Thursday, July 18, 2013

Beautiful poem by John Gillespie, age 19

John Gillespie Magee, Jr, age 19 in 1941
John Gillespie Magee, Jr, age 19 in 1941

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
— John Gillespie Magee, Jr

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Enough, Lord!

"He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. `I have had enough, Lord,' he said. `Take my life...'" (1 Kings 19:4 NIV).

This is a remarkable chapter in the Bible. We think of Elijah as a rugged individualist and the strong prophet of the Lord. Now here we have the eminent Elijah sinking from triumph to despair! We find that he is subject to the human emotions we all feel at times. Who of us has not said, "I have had enough of this!" But God doesn't answer this prayer; instead, He sends an angel, not once but twice, to Elijah to feed him. When Elijah is strong again, he travels on to Mt. Horeb--and then he hides in a cave! How human!

God isn't going to let him get away with that, either. "What are you doing here, Elijah, so far away from your duties? What are you doing here, Elijah, you of all My people who should have remained at your post? My past compassions to you should have strengthened and served you especially for a time such as this." God understands when we cry out in exhaustion and heartache and despair. The strain of Mount Carmel, Jezebel's threat to kill him, and utter fatigue, simply overwhelmed Elijah. Elijah's heart withered at the thought that he had failed, so he headed for a cave, and God loved him still. Just as God brought Elijah out of the cave of his anguish, so God will bring us out of the darkness of our personal cave into His light once again (Psalm 18:28). Elijah thought his labor was useless; that it had come to nothing. Those with the highest and holiest purposes are often the very ones who experience such intense dejection and rejection.

A saint left this thought with us: "So, in the Lord's ministry, the nucleus of the Church was not found in the applauding multitudes on Olivet, but in the few faithful ones in the garden of Gethsemane." Sometimes we have to enter the cave for the contrast of light and darkness, and then come out for an even better perspective and service for our Lord.

One of the lessons I learned from this wonderful chapter is that God is very concerned about our physical welfare. He sent an angel to refresh Elijah with food and sleep, and God sends us an angel to refresh us. After our son's death I lost my appetite for a while, which is normal. When I read this particular chapter, I realized that God is telling us that He wants us to keep up our strength for He has special plans for us. Indeed, in the loving friends who come with physical and spiritual sustenance for us, God is sending His angels!

O Father, thank You for the angels You send every day to minister to us. And may we, as our hearts and bodies heal, become angels in our turn to minister to others in their needs.

From Sunset to Sunrise

"But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus" (John 21:4).

The disciples had to get on with their lives after the awful death of their adored Friend. How they must have grieved and wondered and wept as they thought of those three years with their dear Jesus! But they had to make a living in spite of their anguish. Peter, restless and miserable, surely wondering what relationship he now had with His dead Friend, initiated this fishing fiasco: "I am going fishing." The others said, "We are going with you also."

It was after this night of uncommon failure for the disciples that Jesus appeared on the shore. He stood there, unknown to them, loving them, watching their heartbreaking failure in their duty, knowing that He is about to help them. He is on the shore of our life, too, aware of all that is happening to us, and knowing that He is about to give us victory, only we don't recognize Him.

Jesus stood on the quiet seaside as the disciples looked toward Him, probably thinking He was an ordinary person waiting for the boat to come in. Little did they know what He was about to do for them. Jesus is very near us, too, ready at any moment to help us, if we will but sense His Presence. He is waiting on our shore, waiting for our greeting, but perhaps we doubt His power can reach us on the coast of our life. Yet there He stands, waiting for us to recognize Him and tender Him our invitation. "Verily, verily," He says unto us, "it's that simple!"

An unknown saint tells us that "disappointment and defeat may prepare us for a new manifestation of the grace and power of Jesus Christ." We may weep in the night, fail in our night, but joy finally comes in the morning; as the sun rises, the Son rises and comes to our aid. Jesus is seasonable as well as reasonable: He comes when we are most in need. There is another thought here: Christ was indeed present through their night of struggle but only allowed Himself to be visible to them in the morning. In the dark night of our soul we can't see the Comforter, but He is there.

There's another thought we can glean from this precious portion: Jesus stood on the shore of His nature, where the sun was rising and the air was fresh and sensation was touched with wonder at the beauties of creation. This is where we meet our God, out where He has brushed it with His artistic brilliance. Nature has grand healing powers. Before our son died I enjoyed sunsets. After he died I watched sunrises. I became addicted to them, for they promised a new day with new possibilities. They became as important to me as the promises in God's Word.

O Father, Thank You for sunrises--and Son rises!

Bites out of Life's Apple!

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise" (Psalm 51:17).

Brokenness! Who of us wants to admit we are broken? There is something so endearing about this psalm. David, the man after God's own heart, has broken just about every rule in the Book, and he stands before God and all of us a condemned man, a man so distinguished, now full of shame, humiliated and broken. It could never happen to us, could it? But - let us take heed lest we fall!

