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A Look Into Hell

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The realization that the blackness was no longer consuming me was slow in coming. My eyes slowly opened and took in the bedroom, but my mind was still trapped in the screaming I had heard, and the coma was still trying to pull me back into it. I had been close to a huge arena of darkness, and although I could see shadows of heads on thousands of people, they were all screaming without stopping. Cold sweat dripped off my body, and I was so afraid. My eyes could move around the small bedroom now, but I wasn’t able to move my body yet. The screaming was starting to get fainter, and I rolled onto my right side slowly, and let myself fall off the mattress to the floor. Crawling on my stomach to the next bedroom, where the phone was, took all the strength I had, and I didn’t think I’d make it before the tiny light inside me went back out. I reached a hand up and pulled the phone to the floor. My hand shook so badly, but finally I hit the “O” and an operator came on the line. I had no breath, and my speech was so slurred. “Hos—pit—al.” She recognized honesty when she heard it, and had an ambulance on the way in seconds. “Stay on the line!” she instructed. “Where are you?” “Will–they–pump–my–sto–mach?” I stuttered.

Soon I heard a crashing as the paramedics broke the door in and ran down the hall. As the coma started closing in again I heard one EMT tell another, “Get her an IV as fast as possible!” I struggled. “I—can’t.”  They stopped. “Why??” they asked fiercely. “That’s–an–In–ter–Con–tin–ent–al–Bal–lis–tics–Mis–sile.” (ICBM, for military language.) It was over, and I was gone.

The next morning I opened my eyes. Hooked to numerous tubes, laying in a room full of beds with patients, I must have made a machine go off, for a nurse was at my bed instantly. “Oh my! How glad I am to see you! We lost you so many times last night, we almost gave up. It is a miracle you are alive this morning!”

So it wasn’t over. It was even worse than before; at least prior to overdosing, there was hope of getting out of Life. Now, even that hope was gone. I couldn’t even kill myself. If I just hadn’t dialed that operator! But having seen hell, heard the screaming going on and on and on, had apparently sparked a tiny ember that said it wasn’t the right time. Don’t ever think suicide is the easy way out–it takes tons of courage, tons of grief, and a loss of hope that things will ever be better, to go through with it. To mess it up was the ultimate loss. After that I referred to myself as the “Walking Dead,” long before any movie, book, or tv show ever used the term.

That picture will never leave me. Now we’ve just come through another tragedy in America. “Orlando/2016” happened yesterday and I had to relive the scene above, knowing many of those people may have been going into that dark, screaming hell where there are no parties. Blame is being cast as I type, and threats are being made, fingers are pointing, and division in America is rampant. Who is ultimately to blame?

Do you ever have a moment when a verse of Scripture comes alive? Oh, by the way, yes, I lived. And yes, I got my life right with the Lord. Yes, He had been with me all the time, and had never left my side. No, it wasn’t my time. I didn’t know that. I didn’t know there were more children I might have, a husband who would love me, and a church that would make me welcome. Most of all, I didn’t know that God had hung all the sins I had committed, would ever commit, and was committing, on His Son, Jesus Christ as He hung on the Cross at Calvary. And yes, I have found Him loving me all these years.

As I meditated this morning on 2 Chronicles 7:14, I read, “If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and I will heal their land.” Wait. Whoa. What happened to the “God Bless America”?? This verse didn’t mention that if the lost in America get saved, He will heal our land. Nothing is mentioned in that verse about saving the lost! It’s talking about “those who are called by His Name!”  If CHRISTIANS in America will humble themselves, and pray, and seek His face…. Those who are sitting in the pew on Sunday, then turning on their R-rated movies (“I will put no evil thing before my eyes”), pornography after the kids go to bed; who think it’s okay to do things behind closed doors; who have an abuse percentage greater than the world; who gossip, covet, lose self control, who live so that the community doesn’t want to be like the church–those people? Ouch. That makes me frantic. Are we talking about everyone? Certainly not! But over and over in Scripture, Christ likens the church to a body, and if one part hurts–or sins–it affects the whole body.

