Hanging with the Old Folks

September 27, 2020 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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A Journal of Joy: Things that make my heart smile…

I’ve always enjoyed hanging with the old folks. It’s a good thing, because I am now on a fast track to becoming one of them.

In the south, rural areas used to celebrate Decoration Day. It was an occasion where families or church congregations gathered to place flowers on the graves of loved ones and hold a little memorial service for them. Traditionally this involved singing, dinner on the grounds, and a religious service. It was a time for people to get together, visit, catch up, remember old times, and honor loved ones who had passed away. The old folks loved it.

On one such occasion a girlfriend of mine looked around and said, “Where are the old folks?”

I looked around and said, “I think we are the old folks!” That happened a few years ago, when I wasn’t nearly as old as I am now.  

When my folks were alive, my husband and I used to fly back often to visit them in a small town in Illinois. As they were nearing eighty, one of their favorite pastimes was to go to the Senior Center for lunch, play a little Bingo, and participate in whatever activity was offered that day. If we were there, they would take us along.  

A small town Senior Center is sort of like high school for old people—except not as cliquish. There’s a little bit of flirting, a lot of “did you hear about” this or that, and some who need to grow up—but unfortunately won’t have the time to do so.

My parents loved us to go with them and we enjoyed it, too! On one particular visit we were seated side by side with my folks across from us. Next to me was a little old lady I struck up a conversation with. She finally asked, “Sweetheart, could you introduce me to your father?”

I pointed across the table and said, “That’s my dad.”

She said, “Oh, well, who’s the attractive man sitting next to you? I really want to meet him. Is he married?” Talk about making my day. She thought my husband was my father. Thanks to Ms. Clairol, those gray hairs described as a “glorious crown” in the Bible are just a metaphor to me (Proverbs 16:31).

That was quite a few years ago. Now we both qualify to be senior citizens. We look at others our age and say, “Surely we can’t look that old.”

Then we say, “No, we don’t! We look great!” Ah, the joy of not wearing your glasses!

When my husband’s aunt was in her late nineties, we flew back to Rhode Island to help her move to the West Coast to be with family. While going through her things we found she had saved quite a bit of money. So we asked her if there was anything special she had ever wanted to buy or a trip she would like to take. She was appalled and said, “I can’t spend that money! I’m saving it for my old age.” Neither of us had the heart to tell her she was old. 

If we spend a little time with old folks, they will tell us that each day is a gift no matter what age we are (Psalm 118:24). We can rejoice and be glad all our days (Psalm 20:14). We can make the most of our time and apply our hearts to wisdom (Psalm 90:12). We can resolve to finish the race God has set before us (2 Timothy 4:7). We can keep our sense of purpose and our sense of humor (Proverbs 17:22).

Growing old is not so bad—especially when you think of the alternative. Here’s a thought I find comforting: the seasons of my life may change but God never does. The aging process may eventually weaken my body and maybe my mind to a certain extent but if my relationship with God is my priority, I have nothing to worry about.

*****

O God, thank You for the wisdom of the older folks I’ve met in my life. We all must grow old. Although I’m aging, I’m still hearty and active. While I am, put in my heart to seek out those older who need encouragement. Let me take the time to visit with them, listen to their stories, bring them something a little special, and learn from them. Let them know they are not forgotten, but loved.


Growing Older

September 20, 2020 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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A Journal of Joy: Things that make my heart smile…

Some say old is always twenty years from the age you are. It’s a nice thought but I don’t think it’s accurate. I won’t lie to you. I don’t find a great deal of joy in growing older, but I do find a great deal of joy in being alive!

It all started when I turned 70. I seemed to breeze through aging milestones like 40, 50, and 60. I must admit that when I turned 65, signed up for Social Security, got on Medicare, and started thinking about retirement, I felt I was getting older. But 65 didn’t sound old. Then I turned 70. 70 sounded very old to me.

I tried to analyze why I had a bit of a problem adjusting. After all, I’ve had a very full life and think there is much more ahead to celebrate. I think it was that I felt I was transitioning from one season in my life to another. That didn’t mean I had a bunch of things I wanted to do before I died. It just meant it may be time for me to make a few changes, shake things up a bit, and not be satisfied with the “same old, same old.” This may not seem like a big deal to you, but to someone like me who loves consistency, dislikes surprises, and hates change, it was a major mindset adjustment.

