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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Family Ties

Family Ties that bind…. I contemplated the joy of family
last Lord’s Day.  My brother and his wife came for a visit…after almost ten years.  Though we are both in our 80’s, it is as though not a moment has passed since we were children together.  So many memories…each one reminds me of how precious my little brother is to me.  His imagination and quick wit were always a joy.  Our other brother died in 2007.  My brother and I are the last of our immediate family who remember….

We remember de-feathering chickens in the driveway, after Dad killed them.  We remember green walnut fights from the hayloft to the driveway.  We remember the production line in the basement as Mom engineered the canning line.  We remember picnics with homemade ice cream.  We remember naming our new Jersey cow after Mom, Daisy, because of her soft eyes.  We remember the rides on the back of Daisy to the pasture down the alley from our house.  We remember the chores, feeding the chickens, milking the cow, taking care of Petunia the pig.  We remember the fireplace of rocks Dad made. We remember going swimming and taking the sugar cane stalks Dad grew in the 1940’s. We remember visiting our grandparents – the 12 inch candy canes from Grosmom Siemens and being on the farm, riding Molly the horse, at Grandpa and Grandpa Suderman’s house.  We remember….

Our family ties are on-going --- looking ahead and looking back for generations.  The same abiding qualities that made up our family are handed down to our descendants…and the Family Ties are built on the stories of love, faith, trust, honor, loyalty and the peace that comes from knowing we are loved.

How many times we pepper the conversation with, Do you remembers?  The times that were special to each of us.  Though our children lived in different states, they gave us a memorable gift one year – two small children’s books – My Dad is Brilliant!  And My Mom is Fantastic (Nick Butterworth)  Inside are a treasure trove of family memories of growing up. One memory – “I was young, sitting on my Mom’s soft lap watching other kids trying in vain to find comfort from their skinny thin moms.  I felt sorry for those kids.”  “Her lips pursed as she concentrated on things, trying to paint, se, cook, I will always remember that face.”  And from Dad’s book – “We had a small tree house built over the relic of a Model T, purposefully left for us to use as a play toy…we had hours of fun in these.”  “I was quite old and almost married before I realized that not every daddy fixed everything and did stuff around the house.  And people thought we were rich because we had a TV in every room.”

Memories of learning…growing…and becoming.  That is family.  Forgiveness and love went hand in hand.  Understanding differences and out of the box thinking gives the latitude to be creative and try things to see if they work in a family.

Parents teach their children as they live their lives.  Attitudes and unspoken body language speak as loudly as words.  Examples that parents model become paramount in their children’s eyes.  I learned from Anna’s comment that I never use recipes for cooking – put together this and that, and smile when you serve.  And for their Dad – taking a bath was being lost in the hot steamy bathroom memorizing jokes from the Reader’s Digest.

As I contemplate Family – I remember my grandparents and great grandparents.  Hard working farmers.  The faith in God brought them through droughts, heartache when babies died.  To this day, when something happens that is difficult – I remember and say, if Grandma could do it, I can do it.  If Mom could do it, I can do it.  And the first thing they did was have faith in Jesus Christ to carry them through every heartache and find the shining way to live to the fullest.

Long ago, our Lord God created Adam and Even, creating the first the beginnings of family.  They were not content to just be in the Garden of Eden.  They wanted to be the leader, wiser than God.  That desire culminated in taking a bite of the fruit from the forbidden tree.  Thus began generations of family…who obeyed God, disobeyed God, ignored God, and tried to be as wise as God.

Then God sent Jesus to us.  Man still ignores, disobeys, or accepts our Lord and Savior, Jesus.  God gave us choices from the beginning.

One of the memories I have is standing in the sanctuary of the Christian Church in Rogers, in a circle of believers in Jesus.  We all held hands and lifted our voices to sing the hymn ….I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God. I've been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood! Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod, For I'm part of the family,
The Family of God
.

So true.  When we believe and are buried with Christ in baptism, we become joint heirs with Jesus.  We are adopted into the Family of God, the Family of God is not a small group of local believers but are everywhere on this earth.  The same God of Abraham is our God as well.  He holds our hand and knows all our tomorrows.  He loves us and wants us.  C.S. Lewis said – “God doesn’t want something from us, He simply wants us.”

† - The smallest family will become a thousand people, and the tiniest group will become a mighty nation. At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen.”  Isaiah 60:22
† - God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. Ephesians 1:5
† - Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king.
I Peter 2:17

† -  Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God.  I John 3:9


Comments? eacombs@att.net

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Accepting What Is...

Accepting what is… becomes difficult for many who question every happening and squeeze understanding from every word they hear and every event in their lives.  How can we explain a storm of rain, hail or snow pelting down from the clouds at certain times?

How can we explain a reversal of our economic status?  How can we explain the loss of a parent or a child?  Or explain the Why of what we do? How do we explain why our bodies suddenly become ill with a frightening diagnosis?   Indeed, how can we explain the many unknowns of this life’s journey?

