Back to God

This is a song for our time. We are all (and when I say all, I mean the entire world!) wondering about these strange times that we live in. Politicians do not have an answer. They can send us money, give us vaccinations, tell us to stay home, require us to give up our gatherings, but they do not have an answer. Giving us money is only a short term fix for some, but it further increases a national debt that we will never be able to repay. Giving us vaccinations may protect us, but how long will it last? Will there be long term side effects? Will this plague ever go away completely? Staying home creates such incredible loneliness and spells disaster for small family owned businesses. We need each other. We need companionship. We need community. People are so needy these days.

This morning my husband and I were out on a walk in the neighborhood. As we walked a few streets away, we were admiring some of the Victorian style architecture and the large covered porches where people used to gather. Suddenly, a woman came out onto her porch and began telling us all about the roofing job that had just been completed on the house closest to us. She went on to introduce herself and her husband and in the end, invited us to come back one day to sit on her large front porch and have tea. She said, I am human. You are human. We all need each other. How right she is and how terribly heartbreaking. People need companionship. Not only was this short chat heartbreaking, but it was also incredibly uplifting. She was so needy and yet so welcoming and thoughtful. We need each other. We would love to go back in the spring and sit on her porch and have a nice cup of tea with this neighbor who rushed out to greet us on a cold winter day with such a warm welcoming spirit.

Yes, we are all human and we need each other. However, no amount of money or government intervention will ever fulfill our heart’s needs. What we really need is God. We need God Himself, not religion. We each need our Father in heaven for ourselves. We need to have a conversation with him and pray that He will be with us and guide us. We need Him personally in each of our lives. If we have grieved him, we need to apologize and make it right. We need to ask His forgiveness and change. He is so longsuffering and kind. He will come swiftly when he hears a humble and repentful heart. Others can feel it if our love for God and our fellow humans is true. People are looking for true, sincere, and righteous lovers of God. When they feel that kind of love, they look up and take notice; it gives them a kind of divine jealousy. They want to get whatever it is that person has. True love is contagious and will spread. We gotta give this world back to God.

You gotta get down on your knees, believe
Fold your hands and beg and plead
Gotta keep on praying
You gotta cry, rain tears of pain
Pound the floor and scream His name
‘Cause we’re still worth saving
Can’t go on like this and live like this
We can’t love like this
We gotta give this world back to God

The most valuable book ever written

It is an outstanding gift to be able to read the Bible from cover to cover in a year. There are many apps that help us to accomplish it these days, making it very available to us in several formats.

As your year of reading begins, you read the story of how God created the world. By his word, he proceeded step by step, and each of those steps added to the creation of an amazingly beautiful world. He put the man and the woman in the garden of his creation and gave them an apparently simple restriction. Don’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because if you do, you will surely die. Although that seems simple enough, along came the evil one lying, making insinuations and creating doubt in the woman’s mind. We all know where that led to.

At the end of your year of reading, you arrive at the book of Revelation. In it, God shows the culmination of mankind’s journey from the state of sin, through the process of overcoming, leading to his/her salvation and the ultimate return to God’s paradise. When we read the last chapters of Revelation, the paradise that is described appears to be similar to the first, but when you compare it to the first, this paradise seems more glorious than the first. The first one had a garden, everything that mankind needed to live, trees that were pleasant to the sight, and a river that split into four rivers. Most importantly, God Himself liked to walk there. In the paradise in Revelation, sits God’s throne and the throne of the Lamb, and from that throne comes a river, but this river is the water of life, clear as crystal. On either side of that river of life is the tree of life. There is no more curse in this place and no more night. God’s servants will see God’s face in this place and there is not even a sun because God Himself gives them light. You can see that this paradise is clearly even more magnificent than the first.

In between the first paradise and the last, all the pages of the Bible tell the story of sin and its consequences and mankind’s struggle to overcome it, the life stories of men and women who succeeded and of those who did not. It tells of overcomers, prophets, evil kings, good kings, simple people and so much more. We read of Abraham, Jacob and Esau, King David, his son Solomon, Manasseh, Moses, Samuel, Rahab, and so many others. Each of their lives added to the human story, both good and bad. Those whose lives demonstrated overcoming added to the river of life and showed the way of salvation to those who would come after them. Those who succumbed to satan’s ploys added something important as well. They gave us an image of what not to do, how not to live. Looking at the whole, we see a grand snapshot of God’s eternal plan of salvation and the final restoration of Adam’s descendants. We see God’s compassion and kindness and learn from the mistakes of those who went before us.

