Wednesday, July 5, 2017

I Love Rocks

  I love rocks. I really do. I guess it’s a good thing since there is no shortage of rocks in these Ozark Mountains of Arkansas where I live. It seems that they grow and multiply like weeds.  My lawn mower doesn’t appreciate them as much as I do.  They come in all different sizes, different colors, with different characteristics, but all are interesting.
   I come by this love and appreciation for rocks quite honestly.  My mother and grandmother were rock collectors, although they called themselves and folks like them “rock hounds”.  It's a good description.  Eyes always to the ground scouting for any worthy to be added to their collections like bloodhounds on the hunt.
   In addition to the family heritage of rock hounding, I have other reasons for this interest in rocks.  I find them fascinating.  Though they are quiet things, rocks really do tell stories.  Well now, that just reminded me of a scripture verse. Sorry, but this happens all the time. Luke 19:40…But He (Jesus) answered and said to them, (the Pharisees) “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”  Jesus was making His triumphal entry to Jerusalem just before His crucifixion. The multitude of His disciples were praising God saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 
   The Savior of the world would get praise that day even if it came from the rocks.  I hope I praise Him enough with my voice and my life that my rocks don’t have to cry out.
   Back to why I like rocks.  Like I said, sometimes they have stories to tell, sometimes they are part of the story and sometimes they are the whole story.
   Regarding rocks with stories to tell, this would be the interesting fossils that I find. We have found what appear to be clams encapsulated in rock.  This discovery would make a person wonder if at some time in the past water covered the tops of these mountains.  According to Genesis 7:19-20, it did.  (19. And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered.  20.  The waters prevailed fifteen cubits upward, and the mountains were covered.)  I am confident that my rocks, if they could talk, would have very interesting stories to tell us.  I think they might whisper to us “Heed the word of the Lord.”
   I love the story of young David before he became king, and how he chose five smooth stones from a brook and went to do battle with the enemy, a feared enemy who was fiercer and bigger and who brought with him a sword, a spear, and a javelin to this battle.  David had his slingshot, five rocks and God.  David told this enemy, “I will win and then all the earth will know that there is a God in Israel.”  David did win with one rock and they and we can know there is a God.
   Sometimes rocks have a story, sometimes they are in the story, and sometimes they are the whole story.  My favorite rock is the Rock of my salvation, the stone the builders rejected. 
Psalm 61:1-2:  Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer; From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

   By the way this Psalm was written by David, the same boy with the slingshot and the same man who became King David.  He might have been king but he knew who was higher than him.  
   This rock that is higher than I.....this is my favorite.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Fixer-Upper

The Fixer-Upper

  When my husband and I travel we take mostly back roads, the ones that trail thru small communities and wind lazily around in rural areas.  Some might find this boring, but we find it refreshing.  We find all kinds of “treasures” on these outings, interesting flea markets, occasional wildlife, and interesting architecture.  As we travel along, we play a game we call “fix it up or tear it down”.  This is in reference to interesting old homes we find that have lots of character but need lots of work.  We decide between us if we would fix them up or tear them down.
  On one such trip we were traveling highway 6 in Pennsylvania and went through the town of Coudersport.  We happened on to the most wonderful fixer upper we had ever come across.  It was a sad old broken down three story with so much character and potential we fell in love with the old beauty.  It was obvious that she had been completely neglected for who knows how long, but the possibilities were endless. It was almost as though I could hear her call out, “make me new again”. 

  Oh, how I wished I could answer that imaginary call.  Boy could I day dream about fixing this one up.  For the next few years when we would travel to Pennsylvania to check on my husband’s mother, we would also check on this fixer upper, to see if anyone had bought it or changed it, or tore it down.  One year we must have gotten on a different street going thru that town, because we couldn’t find it.  We looked and looked where we thought it was but could not find it.  We surmised that it must have been torn down.  It saddened our hearts.  The next year we didn’t really look but happened on to it again accidentally and were overjoyed.  There she was still standing, 

   And wonder of wonders someone had started to work on it.  Someone out there believed like us that this wonderful old architectural gem was worth restoring.

