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We Are Witnesses

June 26, 2022 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

It Is Good to Be Thankful: Appreciation makes the world a better place…

I used to balk at the idea of being a witness for Christ (Acts 1:8). 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).

The Bible does not give us a formula for witnessing for Christ. There is no specific way presented for people to share the gospel. However, we have many examples of those from all walks of life who witnessed for Christ in their own way—the blind man, the Samaritan woman, Dorcas, Peter, Paul, Mary, Martha, Zacchaeus, Eunice, Luke—the list is endless. People led by God’s Spirit don’t all witness in the same way. God created us with various personalities. We all have different occupations, strengths, and weaknesses. As unique members of the body of Christ, we use what we have to glorify God in diverse ways.   

The best witness for Christ is how we live our lives. 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 allowed the Holy Spirit to transform people into what Christ would have them be and then God added to the church.

I’m so thankful that being a witness for Christ is not as difficult as I thought. I don’t have to convince others to follow Christ. Christ does that. I don’t 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.

God is only allowing me to be part of His process because it’s really all about Him, not me.  

*****

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord...” ~ Psalms 92:1 (KJV)


Old Hymns/Gospel Songs

June 19, 2022 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

It Is Good to Be Thankful: Appreciation makes the world a better place…

When my dad got Alzheimer’s and had to go to a care facility, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. They kept telling him he had lung cancer and he kept telling them he didn’t. Perhaps that’s why he managed to stay alive nine months in their hospice unit. He was 84 when he finally passed away, but I really appreciated that additional time with him. 

He didn’t always recognize me when I entered his room but his face would light up. He’d say, “I can’t remember your name, but I know you. You are my daughter!” To me, that little recognition he had was a gift from God.

Our conversations were disjointed. Sometimes he could actually carry on a conversation and sometimes he couldn’t. However, he could always sing old gospel songs and hymns. He had a little cassette tape deck and he’d play the same songs over and over and over again. One of my fondest memories of the last months of his life was us singing the songs he taught me as a child. It was kind of funny in a way, because I never considered my dad a deeply religious man but he deeply believed in God.

We’d sing and sing and sing. “Just a closer walk with thee…” “A mighty fortress is our God…” “Oh they tell me of an unclouded day…” “I’ll fly away, oh glory…” “What a friend we have in Jesus…” “Rock of ages cleft for me…” “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine…” “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe…” “Amazing grace how sweet the sound…” “How great thou art…” “I come to the garden alone…” “It is well with my soul…” “I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop…” We loved to sing together.

When we’d sing, “What a friend we have in Jesus…” he’d look over at me and say, “You know that’s true, don’t you? Don’t ever forget it!”

I love all songs that praise God, but there is something special about classic, traditional hymns. They have stood the test of time. Just as meaningful today as they were in the past, they expose us to a rich Christian heritage. Most are easy to sing and memorize which help embed Christian truths into our very being. It’s amazing how many of them come to mind as I travel life’s highway and go through trials. Those words become a sort of prayer when I feel too weary to pray.

Plus, these old gospel songs and hymns bond us to former generations. When I’m counting my blessings and naming them one by one, I count the time I spent with Dad in his latter years, singing hymns of praise to God.   

*****

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord...” ~ Psalms 92:1 (KJV)


Little Things Can Mean a Lot

June 12, 2022 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

It Is Good to Be Thankful: Appreciation makes the world a better place…

When governor Zerubbabel was faced with the task of rebuilding Jerusalem and the temple, he faced many obstacles. Fifty years had passed since the Babylonian invasion left Jerusalem desolate and Solomon’s Temple (also known as the First Temple) burned to the ground. It became obvious this second temple would never have the grandeur of the first. Even after the foundation was laid, some old timers wept thinking of the comparison (Ezra 3:12).  

Yet, amidst this small beginning, God told the people not to be discouraged for the second temple would be completed through Zerubbabel. He also asked a rhetorical question that contains a life lesson for all of us. “For who hath despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:10 KJV). The people could only see what was in front of them, not what God would do with it.

