Count it All Joy? You Have to Be Kidding me!!

What a year 2020 was! Coronavirus – and all the uncertainty and problems that has created. Loss of jobs/income, loss of ability to travel freely to name just a few. Division over wearing a mask or not wearing one.

The election also brought such division and unrest.

The arguments over BLM.

We were looking forward to 2021 – but now that it is here – I am not sure this year is shaping up to be much different than 2020.

So as Christians, how are we supposed to respond?

I turn to the writer of James and see that he started off his letter with the words “Greetings.” The word James used is “chariein” and it means basically “to rejoice exceedingly” or “to be well.”  Used as a greeting James was essentially saying “joy to you.”  “Joy to you” seems a great way to start a letter to friends.  Hey, I’m wishing you joy, happiness, that you do well.  We do this for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas. 

However just after he says “joy to you” he begins speaking of anything but joyful times or situations. On continuing to read this letter it is clear that James is not just being friendly in wishing his readers joy.  After saying “joy to you” he immediately speaks of times of difficulty, trials, tests.

Difficulties. Tough times. Kind of like we have been experiencing. Situations that do not naturally led to joy.

The word he uses for testings is not referring to something like our tests in schools that are designed to reveal what the student knows. Rather, James is referring to something that reveals the genuiness of one’s faith, but he also implies this test is designed to develop something that is not yet fully developed in a person.

He says:

trials/testings = perservance/endurance = mature character             

James was writing to fellow Jews who were facing difficult times.  He is encouraging them to let these times help them grow in the Lord and not be an interruption in their relationship as a servant to the Lord.

Questions he raises and which I submit to you:

  1. Is any trial a reason not to rely on God and allow His joy to fill your heart?
  2. Even in trials, is there ever a reason a Christian should curse another or call them names?
  3. Even in difficult times, is there ever a reason a Christian should engage in grumbling about others?

James says “Don’t let difficult times stop you from obeying and following the Lord.  In the middle of trials, that is the time to put into practice what you say you believe.”

In my words I would say “put your money where your mouth is.” Growing up in church we heard all about the Sermon on the Mount and all Jesus said about turning the other cheek, loving your enemies and praying for them, being peacemakers. Sadly it seems many have either forgotten those words – or have tried to make them mean something else.

I ask you: Did Jesus “really” mean it when He said:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Can We Give Thanks in 2020?

I don’t know where I got this story – so I can’t give proper credit to the writer but it really makes me think as we approach another Thanksgiving season – one that is full of chaos and difficult decisions. Do we keep our gatherings small? Do we ignore warnings and enjoy our family and friends?

“One afternoon a shopper at the local mall felt the need for a coffee break.  She bought herself a little bag of cookies and put them in her shopping bag.  She then got in line for coffee, found a place to sit at one of the crowded tables, and then taking the lid off her coffee and taking out a magazine she began to sip her coffee and read.  Across the table from her a man sat reading a newspaper.   After a minute or two she reached out and took a cookie.   As she did, the man seated across the table reached out and took one too.  This put her off, but she did not say anything.

A few moments later she took another cookie.  Once again the man did so too.  Now she was getting a bit upset, but still she did not say anything.  After having a couple of sips of coffee she once again took another cookie.  So did the man.  She was really upset by this – especially since now only one cookie was left.  Apparently the man also realized that only one cookie was left.  Before she could say anything he took it, broke it in half, offered half to her, and proceeded to eat the other half himself.  Then he smiled at her and, putting the paper under his arm, rose and walked off.

Was she steamed!  Her coffee break ruined, already thinking ahead of how she would tell this offense to her family, she folded her magazine, opened her shopping bag, and there discovered her own unopened bag of cookies.”

I like that story – it makes me think about how well God treats me even when I am not thinking all that kindly about him. It also makes me think about how, sometimes, I do not really appreciate what I have or act like I know where it has come from.

Our country has been so blessed – but I think we have forgotten to be thankful and to remember the God who has blessed us so.

It reminds me of the story of the Israelites as they came to the land promised to their ancestor, Abraham, years ago. Moses warned them that after they had prospered in the land they were about to enter, had eaten their fill and had fine houses and large herds with silver and gold, that:

Do not say to yourself, “my power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.”  But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, and as he swearing to you today.”