  What a beautiful sight to behold.  When we got home that year we contacted the realtor named on the sign in the yard to get the whole story.  Someone was indeed going to restore what we learned is called “Old Hickory”.   She would become a bed and breakfast.  And, we can follow the progress.  Old Hickory has her own Facebook page.  Each small advancement brings joy and excitement.
  I believe there is something in us that longs to see things at their best potential.  It is fulfilling to watch something in ruins brought back to what it was designed to be.  Whether it be an old mansion or an old car or an old piece of furniture there is a satisfaction in seeing it restored.  As you can see from the pictures my husband likes to restore cars.
    I think God feels that way about us.  And really, don’t we all have an awareness of those areas in us that need repair?  Don’t we desperately long for clean slates?  Don't we too cry out “make me new again”? 
    We were designed to be magnificent beautiful loving children of God.  He created us for Himself, but the enemy struck quickly and dragged mankind off into his camp. And now, in the enemy’s camp we deteriorate and face many kinds of onslaughts that steal our beauty.  Just like Old Hickory, buffeted by time and weather, we are battered by our enemy who works to keep us enslaved in his camp.  But………God sees us.  He always sees us and He loves us with an amazing love. 
   The first thing we need in order to be restored is to get out of the enemy’s camp.  We, like Old Hickory, need to be purchased and have a new owner who will restore us to our intended beauty. God says, “I will buy you back and I will restore you.  The price to buy us was high.  It cost God his Son Jesus dying on a cross, shedding His blood (innocent blood) to buy us back.  But He did that.  Accepting that truth and allowing Christ to be Lord then begins the restoration process.
2 Cor 5:17 says:  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
2 Cor 4:16 says:    Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
Col 3:10 says:   and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,

   Someone on Old Hickory’s Facebook page ask the question “how do you know what colors to use?”  The answer was that when they scraped the old layers of paint off and got down to the original they could see bits of the original color.  God knows under the layers of sin, hurt, discouragement, failures, and pain there is a person that He created with beauty and uniqueness and purpose.  Little bit by little bit He starts removing the old and replacing with new.  Just like with the mansion it doesn’t happen all at once.  New ownership happens all at once, but restoration is a process.
   Sometimes we can be judgmental regarding someone’s progress or our own restoration progress.  Instead of rejoicing at every little victory we tend to look at how much is yet to be done. 

   Let me encourage you to look at yourself and your brothers and sisters as works in progress like that beautiful old mansion with its new owner.  As Christians, we are new creations.  As we grow in grace and truth His beauty will shine through. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Granny Will Save Me

Hebrews 11: 6 says, But without faith it is impossible to please Him, (God) for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
   This is telling us that faith is a really big thing to God.  When we have faith in Him, it pleases Him.  This week I got a small inkling of this kind of pleasure that God gets from our trust and faith in Him.  Three of my grandchildren were spending the evening with us while their mom and dad had a much-needed date night.
   Six-year-old Calvin was educating younger brother (three-year-old Elijah) about the horrors of ticks and tick bites.  He had watched a documentary about the scariest animals (mosquitos and ticks were at the top of the list).  He was quite descriptive about how the nasty little fiends latch on and don’t let go.  He made it sound like they never let go and you are now doomed.  Elijah didn’t bat an eye but proclaimed with complete confidence, “Granny will save me.”
   Sweet were the words, they melted my heart. And they were cute and funny.  I have chuckled each time I remember his confident words. But there was something else.  It pleased me that he had faith that Granny would save him from any nasty tick.  He sees me as a protector and deliverer, a safe place.
   This little episode reminded me that God is my protector, my deliverer, and my safe place of refuge from every trial, fear and enemy.  When faith rises to the surface and I trust God to see me thru a hard situation, or joy comes bubbling into my heart because I know with confidence that I am His child and He has redeemed me and has given me a place in His family, and when I am comforted by the truth of His love for me I know that these seedlings of faith rising up please my Heavenly Father.  That is what you call a win, win.
   Why do you suppose faith is such a big deal to God?  For one thing, if you are looking anywhere else besides Him it is useless wasted time and effort. The One True God knows there is no other god, no other power, no other wisdom.  Because of His love He wants us to come to the real One and only.   If you are trusting yourself, you are missing out on the strength and power and wisdom of the Creator of the universe.  God desires for us to have access to these things. 
    Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father (God) except through Me.  Jesus is the access key. 
    I believe what Jesus said.  I choose to come to God through Jesus.  That is faith.  It pleases God.  I now have access to this Father who has power and wisdom and love.
   There are way more than nasty ticks out there to grab hold of us.  No matter how complicated life gets, no matter how disturbing the world news is, no matter what the enemy throws at me, with confidence I can say, “God will save me”. 

