THE BABY SHOWER

Last weekend we had a baby shower for my granddaughter who is expecting her first baby.  This little girl who is on the way is a much longed for and planned for baby.  We are all excited and looking forward to welcoming her into the world.  And when she gets here she is going to be well equipped!  It takes a lot of gear for a tiny baby!  And it’s all so big and takes up so much space!  I told my granddaughter she and her husband might need a bigger house.  

It was so much fun watching her unwrap all the cute baby girl things, and to see all the interesting and useful gadgets new parents want today.  I think most of us do the best we can as parents based on what we know.  But the “best” I did fifty years ago would probably get me reported to child protective services today.  My seat belt was an arm thrown across a child riding in the front seat.  And my car seat was a flimsy metal and plastic thing with a toy steering wheel on the front that would impale a baby in a wreck.  But that was the best at that time.  We didn’t know.  As parents we all have hopes and dreams for our children, and we want the very best for them.

Did you know that God planned for you and had hopes and dreams for you?  Before God ever created the universe, before He ever said, “Let there be light,” He was thinking of you.  The Bible tells us in Psalm 139 that God has a book for each of us, and in those books He recorded every moment of our lives before time even began.  I think of it as my big planner in heaven. God was thinking about and making plans for us, and writing them down in our planners. The same Psalm says His thoughts about us cannot even be counted; they outnumber the grains of sand.  He has been thinking about us since before time began.

God knew the day we would be conceived, the day we would be born, the day we will die, and every day in between.  And all those thoughts He was thinking?  Those are His plans for us, our purpose for being alive on earth.  And He showered us with gifts, especially the gift of salvation, again, before the beginning of time.  Just as my granddaughter is gathering everything she needs for her yet-to-be-born baby, God had everything we would ever need to carry out our purpose in place long before we were born.  

Have you ever thought about why you are living at this particular time in history?  God has the answer recorded in your book.  That answer is your purpose for being here.  And He even promises to come along side us to help us carry out those plans.  However, we have a choice.  We can live our lives our own way, go about our business, and never even consult Him about His plan for us.  God won’t force us to carry out His plan.  But what if we miss out on the best life we could ever experience?  

You might be thinking that you don’t have time to carry out some grand plan because you have a job to get to, laundry to fold, children to care for, and groceries to buy.  Well those things could very well be God’s plan for you today.  Not all of us are called to be a Billy Graham or a Mother Teresa.  And not every day is going to be a grand mountaintop day.  But if you ask Him, He might just help you carry out a special assignment in the midst of your daily routine.  Or He might help you do the mundane with grace and love.   

Revelation 21:4 tells us that when we get to heaven, God will wipe away all our tears.  I have a friend who believes that some of those tears will fall when we see our books opened up, when we see what God had planned for us that we missed.  Even after all these years I have to remind myself every morning to consult God about my day.  I certainly don’t get it right all the time, but I want to.  I don’t want to miss out on my purpose.                  

LETTER TO MY 18-YEAR OLD SELF

It’s May again and graduation ceremonies are happening all across the United States.  Students walk across the stage to receive their diplomas while proud parents snap photos and cheer as if graduating high school were the most amazing feat ever accomplished.  This year we have two graduates.  Jack graduated last Saturday from OU, and Ellie Grace will graduate from high school tomorrow night.  These events have given me a chance to think about what life is going to be like for these seniors.  So with that in mind, I am recycling a blog I wrote a few years ago, with some minor tweaking.  

I graduated from what was at the time the largest high school in Texas.  The Bryan Adams class of 1964 had almost 1000 members.  Now it is a whopping 57 years later!  It hardly seems possible.  With so many graduates, graduation was a long and boring affair.  I don’t remember who gave the commencement address and I certainly don’t remember what was said.  I was probably too busy thinking about the all-night party that was to follow.  I wish I had paid attention because someone probably worked hard to impart some words of wisdom.  Although I thought I knew everything, I could have used some sage advice.

If I could speak now at my own graduation ceremony, what would I say to my 18-year old self?

