the place where the church was meeting, when Peter knocked at the door and a servant girl told those praying that Peter was at the door, they did not believe her.

Obviously they were praying with a lot of doubt.  One could not really blame them.  Just a few days earlier the disciple James had been put in prison and then beheaded.  They had to be in fear that Peter also would suffer the same fate.  In spite of doubts, they prayed and God answered.

Sometimes I pray with great faith fully expecting God to grant my request.  Sometimes I pray with great doubt, afraid.  But in both circumstances I pray.

I think perhaps that is the greatest faith.  To pray to God and to trust that He in His wisdom will do what is best.  To realize I don’t always have the answers and my ways may not be what is best.

Years ago when I met my oncologist for the first time and he told me the odds were not in my favor, the words from Psalm 23 went through my mind.  “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

When God brought that verse to my memory at that moment I wondered:

  • Was He saying I was going to beat this disease, going to walk through the valley to more years of a cancer-free life?
  • Was He saying I was going to walk through this valley by dying and receiving that hope of eternal life?

I did not know which alternative He had for me, but what I did know was the verse told me I did not need to fear for He would be with me.

So – when I pray, I pray with trust that He is in control and that He will do what is best for me – and that I may not always know what is best.  So – I pray and leave the results to Him.

My confidence, my faith is in who He is – not in how strong a believer I am.

 

 

 

My “Rights” as an American vs. My Call to be A Follower of Christ

The last few weeks I have missed a lot of Sunday morning services at my church due to some health issues.  Since I hate to have a Sunday without hearing a good sermon I have watched quite a lot of ministers on TV.

Let me start by saying this post is not meant to be a bashing of TV ministers.  I have heard several excellent sermons based on the Bible that were challenging and encouraging.

However, there did seem to be a theme running through many of the ministries on the TV which I found not biblical and disturbing.

One recurrent theme seems to be that becoming a Christian means a life of material blessings and nothing but victories in every area of your life.

One service I watched on video had a pastor praying over the offering.  I could not believe his words.

Basically he told God because the congregation were tithe payers, they were claiming:

promotions at work, increased interest on savings, great real estate deals, new sources of income.

I could not help but think:  really, this is why Jesus died on the cross?

Granted, I believe Jesus has promised to bless those who follow Him and give to others.  In my own life I have seen God provide for me and my family many times when we were in real need.

But I think Christians in America have come to think of material blessings as the main part of the gospel.  Our country has been blessed with many freedoms and for many years Christian believers have been in the majority.  We have experienced little persecution.  On the contrary, until recently, our laws protected and even encouraged the Christian faith.  Instead of recognizing how blessed we have been to be born in this country I am afraid we have come to think material blessings, freedom to worship as we please and laws that protect our way of life are all the “rights” of being a Christian.

Sadly, that is not what Christians in other countries have found to be true.  And that is not what I believe the Bible teaches.

Do not misunderstand me.  I am so grateful for being an American.  My husband, our youngest daughter and I all spend time in another country teaching in a Bible college.  As our plane touched down in Hawaii, I wanted to kiss the ground and thank God for being an American.

But these blessings of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness with all that entails is not what Jesus died for.

Jesus came to set up a kingdom but He made it clear it would not be a worldly kingdom with our own leaders.  Rather He would be the one in charge.  In His kingdom things would be much different than what we experience here in the USA.

His gave us an idea of what His kingdom would look like in His discourse we call “The Sermon on the Mount.”  The things He said would make us “blessed” or “happy” were opposite of what we as Americans have come to think are our “rights.”  

As we find our nation becoming more and more post-Christian – even anti-Christian – we are beginning to experience what the first Christians knew, what a large majority of Christians around the world know.

Jesus did not promise us “rights.”  Rather, he called us to a high standard of love and commitment.

“If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.”

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? …

“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you.”

The early Christians did not demand their “rights.”  They were focused on sharing the good news with all who would listen and willing to give up any right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I am not suggesting that we should not work to keep our government committed to the freedoms our fathers died for.  My own father won in the Pacific in World War II and my first husband (now deceased) was a Purple Heart recipient from the conflict in Vietnam.  I honor and respect them and others who have given so much for our freedom.

But I am suggesting that we keep our eyes on God and not forget that nations rise and fall, politicians come and go, but God remains forever and His kingdom calls for us to be Christians first, Americans second.

Let us not confuse “success” as the measure of what is right.

“In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things the figure of Him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger and is at best the object of pity. . . . The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought that takes success for its standard.”….Dietrich Bonhoeffer

No offense meant – but as a Christian I cannot proclaim “America first.”

I’m a follower of Christ first, then an American.

 

The Battle is Not Mine!

Life is good for me.  Retired with time to do what I want to do.  Good husband who is my best friend.  Children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren to love.

Still, like all of us, difficult times do come.

Right now I am facing health issues.  I see the doctor tomorrow to review MRI results and I do not know for sure but it appears surgery may be in my future.

The first thing that often happens when faced with difficult circumstances is to start worrying.  Stressing out – trying to figure what is the best thing to do.

Thankfully, God’s Word has always been a source of strength to me and today is no different.

Reading in 2 Chronicles 20 I was reminded of the story of King Jehoshaphat.

Messengers came to him with the news that a vast army of multiple nations was marching against Jerusalem, the capital city.  The scripture says that Jehoshaphat was “terrified” by the news.

But I love what he did.

First, he turned to God and asked for guidance.

Second, he called for the people to begin fasting and seeking God.

