DON’T GIVE IN TO WEARINESS

It has been seven years since I started visiting with James, now 95 years old, at the nursing home. Even though we have had Bible studies and he asks me to talk with him about specific verses that seem to confuse him, there has been no obvious desire on his part to show any growth. When his eye sight was better, he would read his Bible and even let me help him work through study guides. He has been interested in what certain verses mean, but has never seemed to grasp the eternal significance of them.

Sunday I once again went with the church’s group to the monthly afternoon service we held at the nursing home. James was on the phone when I went to his room to get him, so we came late into the service. He heard most of Charlie’s message and then Charlie began to pray.

I felt lead to ask him bluntly, “James, do you know for certain that Jesus is your Savior?

His response was, “I get confused whether I am or not.”

I asked him, “Would you like to settle it once and for all right now?”He nodded his head and said “Yes.” “Then tell Jesus that you know you are a sinner, and you want him to forgive your sins and be your Savior.” Right there, while Charlie was still praying, James prayed out loud to receive God’s gift of eternal life.

When the service was finished, my wife came over. I asked James to tell her what he just did. “I asked Jesus to forgive my sins and come into my life “ She put her arm around him, gave him a hug, and said “Now we are going to be in heaven together for all eternity.” Charlie and others came over to him and each time I asked him to tell them what he just did. Every time he seemed a little more excited about sharing. And he smiled when they rejoiced over his decision.

So dear friends, let’s remember the Lord’s message to us in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Suppose I had said, “James doesn’t really seem to be interested in making the Scriptures a part of his life. You know, Emily, I have been witnessing to James for seven years, I’m very tired and even a little weak today. I think I will stay home. One day won’t matter.”

But it was God’s timing, and there was a harvest that I will be able to share in for all eternity. Praise the Lord. To encourage us all to share our faith, Daniel 12:3 is priceless, “Those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars for ever and ever.”

Angels on the Gravel Road

She turned the wheel to cut across the gravel mound in the center of the road, and I was thrown into my younger brother’s lap sitting next to me. The story paper I was reading flew into the air, and I felt like I was on a tilt-a-whirl at a traveling carnival.

The gravel road had recently been graded and a 10-inch mound in the middle of the road had been left by the grader. We were enjoying a quiet, sunny drive on our way home from church . Wilma was driving, Glenn was in the passenger seat, and Dick and I were in the back.

The right side of the road was still a little bumpy so Wilma changed to the other side, which looked smoother. As soon as she crossed over, she realized it was a two-lane road and whipped the car back over the mound. That’s when the story from the Sunday School paper abruptly ended. The next thing I remember was being thrown on top of Dick as the car flipped and landed on its right side in the ditch. Dick ended up against the right door and my head struck the back of the seat.

I could hear the wheels spinning and Wilma screaming, “Is anybody hurt?”

Glenn yelled, “Just a little shook up.”

As I sat up, Glenn was standing up and was rolling down the front window. He scrambled through the open window, crouched down and hoisted Wilma out, then Dick and me. It was a funny sight seeing them disappear through the window.

Dick was sobbing. “I’m scared,” he said. All I could think about was my Sunday School paper. I wanted to see how Carl, a boy my age, kept from getting a spanking from his dad.

There we sat, all four of us, on the side of the car, all a little bewildered. “I guess I cut the wheel too quick,” Wilma mumbled.

“You sure did and you almost got us all killed,” Glenn responded. He scooted down the door, hung his legs over the side of the chassis and jumped down to the ground. Then he helped the rest of us down.

We took bodily inventory and discovered that we just had a few for scratches and bruises. Wilma had us hold hands in the middle of the road, and she thanked the Lord no one was killed or badly injured. When she finished praying and said “Amen,” I repeated the “Amen.”

Before long, a farmer came by with a partially-loaded hay wagon. “Hop on, and I’ll take you home.” What a sight we must have been! Wilma’s stockings were badly torn, and her hat was hanging crooked on her head, held on only by the large hat pins she had in it. Dick was still crying, Glenn’s dress trousers were ripped in the seat so I could see his underwear, and I was rubbing a big bump on my head.

As we were bouncing along the road dangling our legs over the hay wagon, Dick asked, “Weren’t you scared, Leon?”

“It happened so fast there was no time to be scared.”

