Planting Seeds

I have the opposite of a green thumb, whatever color that might be! I avoid walking through the plant sections in Home Depot or going to flower shops, because as I walk through, things start dying! My husband, Douglas, is just the opposite, for he has a super-green thumb. Anything he plants comes up beautifully and in such abundance that we end up placing vegetables on our neighbors’ porches, and I do not even know if they like vegetables. I envy him this ability, but I understand that, although Douglas plants the  seeds, and I sometimes help water them, the bountifulness of the crop comes from God, our Provider.

Yet, even though I have not had much success with flowers and vegetables, I work continuously to plant the seeds of salvation into the hearts of those who have not yet accepted Christ Jesus as their Savior. My planting starts with sharing my stories with others, in the hope that in hearing or reading the stories of struggle, pain, grief, and triumph over each one, some of my faith will fall into the ground of their hearts, and they will seek to know more about God’s grace and mercy.  I am aware that I may never know if the seed grows to fruition, because I may never meet the people who believe through my stories. So, my prayer is always that the Lord will send someone else to water the seed or to weed the hearts of the pain and suffering that can cause the seed to fail to take root, and then to do what He does best: make the seed grow or give the increase.

It is not important to me to get credit for the increase in the numbers of people being saved. God simply asks me to begin the conversation through my stories, which is why I started this blog. What is more important is that people have a chance for eternal life, meaning that the death of the physical body is not the end, as the spirit continues to live in the presence of God and His Son, Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 3, the apostle Paul discusses how the people of Corinth were defining themselves according to who planted the seeds of the Good News in their hearts, saying they belonged to Paul or to Apollos, rather than to Jesus Christ. Paul was upset that the people were focused more on who did the work instead of allowing the work that had been done in their lives to take root and produce the fruit of Christian maturity.

In 1 Corinthians 3: 5-9, Paul states, “After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.”

Thankfully, I do not need a green thumb to do God’s work, just a willingness to write my stories, and with a little humor thrown in, tell of God’s grace and mercy in my life. I am still thankful for the young white Baptist college students who came into my neighborhood when I was about nine years old and taught me about a Savior I did not know. They planted seeds by giving us Bible verses to learn. If we learned the verses by the time they returned the following month, we received pretty ceramic dishes with a Bible verse on them. I only wanted to win the dishes and show how smart I was, but from those seeds, I started to wonder about this wonderful Man who loved me, a child abandoned by her parents.

And when we started going to church, the pastor watered the seeds that the young students had planted, and one Sunday morning, God gave the increase, as the beauty of His glory, a wonderful light that I cannot adequately describe, filled the church and landed on me. I came to believe in the reality of the Father and the Son. I still have to read my Bible, so that the weeds of everyday life do not stuff out my faith and cause me to wither in my belief, and when I plant a seed, my faith is renewed all over again.   Hopefully, through my blog posts, people will see God and feel His presence, knowing that He is not partial and that the love He gives to me, He is willing and able to give to you. Like Paul, I am just a servant.

Dear God,

Thank you for the opportunity to work on your behalf. Thank you for allowing me to tell my stories, and, Holy Spirit, thank you for bringing the stories to my remembrance and showing me how they fit the Scriptures in ways that may bring salvation to others. I am Your servant, O Lord, and one of the sheep of Your pasture. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let other water the seeds that are sown from this blog site, and then Lord, in Your time and way, bring the increase. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.


Expressive Gratitude

I keep some thank-you cards at all times, mainly because I try not to take for granted the kindness of others. Sending a card with a few extra words that express our hearts’ feelings toward the giver makes all the difference, to me. One of my pet peeves is people who fail to say thank you when someone does a good deed for them or say a few words of encouragement to them, although I admit that sometimes I am lax in making my gratitude known. For me, gratitude must be expressed in ways that demonstrate the sincerity of our gratefulness, especially when we receive help and hope from God. I am striving to learn to emulate the expressive gratitude of Mary of Bethany, as found in John 12. Mary gave of her best and risked public shame and gossip in her sincere attempt to thank Jesus for restoring to her a precious loved one.