I admit that I suffer from this kind of tunnel vision. In a world that measures significance by size, it’s easy to think small things have little value. Yet little things mean a lot to God. Things like…

  • Giving someone a cold drink of water (Matthew 10:42)
  • Feeding the hungry (Matthew 25:43-45)
  • Visiting those in prison (Matthew 25:43-45)
  • Helping the fatherless and the widows (James 1:27)
  • A widow’s mite (Mark 12:41-44)
  • Sharing what little you have (John 6:9-13)
  • Little children (Matthew 18:1-5)
  • Little flocks (Luke 12:32)

The parables are full of analogies made with small things: one talent, sowing seeds, a lost coin, one lost sheep, a grain of mustard seed, and a little leaven. The list could go on and on.

What about people? David, a mere shepherd boy, used a slingshot to kill Goliath. A small boy helped feed a multitude with three fishes and five loaves of bread. Jesus was born in a stable in some obscure town, yet offers salvation to the world.

In fact, Jesus’s life was spent doing small things for others. We could call them acts of kindness. He comforted the sick. He befriended the sinner. He hung out with the fishermen. He paid attention to little children. He washed the disciples’ feet. He told us if we wanted to be great we should do the same thing—learn to serve others (Mark 10:42-45).   

God does not measure significance by size. There can be power in small things. A little match can cause a big fire. A tiny acorn can produce a giant oak tree. Little drops of water can fill an ocean. Tiny grains of sand can make a beach. I’m thankful that God can take any little thing I do and multiply it for His glory.

*****

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord...” ~ Psalms 92:1 (KJV)


But God

June 5, 2022 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

It Is Good to Be Thankful: Appreciation makes the world a better place...

Some words look insignificant, yet have great meaning. Although “but” is primarily a conjunction which connects two sentences or clauses, its use implies that everything following it will either contrast or contradict everything before. Looking closer, we find that little words can mean a lot.   

Charles Hughes was an American statesman who served in many government offices. When he was Secretary of State in the 1920s, he had to attend many foreign conferences where he would need an interpreter for each language spoken. He gave his interpreters strict instructions to only give him the gist of what was being said, not a word-for-word interpretation. However, Hughes told them that whenever a speaker used the word “but” he wanted an exact interpretation of each word that followed it. He knew that what followed the word “but” in a sentence was of utmost importance.

When you put the word “but” with God, it is POWERFUL!!!! When we read the Bible God wants us to focus on what comes after the “but” not before, because what comes after usually shows God’s power and might. I like looking for the phrase “but God” in the Bible. Here are a couple of examples.

Ephesians 2:1-3 goes into great detail describing how we were dead in our sins, disobedient, gratifying the cravings of our flesh, following wrong desires, and deserving of wrath. We are all dirty rotten sinners, but notice the next two verses. “But God, who is rich in mercy and has great love for us, has made us alive with Christ by His grace and raised us up to sit with Christ in heavenly places.” Too many of us want to focus on what we were, not on what God has done for us and who we are now in Christ.

Years after Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, they were reunited. The brothers were afraid he would try to get revenge but Joseph said, “Don’t be afraid. You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done” (Genesis 50:19).  The New Testament account says Joseph’s brothers were “moved with envy and sold Joseph into Egypt but God was with him” (Acts 7:9-10). When people do bad things that affect us, God can turn it all around because He is with us, too.

Satan likes to bombard us with negative thoughts but God has other things in mind. Satan wants us to feel like what we’ve done is unforgivable but God forgives us (1 John 1:9). Satan wants us to think no one loves us but God loves us (John 3:16).

I often have to remind myself that what I think or feel might not be accurate. Sometimes I feel alone but God says He will never leave or forsake me (Hebrews 23:5). I’m thankful for every “but God” thought that comes to mind because the world wants to fill me with discouragement but God wants to fill me with joy.

*****

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord...” ~ Psalms 92:1 (KJV)


Memorial Day

May 29, 2022 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

It Is Good to Be Thankful: Appreciation makes the world a better place…

Monday is Memorial Day which honors our American soldiers who lost their lives defending our country. There is something quite special about people giving up their lives for someone else. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” It has to be even more meaningful when you lay down your life for those who may not really understand or appreciate it.

