Everyone Needs a “Big” Sister

She has always been there.  My “big” sister, Velma.  I call her big, not because she is physically bigger than me.  In fact, I think she is a little smaller.  But she was my oldest sibling and calling her “big” sister is probably better than calling her my “old” sister.

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Me and my “big” sister, Velma.

Velma was the oldest of four children and I was the youngest.  My parents told me from the moment of my birth, Velma felt that I was “her” little doll to play with and take care of.  They told me when I was only a few weeks old the whole family decided to go berry picking.  They packed the car with a picnic basket and Mom went into the house to get me out of my crib.  But I was not there.

A little panicked, my mother looked out the front door to see Velma carrying me to the car.  Stepping over the ditch by the driveway, she slipped and dropped me.  I was not hurt but the family often joked “that explains a lot about Barbara.”  Dropped on my head.

In the days before automatic washers and dryers, microwave ovens and all the conveniences we enjoy now, my mother had her hands full keeping up with the house work and taking care of us.  Velma stepped right in to help.  So when it was time to go to church or any other event where I needed to look my best, it was often Velma who helped me get dressed, fixed my hair, made sure I had brushed my teeth.

Velma took home economics in high school and became a very proficient seamstress.  Her senior year she made us matching dresses.  The school had a fashion show for the students to show off their sewing talents.  Velma was asked to include her “little” sister in the show.  Although that was years ago, I still remember how excited I was to be in a fashion show with all the “big” kids.  Velma and I practiced over and over in our kitchen how I was to walk on stage, turn around slowly and walk off stage.  The night of the fashion show I think I was the hit – a little girl with red banana curls!  I will always remember the pride my sister had in me – gave me confidence I needed.

Velma not only took care of many of my physical needs, she was concerned about my spiritual need also.  I had a Bible storybook that I had read over and over.  I loved reading about Joshua, Gideon and David and I loved the stories of the Old Testament prophets.   That bible story book was my first introduction to the wonderful stories about Jesus.  The book is worn out, but I still have it sitting on a shelf in my study.  Over the years I have moved a lot and do not have anything from my childhood but that book.  I still treasure it.

However, for my seventh birthday Velma thought it was time I graduated to a “real” Bible so she bought me my first one.  She also got me some new pajamas.  I was so proud of both gifts that I insisted I wear the pajamas and she take a picture of me in them with that Bible.  Although that Bible was the King James version (in the days before all our new translations) and hard for a seven-year-old to understand, Velma encouraged me to

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Just keep reading.  The more you read it, the more you will understand.  Ask God to help you.

So I did.    Perhaps the fact that I read the King James Bible faithfully instead of the “See Spot Run” books is why I became not only an excellent reader, but a very fast reader.

She was my role model.  As a young girl I was in the Sunday School class she taught for young girls.  I still remember the navy blue dress she wore with a white-collar.  Her shoes were navy, red and white.  I thought she was so sophisticated in that outfit.  When I got my first job I bought myself a pair of navy, red and white shoes and purse.  I watched her style of teaching – and I have patterned my own Bible teaching after her.  People say I am able to present great truths of the Bible in a simple way that a child could understand.  If that is true, I owe that to Velma.

I recently visited my sister and her family.  Got to me thinking.  I will be 70 in April – and my sisters are the only ones who share all my history with me.  They are the only ones who remember my banana curls, my playing and singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”, and much much more of my history.  They are the only ones who share so much history with me.

My “big” sister has never had the joy of having a “big” sister, but I hope being her “little” sister has been a blessing to her as she has been to me.

Sis, if you read this, I LOVE YOU!

To Be Blessed of God!

I recently wrote on the thought of being blessed.

Are You Blessed?

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Our idea of being blessed of God often only looks at the physical or material aspects.  A nice home, a good marriage, a great job.  While these ARE blessings of God for which we should be thankful, the Bible is clear these kind of blessings are temporary.  The real blessings of God are those that will last throughout eternity.

And receiving those blessings require more than just a “God bless you” that we share with each other in passing.

Just a few thoughts on God’s blessings and how to obtain them.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither…..Psalm 1

It appears that receiving God’s blessings requires us to be careful whose advice we take and how much time we spend thinking of His Word.

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But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed…..1 Peter 3:14

Whoa!  Blessings from God might include suffering?  

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Wait a minute here!  Blessings from God might require trials?  And the blessing is not a promotion at work but eternal life.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God…..Matthew 5:9

Come on now!!!  When I seek to bring peace to others rather than pushing for my own agenda I will be blessed?  And the blessing is the privilege of being called a son of God?

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But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

Again, it seems God’s blessings are somehow connected to knowing His word – and obeying it.

