Why not me?

ID-100180787Last night, my husband had a really bad headache.  He does get migraines, but this was different–just a bad headache.  It started at supper and he took a pill. Later, after picking up kids in the church van, leading Wednesday night prayer meeting and taking kids home, we were watching some TV when I looked over to see him holding his head. The pain was worse, so I got him another pill. I decided to sleep in the guest room and went there after kissing him good night, leaving him there all curled up in a pathetic ball with the covers over his eyes.

It’s now 4:19 AM and my brain is in overdrive. What if he… I should go and check on him, but I don’t want to awaken him, but what if he’s…

Such a morbid thought, but isn’t it possible? Why not me? The hurricanes just snuffed out lives–someone’s husband or father–why not me?

What would I do? More morbid thoughts, but it may be true, or will be true, someday. I hope it’s not today. He’s only 59.

An amazing statement came into my life recently and I can’t give credit, but this morning, in the wee hours of the day, sitting at his desk, they have new meaning:

God doesn’t give us grace for our imaginations.

I can’t even imagine what I would do. Tom and I may be weird, but we play these things through our minds every once and a while.  He, like most men, always says that he’ll die first and he’s probably right.

I think these thoughts are haunting me because –

  • We just remembered 9/11 this week. Sixteen years ago.  That doesn’t seem possible, but I’m sure anyone who lost a loved one on that day feels something different about the day.
  • 9/12 is the anniversary of my own father’s death. It’s always a hard day, mainly because I don’t want to ignore it but I’m never sure what to say, especially to my mom. I write the date on a piano student’s practice notepad and think, what’s today’s date? Oh yeah, the twelfth–the day my dad died, but I don’t say anything.
  • We went to a funeral this past Saturday. It was an untimely death even though his grandmother was 74. Less than a year ago she was healthy. Then the dreaded news came–cancer. Her husband is quite a bit older than she was and he probably never thought he would be facing that day. As I came to him during the viewing, he asked ME how I was doing! And then, after I asked him how he was doing, he said, “Good.  What are you going to do?  It’s how it is, and you just have to accept it.” WOW!

So, I’m heading back to bed. I may slip into our bedroom and just listen. I’m sure he’s OK…

… but if he’s not, I know only one thing, but it’s a really, really, BIG thing:

God’s grace will be sufficient for the day, no matter what it brings. He’s already taught me that. We carry burdens and heartaches. We have scars from past wounds. We’re made of tough stuff, although the bottom line is that God created us from dirt and when under pressure, it crumbles. But …

God’s grace will be sufficient.

I’m thankful that I can’t speak from experience on this one, but don’t we believe that faith is the substance of things hoped for, THE EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN (Hebrews 11:1)? Can you believe this wonderful, precious promise and the One who promised it for whatever you are facing today? Will you let the strong arms of Jesus carry you through?

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, 
Stand in his strength alone; 
The arm of flesh will fail you, 
Ye dare not trust your own.

Bart Millard

 

 

 

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“What’s Your Problem?”

ID-100122418We may have heard this phrase or even used it in a harsh, accusing way, but I’m asking it with a heart of concern. What is your problem? You may say, “I don’t have a problem.” Good for you! Or, you may say, “Where do you want me to start?” Then others might smile and say, “Nothing. I’m good,” with a smile that tries to cover a breaking heart but doesn’t quite get to the eyes. You know what I mean.

I’ve recently discovered something: God’s grace. How does that really work? I’m learning that it only works when we do several things:

  1. Speak the truth in our hearts.  He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart (Psalm 15:2).”
  2. Turn our cares completely over to God. “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5: 7).”
  3. Stop trying to salve the hurt with other things. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12: 9).”

How do you deal with hurt? So often we turn to other things for our comfort and don’t even realize we’re doing it! Like…

  • Hobbies – We get busy with a craft or exercise at the gym or parties
  • Home – Ladies, we clean fiercely, or cook extravagantly, or spend lots of time redecorating or rearranging furniture
  • Work – We throw ourselves into our work, spending long hours away from home, especially if the problem is at home
  • Internet – We fiercely display all our pent up anger, hurt, disappointment, frustrations, or whatever on a social media page. We vent.

All of these things, except the last one, are not bad things.  They may even take away the pain for a while, but in the end, we’re right where we started: dealing with a situation that we cannot change.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

 

This poem has long been a favorite of mine, so much so that I put it to music way back in high school! Its simple truths continue to circle back into my life.

