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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Faithfulness


We are gathered here today in the sight of God and angels, and the presence of friends and loved ones, to celebrate one of life's greatest moments, to give recognition to the worth and beauty of love, and to add our best wishes and blessings to the words which shall unite these two in holy matrimony.  Marriage is a most honorable estate, signifying unto us a mystical union. May this marriage be adorned by true and abiding love.”

John William and Matilda Jane Burris – October 1, 1867 – NC – 38 years
Isaiah and Ella Nora Burns Starkey June 16, 1892, KS – 26 years


Jacob “B” and Emilie Brunn Siemens - February 11, 1897, KS – 43 years
Gerhard Weins and Anna Loewen Suderman – March 8, 1900, KS – 50 years
Rufus Edgar and Olive Ruth Starkey Combs – February 6, 1915, KS - 12 years Herman Bennie and Anna Daisy Suderman Siemens – May 22, 1928, KS – 50 years
Edgar Frank and Emily Ann Siemens Combs – February 1, 1952, OK
61 years


And so commitment begins for a young couple. A young couple who makes a commitment to each other, one of the most beautiful and mystical unions God has ordained. A commitment that can be described as faithfulness in action, with loyalty, trust, and being resolutely, unwaveringly bound together until 'death do us part'.

There are so many side-trails that can beckon a young couple. One, or both, may feel weighted down by the increasing responsibilities of a marriage 'made in heaven' but lived on this earth. There are joys, but who can smile when the cupboard is bare, when clothes become worn, when the car needs gas to travel to the job or, when there is no money to seek medical help for a sick child?

The marriage vows, taken in a world of flowers and butterflies, can become chains that bind. When one or both long to escape from the prison bars of stale love. Perhaps escape to another relationship where we are sure to be more understood. That is when the word faithfulness is forgotten. Trust, patience, kindness, joy and love fly out of the window. Scowling, cutting comments and no hope become the companions of the faithless marriage.

That is when we turn in tears to the strength that is waiting, ready for us to put on. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. Isaiah 11:5

How do we know what faithfulness looks like? Did we see the sun come up? Did we see moisture come from the skies to grow grain in the fields? Do we understand what God's mercy looks like in our lives? That is only the beginning.


We have an example from the Author of Faithfulness – Jehovah, Lord God, the Alpha and Omega, El Shaddai, the Great I Am. Faithfulness is a theme in these verses from Psalms, overflowing with praise for God's faithfulness –

Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you. Psalm 89:8
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you. Psalm 89:14
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:4
It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, Psalm 92:1-2
Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness. Psalm 96:13
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations Psalm 100:5

Abraham is an example of faithfulness as he obeyed God by taking his son Isaac to the mountains to sacrifice him. He proved his faithfulness through his obedience. He was tested and God knew his heart and a sacrificial lamb was found in the thicket to substitute for Isaac. The scripture in James 1: 2-3 - Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

Faithfulness is living with perseverance the race that is set before us. It is finding hope in adversity, trusting in the midst of turmoil, loving in a world of hate and seeing good when others see only 'the end'.

I often wonder how God, who cannot look upon evil, sees the peoples of the earth and their unwillingness to hear Him. Yet He waits, for He loves us, He trusts us to return His love. He is truly faithful. Faithfulness is a part of God's character. He will not abandon us even as we play 'Family Circus' wending our way through life's distractions and finally come to Him. Our Father God is our final destination.

How then shall we live from this day forward? In faithfulness or faithlessness? The only decision we can make is to follow God and plumb the depths of decision that fills our life. It is amazing to me to know that I lost so many years of oblivious living – when it could have been so much more. It could have been fulfilling with intentional searching, loving, trusting and being faithful to His teaching. It has taken a lifetime to be heart-ready for His Coming into my life and heart.

In our spiritual sleepiness we need the words of Mark 13:32-37 - “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”



Comments? eacombs@att.net

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Goodness....


Being good when you are 5 years old is a burden...Will you be good? Be good in school? Be good in church? Perhaps if someone had told me a why to 'be good', I would have seen a purpose and it would have been easier. Or how to be good. So, I passed on my mis-knowledge to my children and 'be-gooded' them as they grew up.

Imagine my surprise to learn that the act of goodness, the quality of goodness came from the word, God-ness.in the Old English, before 900 A.D.