1. The first thing I would say is “Look around.  Embrace this evening.  This is the last time you will all be together.”  At 18, I did not realize that people would move away and not return.  And I did not know that young people would die.  There was a war at the time.  Young men (and women) would sacrifice their lives in the service of their country.  Even though you all will be going off in different directions, stay in touch with people who matter.  Those friendships are worth keeping.  Sadly, at this point in our lives our classmates are dying.  Death was not even on my radar at 18.

2. Nurture your faith.  I was a baby believer at 18.  I knew I was going to Heaven, but I did not realize the claim that Jesus had on my life.  If I had developed a better relationship with Him I could have saved myself a few wrong turns.

3. Don’t be in such a hurry.  Enjoy your late adolescence and early twenties.  But at the same time, life is short.  This is the time to make careful preparations for the life you want to have.  Make deliberate choices instead of just drifting.  Live life intentionally.

4.  Life is too hard to live alone.  Stay close to your family.  VISIT YOUR GRANDPARENTS.  They will not be here forever.  Choose your spouse carefully.  Invest time in the lives of your children.  Someday they may be choosing your nursing home. 

5. Choose to live a life that makes a difference.  There are many different ways you can do this, and your path will be different from mine.  Leave the world a better place.  Spend some of your time on earth doing things that have a lasting significance.  Consider what you want your legacy to be.

6. Use your money wisely.  Be a generous giver and save for the future.  Don’t let the pursuit of money consume you.  Invest early in a retirement account because the goal line will keep moving.  

7. You are going to have some failures, but they do not define you.  Setbacks and roadblocks can help you find your true north.  

8. Keep learning and growing.  Never lose your curiosity.  The world is a big place.  See more of it.  Read good books.

9. Take a few risks.  You are capable of more than you think.  When you know what you are supposed to do, don’t listen to the naysayers.  

10. And finally, although I would not have understood this in 1964, I would give myself this important advice.  Someday you are going to have something called a hard drive.  Always back it up.

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no delight in them.”   Ecclesiastes 12:1 (NASB). 

The Red River Death March

This morning I was remembering an event that happened at least twenty years ago—maybe longer. We had taken a trip to Santa Fe and Red River, New Mexico.  That area is such a beautiful part of the southwestern United States and an easy drive from Oklahoma.  We have been there several times, and enjoy the beautiful scenery every time we go.  The memory that popped up this morning is what we now fondly refer to as “The Red River Death March.”  Did that pique your interest?

So I had this bright idea that Jerry and I would take a day hike.  To say that he wasn’t interested would be an understatement, but he reluctantly agreed.  We got a map of the various trails in the area and picked out one that we thought would be doable.  Now I need to preface this story by telling you we had absolutely NO experience in hiking.  But how hard could it be?  So we set off in our sneakers with one plastic water bottle each.  Unprepared.

We walked for a bit, maybe about forty-five minutes or so, on a fairly even trail.  “This isn’t too hard,” I thought.  “I wonder how far we have to go.”  Eventually we saw a large open area…it was a parking lot!  Well that was strange.  What was a parking lot doing on the trail?  Then we saw it.  A sign.  “Trail Head.”  What the…?!  You mean we haven’t even gotten on the trail yet??  And we could have driven our car to this point?  Jerry was already suggesting we call it good, but oh no.  By golly, I wanted to hike this trail.

So off we went, already a little tired.  The trail began to ascend as we walked up the mountain.  Now I am pretty sure this was designated an “easy” hike, maybe “moderate” at most.  But a long hike for me was once around the mall.  Again…unprepared.  Up we went, the altitude getting higher, the air getting thinner, huffing and puffing and one of us grumbling.  By now Jerry is NOT a happy camper!  At one point he even threated to turn around and leave me, but that was something he would never do, so we kept climbing higher.  

Finally we were rewarded.  We reached the end of the trail and there was a beautiful lake surrounded by pine trees. The view was worth the sore muscles, although I’m not sure Jerry was enjoying is as much as I was.  I would have loved to have sat on a rock for about an hour just to enjoy the beauty, but by now we were about 2 ½ hours in and the weather was beginning to change.  A light misty rain had changed into ice and or course we had no jackets.  We needed to get back down the mountain before dark.     

