BRING THEM IN

Are you like me in that when you are having your prayer time you think of people you haven’t seen in decades? That’s how it was with me this morning. Second and third cousins, nieces and nephews, neighbors from two states back…

I especially zeroed in on descendants of both sets of my grandparents, some of whom I’ve never met. I wondered, do they know the Lord? Will I see them in Heaven someday? Not that I’m on the committee to decide who goes to Heaven, but I wonder, so I prayed, “Bring them in, Lord.”

Then, as so often happens, the chorus of an old hymn begins to play inside my head: “Bring them in, bring them in, bring them in from the fields of sin…bring the little ones to Jesus.” That made me nervous. Am I judging them for being in “the fields of sin?”

I felt a little better reading in the first verse, “…calling the lambs who’ve gone astray,” which might imply the lambs are part of the family who just took a wrong turn.

The title of the hymn is “Hark! ‘Tis the Shepherd’s Voice.” I told you it was an old hymn. The implication is that the Shepherd is telling us to bring them in.

Hymns are not Scripture, but the third verse, “Out in the desert hear their cry, out on the mountain wild and high; Hark ‘tis the Master speaks to thee: “Go find my lambs where’er they be” lines up very nicely with Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

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Too Late

I see on Facebook, some 90-something lady was baptized.  She is quoted as saying, “It’s never too late to become a Christian.”  A hearty amen to that.  It’s never too early either.

But at some point it is too late for certain things.  For instance, I’m too old to go to the police academy to become a street cop, like Baez on Blue Bloods. Or ride a Harley, according to my husband.

Somebody reading this just said, “Oh, you’re not old.” Okay, if you don’t like the word “old,” let’s just say I’m well past my freshness date.  And what’s wrong with being old, anyway?  I was young once, and I wasn’t good at it.  Not that the “golden years” are all they are cracked up to be, either.

Too late?

At my advanced age—born shortly after the earth’s crust had cooled—it might not be too late for some things—going to Hawaii, for instance, but I have the privilege of simply not wanting to.  I would love to visit Hawaii or New York City or take a Viking River Cruise if it didn’t involve a long plane ride to get there.

Here’s what’s not too late:  To know the Lord.  To press on to know the Lord.

“Oh, that we might know the Lord!  Let us press on to know him.  He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.” Hosea 6:3 NLT.  Isn’t that lovely?  And here’s what I have found:  He still is revealing himself and his great mercy and grace.  To me!

He is still teaching me.  I’m not finished. He isn’t finished with me.  In the words of a poem whose author I don’t remember, “Finished?  Not until I freely place my stock of cherished certainties like sad surrendered weapons at your injured feet.”

“My stock of cherished certainties…” That is so me! I knew so much before I came to understand how much I do not know.

As long as I seek him and am willing to learn, he will teach me.  Every day I learn. Every day when I am listening he gives me a word.  My word this week?  “Give us this day…” This day. We have all we need for this day.

It’s not too late to learn of him. This is the day the Lord has made. Surrender to him, this day.

 

HE CAN, BUT EVEN IF HE DOESN’T…

HE CAN, BUT EVEN IF HE DOESN’T…

It all started with Pastor’s sermon.

He was preaching from Mark 10, a familiar passage we commonly refer to as the story of the rich young ruler.  After the rich man turned away disappointed, Jesus spoke to his disciples, “How hard is it for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God?”  He goes on to say, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible.  But not with God.  Everything is possible with God.”

Okay, I’ve heard that a million times. I figure, I’m not a rich man—no problem. I’m a long-time citizen of the Kingdom.

This particular Sunday was difficult for me. Himself, aka my husband Carl, had been in the hospital and we weren’t sure what was going on.  When the prayer team went to the front I just sat there and didn’t look around as I usually do for someone who might want prayer but hadn’t gone forward.  Honestly I was too weepy, partly because I looked around and saw all those beautiful people, Jesus-loving people…my church is amazing that way.

While I sat there, a friend came over to pray with me for Carl.  She prayed that God would heal him from his head to his toes.  A good prayer, to be sure, but I thought, at our age? What can we expect?  Complete healing?

Fast forward a couple of days.  Our daughter-the-nurse from Wisconsin will leave the next day, and our son-the-professor from Pennsylvania plans to leave a couple of days after that.  Our son-the-pastor will still be here, of course, but this is the last evening they will all three be together.  As the evening drew to a close, they laid hands on their Dad and each one prayed, thanking God for their good Dad, and praying for his complete healing—head to toe again.

