Since I gave up driving of my own accord before I hurt someone due to my poor vision, I use either the Senior Services transportation or our local public transportation. There are two things I have observed: conversation is sometimes initiated by me rather than by the drivers or other passengers. The other thing is that in an effort to be an interesting conversationalist, I keep up with current events around the community and, of course, the nation and world. The conversation can start with, “Did you hear. . .” and then usually takes a course of its own.
In the news recently we heard about Iran’s testing of ICBMs and I wanted to know more. Testing my new-found topic of interest, I brought it up in conversation. I opened a wonderful conversation in that I happened to have a driver who had served in the U.S. Navy during the 1980’s, He was very well versed in the subject. Out of interest to his response I asked him where he was stationed. He became awkwardly quiet. He gave me the name of someplace in Alaska then said, I can’t say much more on that. I really don’t want to go to Leavenworth. After all these years, he is still carrying classified information. Wow!
Still thinking back to that conversation, I am ever so glad that the Word of God is not classified information. Yet, there are cities that pass ordinances that restrict the flow of conversations around the Word of God. Schools can’t use public prayer in many locations and teachers snatch Bibles away from their students as if it were a dangerous book. From time to time I hear about suspensions given to students or teachers who stand for the Word of God.
The Bible is not a dangerous book. It is a book of life and the source of instruction for holy living. At least right now, no one is going to haul me away for sharing the Way, the Truth, and the Life found in Christ. May I, and you too, be fearless about sharing God’s Powerful Word.
This morning big, fluffy snowflakes were falling outside. I really don’t mind that kind of snow. It is pretty, it covers the dingy colored landscape, and is even fairly easy to walk in. I recall a wonderful date I had in college with a fellow when we went for a long walk, I do mean LONG, in one of those fluffy snowfalls. For information, I attended a college in Minnesota. Snowfalls were not foreign to either of us.
The accumulation of those fluffy snowflakes means work. Shoveling or sweeping them off the porch is sometimes challenging and time consuming. In spite of the effort, when the driveway is clear and the walkways are open, I like to see the paths that have been carved out of a ten-inch snowfall.
A term that has generated in the last election cycle is somewhat troubling. Rising from mostly news commentary is a term, “snowflakes” that refers to a segment of the population that tends to feel entitled. They also are demanding. They demand that there be “safe spaces” from criticism. Safe places where only certain language can be used and free speech is squelched. To me, the description makes me envision a toddler in a tantrum. Even if left alone to sulk it out, they refuse to be appeased. They are snowflakes: fragile little things that melt at the touch of a 98.6 degree body. If we are not always politically correct, they will just melt into a puddle. This is simple craziness.
Now, I can be direct and hard-nosed about treating tantrums. A person having a hissy fit over a small infraction will get nothing from me, and nothing for a LONG time. But, while we should hold firm to principle values, we also need to follow the principle found in Ephesians 4:15. That verse, which is a division of a long sentence that begins in verse 10 is instruction from Paul to the Ephesian church on how to conduct themselves when the winds of deceit blow. Verse 14 indicates that those who were being deceived by false doctrine were acting like children instead of maturing Believers. Paul uses the connector, but to show contrast. Believers who are more mature should speak the truth, but speak it in love. Truth is firm. We must be firm in what we believe, but at the same time, speak it in love.
Let’s do that. If we don’t we will be wading through puddles created by melting snowflakes.
I very seldom publish the day I write something. I usually give it the 24-hour test and cold edit. Not so this time. This is probably a potential four-blog post rolled into one and none of them fully developed. Venting, maybe? Certainly random thoughts!
Noah. This week I planned a one-time lesson on Noah. Noah the man, not Noah and the Flood. I serve two groups per week with Bible study or devotional material. Group one is at the local Active Adult Center and the participants are very cognitive so I go deep with them. Group two is at a nursing home where I serve a variety of dementia bearing folks. A small fraction of the participants is fairly cognitive and are either recovering from a hospital stay or have other physical problem that require 24-hour care. I had group two this morning. I was not sure how I was going to approach this group because they can’t take very many details. Oh, how sweet the Holy Spirit served me and them. It was my plan to bring in the fact that the Flood was a period of God’s judgment but how to do that with group two I was not confident. Then it came right out of my mouth, and heart, as I was teaching that we all face hardships and judgments that are part of our culture. Drought, for instance, affects the whole area. God does not rain on just the gardens of the righteous. But the righteous survive just as Noah survived the Flood. If the economy tanks, the righteous carry the same money in their accounts as the unrighteous, sometimes less. But God sees that they survive.