There is being good to others or when something is proclaimed good. Goodness isn't good in a vacuum. It is not a one-person quality, a quality you keep to yourself. It isn't good until you give it away. Goodness, on the other hand, is having the quality of integrity in our hearts.
Just what is this thing called goodness? Tim Keller has a definition: integrity and honesty. That is, being the same in one situation as another. The opposite is phoniness and hypocrisy. Counterfeit goodness is 'truth without love'. Thank you, Tim K. for the definition! (http://www.jdgreear.com/my_weblog/2011/09/kellers-definitions-of-the-fruit-in-galatians-5.html)

God is goodness and He is incapable of being inconsistent. His integrity or goodness is always present. Goodness is seen as a part of his being, it is in all his being....He is good, there is no falseness in Him.
Funny about words....take Lollapalooza. That's a word that doesn't just trip off your tongue. It is more apt to trip your tongue. It was coined in the United States in 1900-1905 and means something excellent!
Titus may have known a Lollapaloozian word when he wrote: This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. Titus 3:8

The quality of goodness is found in what we are and what we do, no matter who is or is not present. One little boy tried so hard to be good. He went to bed on time, and lay there thinking about the day. It had been a good day. Suddenly his Dad came into the room, turned the boy over and swatted him and left without a word. The boy wondered, what did I do? And then in all goodness, he thought to himself, “He must have gotten the wrong kid.”

God did the excellent thing, and showed his goodness in all things from the beginning. Goodness is forgiveness, a smile, thinking and doing well, even when no one is watching. Goodness is being a peace maker where there is anger. Goodness is thinking of God first in all things and his love. Goodness is thinking of others before being concerned about self and feelings that can so easily be bruised. Goodness is trusting God in all things, thwarting any worry or concern.
In the first chapter of Genesis, we see that God declared everything He created as good. For he can't be or do anything but good. In creation, He did not need 'do-overs'. As I consider the creation and see His tremendous power, I am reminded of my first introduction to the ocean. As I stood barefoot in the shallow part of the ocean, I felt the power of the waves as they gently swayed me and I knew the utter power and glory of our Lord. Then considering all his creation, the sun rising and falling, the waves washing across the seas, the huge belches of a volcano in action, the mighty wind that creates havoc or caresses a baby's cheek, I know His power and also His Goodness.

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23:6

How can I have that promise? Be Good! Be open to God, to man, not hiding ourselves, open even within ourselves. How easy it is make loopholes in our obedience and trust. I will be good, except when.... Be good... unless it causes me hurt. Let the goodness shine from our hearts in one with God. We nowhere to hide from God. Being good is living in self repentance.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24

"He is good, he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. He is good, he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks for he is good." (Lyrics by Steve Green)



Comments? eacombs@att.net

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Intentional Kindness


This is one of the first memory verses I learned as a child: “Be kind, one to another.” No one explained what being kind meant, so I took it as not to slug my brothers, even when provoked. Now I find that verse has more in it....Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32.

Because of my sinful nature, I was reminded often about the art of being kind to others. After some time, 40 or 50 years, being kind had an accidental feel, that I would chance upon. Imagine my surprise, after I retired from teaching, when I chanced to meet a former teacher friend who asked, “Do you remember when you came into my classroom and said, 'I think I need to hug you' and then you walked out again?”

I didn't remember, but I could see that it meant a lot to her. Now I see and hear reports of Random Acts of Kindness, usually springing up from paying for some one's meal. The word random may label the act of kindness and a some time thing. Yet, I believe it is mis-named, and should be Intentional Kindness from the heart.

When Mother lived in a new town with few friends, she told me That when she awoke, she prayed, “Lord, help me to find a way to serve you today.” God answered her prayer each day with opportunities for intentional kindness – she lived on the edge of compassion.

Adding compassion to kindness creates a sense of walking in the shoes of others and seeing their needs. It creates an understanding of seeing others through the prism of the Creator of us all It means an act of kindness motivated for others is motivated by love. Love that does not manipulate or expect something in return.

Mark Twain said, “Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

Kindness is giving what you are and what you have in terms of talents, spiritual gifts or the physical to meet the needs of others.
When Mom was in her 80's, she wondered what she would take when she visited the 'old' people. In her former home, she had a garden of vegetables and flowers. There was never a doubt what to take. Now we simply smile when remembering how Mom said, “I'm going to visit the old people.” Kindness was her middle name.

Mother Teresa said, “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”

More than just a smile, being kind means a sacrifice of love, an intentional kindness, no matter the cost. How often I remember my Dad helping someone and refusing to accept any remuneration. Kindness was his joy.

And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” Matthew 10:42 Giving, helping 'the least of these' provides a joy of completeness to the giver who gives in the name of Jesus.