Not so long ago famous people all over the world were polled by a magazine which asked them the question – “if you could be granted one wish that will come true right now – what would that be?” There were some very interesting responses – but one response impressed the magazine’s editors so much that they commented on.   That response was this – “I wish that I could be given an even greater ability to appreciate all that I already have.” 

It is an interesting answer and an interesting thing to wish for.  What do you think would happen if each one of us suddenly became a more thankful person?  If all of us suddenly became a more appreciative people?

This year as we gather for the holiday, many of us will not enjoy the large family gatherings of the past. Some may have lost loved ones to the virus – or their income. For them, it may be hard to be thankful. Most of us are so tired of the restrictions and the arguments that have even split families as we argue about whether or not to wear a mask, follow the restrictions.

It would be so easy to focus on what is wrong while we overview much that is good.

For me, while I hate being limited to where I can go – I am thankful that I have a beautiful, comfortable home to be stuck in.

While I hate that I can’t be with more of my family – I am thankful for the small gathering I will have.

While I hate that my church has gone back to on-line services for the next three weeks – I am thankful that I have the internet and can still hear my pastor share the Word.

While I grieve over friends that have died from the virus – I am thankful that we have a hope of being reunited some day.

While I grieve over friends who have lost jobs – I am thankful for the community that has reached out with food banks and gift cards and other ways to help.

The Early Church suffered affiction and persecution beyond anything we know here in America. Yet the norm and the standard of the early church of the disciples and the apostles was really incredible and it had incredible results in the lives of those disciples and apostles, and in the lives of all those around them.  They rejoiced even when they were being afflicted and persecuted, and their fellowship continually grew until it reached the ends of the earth.

Give thanks in all circumstances.   Give thanks for everything.  Give thanks at all times.  This is a step beyond remembering God and thanking God for all the wealth that we enjoy in this our promised land.  This is a step beyond remembering God and obeying his commands because he has given us fine houses and filled our bellies. 

This is “thanks living” – and it is demanding – and it is rewarding.  I say it is demanding – because quite frankly when I am feeling pressed to the wall I find it difficult to fulfil the word that says:   “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

When I am feeling struck down by some affliction or angry at someone for doing something that seems to me to be thoughtless, I have difficulty feeling grateful to God.

Instead of wanting to praise God – or to pray to him about the situation with thanksgiving, I want to feel sorry for myself and the trouble I am in. Giving thanks blesses the person who is thanked and it transforms the person who gives thanks.  It works the same way everywhere, with everyone when we remember.  When we forget – hard things get harder.  When we allow the situation we are in to swallow us up and to swallow all thought of God’s power and goodness up; when we begin to think we have earned and deserve all the good things we have, and when we forget that God is able to help us in the midst of all the bad things that occur, life becomes bleaker, and true virtue becomes harder to find.

God wants us to celebrate his love.  God wants us to give thanks in everything.  God doesn’t want this because he is greedy for praise, the Lord doesn’t want it so that he will feel better about himself.  He wants it because it will bless us  and because it will bless the world he has made.

He wants us to remember what He has done so that we will not be afraid when we are in need of help, and so that we will not grow arrogant or rude when we are prospering.  He wants us to remember and give thanks to him, and to those around us so that our lives will be full of light and hope and so our actions full of tenderness and love.

As the psalmist declares – “It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to his name”

I’m Back With a Miracle Man!

March 22 was a day I will never forget!  My husband had fallen a few days before that, got a lump on his head.  The lump went down after a couple of hours and he felt okay.  Because of the coronavirus and all the conflicting reports we heard, he decided it did not require him to call his doctor or go to the hospital.  However, Sunday morning he got a terrible headache that would not go away and became nauseated.

I drove him to the local emergency room in our small town and they told me to go home while they checked him and they would then call me.  About an hour later the doctor called and told me a CT scan had shown a brain bleed (a subdural hematoma).  They were rushing him by ambulance to the larger hospital in the capital (about 20 miles away) and they had a neurosurgeon standing by to examine him.