Brownies: You may have heard or read the story about the father who denied his teens to spend time with other teens at the movies. He did not approve. The teens complained that it was “just a little violence, just a little language,” etc. so the father made a point by making them brownies with just a “little” dog feces in them. Yuk! The illustration goes another direction from the story’s application. It is the little slip of the tongue in words akin to cussing, or a little moment of questionable music within hearing of a weaker brother, or just an article of clothing that is a bit too clingy, and what have we done? We have put dog poo in our testimony. The world watches us more carefully than we can ever imagine.
Politics: I met a new resident at the nursing home today. I’d guess him to be about 75 years old. His dementia made him a challenging conversationalist. The television was playing and the news is full of inauguration stories. I dared to approach the subject and did I ever get an earful! Here is a man advanced in years who hates our in-coming President and called him all manner of evil names! Lack of civility in political exchange is nothing new, is it? Thinking back on it, lack of civility probably died in the Garden of Eden.
Public Transportation: My failing eyesight and then having a cranky car coupled has put me to riding public transportation. There are so many interesting people who ride the bus—I am finding it an adventure all its own. It is also a mission field. Today as the bus wound its way through a neighborhood I thought I’d count houses and then multiply houses by a supposed number of occupants as four. You know what? The harvest fields are white unto harvest. Pews are warmed on Sunday mornings, but shoe leather needs to tread those neighborhoods because people are not coming to church to find Jesus, Christians must take Jesus to them. Churches are getting apathetic while souls are falling into eternal darkness.
Just a few random thoughts.
My mother often used the proverb, “There is no rest for the wicked” and I suppose that I picked it up from her. Mom was full of idioms and proverbs. Many a student of mine shook their heads wondering what some idiom I had just quoted meant. It is just part of me. Frankly, it seems I just can’t help myself from blurting out some little gem of homespun wisdom.
Yesterday I found the foundation for the aforementioned proverb. Isaiah 48:22 states, “There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.” And it is repeated almost word for word in Isaiah 57:21. I suppose the words from the Bible were a bit distorted to be used as rest rather than peace in the 1930’s where I dug up an old comic strip with the title, “No Rest for the Wicked” by Harold Gray, cartoonist for Little Orphan Annie.
I know very little and don’t really want to know much, about the music of the 1980’s when a song of the same title is popularized. One thing I do know for sure is that neighborhoods where crime abounds have no peace or rest. Neither can those neighborhoods be changed by prosperity. Rage, crime, and marital disenchantment can be cured only by the changed heart that is turned from wickedness to righteousness by the saving gospel of Jesus.
When I am settling down for a snooze and the phone rings, and I mutter, “there is no rest for the wicked; I must be very wicked. . .” as I pick up the call, perhaps my own heart will remember the words of Isaiah instead. Isaiah gave me a new outlook yesterday. A better outlook. Coupled with the words of Jesus in John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, not as the world giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled nor let it be afraid,” there is an overcoming peace and rest. In Jesus I can rest while I work and I am clothed in His righteousness for I have none of my own.
Recently, someone remarked to me that her grandmother would be horrified to hear someone actually ask people to underline something in their personal Bible. Really? Yes, I believe we should show respect for our personal copies of the Bible, but marking in a book makes it mine. I refrain from marking in a borrowed book, but what makes a book mine is the notes in the margin and underlined passages that stood out to me as I read.
What about an electronic Bible? Oh, the Bible on my Kindle® is very colorful with the choices the highlighting gives me. I cross reference in the notes, and if I use the electronic Bible in church, it is easy to take sermon notes. I suspect that one of the treasured items that my children might fuss about after my death is who gets my Bible. Frankly, I think a grandchild should be the next owner. Time will tell if I make that decision in advance.
Another marking I make in the margins is a guide of sorts. For about 26 years I carried and studied a Thompson Chain Reference Bible. When the print became too small to easily read, the large print Bible I took on had very few references of any kind. Here is a sort of guide if any of you wanted to take on the habit of reference marking: A is for mention of angels, CN is for mention of creation, P references a Bible promise, C is for a Bible command, CP is for a conditional promise, W refers to warning, and RS stands for Red Sea crossing. I added the RS two years ago, when I noticed the frequency of God’s reminder to the Jews that time is marked from that time forward in the establishment of their own country. Prior to the Egyptian bondage, God referred to the land as belonging to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Whatever your goals are for Bible reading or Bible study this coming year, above all, just read it. Make reading it a part of your daily habits. When I was in college, 50+ years ago, now, I determined to make the Bible my first reading of the day. No newspaper, assignment, or note from a friend took over first place. Today, it is Facebook. The Bible still gets first place. Jesus, speaking tenderly with his disciples in John 15 tells them, “Now ye are clean through the words that I have spoken unto you.” When we handle the Word of God we are handling a quick and powerful tool. Quick, here means living. I do not question why or how, but I know it to be true that as stated in Hebrews 4:12 it is a “. . . a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
Picture yourself walking in a quiet meadow with Jesus while you are reading the Bible. The Good Shepherd is speaking.