When we turn to other sources of relief, we are like a child with a splinter.  We squirm and cry and dramatize, making it more difficult, if not impossible, for the “splinter-remover” to do his or her job! Is that why God had David write Psalm 23? “He MAKETH me to LIE DOWN… He LEADETH beside…”

He knows what is best. We can’t fix it. We can only rest in His grace, allowing it to soothe when nothing else will soothe. Only He can calm the soul. Only God and His grace give peace.  Is it a “once and done” thing? No, my friend. When the problem continues, so does the possibility for angst and the need to once again sit at the Master’s feel and sense His sufficient grace!

Cuckoo Heaven

cuckooDoes it get any better than this: sitting here in my living room, looking out the triple pane window and watching the finches and various other birds come swooping into the feeder as I have my devotions? The sun is shining, the trees are budding, and my cuckoo clock is happily ticking.

Now, if you are a long-time reader, you may remember some posts about my cuckoo clock craze. My first clock came from my husband’s great uncle’s home where it hung silent for years.  It was a carved hunter’s clock, which means that it had a large racked buck at the top, a dead rabbit and bird hanging on either side of the front, and a hunting horn circling the clock face. It wasn’t my pick but I loved it, prayed over it, fixed it, and for, twenty years, God graciously blessed my feeble efforts and kept it ticking! Praise Jehovah-jireh!

But, alas, it died. It was beyond repair.  We even took it to Ye Old Clock Shoppe in Dallas, PA. (If you need to have a clock fixed, this man knows his clocks! The store could be a field trip; it’s that interesting… well, to clock-lovers!)

Long story short, I bought a new clock. Now, for a short marital finance lesson—don’t have “my money—your money” attitudes. If both husband and wife work, then the money pays the bills together. We broke that rule in one area: my books. I’ve kept any monies that I’ve received from my books sales into a separate account.  I’m not sure why; I believe mostly just to be able to be encouraged.  Lest you think I’m “rolling in the dough,” self-publishing is a tough road. It’s “me, myself, and I” when it comes to the process of writing, designing, and particularly selling books. However, that said, I used some of that fund to purchase a new cuckoo clock.

Maybe it’s my German heritage, but I’ve loved cuckoo clocks since I was a child. I remember standing in front of my aunt’s clock as she turned the minute hand to make the bird sing! Thrilled! Some may think I’m crazy to spend, what is to me, a sizeable amount to get my clock, but from the moment I opened the box, straight from Germany, my heart thrilled!

Such a materialistic person! Well, to quote my dear friend Tweety-bird, “You don’t know me verwe well!” Remember, I’m a pastor’s wife, and while we live very comfortably, we’ve always been frugal. Also, I’m married to a lovable, sweet, and charming “bean counter!”

So, is there a point to this babbling? Well, it is the Saturday before Resurrection Sunday. Yes, Satan has already whispered in my ear that I love my clock too much, but may I say…

“All that thrills my soul is Jesus!”

This clock has brought me great joy.  It is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and ear, but not the soul! It is not a sin to enjoy nice things until our souls begin to crave those things more than our Savior. He alone brings peace and lasting joy—joy which lasts throughout the ages!

So, I’m content.  My cuckoo is once again ticking merrily in my home, reminding me that every second is precious, not to be wasted. J Each tick helps me to …. “number [my] days, that [I] may apply [my] heart unto wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

Prisoners of War

In every war, whether here or abroad, one tragedy is universal to every battle: prisoners of war.  In each conflict, soldiers are taken, no longer in the fight, but brought to a prison where they are kept indefinitely – sometimes detained long after the war is over.  Some are treated harshly, other follow the Geneva rules of conduct in battles; but no matter the treatment, all are held against their will and are no longer fighting for the cause for which they had signed up.

The Christian’s life is as well a battle – indeed, it is the battle of the ages!  Daily, we fight a real enemy that never seems to tire.  His weapons vary, the battlefields are vast.  At times, he wins the battle, but unlike any other war, we know that he WILL be defeated!  That thought gives us the courage we need to stay in the battle.

Unfortunately, as in any other war, there are prisoners of war: those taken in the fight and held captive.  They are good soldiers.  They handled their weapon, the Bible, well.  They even had several victories, but then it happened.  The enemy closed in, our Weapon is laid aside, we run on our own strength, and we are taken – captive by our Enemy!  He holds us in his cell of despondency or unbelief.  He daily feeds us lies and shackles us with deception.  The light is dim; we cannot see.  We slump and hang our heads, defeated, discouraged and dangerously close to losing sight of the cause for which we signed up.

In a physical prison, with walls and bars and locked doors, some prisoners are able to escape the clutches of the enemy through inventive devices or well thought out plans.  As the prisoner escapes, his heart is in his throat, knowing that at any time he may be spotted and taken back.  The joy and relief are unspeakable as he crosses over into his home territory, back to the safety of the army he loves!

