Sunday, March 17, 2019

In the Midst

On our refrigerator we have photos of our darling grandchildren (to make me smile every day).  Also, we have this quote that causes us to try to keep our “feet in the race” or “our hearts outwardly focused.”

Henry Drummond (1851-1897) only lived 46 years. But here I am quoting him today.
He was a Scottish evangelist who assisted Dwight L. Moody in many of his campaigns. If you are not familiar with him, enjoy reading about this man who used a few years to influence future generations. He stated:

Keep in the midst of life. Do not isolate yourself. Be among men and things, and among troubles, and difficulties, and obstacles.”

Isn’t that an amazing statement? I could stop right there. But let’s think about being “in the midst” with our best example...Jesus.

One of my favorite stories of Jesus is in Matthew concerning his relationship with John the Baptist. Of course, we know John was very important in introducing Jesus Christ to the people. Some background on this relationship:

In Matthew 11, John was in prison. He (verse 3) sent to Jesus and asked if Jesus is really the One they should believe. Jesus did not say, “Go ask John what is he thinking??? Of course! I am the MAIN MAN! Doesn’t he know that???” No, Jesus instead just had the disciples go to remind John “again” about all the good things that had been done. Then Jesus proceeded to say in verses 7-15 that “among them that are born of women there has not risen a greater than John the Baptist.” No criticism of John’s concerns...only praise for the servant he was for Jesus.

Now to how Jesus exemplifies being “in the midst” as Henry Drummond reminds us...

 In Matthew 14, John had been beheaded because of his preaching truth. When Jesus (verse 13) heard about John’s death, He “departed by ship into a desert place apart:” Notice that punctuation after “apart” tells us the verse has not ended yet.
The rest of verse 13 says: “And when the people had heard thereof they followed Him on foot out of the city.”

What did Jesus do? Did He say, “Leave me alone. I need to grieve. I am so weary!”

Verse 14 needs no explanation about Jesus being “in the midst of life...among men...” as Henry Drummond implores us to be:
          “And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them and he healed their sick.”

Of course, we will have times of grief, of rest alone, of “getting away.” We need to be willing to Keep in the midst of life. Do not isolate yourself. Be among men and things, and among troubles, and difficulties, and obstacles.” God needs us to touch other people’s lives for His glory.

--Maylou Holladay

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Rain, Rain

Rain, rain go away, come again some other day…

The entrance to our neighborhood remains flooded – three weeks now-an inconvenience to us, but the people whose houses are surrounded by water are no doubt experiencing more than an inconvenience. We all long for the sun!
Yet, it will come and warm our souls and we will work outside in our yards pulling weeds, planting our gardens, enjoying the longer days filled with sunlight and our kids; they will play outside and we will all feel the warmth, and marvel at the spring flowers, the beautiful butterflies, and watch as all of God’s goodness seems to come alive. It happens every spring. We have renewed strength and vigor! Then, after a short while, it gets hot and dry – gone are those moments of spring happiness. Now there are flies, mosquitos and relentless ninety-five-degree days and we wish it would RAIN!
I think this is how many of us walk through life. We are always longing for the rain to end until we forget that even the rain is a necessity. And, while at times it causes rivers and creeks to overflow their banks, causing destruction, without the rain, we would be thirsty. Water is an absolute necessity for life!
Our lives (or at least my life) is a lot like this. I love a challenge. I love to learn new things, take on new tasks, new responsibilities, alleviate boredom. But sometimes I allow myself to become overwhelmed either out of frustration or lack of time or management of my time and the task is too hard. I beg for the “rain” to stop and most of the time if I will just pause, be quiet, and wait, right beside me will be an umbrella or a reprieve of some sort, and I will be able to persevere and complete that task or challenge.
Isn’t that the way God often works in our lives? He is there guiding us, directing us and leading us through the pouring rains, flooding waters or maybe even just the puddles we get caught up in, but He is holding the umbrella to not only keep us dry, but to shade us when it gets too hot!
Along with a few other people, I have been memorizing Psalm 34 and verse 8 is the verse I am learning today: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” (ESV) Oh, to enjoy each day, rain and all knowing that God longs for us to take refuge in Him-He is holding the umbrella - both during the floods and the droughts!
Pam Dratnol
March 2019

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Got Health?

Sometimes I wonder if I believe a lie about alternative medicine. Am I wasting time and money on supplements, acupuncture, essential oils, organic food, medicinal herbs, etc? I want to believe these things work, but do they? I want to be healthy. There are few studies on such things. Some of it does not seem to work or I cannot tell any difference. Maybe I’m not applying these tools correctly? Some of it is preventative, so I don’t know what would have happened if I had not used these methods. The success rate is hard to measure, and even testimonials are varied in reporting success rates.

So I pray, “Lord, please give me wisdom about these things. I want to be a good steward of Your resources.”