I had an “aha” moment when my girlfriend Evonne gave me a birthday gift card for a Baggallini, a stylish functional purse designed by flight attendants for travel or every day. (Do I sound like a commercial?) Evonne had one I loved. So I surfed the net to find just the right one. I told her via email I had narrowed it down to a black one, but wasn’t sure of the exact style. There were many to choose from.

She said, “What a big surprise! All your purses are black. Now that you are turning 70 I thought you’d step up your game!”

Bingo! A light bulb went off! That’s my problem. If I’m going to do anything a little differently, now is the time. So I bought a red Baggallini! It’s the new me. Suddenly I seem to be embracing this new season of my life.  

I didn’t join the Red Hat Society but I understand them. Red has become my signature color. If I’m not wearing a red blouse or sweater, I’m usually sporting a few red accessories. My kids have been very supportive. They’ve bought me a red Coach purse, a red leather iPhone case, red sandals, red house slippers, red walking shoes, a red Fitbit, a red iPad, and a red carrying case. I must admit, I really look good in red!

The Bible speaks of the older women teaching the younger women (Titus 3:2-5). Well, I’m older so here’s a little advice for younger women. Don’t be a wallflower! Live a colorful life. If there is a certain bright color that makes you smile, wear it. It’s a joy to be alive!

*****

Ah Lord God, thank You for another day of life! It is good to be alive! Do You have a favorite color? You have created so many to choose from. I look good in teal, shades of blue, and my new favorite—red! But I love gazing at all the lovely colors surrounding me—the bright yellow sunflowers, the green oak trees, and chirping orange oriole. You are the great Creator. As I grow older, let me appreciate the wonders around me and think of You!    


Family Games

September 13, 2020 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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A Journal of Joy: Things that make my heart smile…

I thank God daily for our family. I can’t think of anything that brings me more joy unless it would be God Himself. We are not without problems; that’s for sure. We don’t all get along; that’s for sure. We all have our individual idiosyncrasies; that’s for sure. However, God seems to have given us the ability to set them all aside when we have a family gathering. While most families hate the holidays because their families will all be together, we love them. We love enjoying a meal together and then playing family games.

We love just about all kinds of games—card games, word games, board games, and even puzzles. While some might consider this a waste of time, we’ve always considered it time well spent.

When our son Matthew was about ten we played a lot of Yahtzee. So he spray-painted a big bottle blue and made a “Yahtzee Cup” flag to perch on top. A 4 x 6 index card was taped to the side of the bottle to display the winners’ names. Would you believe we still have that “cup” and we are still writing names of the winners on it?

Once when our children were little we were playing Twenty Questions in the car. You know the game where you come up with something for everyone to guess; then you tell them whether it’s in the animal, vegetable, or mineral category. Guessers can ask up to twenty questions to find out what it is. It was my husband’s turn and he said, “The category is animal!”

Off we went with our barrage of questions. Is it little? Does it have four legs? Is it found in the jungle? Can we ride it?

We had narrowed it down to a farm animal with long legs that we could ride. Imagine our surprise when he said was long, legged pig. He thought that was very funny. I did not. He had tricked us with some fantasy animal he dreamed up in his mind. This was not a good example for our children and I told him so.

Evidently I must have voiced my opinion more vocally than I thought because a few days later I heard our seven-year-old daughter Sherisa tell her grandmother, “And Mommy said if Daddy doesn’t play fair, she’s not going to let him play games with us anymore.”

In spite of a few faux pas, we still found family games were an excellent avenue for teaching our young children life lessons such as how to follow directions, learn new skills, take turns, interact with others, win or lose graciously, and play fair. Spiritual parallels could be drawn as well such as developing patience, kindness, self-control, and joy.   

Of all the benefits of playing family games, the most important one I think was spending time together. Family time is almost a lost art form. Today, families don’t even eat together. Oh they may be in the same room but one child might be watching TV, another playing a video game, another texting, while Mom is on her computer and Dad is talking on his cell phone. However, with family games, all participants are engaged together.

Our kids are grown now but when our family gets together we still love to play family games. While playing we talk, we share, we bond, we love, and we laugh. I thank God all the time for the gift of laughter. Oh the joy I feel when our family is laughing together!

When I think of talking, sharing, bonding, loving, and laughing, I think of God. These are things I like to do with on my daily walk with God as well. Too many of us picture God as a fuddy-duddy incapable of having fun. I can’t help but wonder if Jesus visited our family today, would He join us in a game of one of our family favorites like Qwirkle, Encore, Nertz, Five Crowns, King of Tokyo, 31, Quiplash, Drawful, or Camel Up. I think He would. He might just consider it time well spent.

