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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Goin' Home!

         What is it about ‘going home’ that erases cares and concerns from our hearts?  When we grow up, we long for our remembered ‘home, sweet home’.  A place where we can ‘be’ who we are, without wondering if we belong or fit in?
         When I left for college, seventy-five miles from home, financial considerations in buying a bus ticket home became a concern. My parents said not to come home for six weeks.  This length of time seemed eons long.  I learned the phrase from the inside out – home-sickness. 
         As the years continued, I remember how Mom longed to go to her Heavenly Home.  She kept looking for her ‘exit lane’.  She thought Christmas would be a good day to celebrate going home. God had other plans.
         Through the years Mom often gave me a new song to learn.  Goin’ Home
is one of them.  I thought the lyrics sweet. Goin' home, goin' home, I'm a goin' home; Quiet-like, some still day, I'm just goin' home.  It's not far, just close by, Through an open door; Work all done, care laid by, Going to fear no more. Mother's there 'spectin' me, Father's waiting too; Lots o' folk gathered there, all the friends I knew.
         I understood.  In my mind’s eye I always knew in my heart, how welcome I would be when I drove into the driveway in Watonga, Oklahoma.  One by one, my parents went to their Heavenly Home, and then this song took on more meaning and understanding. Each time I tried to sing this song, the emotional knowing became tears and sobs, instead of singing memorable melody.
            My Dad read one of my Grandmother Anna Suderman’s favorite poems during her celebration service.  His dramatic portrayal of the words made everyone present ponder the words of Edgar A Guest’s poem.  It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home, A heap o’ sun an’ shadder, an’ ye sometimes have t’ roam… Afore ye really ’preciate the things ye lef’ behind, An’ hunger fer ’em somehow, with ’em allus on yer mind.    Home is always on our mind. This hunger can only be fulfilled in one way.
         We can never escape or run away from God or His Son Jesus or the hunger and longing for Home.  Psalm 139: 13-14 - For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.  I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
         God made us, and when He created us, He tucked the longing for eternity in our souls.  There is no surgery that can eliminate this implant. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.  Ecclesiastes 3:11.
         Our earthly homes are simply a taste of the wonder, mystery and joy of being at Home with the Lord to come.
         Goin’ Home lyrics were written by one of Anton Dvorak’s students, William Arms Fisher who lived from 1861-1948. Anton Dvorak (1841-1904) was a prolific Czech Composer.  Johann Brahms was impressed for Dvorak’s ability to compose.  He was the first of fourteen children, and grew up with a strong Christian faith.  He found beauty in the Bohemian folk songs.  And later, he came to Boston and taught. 
         The lyrics of Goin’ Home are written to the Dvorak’s Largo Theme from The New World Symphony #9. The year was 1922.
         The promise of John 14:1-4, the words of Jesus continue to bless me through the years.  Recently, I shared these verses with my dear husband.  Even in his confused mind, he smiled and thought of being home with our Lord.  With Dementia, he went through a phase of desiring to ‘go home’. He tried over and over to walk out the doors.  One day he walked down the driveway when I found him. I had to escort him back into the house. 
         “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
         Being ‘at home’ with Jesus, begin when I invite Him into my heart.  Jesus Christ makes his home in our hearts as we trust him.  We grow in Christ, and it is then we realize the truth of how wide, how long, how high and how deep His love is for each of us.
         In this Age of Doubt, the name of Jesus and His Power are often denied and ridiculed.  I remember learning the verse – God is Love.  Is there anything greater in this world?  This verse becomes more precious to me as the years pass by. No matter how often we deny God with our actions, our thoughts or our words, God IS!  His love comes with forgiveness. Nothing we do or say can erase Him, for God IS!  And always will BE!
         2 Corinthians 5:1-8 - For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation, which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.  Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.  So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord, For we walk by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
         John 14:23-24 - Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.  He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.

         2 Timothy 1:12-13 -  For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

O That Will Be Glory For Me!