I’m thinking, he’s 80 years old.  Complete healing?

And then I thought, where is it written that we have to go to Heaven in sick bodies? Isn’t it possible for our gracious Heavenly Father to simply slip us from this realm to the next without interference from illness or especially, hospitals?

“Humanly speaking, it is impossible.  But not with God.  Everything is possible with God.”

You know what? I know my God can heal Carl completely from the top of his head to the tip of his big toe.  I know this. But if he does not, God is still good, and I will still love and serve him.

“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, o king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18

 

PIT BULL PARABLE

The pit bull is the most maligned breed of all canines.  A beautiful, powerful animal, designed to serve and protect.  Known by some in previous times as
“baby-sitter dogs.”

In the first picture, a majestic fawn dog, chained with a heavy chain, tied up to a steel rod pounded deeply into the ground so no amount of pulling, even by this elegant powerhouse can pull it up.  pit bull broken-chain-02

So there she is, and a half-dozen other of her kind, waiting day after day, night after night, in punishing cold or blistering heat.  They are chained just far enough apart, so they cannot comfort each other, but rather become, first terrified, then mean, and then vicious. This is as their evil owner intended.

Made for strength and good.

Ruined.

Hopeless?

The rescuer speaks softly, entices with treats, and when he has gained trust, removes the chains. “No longer will you be called wretched.  Your new name is Noble.”

The Rescuer washes her wounds, feeds, her and teaches her obedience.

Eventually, this pit bull, so grateful to be rescued, so forgiving, becomes the loyal, loving dog she was intended to be.

She may still have scars, but she stands quiet and alert at her master’s side, ready for his slightest suggestion. Tethered gently, safely by love.

pit bull at ease

 

Mourning by Ourselves

We’re almost to the end of the 365 readings, and I wonder if other years I skimmed over Zechariah 12.

This morning I was struck with the final verses “…they shall mourn, by themselves.”

My initial thought was that in the midst of calamity, “their wives would mourn by themselves.”  How awful, to mourn by yourself! After Calvary, we comfort each other and mourn together.  How much we need each other in times of mourning.

Then I read the passage over and over again, considering its historical context.  The prophecy concerns Jesus and how the land, “every family by itself,” will mourn for Jesus, whom they have pierced.

What a powerful scripture—in the Old Testament—about Jesus.

As I ponder further, I understand that the mourning this passage referenced is repentance, and repentance is a solitary pursuit.  We each have to do that individually–no one else can do it for us.

And to think, He who “stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him” (v1) is making Himself known to us.

“Like a weaned child…”

Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp. Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord–now and always. Psalm 131

This is my Psalm for when I become agitated about anything–especially politics or worry about loved ones. I picture myself on Abba’s lap, still nickering a little from crying. He’s big enough to hold me, loves me enough to comfort me. I lean my head against His chest and hear His heartbeat.

WORTHLESS THINGS

In my prayer time, I pray for my country and the leaders, as the Scriptures instruct me to do.  Lately my prayers go like this:  “God, please bless President Trump and his family.  Protect them and keep them safe.” And because I am so sick of all the hate-Trump rhetoric, I pray, “And please, shut the yapping mouths.” I’m thinking I’m on solid ground there from Psalm 27:5.

In my heart I believe He told me, “that’s up to you—you don’t have to listen or read those things.”  I immediately think of Psalm101:3 as I’ve always read it – “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes.”

Well, that is certainly revolutionizing my Facebook-lurking, television-watching and newspaper-reading.

First of all, I am “hiding” Facebook posts that try to guilt me into re-posting.  “If you love Jesus…”  Well, I do love Jesus, but I think my time would be better served by writing an encouraging note to my cousin’s widower.  Not that I do it, you understand, but it would be better.

Then, political. I get my dander up, and for what?  I can’t change a blooming thing.  I stay informed and I vote, but beyond that…

Now, others may not agree with me, but I love the pictures of puppies and kittens and videos about their antics.

Back to blocking or hiding.  Anything Hollywood.  These people are paid obscene amounts of money for acting, which is pretending to be something they aren’t.  And I should care what they think?

Shall I get off Facebook all together?  No.  Because of Facebook I am still in touch with my many cousins and with friends from every season of my life. For that I am thankful.

So here I sit at my computer, next to an east-facing window where I can see the sun come up day after day, reminding me of God’s faithfulness.  Hear me singing?  “From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, the Lord’s name is to be praised.” I think that’s from a Psalm somewhere.