*****

O heavenly Father, I can’t thank You enough for our family! O the joy I feel when we get together and I hear them laugh. May each one feel special, loved, and appreciated. May I never cease to lift them up to You in prayer. Thank You for the wonderful things You have done for themthings they may not even be aware of. Give them Your favor as they walk through life. What an extraordinary gift You have bestowed on us. Let me never take this beloved gift or them for granted.


My Bucket List

September 6, 2020 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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A Journal of Joy: Things that make my heart smile…..

A few years ago my cousin Brenda gave me a decorative tin bucket with a slotted lid. It’s labeled My Bucket List. It came with small pieces of paper for me to write down things I want to do and place them in the bucket. When each desire is completed, I’m supposed to remove it from the bucket.

Looking at this little tin bucket makes me smile. My bucket list philosophy is slightly different. I always put things on my list after I do them. That way I can say I’ve done everything on my bucket list.

You see, for me, life has been an adventure. Probably one I wouldn’t have chosen because my expectations as a child were never that high. Born in Missouri, I had never seen an ocean, never traveled outside of a five state radius, never flown in an airplane, or even ridden a train before I was eighteen. Poor families can’t afford to do a lot but we were happy just watching Disney’s Wonderful World of Color on a black and white TV.

Oh sure, I dreamed of being a famous singer or successful actress just like every other kid. But to be honest, I was thrilled to graduate from high school, be the first in my family to go to college, and study to become an elementary school teacher. However, God had other plans.

During my senior year in high school, I felt God calling me into a deeper relationship with Him. So after graduation, instead of applying to Harris Teacher’s College in St. Louis, I applied to a Christian college in Texas. When I received my acceptance letter, I was flooded with emotions—most were a mixture of elation and fear. I would be on my own with no friends or family. I had never lived away from home so the thought of being alone and that far away overwhelmed me. I spent much of my preparation time crying—mostly tears of apprehension, not joy. I’ve never been a “crier” so my parents didn’t know what to do with me. Of course, if I didn’t like it I could always come home, but if I was so miserable, why go in the first place? During one of my weepy sessions, my dad in exasperation said, “You won’t last two weeks down there!”

I sniffed and replied, “Oh, yes I will!” I think I was still tearing up when I boarded the train for Texas – my first train ride!

Now going to this Christian college was not on my bucket list, but it should have been because God used it to open all sorts of doors to adventure. Adventure means unusual, exciting experiences and activities. You know, things you would put on a bucket list.

While at college, I got to travel to California with our choral group. I saw my first ocean, my first palm tree, the Grand Canyon, my first desert, and even Disneyland – in color. Our senior trip was to Mexico City, my first time in a foreign country.

Getting married right out of college was not on my bucket list, but it should have been. Oh sure, I would get married eventually, but first I wanted to travel and see the world. I said yes to the proposal even though I cried the night before my wedding. It was that old elation mixed with fear feeling again. I still remember my future husband patting my shoulder and saying, “Don’t worry. You’ll like being married.”

Being married to a pastor is not the easiest of lives, but oh what adventures we’ve had! We have lived or traveled through all but one of the fifty states. (Somehow we missed Maine but plan to get there after we retire.) We’ve worked in so many wonderful places from sunny Florida to mountainous Appalachia to inner-city Detroit. We’ve enjoyed down-home cooking and ten-course meals served by white-gloved waiters.

Having a child during the first year of marriage was not on my bucket list, but it should have been. I wanted to wait until we had been married a few years before we had children, so I could spend a few years with just my husband, but that’s not the way it worked out. What a joy our three children have been! How much I have learned from each one of them! It’s as if God said, “You need children and you need them now.”

Sometimes my bucket list items came just by saying yes to opportunities. Going to China wasn’t on my bucket list but we jumped at the chance to go with a Better Business Association at an unbelievably low price because they needed people to fill their quota. We jumped at the chance to go to Nigeria and Ghana on a mission trip because our way was paid. We jumped at the chance to go to Italy because friends had a daughter there studying fashion design and we had free lodging. We’ve ridden camels to the Great Pyramids in Egypt, gone on safari in Kenya, leaned with the Tower of Pisa, climbed the hill to the Parthenon, walked in Paul’s footsteps in Ephesus, taken a gondola ride in Venice, taken a helicopter ride to a glacier in New Zealand where I ended up in waist deep snow, and trust me—this just barely scratches the surface.