To appreciate Mary’s  expression of thankfulness in Chapter 12, you have to know the story of how Jesus raised her brother, Lazarus, from the dead in Chapter 11. Mary and her sister, Martha, sent word to Jesus that his friend, their brother, was very sick and asked if he would come quickly to help. Jesus, knowing that Lazarus was going to live, waited two more days before leaving for Bethany. By the time he arrived there, Lazarus had died. Mary and Martha were heartbroken, and for good reason. Not only had they lost a beloved brother, but they became women alone without a male for safety or support in a culture in which women alone were financially and socially vulnerable. They loved Jesus, but both accosted him for taking so long to come.  When he arrived, Mary fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32).

When Jesus saw her weeping, he asked where was Lazarus buried. When he arrived at the tomb, he prayed to God, and then he proceeded to raise Lazarus from the dead. When Lazarus came out of that tomb,  I can just imagine the tremendous joy that Mary and Martha felt at the return of their brother. Their faith in Jesus had been justified and all was well again in their world. Mary must have done a lot of reflecting on how she could express her gratitude to Jesus for the gift of her brother’s life. And then, days later at a dinner in Jesus’s honor, she expressed her gratitude in a way that potentially could have brought great shame to her and her household. But, I believe she simply decided that what mattered most to her was that Jesus know the magnitude of her appreciation for his actions.

In John 12, we learn that Mary came into the home where Jesus was having dinner with other men including her brother Lazarus, and as Jesus ate his dinner, she broke open an expensive jar of perfume and poured it over his head, anointing and preparing him for his eventual death and burial. There was an outcry from those around the table, including Judas Iscariot, because of the expensiveness of the perfume and what selling it could have provided for the poor. Her actions in wasting such an expensive jar of perfume and not using it to provide for the poor among them could have left her marked as insensitive and thoughtless, which could have led to her being publicly shamed. Indeed, it could have hurt her family’s witness for Jesus as the Messiah. But Jesus understood her actions, and he said, “I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed” (Mark 14:9).

And we are still discussing her good deed today! I believe that every time Mary looked at her brother, she felt such gratitude to Jesus that just saying thank you was not sufficient for her. She wanted to express her gratefulness in a way that demonstrated her deep love and appreciation for his act of love towards two women who believed in him. Her anointing of Jesus with the very best that she had, her most expensive perfume, was a form of worship and praise and an expression of her deep gratitude for the wonder of his actions towards her and her sister in the land of the living. The Scripture tell us that the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume (John 12:3).

I believe that we, too, must often reflect on how good Jesus has been to us, bringing that which was dead in our lives alive again, be it our dreams, our hopes, our health, or our lost lives. Then, like Mary of Bethany, we need to worship him with the best that we have to give, allowing our praises to rise up to heaven, bringing to Jesus the fragrance of our gratitude, thankfulness, and love. We must express our gratitude in how we live, in obeying God’s words, and in how we treat our families, friends, neighbors, strangers, and the foreigners who live among us. I believe that these are the kinds of expressions of gratitude that Jesus would defend and appreciate.

Father in Heaven,

    Thank you for soon being nine years cancer-free from colon cancer. Thank you for placing me in the right place for the cancer to be found, and then providing health insurance so wonderful that I had the best of care, even though I had only been on the job for two weeks! They could have fired me, but You went ahead of me and touched the right hearts to secure me the peace and care I needed for healing. Like Mary, I am so grateful for a chance at living life to the fullest. Let me never forget to praise you for your faithfulness, compassion, and unfailing love. Grant others dealing with cancer and other chronic illnesses, O Lord, the same help and hope. In Jesus’ s Name, Amen.