In response, the Lord reminded me of things I know promote good health. I love to make lists, so here are a few:

Drink lots of purified water. (I like to add lemon or make herbal teas too)

Adequate sleep

Moderate exercise (sweat!)

Limit processed sugar and calories

Basic supplements (quality multi-vitamin and multi-mineral)

Eat lots of vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruits (organic when possible) with adequate protein to stabilize blood sugar

Eat clean meat (organic, grass-fed)

Strive for a healthy gut

Gratitude (count my blessings when feeling down, thank God for them, and express appreciation for what others do for me)

 Prayer/ Reflection/ Meditation of Scripture/ Practice stillness

Forgiveness – “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die.” Marianne Williamson

Positive relationships

Consistent hand-washing

Keep my bowels moving (that’s good advice!)

Fun and laughter

Fresh air and sunshine

Meaningful work – using my God-given gifts for Kingdom-building

Limit stress – have margin with time and money (“Margin” by Richard Swenson is a good resource)

Self-control, especially with addictive substances such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and food (I recommend the book, “Your Future Self Will Thank You, Secrets to Self-Control from the Bible & Brain Science” by Drew Dyck)

Have a positive attitude – look for the good in others and circumstances

Trust and obey God – Know He has my best in mind. He loves me. He is on my side.

Be faithful in church attendance and fully engage. The benefits are cumulative and sometimes subtle. 

Be generous with time, talents, and money

Follow the Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

Never stop learning

Most of these things do not cost much money, and I certainly don’t apply them perfectly. But we all have room to grow and develop ourselves for God’s glory. We have the Holy Spirit to help us. And what benefits! Emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits! Maybe there’s something on this list you would like to explore further? Maybe you have something to add to this list? I would love to hear about it.

joyce hague

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Under His Wings

For several years now, I've been participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I heard about it from a fellow bird lover, and it's been a highlight of my February ever since. I have bird feeders in front and in back of my house, so I get a lot of opportunity to see several species up close. (In case you want to participate, the Cornell people welcome bird counts at any time but do a dedicated count on Presidents' Day weekend every year.)

This week I have been struck by the numerous references to birds in scripture. Of course, there are the Old Testament stories that involve birds: Noah's use of the raven and the dove, God's supply of quail for food in the desert, Elijah's daily food delivery via raven.

There's also the teaching of Jesus in which he calls attention to birds to make a point about God's care. "Look at the birds of the air," he says. "[T]hey do not sow, . . . neither do they gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?" (Matthew 6:26)  And again in Matthew 10: 29-31: "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your father. . . . "Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows." Comforting words indeed.

What strikes me most, however, are the metaphorical references. Psalm 36:7 says this about God: "[T]he children of men take refuge in the shadow of Thy wings." So often when I see a majestic bird fly overhead, I think of this passage and others like it. Those birds sail on the wind as if they have not a care in the world. They appear so sure, so undisturbed. This is a picture of God's overseeing nature and work in my life. Then in Matthew 23, Jesus says he "would have gathered" the people of Jerusalem "as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings." This image is one of close protection and tenderness. How precious to know that Jesus loves us this much.

I love it that God used something so universal to help us understand him. Birds are everywhere! This time of year, we hear them when we step outside in the morning. They gather in crowds around the feeder and twitter in the bushes, ubiquitous reminders of God's goodness, provision, and love.

--Sherry Poff

Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Measure of Our Lives

Over many years, my husband, Paul, has often spoken to children or teen groups in churches, children’s homes, and prison about his life testimony.  He sometimes used a yardstick as one of his illustrations. He told them that if the yardstick can represent the length of a “normal” life, each half inch represents a year. He marked off nine inches, one quarter of a “life,” representing 18 years. He talked to the youngsters about the fact that in this first quarter of their lives, many of them would make decisions that would affect them for their entire lives, for good or bad. He told them of his own poor decisions and good decisons and encouraged them to make Godly choices.

Most of us are well past that first quarter of our yardstick, and we have, indeed, made many choices that will affect our lives forever. When we were young, we may have thought our decisions affected only ourselves. But now we see that our choices have affected and will affect many other people -- parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, spouses, children, or the children of others.

Every birthday offers us a new half inch of time. Some of us are in the middle of our yardstick, and some are nearing those very last half inches – and a few have even added some inches to the yardstick! Regardless, this year is our one half inch in which to make decisions that affect us and everyone we know (and, perhaps, many we don’t know) for our lives here and for eternity. The half inch seems so small, the yardstick so long. My entire collection of remaining half inches seems very small! But as long as we are on this side of the end of the measuring stick, we have opportunity to “lay up treasure in heaven.”

Chris Tomlin’s song, “All to Us,” has the line, “Let the saving love of Christ be the measure of our lives.” Is it? Press on.