Unlike a physically bound prisoner of war, we have a secret weapon that will release us from the enemy’s prison.  With one simple choice of the will, the prison walls are broken down, the chains of bondage are loosed and we are free to go.  The ward of our cell can only watch as we boldly break through the doors of bondage and walk confidently into freedom.  He cannot sneer at the look of anger in our captain’s face because we took so long to choose – it is not there. All he sees is the look of unspeakable love – something he has never nor ever will see on the face of his leader!

Dear soldier, I write to you as a fellow soldier.  I plead with you to make the choice and break through the walls that Satan has built around you – walls that only you can destroy, through faith in our Captain – because of your love for our Captain.  Please look to our Savior and see Him waiting there!  Choose well, my comrade!  

 

Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life;

that he may please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier

2 Timothy 2:3,4

 

Remember when…

sch-supp3-Rockwell3.jpgDreams are strange things.  It’s amazing to think that some people allow them to guide their lives! But recently a dream made me stop and think about how much life has changed. I don’t believe any generation has seen as much change as those born between the late 1800s and early 1900s. My grandparents went from a childhood with no electricity, indoor plumbing, or automobiles, to watching a man land on the moon!  That’s pretty drastic! With the risk of sounding like an old geezer…

 

Do you remember…

  • Waiting for Saturday morning to watch cartoons,
  • When the Wonderful World of Disney seemed so impossibly far away,
  • Cigarette commercials,
  • When you ran to the refrigerator during commercials, (maybe you still do that! We only watch Netflix!),
  • Dad popping popcorn on the stovetop,
  • Mom heating up leftovers on the stovetop,
  • Mom bringing in the clothes, stiff as a board because they froze instead of drying, then stringing a line in the house to dry them because she had no dryer,
  • Mom sprinkling the clothes with water before she ironed them after she took them off the line to dry,
  • Eating a MacDonald’s hamburger for the first time at this new thing called a “fast food restaurant,”
  • Sitting at the A&W Drive-in with the tray hooked to the window,
  • Sitting in the car at the Drive-in theater in your pajamas with the speaker hooked to the window,
  • Waiting for a letter from a loved one far away,
  • Sending your film off to Clark to get it developed (and throwing half of the photos away!)
  • Waiting until the weekend or after nine o’clock to call because rates were cheaper,
  • Trying to talk to your sweetheart in the kitchen while everyone else “lived” because it was the only place in the house with a phone,
  • Party lines (for those of you who don’t: several different rings would come across your phone and if you happened to have someone on your line who wasn’t home a lot, you had to put up with their ring ringing incessantly, as well as the nosey neighbor who would pick up and listen to your conversation!)
  • Rotary dialing,
  • Telephone operators,
  • Sears Christmas catalog,
  • Chalkboards, the purple ink of a mimeograph machine, and eating your lunch in your classroom because there was no cafeteria, or gym, or auditorium. (I went to a very small elementary school where we walked to the kitchen to get our lunch and the first-grade room had a stage.)
  • The merry-go-round on the school playground,
  • Playing “King of the Mountain” on the huge pile of plowed snow at the end of the playground,
  • Lunchboxes,
  • Book bags,
  • Typing a paper on a typewriter and using the little white sheets of correction paper,
  • Looking up information in an encyclopedia,
  • The ponies at Knobels. (Sorry, had to throw that one in even though it’s a local memory!).

I could go on and on. Times have changed—some for the better, some for the worse—but it’s good to stop and remember. It’s been a good exercise listing all the changes, walking down memory lane, perhaps a little bittersweet and certainly full of a myriad of emotions. Doing so can sharpen our outlook on the day and cut away some of what we think is so important but is as changing as the next model of cell phones! Carpe Deum—seize the day! We only have the promise of the moment. That thought will either drive you into a frenzy of “make-me-happy” activities or, hopefully, cause you to stop and consider the importance of making this day count for Jesus Christ. That translates differently for each of us, but may you find your task—the one Jesus has prepared for YOU to do—and do it! Simple. Well, maybe not, but definitely doable! One far, far greater ended his quest for understanding with this:

  Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. Ecclesiastes 12:13

That works!

Zombies – The Walking Dead

heartbeat-clipart-clipart-best-amaeun-clipartPeople often ask if a physical heart transplant will change a person’s personality.  You’ll have to look elsewhere for that answer. Recently, we watched a show about a man who was a hired killer for a mob family. He was ruthless; so much so, that people said that he had no heart. After being in a car accident, this man would have died without a heart transplant. Because his boss was so powerful, he got the transplant quickly, but later he found out that the heart came from a young man who was known for his good deeds: serving at a soup kitchen and helping the homeless. After the heart transplant, the hired killer truly had a change of heart, nearly dying for the innocent witnesses whom he had relocated to a hidden location but now was ordered to kill by the mob family. For him, knowing the goodness of the donor profoundly impacted his life. Nice story.