Last year I added skydiving, parasailing, and zip-lining to the list. So you see, I write things on my bucket list after I’ve done them. Truth be told, I’m not wise enough to know what I should even put on my list. I’ve found that God knows better than I what I really want to do—and with God, the adventure possibilities are endless. And praise God, I’m not nearly as fearful as I used to be.

Have I done everything on my bucket list? Yes, I have—and I plan to do even more.

*****

Lord, I can’t thank You enough for all the experiences You’ve provided in this adventure called life. You’ve taken me places I never dreamed I would ever go. Sometimes I have to look back on life to appreciate it because it’s hard to see the beauty of something when I am too close. It has not always been an easy ride, but You have been with me every mile of the journey. I give You praise and thanks! Not only is my bucket list complete but my cup runneth over.


It Is What It Is

August 30, 2020 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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A Journal of Joy: Things that make my heart smile…

One of my philosophies is not to worry about what I can’t control. Boy, do I love to be in control! Unfortunately, life is full of uncontrollable situations. It’s then I say to myself, “It is what it is!”

Say you are seated in a restaurant, they bring the menu, and you notice there are no prices. You are too embarrassed to ask what the items cost or leave, so you order. When the bill comes—“it is what it is”—and you pay it, but the tip may be a little low.

Say you are traveling and have car trouble in a remote town. There is only one gas station and you need your car fixed. When the bill comes—“it is what it is”—so you just pay it.

Life is full of what I like to call “it is what it is” situations. Some are inconveniences such as: Your child gets sick at school and you must leave the big meeting you planned to go get him. You have a really, really bad hair day. Your car won’t start and you are late. You get lost. Men forget to shave. Women get a run in their pantyhose. Do women even still wear pantyhose? Whatever! “It is what it is”—so you deal with the situation.

Some circumstances are just so unfair. The other person gets the promotion. A debilitating illness strikes a loved one. Your girlfriend breaks up with you. Someone gossips about you. You do the work; your supervisor takes the credit. “It is what it is”—so you cope.

Other things may be unfair but you get the benefit. You get the promotion when the other guy should have gotten it. You survive the accident when you should have died. The cop didn’t give you a ticket even though you were speeding. “It is what it is”—so you rejoice!

I have learned that I can’t control life, but with God’s help I can control my reaction to it. That’s what the first part of the serenity prayer is talking about. “GOD, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…”

The serenity referred to here is not complacency to what we are going through. The prayer goes on to ask God for “the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This serenity is a peace that can only come from God. It passes all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). We don’t need to fret or worry. We know God is with us. This kind of peace or serenity can only come through participating in a relationship with God.

Much of life is a mystery. I don’t know what will come next all the time. It is what it is! I think God planned it that way. If I knew everything, I wouldn’t need faith. I don’t know what tomorrow holds. It is what it is! Fortunately, I know Who holds tomorrow. And God will see me through whatever lies ahead, if I let Him.

There’s much comfort in knowing that the great “I AM” (John 8:58) can help me make it through any “it is what it is” situations that come along in my life!

*****

O God, You are the great I AM! You always were and You always will be! I’m so thankful You hold my life in Your loving hands. You never promised the Christian walk would be without problems, but You promised to be with me through it all! And You have been and You will continue as long as I rely on You. I know You can help me cope and survive the confusion and uncertainty in life. Grant me Your peace when those “it is what it is” moments come my way.


Funny Feet

August 23, 2020 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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A Journal of Joy: Things that make my heart smile…

When I was sixteen I had a rude awakening. Actually, I had many rude awakenings at sixteen, but I’ll just focus on one. It happened at a sleepover. There we were—six giggly girls in pajamas all barefoot. Suddenly, I looked at one girl’s foot and said, “Your foot is shaped kind of funny, isn’t it?”

She said, “I don’t think so.” To prove her point, we all formed a little circle and put one foot in. To my chagrin, everyone’s feet looked the same and mine was different. Not just different, but a little misshapen and sort of ugly. Fortunately, my friends did not ostracize me, but having funny-looking feet is a burden I carry even to this day.

Now don’t get me wrong. I walk just fine, have no foot problems, and have not been traumatized for this less than perfect feature. My feet are sturdy and serve me well. However, I’m not the first one to say, “Let’s go get a pedicure!” Who wants to draw attention to funny feet?

