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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Learning His Way

During the midst of the dust bowl of Oklahoma of 1929, I was born to my parents who taught school.  They learned the hard way to ‘make-do’, a key phrase for survival in those days.  It didn’t phase me, I thought every little girl sat on a huge flour barrel at the kitchen table.  I thought every little girl’s mother sewed beautiful little dresses for their daughters.  Mom pedaled for miles on the Old Treadle Singer Sewing Machine.  I thought everyone had a pet goat that also gave milk.

Before attending school,  I learned another lesson.  On the neighbor’s back porch I saw a rubber band.  I picked it up.  How intriguing the snap and elasticity of a single rubber band was – until Mom saw me.  That was my first lesson in right and wrong - not stealing...anything. Mom’s instructions were followed, I gave the rubber band back and apologized!  That was my first lesson in humility.

When I was in the first grade, I learned another next lesson. The copy ‘machine' was a pan of gel-like substance. When the teacher rubbed a piece of paper over the surface, a lovely drawing of an apple appeared.  Our instructions were to color the apple red.  I picked up the beautiful box of new crayons and studied each one.  I chose the most beautiful rosy-hued crayon and began coloring. The teacher pronounced it wrong.  It wasn’t a true red.  I tried to right the wrong and asked for another page to color.  The answer was no.  Unforgiven I went home with a beautiful apple colored in-the-lines, with the wrong shade of red.

We long to make wrongs right, and we want to be forgiven.  We want to be blameless.  If I had known how to read and look for a red crayon, I would have known.  I chose on my own.  If I had been enlightened to know what the teacher had in mind, I could have found a bright red.

There was a man that felt he was doing the right thing by arresting men and women who followed Jesus and took them back to Jerusalem in chains.  He was bent with all his heart on this mission.   As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”  Acts 9:3-4

This was personal!  The light caused him to be blinded.  The men with Saul heard the voice but saw no one. Saul asked, “Who are you, lord?”  The voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting!  Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” When Saul opened his eyes, he was blind and could not see.  His companions led him by the hand to Damascus.  He did not eat or drink for three days.

Talk about being stopped in your tracks.  Saul had studied with Gamaliel the Rabbi and mastered Jewish History, Psalms and the work of the prophets.  He thought he was doing the will of God by dragging those who believed in Jesus to prison.  He felt he was being obedient until the light from Heaven shone around him and he fell to the ground and stopped his mission. 

No matter how learned Saul was, he was blind to the truth.  Jesus had work for Saul to do and he had more to learn.  Saul had learned to be a debater, a learned scholar and now he would use his gifts to proclaim the words of Jesus.  That was not written in his day-planner.

The Lord spoke to Ananias, a believer in Damascus, “Go to Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul…he is praying right now.  I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.” (Acts 9:11-12).  Ananias was afraid.  He had heard of Saul who had the power to arrest Christians. Then the Lord gave Ananias the job description: But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel.”  Acts 9:15.

Ananias went to Saul.  “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  (v17).  Immediately Saul could see and he was baptized.  He ate and regained strength and began preaching Jesus. Imagine the belief, the faith in Jesus both men had.  The light of the Lord opened Saul’s eyes and he knew the truth. 

Even at his birth, this same Jesus was announced by an angel bathed in the Radiance of Light.  Then a host of more angels, the armies of heaven, came saying - Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”  A bright star shone in the East, and led the wise men from eastern lands to come to worship Jesus. 

- You light a lamp for me. The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.  Psalm 18:23
- The Word gave life to everything that was created and his life brought light to everyone.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. John 1:4-5
- Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”  John 8:12
- I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.  John 12:46
- For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.  2 Corinthians 4:6
- The Lord is my light and my salvation—so why should I be afraid?  The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?  Psalm 27:1


 Learning His Way of Love begins early and lasts for an eternity.   For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39.





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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Two Questions

We are born, the king or queen of our kingdom of one.  Our only question is, Who Am I? We demand to be fed and made comfortable 24/7.  Life goes on for us…until one day we see the hand that feeds us, the same hand that loves us also disciplines us.  And we are astonished when the usual cries and our built-in cuteness will persuade this other person in our kingdom to do our bidding in all things.

Yes, we are born with a sense of entitlement that sometimes never disappears. Our parents answered the question, Who Am I as they learned to care for the family.  They live their lives answering the much more important question in the world.  An eternal question, that makes a forever difference, as old as time. It is a question each of us must answer. They ask and search for the answer to the question, Who is God?

Not long ago, my cousin, who knew me when as described her assessment of me in glowing terms.  I was astonished.  In the days when my kingdom was small, I didn’t know how I looked to others. Nearly every description included my joy and enthusiasm for life – not what I owned or the poise taught by elocution lessons Mom had me take.  (Yes, I was one of those little girls.)

Her picture of me was not the one I carried inside my head.  One day I understood the meaning of a spiritual war within us.  I heard the warring voice in my head.  Satan is the master of disguises.  He knows how to make wrong look right, betrayal seems a courageous act and a lie change to a white lie that is truth in the end.  Satan appears to guile me in worshipping the world that the things it contains, distracting me from knowing who God is!

Is there no hope?  Are we bound for a life of desperation, a hopeless writhing on the bed of pain and suffering of desire and want?  The answer lies in a four-letter word – HOPE.  Hope changes everything.  Hope is a gift from God.  So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.  I Corinthians 13:13 

Who can save us from ourselves and from this world that sometimes sinks us into a quagmire of doubt and despair?  This is a question we voice, longing for an answer and a living hope.  In a day when the world authoritatively tells us what matters – there is a still small voice that gives us hope that transcends the darkness of the world.  If we but listen and obey.