While thinking about the plot, I couldn’t help thinking about our spiritual heart transplants and the parallels between the physical and spiritual.

  • Physical death is imminent without a heart transplant. People die every day waiting for a new heart, but to receive a new one, someone must die. For a born-again believer to receive a “new heart,” Someone had to die as well; and without a spiritual “new heart,” eternal death is imminent. In fact, before salvation, we are “dead in our trespasses.”

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. Ephesians 2:1

  • The life of a heart transplant recipient is forever changed. Perhaps they were homebound, on oxygen, or in a wheelchair. But after the transplant, they literally receive a new life, and the change is evident to anyone who knew them before the operation. As believers, we too walk in “newness of life,” and the change is so real that acquaintances may ask, “What happened to you? You’ve changed!”

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death:

that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father,

even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4

  • Knowing our Donor—His goodness, inconceivable love for us, His amazing power and grace—should have a great impact on our lives.

The heart is an essential organ—you can’t live without a heart. Spiritually, we cannot live without a “new heart” in Christ; however, salvation is even more than that. As much as a new physical heart enables a person to live, a new spiritual heart means that what was NOT there before now rules and reigns in our lives: the Holy Spirit! The lives we lived before salvation are, or should be, completely different from the lives we live with Christ. In fact, the change should be as amazingly obvious as the difference between a live and dead person! Like the song says:

There’s been a great GREAT change CHANGE since I’ve been born again.

New life in Christ. As much as a person can understand that he would have died without the physical heart transplant, we must realize that the same is true for us without a new heart. Hallelujah!  What a Savior! Have you gotten a new lease on life? OR does your life look more like a zombie—the walking dead?

And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you;

and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh.

 Ezekiel 11:19

Don’t Question Your Call

musicchildren15I have to admit, there are times while I’m subbing for music teachers, that an old ache fills my heart.  I love teaching music, and I would have enjoyed making that my career.  I believe I would have been successful.

I just finished a very hectic day for an awesome teacher.  She’s great and has wonderful plans, visuals, and equipment.  It’s so fun to put it all together–adding a steady tempo on the Orff instruments to the accompanying omnichord (for you “oldies” that’s the electronic version of an autoharp!) while the students sing. I LOVE IT!  You may ask, “Then why aren’t you teaching music?”  Because God called me elsewhere.

Back in 1983, just a year and a half after we were married, I interviewed for what I would have called the perfect job: high school choir and elementary music.  I got the job, but that same week I was asked to teach kindergarten in our Christian school.  I chose the kindergarten class, having a desire to get into Christian education.  I still remember the first morning we had devotions together as teachers.  I nearly cried.  It was such a joy to my heart to be able to teach biblical truths straight from the Bible while teaching the standard curriculum.  In fact, after leaving Christian education and subbing in the public schools, I nearly started class with prayer several times! Wouldn’t that have raised a ruckus!

When God calls, don’t look back!  Yes, it would have been more lucrative; yes, there were lots of perks, but that wasn’t what God made me to do.  I’m supposed to be a pastor’s wife, and I’m supposed to teach about God and care for His people, and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE IT!!

However, in some ways, it would have been easier to teach music:

  1. Your day has a start and finish.
  2. You can see when you are being successful: The concert is a success; the student progresses, etc.
  3. The year has a beginning and an end
  4. You have the summers off!
  5. You are guaranteed to have a crowd!

Do you see that the opposite is often true of the ministry?

  1. There is no clock.  A pastor and his family never clock out.
  2. At times, sometimes for years on end, you see no progress.  Lives do not change, truths are not applied or embraced, etc.
  3. Yes, there is a new start to every year, but it seems like there’s no beginning or ending.
  4. Summers mean VBS, summer camps, and often extra activities.
  5. We work with a volunteer army!  They may be here, but then again, they may not be!

All this said, the greatest difference is eternity.  Sadly, I cannot say much in the public school concerning Jesus Christ or the Bible.  Yes, I can be a good example.  I canImage result for zipped lip “shine” for Jesus, but one of the most difficult things for me is to see this great mass of students and know I am not allowed to “preach” to them.  And I understand the reasoning–it’s just hard for this pastor’s wife to be silent!

What’s the point of this rambling?  Bloom where you a
re planted.  Do the job which God has called you to do.  Be faithful.  We are all in the Lord’s army, and God has given each of us a mandate to carry out His work.

And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.Matthew 10:42

And if you want to make your pastor, pastor’s wife, youth leader, Sunday school teacher, or any other church worker’s life easier–show up, volunteer, be an active part of your church–be faithful.   Your talents are invaluable, and what better way to use them than for our Lord and Savior? And besides all that, the benefits are out of this world!!