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I could go on and on, but I hope you get the idea.  We Americans count blessings from God almost as a right rather than a privilege.  When we do not get that promotion at work, when we get that diagnosis of cancer, when someone makes fun of us for being a Christian, we are so quick to complain or feel like somehow God has failed us.

If God’s blessings are so tied to material things, how do we explain the Christians who live in a third world country and often wonder where their meal is coming from?  Who are persecuted, put in prison, even killed for their faith in Jesus Christ?

God is much more than a genie in a lamp.  He does love us, He does want to bless us (yes, even in material things) but more than that, He desires a real relationship with Him.  One that loves Him for who He is more than for what He does.

May God truly, really bless you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Blessed?

We love the idea of being blessed.

We greet one another with:

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But what does all that mean?

Can we cause God’s blessings to be given to someone simply by saying “God bless you.”  Is God waiting around to hear us pronounce blessings on someone before He blesses them?  Is He obligated to bless someone because we say so?

We claim God’s blessings on our country:

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When we say “God bless America” what are we wanting God to do for our country?  Give us peace?  Make us rich?  What exactly do we expect from God – what do we want from Him for our country?

We often declare:

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What are the reasons that make us say we are blessed?  We have a good marriage, we just got a promotion, we brought a new car, we won the game.  We know God is the giver of good things and we certainly should thank Him.  However, are we reducing blessings from God just to material things, times when things go our way.  Do we feel blessed when our marriage falls on rough times, we lose our job, our car breaks down, we lose the game?

Often, we tell people they should:

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Again, we should be a grateful people and it is always good to stop from time to time and really look at all God has given us.  But in counting our blessings, what is it we count?

Do we include those times when life felt apart – but God was there?

Do we count the privilege of being able to worship God freely without fear of being thrown into prison?

Do we count the joy of knowing we are forgiven?

Or do we again just think of material things we have been given?

And if we are going through a difficult time, do we feel like we have no blessings to count?

What does it really mean to be blessed of God?

What does His Word say about that concept?

Hope you will think on that question for a while.

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Give me some feedback on what you think being blessed is really all about.

I’m taking a long look at what the Bible has to say about this subject and will write more in the days ahead.

But, give me your thoughts on this.

 

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The Big Little Word “If”

If

Definition of if

a – in the event that
b – allowing that
c – on the assumption that
d – on condition that
Doing a study on 1 John in the Bible, I noticed how many times John used the word “if.”  That started me thinking about all the “ifs” in the Word of God.  It seems to me that there are many promises of God that we claim without taking into account the “if” that is associated with it.
It is clear that we can never earn our salvation.  We can never do enough good on our own to earn that gift of eternal life.  John 3:16 makes it clear that if we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, he grants us forgiveness and eternal life.  Paul the Apostle also stated very plainly in Ephesians 2:8-9 that:
 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
But once we begin that walk with the Lord, it is clear that if our relationship is to grow and we are to develop as true disciples, there are conditions to be met.
The “ifs” seem to indicate that there is something required from us.  How we respond to these “ifs” will determine our receiving from God what He has offered.
Here are just a few for you to consider:

For IF you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you…Matthew 6:14

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We talk a lot about how God forgives us if we ask.  But we must remember that forgiveness is tied to our forgiving others.

IF you are faithful to what I have said, you are truly my disciples…John 8:31

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So — if we are not faithful to God’s Word, how can we claim to be His disciple?  And how can we be faithful to His Word, if we never read it, never study it, never really know what it says?

 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, IF you love one another…John 13:35

 

One another

Interesting – the mark of a disciple according to Jesus is not all the great sacrifices we might make, the many talents we might use, but the love that we have for others.

IF anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him and We will come to him and make Our abode with him…John 14:23

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We love to talk about desiring the presence of the Lord in our life, in our family, in our church.  Many of our worship songs are all about how much we love God.  But again, that big little word “if” says we only really love God and we only can expect His presence, if we keep His Word.

One of the biggest IF’s I think is found in Matthew 16:24

IF anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.

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Again, we love to talk about our commitment to Christ, but we are only committed when we truly deny our-self, take up the cross and follow Christ.  The idea about a cross is really lost to most in our society.  To us a cross is a decoration on the wall of the church or on the steeple.  It is a piece of jewelry we wear or hang on the wall of our home.  But to the society to which Jesus spoke these words, the cross represented death.  To truly follow Jesus requires a willingness to die to our own desires and be led by Him.

But one of the greatest “ifs” in the Bible is found in Revelation when Jesus said

Behold I stand at the door and knock.  IF anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in and sup with him.

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What a great promise!  To open the door – to invite Him into our life, that is all we have to do and He will be glad to come in, to have a relationship with us.  Notice that we are the ones to open the door.  He is a gentleman and does not force Himself on us.  But he extends that wonderful invitation.

If you have not done so, I encourage you to open the door.

 

 

 

 

 

Please Mr Postman, Is There a Letter For Me?