Well we discovered that going down uses an entirely different set of muscles than going up.  Oh yay!  More places to be sore.  And the trail was getting slippery.  At one point I went skidding down on my rear!  At least I was making good time.  Did I mention Jerry was not happy?  Finally we reached our car, exhausted, sunburned, wet, and tired.  But we had bragging rights!  We survived The Red River Death March!  And now we can laugh about it.

As I was remembering our hike this morning, I thought about our walk through this life.  There are times when it is easy and we can just enjoy the journey.  But there are other times that may be steep, slippery, and uncharted.  We had better be well prepared for our life walk.  I can’t even imagine doing it without God.  My preparations include staying in the Word, being prayed up, and hiking along with a group of other Believers.  At my age I can look back and see all the trails God and I have walked.  But there is still an unknown trail ahead, and time is getting shorter.  Night is coming.  The one thing I know for sure is that I don’t have to walk alone and I can trust Him.  My verse for this year is Psalm 77:19.  I just keep putting one foot in front of the other as God reveals the path.

Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters— a pathway no one knew was there!

Little Acorns

I was doing a little work in my flowerbed this morning and pulled up this little Water Oak.  I think people call trees like this “volunteers” because they just sprout up on their own, without being planted.  It is fascinating to see that it is still attached to the acorn.  I was reminded of the saying, “Great oaks from little acorns grow.”  I like this saying, and think about it whenever I am beginning a big task.  But this morning I was thinking about our own little acorns…our grandchildren that are too quickly growing into oaks.

I know I sound really old here, but where did the time go?  It seems like only a short time ago when they were all little, and now the youngest is finishing elementary school this month.  I am especially thinking of the two graduations we will celebrate in the next few days.  

Tomorrow will be Jack Foster Day as he graduates from OU.  Oh how we celebrate this graduation!  The tiny acorn that was once a preschooler has now completed college.  But then overnight he will turn into an acorn again as he begins his working life, and he is stressing a bit about finding a job.  To Jack I want to say, don’t worry about your first job.  Trust me, it will not be your last.  It used to be that people got a job, worked at it for thirty years, got a gold watch, and retired.  But things have changed.  In our current age, people change careers (not just  jobs) three times during their working lifespan.  “Just get a degree,” we told him.  A degree is a ticket.  You will figure it out.  

When I was forty-eight I enrolled in two classes at what was then Tulsa Junior College.  I wanted to get the degree I never got when I was young.  There was a verse from the Bible that was a source of encouragement to me, and I share it today with Jack:

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work beginZech. 4:10

My small beginning was a little acorn that grew into a Ph.D.  Jack, just put one foot in front of the other and trust that the Lord will lead you to the place you need to be.  I can already see the might oak you will become.

Our other graduate is Ellie Grace Herrold who graduates from Bishop Kelly next Friday.  We have watched you blossom, Girl!  There are so many wonderful experiences ahead as you enter Belmont University in the fall. You have exciting plans, and I can’t wait to watch them unfold.  I have shared many verses with you in the last days…I want to make sure I tell you everything I am supposed to share with you.  So this one more verse I give you as you spread your wings:

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.  Psalm 20:4            

We cover all our children, grandchildren, and our great-grands in prayer…even our unborn little girl.  We have a lot of moving parts in our family, and some of our acorns get more prayer than others depending on what season they are in.  I am so grateful that I can trust a God who loves them even more than I do.  To all of them, my prayer for you is to stay in God’s Word.  That is the way for an oak tree to grow and flourish.

But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night.  They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.  Psalm 1:2-3

A CALL TO GRANDPARENTS

One of Satan’s oldest and most effective tactics is to go after the family.  It is as old as the book of Genesis.  In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve to live together in perfect intimacy.  That was God’s blueprint for marriage.  The Bible says they were both naked and not ashamed (Gen. 2:25), and I think He was referring to more than just physical nakedness.  They were real, honest, and open with each other.  But then came Satan.  They started blaming each other and hiding.  Hiding from God and from one another.  Genesis goes on to tell us they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves (Gen. 3:7), and men and women have been covering their true selves from each other ever since.  They lost intimacy — real, emotional, vulnerable intimacy.

