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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Praising God!


Yesterday, just 24 hours ago, we sang in worship, “I will sing to You as long as I live. I will praise you, God, to my last breath. I will worship You with arms held high.” (Greg Skodacek)

And I wondered again at the act of praise and worship of our Lord Jesus Christ. What is praise? What is it that causes our hearts to fill to overflowing with love, adoration, gratefulness, delight and thanksgiving that we are compelled to raise our arms and fall to our knees?

As I wonder about the act of praise, I realize, first of all, it is not an act, but a spontaneous outburst from the core of our being. When have I seen such praise? My mind races back to my mother. How often my memories go back to that woman who was so alive in the Lord. Returning from college, I walked through the living room with its mountainous scene painted on one wall in shades of purple through to the dining room with the windows filled with green plants to Mom's bedroom. She pulled the garment from beneath the presser foot of the Singer sewing machine, shouting, “Praise God.”

In my cynical just past-teen stage I asked, “What are you praising God for?” Her answer amazed me. Such a little thing.... “The thread came out even with the last seam, and I don't need to go to the store to buy more!”

I shook my head. Mom! She could burst into song at the most unusual times, voicing praise! “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. (Thomas Ken - 1674) She always ended the song, smiling, with a long “A-a-a-a-m-e-e-e-n!”

No blessing is too small to treasure and cause us to give praise to our Abba Father and delight in Him. Take delight in the Lord your God, and you will receive the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4. How we long for control in our lives. How simple it is to put our trust in the One who controls our lives, our world, our universe. We always say when we don't understand our world, “God is in control.” And this isn't just powers and principalities and the workings of the universe, but all those small happenings we think at first are coincidences. Praise is a window through which our soul catches a glimpse of our Lord God. Praise is praying for it brings an awareness and presence of our Lord God.

Have you ever had tingles of anticipation and expectation invade your very being at Christmas, a new job, or your birthday? Or the wonder of the birth of a little baby? That is what being 'on the ready' for praises gives me. It is a mindset that is set on God and his working in our lives. Recognizing that God is able to do more than we can imagine and He loves us unconditionally brings a sense of peace.

Praising God is not 'hit or miss', it is intentional. And thus enters Ann Voskamp and her book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. This is for all ages as women learn to recognize that life is not to be endured, to be grudgingly lived, but celebrated in the fullness of Praise and Thank You to the Lord. If the book makes you long for a cheerleader to lead you in seeing a praiseworthy life, go to Ann's blog - http://www.aholyexperience.com/ It is all about praising God.

Why did I wait to learn about the joy and fulfillment of praising that God gives until my 80's? I am thankful that during this age of daily aches and pains is now filled with Abundant Praise. When I encounter a situation that is less than pleasant, I give God thanks for his strength and wisdom to see me through.

Youth is a constant, “So?” stage of life. That stage when everything achieved and experienced is a gift, without realizing the Giver is the Author and Finisher of our Faith . “Don't be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect is from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shadows.” James 1:16-17 I like The Message version - So my dear friends, don't get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.

King David, a man of flaws, and yet a man after God's own heart, knew how to praise God long ago.. I heard from a friend how dear reading the Psalms was to him. I know why. Praise that sings from the heart was David's joy. In the Bible there are 363 references to praise and 181 of the references are from David, the writer of the Psalms. He knew the secret of joy in the Lord through praise.

Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord. Praise the Lord. Psalm 150

The last book, Revelation has four references to praise. Revelation 7:12 and Revelation 19:5 are the last two. Revelation 7:11-12 – All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying; “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”
Revelation 19:13 – Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying” “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!”

To me, Praise is....
  • Delighting in God
  • Being alert and ready to praise for little and big blessings
  • Praying
  • Worshiping
  • Singing to God
  • Thanking God
  • Remembering the gift of salvation
  • Remembering the cross and the resurrection
  • Being mindful of His Glory and Grace
  • Worshiping the Creator, not the Creation.
  • Constantly seeking His Presence.

I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10 (NIV)

The question is, can I say with honesty, the words of this song – “Praise is What I Do”? “Praise is what I do/ When I want to be close to You, I lift my hands in praise. Praise is who I am, I will praise Him while I can. I'll bless Him at all times.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFuNuhoPdyw

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Two Worlds


We sat together in the waiting room of the Memory Center in Arkansas in April 2012.  I remember thinking of the 61 years Ed and I have been together. The last ten years were most comfortable in that there were no changes in our lives. When one of our ministers commented in a Bible Study that if things are too easy, and you don't experience challenges and temptations, let it be a warning to you. I remembered all the praises I gave God for the tranquility of our lives together. One night, as I turned over and just before sleep claimed me, I gave God praise for undisturbed night of sleep ahead of me. What had the team of doctors found when they tested/questioned and probed my dear husband. What would happen when we knew the truth? What is the truth? I remembered all the instances in the past few years when questions arose in my mind but were tamped down and covered up. Surely there would be no changes in our life as we rocked into our old-age life.