   Will things always turn out the way I want them to?  No, but I know that my soul is secure and I can say with assurance because of what Jesus Christ has done, God will save me.  You want to please God?  Have faith.  It truly is a win, win.  

Friday, April 21, 2017


      I love the Wednesday night services at the church I attend.  We have a meal together with fun and fellowship. Then we have a time of Bible study and sincere prayer.
     Lately, in the Bible study time, we have been looking at the parables of Jesus.  Telling little stories about life situations was a great teaching tool.  We all tend to be like children and need these “make it plain for me” wisdom stories.
     Even King David came to a place in his life that he needed a “you need to wise up story”.  This particular story-telling incident is found in 2 Samuel chapter 12. 
     Before I get to the story, let me explain why King David needed this lesson.  This explanation we can find in chapter 11.  This chapter of scripture tells us that David lusted after a woman who was not his wife.  He gave in to the lust and then when the woman became pregnant he sought to cover his sin by insuring that the woman’s husband died in battle.  Sin on top of sin. The last verse of chapter 11 says this: But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.  Sin, the crossing of God’s boundaries displeases Him.  
     I doubt if anyone wants to displease the Lord.  But we go off on selfish ventures that does just that.  You might ask, “If we do displease Him will He stop loving us? 
    The answer is “No, He will love us still, but we will probably miss out on blessings He wants to give and, He just might have a “wise up” story for us.  He does not want for us to sin.  Sin causes havok and that is not what God wants for us.
    King David’s “wise up” story was delivered by the prophet Nathan at the Lord’s request.  Nathan told King David this story:  There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor.  The rich man had many flocks and herds.  The poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children.  It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him.  Well the story goes on that a traveler came to the rich man.  Well, this rich man refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”
     Blind to the comparison and reason for the story, King David’s anger was greatly aroused against this rich man who would do such a thing.  King David tells Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die!  And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.”
    Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”  O boy, truth, and shame, came crashing in and repentance was the result of this story.

    The parable that we looked at this week was one that opened my eyes a bit.  I had read it many times but had not understood it fully, and probably still don't understand it fully.  (Let me say here that I appreciate my pastor and the lessons that he brings on Wednesday nights.  The next few paragraphs of this blog come from my notes from his lesson.)
     It is the parable of the persistent widow.  It is found in Luke chapter 18: 1-8.  There are just two characters in this story that Jesus is telling. 
     The first character is a judge.  This judge is described as one who did not fear God nor regard man. Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom I think we can safely assume that he is not a wise judge.  On top of that he didn’t care about people.
    The other character in the story is a widow woman with an issue that needed resolved.  She wanted justice.  We learn that the judge finally took care of the situation not because he cared or because he was a good judge but because she was bugging him.
    Then Jesus compares the lousy judge to God our Father. His words are wonderful yet sad.  “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with then?  I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.  Nevertheless, when the Son of Man come, will He really find faith on the earth?”
    The widow, one who is alone is compared to God’s people, His elect, his beloved bride. We are never alone.  The widow was a stranger to the judge.  God’s children are not strangers to Him.  They are loved and special with an invitation to come boldly to Him. 
    That poor widow sought help from an unjust judge.  We seek help from a righteous Father.  She was alone fighting her cause alone.  God is for us, He is on our side, and Jesus is our advocate.
    In times past I somehow thought the lesson in this parable was to never give up and to keep praying until God answered.  That however puts the focus on the woman.  I realize that the lesson here is to focus on who God really is and to rest in the assurance that He cares. 
     The lesson is that I can trust Him completely even when He doesn’t answer right away.  He will answer with wisdom at the right time and in the right way because He loves us very much.
    If you have prayed long and hard for a situation, keep praying and remember as you pray who is at the receiving end of your prayer. Keep your focus there.  It is a loving holy God who beckons you to come to Him.  He says we can come without fear.  We can come as often as we need to, and we come knowing we are loved. We can be sure that He will use great wisdom when He answers.
    Viewing God for who He is will increase our faith. Faith pleases God. I mentioned that these words are wonderful yet sad.  They are sad because Jesus asks the question, "When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?"  He wants us to know we don't have to badger Him.  He wants us to know how very much He loves us.  He is the very best judge.  Trust Him.  Blessings.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Drain Your Swamp