How can I say, “Church, WE have let America down! It’s not the unbelievers–it’s us! We are not doing fellowship well together, serving and loving the community as we should! WE are not standing on the Word of God, under the Authority of God, and on a Mission to change the world for God! WE have become comfortable, and now our children are becoming complacent! WE don’t stand up when we should, be quiet when we should.” I myself buckled under this morning to a daughter, just to keep peace. All day long it’s haunted me. Why didn’t I tell her to stop being angry at God because He let someone make a bad choice? It’s the price of peace. Lousy reason.

Church, let’s humble ourselves! Let’s pray!! Do you know most Christians pray–if at all–only if they’re desperate? What about praying so that we are thankful, grateful for blessings, for life, for everything He does for us? Let’s seek His face! How do we do that? If you seek the face of someone you love, you spend time with them. How much time to you spend with Jesus? Let’s turn from our wicked ways! That’s those movies, tv shows with blatant sex, cursing, immorality, —you know what you’re doing wrong, and don’t need me to point it out.  If we do these things, we have a promise: THEN I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their SIN, and I will HEAL THEIR LAND! Does our land need the healing touch of God? You bet.

Then it has to start at the house of God. Today is a good time.

© Andre Klopper | Dreamstime Stock Photos

RUNNING WITH THE HORSES…

dreamstimefree_65987Barney. If you’re not around horses, the word probably does not mean much. Maybe you think it means an idiot. Wrong (at least here). BUT… if you’re on a horse farm, if you ride the huge animals, or interact with them, it has (or did have, at one time!) a whole different meaning: it means a horse that senses his rider is a novice, is fearful, and decides, on the spur of the moment, he’s had enough of this greenhorn and is going back to the barn–with or without the rider. That was me.

Riding for the first time, this “sweet-spirited, gentle” (quote, my sister) horse would be just the one that I could ride without falling off the saddle from shaking with fear. We got in a line, about six riders, ambling down a path through woods near the farm. The rural countryside in Wake County, NC, was (at that time) beautiful, sparsely populated, and serene.

The horse probably knew the instant I was helped onto his back (believe me, I did not mount correctly) that he had a total newbie on him. It is said that an animal can smell fear. I’m certain his large nostrils were filled with it, and if he could have, he would have asked for a breathing mask.

Halfway through the ride he decided he had had enough walking, decided running might be more fun, and if he were going to run, he might as well head back to the barn. His speed rivaled any horse in the Preakness, Kentucky Derby or on any race track. At least it felt that way to me. I had enough awareness of my situation to know that if I let one of the hairs of his mane slip through my fingers, I would fall, probably to my death. It’s a wonder his mane did not come out. I have no memory of the halter, or anything leather in my hands. Just hair.

I’m sure the screaming in his ears didn’t help any, but after miles and weeks of running at the speed of light, he rounded the corner into the barn. I laid on his back and bawled until several hours later when my sister, family and friends arrived back at the farm. Okay, maybe it wasn’t weeks and hours. Life should not be measured in hours, days and weeks, but in experience. This was one of the “thousand year” times.

All that to say, this morning when I staggered into the kitchen for my first two cups of coffee, which are in one mug (when news came out several years ago that more than two cups of coffee weren’t good for you, I increased my cup to one that holds 20 ounces. So I still drink two “cups,” it just happens to be 40 ounces), I saw an unusual sight: two box fans, on the floor, blowing on high speed, the mop standing there, a shiny, clean floor, and the frig (by the standards of a housewife) not straight. About that time my husband came up from the lower level–a shock, since he sleeps a full two hours longer than I do. The ice maker had poured water out of the ice section (not the gadget side for water), somehow missing the connection of flowing in to refill the ice tray. For who knows how long? Long enough to flood the kitchen. Great. At least he had risen to get a drink of water and found the situation before it leaked through the floor to the lower level. The maintenance agreement ran out in March. Is that predetermined or not? By the time I got around to chugging down my coffee, if I remember correctly two hours (or ages) ago, we were having a “negative fellowship,” since I wasn’t moving the frig correctly, wiping the floor right, and all those other things that might be said when two people are under duress, and one doesn’t even want to be spoken to until coffee has gone from mouth to stomach, stomach to brain.

