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”

Willie’s Fashion Store

Last year I shared how my youngest granddaughter uses her imagination and pulls me into her “make-believe” world as she plays with the toy animals my husband gave her a few years ago.

Twelve Little Toy Animals, A Little Girl and a Big Imagination

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Last week she stayed with us as her parents were out of town on work-related trips.  I thought we had covered every possible scenario for these animals.  But she came up with another great idea.

She also has a stuffed character that we named Willie who has played with her for years.  (I, of course, have had to be the voice for Willie.)

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We opened a fashion store and Willie was the owner/designer.  Each of the twelve animals came into the store and told Willie what accessory they were looking for.

  • Zoe Zebra wanted some white and black striped books to match her skin.
  • Macey Moose wanted a blue scarf with gold sequins.
  • Tod Tiger wanted a blanket with bright colors.

Each animal had a special request.

Willie soon went to work and designed each item.  (That means Zoe and Grandma drew designs on paper and cut them out.)

After a few hours (actually only a few minutes but time passes fast in our imaginary world), the animals returned for their accessories.

After paying Willie with their credit card (and Willie pointed out to each one that their card was about to expire so they needed to check on that) they put on their scarves, boots, and coats.

Everyone was very happy with Willie’s design and predicted that he will soon be a famous star in the New York fashion world.

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If you look closely you will see the scarves/coats on the animals.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

What’s Your Picture of God?

It’s Friday – time again for a post on the old church hymns.

This week as I thought about what song to write one very old hymn came to mind.

So I ask – What picture do you see when you think of God?

From reading the Bible I have found some unusual pictures.

  • A hen covering her chickens with her wings.  (“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.”)
  • A giant rock rising up high from the earth.  (“God is my rock in whom I take refuge.”
  • A shepherd tenderly holding a baby lamb.  (“The Lord is my shepherd, I have all I need.”)
  • A might warrior with shield and sword.  (“I have come as the commander of the Lord’s army.”)

The writer of today’s hymn saw God as a mighty fortress – a place of protection and shelter from those who would seek to harm us.

It is believed the writer based the song on verses from Psalm 46 that say “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.”  Twice in the Psalm the writer says “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”

The writer of this song, Martin Luther, was hiding in exile from Pope Leo X after nailing a list of grievances against the Catholic Church to the door of the church at Wittenberg, Germany.   Given 24 hours to renounce his 95 Theses, Luther apologized for any disrespect he may have shown the Pope or the church, but refused to renounce his beliefs.  Tradition is that Luther said “Here I stand, I can do no other.”

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Photo by Baltimore Sun

Forced into hiding after the trial, Luther lived for over a year at Wartburg Castle.  Few knew where he was – many thought he was dead.  When you look at pictures of the castle, you can see where his experience in hiding there might also have contributed to the words of this old hymn.

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Perhaps he had this castle and his stay there in mind as well as the Scriptures as he wrote this hymn.

Although few churches sing this hymn now with no doubt the exception of the Lutheran churches, its verses still encourage us when we realize that God truly is our source of strength in times of trouble.

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.

Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right man on our side,
the man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth, his name,
from age to age the same,
and he must win the battle.

No doubt today’s church goers probably have no idea what Lord Sabaoth even means.  When speaking of God as a mighty fortress this title is very appropriate.

It means “the LORD of hosts.”  It speaks of God’s military strength.  It was the name David used when speaking to the giant Goliath.  David told him “You come to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts (Lord Sabaoth).”

Although the song is no longer used much in our churches, I hope you will take a moment to listen and be encouraged that our God is able to deliver us, to give us strength in times of trouble.

 

My Mother Sang Southern Gospel!

It’s Friday – time for another post on old church hymns.

Many of the old hymns I love are found in the old hymnals from mainline churches like Methodist, Lutheran or Presbyterian.

However, since I am a country girl at heart with some southern roots, many of the old songs I love would probably never be sung at the churches with more formal worship.

One of my favorite southern gospel songs is one my mother used to sing.  She had a good voice and was often asked to sing at regular Sunday evening services and at revivals held in our area.  Everyone who knew her always associated this song with her for she loved it and sang it often.

Accompanying her often on this song, it is one of the songs I memorized and it is one often requested when I play for the “old folks” in the assisted living facilities.  What really makes me smile is when I play it the folks from the more “formal” churches clap their hands and/or pat their feet right along with the song.

Recently I made contact through FB with a friend from years and years ago.  She asked about my mother and said she always thinks of her when she hears this song.

Written by a prolific southern gospel song writer, Mosie Lister, it is only one of his songs that I love.  Anyone who loves southern gospel will recognize this list of songs by Lister:

  • His Hand in Mine
  • How Long Has It Been (one of my favorites)
  • I’ve Been Changed
  • Til the Storm Passes By

So – sit down, relax in your chair, get your hands ready to clap (and maybe tap your foot) and enjoy this southern gospel music!  And yes, if you notice the piano player, I can play it just as lively as he does!

A Bouquet of Spring

Today it is snowing again.  The snow is once more covering the flowers that I saw peeking out of the ground only yesterday.

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It was exciting to see these beautiful flowers that proclaim winter is almost over.  Now I’m hoping this snow will not harm them and as soon as the temperature climbs above freezing again – which it is supposed to do in a couple of days – they will still be standing to brighten my yard.

These flowers (crocuses) are one of the first to bloom in the spring.  We planted two different colors.  One is the purple seen in the picture above and the other is white with just edges of purple.