As a young child I was a bit confused about the meaning of Memorial Day. In school, we learned that it was a somber time dedicated to honoring those who died in wars. In the Midwest, our family called it Decoration Day. Each year we would travel from St. Louis to the countryside of southeast Missouri—where my folks grew up. All the relatives would gather at cemeteries and put flowers on the graves of loved ones who had died during wars. Old people would reminisce about days gone by and the kids would sneak around to run, jump, and play.

As an older child I couldn’t understand why a day devoted to those who died fighting for the freedoms of our country was called a holiday. When I thought of a “holiday” I always thought of celebrations, parties, or vacations. Sadly, that seems to be what it has become—a three-day-weekend to have more time for ourselves.

There was a time when almost every man living had fought in some war for our country. Since our freedoms have become somewhat secure, fewer men have had to do this. However, many died so we could be free. Memorial Day commemorates the death of all those who lost their lives in military service to protect our freedoms. Memorial Day is a time to remember them.

God is very big on us remembering things. In fact, He was constantly reminding the Israelites to remember all He had done for them (Deuteronomy 7:12, 8:2). He wanted them to remember how He had delivered them to freedom (Deuteronomy 5:15). I guess freedom was just as big a deal in biblical times as it is today.

I’m thankful for Memorial Day and a reminder to be grateful for those who gave their lives in the past for the freedoms I enjoy in this country today.

*****

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord...” ~ Psalms 92:1 (KJV)


Access to the Bible

May 22, 2022 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

It Is Good to Be Thankful: Appreciation makes the world a better place…

I’m so thankful to have a Bible to read. I don’t have to wait for Moses to come down from a mountain with a tablet of stone to hear what God has to say. I don’t have to wait for Paul’s next parchment epistle to arrive in the mail. I have access to God, His thoughts, and His example at my fingertips. What a blessing!

In biblical times, the average person did not have access to a Bible. Only religious leaders had a copy of the Bible and probably not in total. That’s why public reading of Scripture was important. Paul refers to this when he says, “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, and to doctrine” (1Timothy 4:13).   

Many at that time were illiterate, so they weren’t just grabbing their Bibles and heading over to Joe’s house for an impromptu Bible study. When the Bereans were commended for searching Scriptures daily, they were making an effort to get together with someone who could read and had access to portions of the Bible (Acts 17:11). Reading or studying the Bible was a shared activity with people supporting and encouraging one another.

Once the Bible was canonized, Scriptures were copied by hand. Emperors like Constantine or religious authorities would sanction that Scriptures could be copied by scribes. This was a huge, laborious undertaking. Each word had to be carefully formed in ink with no room for error since there was no “Wite-out” or “Correcto-type” available.

During the Middle Ages, several thousand monasteries were established across Europe to copy the Bible. Teams of scribes and artists produced magnificent parchments filled with beautiful artwork. Most people in the Middle Ages couldn’t read, so these pictures, designs, and illustrations were very popular. Of course, a lot of these Bibles were huge and expensive—not available to the common man. They would be put on display at some churches, monasteries, and universities. Years ago I saw some of these inspiring manuscripts displayed at the Getty Museum in Southern California. Unbelievable works of art!

When the printing press came along in the 1400s, the flood gates of information became available to ordinary, everyday people. Many were skeptical of this new invention, but the printing press was actually the Internet of its time. Eventually literacy and access to books became widespread. The Bible became accessible to the average person—people like us.  

What a privilege! We can daily be reminded of who Christ is and what He has done for us. We have examples to follow and not to follow. We can have identity, purpose, comfort, strength, and hope at our fingertips. Of course, to gain these benefits, we would have to actually read it! I guess that’s the tricky part.