We always prayed for safety when we got ready to leave church. Perhaps God was reinforcing Hebrews 1:14, “Isn’t it obvious that all angels are sent to help out with those lined up to receive eternity with our Creator-God.” (The Message) It could be to get our attention. Our prayer life a little too limited, God our Father wants to hear our voices in prayer more often. Perhaps God needed to teach us not only to listen but also to trust more in the words of the Lord. “Don’t fool yourselves into thinking you are a listener when you just letting the word go in one ear and out the other.” (James 1:22, The Message)

“Didn’t the pastor say something about guardian angels protecting us?”

“I don’t remember,” Dick said.

“Well, you oughta listen to the sermon. With Wilma driving, we’re gonna need all the protection we can get!”

Excerpted from my memoir, Naked With Clothes On

This Is My Son

Then a cloud appeared, (Shekinah, the glory cloud, throughout the OT symbolic of God’s presence, Exodus 13:21), and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud (Mark 9:7)

“This is my Son.”

Not the carpenter’s son who helped sand a wooden table Joseph had just assembled; Not Mary’s son although she willingly gave birth to Jesus, God’s Son; No, the Shekinah voice declared, “This is MY (emphasis added) Son.”

“Whom I love”

What is it that God loves the most? His holiness, his sovereignty, his omniscience? No, His Son. And if God loves him the most, then we better align our love where God’s love is. When’s the last time you told God you love his Son? When’s the last time you told someone else that you love Jesus.?

In one of John Piper’s meditations he said, “I’m man enough to say, I love Jesus.” Dr David Jeremiah said recently in a sermon, “I want everyone to know, I love Jesus.”

“Listen to Him.”

But to listen presupposes that you hear his voice. The sheep listen to the voice of the shepherd “He calls his own by name and he leads them” (John 10:3) and “I know my sheep and my sheep know me “(John 10:14).

Why is it important to hear His voice? Simon Peter gives us the answer: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:67, 68).

These are the conditions from which you “listen.” You know him and he knows you. You recognize his voice and you follow him.” So we listen to his voice and shut out any distracting voices from our ears.

Like Jesus on that mountain praying when the Glory cloud settled on him, does it settle on us when we’re alone talking with Jesus?

Let’s practice hearing his voice and listening to it.

 

My memoir Naked With Clothes On will be published the end of September.

Crying in Your Beer

Barrels

When my brother and I, about 8 and 10 years old, waited in the bar till dad took us home, I often heard the expression “Crying in Your Beer.” A sharecropper would take his troubles to the bar, order a few beers, and, as the liquor loosened his tongue, feeling down in the dumps, he’d unload all his miseries on the bartender.

A poor sharecropper, dependent on rain and God’s favorable weather, had a lot to grumble about. Drought that caused hundreds of acres of corn crops to burn up; a wife confined to bed for a month with a serious pneumonia; a landlord who cheated him out of his fair share percentage of the harvest that year. And it seemed no one cared.

The psalmist in Psalm 88 had his share of woes, too. “For my soul is full of troubles” (v 3); “I am like a man without strength” (v 4); “You have overwhelmed me with all your waves (v 7); and “darkness is my closest friend” (v 18).

Unlike the bartender, who could only listen, the psalmist had hope. He could offer this prayer, “O Lord, the one who saves me, day and night I cry out before you” (v 1). At times the psalmist felt that the Lord had rejected him and hid his face from him, so he cried out to him. The psalmist’s cry was transparent. He acknowledged that God had “put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths” (v 6).

In the last few months I’ve cried out to the Lord as the psalmist did. I felt so overwhelmed I couldn’t see any rescue or help. Besides my cancer, I had one health problem after another.

Thankfully he gently reminds us that he not only hears our terrors and despair, but also dries up our tears as he takes us through the miseries of life. So we pray, “I call to you, O Lord, every day;” (v 8) and “you turn your ear to my cry” (v 2). He’s much superior to any bartender! God not only listens; He answers our cries and delivers us.

Love on Display

What an amazing truth that Jesus prayed for us before we were even born!

Hearing Jesus petition his Father for restoration of the deep love they shared before the creation of the world allows us to hear about a love far beyond our comprehension. And Jesus doesn’t just tell us of his love, he demonstrates it.

When Jesus saw the crowd following him, he had compassion on them and healed their sick (Matt 14:14). When Jesus saw Mary weeping, he wept. The Jews said, “See how he loved him!”(John 11:35, 36). “Jesus looked at him [the rich young man] and loved him” (Mark 10:21). And the final display of compassion was his love payment for our sin at Golgotha.