What makes us broken? Is it that TV program we know we should not be watching? Is it that extra piece of pie? Is it that wink when we are slicing up someone's reputation? Is it that lustful glance at the blond who lives next door? Is it that witty rejoinder that we know will put yet another stain on the heart of our spouse? Small things (but let us remember that, in God's eyes and heart, gradations of sin are not acceptable) to be sure, but life is made up or torn down by the small things, the bites out of Life's apple.

Why were David's sins even published in the Bible? I personally think all the sins in the Bible are there to let us know that even the great fall. We have daily proof of this in all our lives. But the joyous part is God's forgiveness. Psalm 51 is one of the most encouraging and golden writings in the entire Bible. We are asked to offer a contrite heart. In today's milieu of situation ethics I'm not sure we would even recognize contrition. That would require self-abasement, and this is politically incorrect in today's atmosphere of self-congratulations from womb to tomb. How sad! Unfortunately our new-type churches pander to our selfishness when we should rush to the Cross and grasp it with tears!

"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10). Our outer world changes constantly, but since time began our inner world remains the same but, to quote an unknown author, "the great inner world of joy and sorrow, love and hate, faith and unbelief, nobleness and baseness, holiness and sin, is the same today as in Judaea three thousand years ago."

Oh Father, thank You for Your forgiveness. Please give me a pure heart and a steadfast spirit today!

Salt - A Seasoning and A Preservative

"You are the salt...of the world" (Matthew 5:13).

Salt is both a seasoning and a preservative. We sprinkle spiritual salt on our anger to turn it into meekness; on our bitterness to change it into forgiveness; on our doubts to change them into faith; on our inclination to gossip so we may change this malignant habit into acceptance of others; on our restlessness so we may become content with life. The seasoning and preservative is found in God's Word, for it is here and here only that we find the code of conduct for our lives.

Jesus told His disciples and us in His Sermon on the Mount that His people are savors of others. Salt, to be effective, works quietly and unobtrusively. We go out into the world and act and speak with grace seasoned with the salt of compassion and encouragement. A wise word is spoken in reason as well as in season. Jesus also lamented saltless salt: "It is no longer good for anything..." (Matthew 5:13). How it must grieve Him when we don't live up to the potential, the nobility, He has given us. "How the gold has lost its luster, the fine gold become dull!" (Lamentations 4:1).

Therold gives an excellent description of one who has lost the flavor of Christianity: "The bane of the Church of God, the dishonor of Christ, the laughingstock of the world, is in that far too numerous body of half alive Christians who choose their own cross, and shape their own standard, and regulate their own sacrifices, and measure their own devotions; whose sacrifices do not deprive them of a single comfort from one year's end to another, and whose devotions never make their dull hearts burn with the love of Christ."

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Collapsing civilization - Anonymous

Malcolm Muggeridge, for years the editor of Punch magazine in Britain, and a prominent Christian spokesman, detailed several symptoms of a collapsing civilization, not only of this present hour, but of times in the past as well.

1. He says that one of the first signs of the approaching collapse is the breakdown of law and order since civilization consists of law and order.
2. Muggeridge lists a second symptom as the excessive interest in eroticism, that is, the rise of widespread immorality and the fascination with sexual themes. He sees this as a kind of an unconscious expression of the fear of impotence -- we are like children focusing upon our sexuality as some way of reassuring ourselves that our civilization has some stability and the capacity to perpetuate itself.

3. A third symptom he lists is the excessive need for excitement. In the days of the collapse of the Roman Empire, this was provided by the gladiatorial games held in the Coliseum. Today we get it from television, with its artificially-produced excitement, its violence, murder and sexuality.

4. Muggeridge sees a fourth symptom in the enormously complicated structure of taxation and administration. No one seems to be able to do anything to reduce the complexity of it. Taxation and government will keep mounting to the point where it will become insupportable, until the whole economy at last collapses under the weight of it.

5. Finally, a fifth symptom is excessive and pervasive boredom -- the sense of emptiness and meaninglessness. This, Muggeridge says, is the price of our materialism, the fact that we put so much emphasis on things. We are constantly barraged with appeals to buy this and buy that; if we only had this we would be happy, etc.

All these are signs of a collapsing civilization.

Muggeridge has gone even further. In a speech given right here at Stanford's Hoover Institute last summer, he delivered an almost prophetic foreview of the collapse of Western civilization. I would like to share these closing words of his message with you:

So the final conclusion would seem to be that whereas other civilizations had been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions and providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense. Thus did Western man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania; himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down. And having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer, until at last, having educated himself into imbecility and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over, a weary, battered old brontosaurus, and became extinct.

Author Unknown

Seven pillars for wives

Several friends of ours have gotten divorces through the years. It surprised and dismayed us, for these seemed stable marriages built on the Rock. Instead, they crashed on the sharp rocks of contention and discontent that tore them and their children apart.

When I read Proverbs, the book in the Bible which I feel helps us to guide our lives with practical wisdom, I think about these couples, especially the ladies, and what verses might apply to their situations. Two in particular stand out: "The wise woman builds her house..." (Proverbs 14:1); "Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars" (Proverbs 9:1).

