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Archive for the ‘Personal Beliefs’ Category

A friend and I were talking about fear and trusting God. I have had times of great fear when learning to trust God. I wrote this about 15 years ago – it has been a long and at times, hard journey getting here. And I still don’t trust like I should… but I’m getting there.

The Fear of the Lord

Solomon declared,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

And I do have fear.

Sometimes

to the point of despair.

For I know that nothing happens

without first passing through the Hand of God.

God calls forth the act, directs the act

or He allows the act.

And so I fear – What will be His Will?

 

My mind and my heart struggle for control

of the emotion.

My heart says “Love”

and my mind says “Sovereignty”

with “sovereignty” being a fearful word.

 

I’ve seen God act to spare His people

and I’ve also seen Jeremiah thrown

into a well,

And Hosea sent to marry a harlot.

How can such infinite Love

allow such personal tragedy?

And so I fear…

 

But fear of the Lord

is the beginning of knowledge.

And with knowledge comes wisdom,

and with wisdom comes faith.

And with faith comes assurance

that sovereignty is not a fearful word

but is indeed Love.

 

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It’s that time of year again… The time when the so called “learned” Christians among us begin to criticize and ridicule Christmas hymns and songs for “poor theology” as well as poor ignorant Church members for – well – being so ignorant!

I’ve actually seen pastors become visibly angry over a congregation wanting to sing “Go Tell it on the Mountain” or “Joy to the World” before Christmas Day! What are we going to do with them? (These uneducated church members – not the learned pastors, of course…)

One of the most common of songs to raise ire is the favorite “Mary Did You Know?”

“Well, of course she knew”, they cry. “After all, the angel Gabriel told her everything!”

“Plus”, they add, “Her trip to Elizabeth should have been enough proof…”

Ok – let’s think about that for a moment. Those who follow my writing or Bible study teaching know that I am a stickler for two main things – first – context! The context of the scripture must be correct.

My next oft repeated phrase is that the Bible concerns, “Real people, in real events, in real time.” So with that in mind let’s examine what Mary knew – both mentally and emotionally.

In my poem “A New Understanding of Christmas” (written several years before I had children) I say that:

“Was she afraid, so far from home?

And knowing no more than she must have known,

Was she afraid that Silent Night

Bearing her child with only the light

From the star for assurance

That God was there

In person and prayer

Father and Son as One?”

 

Yes, Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her everything. Mary went to visit Elizabeth and heard an uplifting corroborating word. Yes, and Mary’s “Magnificat” is – well – magnificent in its faith-filled words of praise and submission to God… but… there is such a thing as the emotion of the moment.

And… let’s remember this is a real event, happening to real people, in real time. Mary heard the word from Gabriel. Then almost immediately she traveled to her cousin Elizabeth’s house. She stayed with Elizabeth for three months (whether she stayed until after John’s birth is debatable – personally, I think she did, unless a caravan was leaving for Nazareth and she had to leave sooner.)

Next she arrived back in Nazareth, obviously pregnant… So then we have the “real event” of Joseph’s reaction and his dream assuring him that the baby was, indeed, the Messiah.

And then… nothing…

Not another word from an angel, a dream, or special encounter for six… long… months…

Well… there was the fact that they knew the Messiah must be born in Bethlehem (and they had no intentions of making a trip to Bethlehem!) But then current events dictated that they go there anyway – but I suspect they viewed that more as a difficulty than a sign from God.

And so, they went… And they got there and the place was crowded and noisy and (likely) dirty. Surely to goodness, if this was really God’s Son, there would have at least been a nice place to birth the baby… but there wasn’t.

Think about it… six… long… months… and not a word.

Six long months of morning sickness, and back pain, and kicks that take your breath away… this was a real baby, and these were real months.

 

Have you ever had an encounter with God during a time of prayer or at an event? Have you ever felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit to do something, or take on some responsibility or chart some course? How did you feel six months later when there had been no follow up from God and things were beginning to get tough? Have you ever questioned if you heard Him correctly? Of course you have! And I’m sure Mary and Joseph both questioned, at times, if they’d heard correctly.

And then He was born…

My poem puts it this way:

“I wonder if

I could endure

The pain and then still be as sure

That this was God’s plan for my life

To be a mother before a wife,

I wonder if I could…”

 

We sing:

Mary did you know that your baby Boy will someday walk on water?

Mary did you know that your baby Boy will save our sons and daughters?

Mary did you know that your baby Boy will give sight to a blind man

Mary did you know that your baby Boy will calm a storm with His hand?