As I calmed down, I could not help but reflect that nearly every day brings a crisis of one type or another. Some days it might be a small one, other days it’s a big one. I start my day with quiet, coffee and my Bible. Today didn’t start like that. I was frustrated, irritated that the frig wasn’t doing its job, and antagonistic because I was having to “hit the ground running,” rather than having a peaceful quiet time. The Scripture hit me between the eyes, “If you can’t run with the horsemen, how are you going to make it when you have to run with the horses?” (That’s a very loose paraphrase of Jeremiah 12:5).  In other words, if I can’t wake up to a flooded kitchen, how am I going to react when I wake up and something has happened to one of my children or grandchildren? Or news of a terminal illness comes our way? I was not running well with the “horsemen” this morning, so how am I to keep up when I have to run with horses?

Sunday’s sermon came to mind. (You knew it would come to this, right??) Matt Willmington, at Thomas Road, preached on what a Christian really is. That means in the midst of trials, persecutions, hardships, etc., we don’t forget Who we’re following.  We act like a Christian, talk like a Christian (no profanity, sorry folks, but that’s what the Bible says), no saying “Oh, my god” and taking His name in vain (sorry, folks, but that’s what the commandments say), but we realize this trial is momentary, a “light affliction,” and developing patience in us (James, chapter one. Read it, he’s terrific).

Matt laid out some facts that were humbling: if you made more than $5o,000 last year, you’re in the 1% bracket for the world’s wealthiest people. So all those “rich” folks you’ve been frustrated with now includes you; if you made $25,000, you’re in the top 2% wealthiest people in the world. At just $12,500, you’re in the top 13%. That’s $6 per hour, if that helps. Does that put things in perspective for you? It did for me. I was complaining and whining about my frig (“do all things without grumbling and complaining.” Sorry, folks, it’s in the Bible), when really, I have a refrigerator and most of the world does not. I want days without crises (plural), but it’s not going to happen. I need to exercise my spiritual life so that I can keep up with the horses, even when they’re barney.

I need to take the crises of life, turn them into reasons to be grateful, and thank my heavenly Father for His daily care, His daily love, (He gives me daily bread–and since HE is the Bread of Life, He feeds me with Himself daily), and remember to be grateful that I have a frig. Car. Gasoline in it. Breath. Fresh air. Good health. “Count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done!”

Thank you, Father, for life!

Sunday sermon from Thomas Road Baptist Church: http://www.trbc.org/sermon-archive

© Raoul Nijst | Dreamstime Stock Photos

 

POURED OUT AND OVERFLOWING–The Aftermath!

The pick-up truck pulled in beside the bins, just another vehicle in a long line. An elderly gentleman and his wife got out of the truck, walked to the back and started taking boxes out. There were sheets, dinnerware, comforter sets, crib sets, canned goods and health products. They filled one of the bins completely full, got back into the truck and pulled off. They had smiled and nodded at the workers, but made no show of their generosity.

The large group of college students jumped out of the bus, tools in hand or tool kit, gloves and boots on, ready to work in one of the more damaged areas. They started cleaning, hammering, fixing–anything that needed to be done. At lunch they stopped for a short break, ate their packed lunches, and went back to work. Some of the students circulated among the householders, trying to find out if there were immediate needs that required priority. They weren’t pushy, obnoxious or arrogant; they were just a large group of students helping out in a neighborhood full of needs, to the best of their ability.

A group of teenage girls came from a local youth group, cases of crayons, books, puzzles and more, ready to entertain children, calming them while their parents needed to get their lives re-arranged after a tornado. The girls were sweet, caring, and helpful with the children. They had come to do a job in loving their neighbors, and were doing it the best way they knew how.