Last, he led the people assembled at the Temple in Jerusalem in this amazing prayer of faith.

“O LORD God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven….You are powerful and mighty….We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us.  We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.”

He then turned to the people and gave them this message.

“Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

What is really mind-blowing is his next action.

He appointed singers to march before the army that went out to battle.  They were to sing praises to God as they led the soldiers.

Can you imagine anything so silly?  Can you imagine our president appointing a choir to march into battle before our airplanes, drones and soldiers?

Yet as I have often discovered in my own life, praising God in the middle of problems has often given me victory over my fear, over my despair.

I share that story in this post:  The Day I Let My Pain Go!

So as I head into tomorrow and my doctor’s appointment I go realizing I do not know what to do.  All I have to do is look back at my battle with cancer and remember that God is with me no matter what.  Ultimately, the battle is His.  As He was with me then, He is with me now.

My story of His presence in the middle of radiation is shared here:  Coincidence or An Act of God?

My prayer today is:

God, I don’t know if this only means physical therapy or if I am facing surgery with weeks/months of recovery.  I don’t know if the pain will soon be gone, get better, get worse or last for weeks/months.  But this I do know, as You have always been with me, You are with me in this.  The battle is yours.  I give it to You.  All I ask is that You help me to keep my eyes on You.

 

 

 

 

 

For All the Beauty All Around Me

Today is the third week I have not been able to make it to church.  Two weeks ago I was in too much pain to go.  Last week we were all snowed in and church was cancelled. Today I am suffering again from pain.

Feeling a little down – I miss my church family, I miss the corporate worship and most of all I miss hearing the sermons my pastor shares.  Although I am sure I am a little prejudiced because my pastor is my daughter, she is one of the best speakers I have ever heard and I always seem to find something to encourage me or challenge me when she speaks.

My husband and I did our own devotions.  As I thumbed through my Bible afterwards I came across this beautiful old song.  It reminded me that whether I am in church or at home,  whether I am in pain or not, whether my spirit soars or descends – there is so much beauty around me.

So I choose to remember all the goodness of the Lord and reflect on these words:

For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies.  For the love which from our birth over and around us lies. 

Lord of all to thee we raise, this our joyful hymn of praise.

For the beauty of the hour, of the day and of the night.  Hill and vale and tree and flower, sun and moon and stars of light.

Lord to thee we raise this our joyful hymn of praise.

For the joy of human love, brother, sister, parent, child.  Friends on earth and friends above.

Lord to thee we raise this our joyful hymn of praise.

For each perfect gift of thine to our race so freely given.  Graces human and divine, flowers of earth and buds of heaven.
Lord to thee we raise this our joyful hymn of praise.
Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: JOHN RUTTER
For the Beauty of the Earth lyrics © WORD MUSIC, INC., HINSHAW MUSIC, INC., HINSHAW MUSIC INC (CHRISMON MUSIC DIVISION), OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS UK

Why Do I Pray?

Growing up in a Christian home, I learned to pray at a very young age.  Prayer was an important part of my family’s life.  Every meal we took turns thanking God for our food.  As the “baby” in the family my first prayers over meal time were memorized prayers like

God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food.

But as I started school it was expected that my prayer would become a “real” one prayed from my heart and not my head.

Before we went to bed at night we would all gather in the living room and pray together as a family.

So prayer to me is just a natural part of my life.

Lately, however, I have asked myself “why do I pray?”  Is there “magic” in prayer?  Does my prayer change God’s mind?  If I did not pray for someone, would their need still be met?  If someone’s request is answered, is it because I prayed?

Prayer is a mystery.  There have been times I believe I prayed and saw immediately a direct answer to that prayer.  There have been times I prayed and wondered if God even heard me.

So, since I have no real answers to these questions about prayer, what do I pray?  Why do I believe in prayer?

First I pray because of the example Jesus gave us.

  • And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
  • In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.

Even in his greatest moment of anguish He prayed.

  • My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as You, not I, would have it.

Second, I pray before Jesus told us to.

He gave parables about the importance of continuing to ask and not give up.  He also gave us specific things to pray about.

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

This is one prayer I think the church may have forgotten as we hear such hateful language now directed toward those who disagree with us.

Several times in his teachings he used the phrase When you pray.”

Not “if” but “when.”

He told us to pray for laborers to share the gospel.  He told to pray that we would not yield to temptation.  In the Lord’s Prayer He made it clear that praying with unforgiveness toward someone else in our hearts will be a barrier to our prayers being answered.

But perhaps the main reason I pray is that it strengthens my relationship with God.  As I pray to God, I am again reminded of my need for Him.  I am encouraged to know I can talk to the Almighty and that He cares for me and my needs.

I think of my relationship with my husband.  Our closeness would not last long if we never communicated with one another.  A good marriage requires good communication.

As I pray I maintain that relationship with God.  Recognizing that prayer is for me one of the ways to keep my relationship with God thriving, I know my prayers must be more than just a grocery list of “God, do this and God, do that.”

Again, in my communication with my husband if I only spoke to him when I had a list of chores I wanted him to do, our relationship would not be warming and loving.

My praying to God helps me remember all the blessings I have received and to maintain a grateful heart and attitude.

Finally as I pray for others my heart is opened to their needs and I find myself not just praying for God to help them, but I often find ways that God can use me to be that help to them.  It opens my heart to others.

So I pray.  I pray with expectancy that I speak to one who is loving and powerful and that although I do not understand it all, prayer matters.