HE HOLDS ME TOGETHER

What’s on my mind, you ask. Well, this morning when I went to prayer, my first words to Him were, “Thank you. You hold me together.”

I’m a mess without Jesus.

Times with family and friends warm my heart and energize me.

When I’m reading the Bible I read something so wonderful I want to stand on a chair and shout.

Other times depression knocks at my door and I invite it to come in and sit a spell.

I look to the future, and I’m tempted to fear, but then He reminds me of how faithfully and graciously He has led us so far.

Looking for a Psalm or specific verse to explain what I’m feeling, and I can’t narrow it down. There are so many. For this morning I’ll settle on this verse that speaks to me strongly:

“Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true.” (Hebrews 6:11)

There He reminds me to keep on keeping on, and He’ll be with me all the way. That holds me together.

CHILI AND FRIENDSHIPS

I was making chili the other night and besides being grateful that no native Texan would be eating my Northern-based chili, I thought about music.  I kept tasting the mix and as I did, I caught the different tones, notes if you will.

There was plenty of soprano—piquancy—because of all the tomatoes.  (Texas chili shuns tomatoes)  Alto range was covered by the molasses and the cumin.  Alto seems to me round and warm, sweet but not too sweet.  Tenor, the heat—chilies, jalapeno…somehow tenor snaps the eyes open and makes one pay attention.

What my chili lacked, I decided, was bass, darkness…base!  It needed something.  There was enough meat, but I think I didn’t brown it hard, dark enough.

I added some soy sauce, but that made it too salty.  Worcestershire sauce which helped some but I never got it quite right.

Chili, like watermelons and sermons get judged at our house:  Was it good?  Great?  So-so? The best one this year? This chili was barely ho hum.

Memorable chili, like everything else, needs to be perfectly balanced.

Friendships are like that.  In our careless use of the term friend, we say we have many, but great friendships come along only once or twice in a lifetime.

While the relationship will not be free of tension—indeed if it were it would not be perfectly balanced, it will have a solid bass.  At least one aspect of the friendship will be rock-solid, stable. And from that place, or note, the other components will bring themselves into relative pitch.

Friendship components which I believe need to be nearly equal for a pleasing harmony include intellectual, spiritual, and philosophical, in terms of passion and rationally developed positions.

Friends may disagree—be poles apart—if they can respect the perceptions of the other.

This is from a journal entry from November 12, 1993

MOURNING IS COMPLICATED

mourningThe thing about morning chores—bed-making, kitchen cleaning, mundane matters for sure—is that my mind is left free to roam over the rolling pastures of long-ago memories, people I’ve known, questions I have and random intentions.  If I were a better Christian I would use that time to pray for people and to simply praise God for all the goodness He’s shown me over the years.  Sometimes I do that, but this morning was one of those other times, and my thoughts turned to mourning.

One constant truth in life is change. And so this morning, five days after my birthday, I realize I’m mourning even though no one in my immediate family has died.  Believe me, I’m overwhelmingly grateful. I know I have been blessed beyond measure to still have my husband and all my children are alive.  But no, our son-in-law died, and we still grieve losing him.

Still there have been other losses–profound losses, and some losses you never get over. I’m 77 years old, and I still miss my mother. I think of Mom at some point of every day.  I just wrote a short story about a mother who sang hymns as she worked around the house.  It was based on Mom.  I know the words to old hymns because I heard them from Mom.

Not all losses are people. My health comes to mind. I remember when I took great pride in being able to tear through a volume of work that would have taken someone else a whole day.  I know my health problems are my own fault, but that doesn’t help.  In fact, that’s another thing I grieve—I used to be able to recover quickly. Yes, when I was younger–let’s face it, I miss my youth.  Those days when the kids were young…I remember lots of laughter then.

As I think of friends who have recently said final goodbyes to their husbands, I recognize, however much I sympathize with them, I don’t understand, not really.  And here’s my conclusion:  Mourning is solitary. Nobody else can do it for you.

Jesus walked that lonesome valley

He had to walk it by himself.

Oh, nobody else could walk it for him

He had to walk it by himself.

I pray I will remember that little chorus, and comfort myself.  However lonely I feel, while it is true nobody else can walk my valley for me, still, Jesus is cheering me on and will embrace me at the end, saying “Well done!” I know, with Jesus we are never alone, but I stand by my statement: Mourning is solitary.