My trembling legs carried me into a small room, where I was to meet with the doctor alone. What would I hear? The room had comfortable furniture. Paintings of serene landscapes hung on the walls. And then the doctor entered. He began talking. Part of me hovered over me waiting for my reaction to the words – “Your husband has Lewy Body Dementia. He will never get better, he will only get worse.” (Lewy Body Dementia is Parkinson-like dementia that manifests itself in a shuffling walk, paranoia and hallucinations. LBD patient will have lucid days and confused days.)

There it was, the elephant in the room had been described. What changes would there be? The doctor said I was not to leave him alone for more than several hours. Make sure he does not fall. Your doctor will prescribe two medications, Aricept and Namenda, which will slow down the symptoms, such as paranoia and hallucinations.
We had talked before about moving near one of our dear children, and we chose Timothy, our third son. We emailed Tim and told him what we were thinking. He immediately went into full activity mode, making a visit...using a software program for goal setting and a time line. As he went through the house pointing out things we could not take in the name of down-sizing, it slowly became a reality. My 38 year world in Rogers would be dismantled before my eyes.

The plan became a reality as I planned and prepared to move. Several years ago Ed had relinquished the check book and tax preparation. After Ed drove home from church alone, a scary drive, he gave me the keys to the car. Lowe's boxes and tape flooded the house. We could not have made the move without the able help and encouragement of our church family in Rogers, and all of our children – Dan & Linda, Paul & Carolyn, Tim & Karen and Anna and her daughter Jenny. Packing, giving away and trashing the rest became my life for four or five months. Our realtor, Mike Begneaud, went the extra mile to make sure our house sold – and our first estimate of moving in October was changed to September.

Moving Day came. We had three children and one grandchild for our moving day, plus several of our RCC family. Our belongings were packed on the U-Haul truck that Paul drove for more than 500 miles (9 hours). Driving away from our home in Rogers was not difficult but seemed unreal – slow motion as I watched familiar places become unfamiliar. When, if ever, would I see the town I learned to love filled with people that I loved. Ed seemed to be at peace, doing whatever we asked. We stopped for the night 4 hours away. The next afternoon we arrived in Champaign, IL, September 22nd. Our oldest son, Dan and his wife Linda joined Tim, who drove us all the way from Rogers, and his wife, Karen. The small house on a quiet street, Tim and Karen had chosen, was filled with comings and goings as furniture and boxes found their way into their places with further help of church family from Windsor Road Christian Church. On Monday our family left and we settled and settled and settled 'in' for several months.
Ed and I are in two worlds. My world is making a home here and Ed is bewildered – each day begins anew. What had happened to his big back yard? Why were we in Illinois? It is cold here. The 'sun-downing' began with these questions: When are we packing up to go back south? Who is looking after our house in Rogers? Where is my pickup? Don't you think we ought to pack up and go back home now? We have been here long enough.

As his caretaker, I didn't take his questions well. After time, I learned to speak calmly, patiently and answer with love. When I read some advice online one day that helped immensely. The advice? Give lots of hugs and fall in love with an ever-changing spouse of 61 years. He is in a moderate stage of LBD, and I know there are possibly four or five years of ever-changing progression of this disease.

One day while answering his questions about why we are here, I answered with laughter, “We are on our “second honeymoon.” This answer delighted him and he laughed, too. He began to tease me and delight in 'catching' me with his ever present humor. I began showing him funny videos on the iPad of children and other antics. I read headlines to him that are funny. On Thursday's the newspaper (we take so he knows what day it is), there are humorous jokes. Last week – On a child's Superman costume: Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly! Another blessing are the emails our children send daily. Ed reads the printed emails from family over and over, often with chuckle or two. The squirrels, geese, birds and rabbit that come to visit are fun to watch. We make up stories about their antics.