And the critics wail away at us for daring to ask these questions.

Did she really know all this? I doubt it. Did she know that He was God – yes – but what did that really mean? I don’t think she had a clue what it all really meant.

As my poem ends, I say:

“I’m sure then Mary softly smiled

And looked down gently at her child

The Savior of the world to be

But right now, so tenderly

He was her baby.

Somehow, looking out through Mary’s eyes

Brings a new understanding of Christmas.”

 

Yes, Mary knew in her mind that He was God… but in her heart, He was her baby – and that – is a “real time” event!

 

 

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manger-scene

You can find this in front of Thorngrove Christian Church on Carter School Road in East Knox County.

 

This poem was written in the late 70’s – long before our sons were born – but I just imagined how it might be…

 

A New Understanding of Christmas

 

It’s probably all been said before,

and I really don’t want to be a bore,

But, Christmas to me

and what I feel,

is so very, oh, more real

than anything that could be said.

 

Being a woman, I think of Mary,

bearing the Babe

and having to carry

the responsibility and all the while,

she was little more

than a child herself.

 

Was she afraid, so far from home,

and knowing no more

than she must have known?

Was she afraid that silent night

bearing her child with only the light

from the star for assurance

that God was there

in person and prayer

Father and Son as one?

 

I guess I’m a dreamer, but I tend to see,

how things would be

if it happened to me.

 

I wonder if

I could endure

the pain, and then still be as sure

that this was God’s plan for my life

to be a mother before a wife,

I wonder if I could.

 

I try to grasp how it must have been

in the cold damp barn

when a bunch of men

shepherds they were

reverently knelt

and quietly beheld their Savior.

 

And later then the wise men three,

coming, oh, so far to see,

the Mother and the Child

The King

the Promised One

The Messiah.

 

I’m sure then Mary softly smiled

and looked down gently at her child

The Savior of the world to be

but right now so tenderly,

He was her baby.

 

Somehow, looking out through Mary’s eyes

brings a new understanding of Christmas.

 

 

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A Word from the Lord

Last Sunday was Consecration Sunday at our church. Our pastor’s text came from Luke 9:10 and following – the familiar story of Jesus feeding the five thousand (actually there were five thousand men plus women and children – likely upwards of fifteen thousand people). As you remember the story, the disciples brought Jesus five loaves and two fishes. He had the disciples direct the people to sit in groups of fifty.

Then the scripture tells us “And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he [Jesus] looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied.”

I have heard that scripture, read that scripture, and even taught that scripture many times in my 60+ years – but this particular Sunday – that scripture grabbed me in an entirely new way. It was as if God spoke to me and said – “you’ve been faithful in tithing these many years, but I want you to lift it to Me for blessing before you give it…”

Well, ok!

My husband sings in the choir and so we seldom sit together in church. After church was over I shared my experience with him and he said, “I felt the same thing!”

And it was not only for the tithing… I believe that God would have us lift up every donation we make, every gift we give, and every day we live.

Each day must be lifted up as a thank offering to God. And do you remember the rest of the story? The people were fed, with twelve baskets of food left over… I believe that when we lift up our thank offerings to God – the needs will be met – with baskets full left over!

May it be so! Amen!

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Today’s devotional is the last in the book segment of “When and Where to Pray”. Like many of my devotionals, this one is intensely personal. These days I mostly sit (or kneel or lie face down) in my study to pray – but before I had this wonderful study – I mostly prayed at my kitchen table. This devotional was written then.

 

Kitchen Table Prayer

Many times I’ve gone to prayer with the cry, “What do I say, Lord? What do I say?”

Usually this is in response to a deep seated need for my own family or for others who’ve asked me to pray.

However, for a rewarding experience in prayer, try this sometime. If your kitchen is anything like mine (and I’m betting it is) then it is the “nerve center” of the home. It’s where things happen.

Sit down at your kitchen table and just look around. You’ll be amazed at what you see…

I’m not going to share my prayer – it’s too personal – but I’ll tell you some of what I see.

First of all, the table is cluttered with books and papers and such – an indication of our busy lives. I am thankful for each of these “activities” and the health to pursue them.

I see a jar lid that says “A B 88” – that stands for “Apple Butter 1988”. It is in my Mother’s handwriting… I miss her so much, and I am so thankful for how I was raised.

I see a couple of boxes of herbal tea that our younger son brought in, and a western magazine belonging to our older son… I pray for, and am thankful for them. We are so blessed.