     One of the promises made by our newly elected president was that he would go to Washington and drain the swamp.  People seemed to like that idea and it was chanted at the president’s rallies.  There is a sense that our government has become corrupt, dishonest and untrustworthy, and that Washington has become a swamp, a nasty place filled with greed and egocentricity.  The mental picture is one of a filthy putrid stagnant swamp that needs to be drained and fresh clean water brought in. 
     There is an old saying attributed to an English historian, commonly known as Lord Acton that says, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. 
     Even if that Washington DC swamp could be drained, it would be impossible to find fresh clean water if that means finding perfect people.  There are none.  All people are flawed and all are affected by power.  Lord Acton’s quote fits all except one man, Jesus Christ.  His power, His authority, His position as King of kings did not corrupt. 
     There is however this encouraging promise that Jesus gives us. It is found in John chapter 4.  This scripture tells us about when Jesus met and spoke with a Samaritan woman.  (This is quite interesting because there was a divide between men and women and there was a divide between Jews and Samaritans.)  The customary separations did not deter Him.  He met her beside a well as she came to draw water.  He surprised her when He asked her for a drink. 
     It wasn’t Jesus who was in need though.  He gave this woman some good news, news that would help her drain her own swamp.  Jesus knew all about her personal swamp. (And He knows all about our swamps, yours and mine.)  He knew about all the murky feelings, the failures, the pain, all those past husbands and the fact that she was living with a man who was not her husband.  He said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, “Give Me a drink,” you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”  She didn’t quite understand what He was saying to her.  Then, referring to the well they stood beside, He told her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.  But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” 
     There are many swamps that need to be drained and fresh pure water brought in.  This starts with individuals.  Our hearts and minds and words and actions can become like swamps.  Drain the swamp and fill it with what Jesus has to offer, living water.
    It could be our homes that have swamps that need to be drained.  Our homes have become filled with filthy songs and movies and magazines and then we hope for our children to embrace purity and good.  If your home houses pornography you need to drain your swamp.

     For all the swamps that exist in our hearts, our homes and our cities and governments there is only one answer.  It is the living water that Jesus promised.  The enemy offers swamp water.  Jesus offers living water.
     If you have been blessed to have found this living water then take your cue from Jesus don't let cultural or racial divides keep you from sharing the message of living water.  Jesus didn't even let the woman's sinful lifestyle deter Him from sharing the answer to her need.  Don't be like the like Jesus.

Thursday, December 22, 2016


     I happened to be in town shopping over the noon hour one day last week.  I am not sure if the bells I heard tolling ring out every day at noon or if it is just through the Christmas holidays, but it was nice to hear them chime out a Christmas tune.  I savored the short melody as I went about my business thinking what a nice touch it was.
     Later in the week I came across a blog written by Justin Taylor from the Gospel Coalition about the Christmas song “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” and found it quite interesting.
     The song was written on Christmas Day in 1863 right in the midst of the Civil War by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  It was a horrible time in history.  It was a horrible war that took an estimated 640,000 lives.  It was brutal and bloody.  Longfellow’s own son had just come home severely wounded.
     According to Taylor’s article that was not the only misery that Longfellow suffered as he listened to the Christmas bells tolling out a seemingly mocking message of peace.  Less than two years earlier he had lost his wife when her dress caught fire and she died from burns leaving him with six children to raise.
     I imagine he sat listening to those mocking bells in a state of brokenness and grief.  All around him was brokenness.  The nation was broken.  He was broken.  His wounded son was broken.  His very heart was broken.  And yet, those resolute bells continued to chime out that timeless message of peace.  Were they laughing at him? Were they making fun of him?
     We live in a broken world and each of us deals with some form of brokenness, but the peace of which the Christmas bells speak is real.  Our Prince of Peace is real.  The Healer of brokenness is real.
Isaiah 9:6 says:
                 For to us a child is born,
                 to us a son is given,
                 and the government will be on his shoulders.
                                     And he will be called
                 Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
                 Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Here are the original words penned that long ago Christmas Day.  They differ a little from the words in our hymnal.