What a day that was.  I posted all the details of that day in my post:

‘Til the Storm Passes Over

What a week that was.  By the end of the week it was clear he was going to live but the diagnosis for just how he would live was not clear.  Because of the uncertainty of the future – and all the things they warned me could be, I posted what I thought would be my last post and prepared myself to take care of my husband.

I Am Not Alone

But God had other plans!

It was amazing to me all the people around the country who began to pray for my husband.  I will always be grateful for all the calls, texts and encouragement I received, including many from my family here at WordPress.

Things they warned me to prepare for:

  1. Possible difficulty in speaking or understanding others.
  2. Possible difficulty in being able to read.
  3. Possible loss of memory.
  4. Possible seizures (he was put on seizure medicine as a precaustion).
  5. Weakened right side with need of a walker to get around.
  6. Possible inability to take care of his own personal needs.

On Wednesday after his surgery on Sunday a case manager called me to discuss transferring him to a nursing home or a rehab center.

But God had other plans!

Within 24 hours of that call (on Thursday) they called back and said they were going to transfer him from ICU to a step-down unit for a few days and then would send him to the rehab center in the hospital.  I should anticipate at least seven to ten days of rehab therapy before any consideration could be given to bringing him home.

But God had other plans!

Within 24 hours of that call they informed me they were sending him directly to the in-hospital rehab center that day (Friday).  They still were not sure how long he would have to be there.

On Tuesday the next week I got a wonderful call!  I could bring my husband home on Wednesday – after only four days of rehab.

He came home looking very weak, very tired and clearly needed a walker to get around.  The next week he could not stand bright lights, loud noises and complained of a constant headache.  He was speaking but very slow and often had to stop to search for a word.  It was a good thing for me to be able to give him my complete attention that week.

But God had other plans!

Every day he grew stronger.  We went for followup therapy after a week.  He had meetings with a speech therapist, an occupational therapist and a physical therapist.

Their verdict after 45 minutes to an hour with him.

Speech therapist – he needs no further therapy.

Occupational therapist – he needs no further therapy.

Physical therapist – he needs no further therapy.

They said to go home and just keep doing what he was doing.

Now – six weeks later:

  1. He has absolutely no difficulty in speaking or understanding others.
  2. He is reading the Bible with me each morning again in our devotions with no difficulty in being able to read.
  3. His memory is good – absolutely no loss of memory and no sign of not being able to remember now.
  4. No seizures and he is off the seizure medicine.
  5. He walks without a walker.
  6. He has been able to take care of his own personal needs from the very beginning with me just standing by when he showered for the first week.\
  7. What is really amazing – absolutely no weakness in his right side.  This week he bought plants for our yard and planted them all without any problems even using his right leg to push the shovel into the ground.

I worried that he would never be able to go down to his art studio that he had worked all winter to create.  He had painted a beautiful mural on the wall of the Rainbow Row in Charleston, South Carolina.  We had enjoyed several weeks there a few years ago and we loved the whole area.  He was just putting the finishing touches on it when he fell.  Would he be able to do the stairs?  Would he be able to paint again?

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So thankful he is back in his studio and this was his first painting when he began again.

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Being Scrabble addicts we have kept our scores since 2008 and are very competitive.  Would he be able to still compete?

Confessions of a Scrabble Addict!

Yes!  He is back and we are enjoying our competition.

What can I say?  To God be the glory!  Great things he has done!

Each day is truly a gift from God.  We start each morning saying “Thank you God for another day!”

So – I’m back.  Thank you to all you have followed me in the past and I hope you will continue to enjoy the “ramblings” of this Grandma as I continue!

 

 

 

 

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

A new songbook called Olney Hymns was published in 1779 and one of the songs in the book became perhaps the best loved and well known hymn that is today known by another name.

Guess what song it is!

This song was part of a section in the hymn book that contained songs based on passages of the Bible.  The passage that was listed with this song was 1 Chronicles 17:16-17.

 “Then King David went in and sat before the Lord; and he said: “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far? And yet this was a small thing in Your sight, O God; and You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have regarded me according to the rank of a man of high degree, O Lord God.”