The Healing Power of Water

I grew up in a city, with no water anywhere around me, except for the swimming pool at the park near my house. I never learned to swim, although I made an aborted effort to learn when I was age 52. As long as I was floating with my hands on the wall of the pool, I was fine. But, when I let go of the wall, I had the feeling that I was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and I started panicking. I started thrashing, trying to get back to land, and when the swimming teacher tried to help me, I fought her, nearly drowning us both in just 4 feet of water. She kept shouting, “Put your feet down!” But, I was so focused on getting out of the water that I could not hear her.

Then she said, “You are going to drown us both!” That, miraculously, I heard, so I put my feet down, and all was right in the world again. I swallowed so much water that I had a headache for three weeks running! I stupidly asked when was my next lesson, and looking at me as though I had lost my mind, she said there were no more lessons. I had been afraid of the water too long to learn, unlike small children who learn to swim easily because they have not learned to fear water.

So, needless to say, I still cannot swim. But, ironically, I love to see water in any form: a river, lake, ocean, bay, or a bayou. No matter what I am experiencing in my life, just seeing water flowing is enough to calm my heart and mind, and to cause me to stop and consider just how small my problems really are in comparison. There is something about the enormity of an ocean that tends to shrink my seemingly huge problems down to very small issues. If my heart is heavy with grief or disappointment, just standing near a lake and seeing the perpetual movement of the water is enough to heal my damaged spirit.

For me, the life-giving properties of water gives it the ability to heal us. In his encounter  at a well in John 4, Jesus talks with a woman abandoned and rejected by other women and by five husbands, and He offers her living water for her battered soul, a form of water much more life sustaining and soul healing than the water from the well. He says to her, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life” (John 4:13-14).  He was offering her the gift of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, connecting us to God, the Creator of life, when we become believers. In John 7:39 it states, “When he said, “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him.”

This is the picture I see in my minds’ eye when I stand looking out over a body of water or when I hear the bubbling of a stream: the living water flowing into the hearts and minds of God’s people, refreshing us and healing our broken spirits. For me, our hurts, disappointments, and griefs are a form of thirst for something more life-affirming and life-sustaining than everyday food and water.  It beings me peace when I look at the oceans and remember the timelessness of them, of the countless numbers of people who have stood in the same place, having their problems reduced in size, their spirits lifted, and, therefore, their thirsts quenched. They were then able to keep moving forward just knowing that the oceans and rivers declare the reality and power of the living God, theirs and my Creator.

Revelations 22:1-2 reminds us, “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 for medicine to heal the nations.” When I look at a body of water, I am reminded that the waters existed before God created the earth, for Genesis 1:2 tells us that the earth was formless and empty, that darkness covered the deep waters, and that the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.”

From this beginning, the waters have represented the life-giving power of God. I cannot swim in it, but watching other people enjoy the water through swimming, surfing, and wind-surfing, I am reminded that God knew we would need more than just food from the bodies of water around us, but also the calming and peacefulness to our spirits when we think of the enormity of the waters and realize just how small and temporary our problems really are. I love to sit at the edge of the ocean, looking out across the vastness of it, not able to see its beginning or its end, and I thank God for the rivers of living water that quenches my many thirsts and connects me to the One who loves me so amazingly.

Dear God my Father,

      Thank you for the waters that bring us such joy and peace. When I see people enjoying the oceans or rivers, I am always amazed at the joy on their faces. It is as though You are healing them from the inside. It is beautiful to witness. For me, I have great respect for the hugeness of the waters, realizing that we must also show reverence and respect for the waters, not destroying them, for when a body of water dies, so do the hopes and dreams of countless people around them. Praise You, Abba, for the life-giving and life-affirming properties of the water that flows from our bellies, the Holy Spirit, that allows us to refresh others and ourselves. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

Out of the Darkness

I did not know what was happening. When I boarded the bus or the train to work, I would break out in a sweat and my heart would beat so hard that I just knew other people could hear it. I believed I was dying, and I was terrified of dying among strangers. Fellow passengers asked if they could help me, but I always said that I would be fine.  I would arrive at my destination, do my job all day, and then, go through the horror once again going home. Finally, the day came when I could not go to work because I could not force myself to get on a bus or a train. It was like living in darkness, even though the sun was shining every day, and I seemed to be looking at someone else live my life. That’s when I knew I needed help!