Yes, I am one of those people who occasionally sits down with a book of poetry to read just for pleasure. I can’t write it at all! I depend on those to understand the metical value of words. This morning I came across this poem with which I am familiar, however, I did not know the significance of these lines to the people of the British Crown. Here is the link to the story.
David, the chosen King of united Israel is in despair. While he had been chosen to be king, he was far from sitting on a throne in a royal palace. He was sitting in a cave. That lonely cry of despair is found in Psalm 142. David said that he looked to his right, then all around him, and finally he understood–there was no refuge. Imagine the fear and despair of such loneliness. It was a low, low time in his life.
Fortunately, for us, he recorded his words and they are found to be a refuge for us when we hit the depths of despair. There they are for us to consume when we feel unloved and even persecuted. The words of the Psalmist bring hope and even peacefulness because at the end of his song, David asks of the Lord to bring him out of his trouble. “Deliver me” he cries. Why? “. . .that I might praise Thy name.”
Today I stood in the cold at the bus stop. I waited. I waited some more. Then finally after twenty minutes, I turned and walked back home. It was the first time since my car quit on me that I was really discouraged. Once home, I logged on to the bus route site only to find that no buses are running this week. Not one single bus. If they ran a notice about the decision not to run buses this week, I didn’t see it. I felt left out. For just a very short while, maybe ten minutes, I felt that no one really cared if I could get to the drug store for my medicine. Who cared for my soul?
Of course, my daughter cared. She rescued me and we even shopped at other stores this afternoon. Yet, still, the phrase echoes in my heart. How many people sit somewhere tonight and feel the depths of rejection. They think that no one cares about them. If only someone will knock on their door and give them hope in Christ and show them the wonderful peace that comes from knowing God’s Word.
We must reach those folks who are on the brink of giving up. They will turn to liquor, or drugs for solace. Some even seek revenge with a weapon on an unsuspecting person. The homicide rate is up all over the nation. Can I just sit by and let that happen? At the very least, I can pray because God knows where that person or persons are right now. I can pray that they find hope.
They CAN know that someone cares for their soul. The Lord can send someone in my place. It might be you.
Here it is approaching noon and I am still in my night wear. A cup of coffee sits before me. I had cookies for breakfast. It was a busy day yesterday. It keeps a person busy opening gifts, preparing food, visiting with loved ones, and playing games! I enjoyed all of it, even washing dishes. Today I am tired but it is a good kind of tired.
Today I am cleaning up my house of the remnants of Christmas. Putting away gifts, picking up bits of wrapping paper, folding gift bags for next year’s use and eating miscellaneous, delicious cookies. My lunch will be a turkey sandwich. Why not? The day after a holiday is usually like that. After the Fourth of July, for instance, we walk around the yard picking up remnants of bottle rockets and fire crackers. We eat leftover potato salad.
Yesterday we celebrated the birth of Christ. Today we celebrate his life-giving Word. Today we endeavor to love Jesus a little more than we did even yesterday as we celebrated the time of His birth. Living for Jesus is a 24/7/365 project or at least it should be. Paul challenged Timothy to be faithful “. . .instant in season, out of season. . .” (II Timothy 4:2)
As I walk in the presence of the Good Shepherd, I’ll endeavor to be experiencing the joy of the Lord and to be serving Him heartily throughout the next 364 days.
How about you?
The lingering benefits of attending church cannot be overrated. This morning I was refreshed and renewed in my church service. It is possible to have internal movement and stirring of my spirit in …
Source: Merry Listing!
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, an American Poet who is a national treasure, penned the words to this lilting song. It was set to music in 1872 by John B. Calkin. Most church songbooks leave stanzas out of the song to shorten it to a mere three stanzas.
I live close to a college that has a bell tower. At six o’clock each evening the bells chime out a song and then strike the hour. I suppose it was the chiming of bells on that Christmas Even on 1864 that stirred the poet’s heart. Longfellow kept a regular journal. It is from those journal entries we learn the stories of things that tore his heart, particularly at Christmas.
In 1861 a fire accidentally set by a brisk wind and a candle put Fanny Longfellow’s dress on fire. Before the fire could be extinguished, her body was so badly burned that the next morning she succumbed in death. Longfellow was so badly burned in the effort to save her life that he was also was severely burned.
The country was in a war within its own borders over the right to own slaves. Longfellow watched his oldest son, just 20 years old go off to battle for the Union. By 1864, just four months before the surrender of Lee, Charles was hit in the shoulder that left one arm paralyzed.
The chiming of the bells brought these seven stanzas forth from the poet’s pen. Words that are heart-wrenching but in the last verse deliver hope. Those words bring hope to me this Christmas. “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep! The Wrong shall fail; the Right prevail!
(The original poem, complete with all seven stanzas)
“I heard the bells on Christmas Day”
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men