The tune we use to sing this song was not the tune used then.  Today two of his stanzas are no longer used and there have been two added by two different writers.

Guess what song it is!

It is believed that this hymn was written to go along with the writer’s sermon which he preached for the New Year service January 1, 1773.  His sermon notes for that day fit with the scripture that was placed alongside the hymn in the Olney Humns book.

His sermon notes included this thought:

grace

Guess what song it is!

This verse which was part of the original hymn is not usually found in hymnbooks in the USA today.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When the movie Amazing Grace about the life of British abolitionist William Wilberforce was made, popular contemporary Christian musician Chris Tomlin was asked to write an additional verse.  He was reluctant to add to this well loved hymn but when researching he discovered that someone had already added a verse years ago.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing His praise
Than when we first begun.

I have sung this hymn for years not knowing that this verse was not part of the original hymn.

Guess what song it is!

Tomlin added a beautiful addition to the song.

My chains are gone, I’ve been set free.
My God, my Savior has ransomed me.
And like a flood, His mercy reigns,
Unending love, amazing grace.

In his research, Tomlin found another verse that was part of the original hymn but had been left out for years in our USA hymnals.  He added it back into the song and like many others I thought this verse was one Tomlin had added.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

Bet you have guessed what song it is!

Yes – somewhere along the way Faith’s Review and Expectations became Amazing Grace.  Writer John Newton had been the captain of a slave ship.  After receiving Jesus Christ as Savior he became an Anglican priest.  Although he was slow to take a stand against slavery he did become a strong voice speaking out about the evil of the slave trade.  His tract, ‘Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade‘, described the horrors of the slave trade and his own role in it.  He called it “a business at which my heart now shudders.” 

He encouraged William Wilberforce and others to fight against the slave trade.  As he began to lose his age and age some suggested he should retire but he told them, “I cannot stop.  What?  Shall the old African blasphemer stop while he can speak?”

The act to abolish the slave trade finally was passed in February 1807.  By that time Newton was nearly blind and nearing the end of his life.  It is said that he “rejoiced to hear the wondrous news.”

With Awe and Reverence

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Great and holy God

awe and reverence

fear and trembling

do not come easily to us

for we are not

Old Testament Jews

or Moses

or mystics

or sensitive enough.

Forgive us

for slouching into Your presence

with little expectation

and less awe

than we would eagerly give a visiting dignitary.

We need

neither Jehovah nor a buddy—

neither “the Great and powerful Oz” nor “the man upstairs.”

Help us

to want what we need…

You

God

and may the altar of our hearts

tremble with delight

at Your visitation

amen.

Frederick Ohler

Thank God for Mondays!

We often complain about Mondays.  Back to work, back to school.

Since I am now retired Mondays are different I must admit.  I can sit with a second cup of coffee and just relax while many have to hurry off to a job that may be stressful, to a school they do not like.

Still, this morning when someone asked me on social media how I felt about Mondays, I could not help but reply as a cancer survivor Mondays mean that God has given me another week of life.

I pray today for those struggling with difficult job or school situations.  But I hope in the midst of those difficulties, they can see something to encourage them.

As for me, given another week of life I say:

 

God and My Daughter Share a Talent – They Knit!

One of my favorite Psalms is 139.  Reading it today this portion stood out to me.

knit2

One of my daughters has her own website where she sells the most beautiful hats, scarfs, sweaters that she creates.  Along with selling her products, she also makes hats for cancer survivors, wraps for new mothers or mothers who have lost children.  She is a teacher and each year makes neat hats for every one of her students.  Every item she knits is a work of love whether she is making something to give away or filling an order for something she sells.

Watching her knit I am amazed at the skill required to create these beautiful gifts.  She clearly did not get that talent from me.

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Today I thought about the time, skill and effort she puts into each creation.  I believe that is what God has done for us.  We are not just accidents that happened.  God has designed us with love and skill also.

I am a product of the greatest artist that has ever existed – Almighty God.