My doctor said that I was having panic attacks, and that they were caused by extreme stress and overwork. I worked 40 hours a week, volunteered at a shelter for women and children two days a week, was taking three college courses and I meant to make As in all three, had a boyfriend who wanted more of my time, and had a teenager still at home that needed my time and attention as well. I believed that I could do it all, so I never asked for help or thought to let something go. My sense of value and worth came from being the best that I could be at everything I did. So I operated every day in the darkness of perfectionism, trying to win the love and approval of others.  From when I was a little girl, it seemed that the only times people liked me or loved me were when I was making As and getting awards for being the best speller or the smartest student.

As I took the medications each day to keep the panic attacks at bay, I also started reading my Bible, for I knew that if I were to come out of the darkness in my life, I needed to connect to a light source that was greater than the darkness inside me. I had stopped going to church, mainly because I did not have the time to attend with all I had to do, but then I remembered Jesus’s words in John 8:12, “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.”

I had tried to find the light I needed to sustain me in my accomplishments and in my own intelligence, but those are just temporary light sources, ones with very short lifespans. They require constant energy on our part, and they can be taken away in the blink of an eye. For me, just getting a B in a class was enough to cast me back into the darkness. But Jesus is the Light that never goes out, and when we put our trust in Him, we do not need the approval of others, for He constantly reminds us in God’s words that we are more valuable than even the sparrows. I stopped volunteering, cut my classes down to two a semester, and stopped working on weekends, so I could attend church and reconnect to my light and life Source.

In Isaiah 50: 10-11, the prophet reminds us that the Lord must be the source of our light. He says, “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys his servant? If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the Lord and rely on your God. But watch out, you who live in your own light and warm yourselves by your own fires. This is the reward you will receive from me: You will soon fall down in great torment.”  There are few episodes in our lives more tormenting than walking in darkness, feeling separated from our God and from the people around us. God is our everlasting light, and He delights in bringing us out of our darkness and into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). 

Darkness comes in different forms for each of us, and it is not until we connect to the Light Source of the world, Jesus Christ our Lord, that we learn that our value and worth do not originate in the approval of others, but in the fact that we are created in God’s very image. If you are struggling in darkness today, be encouraged by the words of Paul in Ephesian 5:8, “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!” Let us be people of light, trusting in the One who hears and answers prayers, and then let our lights shine on others, helping to lift them out of the darkness that seeks to devour them. Praise the Lord!

Father in Heaven,

      Thank you for the Light from Heaven that shines on us and keeps us out of the darkness that threatens our sense of value and our very lives. Help us to be lights for others, leading them by our lights into Your presence. Oh, Lord, we need you every day!  Lord, you know what darkness each of us experiences, and thankfully, there is no darkness so great that You can not penetrate it and bring us into the light that saves us, for from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.  In Jesus’s Name, I pray. Amen.



Wisdom’s Amazing Value

Through the years, I have been blessed to have wise women placed in my life, just when I needed their sage advice the most. One in particular, Mrs. Carmichael, whom all her boarders called, “Mom,” always told me what I needed to hear, rather than what I wanted to hear, although I did not always heed her advice, of course. But, when I did listen and acted with good judgment, I avoided a lot of heartache and suffering for myself and my loved ones. The value of wisdom often is not understood until trouble comes. Then, a wise person becomes a God-send.