Therefore, poetic, biblical metaphors about beautiful feet fascinate me. For example, Isaiah 52:7 (NLT) says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!” Leave it to God to use a metaphor about feet and make it seem beautiful—especially during a time when no one could boast of pretty feet!

In biblical times the custom was to go barefoot or wear sandals that could be easily slipped off and on. People walked to their destinations on dusty, unpaved country roads or through filthy streets, so feet took a lot of abuse. They were rough and calloused. When people visited or came home, they left their sandals at the door and washed their dirty feet before entering a house.

When these people heard a statement about feet being beautiful, they would probably look down and say, “How can my feet be beautiful?” But it’s the message that makes the feet beautiful, not the feet themselves. Everyone loves good news. Good news gladdens the heart and inspires. And if ugly, dirty feet are bringing the good news—well, then they are considered beautiful.

Feet that carry good news remind me of missionaries who feel called to share the gospel in remote areas, sometimes placing their lives in danger. Some live in mud huts with no running water and face cultural mores we can only imagine. We take literacy and written communication for granted but some missionaries struggle with languages no Berlitz program has heard of—some with no alphabet, no written word, and no Bible. Yet, the love of God can transcend the heaviest challenge.

There are many places beautiful feet take the good news of peace and salvation in America. Christian volunteers do it all the time in prisons, hospitals, retirement homes, veteran’s facilities, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and rehab centers.

Sharing the gospel isn’t just for Bible teachers, preachers, and those inclined to serve in some areas already mentioned. All who know Jesus can share Him on a personal level with friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members. We can share the good news of Jesus with all we meet. 

My feet are not beautiful. They are misshapen and border on being ugly. But even funny feet become beautiful when they share the good news of Jesus Christ. That brings me much joy!

*****

Oh Father, You make all things new. One day the imperfections I have will melt away and I will truly become beautiful. Until then, how amazing it is that You can still use me to spread the good news of what a great God You are in spite of my flaws and blemishes. Thank You for letting me participate in showing others Your love.


Everyday Witnesses

August 16, 2020 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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A Journal of Joy: Things that make my heart smile…

I must admit that I balk at the idea of being a witness for Christ. The word “witness” conjures up negative images of Christ being on trial in a court of law and I must testify to His innocence. I finally figured out that Christ does not need me to defend Him. However, He does want me to attest to what He has done in my life if someone should ask (1 Peter 3:15). It doesn’t say to pounce on unsuspecting people and shove Christ down their throats. And, yes, people do that!

Yet the scripture clearly tells us we should be witnesses for Christ. You shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and all of Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Since I need to be a witness for Christ I decided to explore the subject further.

Many think this passage in Acts commands us to go out and witness for Christ. Although that could be one interpretation, it could also be stating a fact. It could be telling us that the gospel will spread to the ends of the earth and as it does Christians will be witnesses for Christ—not by trying to persuade skeptics to follow Him, but by showing how the fruits of God’s Spirit can be manifest in our lives so others will want to follow Him.

If we call ourselves Christians, then our lives are a witness for God. Our lives are either a good witness or a bad witness—but they are witnesses just the same. Hopefully our lives are a living testimony for God’s goodness, so others might say something like, “WOW! That person has a peace that passes all understanding. I’d like to have that kind of peace in my life.”

I don’t think being a witness for Christ is as difficult as I thought. I don’t have to convince others to follow Christ. Christ does that. I don’t even have to go out looking for people to “witness” to. God will do that. God will make sure I come in contact with the people He wants me to know. He will even put it in their hearts to ask me questions about Him that I can answer.

The early church knew this. They continued steadfastly doing what they had been taught. They met together, ate together, worshipped together, and prayed together. They were happy and got along with all the people (Acts 2:42-47). “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). The early church members devoted themselves to living a Christian life. That’s how they witnessed for Christ. They didn’t talk people into becoming Christians. They didn’t “lead” people to Christ. They allowed the Holy Spirit to transform them into what Christ would have them be and then God added to the church.

Hey, I think I can do this. It’s not as difficult as I thought and that makes me happy!

*****

Father, help me live my life reflecting the fruit of Your Holy Spirit so I can witness in a way where You get all the glory. I don’t need clever arguments or profound doctrine to convince others to follow You. It’s all about You and what You do. It’s not about me at all. Let Your love overflow from me to others so You can be glorified.