Through the richness of the Bible, we learn that we do not have to live as some have lived, but we can live following the example of the most amazing life ever lived, the life of Jesus. What an awesome and splendid story we find in the life of Jesus. We can read his life’s story over and over again and learn more from it each time. Even today, in the midst of a world that seems to have gone mad, we can still find his words jumping out from the pages of this book, beckoning us to live them and make them our own. This book tells us of those who did it. They lived his words. In their lives they succeeded and showed us that we can too. Jesus showed us that God is his father. We are all sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, whose father was God. That makes God our father as well. That means that we can all find the path to salvation if we desire it. With the life of Jesus and the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we are well able.

Best wishes for a successful overcoming life with Jesus in 2021!

At Eventide

From Christmas Eve night into most of Christmas day, the skies over our small part of the world were very dark and out of them poured deluges of wind driven rain, carrying away every speck of a white Christmas and leaving some in nearby towns without power. Finally, as Christmas evening arrived, I saw a golden hue from my window. I grabbed my phone and rushed out onto the porch to find this spectacular sunset.

The sight of it reminded me that our darkest days have the potential to bring the most spectacular results in our lives. How kind of God to remind us of this encouraging fact in the midst of our troubling times.

We should not fear the darkness, but search for meaning and for ways to overcome as we travel through it. I wish all of the WordPress family many happy adventures and much overcoming in 2021 and may we all remember the simple lesson of the rainbow after the storm or the spectacular evening sunset that follows the darkness. Let this be our hope.

Best wishes in 2021!

We are weighed in the balances and found wanting

The other day I was listening to a local radio talk show.  The guests and the host were discussing the problems in our state and lamenting the downturn in business and the difficulties suffered by restaurants and other small businesses.  I think that we all agree that this is a horrendous situation. The speakers on the show were mostly blaming our governor and other officials who are using this world wide tragedy as a platform to bring in more restrictions and limitations on free speech.

I listened and thought on that for a while.  On the surface, some, or even many, of these allegations may be true, but then God showed me another way to look at it.  The citizens of our country have had the liberty of free speech for several hundred years.  We have had much freedom and many opportunities to build businesses and create schools and hospitals and libraries and so many other avenues of expression and enterprise for ourselves.  What have people done with this great freedom of speech and opportunity?  Has God been magnified?  Have our enterprises uplifted others? Has it been clear to the world that the blessings that we have enjoyed come from the living God whom we serve?

It’s true that some of these freedoms have been successfully used for the benefit of mankind and our country has been very generous to charities that do uplift many.  In the past our country was like a beacon on a hill, calling to the world’s oppressed and mistreated.  However, that same freedom has been used to mock God, destroy his worthy name and create businesses that lead many down a road of debauchery.  We have also used this freedom to build ourselves magnificent homes, go on luxurious vacations, and create entertainments that fill our lives with godless meaninglessness.  We have become a country of overabundance and wastefulness. Our magnificent Father, God, has been relegated to a small and insignificant corner of many lives, and even kicked out of most daily activities.  It’s clear that we have had freedom of speech and have abused it.

So, why do we blame our leaders for what is happening?  Why do we continue searching for scapegoats?  It’s our own fault.  In the days of Daniel the prophet, King Belshazzar was in his palace drinking wine and praising the gods of gold, silver, and brass etc.  Just then, he saw part of a man’s hand writing on the wall.  It wrote, “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin.”  No one was able to explain it to the king, until the queen told the king that there was a man named Daniel, full of wisdom and understanding, who could explain it to the king.  Daniel was able to translate the whole sentence, part of which – tekel – meant “thou art weighed in the balances and are found wanting.”  When the main desires of our lives are to yearn for more and more money or more and more material goods and beautiful houses filled with expensive furnishings, are we any better than King Belshazzar?  Perhaps we have been weighed in the balances and found wanting.

We should not look for others to blame.  We should look inside of ourselves and see what it is inside of us that is wanting in God’s sight.  Why did God give us free will?  Why did He allow us to pursue freedom of expression? What if He were to let us continue going on down this same avenue? How bad could it get? Would the actions of the majority make it impossible for the increasing minority of those who truly love God to continue?

God never allows difficulties in our lives unless He intends them to produce something good. Could He be allowing this to happen to us so that we have the opportunity to change? Just because we are found wanting does not mean we have to stay that way. Therefore, we should not look at this pandemic as a curse, but as an opportunity to look at ourselves and change the negatives into positives, to turn from those ways and seek God.  We can pray for our country, help our fellow citizens and pray for as many as possible to look within and to see where we need to change our motivations, after which both our individual and collective behavior will follow suit.  Because we will turn our hearts to God, we can then pray to Him and He will listen and heal both us and our country.  (2 Chronicles 7:14)

How can this guy be best friends with everybody?!

No one alive today needs someone to tell them that these are really difficult days to be alive on planet Earth. For most of the world it has been about eight or nine months (ten if you’re in China) since we last felt normal. We don’t know when or if normalcy will return. Many of us have lost loved ones, jobs, and/or the companionship of friends and family. We’re collectively lonely. Everywhere.