This is the lesson of the story of the wise woman from Abel-beth-maacah, known as the wise woman of Abel, found in Second Samuel 20. Joab, the commander of King David’s troops, was seeking a man named Sheba son of Bicri, who had disrespected King David. Joab’s forces attacked Abel-beth-maacah, determined to capture Sheba at any costs in innocent lives, without first offering a peaceful solution as was required by law (Deuteronomy 20:10-15). Then, a “wise woman in the town called out to Joab” (2 Samuel 20:16) from behind the wall of the city. Her name is not given, but she describes herself as a peace loving and faithful servant, and she tells him that her town belongs to the Lord.

She lets Joab know that her town has always been a seat of wisdom, where people came to settle arguments and ask advice. So, she asks him, “Why do you want to devour what belongs to the Lord?” (verse 19). He tells her that he does not want to devour or destroy; he simply wants Sheba son of Bicri. She assures him that the head of whom he seeks will be thrown over the wall.

The woman went to her people with her wise advice, which is not part of the text, but one can assume that she let them know it is better to give up the one man’s head than for all of them to die trying to protect him. Her advice was obviously heeded, for they gave Joab his head, and he called off his troops. She saved her whole town from destruction. I do not know if there were no men in the town willing to confront Joab, or if, as she was considered a wise woman, she was chosen because sound judgment was needed to keep everyone safe. What I do know is that because of her courage and her use of sensible words, the exact words that others on both sides needed to hear, as a means to solving a potentially deadly situation, she saved many lives, including her own.

Wisdom is needed so much today in the form of sage advice and the right words to deescalate the words of hatred and intolerance that seem to dominate in our discourse with other Americans. Whether liberal, conservative, or moderate, we need wise words to use to talk to each other, remembering that God loves the peacemakers of the world. Interestingly, in Proverbs 8:22, Wisdom tells us, ” The Lord formed me from the beginning, before he created anything else.” And Proverbs 3: 19 tells us that by wisdom the Lord founded the earth, and by understanding he created the heavens.

So, wisdom has been around longer than the earth has existed, with her amazing knowledge, deep understanding, keen discernment, and a capacity for sound judgment. In Proverbs 3, wisdom is described by feminine pronouns such as “her” and “she,” for it says in verses 14-16, “For wisdom is more profitable than silver, and her wages are better than gold. Wisdom is more precious than rubies and nothing you desire can compare with her. She offers you long life in her right hand, and riches and honor in her left.” As a woman, I find the prospect of wisdom as feminine very fascinating.

But, wisdom’s amazing value to us as a society today is found in the ability of the wise person to speak boldly and courageously to all people, using words that touch our hearts and lead us in the right directions towards love for God, for Jesus, for the Holy Spirit,and  for each other, including the foreigners among us. Let us seek to be wise above all other prizes in the world, and let us begin by seeking God’s will in all aspects of our lives, and then heeding His wise words.

Dear Father in Heaven, Abba,

    Grant us the wisdom you gave to King Solomon, so that we may know the right words to say at all times, especially when angry words are tearing apart relationships. Help us to heed sensible words when we hear them, words that will save us from so much pain and suffering. Give us discerning hearts to know a wise person when we are blessed to encounter them in our lives. Thank you for the wisdom found in Your words, for they are truly a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths. Bless you and praise to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.




All You Can Eat: No Restrictions

My children will not invite me to a buffet restaurant these days, because I don’t eat enough to justify their costs. As I watch them eat, I am amazed that I raised such gluttons. I mean, they can eat! The problem for me is not that I don’t like to eat, because I do, but when confronted with so much choice, I am tempted to eat a little of everything. So, to be safe, I only eat one plate of meat and vegetables, including salad, and one dessert. It drives my children bonkers! “Eat up!” “Try this, Grandma!” “Aren’t you still hungry?”  I try to eat sparingly, mainly because I am a diabetic, so I have to be careful! For my physical health, I have to show restraint, which is not easy. So, you can imagine how happy I am that for my spiritual health, I can eat all I want with no restrictions.