Sharing My Story

August 9, 2020 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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A Journal of Joy: Things that make my heart smile…

A number of years ago someone asked me how I came to know Jesus Christ as my Savior and I must admit, I didn’t know what to say. Did I love God? Yes! Did I believe Jesus died for my sins? Yes! Did I believe God was actively involved in my life? Yes! Was I a different person after Jesus came into my life? Yes! Then where was my story?

That bothered me—a lot! So I started praying and asking God to help me develop a story to share with others. I asked Him to bring back to memory the events in my life that He used to draw me to Him—and He did. I think everyone should have a concise story they can share with others if asked.

Mine is not a very dynamic story. I wasn’t struck blind on the road to Damascus like Paul and I had never literally killed anyone. Not all stories are dramatic but that doesn’t make them less valuable. Some have grown up feeling they have always known Christ. That’s their personal story and someone they come in contact with will be able to identify with it.

It gives me great pleasure to share my story with you.

When I was a senior in high school we moved. I had been with the same group of friends since first grade, so it was pretty devastating for me. I went from being involved in everything to not being involved in anything at the new school. I had no friends and we lived too far away for me to be involved in any school activities. It was obvious that it was going to be a long, hard year—not the great year I had always envisioned my senior year to be.

My mother had been attending a church for several years but my dad and I never went. Every year in the fall, they had a weeklong church convention/festival they attended. For five years she had asked Dad and me if we wanted to go and for five years we said, “No.’’ I had always been far too involved in school activities to take a week off. However, this year when she asked I was so miserable I said, “Yes!” Anything had to be better than what I was going through, even going to church for a week.

Going to that church festival really impacted my life. I had never seen such happy people. They had a love for God and a love for each other I had never experienced before. Some of the people were camping that year and I remember many got rained out, but their attitudes were still full of jubilation and praise for God. I didn’t know what they had, but I wanted it. It was also obvious to me that I had done some things in my life I wasn’t too proud of and had done my best to drive my folks insane. I just felt like I needed a change in my life and knew I was incapable of producing that change myself.

On the way home from that festival, I was sitting in the back seat of the car with my eyes closed, praying. I hadn’t done a lot of praying before so I didn’t really know what to say. So I just asked God to give me the kind of love those people had. I asked Him to forgive me for every rotten thing I’d done and help me make changes in my life.

Was I immediately a different person after that prayer? No. But I know God heard that prayer because He’s taken me on a spiritual journey ever since. There are many other stories to share about my journey but I’m focusing on when I first felt the presence of God in my life and when I realized that Jesus died for my sins—and I, just like the people I had spent a week with, could have God’s love in my life. Not only could I have His love but actually have Jesus Christ live His life in and through me.

What a joy! To realize that God knows everything about me and loves me anyway. That no matter what happens in life God will be with me every step of the way.

Well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

*****

O Lord, how I love to sing that Fanny Crosby song, “This is my story; this is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long!” I do want to praise You all day long. Thank You for revealing Yourself to me and coming into my life. These are gifts I do not deserve which makes them all the more precious to me. If someone asks me to share my story, fill my mouth with words that will bring You praise and glory!


The Answer

August 2, 2020 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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A Journal of Joy: Things that make my heart smile…

The Bible says to always be ready to give an answer to those who ask for the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15). Some preachers use this verse to encourage us to study our Bibles so we’ll know what we are talking about if asked a question. Others think it means we need to be leading people to Christ. Both concepts have merit.

However, no matter how much I read my Bible I still feel ill-equipped to answer technical Biblical questions. Plus, I can’t always remember where certain passages are found, which can definitely give someone the impression I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Also, I’m not sure that it is our job to actually lead people to Christ. Jesus said no one can come to Him unless He draws them to Him (John 6:44). Some feel they must force Jesus on people all the time, whether they are interested or not. I don’t think that’s wise. However, I don’t want to hinder the process of conversion by not being willing to give an answer for the hope that lies within me. 

The intent of this passage is that when others see Christians go through trials they are amazed at how well they handle what life throws at them. The reason for this is hope. Christian hope has a positive, encouraging energy that others can’t quite understand. This hope is attractive to a hurting world. This hope gives a peace that passes understanding even in the worst situations (Philippians 4:7). It’s natural that others would be curious about where that comes from and ask questions.

What might some ask? Maybe they would notice we aren’t reacting the way they think we should and ask, “How can you remain calm in all this turmoil?” This opens the door for us to tell them our relationship with Jesus helps us weather life’s storms. If they want to ask us more about that, they will. We won’t need to force it or give them a crash course in salvation.