The Fruit of the Spirit includes Love, Joy, Peace, Patience and then comes Kindness. Love is first because true love motivates joy, peace and patience before we have the motivation and the desire to be kind. After that comes goodness, gentleness faithfulness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23). There is no law against behaving in any of these ways. (Contemporary English Version)

Such life-giving fruit can only come from God. Just as the fruit of the flesh is descibed as...The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. Galatians 5:19-21a

A mystery! How can the beauty of the Holy Spirit change a heart so? It is the kindnesses of our Lord God of loving and caring for us. It is the joy of being His through Jesus. It is the peace that comes from delighting in the Lord. It is the hope that comes alive like a rose in a desert. It is like the mystery of watching earth come alive and grow green in the Spring. It is the mystery of kindness that humbles the heart in joy and settles the unhappy moment. It is praying for others that we don't know, a secret between God and the prayer. It is the mystery of being parents and watching our children grow spiritually in the Lord and our grandchildren finding the kindness in Jesus, a way of life, even as their grandparents did generations ago.

Being kind to another is like a touch of an angel for it comes from the love and kindness of God through Jesus Christ.



Comments? eacombs@att.net

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Patience...


Don't be so impatient!” I was the poster child for “I want patience, and I want it now!” Impatience was a legacy from my “get-er-done” Dad and dwelled deep in my heart. When I began painting at 7 years old, I chose the acrylic medium after an experience of swirling water paint colors that created a rich dark brown blob. Not my intention at all. Acrylic stays put and blends into ribbons of colors that can be identified. And together, those ribbons of color satisfy my hunger for color.

Marriage of 61 years, despite some impatience, is an accomplishment that astounds my husband and me. Raising children through the 'he did it first' years should have grown a great deal of patience, but instead it 'tried' my patience. Perhaps that was my reluctance to teach? But teaching was the school house for patience in many ways for me.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that patience is a mark of spiritual maturity, something to be treasured and learned. The art of patience is not exemplified in the art of 'getting even'. My younger two brothers, Jim and Gene, and I spent many hours together, usually arguing and then 'getting even'. Mom tried some of her Mom-isdom on us. “Don't get even, just wait, God will take care of it!”

So, there we were, 9, 8 and 7 years old. When one of us slugged another sibling, one of us would say – just wait – God will get even. Sure enough, pretty soon the 'hitter' would get hurt without us touching him. “God got even with you!” we shouted with glee. Somehow I think that was not the patience God had in mind.

As I consider patience now, I realize that patience is needed in situations and with people. One author, Ron Hall described patience or waiting in the book, Same Kind of Different As Me, as watching hair grow or dropping of sand through an hour glass, one grain at a time. It is like a movie in slow motion.

When I studied various scriptures, I see that Patience doesn't stand alone. It is always coupled with another attitude or marker of spiritual maturity:
- Patience and Endurance - being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, Colossians 1:11
- Patience and Compassion - Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12
- Patience and Purity - in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 2 Corinthians 6:6
- Patience and God - What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? Romans 9:22
- Patience and Wisdom - A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11
- Patience and Repentance - Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:4
- Patience and Gentle Tongue - Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone. Proverbs 25:15

Therefore, achieving a constant attitude of patience, making it a part of who I am, I can only enjoy patience through the addition by the Holy Spirit of a gentle tongue, continual repentance, praying for wisdom (Colossians 1:9), keeping my heart in tune with God, showing acts of kindness with a kind heart, wearing the right clothing of compassion and enduring what is.

An eye for an eye is as old as last Sunday's newspaper. Now it is, Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Romans 12:14.

When I heard Tim Keller's sermon on Patience, he touched on one sensitive spot, determining what someone else is thinking – a snap judgement! Romans 12:18-19 -  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. God is saying to me, “Get out of my Chair!” (Tim Keller quote)

In sitting in God's chair and judging we are being self-righteous and self-centered. The word SELF - says it all.  This will simply escalate a negative relationship or situation and all patience flees.

For the past nine months I have been given an opportunity, a challenge to grow patience muscles. Our world has turned upside down because of my husband's diagnosis of Dementia. Each day I must see the situation from my husband's point of view, living in a world of forgetfulness, moving to a strange town, a strange house, a different state. Each day or two, I must make review his new world and give him hugs and security. Glimpses of what used-to-be surfaces through our conversations. I treasure the moments when flashes of his humor bubbles over in his mind and we share laughter.

And the humility bubble envelopes me as I praise God for his guidance through His Word to living in peace and joy. The words in James 12-4 resonates through my heart. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

David, a man after God's own heart, understood the importance of patience. Psalm 37:3-8 - Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.


Comments? eacombs@att.net