We women are social architects who build for the future, working in the present regardless of present fads. As I read about the seven pillars, it occurred to me that we wives and mothers build our house--and homes--on the seven pillars of:

1) LOVE, AGAPE LOVE THAT IS UNCONDITIONAL. We are willing to give whether we get back in return or not. We are wise enough to weigh in on God's scales, not the world's. Sometimes the scales are not in our favor. Jesus died because of unconditional love and scales weighted down with misunderstanding and injustice and even hate. It must grieve Him when we demand our so-called rights, even in the face of known responsibilities. The only right Jesus had was to die for us. What a thought this is for us when we get discouraged at the seeming inequalities of life.

2) FAITH, that grand power to believe without a doubt that God knows what He is doing, even if we don't at times. There are many days when we need this kind of faith. Robert Schuller calls it turning our millstone into a milestone and our scars into stars. Jesus said to Peter and sometimes He says to us: "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand" (John 13:7). What enormous faith it takes to believe this, even when we are enduring while trying to be endearing!

3) GRATITUDE. A wise Anonymous said, "Gratitude is the memory of the heart." I believe this is one of the most important pillars for our home. At the wedding we take each other; unfortunately, after the wedding we take each other for granted. Appreciation helps to keep the love alive, and makes the road of life so much easier to travel, too. South has left this thought with us: "Look over the whole creation, and you shall see that the band, or cement, that holds together all the parts of this great and glorious fabric is gratitude." Surely it will structure our marriage.

4) SELF-RESPECT. This may seem a strange pillar, but we women need to believe we are good people, too. We especially need to know that God uses His time on valuable cloth only; why should He waste time on rags? Along with the men, we women are made in God's image. But assertiveness isn't the answer to our quest for rights. Jesus' sole description of Himself is in Matthew 11:29: "...I am gentle and humble in heart..." I try to remember this when I want to insist and persist with what I think are my rights. Another aspect of this pillar, I think we need to be assured that our career as a wife and mother deserves every bit as much respect and admiration as any other career.

5) PATIENCE. God cuts our cloth to fit His pattern. When we are anxious to run away from our responsibilities, it can help if we see Him carefully cutting and fitting us to His pattern--His purpose--for us. Especially in marriage He is daily cutting away our unsightly and unseemly strands. I have come to the conclusion after 48 years of marriage and children and grandchildren that this is exactly where our precious Father ties them all together finally!

6) HOPE IN AND FOR OUR FUTURE. Without hope we lose sight of our opportunities. Can we truly believe that God wants us to be successful? In stressful moments I reread Jeremiah 29:11 to repriotize: "For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." So God Himself gives us hope! Hope is so important on those days that become a daze. It is one of the constructive emotions that we so need, along with love and trust. I feel that courage is a large component of hope, for often it takes determination and perseverance to hope for better days and years ahead in the midst of such trying circumstances and what seem like trivialities today.

7) SACRIFICE. Let's face it, life costs much in commitment, particularly in marriage. It's really a 100-100 proposition. Whoever said marriage is a 50-50 proposition wanted to leave the back door open. Another thing, we can't afford to allow IOUs to add up in the drawer of our minds, only to pull them out during  trying times. We might try putting our own IOUs into the drawer, and forgetting about anyone else's IOUs. Contentment is finally removing the IOUS from contentious!

Father, thank You for abolishing our walls of hostility! (Ephesians 2:14.) You have given us the privilege of being women who build with You.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Our real heroes in life

Years ago our six-year-old granddaughter, our four-year-old twin grandsons and a young friend of theirs and I gathered together for a poetry fun-shop. But before we got into the fun part I asked them to spend a few minutes talking about who their heroes are, a really heavy subject for such young folks. But as I get older and wiser, I'm discovering that we are short-changing our little ones terribly. Out of the mouths of babes come discriminating and perceptive thoughts. And they don't hesitate to tell you, too!

I asked them if they knew any people they considered special enough to imitate. Well, a huge silence ensued so I decided to share my wisdom of the ages, rather, my old-age wisdom. Seeing who gets all the publicity in the papers, I've always thought the "little person" lands on the very low end of the scale. So we talked about the "little person" and what he or she does, and what makes him or her a hero.

1. The true hero is willing to take responsibility for his or her actions.
2. The true hero drops the "victim" cloak and goes on with duties, whether it's raining or not. S/he doesn't expect the government to hand out raincoats or, better yet, stop the rain. After all, let's get real here!
3. The true hero doesn't cry if the prize isn't in the box, and s/he for sure doesn't sue the company!
4. The true hero gets out of bed every morning no matter how s/he feels and gets on with life and kids and work. It may not pay today but it will surely pay high dividends in ten or twenty years from now.
5. The true hero knows that bad things happen to good people. As Mort Crim so aptly stated: "Once we accept the fact that bad things do happen to good people, then we can get on with the business of living life to the fullest: giving, loving, creating, sharing, building, walking through every door of opportunity offered by this fragile, unpredictable, exciting experience called life."
6. The true hero can make a decision and stand by it. This takes more courage than we realize.
7. The true hero gives 110% if that is what is needed.
8. The true hero keeps promises. Only a child knows how important this is.
9. The true hero never complains. This is where we separate the heroes from us ordinary folks!
10. The true hero loves in spite of instead of spite!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Have mercy on the dying!

