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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Next Thing

In the middle of the night, my cousin woke up crying, “What can I do?”  We are often faced in life with some problem and ask, “What shall I do?”  The problem can be a lost unpaid bill, illness, death, an appliance that does not work properly, a work issue, or an uneasy feeling.  Looking for the next step is gives us angst and wakefulness during the night.
                  We try to fill our time and we are searching for something that challenges our whole being.  It may be a hobby with all the learning that goes with the ‘new’ thing in our lives.  Twenty years ago, I wondered what older people did with their time.  Now I know.  In the sunset of our lives, we think about the things we have not accomplished.  We wonder if we will ‘finish’ the things we are doing.
         God knew Adam needed something to do when He created the Garden of Eden.  I read Genesis 2:19-20. “So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one. He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals. But still there was no helper just right for him.”
         Did Adam wonder when he would ever finish the work God gave him to do?  When we had company for supper and I washed dishes, I wondered if Mother would ever stop finding another dirty utensil or dish to wash. Naming the livestock, the birds and all the wild animals weren’t the only namings Adam did.  After God created his ‘helper’, Adam named her, Eve. 
         After the Serpent convinced Eve to eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree of good and evil, God spoke to Adam, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.  It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains.  By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.”  Genesis 3:17-19.
         Growing up in the 30s and 40s, I learned what chores meant.  Cleaning my room, setting the table, dusting, and practicing piano for an hour a day kept me busy. Sometimes I grew tired of obeying like the Children of Israel, who were given many commandments to follow.
            Then Jesus came! He gave us only two commandments to follow in Matthew 22:37-40!   Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.’”
         2 Corinthians 5:15-18 – tells us, “He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!   This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.”
         Belonging to Jesus gives us a new way of living that changes our hearts and our attitudes.  We live for Christ Jesus. Our life belongs to Jesus.  It is not what pleases us but pleases Him. The way we learn to love God and others sums up our life.
         God has gifted us in different ways to be working members of the One Body of Christ. We serve others.  Serving others took on new meaning as I watched the caring hands of the caregivers in the nursing home for a year and three months, caring for my Ed.
         What about those without strength and nearing the end of life?  How can they serve?  What is their task?  Praising God, first of all, praying for those who come to their minds, and smile when it hurts to smile.
            We know that Jesus Christ suffered far more than we ever will because He loves us.  I Thessalonians 5:9-11.  “For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever.  So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” 
         Do the Next Thing!
The Next Thing
What do I do, dear Lord?
To show my love for you?
How can I witness your love?
How can I make my life new?

Then a small voice whispers
Deep within my heart.
Do the next thing, my child.
Do the next thing, it's a start.

Each morning when I arise
My heart to Him I bring
When I ask what to do,
He whispers, Child, do the next thing.

The tasks I see before me
Are not the grand things I long for
But being faithful in
The next thing -- with Him, I'll soar!

         Emily A Combs, September 2010.


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

It's a Honeysuckle Day

The sweet scent in the middle of the summer comes from the Honeysuckle Vine bringing remembrance of being young and going to sleep with the windows open. As I close my eyes, I remember the sweetness of honeysuckle.
         One day, our pastor asked for prayer requests at the end of our 10 AM Bible Study. There was a pouring forth of needs for prayer like an unleashed fountain of water. It was difficult to write all the requests down.
         Our pastor then asked for Praises. The silence was deafening for an uncomfortable ten minutes.   I wondered, what is a big enough praise or blessing to share? Did ‘every day’ blessings count? I reviewed my list.  The sun came up, I am still breathing, nothing hurts, breakfast was satisfying, and my internet worked.  Nothing out of the ordinary–just ‘every day’ blessings and praises.
         Then the gentle voice of my friend Phyllis filled the room.  “I love the smell of my honeysuckle bush by the front porch when I pray in the morning!”
         Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “In the Christian community thankfulness is just what it is anywhere else in the Christian life.  Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things.  We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts Has in store for us because we do not give thanks for the daily gifts.” (page 29 of Life Together)
         The outcry of the clamor of voices and noise about us, sometimes we forget how to listen to the richness of stillness and find true peace.  “Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” John 46:10.
         The day I substituted in a first-grade room for an afternoon was an eye-opener.  I taught sixth graders usually, and I didn’t know how to get the students to listen. One boy came to my side and tugged on my hand and asked, “Can we play the Quiet Game?”  Intrigued, I asked what the rules were and how was it played.  He carefully explained, “We see who can be quiet the longest!”  We played the game!
         Playing the Quiet Game taught me a life lesson.  Now I play the ‘quiet game’ and listen for God’s still voice often during my day. 
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to the Most High. It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening, accompanied by a ten-stringed instrument, a harp, and the melody of a lyre. You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done. O Lord, what great works you do! And how deep are your thoughts.   Psalm 92:1-5.
We praise God for all of Creation—the mountains, the seas, the trees, animals, birds, and Adam and Eve, and all those who follow. But have we ever noted the importance of a pleasant aroma or incense? We use man-made perfumes and deodorant to smell our best for others.  But what aroma pleases God? In the scripture, we find several ways to create the scent God desires.
Psalm 141:2 - Accept my prayer as incense offered to you, and my upraised hands as an evening offering.
Proverbs 27:8 - The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.
Revelation 5:7 - And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. 
            Prayer and heartfelt counsel of a friend pleases God. Ephesians 18b-21 gives us the way to please our Father in Heaven.
         Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

It’s a Honeysuckle Day!
It's a Honeysuckle Day when...
...The sun shines and breezes rise
...The clouds play peek-a-boo in the skies
...I give God all the praise
...For each gift in all my days.

It's a Honeysuckle Day when...
...My family is all around
...And God's joy abounds.
...I sit as quiet as can be
...And all His glory I see.

It's a Honeysuckle Day when...
...I pray to my Father above
...So thankful for His sacrificial love.
...I know without a doubt
...What life is all about.

It's living for Jesus
Serving Him, with Him I stay
Though darkness clouds my way
I give praise for my Honeysuckle Days.
                           Emily A. Combs

                           May 3, 2012