This community is like thousands of others around the nation. People who have had their lives completely blindsided, being helped by other people whose only motive is to make things easier for those suffering during a time of disaster.

The humanitarian organization was there, handing out water, blankets, food, and other essentials. They, too, were serving. They, too, were motivated by concern and love.

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You look around at the lives interacting, and see the services offered in love, see those who need love at the moment, need comfort, encouragement and physical needs met, and you have to ask–where did these people come from, the ones who are helping? They’re not military, nor paid workers–just ordinary folks like you and me, alert to a time of tragedy and how they can help. It’s love in action.

At a time in America when Christians are taking the flack for everything from reading their Bible in public to having their social media censored, these people aren’t letting it bother them. One looks at them, not trained, but helping without being asked. You look beyond where the vehicles are parked and see van after van, a bus here or there, all with church logos on them. All putting their faith into action.

Did they stop and ask those who need help if they are worthy? Certainly not! Did they bring up anyone’s lifestyle, their hobbies, their language, their race, their looks? Certainly not. These people did nothing to deserve the help, material items or love brought to them: they received it because they are made in God’s image, and the church is to love them. To show love such as Jesus would show. To perhaps cause one of them to question, “I thought Christians were hypocrites, were judgmental, and arrogant because they say their sins are forgiven! But you aren’t acting like that. Can you tell me why?”

If they, as ordinary human beings, can serve and love their fellow neighbors like that, without asking “are you worthy for us to help you,” how much more does the God in heaven love them. He doesn’t judge them by their past or their present, either. If they decide they want to believe that He is the Son of God, turn from their sins, and follow Him, every sin they have ever committed is instantly forgiven! A debtor whose debts are paid, and a bill marked “Paid In Full” hand-delivered by Christ to them.

For those of us who have loved Him for years, we have found Him faithful. He has never left us, never moved away–through the hurts from the world, through the evils that have occurred because the world truly is full of evil, through the bad times and good. He has carried us, held our hands, snuggled us closely while we wept, and carried our burdens. Is life always easy? Absolutely not. But the advantages of being a follower of Jesus Christ–and having a relationship with Him–is so overwhelmingly in our favor that it’s hard to understand someone rejecting Him. He is good, He is faithful, even when we are not. How much more can you ask?

Don’t get your eyes on people who fail you, for there will always be those, both inside and outside of a church building. Get your eyes on Jesus, knowing He will love you through it all. But He’s not a Genie to be used only when you need a favor–He’s the holy creator of the universe, the One Who spoke the world into existence. He has plans and a purpose for you, if you’ll trust Him enough to take His hand. Just do it.

 

© Angela Farley | Dreamstime Stock Photos

FOR ALL THE WORLD TO SEE..

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The clock said it was a little past 2:30 p.m. Almost time for the grandchildren to get out of school, but it was really getting overcast. I hate to have them out in a storm anytime, even just running for their daddy’s car. The weather was acting crazy, and yet the forecast had been for storms along the coastal area, several hours to the east of us. Still… The wind began picking up, and soon the rain started. I looked at the clock again, 3:15. The kids would be safe in the car–or maybe running for it. Why didn’t I think to turn on the radio? Because it’s not a normal part of my day, that’s why. I went back to work at the computer just in time to hear a storm take over. Wow! Water gushing, wind howling.. but I still didn’t connect the dots. 

It wasn’t long before emails started coming through: Route 460 closed. Tornadoes in Appomattox, Concord, Red House. Destruction everywhere. Power out. The feeling of reality didn’t hit, because we had been on the storm’s edge. I couldn’t put pictures with what I was hearing. In a little while a pastor-friend called; he had heard we had a generator, he had his grandchildren, and no power. Come and get it! He did. We wished we had had a hundred to give out.

Today, in the aftermath of twenty-four hours ago, the destruction is like any place where a tornado has left devastation and destruction in its wake. Homes demolished, cars wrecked, trees down–only if you’ve been in one, or been through an area immediately following a tornado can you picture what the reality looks like. But what a picture it is!