My sister-in-law lived next door to us. We were blessed in that we were friends as well as relatives. She was a gentle soul and I never heard her complain. We had precious times together through the years. Then one day she got the news we ladies dread: she had breast cancer. She was one of the unfortunates, for it spread to her lungs and liver. 

When I got home from work each day I would head to her house. She was in tears one day, and shared this: "My friend from church came and she told me I don't have enough faith or God would heal me. But my doctor told me it's terminal." It is cruel for a professing lover of God to tell a dying person he or she hasn't enough faith. God does not heal everyone. We don't know why; the secret belongs with God. If some of us lived forever, then I would have a problem, but we all eventually leave this earth. What a monstrous thing to do to a dying person!

Is it any wonder some people hate God when they hear this nonsense? It's sad enough to witness death, but it is an even worse sorrow to pick up the pieces left behind by Job's comforters who forget that God gives grace to the dying as well as to the living. This is what we can share.

Pledge of Allegiance - Red Skelton

 Boys and girls, I have been listening to you recite the Pledge of Allegiance all semester and it appears that it has become monotonous to you or could it be you do not know the meaning of those words. If I may, I would like to recite the Pledge and give to you a definition of the words.

I----meaning me, an individual, a committee of one.

Pledge----dedicate all of my worldly goods to give without self pity.

Allegiance----my love and my devotion.

To the Flag----our standard, Old Glory, a symbol of freedom. Wherever she waves, there is respect because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts freedom is everybody's job.

Of the United----that means that we have all come together.

States----individual communities that have united into 48 great states. 48 individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose, all divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common cause, and that's love of country.

Of America.

 And to the Republic----a republic, a state in which sovereign power is invested in representatives chosen by the people to govern. And government is the people and it's from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.

For which it stands!

 One nation----meaning, so blessed by God.

Indivisible----incapable of being divided.

With Liberty----which is freedom and the right of power to live one's life without threats or fear or any sort of retaliation.

And justice----The principle and quality of dealing fairly with others.

For all.----which means, boys and girls, it's as much your country as it is mine."

Since I was a small boy, two states have been added to our nation, and two words have been added to the Pledge of Allegiance "under God." Wouldn't it be a pity if someone said, "That's a prayer" and that would be eliminated from schools, too?

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Ever wonder about the abbreviation ASAP?

Generally we think of it in terms of even more hurry and stress in our lives. Maybe if we think of this abbreviation in a different manner, we will begin to find a new way to deal with those rough days along the way.

There's work to do, deadlines to meet,
You've got no time to spare.
But as you hurry and scurry
ASAP - Always Say A Prayer.

In the midst of family chaos,
"Quality time" is rare.
Do your best; let God do the rest,
ASAP - Always Say A Prayer.

It may seem like your worries
Are more than you can bear
Slow down and take a breather,
ASAP - Always Say A Prayer.

God knows how stressful life is,
He wants to ease our cares,
And He'll respond to all your needs,
ASAP - Always Say A Prayer.

Today I'm saying a little prayer that
God will smile on you and send you
all the special blessings you deserve.
Pass it on ASAP. 





In George MacDonald's stories about Malcolm, he describes the difficult process of taming his stubborn and rebellious horse Kelpie. Clementina sees Malcolm's treatment of the horse as being extreme and severe. Later, Malcolm used this to illustrate God's dealings in our lives:

"My Lady... I fear you will never arrive at an understanding of God so long as you cannot bring yourself to see the good that often comes as a result of pain. For there is nothing from the lowest, weakest tone of suffering to the loftiest acme of pain to which God does not respond. There is nothing in all the universe which does not in some way vibrate within the heart of God. No creature suffers alone; He suffers with His creatures and through it is in the process of bringing His sons and daughters through the cleansing and glorifying fires, without which the created cannot be made the very children of God, partakers of the divine nature and peace.

by BBFI Missionary to Zaire/Zambia Patrick Coleman written by an unknown Confederate soldier. It is, to the best of my knowledge, untitled.


We're all important!



~ Every Instrument is Necessary ~

A conductor was rehearsing his great orchestra. The organ was rolling, giving beautiful melody. The drums were thundering. The trumpets were blaring out. The violins were singing beautifully. Suddenly something seemed wrong. Someone in the orchestra had thought, With all this going on, I can rest a while. This is a rehearsal anyway.
The conductor threw up his arms and said, "Where's the piccolo?"
The piccolo player said, "I'm obscure. I don't amount to much. With all of this going on, I don't have to keep playing."

But the one with the trained ear said, "Every one of us is necessary." When you and I feel obscure, we must remember God has something significant for our lives, and we need to respond.
— Gordon Johnson, "Finding Significance in Obscurity," Preaching Today, Tape No. 82.

But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. (Mark 10:43-44)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Still bearing fruit

"They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green. . ." (Psalm 92:14).

No one wants to get old. Dis-ease becomes outright disease. This verse becomes a blessed promise to those who keep faithful. We won't be spared getting old, but we will be spared becoming useless and fruitless and simply less. We may not do as much or as well as we did before. That doesn't matter; what is important is that our confidence does not fail. We can't help the years that slip away, but we are responsible for coming to our later years with the fruit of the Spirit so that we may stay "fresh and green" in our hearts.