When did this happen?  Last year, last century, last 1000 years?  No, this took place from the very foundation of the world. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.  Genesis 1:1-2

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.  Psalm 90:1-2; Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?  Isaiah 40:21

God was not alone at the foundation of the world.  His Son Jesus was with Him.  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5

There is more – before the foundation of the world God chose us - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.  Ephesians 3:6

We aren’t a ‘hey, you, there’ to God.  He knows us by name before we were ever born. As I considered this, wondering if this were even possible, I remembered Psalm 147:4 - He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.  Consider how many stars in the sky.  They are without number.  If he remembers all the stars by name, God remembers each of our names before the foundation of the world.  God even remembers our nicknames. 

God chose us to worship Him before we were ever born.  Yet, He knows which of us will be lured by the distraction of the world’s Satan.  He knows what thoughts we will think and what deeds we will choose to do that will draw us away from Him. 

I remember my cousin’s description of me, and I know truth.  God sent his son Jesus to earth to be the Way to Eternity for all of us.  When I ask, Who is God?  I know when I follow Jesus the Truth and the Way – I know God.  And He sees me glorified.  He sees me purified and without sin.  Not through anything I have earned or done on earth but Who I am in Christ Jesus.  This is His Gift to me.

Each day I listen to the voices ricocheting around me.  I hear the deafening voices that can instill fear of what is or could be and the terror of the evil one.  And I rest in peace from the still steady whisper of love and hope of our Lord God, discerning and resting in His Promises. 


He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I Corinthians 1:8-9.


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Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Remembering...

In 1962, my Mother received this birthday card from her Mom, Anna:  My dear daughter, 55 years ago we celebrated.  It was a hot day and the telephone was off because it was a holiday.  You came early that morning, arriving at 8 am.  Daddy stayed at home that day and did not go out to work (farm).  That evening when the telephone came on, he called those that should know about your birth.  John Litke worked for us that harvest and the wheat harvest was finished the afternoon of the 3rd.  John was the one to go get Mrs. Eitzen.  Papa got Grandma Suderman and we had two little girls.  I’ve always been glad for you both. Thanks for the visit, and you know I did not think of your birthday when you were here.  Have a good time and keep well.  Love, from Momma.

When I found this birthday card Mom kept until her death in 1998, I remembered that before my Mom was my Mother, she was Grandma’s little girl.  Yesterday, I remembered my Mom’s birthday and the memories touched me concerning the continuity of life, even in death.  Memories poured through my mind and heart.  I remember the lessons of life Mom taught me!

Trust – In Mom’s 80’s she sold her home of 40 years and moved to begin life in a new place.  One day she told me that each morning, she asks her Heavenly Father, What would you have for me to do today, Lord?
Beauty – When I asked her why she loved flowers? She replied, When I look at the colors and shape of the flowers, praise God Who designed and created flowers.
Purpose – I asked her why she worked so hard raising flowers.  I like growing flowers because it gives me something to give to the sick and old folks when I go see them.
Thankfulness – One day I came walking into the house as Mom gleefully took a finished garment from the sewing machine, thanking God. I asked why she was thanking God.  I am thankful that the spool of thread I needed lasted until this piece of clothing was finished.
Resting in God’s Word - As Dad lay in the hospital holding tenuously to life, she went home to sleep, I asked how she could do that.  She quoted this scripture to me ... In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.  Psalm 4:8
Household chores – Mom gave us our chores to do, and then set the oven timer, to see if we could finish before we heard the oven timer make a sound. She taught me make chores a game.
Joyousness - More than once I saw Mom skip and jump with joy and thankfulness gazing on the bounty of ripened strawberries, tomatoes, and growing things in the garden.
Patience and Wisdom – Mom left the house, as I, an impatient teenager, struggled to learn to sew a red taffeta dress.  I learned the word 'ooch' as I fitted the sleeve to the garment.
Acceptance – (Making lemonade out of lemons.)  When Mom sewed a dress or shirt from a printed feed sack (WWII) and she discovered a flaw - she embroidered flowers or placed a pocket to hide it.
Faithfulness - When Mother was a girl she trudged a quarter of a mile to church alone. Someone needed to be there.  She sat with the janitor and then came home. 
Love of Music - from the first moment Mom plucked the strings of an old autoharp as a girl, she desired to play the piano and organ.  She practiced until she could play for her Dad as he directed the choir.  She continued to play for church, funerals, weddings and gave piano lessons until she was in her middle 80's.  She practiced as diligently at 80 as she did as she did when she first learned.  I remember her playing the piano as we fell asleep.

One evening, Mom and I sat on the small back porch in Oklahoma watching the sun go down.  I asked her if she wanted to go in.  She answered, "No, I am waiting for the Evening Star to appear.  When I was a little girl, I looked at the sky, and found The Evening Star. I began to tell all my secrets and dreams to the first star that shines each night!"

 Remembering is for more than personal memories.  God gave us the joy of remembering His Words.  He asks us to remember Him often in His Word even as He remembers us in His Great Faithfulness.  God placed many reminders all around us to remember Him!  

In Genesis 9:14-16 - When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, and I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life. When I see the rainbow in the clouds, I will remember the eternal covenant between God and every living creature on earth.

Exodus 13:3 - So Moses said to the people, “This is a day to remember forever—the day you left Egypt, the place of your slavery. Today the Lord has brought you out by the power of his mighty hand. (Remember, eat no food containing yeast.) 

Exodus 20:7-8 -  “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.  Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 

Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 - Young people, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy. But remember that youth, with a whole life before you, is meaningless.

3 John 1:11 - Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God.

James 4:17 – Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

Colossians 3:13 - Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

Colossians 3:24 - Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.




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