Some might ask, “Where is your God while you are going through this?” We can share the times God has delivered us. Then we might recount the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being thrown into the fiery furnace. They knew God could deliver them but said, “We know our God is able to deliver us from this situation, but even if He chooses not to, we will still trust Him” (Daniel 3:17).

We can share our convictions of knowing we have assured promises that come through our relationship with God and that what we experience on earth is only temporary. Trials can’t be compared to what lies ahead or Who lives in us (Romans 8:18). Jesus lives in us! 

When people have questions, Jesus is the answer and I shouldn’t be afraid to share personal examples of my life to show this if someone asks. Is someone sick? Jesus is the healer and great physician. Is someone seeking knowledge? Jesus is the great teacher. Is someone weary? Jesus gives us rest and comfort. Is someone worried? Jesus gives us peace. Does someone think nobody cares? I care and more importantly, Jesus cares. Does someone feel like a loser? The world may think we are losers but Jesus does not. His life in ours makes us winners regardless of circumstances.  

It gives me great joy to realize I don’t have to convert people or lead them to Christ. When someone asks me a question about Christianity all I need to do is pray about it, be available, and gently point them to Jesus.

*****

Thank You, Lord, for not putting the burden of converting the world on my shoulders, but when I am asked anything about You please put Your words in my mouth. My desire is to be a help to the process You set in motion, not a hindrance. I once heard that people become Christians because they’ve known a Christian, but others do not become Christians because of Christians they’ve known. Let me be a reflection of You to all I meet.  


Stuff

July 26, 2020 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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A Journal of Joy: Things that make my heart smile…

One of my favorite words in the English language is “stuff.” It’s just so versatile. If you look it up in Webster’s Dictionary, you will find it has a bazillion meanings: material possessions, supplies, equipment, bullets, personal property, textiles, literary or artistic production, ideas of little value, trash, an unspecified kind of matter, scattered miscellaneous articles, talk, actions, construction material, subject matter, something consumed in the body, special knowledge or capability, a great baseball pitch, cram in, fill up, thrust, and the list goes on and on.

People got lots of “stuff.” People strut their “stuff.” People know their “stuff.” People show their “stuff.” People pick their “stuff” up and put it away. People spread their “stuff” all around. Honored baseball pitchers have what is known as tremendous “stuff.” People buy “stuff.” People sell “stuff.” People have the “stuff” of greatness. Some people “stuff” their heads with knowledge. In fact, a little knowledge can be heady “stuff.”

People “stuff” their faces. People “stuff” their pockets. People “stuff” their bags. People “stuff” their birds. Some people are “stuffed” shirts. People dish out “stuff” in conversations. Some people take that “stuff” from others and some people don’t. And all people go through “stuff” they don’t want to go through. “Stuff” happens.

At times we all wish we had other people’s “stuff” instead of our own. Rich people got lots of “stuff” and sometimes their “stuff” looks better than our “stuff.” Some of us carry around a lot of excess emotional and psychological “stuff” that weighs us down and prevents us from making the progress we’d like to make. Sometimes the “stuff” others are going through doesn’t seem as hard as the “stuff” we’re going through. But one thing is for sure. All people got “stuff” they have to put up with. No one goes through life without dealing with “stuff,” no matter how charmed you may think someone else’s life is.

God never promised us we wouldn’t have “stuff” to deal with or “stuff” to go through. However, He did say He would be there with us. Hebrew 13:5 says we should be content with such “stuff” as we have for God said He would never leave us or forsake us. Psalms 37:39 says that God is our strength when bad “stuff” happens. Proverbs 11:28 says that those who trust in their “stuff” will fall, but those who trust in God won’t.

When people have God, they can take just about any old “stuff” this world throws at them. Only God has the right “stuff” to help us in our time of need. Only God can help us keep our perspective when “stuff” happens. And I happen to think my “stuff” is personalized just for me. God said that He’d never give me more “stuff” than I could handle. So when people ask me if I want some of their “stuff,” I just say, “No, thanks!” I got plenty of “stuff” of my own.

*****

O Lord, I praise and worship You! When I see the word “stuff” I laugh. How can one word have so many meanings? Thank You for letting me see the funny side of life. Put in my heart Your gift of laughter so I will smile more and complain less when I’m dealing with my “stuff.”