Christmas Bells
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas Day,
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christiandom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth He sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

   I pray that this wonderful Prince of Peace who came to earth to bring you and me the gift of redemption will find an open door to your heart.  He is not found by knowledge, He is found by a searching heart.

  I think in the midst of suffering and the despair of war Longfellow found his way to that place of real peace.  I pray that any and all that read these words will find that wonderful Prince of Peace.  Jesus is His name.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Neither Jew Nor Greek (Not Your Typical Christmas Story)

Neither Jew nor Greek
Not your Typical Christmas Story
Galatians 3:28

   We have been studying about Paul in my Sunday school class.  He is a remarkable man who had a remarkable calling.  He brought the wonderful message of Jesus Christ to the Gentile world.  Being a Gentile girl, Paul is one of my heroes.
    I admitted to my class that on occasion doubts creep in and I have wondered; is this precious gift of redemption really for me?  That Jewish born baby from a Jewish home and Jewish world who grew up to be the pure and acceptable sacrificial Lamb to provide redemption……does it really include me too?
  When I read the words of Jesus in Matthew 15: 21-28, it caused me to wonder.
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
  This does not sound like the Jesus I have come to know.  At first glance it would seem that Jesus was cold and uncaring toward this Gentile woman.  First He ignored her, then He as much as said, “What I have is not for you.”  Then He called her a dog not worthy of what He has. 
   As a Gentile girl needing God’s love I found this incident somewhat disconcerting.  I knew there had to more to this than just what meets the ear here because it doesn’t match up with other scriptures.
  I found some comfort in what I read in Luke 2:25-32
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss[a] your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

  This good devout man Simeon was waiting for “the consolation of Israel”.   This reminds me of one of my favorite Christmas songs written by Charles Wesley who lived in the 1700’s.

Come Thou long expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us; Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.
Born Thy people to deliver.  Born a child, and yet a King.
Born to reign in us forever, now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal spirit rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit, Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

  This Spirit filled man, Simeon, who was waiting for the consolation of Israel says these words upon seeing Jesus:  “Lord, my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.
  Don’t you love the word “all”?  I do. Then he mentions us Gentiles specifically while holding that manger born baby in his arms, “A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles.” Now that makes my heart rejoice.
     According to Matthew Henry’s commentary, the interaction between Jesus and the Gentile woman seeking help for her daughter was a glimmer of that light.  He likened it to a down payment of what was to come for the Gentile world.  He points out that her request was for mercy.  She doesn’t claim any merit.  It would seem that the brushing off and seemingly cold words would discourage this woman, but something different happened.  Her faith in who He was rose up and caused her to worship stronger and ask more fervently for His mercy.
  We can clear some things up to help us understand this puzzling story if we ask ourselves some questions.
1. Did Jesus know her need before she ask?  Of course He did.
2. Did He know what her response would be to His silence and His rebuff, and even the put down?  He did.  He knew she would continue in her worship and her plea.
3. How did Jesus commend her?  He praised her faith.  And then this strange incident went viral and became a message to all that it is faith that matters.  Whether you are a Jew or Gentile, man or woman, black or white, it is faith…not something that you deserve….not something that you have earned or strived for…but faith alone.  Not faith in ourselves or what we do but faith in someone else.  Faith in Jesus Christ.

  This baby Jesus born in a manger, this man Jesus who died on a cross, He did all these things for you and for me,  for all people.  Jesus pulled the faith right out of that woman and put it on display.  That is what God wants from us.  Jesus is the Light of the world.  Rejoice in Him and let your light so shine.