Do the homeowners have to worry, while they are adjusting to their lives being turned upside down, that thieves will come in and vandalize their homes? Probably. This is today’s world. Riding by, you feel the helplessness and lack of control to “fix” everything. But then… you start seeing with eyes that are really open, not just topical observation at the mass destruction. You begin looking more closely. Look! Those people had … and you find yourself looking deeply at the inner lives of those who lived in some of the homes. Things they would not have exposed to the world in a normal time. Things that would embarrass them, or cause them to be ashamed. Oh, not all, of course! Just “some.” But to those people, it was the baring of their souls—this showing to the world what was inside their home, which they could keep hidden on any given day. Now it was exposed for all to see because some part of their exterior had been torn away.

And yet… does it take a rocket scientist to realize that, with God, all of our lives are like that? We are thinking we have the outside looking great: we’re dressed right, our hair is in place, nice shoes, nice car. We go to church or meet together, and are we glad they can’t see our thought life, our inner heart, our motives? But what if some of that exterior were stripped away and suddenly everyone could see those thoughts, those motives? Would they know some may covet their money? Or their car? Or perhaps her figure? Or their power? Or fame? Does “so and so” pick up that they are barely tolerated, wishing they’d move? What happens behind those closed doors of the outside shell?

Yet, just as the world could now ride by those homes and see right into them, so God looks right into the closets and crevices of our lives, and nothing is hidden from Him. Yet so many go through life acting as though everything is private, and no one knows anything. He is the only One who matters–He will be judging everyone eventually, whether anyone wants to believe it or not. There is nothing in our dirty, wind-blown, tornado-ridden heart that He does not see and know intimately.

How ashamed we should feel, right? He loves us so much, and wants, as He said, to “gather us as a mama hen wants to gather her little chicks, but [we] would not.” Like our parents wanted to do but it embarrassed us. Ahh, we need to confess every sinful act, every sinful thought, and anything that would hurt our relationship with Him, and run into His arms, asking Him to be Lord of our life. Let Him be the Father He has promised to be. Let Him be our Guide and Shepherd and Savior.

In the joy of that type of relationship, we won’t have anything to be ashamed of when our lives are opened before Him.

Serving Two Masters….

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Attitude is everything.

The child climbed into the car’s back door, but refused to get in his car seat. Usually this wasn’t a problem, but this particular day he decided he wanted to stand right behind Dad, holding on to the head rest. “Sit down!” Dad raised his voice at this second warning. The look of rebellion on the child’s face told the father that it was not going to happen today. Is there anything that exerts more will power than a 3-year-old who doesn’t want to do something? His chin jutted out, and he stayed standing.

Dad put the car into park, got out, took hold of his son, and with necessary movements put him in the car seat, snapped the buckles and got back into the driver’s seat. As he pulled out of the parking space his son yelled, “I may be sittin’ down on the outside, but I’m still standin’ up on the inside!!”

It seems to meet that I’ve been standing up on the inside a lot lately. Christmas has come and gone (but will be here again soon, for sure), and I morph into Scrooge during that time. I fight the materialism with everything I am, but it does no good against all those sweet faces turned toward me. My attitude needs a major overhaul after the holidays. I probably wrote the same thing last year.

But in the midst of all the bad attitudes, the chaos, the trials (already!), the crises (already, note the plural!), and the hurt feelings, God spoke to my heart. Don’t ever underestimate the power of the Creator Who “spoke” the world into being (John 1). As I turned to my Bible this morning, I began reading and verses I’ve read hundreds of times “lit up.” That’s God, speaking.

These were the verses that were prepared for me to be reading , the next set of verses on a morning “ritual”—not one of those “put your finger in a passage and read it” type thing. But as I read the verses “You cannot serve two masters; for either you will … love the one and hate the other…You cannot serve God and [the world]. Matt. 6:24).” Years of teaching came across my mind, God and the world… God and money… and then suddenly God shone His light directly upon those verses into my heart, and I knew He was telling me these verses can go much deeper than what I have heard all my life, and how much I needed to hear Him alone.