The bridge between our two worlds, one of confusion and bewilderment and the other in reality of living, is humor, faith and love. As I contemplate our two worlds and stepping from one to the other, I see a relationship between the two other worlds – the spiritual and the physical. Though we live in the world, we do not live of the world. It is so easy to be pulled by the world, and soon that is all we see – Luke 16:13 - “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

A new word was coined by our pastor – performancism, when we think following God our Father by what we do is in our power alone. The betrayal of Christ by Peter underlines the fallacy of self-will and determination. We have forgotten Grace. The motto of performancism is to work harder and do more. We over-estimate our abilities and leave out the only power which achieves, not our will -- but His. Forgetting to trust and believe our Lord leads to Spiritual Dementia – and we become confused, bewildered and lost. Humbling ourselves in seeing that we need the power that is ours in Jesus Christ is the first step toward spiritual maturity. Growth in Christ is through Him, for Him and by Him.

I needed this, for my first thought in learning about our new life together was my usual – How hard could it be? Performancism? I realized that only through my trust in God can I take care of my dear husband in his journey through this maze of confusion he must walk in. I give Him praise for orchestrating the move and the peace I felt during the process. So I learn more about LBD, and put my hand in His to lead and guide me. I don't know how long God will give me strength to care for Ed, but I pray that it is as long as Ed needs me.

• Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
• But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. Psalm 13:5
• You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3
• Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. I Corinthians 13:6-7

http://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/
http://www.alz.org





Comments? eacombs@att.net

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Self-Control


The last named fruit of the spirit is Self-Control. What does this mean? Is it will power, exerting one's own power over our lives Is it an armor of determining our protection in the moment? Is it a way of smoothing over our lives with armor of protection with pride and lies?

Long ago when I was 7 years old, I wanted to go visit my girl friend, Betty Creech, after school. Gaining permission meant promising to be home by 5 pm to set the table, and I would have to practice piano later in the evening. I promised to do those things, and skipped off (I could skip then) to my visit with Betty. We laughed and played and enjoyed our time together. Suddenly we both looked at the clock. It glared at me, 5:10 pm. “Oh, no, I didn't keep my promise, and now I will get a spanking.” Betty comforted me, “Tell your Dad that you had so much fun that when you looked at the clock, and saw it was after 5 pm and you are sorry.” I rehearsed Betty's words as I walked home. As soon as I got in the door, Dad stood there waiting. I gave my rehearsed speech. He relented with, “Just don't let it happen again.” I asked Dad if he knew Betty Creech's phone number, he knew everything. He asked why, and I replied, “I want to tell Betty that her story worked and I didn't get a spanking....” I didn't call Betty Creech, but I did get the punishment.

Self-Control? What is the lesson? Create a better story? Don't listen to well-meaning friends who counter your Father's truth. Your sins will find you out? Obedience is better than punishment? Manipulation with a lie – makes a mockery of truth? After 76 years I continue to ponder that moment in time and listening to the advice that put enmity between my Father and me. I put someone else's 'right' above my Father's right. Therefore, I disobeyed and betrayed my Father.

Galatians 5:19-26 - 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. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Control yourself!” Have you ever heard that admonition? I have been on many diets, and each one ended in a 'yo-yo' experience. I did each one for me, for my self-image. I tried to complete the diet for what others would think of me. In doing so, each diet failed. I would be good one day and bad the next. And when I was good, I was good for 'nothing'. I neglected to understand that I can do nothing without God. When I put my trust in God and let Him lead, then I will have learn self control. Rather, I put him in my God-box so I could take Him out when it seemed convenient.

Self-Control doesn't happen to be something I can have or do on its own. It is a facet, a part of one of the fruit of the spirit and a part of the being of God. it can only be ours through the acceptance of Jesus Christ in every part of our lives. The fruit of the spirit happens as a process as we follow in the footsteps, moment by moment, in Jesus Christ.

Self-Control happens when we give our control to God, when we know the Word of God, and we allow a Christian to help us be accountable. (Tim Keller – Self-Control Sermon) Self-Control is when we bypass the urgent thing and hold to the important thing.

Tim Keller (redeemer.com) uses the analogy of a creating a vivid video of the will of God by knowing His Word. Our purpose in life is intentional and focused on God. When this video can be called into our minds and hearts when the flesh whispers audios of temptation, then we will be single-minded about who our Lord is. Paul wrote in Romans 7:21-25 - So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Some want to clean up their lives to look good, the white-washed tombs, and that is to say they can be good on their own. They avoid Jesus by avoiding the wrong thing. Matthew 23:27 - “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.