*****

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord...” ~ Psalms 92:1 (KJV)


Thankful for Stuff

May 15, 2022 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

It Is Good to Be Thankful: Appreciation makes the world a better place…

I am thankful for stuff—and by that I mean physical possessions. However, most of us would admit we have too much stuff. There is even an old song called Too Much Stuff. Too much stuff leads to clutter. Since I function best with an uncluttered life, I’m constantly trying to simplify and throw stuff out!

Being a writer, I love the word “stuff” because it has a bazillion meanings. 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 “stuff” envelopes. At Christmas, we “stuff” stockings.

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. 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.”

God never promised us we wouldn’t have “stuff” to deal with or “stuff” to go through. However, He did say He wouldn’t give us more “stuff” than we could handle (1 Corinthians 10:113). He also said that we should be content with such “stuff” as we have for He would never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He promised to be our strength when bad “stuff” happens (Psalms 37:39). He tells us that those who trust in their “stuff” will fall, but those who trust in God won’t (Proverbs 11:28).

When people have God in their lives, they can take just about any old “stuff” this world throws at them. God helps us keep perspective when “stuff” happens. And only God has the right “stuff” to guide, protect, provide, strengthen, comfort, deliver, and help us on our daily journey with Him. With that in mind, all other “stuff” pales to insignificance. 

*****

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord...” ~ Psalms 92:1 (KJV)


My Mother

May 8, 2022 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

It Is Good to Be Thankful: Appreciation makes the world a better place…

It’s been fifty years since my mom passed away, but I remember her vividly. I was in my early twenties when she went to the doctor for what she thought was a kidney infection and found out she had uterine cancer. Two weeks later she was gone. She was 48. It happened so fast. There were so many things I wished I had told her when I had the chance—so many things I cherish that truly influenced my life.  

I valued her wisdom. Imbued with tons of what we called horse sense in the Midwest, she was a cross between Dr. Laura and Solomon. “There are always three sides to every story: yours, theirs, and what really happened,” she’d say. Her theory was many times we don’t intend to shade the truth but we do see everything from our perspective, which can be skewed.

I loved her serving heart. She lived by the motto of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. If any friend, relative, or neighbor needed help, Mom was there. She brought food to the hungry, nursed the sick, and visited the lonely.

I treasured her insight. She’d say, “Life is not fair so deal with it.” It’s not something an idealistic child wants to hear but I learned at a young age, it isn’t always the most qualified, talented, or deserving person who ends up with the job, position, or first prize.

I beheld her beauty. It’s true that in her younger days, many a stranger stopped Mom to ask if she was a model, but what really made her beautiful was how she genuinely cared for others and her giving heart. Even at Christmastime, everyone got a gift, even the boy who delivered the newspaper. It may have only been a pencil box because we didn’t have much, but whatever we had, Mom was glad to share.

I respected her honesty. “Don’t say anything behind anyone’s back you wouldn’t say to their face,” she’d say. These are words she lived by. I’m not implying she only said nice things about people but whatever she said, she was willing to stand by it.

I admired her hard work. Believe it or not, it took both of my parents working to keep us in the poverty we had grown accustomed to. I was a “latchkey kid” before they even had the term. Neither of my folks had much of a formal education, so they took whatever jobs they could get. Sometimes Mom would hold down a full-time job and take in ironing on the side. Mom never complained and I never went without home cooke- meals or the necessities in life.

I enjoyed her humor. Mom was a cross between Erma Bombeck and Dave Barry, witty and funny. Once at K-Mart my mom accidentally bumped her shopping cart into another woman’s. Mom jokingly said, “Sorry, you almost need a driver’s license to operate one of these things.” The woman was indignant as she replied, “Well, I don’t!” Then the woman turned her cart quickly around and ran into a post. Mom just passed her up, smiled, and replied, “See what I mean!”

I could count on her encouragement. “You can do it,” she’d say. “You can be whatever you want to be. You can do whatever you want to do.” It may not seem like a big thing now, but Mom always wanted a high school diploma. I remember with pride when she got it. She was in her mid-thirties.   

Mom wasn’t quite as feisty after she became Christian, but she never lost her wit, wisdom, or humor as she gained peace and spiritual understanding. When she looked at a flower, she saw the Creator. When she lived life, she saw purpose. I never told her, but in reflection I think her example was the main catalyst that made me want to become a Christian. How blessed I was to have her for my mother! She was a gift from God.