--Lynda Shenefield

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Every Quarter Counts

I was recently listening to a message entitled “The Christian Life, Twenty-Five Cents at a Time,” preached by a pastor in California named Ric Rodeheaver. His main point was that much of the Christian life doesn’t look miraculous or extraordinary. It’s mostly lived in the midst of the mundane, in ordinary day-to-day life. This can seem hard in a culture that overemphasizes the sensational.  Rodeheaver used the following illustration which I have continued to ponder in the weeks since listening to the message:

  “We think giving our life to the Lord is like taking a $1000 bill, laying it on the table, and saying, ‘Here’s my life, Lord, I’m giving it all.’ But the reality is, He sends most of us to the bank to cash in that $1000 dollars for a bunch of quarters. And He asks us to go through our lives, just putting out 25 cents here, maybe 50 cents there: listen to the neighbor kids’ troubles instead of telling them to get off my lawn, go to a committee meeting, give a cup of water to a shaky old man’s hand in a nursing home. Usually giving our life to Christ isn’t glorious. It’s done in all those little acts of love – 25 cents at a time. It would be easier to go out in a flash of glory. It’s harder to live the Christian life 25 cents at a time over the long haul. … For most of us, it [the Christian life] means faithfully depositing/ investing 25 cents of our lives in simple humble acts, unknown acts of obedience and faithfulness, over the long haul in these practical works of service.”

We all tend to admire the sensational, don’t we? Those are the stories from the Bible that children love: Daniel in the lion’s den, Jonah in the fish, Esther before the king. Those are the missionary stories about which books are written: Amy Carmichael, George Mueller, Gladys Aylward. And we rightfully love those stories. But what about those in the Bible who were simply called to obey ‘one quarter’ at a time: the Shunammite woman who opened her home to Elisha the prophet, the four men who lowered their paralyzed friend through the roof to see Jesus, the believers who gathered together to pray for Peter when the doors of his cell were miraculously opened. And I can’t help but think of my parents and the missionary families that I grew up around whose names will never appear in a missionary biography, but who faithfully served, one quarter at a time, in the places to which God called them. Those stories, the mundane and ordinary ones, are just as important as the sensational ones.

And I ask myself, in the midst of my own seemingly mundane life, how am I spending my quarters? C.S. Lewis once wrote that “the present is all lit up with eternal rays.” In other words, right now, today, I can make a difference for eternity. In the midst of cleaning house, making meals, and raising children, in the mundane day-to-day of work or grocery shopping or eating out, we have quarters to offer to God: a joyful attitude on display for others to see, an encouraging word, a listening ear, a warm meal, a card, a prayer. It is not simply the sensational acts that God rewards. It is faithfulness to whatever God calls us to do minute-by-minute, day-by-day. And while to the rest of the world, it may look like a boring and dull life, it is the kind of life to which Christ refers in the parable in Matthew 25, when the master responds, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Sisters, let’s be encouraged as we go into our ordinary lives this week. Let’s look for opportunities to spend the quarters of our time, energy, and finances in service to our King. And let’s trust God to bring extraordinary results out of our faithfulness to Him in the ordinary.

Amy O'Rear

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Learning to Walk!

            I am learning to walk!  Yes, I know a woman my age should already know how, should have learned decades ago, and I did know how.  I even taught thousands of students how to walk while teaching them how to be effective speakers from the moment they stood up until the moment they sat back down.  But since I had my knee replacement two months ago, walking has not been the same.  I have had to concentrate on every step.  I’m learning to walk again.
            And I’m reminded that we must concentrate on our spiritual walk.  There is a proper spiritual walk.
            When I was a young teen spending time with my grandmother in Murfreesboro, Gram would assign me a hymn for the week.  I was to learn how to play that song on the piano in “evangelistic style”—octave in the soprano with tenor and alto in the chord, octave in the bass.  It had to be done just right.
            One of the hymns she assigned me was “Footsteps of Jesus” by Mary B. C. Slade.  The last few days I have heard Him calling me through that song.

                        Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling, “Come, follow Me!”
                        And we see where Thy footprints falling lead us to Thee.

                        Though they lead o’er the cold dark mountains seeking His sheep,
                        Or along by Siloam’s fountains, helping the weak.
Sometimes we must follow where there is no one else to walk with us.  Sometimes we are in the public square with people surrounding us.

                        If they lead through the temple holy, preaching the Word,
                        Or in homes of the poor and lowly, serving the Lord.

            Sometimes we have a prominent role.  Other times we may be in quiet obscure places.

                        Then, at last, when on high He sees us, our journey done,
                        We will rest where the steps of Jesus end at His throne.

            Someday we will no longer be walking, but resting at His throne.

                        Footprints of Jesus that make the pathway glow.
                        We will follow the steps of Jesus where’er they go.
            In I Corinthians 11:1, Paul said, “Follow me, as I follow Christ.”  I cannot hear or think of that song without thinking of my grandmother and the example she gave me of walking in Jesus’ steps.  I want others to see such an example in me that they could follow Christ as they follow me.

                                                                        ~~Faith Himes Lamb