I know that my spiritual health is just as important as my physical health, and to be sure that I am keeping my heart, mind, and soul strong, I remember the words that a hungry Jesus said to Satan, who was trying to tempt Him to turn stones to bread if He were truly the Son of God. Jesus said, “It is written: Man must not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” For me, that means that to live as God requires of me, I need to feast on all of God’s words, and that I can eat of them until I am filled, just as the children of Israel did the manna from heaven that God sent for their survival (Deuteronomy 8: 3).

The prophet Ezekiel tells of when God told him to open his mouth and eat of the scroll filled with the words God wanted him to speak to the children of Israel. Ezekiel 3:1-2 states,” So I opened my mouth, and he fed me the scroll. ‘Son of man,’ he said to me, ‘feed your stomach and fill your belly with this scroll I am giving you.’ So, I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth.”  Likewise, Jeremiah states in Jeremiah 15:16, “Your words were found and I ate them. Your words became a delight to me and the joy of my heart, for I bear your name, O Lord.”  Lastly, John tells us in Revelation 10:8-11 that God instructed him to take the little scroll from the angel and eat it, stating that it would be bitter in his stomach, but as sweet as honey in his mouth. They told him that he must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings.

If we are to deliver God’s messages to a hungry and thirsty world, we must know them, and thankfully he has made them palatable to us. Sometimes they are not pleasant to read, but the knowledge of them constantly reminds us of His goodness in the land of the living. But more important to me than how they taste is how good they are for me. Paul in Second Timothy 3:16 reminds us, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true, and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”

Our spiritual health requires a daily helping of God’s words, to keep us strengthened by His words and to allow us to come into His presence every day. So, come on! Eat up! Get your fill! No restrictions on what you can eat or how much you can eat! No dieting here! Not only will we become spiritually healthy, but when we eat of his words, we have the words to speak that lead others to accept His invitation to His bountiful buffet which leads to eternal life. There’s no greater invitation out there today!

Dear Heavenly Father,

     Thank you for the words of life that are found in the Bible. Sometimes they convict me, making me aware that there are areas in my life that I need to work on, especially how quick I am to speak and how slow I am to listen. But, when I read the Psalms, I know what Ezekiel and others mean by the words being sweet to their mouths, for I feel such sweetness in my heart, a lightness that helps me get through my days. Thank you that every word helps me grow, and thank you, Holy Spirit for the understanding, wisdom, and knowledge that helps me teach others. I am fascinated by Your words, O Lord, so I will keep partaking of them. In Jesus’s Name, inspire our hearts to read Your word each day. Amen. O Lord, I pray.

I Couldn’t Believe He Chose Me!

As a child and, even today, as an adult, I have very few friends. I was a loner as a child, mainly because other children did not play with me. They had good reason not to do so. My mother did not teach my sister and me about hygiene, and because she worked two jobs to support us, for my father had left us, she never seemed to have time to teach us how to wash our clothes or to wash them herself. So, naturally when you reach into the dirty clothes for something to wear to school, amidst clothes stained and smelly, you don’t engender closeness from other children.

Also, my teacher had to comb my hair every day, which made me different from the pretty girls with bows in their hair. And because of the body odor from me, my desk was separate from the other children, which made me feel ashamed and sad. It was so bad that the windows had to be opened. I compensated by trying to be the smartest person in the class, so my teacher would like me.

I was eight and nine years old, and I did what I needed to do to go to school, because learning and reading books have always sustained me. Books became my friends, and reading became my sanctuary. Even when we went to live with an aunt that next year, after my mother left us at her house, and I was clean and sweet smelling at last, I still felt an outcast, playing alone, to avoid the “looks” and taunts. I still wonder how children so young become so mean-spirited.

Then, at church one Sunday morning, sitting on the first pew, I saw a light come through the window and it seemed to surround me, and in that moment, I knew that Jesus and God were real, and that everything I had heard about Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection was true! I could not explain how I knew, but I just knew that I was loved and that I was not alone anymore. I was baptized a week later, but nothing actually felt changed in my life.