*****

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord...” ~ Psalms 92:1 (KJV)


God Is My Refuge

May 1, 2022 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

It Is Good to Be Thankful: Appreciation makes the world a better place…

Many scriptures refer to God as a rock, a strong tower, our strength, and our refuge (Psalm 18:2). A refuge is a place that provides shelter and protection from danger and distress. God is our refuge. He’s our safe place to go when this world gets us down. Sometimes I forget that and try to muddle through on my own.

In the Old Testament, God instructed the Israelites to set apart six cities as “cities of refuge,” places where people could flee if they unintentionally killed someone—an accidental death (Deuteronomy 19). These cities were easily accessible and open to everyone. The gates were never locked. They could be protected from those seeking vengeance.  

Moses was the first to use the concept of God being a refuge for all His people (Deuteronomy 33:27). King David said God was his stronghold and refuge (2 Samuel 22:2). Psalm 46:1 reminds us that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in our time of trouble. Therefore, we will not fear…” Psalm 91:4 lets us know we can take refuge “under God’s wings.”

Spiritually speaking, we all need somewhere to flee when we get off track, inadvertently harm others, and make mistakes. A place to cast our cares during dire circumstances (1 Peter 5:7). A place to find rest when we are tired and weary (Matthew 11:28). A place to find solace when we are fodder for the rumor mill or falsely accused. A place to find comfort when we feel hurt or misunderstood. We have such a place. We can flee towards God’s mercy and grace. God is our refuge.

I often get overwhelmed and anxious which brings an unpleasant churning sensation inside me. Then I read Psalm 94:18-19: “Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up. In the multitude of my anxieties within me, your comforts delight my soul.” God is my refuge. Thankfully I can go to Him instead of trying to muddle through life on my own.  

*****

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord...” ~ Psalms 92:1 (KJV)


Imperfections

April 24, 2022 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

It Is Good to Be Thankful: Appreciation makes the world a better place…

I am thankful for the imperfections of godly people mentioned in the Bible. Hebrews 11 commends many for their faith, but not for their perfection—because they were not perfect.   

Noah was a just man who walked with God, but got drunk (Genesis 6:9, 21).

Abraham followed God, but lied about Sarah being his sister (Genesis 20:2).

Sarah bore a son when she was old fulfilling God’s promise, but she laughed at the idea and even lied about laughing (Genesis 18:10-15).

Moses parted the Red Sea and led the children of Israel out of Egypt, but grew weary and angry with them (Numbers 20:10).

Joseph lacked wisdom as a youngster, alienating his brothers. Yet, God allowed him to deliver his family from famine (Genesis 37:1-10; 47:11-12).

Rahab shielded the Israelite spies, but she was a harlot (Joshua 2).

David killed Goliath and was called a man after God’s own heart, but he committed adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11; 1 Samuel 13:14).

These examples are not written to justify bad behavior or give license to sin. They just show us that all have fallen short—not just you and not just me. One day Elijah was calling fire down from heaven and the next he was running for his life in fear of Jezebel (1 Kings 18:20-38: 1 Kings 19:1-10). Why? Because he was human. Humans are flawed, imperfect beings. That doesn’t mean they can’t be dedicated, sincere followers of God. It just means they aren’t perfect.

We do our best to live for God, but make mistakes. To be brutally honest, our best is not good enough. That’s why we need God.  

The Bible says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The word “perfect” here is “telios” meaning finished, full grown, mature, lacking nothing, or brought to completeness.  It has nothing to do with making mistakes or not being good enough. When God speaks of perfection, He wants us to “be complete” by being spiritually one with His Son, Jesus Christ.

This kind of perfection is not designed to make us look good or perform flawlessly, but to let Christ’s life be manifest through us. It’s about becoming totally dependent on God and letting Him work through us—in spite of our imperfections.      

*****

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord...” ~ Psalms 92:1 (KJV)