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Recently I was doing some clean-up on my computer getting rid of files that I no longer use.  I found a file that I created several years ago when I wrote down some memories of my life growing up to share with some of my grandchildren.  In that file I found a letter I sent to them encouraging them to love God’s Word and let its principles guide their life.

As I grow nearer to the end of my life, I have even more conviction that what I wrote them several years ago is still true today.

Here’s what I wrote.  Hope that my readers will take a moment and think about how they view the Word of God.

“I’m amazed at how we say we love God, but we seldom read His Word.  When I was engaged to Lonnie (their grandfather, my first husband who is now deceased), he was in Vietnam.  I wrote him almost every day.  He was not as good at writing (fighting for his life n the jungles of Vietnam might account for that), but usually wrote once a week.  My place of employment was five blocks from the apartment where I lived with my mother.  Every day at lunchtime I would walk home to see if I had a letter.”

Please Mr Postman, Is there a letter for me?

“Mail was delivered in our block around noon.  Some days the mailman would be there about the time I got home.  Other days if he had a lot of mail he would not make it to my apartment by noon.  Since Lonnie only wrote about once a week and sometimes the mail was held up getting out of the jungle, I might not get a letter for a couple of weeks.  Still, every day I walked home on the CHANCE that the mailman would have made it to my house, on the CHANCE that there would be a letter from Lonnie.”

Please Mr Postman, Say you have a letter for me!

If there was not a letter, I would walk back to work so sad.  When I had a letter, I would open it immediately and read every word before I returned to work.  Then, on break, I would get it out and read it again.  As soon as I got home from work, I would read it again.  Why were these letters to important to me?  Because they were from the one I loved.

Well, God’s Word is a love letter to us and when we fall in love with God, we will want to know His Word.”

The Psalmist said,

Thy Word is a light to my path and a lamp to my feet.

My dear grandchildren, I encourage you to devour the Word of God.  Read it over and over and over again.  Read the same portion in different versions.  Memorize it.  Take notes as you read.  Mark verses that stand out.  Wear it out.  A person whose Bible is falling apart from use will never fall apart from the cares, temptations, and difficulties of life.

We do not need or want to be legalistic about it.  If we read a chapter a day just because that’s what good Christians do, we have gained nothing.  There may be days when we find it hard to find the time to study the Word, but we should never be so busy that days and days go by and we fail to get into God’s Word.  I hope you will learn to not only read the Word on a consistent basis, but learn to really STUDY it.  There is a difference between reading and studying the Word and we need to do both.  If you don’t know what I mean, check out the Bible bookstore.  There are several good books out there to help you learn to study God’s Word.”

Mr. Postman, Thanks for the letter!

 

The God Who Sees Me – Part 2

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In our small group Bible Study we have been looking at the names of God in the Bible.  One of those names is El-Roi, “the God who sees me.”  I wrote about the basis for that name recently in The God Who Sees Me – Part 1.

Reading that story led me to think of times in my life when I experienced that same sense that God had seen me.   Times of my own fear or suffering when God ministered to me in a clear way that let me know He saw me.  He knew my distress and He gave me assurance that He was with me and would help me in this time of difficulty.

The first time was when I was 14 years old and grieving over the father who walked out on me and my mother and left us to get by the best we could.  That story is told in The God Who Sees Me – Part 1

Almost 20 years later, God again assured me that He was the God who sees me.  While working at the University of Missouri Extension office in Perryville, Missouri, I anticipated the daily call from my oldest daughter.  My two daughters would ride the bus each day from school to our home in the country.  Their father who worked the midnight shift would be getting up and waiting to greet them.  Although he was always there to meet them, I still had my daughter call me just to let me know they were home and see how their day had gone.

When the phone rang at work, I picked it up happily awaiting my daughter’s voice.  But as soon as she began speaking, I knew something terrible had happened, something that would change our lives forever.  I will always remember that little girl’s voice saying

Mommy, I think Daddy is dead!

My two daughters – only 6 and 11 – had come home to find their father laying in the driveway underneath our car.  He had been working on the muffler and the jack had apparently slipped and crushed him.  He had always been very careful when he worked on the car and to this day I do not understand why he raised the car with the jack and did not use anything to stabilize the car or the jack.  It was not like him to be so careless.  I always remind my family to be careful because it only takes one moment of carelessness to bring disaster.

Hanging onto the phone, I felt my heart would stop!  It was hard to believe it was really true but the moments that followed showed me it was true.  At 33 I was a widow with two little girls to raise.  All kinds of questions flooded my mind.

  • How would I get through the days, the years to come without my best friend?
  • How would I help my daughters cope with not only their father’s death but the horror of finding him crushed beneath the car?
  • How would I be able financially to take care of them with the loss of my husband’s salary?
  • Who would be there to take care of them when they got home from school since I would be working?
  • How would I pay for the funeral?
  • Should we stay in Missouri or move back to be close to family?  Could I make it on my own far from family’s support?