If we prayed in our youth, "Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should" (Psalm 90:12 TLB), then we need not fear the approaching forever. When young we collect; when old we recollect, gratefully, we hope; when young we celebrate; when old we cerebrate!

"Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation. . ." (Psalm 71:18); "Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you" (Isaiah 46:4). One who has affectionately created will sustain. We cherish and defend that on which we have spent much time and love; how much more so our Author and Finisher.

As our physical powers diminish, our spiritual powers raise our hopes and give rise to an undaunted faith that our beloved Jesus returned to prepare us a room because He loves us that much. He orders in love that we do not let our hearts be troubled, for He has counted our gray hairs and asks only that we trust Him always.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Is God just?

"For Christ also suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18).

Always in sorrow God's love and justice are questioned. How could a good God be so cruel and so uncaring of those made in His image? Indeed, if He knew Adam and Eve would sin, why did He create them at all? I think in deep sorrow this becomes a crucial and valid question, one that Jesus Himself shouted from the cross, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" 

Perhaps we can take some comfort in Isaiah 57:1-2: "The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; merciful men are taken away while no one considers that the righteous man is taken away from evil." No one considers! How true. Jesus's disciples were so bewildered when their lovely Companion and Friend died on the Cross. Dear God, they must have cried to heaven, Love nailed to a Cross? This Man they lived with, walked with and worked with for over three years was subjected to the cruelest of deaths. How could they know that out of this seeming failure would arise the Son of Man and Son of God in eternal glory; that humankind would be given God's beauty for Jesus's ashes of suffering; that mankind would be anointed with the oil of joy, God's Holy Spirit; that the grieving world would be dressed with the garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness through this ultimate act of man's inhumanity to Man? How can we know that out of our dear and dead children's ashes will arise a good and goodness? Because our Father is just and His promises are true!

In Psalm 98:14 we are told not only of justice being the foundation of God's throne, but of the symbolism of the twin angels of mercy and truth (one version reads loving-kindness and faithfulness). Psalm 85:10 tells us: "Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed." What a lovely vision for questioning hearts! Psalm 25:10 assures us: "All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth ... " and Psalm 26:3 reassures us: "For Your loving-kindness is before my eyes."

Wherever and whenever God goes, His justice, love and faithfulness accompany Him. It is reported that when Abraham Lincoln was shot in Ford's Theater, James Garfield shouted above the panic-stricken crowd, "Fellow Citizens, `Justice and judgment are the habitation of His throne.'" Here is the moral basis for God's Kingship. How then can we blame God for evil: "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation..." (Matthew 12:25). Remember, Friend, this is Jesus speaking! I believe with all my broken heart that one of Satan's most successful ploys is convincing us that God is responsible for earth's evils and sufferings. Satan must literally dance for joy when a person actually believes that the malignities and perversities of this life are "acts of God"! We are unjust who accuse God of being unjust. It is Satan who is the accuser of the brethren and who delights in our blaming God when calamity strikes. "For God is not the author of confusion but of peace..." (1 Corinthians 14:33) and grief is not peace but a terrible spiritual anarchy.

I realize that in desolation our hearts are hardly open to the logic and logistics of this aberrant world in which we live and we seem to battle forces we feel too much beyond our control. When we want -- indeed, need -- to question why we have been thrown into the "bottom of the monstrous world," as Milton so aptly termed it, we might consider that we are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19), and neither are our beloved dead. We were bought with the fearsome price of the agony and death of the Man of Sorrows Himself. If we believe in Jesus and the Atonement then we know He literally bought us and our children, and "if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's" (Romans 14:8). God has equitable jurisdiction as Creator and Redeemer. "Behold, all souls are Mine," God tells us in Ezekiel 18:4. This implies authority and ownership. Calvin, whose puritanical pronouncements hardly belie a soft theology, recognized that God possessed "a paternal affection towards the whole human race which He created and formed." We can thank God, even with breaking hearts, that He wills all to be saved. Indeed, I believe that one of the greatest promises in His Word is in John 12:32: "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself." This surely is His highest and noblest will, considering how humankind has ignored, denied and despised the One to whom they owe life itself.

It is possible only with God as our Guide to believe that sorrow does work toward a good, and whatever good does sift its way to the top of our muddy waters comes from God's grace only. Someone has wisely observed that there is a faith which instead of moving mountains prevents mountains of evil from moving. Jeremy Taylor speaks great comfort to our hearts: "God, who in mercy and wisdom governs the world, would never have suffered so many sadnesses, and have sent them especially to the most virtuous and the wisest [people], but that he intends they should be the seminary of thought, the nursery of virtue, the exercise of wisdom, the trial of patience, the venturing for a crown, and the gate of glory."

In our quest for justice we always ask why, for we will always lose loved ones and our cherished plans will sometimes fail. Emily Dickinson pens it well:

Love's stricken "why"
Is all that love can speak --
Built of but just a syllable
The hugest hearts that break.