Personally, I miss my children and wonder when they will be able to come for a visit again. It’s not easy for them to come since they live quite a few hours away by airplane. Of course, we have the facetime chats, which are greatly appreciated, but it’s just not the same. Normally, when they visit, we would be heading to the local coffee shop for a cup of tea and a chat, or perhaps heading out for a drive in the northwest hills of our state (with more tea and more chatting).

With so many ideas of COVID-19 and loneliness and election craziness running through my head this morning, I thought, “Lord, we need you to be close more than ever.” Right away, I realized the error of my ways. The Lord is always close to us. It’s us that need to be close to him. It sounds a little trite to say it, but yes, we need him. Obviously.

We need more than a distant, two dimensional “facetime” chat with him. He’s real. We need to sit down and have a cup of tea and a chat with him. There are so many issues we need help with. He can give us the patience to wait out the vote counting process, the faith to accept whatever the election result, the love to fill our loneliness, and the strength to bear up through these difficult days.

He’s not a boring God. He’s very personal. If we like gardening, so does he. If we enjoy reading or writing, he loves it too. If we love a long bike ride on a Sunday afternoon, he’s always up for it. Sewing? Knitting? Yup! He’s great at it. He would love to come along, no matter what we’re doing, and fill our hearts and minds with inspiration and ideas about living a complete and whole human life.

Take him to work and he’ll give us ideas on how to do things better and be more efficient. He can show us answers to problems that we have not been able to resolve. If we’re going out for a walk or to work out at the gym, he’s already dressed and raring to go. He can’t wait to help. Getting ready to cook dinner? He has the perfect choice and is always careful not to let food spoil or go to waste. It’s going to be tasty and healthy with a bit of a treat now and then. He really is our best and most loyal friend.

Try it! He never disappoints! How can this guy be best friends with everybody? Well, he’s God! 🙂

Which would you choose: the news? or the Bible?

When I was young, my family got two newspapers every day, a morning paper from a nearby large city and an afternoon more local paper from our county. Then once a week we got a paper from our own small town as well. I read them all. My parents read them all and perhaps some of my brothers and sisters read them all. I’m not sure about that last point because I never paid that much close attention. The point is that we devoured the news and we depended on its veracity to keep us informed.

Nowadays, it’s hard to find real news. The evening news has mostly just two main stories, politics and the coronavirus situation, which is also often mixed in with politics. Very little else. My husband and I do still get a morning newspaper, and in that paper we often find small articles that you would never see on the evening news, but yet these articles contain important and interesting information. However, even so, both the newspapers and news shows all have a slant these days. The once strict principle that journalists had to be objective seems to have been completely run over by the freight train of political gain. At the same time, lot of people just get their news from social media, which is an absolutely frightening idea.

It occurred to me yesterday that the only news that we have nowadays that you can truly trust is the good news of the Bible. It never changes. When you read it, you always get something fresh and encouraging that you can make a part of your day. Even when the Scriptures seem to be reprimanding us, they always leave a place for hope. If you just turn your heart back to God, you’ll see a change in your life.

More and more, the newspapers and the evening news just don’t deliver. The Bible is ever reliable, ever hopeful and ever fresh. All you need is one of them to get fresh news delivered to your door each and every day. I highly recommend it.

Does God have to keep a social distance from us?

Recently, I saw this phrase in front of a church.

“We need to social distance.  God doesn’t have to.”

God is never far from us.  In fact, He is in our hearts, in our mouths.  He is a very present help in trouble.  He is always ready and willing to close the gap.  Wishing you health, joy and closeness to Him.

Deu 30-14

How excellent is God’s name in all the earth!

milky way

Psalm 8:1  Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens!

Verse 3  When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained,

King David, as a youth, spent many hours and days and nights out in the field with his sheep.  He came to appreciate his natural environment.  He could lie down and look up at the sky and observe all the magnificence of the Milky Way above him.  He spent his days looking for fresh green grass for his flocks and most likely appreciated the shade given him by the trees.  Because of his situation, he developed an appreciation for the natural creation.  As an older man, he was able to express his admiration for God’s creation in the psalms that he wrote.

Many people today live in large cities built by men (or women).  They see very little of God’s creation during their day and the night time skies are completely blocked out by the city lights.  They have no time to contemplate the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly or the movements of an ant.  They forget how unique and marvelous God’s creation really is.  They don’t know how it all works together in unison and functions perfectly when left alone, untouched  by man’s unthinking hand.  They get ideas to ‘tame’ and change the earth to suit what they think will be beneficial to their schemes.  Then once one thing is changed, they find out perhaps years later how necessary that element was and how it had been part of a whole that sadly no longer exists.