Do you begin to feel a new depth in Jesus’s love for you as you realize that when he prayed before he went to the cross, he was already praying that we would know how deeply his Father loves us (John 17:23). Further in his high priestly prayer, Jesus wanted God’s love to be in his followers, “that the love you have for me may be in them” (v 26).

So when we are in need of being loved and valued, listen to how he prayed for us because the Father loved us from eternity past. Jesus prayed we’ll know that love God has for us. If we feel unloved and deserted, let’s be comforted as we hear Jesus pray for us from a heart full of an eternal love.

If you want to feel Jesus’ love flood your heart, please read John 17. Jesus’ words will change your life!

Haiku Images

I thought you might appreciate reading through the Haiku Cluster that the judges thought were worthy of first place winner in the competition. All of the haiku spring from the Scriptures related as listed.

Appropriate for the Easter season is “To say ‘I love you’ God sent a cross.” The truth that we are co-heirs with the eternal Godhead is incomprehensible, but the Scriptures certainly remind us how rich we are in Christ.

If a haiku or two moves you and you would like to share your thoughts, I would love to meditate on them with you.
A HAIKU CLUSTER
I bequeath to you,                                                                   Romans 8:17a
every sunrise I’ve painted,
all originals. -God

Adam, while you slept,                                                           Genesis 2:21-22
God slipped Eve into your bed,
then he left, smiling.

To say “I love you,”                                                                  John 19:17-18
we send flowers or a card,
but God sent a cross.

Five little fingers                                                                       Luke 2:7
squeeze young Mary’s nose and face
as God lies on straw.

Often mothers ’ prayers                                                         I Samuel 1:27
mend the broken jars of clay
they molded from birth.

Silent, by a grave,                                                                   II Corinthians 1:4
arm around a friend, healing
a hole in the heart.

Before life’s bookends                                                         Amos 4:12b
squeeze away your last-held breath,
prepare for closure.

A Conference to Remember Part 2

Here’s the followup to last week’s conference message.

The Keynote Address for the FCW Conference was given by Brian Bird, a 30-year veteran of the Hollywood film and televison business. Brian’s writing and producing work comprises nearly 250 episodes of network television, including Touched by an Angel, and his own original series currently airing on the Hallmark Channel, When Calls the Heart. Through him, the Lord challenged me to keep writing to keep his truth alive and to inspire others to write to praise him.

Torry Martin, an award-winning actor, screenwriter, and comedian, has written feature length scripts. He taught a continuing class, “Writing Screenplays for Everything, but the Big Screen.” He is an enthusiastic, humorous, very creative catalyst. We had great fellowship and in our conversations, I was humbled when he asked me to collaborate with him on a coming project.

Three publishers expressed an interest in my Biblical studies on Prayers of the Bible and my devotionals.

The conference climaxed with the Awards Banquet Dinner and I was humbled again when I received second-place winner in non-fiction for my Memoir, Naked With Clothes On, and completely overwhelmed with first-place winner in poetry for my Haiku Cluster.

I came away from the conference inspired, encouraged, challenged, and full of new ideas and directions. I am thankful for God’s confirmation that he wants me to continue writing my devotional blog Guarded Hearts and devotional articles for Christian Broadcasting Network.

There are other conferences that we as Christians have attended and been blessed and encouraged by. How about sharing your challenging and encouraging ones with me?

Remember, the new name for my blog is GUARDED HEARTS.

A Conference to Remember

Last week my wife and I had the privilege of attending the Florida Christian Writers Conference at Lake Yale in central Florida. What an exciting adventure from the moment we registered on Wednesday afternoon and picked up our room key until we left on Sunday afternoon after lunch.

The time was filled with speakers, appointments with publishers and critique personnel, continuing classes and workshops. I learned so much from them as I had opportunities to talk about my writing – haiku, memoir, devotionals, and Bible studies for small groups. Outstanding!

But the most rewarding experience was spending time with Christian people who have the same love for our Lord and want to share it through their love of writing.

Marti Pieper, chaplain for the conference, critiqued my memoir, Naked with Clothes On. Diane Matthews critiqued my devotionals and also taught 3 days of 2-hour classes honing our skills in devotional writing.