You see, it’s been a struggling week, one of those Stress Level Ten weeks, one where I felt caught in a conflict between an adult child and my husband. Nothing–nothing!–comes between a momma and her child (or should) no matter how old they get. A momma bear and her cub is a great analogy. Another–which I experienced a lot of years ago–is a cow and her newborn calf. I have been torn, taking up the offense of my child, and mad (as only a wife can be) that my husband would have allowed this situation. But then, God spoke to my heart.

He turned the light bulb in my mind onto the passage, and I saw, a Mother cannot serve her adult child and her husband if there is conflict. It doesn’t matter who is right and who is wrong. The truth is, the situation is out of my control and I can’t make them both happy. I can’t change anything, can’t go back and re-do the offense, can’t “fix it.” But if I keep on with my warring attitude, I will end up “hating” one and “serving” the other. But that isn’t God’s best. He made us one in marriage, and to split that unity and go against my husband is wrong, and becomes sin, and He made my child “leave the parent” when they became one with their spouse. Yuk. Yikes. Double yikes.

I also saw that “two masters” could easily be me–with all my desires to control the situation, to control what had happened, to make everything okay again (because I hate confrontation, and disunity)–and my husband, who had done what he thought to be best in a situation where, he felt, there would be no winning. He knew ahead of time it was going to cause friction, and he wisely chose to do what was best for me, rather than for our child. I needed to CHOOSE to love him. Lesson Two.

Two masters, He spoke to my heart, is always a potential in a marriage: if you and your spouse are not dedicated to seeing that you are in agreement with discipline (one of the areas where the most combat is initiated), you are causing your child/children to choose which of you to “love/serve” and which to hate. Lesson Three.

This dredged up a long-ago illustration when we four–dad, mom, son, daughter–got in the car to leave church. Our son turned to me, asking if we could stop by the local ice cream shop and get cones. I said “No.” He got a tragic look on his face and said, “Mom! I didn’t mean to ask you, I meant to ask Dad!” We went. They had learned which questions to ask which parent. To food, I usually said no; Dad said yes. After this we also made (and stuck to) rule #783: if they asked one of us, the answer was set in stone (unless extenuating circumstances dictated otherwise), and they could not ask the other parent. Good rule, even for today.

Be sure you are not serving two masters: yourself and your spouse. Or, your child and your spouse. Or… anyone but God.  Even then, you have to be vigilant that you do not present a second master to yourself. God only is the First and Last in our lives, and He only holds the keys to family unity, love and working out stressful problems when we look to Him to watch our backs. He alone is holy, praise His Name.

Has the situation gone away? No, but my attitude is adjusting, and I see both sides. I also have confessed, and am sorry for the “tantrum” I threw when I first found out. God is in control, I have no doubt at all about that, and my repentant heart can now be worked on. It will be okay. This hasn’t come to stay, but has “come–to pass.” I’ll be grateful when it’s passed!

 © Andrew Taylor | Dreamstime Stock Photos

WHAT ARE YOU TEACHING?

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The child could not have been more than seven or eight: an adorable looking boy, happy and having fun at the football game. He was obviously among family who loved him. I saw him take a big drink of a soda, and something made him laugh. It happens to all of us–young and old! We laugh, and the soda (or crackers, or food) explodes from our mouth with an intensity we can’t control! Which of us can say we’ve never done that? His family instantly laughed hysterically, and, observing the fiasco, I had to smile.

In the flash of a second, however, the man sitting in the next row in front of him–and a little bit lower, as football seats go–got some drink on the back of his head, and down his neck. With the speed of a striking snake he turned, jumped up, grabbed the drink out of the little boy’s hand, and stalked out of the seats, looking for all the world like he wanted to take revenge. It was so very humiliating for the family to be caught in such a situation in public, and so distressing for on-lookers to witness such a spectacle of rage. I wanted to grab the little guy, who instantly rolled himself into a ball and tried to hold big drops of tears back, and hug him until his little spirit was calmed.  It couldn’t have been more than a teaspoon or tablesp00n of soda, but you would have thought the man got soaked. And the man had not even waited to see if it had been an accident.