We need to go out into nature and take our children out to experience it.  We need to sit and marvel at the miracle of a tree and appreciate the wonder of the night sky.  When we do, we, like David, feel how infinitely small we are in the midst of this vast universe and we can wonder, as David did, “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?  For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor.”  We can receive a true spirit of humbleness and of awe at the creation we live in and our place within it.

IMG_2840

Fighting the good fight

In the battle of life, we should never, ever give up.  Life has seemed like a battle lately for many, perhaps even for the whole world.  During a physical battle in World War I, an important French general, General Ferdinand Foch, is famous for having possibly said:

“My center is giving way, my right is in retreat; situation excellent. I shall attack.”

I love that attitude.  Whether he said these actual words or not is not important, but in his life he made it a priority to maintain a constant positive attitude.  He did not let the confusion of the battle or the situation overcome him.  He stayed focused and in control.  He did actually say the following:

“A lost battle,” he proclaimed, “is a battle which one believes lost. A battle won is a battle we will not acknowledge to be lost.”

Hang in there.  We should not be attacking one another.  We are not the enemy.  The enemy is the hateful thoughts, selfish attitudes and angry feelings that we harbor.  We should attack whatever demons are hiding in our closets that are holding us hostage.  When we feel as if our center is giving way, our right is in retreat, we should remember General Foch.  The situation is excellent.  Time to attack.  Attack the negativity with positivity.  It will soon disappear.  With the help of God, we can overcome.  With such confidence, we are well able to gain the victory.

DO NOT GIVE UP!

Freedom?

Every day in the news recently, we see some people who are choosing not to wear masks and choosing to flout social distancing rules.  They are usually the loudest ones,  honking horns at the state capital, screaming in the faces of law enforcement officers and even congregating at large pool parties.  I saw the comment of one such person on a blog about wearing masks.  “I woke up this morning a free person.”  By that, I assume that he believes that he can do whatsoever he wants with no thought of anyone else.  That is not freedom.  That is selfishness.

If I am truly free, I can maintain the essence of my life no matter what is happening outside of me.  A selfish person cannot ever be free because his/her one great longing is to fulfill his/her selfish desires.  That totally depends on the outside circumstances.  A rebellious person can never be free either.  That person is always going to do the opposite of what anyone asks him or her to do.  Therefore, if a rebellious person is imprisoned or confined in some way, the confinement will always impinge on his/her ability to behave rebelliously.  Even a religious person in the sense of loving the outward manifestations of religion, can never truly be free.  That person’s religiosity will always desire those traditions and will always feel limited and somehow less holy if he/she cannot have a physical presence in the church or with religious articles such as rosary beads.  True freedom can only mean being free from Satan’s kingdom.  Know the truth and the truth SHALL make you free.  In other words, if you don’t know the truth, you are not free.  It cannot be both ways.  You are either serving God or the other guy.

Jesus always spoke in parables.  Ministers and teachers love to use parables to teach us a lesson.  Parables are stories that help us to see an important point.  What if God also loves parables and what if our whole lives are parables?  This whole pandemic is a parable.  The whole world is stuck inside.  We are all in a kind of prison.  Why?  This strange new parable is showing us how captured we are, but we are all reacting differently to this quarantine.  If I feel stuck and in prison because of the restrictions of the quarantine or of social distancing or wearing a mask, then I am captured.  However, if I’m free in God, no one and no thing can take my freedom away.  If I’m wearing a mask, I am still free.  If I’m staying in my house, I’m still free.  No matter my outward circumstances, I am still free to love, free to serve and free to pray always.  That is what is happening inside.  No one can take that away.  My mind and heart are always free to speak to God, to worship Him or to pray to Him.  If I am confined, my inner life’s freedom continues on.  Wearing a mask cannot stop me from loving God and my neighbor.  Standing six feet away from a person cannot stop me from praying for him/her.

Though we may all still be captured to varying degrees, if we watch our reactions to this confinement and recognize that we are reacting negatively for a reason, we can learn from this situation, and we can yet be made free on that point because recognizing our negativity leads us towards the solution.  That is the first step on the path to knowing the truth.  That path will always lead us to the truth which will make us truly free.  Only then we be free indeed.

That is why Jesus is my hero.  Satan had nothing in him.  For that reason, he could stand tall, look Pilate calmly in the eye and say, “You could have no power at all against me, except it were given to you from above.”  (John 19:11)  He was completely free even in the face of the man who apparently had the power to put him to death.  Even in the face of that possibility, he had total faith and trust that nothing could happen to him unless God the Father allowed it.  Because he experienced the best and the worst of this earth and yet maintained his integrity, he is well able to help us reach that place as well.