Sometimes the unknowns just are.  We may question who we are and wonder if anything in life matters.  Why doesn’t anyone care how we feel?  What matters most of all is Hope.  A Hope that reaches as far as infinity to God’s Forever and Beyond.  Beyond what is for us now we find the most steadfast strength and hope.  A hope that doesn’t question the Why we are and what our purpose in life can be. It is a matter of identity that we search for. 

There are stages of life when there are changes.  During these times trusting God and staying in prayer lead us through the changes to see what God’s will or purpose can be.  Motherhood has stages – when children need you and then leave home.  Loving with an open hand and letting go.  Thirty-one years of the different roles in teaching and then retirement, brought many different stages and questions.  I asked – Now, who am I?  I learned an important lesson after ‘trying to find myself’ again.  The titles that the world gives us are for this world.  There is another identity that is far more important and lasting that comes as a child of God.

All the questions and doubts come from fear of not belonging or being accepted.  Last Lord’s Day the congregation sang a new song.  The first two lines caught my heart…. You unravel me, with a melody…You surround me with a song…Of deliverance, from my enemies…Till all my fears are gone.  I felt the kinks of my soul relax and ‘unravel’ and listened to the next two lines:  I’m no longer a slave to fear…I am a child of God. (Helser & Helser)

Then it struck me.  Deep inside I was feeling the same after my Mother died after caring for her for four years.  What is my purpose, where do I belong?  Soon a phone call changed all these inward feelings.  The invitation to serve a need of others made me look from inward to outward.  Oh, how I served, and that one need led me to other needs for the next fourteen years.  I knew who I was and I was comfortable.  Was this the way my life would end?

God had more for me to learn.  God transplanted me to a new life of service – care-giving in a new location.  A sensible move to be near family took me from the comfortable to the unknown.  What have I found in the past three years?

After I accepted what is.., I found a new way to serve, new friends and the blessing of living near family.  I found a network of new caring friends and a church family that teaches and lives God’s Word faithfully.  Every day I feel God’s assurance that I am in His Will as I care for my husband.

The lyrics of the song continue…
From my Mothers womb…You have chosen me…Love has called my name…I’ve been born again, into your family…Your blood flows through my veins…You split the sea, so I could walk right through it…All my fears were drowned in perfect love…You rescued me, so I could stand and sing…I am a child of God. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxkNj5hcy5E)
This peace and joy I find deep in my heart comes from accepting what is…  There are many things I do accept…..:
I accept… In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth – God IS! Genesis 1:1
I accept… But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. I John 4:8
I accept… No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Nothing can separate us from God - Romans 8:39
I accept… You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!  God is the author of Peace - Isaiah 26:3
I accept… The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. I will follow Him.  Psalm 23:1
I accept… But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  He is sufficient to fill my needs.  2 Corinthians 12:9
I accept… Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy. He forgives my sins, heals me and redeems me.  Psalm 103:2-4.
I accept… Jesus said to him, “I am the wayand the truthand the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  God gave his only Son, who is the way – truth and life.  -John 14:6
I accept… Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Jesus is my foundation and finishes my faith - Hebrews 12:1-2
I accept… But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. God protects me.  Psalm 3:3
I accept… So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.  Love one another always!  - I Corinthians 13:13
I accept… But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” – God’s Word is all I need! Matthew 4:4

Comments? eacombs@eacombs@cox.net

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

ALL Things

The word ALL is more than some, except, or part.  In elementary school, a teacher assigned all the problems on one page for the next day, I was immediately overwhelmed.  If the assignment just contained the even or odd numbers, the assignment would be easier to take.  When my Mother insisted I clean up all my bedroom and this included the closet, I was overwhelmed.  The floor of the closet contained all the paper boats I had laboriously folded from an old Sears catalog.  Surely not throw away my dearest possessions, the product of all my labors.  But she said ALL. 

Suddenly these two words, All Things flashed in neon lights in my mind.  Reading His Word, these two words flashed at me over and over.  Again I became overwhelmed with greatness of God that surrounds us on all sides. Answered prayers and the peace that comes from fully trusting our Lord Jesus every day.  Seeing and hearing His love in those around us.  Breath-taking fall colors appear as God changes seasons.  Family-time with loved ones. Hearing an awesome song with lyrics that brush my soul with joy and awe of His Greatness.

The power that men proclaim to wield over others is nothing.  Nations fight and try to conquer what is not theirs.  They use the ultimate weapon of cessation of life itself – which is God-given.  Yet through the blood sacrifice of Jesus, He conquered death itself.  All is in subjection to our Lord Jesus Christ…without Him, nothing IS.

Now He is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come.  God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church.  And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.  Ephesians 1:21-23

Jesus Christ has all things under his authority and he is the head over all things.  Why?  To benefit the church, for the church is His Body.  The last phrase is awesome – Jesus fills all things everywhere with himself. 

This reminds me of the scripture…from Psalm 139:7-12. 
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there!  If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.  If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, 
for darkness is as light with you.

Hiding from or denying our Lord God is impossible.  He is all around us, with us, and in us.  When we choose to connect with God – it is a connection that never has a faulty ‘server’.  It is ‘on’ 24/7.  He is faithful!  But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.  Psalm 86:15

So many times when we need help, sustenance and hope. All these things come from God.  When sickness, death or various kinds of failures happen in our lives – we are assured that He waits for us to call on Him.  Not to remove the situation, but to help us to depend on him and learn to hope.  He brings us peace of mind as we trust in Him.