Scripture poured into my mind as I watched: “Who can bear a broken spirit?” (Prov. 18:14), “A [seasoned Christian] is [should be] above reproach, self-controlled” (1 Tim. 3:2), and “The anger of man does NOT achieve the righteousness of God,” (James 1:20). From the interaction when the man returned after throwing out the drink, I realized he was the boy’s grandfather. My heart was literally breaking, for many reasons: the man had not asked what happened, and whether it was an accident, he didn’t give the little boy time to re-act, and he was providing an example of what a hair-trigger temper is all about, and what it means to display it. Worse, the child was the victim of an adult who should have–by the grandfather’s age–learned self-control. Somehow I got the impression that the child saw anger like this more times than he should have.

The man’s wife tried to talk to him; I could tell she was indicating that his attitude had hurt the child terribly, and that he needed to heal that “wounded” spirit. Okay, so I sound like any problem with a child is the child’s fault, and amends should be made immediately. Not so. But let’s face it, we all laugh at “slap-stick” humor–witness I Love Lucy! Had the grandfather laughed and wiped his neck, it would have created a tighter bond and a happy ending.

I watched the older man turn around and could not believe the words out of his mouth, which I could overhear: “YOU didn’t even say ‘I’m SORRY!'” Good grief, who had had time? The trigger was pulled before the child had his mouth closed! I felt sorry for the man’s wife. But even more, I was appalled at the “Blame Game” the man used. What?! He was blaming the child for HIS own lack of being a godly role model? Again, sometimes it’s a curse (but always a blessing) to know Scripture: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us” (Matt 6:14), or “How many times do I forgive my brother…” (Matt. 18:21) and more. Did I see anything Jesus said about them having to immediately–with the next breath–say “I’m sorry!”? No. You forgive immediately because it’s the right thing to do. And this wasn’t even a sin! Imagine that? Wonder how the man treats his enemies.

I reflected the next few hours on the scene I had witnessed. The child was having fun. He did something accidentally that, yes, should have had a “Grandpa, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do that!” but there had been no time. But he learned that it’s okay for a person who says he loves Jesus to instantly have a rage attack against a child; he learned it’s okay to do it in public; that it’s okay to blame the other person–because, after all, for goodness sake, they caused your rage. So the Bible must be wrong–anger is okay, because it was his grandpa; anger is okay but what if I make God mad? What will He do?

What a lesson in love. Is it any wonder the world calls us hypocrites? We talk the talk, but the instant our body or feelings get tramped on, we walk a walk Satan is proud of. I pray for this little boy, that he comes to realize anger is a choice that people make when they have no self-control, when they set themselves up with pride as if they themselves never make mistakes, so it’s okay to throw a stone. Especially at a little child. “Whoever offends one of these is [in danger of hell-fire]” (Matt. 18:6). I pray this little boy does not think God is like his grandfather, and think that God re-acts in anger when he has not meant to offend.

There’s not enough fun in life on the good days, let alone on the bad days. A child laughing in fun is a beautiful thing–and a merry heart does good like medicine (Prov. 17:22). Maybe that’s why so many of our children are on medicines in this age, you think?

 

 

The painting is by Drago Ivanisevic, copyrighted, and not able to be re-copied or painted. If you have questions, please contact me.

 

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS!

Presentation18It all began about three years ago, when a question popped into my mind, and I had no idea where to find the answer. Do things like that bother you? Today, three years later, we all have a standard comment to anything like that: “Google it.” In fact, I’ve gotten so used to writing ‘google’ that I recently tried to write a listing to sell some goggles, and misspelled it about 5 times. Eventually it came out right. But things have changed in the past three years, so the question continued to nag me. Can you think of something similar? Really drives you nuts, doesn’t it?