We ask why does the sun shine on the evil and the good, and the rain fall on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45)? Surely, if we have any sensibilities at all, so often it seems that justice and mercy are indeed on the scaffold and wrong on the throne of glory. In fact, wickedness shouts to be noticed and honored through every age. We need only note the idols and heroes the world worships.

The most agonized "why" ever on this grievous earth was the cry of dereliction from the Cross, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46). There on that instrument of death Jesus moaned the why of all who feel God-forsaken and just forsaken; who see the darkness homing in relentlessly and inescapably. Why, my God? Why my son? Why Your Son? Why anyone's beloved child? Why death at all? But questions become useless and, worse, a stone in the way of the Rock of Ages. Our Father asks us to remove the stone from the tomb of our sorrow and believe that He has the answers. We may not know the answers here on earth, but He does have them!

A Garment of Praise

"...A garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair…" (Isaiah 61:3b).

It is fitting to wear the garment of praise; it should fit us perfectly as Christians who have been draped and graced with God's promises. Jesus paid for our garment by living and dying for us. He personally wove a sacred garment for each of us, one threaded through with:

1) Faith -- Elijah told the widow her jar of flour and jug of oil would not run out, and she believed him (1 Kings 17:14-16); Abraham believed God would provide a lamb (Genesis 22:8); Jonathan believed, "Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving..." (1 Samuel 14:6b); the three Hebrews believed, "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it..." (Daniel 3:17); and Paul believed wholly, "...For I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me." (Romans 4:20).

2) Hope -- This great gift is a brother to faith. "We are saved by trusting. And trusting means looking forward to getting something we don't yet have -- for a man who already has something doesn't need to hope and trust that he will get it." (Romans 8:24 TLB). God has promised; therefore, we can't despair, even if we don't see immediate results. Jesus weaves hope ever so carefully into our newly-clothed natures. What hope we have here: "See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you." (Zechariah 3:4).

3) Love -- This is the golden thread that weaves through our garment of praise. How can we despair when this cord binds us to God and to each other? It fills our hearts with chords of praise to know we are all loved equally by a just and merciful Father. How can we despair if we love a God because He first loved us?

Our spirit of despair cannot possibly weigh us down if we weigh His mercies as well as count them. He gives us heavy goods and light afflictions. Let us praise Him!

The One-Hour Watch

"The Lord replied, `My Presence will go with you..." (Exodus 33:14).

God's Presence gives:

1) Rest: "...I will give you rest" (Exodus 33:14);

2) Joy: "...You fill me with joy in your presence" (Psalm 16:11b);

3) Courage in life's battles: "When you go to war against your enemies ...and see an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God...will be with you" (Deuteronomy 20:1);

4) A comfort in trials: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze" (Isaiah 43:2);

5) Safety: "In the shelter of your presence you hide [us] from the intrigues of men..." (Psalm 31:20).

We yearn for God's presence, but there was a time when Jesus wanted--indeed, in His humanity needed--His friends' presence. "Could you...not keep watch with me for one hour?" (Matthew 26:40). This surely is one of the saddest passages in the entire Bible. O what a tender and sorrowful rebuke! He found His beloved friends asleep in His greatest need of their nurture. O My watchmen, what of the night of this My anguish--how far gone is this night of My grief and sorrow, and you sleep on!
Throughout the Bible we meet the humanliness of Jesus as well as His Godliness. He pleads, "O My intimate earthly angels, could you not keep watch with me...?" His human heart was breaking with loneliness in the solitude of the Garden, with His friends so near and yet so far. Jesus understood that these precious simple men would not understand His agony; what hurt was their seeming indifference to it.

Yes, Jesus needs our presence, too, for He came to earth to be our Friend.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

~ Terrified of God ~

        H. G. Wells was no friend of the church, but sometimes he served us
        well. Years ago in the New Yorker, he told a story about an Episcopalian
        clergyman. (He could have told it about a preacher from any
        denomination.) This Episcopalian bishop was the kind of man who always
        said pious things to people. When troubled folks came to him, he found
        that a particularly helpful thing to say, if said in a right tone of
        voice, was, "Have you prayed about it?" If said in just the right way,
        it seemed to settle things.

        The bishop himself didn't pray much; he had life wrapped up in a neat
        package. But one day life tumbled in on him, and he found himself
        overwhelmed. It occurred to the bishop that maybe he should take some of
        his own advice. So, one Saturday afternoon he entered the cathedral,
        went to the front, and knelt on the crimson rug. Then he folded his
        hands before the altar (he could not help but think how childlike he

        Then he began to pray. He said, "O God--" and suddenly there was a
        voice. It was crisp, businesslike. The voice said, "Well, what is it?"
        Next day when the worshipers came to Sunday services, they found the
        bishop sprawled face down on the crimson carpet. When they turned him
        over, they discovered he was dead. Lines of horror were etched upon his
        face. What H. G. Wells was saying in that story is simply this: there
        are folks who talk a lot about God who would be scared to death if they
        saw him face to face.

        — Haddon Robinson, "Good Guys, Bad Guys, and Us Guys," Preaching Today,
        Tape No. 80.         

Monday, July 1, 2013

Don't blame ME!