Three years ago I heard the diagnosis for my husband, Lewy Body Dementia.  Stunned, it didn’t register.  Why did this happen?  Decisions were made, and continue to be made, including selling our home and moving out of our comfort zone to a new area of the country. 

So many losses occurred in the ‘downsizing’ of our life, possessions and comfortable way of living.  A new beginning and way of life moved into our lives.  New doctors, a new place to live, a new church family and a new city to learn.

The end of the story of the changes has not ended.  Then I re-read this verse….
And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God fills all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:27-28

All things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  Indeed, when I accepted what is and trust our Lord God, my life found a new and greater purpose as every verse of Scripture becomes alive.  I learned that when we make Jesus our Sovereign Lord….even song lyrics are more meaningful. 

 Sovereign in my greatest joy, Sovereign in my deepest cry, With me in the dark, With me at the dawn -- In your everlasting arms, All the pieces of my life, From beginning to the end, I can trust you. In your never failing love, You work everything for good, God whatever comes my way, I will trust you.   (Chris Tomlin - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-S3nVv24SU)

Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. And the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things.  Genesis 24:1

Now place your name in place of Abraham’s…and read again.  This is your promise and my promise.  And we sing together with joy and praise…

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains, You raise me up to walk on stormy seas, I am strong when I am on your shoulders, You raise me up to more than I can be… (Josh Grogan -  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeUJ4Y-XOeY)



Comments? eacombs@att.net

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Let Go and Love...

When that phrase slipped from my lips in prayer, I listened and asked myself, let go of what?   The answer came quickly….self!  Then other phrases came!  Controlling others!  Ruling others!  Restraining others!

How difficult it is to ‘let go’ of self.  We grow up as a baby wanting comfort – dry clothes, a full tummy and lots of rest.  When we hurt ourselves we want someone to care about us.  We want our world to be our way and not anyone else’s.  We want to protect ourselves from hurt, hunger and rejection.  We want acceptance and love from others…no matter what.

Control of our world extends our hearts and minds and we think we are #1 to the exclusion of anyone else.  We are the best in everything we do.  The world has no bounds – it is our world and no one else’s.  As a young girl, I combined washing dishes with becoming a famous opera singer.  I opened the kitchen window over the sink 3 inches.  That was my stage and my voice carried to the whole world in my mind.  I trilled and ah-ed and sang up the scale and down in unintelligible syllables.  When I finished the dishes, I closed the window ‘stage’ and left my ‘adoring’ mythical audience. Mother told me later, she knew when the dishes were finished.

 When we ‘let go’ of controlling our lives – we begin to understand what LOVE is.  True love consists of giving, humility, truth, trust with caring, serving, forgiving – and this can only happen when our Identity is not horizontal (the world) but vertical (with Christ).  When our Identity is in Christ Jesus, we learn what Love truly is, for God is Love. (I John 4:8)

When we find our identity, we feel comfortable for a time, we have found our place, our personal niche.  The horizontal identity is of the world.  We will not find lasting identity in jobs, our children, our spouse, our material possessions that is lasting. 

Sooner or later, we will see that until we have a Vertical Identity – a lasting relationship with our Creator – will we have an eternal, lasting identity that will not be taken away.  This identity is grounded in Jesus as our Rock.

Imagine an identity with the Lord God who delights in us (Psalm 37:23), sings over us (Zephaniah 3:17), and rejoices over us (Isaiah 6:25b).  Then we are right with God, and serve Him with our hearts wide open – letting go of self – and we find true joy in living.  We delight in Him Psalm 1:2 - But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.  We sing praise to our Lord Isaiah 42:11 - Sing a new song to the LordSing his praises from the ends of the earth! Sing, all you who sail the seas, all you who live in distant coastlands, we rejoice in following Him.

When I read this verse in Psalm 139:16, I realized that God knows us so well that He has written our biography before we were. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

† - Matthew 28:20b - And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
† - Psalm 25:10 - All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
† -  Psalm 33:22 - Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.
† - Psalm 36:7 - How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
† - Colossians 4:2 - Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
† - 2 Thessalonians 3:5 - May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
† - Hebrews 6:18-19 - So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.

Last Sunday morning, the lyrics of this song flashed on the screen – and I know why our Identity has to be in Jesus!  Our Lord God is Unstoppable.  Only in God can we Let Go and LOVE!

Heaven thundered – And the world was born – Life begins and ends – In the dust You formed.
Faith commanded – And the mountains moved – Fear is losing ground – To our hope in You.
Unstoppable God – Let your glory go on and on – Impossible things – In your name they shall be done.
Freedom conquered – All our chains undone – Sin defeated – Jesus has overcome.
Mercy triumphed – Darkness was denied – When the stone was gone.
Nothing shall be impossible – Your kingdom reigns unstoppable – We’ll shout Your praise forevermore – Jesus our God unstoppable.

Elevation Worship. - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5LoCwgbg6U

Comments? eacombs@att.net