Yet, as I read my Bible as a child, always parts of the four gospels and the Psalms, especially Psalm 23, because the rest of the Bible seemed too hard for a child to understand, I always felt a presence that comforted me when I missed my mother and father. I have since comprehended that we do not have to understand and know everything about God for His presence to be with us; we just have to believe He is there. Take the wind, I cannot see it,  but I can see the movement of the tree leaves, which lets me know the wind is real. The times when God has intervened in my life, I did not see him, but I saw the aftermath of His presence in my still being alive or having a need met that seemed impossible that assured me of His reality.

Even today, Isaiah 43: 1-2 reminds me, “Now this is what the Lord says—the one who created you, Jacob, and the one who formed you, Israel—“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine. I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched, when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.'”  Also, in Psalm 27:9-10 it says, “Do not hide your face from me; do not turn your servant away in anger. You have been my helper; do not leave me or abandon me, God of my salvation. Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord cares for me.”

The words of the Bible still comfort me and are a hiding place for me. As a child, to know I had a father and brother (and that’s the only way that as a child I could make sense of the relationships with the Father and His Son) who would never leave me alone when both my parents had abandoned my sister and me made life sweeter, if not always easier, although I missed my parents and wanted them to come back into our lives.

Today, I am still enamored that the light from heaven chose to shine on me. There were clean, less smelly children that He could have chosen to genuinely know that He and the Father were real. I thought I would have been the last person chosen to know Him, mainly because if your mother and father do not love you, how can other people love you, even God? But, in John 15:16, Jesus tells the disciples, says, “You didn’t choose me. I chose you.” I am still truly grateful that, like the lonely woman at the well,  He saw that lonely little girl who had no friends and who felt so unlovable,  and He chose me as one of His own! It’s truly amazing!

Father in Heaven,

  After all these years, I am still amazed that You came into my life so wonderfully. I still believe, O God, that You are with me and will not leave me or forsake me. You have been faithful. Has life always been easy? No way! But, just knowing that I was not alone, and that You can see what others cannot see in our lives, I have been, and continue to be, comforted in times when the rivers of pain and cruelty and the fires of injustice and evil have seemed about to overwhelm me.  I knew that if I waited patiently, You would come rescue me, and You did. I am Yours, the sheep of Your pasture, and I am still humbled by Your presence in our lives. Let Your presence be felt in Texas and Louisiana, O Lord! In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

Leap in the Dark

My friend texted me that all religion is based on (blind) Faith. I trust one thing, he trusts another, but ultimately it comes down to saying, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it, or some similar statement for other religions.” I wondered about how common this perception that one must pick a religion and take a leap in the dark, hoping that they chose the right one, but ultimately having no way of knowing if that religion’s picture of the afterlife is true.

I have thought about the different ways that people have gained their faith. Some have grown up in that culture and the cost of leaving the religion is so high that it scares them. Some have grown up listening to mama and if it is good enough for mama, it is good enough for me. Others base it on the supernatural. Some look at their religious book and talk about the miracles it describes.

Some, though, need something now. Many go from one miracle service to another. Even if it is run by Charlatans, they seem to get a boost to their faith from it. Others want more personal miracles. Some even see God’s work and direction from how the stoplights turn. I also think of the people who use the logical argument, such as the clockmaker. Look at the universe. This can only be made by a God. Though God can work through events in daily life, should we base our faith on these things? The Bible seems to make the clockmaker argument, but is that sufficient?

I have always hated the leap in the dark. I also dislike basing my faith on what a non-believer would see as random chance. When I was looking for meaning in my life, it bothered me that religions had nothing I could put to the test. I hungered for something more scientific. Finally, I found it one night. It keeps being reinforced.