   29:3 NIV

Don't Blame Me
by Pat Nordman
"Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!" 
Exodus 32:24b

How preposterous! "You know the people. . .that they are prone to evil" v.22. Aaron said nothing about the mold he made or the graving tool he used. Aaron blamed society and we're still doing it. Give the crowd what they want and then blame them when the gold and what we in our finite wisdom thought was good for them finally destroys them. Actually, our progenitor Adam started the blame game: "The man said, `The woman you put here with me --she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it'" Genesis 3:12. Eve took it from there.

We have all sinned--and we have all blamed nature and them. "They" made us do it. Society makes us murderers and adulterers because it makes such stringent laws, so we reason. Moses literally broke the commandments in indignation at the sin he witnessed; we break God's commandments in indignation that our so-called freedom is curtailed and then we blame others when that so-called freedom grows a bumper crop of unexpected problems.

"But they all alike began to make excuses" Luke 14:18. Everyone does it, so it can't be too wrong for us to do it; We're victims of a corrupt society; God put us in the furnace of affliction and we came out burned. At one time, children's shirts were sold that had emblazoned on them, "The devil made me do it." That's as good an excuse as all the others combined.

Someone described an alibi as an excuse that's cooked up, but is always half-baked. Benjamin Franklin made a couple of observations that have stood the test of time and human nature: "The absent are never without fault, nor the present without excuse" and "He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else." 
We have all sinned--and we have all blamed nature and them. "They" made us do it...


We mourn the passing of our dear friend, Common Sense

I posted this a year ago, but it makes so much sense I decided to repost it. I received this gem from one of my email buddies - thanks, Curt!


Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

- Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
- Why the early bird gets the worm;
- Life isn't always fair;
- And maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student, but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses, and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death:

-by his parents, Truth and Trust,
-by his wife, Discretion,
-by his daughter, Responsibility,
-and by his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 5 stepbrothers;

- I Know My Rights
- I Want It Now
- Someone Else Is To Blame
- I'm A Victim
- Pay me for Doing Nothing

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.

Caught in the middle!

"Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil" (Proverbs
4:27); "Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit would go, they would
go, without turning as they went" (Ezekiel 12:1).

Apparently extremes aren't good for spiritual health. If we lean too much on the
side of severity, we can become harsh and intolerant; if we lean too much to the
other side, we may wind up accommodating wrongdoing without realizing it. Mercy
and justice are the two sides of God's coin and that coin becomes both a just
and merciful standard for our lives. God asks that we merge good nature with
fixed spiritual principles, and that will be the stamp, the seal, the coin, for
our life.

Dwight D. Eisenhower noted: "People talk about the middle of the road as though
it were unacceptable. Actually, all human problems, excepting morals, come into
the gray areas. Things are not all black and white. There have to be
compromises. The middle of the road is all the usable surface. The extremes,
right and left, are in the gutters." The gutters are fanaticism and
indifference. It is in the middle where we find the steady people.

Benjamin Franklin said about the gray areas of life: "When confronted with two
courses of action, I jot down on a piece of paper all the arguments in favor of
each one. Then, by weighing the arguments pro and con and canceling them out one
against the other, I take the course indicated by what remains." There are
legitimate gray areas of life when it is a good idea to do this. It's choosing
the better of two goods when two options are equally honorable.

Cartwright observed that "Some flee the cross; others make one." The middle
course is at the foot of the cross!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Situation Ethics and its Aftermaths!

"Where there is no vision, the people perish. But he that keeps the law, happy is he" (Proverbs 29:18, KJV).

I am a great believer in the Book of Proverbs. If there is one book that would wipe away situation ethics, it is surely this one. As I understand it, situation ethics is nothing more then getting, after demanding, our own way. As for the law, what law? We have managed to wipe out any vestige of personal law. Why, anyone can sue for the least reason now. I am amazed at the anthills of complaints that pile up and up and up.

A number of years ago I taught Proverbs to our preteens at church; I can only pray that at least one of these young souls learned that life comes with obligations, and it isn't to his or her eternal shame to act like it. I tried to impress upon these precious souls that these rules we all so abhor are actually fences to protect us, not barriers to our fun in life. As I said to a young fellow one day, if there were no rules on the road, we'd be road-kill.

"Let the wise listen and add to their learning" (Proverbs 1:5). First, we must shut out the noise! Mrs. Fanatic here has been on a campaign for years to get our minds into our quiet space and THINK. Ohoh, think? Turn off the television if you want a vision! And then the phones and the blackberries and the radios and the computers - anything that's a distraction, which is just about everything these daze.

Ralph Waldo Emerson stated: "At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock at once at thy closet door and say, 'Come out unto us.'" The world is knocking with clutter of mind and body. Trivial Pursuit is the name of today's game. We must decide for ourselves what is important, and then shut the door to the rubbish, which increases by the minute.

"Discretion will guard [us]" (Proverbs 2:11) so that we may divide the wheat from the chaff and the essential from the ever-increasing non-essentials.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Getting a Grip on Our Gripes

"Do everything without complaining or arguing" (Philippians 2:14).