On and on the questions raced through my mind as I tried to grasp what had happened.  It still seemed like a bad dream.  Surely I would wake up soon and be in my own bed with my husband beside me and I would laugh at it all.

But it was not a dream.  For the next few days I was numb.  Planning the funeral, trying to comfort my daughters, trying to find answers to all those questions, slowly the sense of being in a dream began to leave and reality hit me hard.

Blessed to have family and friends who loved me and supported me, still the time came when everyone went home and back to their lives and I was left with my daughters to face the future alone.  This realization came to me the first night after everyone had left.  I fixed supper for the three of us and started to place the dishes and silverware on the table for us.  Turning from the table to get the food from the stove, I realized I had put four plates and four setting of silverware on the table.  With tears streaming down my face, I picked up the extra plate and silverware and returned them to the cabinet.  In the future, we would only need three sets of dishes.

I did what I had always done in times of despair.  I cried out to the Lord telling Him I did not see how I could make it through the months and years ahead, how alone I felt.

Instantly a verse of scripture came to my mind.

Lo, I am with you always…

While I know in this instance Jesus was speaking to His disciples – and through them to the church, I also realized this scripture had come to my mind by no coincidence.  God saw me – this young widow living in the middle of the country – and He cared.  He assured me I was not alone and that I would make it because He was with me.  He was the “God who sees me.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daddy Will Carry It For Me!

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My daughter recently spent several weeks in Sierra Leone tutoring the child of a missionary family that was returning to the states for a year and wanted to make sure their daughter was prepared for school in the USA.  My six-year-old granddaughter accompanied her mother on this trip.

It was a great opportunity for my young granddaughter to experience another culture, to try new foods and see how life is so different in other countries.  Hopefully, it has given her a better appreciation for the blessing of being born in the USA.

When she returns to school this fall and the teacher asks everyone what they did this summer, I doubt anyone will be able to top her story.  “I spent weeks in Africa.”  While there she kept a journal and my husband and I have enjoyed listening to her as she showed us the pictures she drew and read to us the comments she made in the journal.  Some of her comments we can read and some have to be “interpreted” as her spelling and printing are still in a “learning” process.

While she did well during her stay in Africa, as she and her mother began the journey back home, her excitement at the thought of seeing her daddy grew with each passing hour on the flight.  Because they were limited in the amount of luggage they could take, my granddaughter had her backpack filled to the brim with necessary items such as sunscreen and insect repellant but also with those items we Americans count as necessary such as an iPad.   The backpack became heavy as she carried it through the airport at each of their layovers.  But my granddaughter knew relief was in sight.  When they left Africa and she put the backpack on she told her mother with great confidence:

When I get home, Daddy will carry it for me.

After I calmed down from the excitement of knowing my daughter and granddaughter were back home safe and sound, I looked at the picture of my granddaughter with her daddy riding down the escalator at the airport.  My son-in-love had her backpack on his back and she was walking free of any burden.  Just as she knew, her daddy was carrying the load for her.

I began thinking of the confidence she had in her daddy.  How did she know he would carry the backpack for her?  Clearly in her six years of life she has found her daddy to be a faithful father.  He has always been there to pick her up when she fell as she learned to walk.  He has always been there to pick her up and swing her over his head and then safely put her down.  He has always been there to sooth her tears when something upset her.  He has always been there taking her to the zoo, to the park, playing games with her.  He has proven to her that he loves her, that he will take care of her and she has confidence in his ability to do just that.

Then I thought of my heavenly father.  How many times has He carried my load for me when it became too much for me?  When my earthly father deserted me, He was there.  When my first husband was accidentally killed, He was there.  When I was told that my cancer was very advanced and very aggressive and “the odds were not in my favor” He was there.  And just in the day-to-day cares of this life, He has always been there.

So I have to ask myself why is it when stressful times come, that I sometimes forget that? How sad it would have been if my granddaughter thought when she saw her daddy that he would refuse to carry her backpack but leave her to continue carrying the burden although she was exhausted from jet lag.

I keep looking at this picture of the two of them as they ride down the escalator with my granddaughter free of the load just comfortably riding down as her daddy manages the suit cases and has the backpack on his back.  He is not ashamed to wear a “My Pony” backpack.  He is not worried about someone laughing at a grown man with a child’s backpack.  His only thought is to help his daughter and to relieve her of her burden.

So Jesus went to the cross for me.  He was not afraid to bear the shame of the crucifixion.  His only thought was to help me (and the whole world) and relieve me of the burden of my sin.

So when problems come in the future, I will go back to this picture and I will say:

My Daddy will carry it for me!