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This picture is not from my garden – these have not come up yet.  This is a picture on the bulbs we bought last fall and hopefully what they will look like when the bloom.

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And all the woods are alive with the murmur and sound of Spring,
And the rose-bud breaks into pink on the climbing briar,
And the crocus-bed is a quivering moon of fire
Girdled round with the belt of an amethyst ring
.
–Oscar Wilde

 

 

How Should Christians Resist Evil

Reading once again one of Bonhoeffer’s books, I was reminded of his quote: “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” My post from last year is still much a part of my questions for my nation.

Grandma's Ramblings

I just finished reading (for the second time) the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Bonhoeffer was a German pastor during the time of Hitler and World War II.  As the Nazis came to power and took control of the church, he faced a real dilemma.  He could not continue to stand with the church hierarchy who supported Hitler’s regime yet he found it hard to speak out against the church.  Along with several other pastors and theologians he founded what was called the Confessing Church.

A group called the German Christians (Deutsche Christen) created a pro-Nazi Reich Church.  They wanted the church to conform to Nazi ideology.   In opposition to this, many Christians formed the Confessing Church taking a clear stand against Hitler and his agenda.

However, in time Bonhoeffer became discouraged by the Confessing Church because although they opposed the Nazi regime they said nothing about the persecution of…

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5,000 Songs – Or More!

It’s Friday and time to take a look at another gospel song.  As I thought back over the many gospel songs I grew up singing, I noticed how many had the same name listed as the author….Fanny Crosby.

Songs I have loved:

  • Blessed Assurance
  • To God Be the Glory
  • Rescue the Perishing
  • Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross
  • I Am Thine O Lord
  • Near the Cross

The list goes on and on.  I don’t think anyone knows exactly how many songs she wrote.  In my research I found articles giving numbers from 5,000 to 9,000.

For anyone to write so many songs – with so many becoming favorites – is amazing.  When you realize this woman was blind it is even more amazing.

Born in 1820 she became ill and a man who was later determined to be a quack prescribed hot mustard poultices for her eyes.  The treatment left her blind at just a few weeks old.  Shortly thereafter, her father died leaving her mother to support the family.  Fanny was then raised by her Christian grandmother.

She quickly showed signs of high intelligence, memorizing large portions of the Bible.  She had a positive attitude about her blindness, writing a poem at age eight expressing her outlook on life.

Oh, what a happy soul I am,
although I cannot see!
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.

How many blessings I enjoy
That other people don’t,
To weep and sigh because I’m blind
I cannot, and I won’t!

Often asked how disappointing it must be to have been blind since a small baby, she replied:

“Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I was born blind? Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.”

She attended the New York Institute for the Blind in New York.  After 12 years as a student, she then became a teacher there for another 11 years.  She met her husband there, Alexander van Alstine.  An accomplished organist, he wrote the music to many of her hymns.  While she wrote the words to these many songs, she composed the music to only a few of them.  Rather, many musicians would bring their music to her and ask her to compose words to fit the music.

The contract she had with the music publisher require her to submit three hymns a week.  However, she usually wrote six or seven a day.  Writing that many songs naturally meant that many were simple, sentimental verses – but she did also compose music with a more classical structure.  When Dwight Moody began holding revivals in the late 1800’s with the musician Ira Sankey they introduced many of Fanny’s songs to the masses and from there they became popular.

Her songs were especially popular with the Methodist denomination and they used to hold an annual “Fanny Crosby Day.”

Today she has been all but forgotten by the modern church and as the last of the baby boomers die, her songs will probably be remembered no more.

But for those baby boomers who loved her songs here’s one of my favorite for you to enjoy.

My Own Personal “Rainbow Row”

When we moved into our condo last spring my husband decided to work on the unfinished basement and create a place where he could fully enjoy his love of painting.  Before this move there was never a really good place for him to keep all his painting paraphernalia.  A place where he could also display his art work.

So – he began working and made a great “man cave.”

The Making of a Man Cave

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On a row, he decided to work on the second room in the basement.  Instead of putting up dry wall or paneling, he designed a mural – just for me.

A few years ago we spent several weeks in Charleston, South Carolina.  I fell in love with the city and especially loved the area called the Rainbow Row.  Paul bought me a tray painted with the colorful houses and it sits on a shelf above my kitchen sink.  Often I stand for a moment at the sink and remember that beautiful place.

Since we decided we would make this room a place where we could watch TV in the summer when the basement would be cooler than upstairs, he wanted to create for me that beautiful row of colorful houses.

These historic homes were built around 1740 and local merchants had their shops on the ground floor while they lived on the top floor.  At that time the houses were not the colorful ones we see today.

After the Civil War the area became a slum.  Then in 1931 Dorothy Haskell Legge brought the homes numbering 99 through 101 East Bay.  After renovating them, she had the houses painted pink.  Soon future owners began buying the house on East Bay and painting them in pastel shades.  By 1945 after most of the houses on this street had been restored.   Mrs. Legge was given an award from the Preservation Society of Charleston in 1992.

If you ever have the good fortune to visit Charleston, you must see this beautiful row of homes.

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I hope someday to go back and view these homes in person, but until that day, thanks to my husband I can enjoy the memories with my own Rainbow Row.  He is painting the concrete floor a grey/blue and soon I will have an easy chair to sit, read and remember!

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He has started a mural of the sea wall which is near Rainbow Row.  It is a work in progress as he will be adding sailboats to the sea.  This is still a rough scene but will be great when he is done.  Can’t wait for him to get that finished.

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