“The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on" (Arabic Proverb). "Things cannot always go your way. Learn to accept in silence the minor aggravations, cultivate the gift of taciturnity and consume your own smoke with an extra draught of hard work, so that those about you may not be annoyed with the dust and soot of your complaints" (William Osler).

It's a long step from complainant to complaisance. The physician Dr. Edward Trudeau had tuberculosis and his approach was, "I have found that the great word is Acquiescence." Sophisticated folks have a hard time acquiescing to anything, much less everything.

Disraeli, when Prime Minister of England, was known to have an excellent memory. Someone asked him one day how he managed to remember all those names and faces. "When I meet a man whose name I cannot remember, I give myself two minutes; then if it is a hopeless case, I always say: `And how is the old complaint'?" And asking some people, "How are you?" can ruin our day. Disraeli is also quoted as having said, "Never complain and never explain." Self-justification fans just as many fires as criticisms and grievances.

A strap hanger is one who has a complaint of long-standing. The word strap has many definitions. Among many meanings, the noun means belt and the verb means beat. So we can wind up belting ourselves and beating others with complaints. If the complaint is long-standing, we then shoulder the heavy epithet of strap hanger. Proverbs 25:17 wisely teaches, "Seldom set foot in your neighbor's house--too much of you, and he will hate you." This is especially true if we go there with nothing but grievances. We'd best get a grip on our gripes!

Decisiveness, Positiveness and Stubborness

"Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!" (Joel 3:14 NKJV).

Many relationships falter on stubbornness. Graves have been dug with the words, "I'm right." I had a relative who was always right – absolutely, retroactively right, even when she wasn't there and you were! She also died at a young age, poor soul. Bless her, she spent her short, insecure life proving every nit-picking point. It would have been the end of her warped world to have been proven wrong. Perhaps definitions are in order here:

1. decisiveness;
2. positiveness; and
3. stubbornness.

Decisiveness is the ability to come to a decision, make an effective choice and mentally resolve a conflict. The indecisive person lives in constant fear of consequences and is unable to handle his problems efficiently. The decisive person takes responsibility for his or her actions. Mr. or Ms. Indecisive points to others as the source of his/her unhappiness, too.

Positiveness is an extension of decisiveness: the person takes a firm stand on a decision and rules out mistakes and doubts. This person is often accused of being stubborn when in effect he has simply made up his mind on a conviction he feels is legitimate after he has thoroughly researched and thought out the problem. This person's convictions are firm, confident and, to him, logical. Of course if the person is strong-willed and narrow-minded and ungenerous, then he will be accused of being stubborn, justly so at times, too.

But the stubborn person! These folks are right come high water, the Bible, the Encyclopedia, and 50 million lawyers to prove them wrong. This person resists, whether his or her reasons are valid or not. The adamant person can't stand to lose face; ergo, s/he is always right, which is ludicrous, for who can be always absolutely right? The last I checked, Jesus was/is the only perfect Person.

On the other hand, the healthily positive person is willing to listen to reason and change his/her mind. This person is willing to change thoughts and feelings if, upon reanalysis of the situation, basic convictions are not compromised. The really confident person will concede a point to common sense, whereas the obstinate person concedes nothing. This person does not possess an opinion – it possesses him/her! Unfortunately the "always-right" person dies by degrees from loneliness. After all, who wants to be proven wrong all the time?



Go to the Ant!

“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest” (Proverbs 6:6-9).

The tiny ant teaches us many lessons:

1) It is self-motivated and highly industrialized. The ant doesn't need another to make sure it gets its work done.
2) It collects its food in the proper seasons; it is prudent.
3) It is fond of its young, and takes care of them.
4) It has foresight for others and shows kindness.
5) It works quietly without show and until the work is done. In this, it teaches us perseverance.
6) It works in cooperation and organization with others. In union there is indeed strength.
7) It keeps its home meticulously clean.
8) It knows its job and does it.
9) The ant has initiative, that wonderful virtue of resourcefulness that knows the how and when.

God is the God of nature, and it's amazing how even the smallest creatures can teach us such great lessons. We human beings can learn diligence, how to recognize opportunities, and individual initiative from the ant. "As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me" (John 9:4). The foreseeing person is a foregoing person. Sometimes we have to forego, or sacrifice, a pleasure today so we can realize a goal tomorrow. This is true in both the spiritual and material realm.

Stephen Vincent Benet said: "The ant finds kingdoms in a foot of ground." Perhaps this says to us that, even in our small area of life, we can find our sphere of contentment! Each of us has our own job to do in our sphere, responsibilities which we can't hand over to others. Rest is a reward after we have done our job. Aldegonde, coadjutor of William of Orange, is said to have for a motto, "Repos aillerus," or "Rest elsewhere." If the farmer rested because it was cold or windy, when he should be sowing and plowing, few of us would eat.

"I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. I love to keep it by me: the idea of getting rid of it nearly breaks my heart" (Jerome K. Jerome). God does help those who help themselves but even the starving must walk to the table! Of course if they are crippled, we help them; otherwise, it's best to encourage others to help themselves. After major surgery, the doctor forces the patient to get up and walk. If the patient lay there until s/he felt like getting up, the person would never do so. Sometimes we must force ourselves to get going in life.