         Hymn lyrics are born through inspiration, experiences, and this hymn came to be through the prayer of a faithful man.  What do we picture of as the most glorious moment in our lives?  How would we describe this glorious moment?  Is it fame or fortune in this world, or an achievement?   
         Charles Gabriel, a gifted musician, grew up learning the truths in God’s Word. During his lifetime, he wrote more than eight thousand hymns.  In 1900, he attended a Rescue Mission in Saint Louis.  He listened to the message and prayers of Ed Card, the superintendent of the Mission.  Each time Ed Card prayed, his prayers with the phrase, “And that will be glory for me!”
         This phrase struck a note in Charles Gabriel’s heart.  Charles, born in 1856, grew up on a farm, and learned the truths of the Bible.  He sang in the church choir and, loving music, learned to play the family organ on his own.
         Charles Gabriel had a longing for the moment he would see the face of Jesus.  He lived in expectancy of this glory to be realized.  He captures the profound glory that is ours when we belong - heart and soul - to Jesus our Lord.
         Charles recognized in his lyrics the labors and trials in this life along the way to the safety on that beautiful shore.  The greatest desire we can long for in this life is to be near the Lord Jesus, we adore.
         O that will be glory for me
     Glory for me, Glory for me,
     When by His grace, I shall look on His Face,
     That will be glory, be glory, for me!
         Each time I visit my dear husband, I remind him in scripture, prayer, and song of this glory to be.  In his confusion, he needs constant assurance of the realness of Jesus’ love for him.  I never tire of telling him of the nearness of Jesus.  The grace of Jesus brings us salvation.  He surety of His love was bought with the sacrifice of the blood of Jesus on the cross.
         When, by the gift of His infinite grace,
     I am accorded in heaven a place.
     Just to be there and to look on His Face,
     Will through the ages be glory for me!
         How glorious at this very moment to know this world isn’t all there is.  There is more than the ‘here and now’. 
         What will Heaven be – this Eternal Life, with Jesus our Lord?  Books have been written to describe this beautiful place.  John, on the Isle of Patmos, was given a description by the Holy Spirit, written in the book of Revelation.  His writing is filled with mystery.  Yet, the promise remains in John 14:1-3 in the words of Jesus -  “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” 
            Charles tells more about God’s glory in the second verse: 
         Friends will be there I have loved long ago,
     Joy like a river around me will flow,
     Yet, just a smile from my Savior, I know
     Will through the ages be glory for me.
            All about us, we see His glory in the kindness, goodness, and smiles of others.  As we look up we see the movement of the stars, the moon and the sun reveal his infinite glory and faithfulness. 
         The August 21, 2017, Eclipse of the Sun had many faces looking up.  Did we see the wonder of the two great lights God created come together?  Or was this a scientific curiosity?  Genesis 1:3-5 - Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.” And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day.
         The Eclipse, contained the wonder of God’s power, majesty, and the declaration of His Glory.  No words in any language can fully describe the glory of God and His gift of Grace to us.  Jesus walked on this earth and to see Him is to see God.
         What is this Glory?  Revelation 21:22-23 -  I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.  And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. 
         In Heaven there are no light switches – and no electric bills.  As Jesus said while on earth in John 12 – I am the light of the world!  He is also the light in Heaven.  What begins this Glory of Light?  God is Love.  (I John 4:8) and Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. I John 4:7.

Romans 8:16-18 - For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.  Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.  For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.
         Psalm 3:2-4 - But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain.

         Hebrews 1:2-4 - And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe.  The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. This shows that the Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is greater than their names.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Shall We Gather At The River?

This hymn has special meaning for me.  The first time I heard this hymn, I was twelve years old.  My Grosmom Emilie (paternal grandmother) rocked gently in her new steel chair on the front porch singing, ‘Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river; Gather with the saints at the river, That flows by the throne of God.’
         My Grosmom was born in June of 1876, and came to this country from Russia at the age of sixteen.  I could not fathom such a trip at that age and admired my Grosmom.  I wondered then which river she sang about.  She spoke only Plautt Dietch and I spoke English – yet we spent hours visiting with each other. 
         Revelation 22:1-2 tells of the special river – not the Dneiper River in Ukraine or Volga that she had lived near.  Robert Lowry, the composer of this hymn, thought about this same scripture.  He lived from 1826 – 1899, and wrote this hymn in 1864, when Grosmom was twelve years old in Russia.  How then did my Grosmom know this song?  Was Grosmom thinking about her family, her loved ones, often separated her on earth by miles, gathered together on the shore of the Beautiful River.
         Revelation 22:1-2 - Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.
         One source I read described Robert Lowry as a cheerful man with a quick mind. He often gave vivid descriptions.  He painted word pictures for others to see as he preached.  His words described Heaven with joy.  While enduring the sweltering heat, he was totally exhausted physically.  A contagious epidemic hit New York City then – causing untold deaths.  In his pastoral duties, he visited members of his congregation and buried those who died.  While thinking about all the people who were dying, Robert Lowry thought about the great reunion at the ‘river of life’ in heaven.  In his mind he envisioned God’s throne, the heavenly river of life and the gathering of the saints. He read the scripture from Revelation 22:1-2. He reveled in the thought of the beauty of the ‘river of life’.  Even though he died in 1899, his words continue to be sung to give hope and comfort to many people by giving expression to their deepest desire to praise God for His unfailing goodness.
         It was in 1943, during World War II, when my Grosmom’s death finally came. It was a stifling August afternoon.  Her death was overwhelming to me.  It brought me face to face with the mystery of death.  Her life was spent in serving others.  She raised four sons and one daughter.  I have a large photo of the daughter she lost to meningitis hanging in my living room.  Grosmom took care of her husband, Jacob after he was paralyzed and was unable to preach sermons, conduct auctions, or farm.
         It has been seventy-four years since Grosmom died. I still remember her steadfast faith in God and the message of the hymn she sang so often.  I remember our dual-language conversations.  She taught me faith in Jesus Christ by singing.  Now, as I say goodbye to family members, one by one, I am comforted. I remember Grosmom’s voice so long ago singing the hymn, Shall We Gather At the River. 
         Thank you, Robert Lowry, for sharing your gift of faith and hope-filled words to so many as they sing the song God gave you.
         Psalm 46:4-5 - A river brings joy to the city of our God, the sacred home of the Most High. God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed. From the very break of day, God will protect it.
         Isaiah 43 – 1-2 - But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.
         2 Kings 5:9-10 - So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and waited at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.”
         John 7:37-39 - On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)