Rom 8:9 says something interesting, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” Here is something we can test, but how? In verse 11, It says, “the Spirit will give life to your mortal bodies.” If we are alive, what does it mean to be given life? V13 says, “If by the

Spirit, you are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, you will live.” This is something great! Once we have the Spirit, We should see our life changing. We should see sins (deeds of the flesh) disappearing, and a growth in Godliness! There is another point. In Rom 12:2If we let the Spirit transform us by the renewing of our minds, we will know the will of God. Our expectation of going to heaven is not based by a leap of faith. It is based on seeing God active in our lives. The Spirit that changes our lives is said to be a down-payment so we can know we can trust him for the rest. (2 Cor 1:21, 2 Cor 5:5, Eph 1:13-4) When we see God answering His promises in the Bible, we have learned that God is trustworthy in what He says about the future.

The Humble Witness

I had to go sign up for jury duty today. We all lined up on the sidewalk as we waited our turn to go through the metal detector. I watched as a shabby, bearded, long-haired man stood on the street and preached to the pedestrians. He was loudly proclaiming that they were sinners and needed to repent and receive Jesus. He thundered certain Bible verses at them. The other people avoided looking at him and some laughed nervously, hoping to enter the building soon. I wondered if it was a way he had to make himself feel good about himself and be able to look down on the others, instead of truly caring for the people.

It reminded me of other times I have seen men preaching on the street corners. People would see him ahead, cross the busy street, walk past him and then cross back over the street. They would rather take chances with the traffic than be accosted directly by him. I took note of that, and said to myself, “When I witness, I will not make that mistake.” I thought, They aren’t taking to and learning how the person feels. I need to know what the person feels he needs. That helped, but little did I realize that there was something I wasn’t seeing.

Slowly, over time, I realized that I was still making that same kind of mistake as the street preacher. When I went to Bible School, we had to do service projects. Witnessing was one. We would go downtown, and usually talk to drunks and downtrodden people. I wondered that I didn’t feel comfortable talking to high status people, nor did they want to talk to me. This puzzled me.

Later, as I went out with church members, I watched puzzled as they did a similar thing. They had outreach programs to homeless, to the inmates, feeding the poor, and similar activities. If they went door to door, they went to lower class neighborhoods. I also realized that there seemed some subtle racism involved. If they were among people of another race, one that they felt was inferior to their own, they could talk to the higher class individuals. I watched, prayed, and thought about what was going on, and would try different theories.

Then, when I went overseas as a missionary, I saw that the missionaries again felt comfortable talking to higher class people about the Gospel. Why could we talk to them, but not the high class individuals in our own group? The light began to come on when I saw my church making bags to hand out to the homeless. We had quite an assembly line but needed more helpers. I suggested that we ask non-church people in the neighborhood if they wanted to help make the bags. I thought it would be a great way to establish ties with them. I was shot down, but the seed was planted.

Recently I saw a daughter of mine who is not following the Christian life join with a group, started by a Christian, and go to Mexico to build houses. This helped me notice something in the Bible. Jesus asked the Samaritan woman to help him get a drink of water. He asked Peter to row him out so he could preach to the crowd. He asked Philip, how are we going to feed all these people? Don’t forget how He put himself in a position to be criticized by Mary and Martha. Even when He was dealing with the Jewish leaders, He did things that they thought they could criticize Him for. When the other people thought they were in a position of strength, they wanted to carry on the dialog and heard Him more than If He put Himself in a position of strength.

This has been the problem. We try to put ourselves in a position of strength, a way that makes ourselves feel good about ourselves. Though we might be doing friendship evangelism instead of street corner preaching, if we seek the position of strength, we are no different, no better than the street preacher that we scorn. A nursing mother is meek, much more powerful than the baby, but restrains herself and lets the baby dictate the terms. In humility, we need to be meek evangelists. It doesn’t hurt us to treat the other people with respect, grant them honor and stop trying to approach them acting all superior.

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