Whatever controls us is our lord. The person who seeks power is controlled by power. The person who seeks acceptance is controlled by acceptance. We do not control ourselves. We are controlled by the lord of our lives.” ― Rebecca Manley Pippert, Out of the Saltshaker and Into the World

'This is our righteousness'. The first temptation was in the Garden of Eden when the serpent tempts Eve with the promise of replacing God as her righteousness, her own choices would then be wrong or right. Genesis 3:4 - “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

One of the sins mentioned at the beginning verses of Galatians is anger. There are 268 references in the NIV to God's Anger and man's anger, including, “Be angry and sin not!” When I read about red hot anger, I couldn't imagine such an intense anger. One day at work, something was said that angered me. Oh, how I felt the heat of that anger go from my head to my feet. My heart pounded against my ribs. I was so angered that I could not think, I was undone. I didn't know I was capable of such fierce anger. It frightened me. I had lost Self-Control. I then understood the references in the Bible that speak of burning anger. Numbers 14:18 - The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’

Self-Control comes when we give God control of our lives, know the Word of God, and allow a fellow Christ Follower to help us be accountable. Surrender to God and Humility erases pride and arrogance and we know love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness and gentleness.


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Comments? eacombs@att.net

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Gentleness


Gentleness in the Greek is called prautes and in Latin, modestie. The definition of gentleness is 'power under control' and illustrated by a powerful animal with its power completely under control . (Melvin Newland - http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/gentleness--fruit-of-the-spirit-melvin-newland-sermon-on-christian-love-32682.asp) Melvin Newland aptly summarizes the meaning of gentleness as our power, anger, emotions under God's control.

When we see a baby, we see innocence that calls out in gentleness as we contemplate the wonderment of the heights this child, this gift from God, will experience and it brings us joy. What does this gift from God signify? A facet of the character, the essence of God.

Gentleness does not dwell in a vacuum, but pulls our love, joy, peace, kindness and goodness from the depths of our heart. From this bundle of joy we learn patience and self-control. The same Jehovah Jireh who created all of us, created the love of beauty deep in our souls.

We see it in His Creation. Why is it that a waterfall gives us peace? Is it any wonder that a brilliant sunset brings ah' and oh's? That a bouquet of flowers or a rainbow brings joy? That the 23rd Psalm rests our soul?
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Psalm 23:1-3

Gentleness is an attitude of kindness. The custom in Jesus' time on earth included removing the sandals from the dusty feet of the traveler. The story in John 12 of Mary pouring nard on the feet of Jesus and wiping his feet with her hair, speaks of adoration and gentleness. When someone gives to another with a gentle attitude, it means walking in the 'sandals' of another person. In this day of thinking of self first, the message for us is clear. Think of others first. The life of Christ was spent here on earth thinking about us. He gave up His life on the cross for us. Now that is love.

When I see parents teach their children the 'attitude for others' with "Yes, Ma'am", "Please", "Thank You", I see parents who are teaching respect and concern for others which becomes a pathway to thinking of others.

The synonyms of gentleness include meekness – God's strength is needed to be truly gentle and meek. Jerry Bridges said, There is nothing so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength. Sixty-one years ago, my life shifted because I saw the gentleness in the raw cowboy/rancher when he saw that two little boys needed winter coats, and bought them for them. I saw kindness, goodness and generosity in this man who would become my husband and the father of our four children. Now I see these same qualities of giving, a quiet strength and love in our children.

Philippians 4:5 – Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Colossians 3:12 – Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
I Timothy 6:11 – But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

Gentleness, a jewel in the soul of one who dwells comfortably in the love and gentleness of God. One of my favorite descriptions of God is when Elijah waits for God, as we all wait for God in our lives.
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” I Kings 19:11-13

This quality of gentleness comes through communion with God. It isn't an instant formula, a pill that we take in this World of Now. It comes from the heeding the call in our hearts to learn of the majesty of the one and only God. It comes through believing and trusting. Gentleness comes through God's wisdom gained through prayer. It is an unending searching with heart-felt longing for the nuggets of heavenly gold in the gravel of the world.

In today's world when the commodity of truth becomes many things and is for sale, we search for gentleness in the world. Words are covered with hidden barbs and untruths and cynicalness sows the seed of distrust. That is when we turn to The Example of Jesus. Jesus knew who He was, but He was gentle and humble. We must know Whose we are and humbly follow His leading. The awareness of Jesus and His power enabled Him to be gentle to those in need. (http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/top/fruit8_gentleness.cfm)

As I look out the window just now, I watch the Spring snow fall gently onto the thirsty earth. Even so, I pray that God's love falls gently and surely on my soul as we move toward His Forever. And ever!


Comments? eacombs@att.net