More about it next week. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you if you have ever attended a Christian Writers Conference, or any other Christian Conference. It’s a time of getting to know fellow believers who are also on life’s spiritual journey. What a time we are having on this earth, and we only see through a glass darkly until we are eternally with the Lord.

I am asking the Lord to help me improve my writing skills so that they can “Spur one another to love and good works” (Heb 10:24).

NOTE THE NAME CHANGE: The blog name has been changed from Umbilical to Guardedhearts.

Ridiculed

I remember Patty, in my seventh grade, who wore braces on both legs. Always pleasant and never grumbled or complained about her handicap, she struggled from class to class and her laborious effort to maneuver her crutches echoed on the oak floors. When I heard her, I held the heavy oak door open for her.

Generally, Patty was ignored but sometimes she was ridiculed. One time the boys hid her crutches. When the dismissal bell rang, she reached under her chair, feeling around for her crutches, and almost fell. The hot water radiators had ledges above them and someone had laid the crutches there. I got them for her.

As I stepped into the hall, a student grabbed my arm and laughed in my ear,“Maybe she’d go to the basketball game tonight with ya. You wouldn’t have to hold her hand.”

As he took off, I grabbed him by the shoulder, and asked, “Suppose she was your sister? Would you want her treated that way?

He walked away, but I stood there, as she labored to leave the building, my mind asking, God, why are we humans so cruel to one another? Then I burst through the heavy oak doors myself, pleased that I had confronted him. I passed her scooting down the three concrete steps, dragging her crutches. I ran to the bus and didn’t look back, wiping my eyes on my shirt sleeve.

An Old Testament prophet Jeremiah was derided all the time for preaching the unpopular Word from God and so he complained, “God, I am ridiculed all day long, everyone insults me all day” Jeremiah 20:7b. “I became the laughingstock of all people; they mock me in song all day long” Lamentations 3:14.

Why do we ridicule the handicapped, oppressed, and less fortunate? Psychologists tell us that it is to get pleasure from the misfortune of others, to fit in with the group so we’re not different, and to make ourselves important by putting others down. Human nature wants others to conform and to think and act as they do, an admirable trait if the conformity is positive and Godly.

Here are a few Scriptural burs under our saddles to help us find out where we are in our attitudes toward those who are belitted.“He who despises his neighbor sins” Proverbs 14:21a. Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her” Genesis 16: 6b. “They oppress the poor, the needy, and mistreat the aliens” Ezekiel 22:29. “Remember those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” Hebrews 13:3. This remembrance ought to motivate us to remove a few of the burs.

“Eternal compassionate Lord, give me eyes to see and feel as the less fortunate. Forgive my insensitivity when I ignore helping others and tenderize me with your compassionate heart so I feel like Jesus who healed the crippled, made blind eyes to see, cast out tormenting demons, fed multitudes, calmed storms, and raised the dead. Show me that same Power as I interact with those different from me, particularly the mistreated. Please keep the truth of Hebrews 13:3 alive in me, deep down in my heart and mind. Then and only then will I learn to reach out to those who are ridiculed and mistreated. Amen.”
——————–
Excerpted from my memoir Naked With Clothes On soon to be published

Post-Christmas Reflections

 

 

 

Now that credit cards are maxed out, gifts exchanged and/or returned, resolutions vowed to spend less next Christmas on gifts, rethinking the real purpose for exchanging gifts, and shredding Santa’s wish lists, can I take the liberty to share a gift idea?

When faced with a gift for my wife, I asked what can I give she can’t wear, she can’t eat, and she can’t set around the house as a trinket? I awoke one night with The Twelve Days of Christmas on my mind, a song my wife really likes.

Bingo! Why not a play on those words with The Twelve PRAYERS of Christmas?

So I started writing down some of her needs and wants and eventually had a list of twenty. I prayed for wisdom as I reduced them to twelve prayers. I hope you enjoy reading three of them as much as I enjoyed composing them.

On the First Day of Christmas my true love prayed for “more meaningful occasions to fulfil my music needs.” On the Sixth Day of Christmas my true love prayed for “me to find more opportunities to socialize and fellowship with my sisters in the Lord,” and On the Ninth Day of Christmas my true love prayed for “me to strengthen my holy habit of daily, personal Bible study.”

I have written this devotional to “stir up in my brothers and sisters in the Lord to love and good works.” It’s something I wanted to share. Maybe it challenges you to come up with a special idea for your loving spouse. Anyway, just enjoy something different from me.