Over the years my daughter has made me several beautiful scarves, wraps and sweaters.  I treasure each one.  First, because I know they were made with love.  But also because they are so lovely.  I always get compliments when I wear one.  My gifts are all stored carefully on shelves in my closet.  I would never think of just throwing them on the floor or stuffing them carelessly in a drawer.

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One of my favorites sweaters she made for me

I

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Most of my sweaters were just gifts from her but I did make a special order for this one.  I love the bright yellow buttons that just set this sweater off!

So – I realize I need to take good care of my body.  First, because God made me with love.  But also because this body – even old and arthritic – is still a wonder.

To those who read this post, I hope you will realize what a miracle you are and how much you are loved by the great Creator.

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If you are looking for a beautiful scarf, hat, wrap or baby item, go to Facebook and check out BekaBoo Creations.  You not only will love anything she makes – but you will be helping a teacher who gives her all to her students.

 

 

 

Thankfulness for Things Taken for Granted

Each morning my husband and I start our day with a cup of coffee and a time of devotions.  We are reading through the Bible this year and are now in the Psalms.  After our reading, we always pray.  My husband prays first and I follow.

While the things we pray for vary from day to day, one thing is always constant.  We lift our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to the Lord asking for His guidance and protection on their lives.

We include expressions of thankfulness.  Most often the things we thank God for are the answers to prayer.

  • This granddaughter was accepted to law school
  • This grandson has a new job
  • This child is over that cold or other ailment

We also thank God for the “big” things like salvation, mercy, his love.

But today as I listened to my husband’s prayer I was reminded how much of God’s blessings we take for granted.  Today my husband said thanks for:

  • Being able to just turn a switch and have light – when many have no electricity.
  • A stove to cook our food on – when many have to gather sticks to build a fire.
  • A refrigerator to keep our food from spoiling – when many have to buy food daily because they have no way to keep it more than a day.
  • A comfortable bed to sleep in – when many sleep on a cot or on the floor.
  • Clean, hot water to take a bath – when many wash with dirty and/or cold water.
  • Privacy in using the bathroom – when many have to hide behind a bush or tree.
  • More than one pair of shoes in the closet – when many have no shoes at all.

His prayer reminded me of how blessed we are in the USA and yet how we so often find so much to complain about and ignore the many comforts of life God has granted us.

At the end of his prayer we both thought of that verse that says:

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

While we may think we do not have much when we compare ourselves to our richer neighbors, in comparison to most of the world, we in America are all rich.

Question:  What are you doing with all God has blessed you with?

Are You One of the Nine?

My husband and I hold services at two different assisted living facilities and I also give a piano concert twice a month at one of them.  Today my husband shared with the residents the story in the Gospel of Luke about the ten lepers that came to Jesus asking to be healed.  That story really got me thinking about my own attitude.

Ten lepers came and Jesus healed them all.  He told them to go to the priest to have the priest confirm they were clean and could now rejoin their families.

As the ten started to the priest they realized their skin was clear and they were healed.  How exciting that moment must have been.

After that moment of great joy, nine of the ten continued on their way.  But one man turned back and came to Jesus to say “thank you.”

His response:  “Were not ten healed?  Where are the nine?”

It seems our society is so attuned to the bad, the problems, the disagreements between groups.  We are so quick to complain.

During this cold and snowy winter I often heard (and I was often guilty too) people complaining about how cold it was, how sick they were of snow.

Seldom, if ever, did I hear people saying how grateful they were for their warm house, their warm coats.  Little thanks were given for the road crews who were out in the bitter cold spreading salt and clearing the roads.

Now comes summer and soon we will be complaining of the heat and humility instead of expressing gratefulness for air conditioning.

Why are we so slow to be thankful, to see all the blessings we have been given?

When my first husband died, I cannot count the times someone asked me how God could allow this.  They would say something like:

“But you are a good Christian.  How could God let this happen?”

But when God blessed with me with a good second husband no one asked me how God could allow this.  No one said:

“Why did God bless you so much.”

We take His blessings for granted but are quick to complain when we feel we are not getting the blessings we deserve.

Lord, help me to be like the one who came back and said “thank you.”  Help me not to be like the nine who accepted your blessings as if somehow it was their right and went on their way never to thank  you.