On the refrigerator is a photo of my husband – what we have is beyond words. And, there’s a card from my daughter-in-law – such a special gal!

I also see a photo of a friend’s baby, a “Lucy and Ethel” magnet from a very close friend and a faculty list from our local high school (I often pray for these teachers and school staff.)

Looking on around I see “treen-ware” (wooden spoons) and a handmade “cat doll” and herbal vinegars made by craft/artist friends; each of whom hold a dear place in my heart.

There are gifts from this one, and utensils from that one and items that spark all kinds of memories. And, as those memories roll in, I pray for these folks and thank God for their place in my life.

I am also thankful for the time I can take, with my coffee, before the day begins to meditate on God’s grace and the overwhelming blessings He has given us.

No, our lives aren’t perfect – and I’ve cried many tears at this kitchen table – but this morning, as I look at the bounty from last summer, the cookbooks on the shelf, the antique dishes belonging to my “faith mothers”, and the coats hanging on the chair backs – I am reminded (again) of just how blessed we are.

I didn’t set out this morning to do this. God just opened my eyes at my kitchen table – let Him open yours, today.

God, thank you for opening my eyes this morning. I pray for my friends and those who seek to serve You daily. Use the “little things”, I pray, to spark memories, and bring to mind “faces” of those for whom You would have us pray, today.

In Jesus’ Name – Amen.

After this, I don’t think I’ll ever look at my kitchen the same way again!

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Just to take a break from my book journey and give my response (among countless others) to the Presidential election results. Isn’t it amazing how God speaks to us at just the right time?

2016 Presidential Election Results – Reaction
In our women’s Bible study group we have been studying from 1 Peter. This week we studied from chapter 2 which said in part:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.
1 Peter 2:13‭-‬17

Paul then told us how to pray for them.

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:1‭-‬4

God will do the judging – our job is to pray!

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This prayer was originally written for the National Day of Prayer – but what better time to share it than on Election Day…

 

National Day of Prayer

As I was thinking and praying this morning on this National Day of Prayer, I thought about our country and our leaders. I don’t agree with a lot that is happening in our country, but I am told by God’s word to pray for our leaders – and so I was, but still, my mind couldn’t shake the “troubling times” in which we live. I thought of children and of unborn children and what they might have to face in the years to come. Joe and I questioned whether we should bring children into the world, and for our children having children, the question is even more daunting.

As that was rummaging around in my mind, my thoughts turned to Daniel. How must his parents have felt when he was born? It is likely that he was born in the later days of Josiah, a very good and Godly king, but when Josiah died, things turned bad, quickly. (Three of Josiah’s sons would eventually become king, and of each it is said, “He did evil in the sight of the Lord.”)

One of the key things that I always teach about the Bible is that it is a “real book”. The people are real, the times are real, and they lived very real lives – just like you and I do. So, in that regard, think about Daniel. Daniel was born into a very prestigious family, if not the royal family itself, so his parents saw first hand the things that were happening to the nation. After the “great awakening” that took place under Josiah, how did they feel as they watched God being mocked and the morality of the nation declining? Did they worry about what the future held for their children? Like us, I’m sure they did.

Then came the day when Nebuchadnezzar’s army crashed through the gates of Jerusalem and the captivity for the Israelites began. And among the first group that was taken was the young man Daniel. Were his parents killed? Was Daniel pulled from his mother’s grasp as she cried out his name? We don’t know these details, but what we do know is Daniel’s story as a captive in Babylon – and what a story it is! Daniel made a difference.

Get that – Daniel made a difference!

Yes, he was in captivity. Yes, it was awful times. But Daniel made a difference – and made a difference that (I think) even impacted the Magi who would find the newborn King some 600 years later! What does that say to us today? It says parents (grandparents) teach your children well. “Times” may not get easier – in fact they may get downright hard, but our children MUST make a difference! Who knows where among us there may be a Daniel?

Prayer

Father, we pray for this nation and our world, but we pray especially for our children who will be facing the future. Equip them to stand and to make a difference. Raise up a Daniel among us O Lord for the days look dark ahead.

O Father, the pleadings of Isaiah and the weeping prophet Jeremiah calling their nation to repentance keep sounding in our ears. O God! What will it take to bring our nation to repentance? Economic woes haven’t done it. Terrorist attacks haven’t done it. National disasters haven’t done it. What Lord? Will it take exile?

There are small flickers and sparks of renewal throughout the land. Merciful God, bless our children and fan those flickers into flames and save us O God; do save us now, in the precious name of Jesus we plead – Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

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