Mine wasn’t even a life or death question. Just curiosity. It reminded me of my mom, who was filled with an insatiable appetite to voice curious questions: we would drive by men working in a ditch; “what do you think they’re doing?” she would ask. I could list fifty pages of examples. Finally, I would just say, “Would you like me to stop and ask?” She didn’t recognize loving sarcasm. Too bad. The questions drove me crazy. (Now, I’d love to hear her ask one–so watch what you wish for).

As I was reading the New Testament those three years ago, suddenly I wondered, Why did the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray? It’s not as if praying was a unique once-in-a-lifetime happening! It had been going on since the beginning of time. But why did they ask that? I turned to a few learned men. One answer was “Well, they were with the Son of God! Wouldn’t you want to know His thoughts on what constitutes a pray that satisfies Him?” That was in mid-summer of last year. I had been dealing with it about a year and half.

Finally I knew what I wanted to do! Each year as I read the Bible through, I try to do so with a central goal, so that the chapters do not get tedious.  But when the idea came to me, I could hardly wait for the year to end, so that I could begin again at Genesis and write down every prayer or reference to praying that was in the Old Testament. Since there was no “New Testament” when the disciples asked, there was no need to go further at that point. Eventually January came, and I got my notebook out! It was amazing. There were  prayers that were heartfelt, some that were mundane, but there were also long periods when men did not seem to commune with God. When I got to the Psalms, although I haven’t documented this yet, there seemed to be a prayer for every emotion man feels, or any need he has! All the disciples had to do, I thought, was go back to the scrolls in the temple, and they could have at their fingertips the greatest and least of all the prayers recorded in Scripture. So I still didn’t have the answer to my question.

Okay, it’s now the end of September. I’m finishing the major prophets, so I won’t be done by December. But suddenly, last night, I knew why it had been bothering me, and why–after immersing myself in the OT prayers–I was trying to quench this thirst. It wasn’t about the disciples at all: it was about me.

A month ago War Room, the movie, came out. It hit me between the eyes. In the mirror of the faith portrayed by the character Clara, my prayer life was worse than wood, hay and stubble! I was able to identify with the main character like she was my sister. Ouch! Afterwards, I wanted to see it again–and again. I bought the novel, the journal, the Bible Study book, and the personal study book. But it wasn’t until I saw it again that I realized, God wants me to make a War Room. I’ve been, as Clara says, fighting the wrong enemy! I’ve been lax and unfaithful in my prayers, and God was preparing my heart for this moment. He was paving the ground, building a foundation of the OT saints who sought Him in prayer, and at the same time men–the Kendrick Brothers–were making a movie that would stir my heart to surrender my prayer life to Him completely. It was an awesome, God-struck moment, and the wonder of it has stayed with me. That I am able to look back for nearly three years, seeing Him calling my heart toward fervent prayer, is incredible. Do you understand why? Because He wants me to deepen the relationship with Him; to trust Him to the point that whatever the trial, He’s got it; that the problems that come–and they will come–can be carried to Him and I can KNOW He has my back, my good, and is working His purpose out. It’s not just coincidence despite what man may say, but the Creator of the universe who wants a relationship with His child.

How humbling! My first thoughts, after realizing what I had seen, were “where in my house can I have a War Room”? I would go claustrophobic in my closet (we don’t have walk-in’s). And then last night it hit me, and I have a perfect small room, a perfect old desk, even a matching chair that I almost threw out! He has prepared the table before me, and it is in the presence of my enemy–and your enemy–Satan! The real enemy of our soul who has come to kill, steal, and destroy. Kill our relationships, steal our joy, and destroy our homes and children! It hasn’t been any other enemy, and yet I have fought battles uselessly. Christ has been the Lord of our home, but I tried to help Him manage. He doesn’t want or need my help, He only wants my prayers.

I pray I can let Him do it all now. What an awesome, amazing God we serve!

 

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