But that was not enough for Satan.  He then went after their children.  One brother murdered another.  Satan knew if he could create conflict in our families he could distract us from our calling, our purpose.  If you have been a parent for any time at all, you know this to be true.  It is hard not to worry or be preoccupied when you have a child or a grandchild in trouble.  

For about a year I have been a part of a small group of women who meet every Monday to pray.  We have been praying big, bold prayers for our country.  We are pleading with God to bring another Great Awakening, a national repentance, a revival of the church and a harvest of lost souls to come to the Lord.  But this week we decided to shift our focus a bit and pray for families.  We are aware that we have poked the bear.  But the devil cannot have our families!  It has been said that as the family goes, so goes the nation and the whole world in which we live.  Satan seeks to destroy the nuclear family, and at the risk of getting political and acquiring haters, this ploy is straight out of the Marxist playbook.  Erwin Lutzer, in his book We Will Not Be Silenced, asserts that it is the nuclear family that is the biggest obstacle to cultural Marxism.  I highly recommend this book to every Believer.   

I am writing this post today as an exhortation to prayer, especially to grandparents.  Grandparents, particularly those who are retired, have the luxury of time that we didn’t have when we were in our busy child-rearing years.  It may seem that there is not much that this one ordinary woman can do to turn the tide of culture that is threatening our homes.  But I can pray.  Prayer may seem like the least I can do, but in reality, prayer is the most I can do.  

The picture I have posted is of the small table that sits beside my prayer chair.  If you look closely you can see a little plastic soldier.  It is there to remind me that as I pray, I am doing battle.  I ordered a bag of these so I could have some to distribute to my prayer sisters.  Also in the photo is the beautiful ornament with the Appeal to Heaven flag.  This ornament was created by the fabulously talented artist sister in our group.  The flag is a reminder that we are going before the court of Heaven with our pleas, appealing to our God.  Another of our group opens her beautiful home to us every week so we can have a peaceful space to do spiritual battle.  She has a quiet spirit and such a beautiful walk with the Lord.  A different prayer sister is the one I call our firebrand.  She enters God’s presence with the boldest of declarations and intercessions.  And she must read a book a day!  The fifth member is probably the biggest lover of children among us.  She laminated the verses I will share at the bottom of the post and I keep them as another reminder that I am doing spiritual warfare.  She also gave each of us a copy of the book I referenced above.  (I could write volumes about each of these godly women.  I have only shared a fraction of what they have given to my life.)

Grandparents, who will stand in the gap?  This is my call to arms.  We need to raise up an army of praying grandparents that will turn our nation back to God.  Your families need your prayers.  Will you stand with me?

EPHESIANS 6:10-18

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.  For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.  Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.  For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

THE GOODNESS OF GOD

When I am getting dressed in the morning I enjoy listening to Christian music.  Like morning devotionals, it gets my day going in the right direction.  And it is SO much better than non-stop news.  This morning I was struck by the lyrics to The Goodness of God by Bethel Music and Jenn Johnson.  If you are not familiar with this beautiful song, I invite you to click on the link and listen.  Even though I have heard (and sung) this song many times, it captivated my heart this morning.  The Lord filled me with a sense of His goodness and I wanted to praise Him for who He is, not just for what He does.  I wanted to sing of His goodness.  

God is good.  It is an essential quality of His character.  He is the very essence of goodness.  Exodus 34:6 tells us that God is abundant in goodness.  There is so much packed into that verse about the nature of God and His goodness.  In this passage the Lord is revealing himself to Moses, revealing so much of His glory that Moses, hidden and protected by God’s hand, could only look at the back part of God’s glory.  The verse tells us only a little about God’s goodness; it cannot be completely illustrated by mere words. 

 God is merciful, compassionate, and gracious, forgiving our sins.  He is longsuffering, slow to anger.  How blessed we are that God gives us time to come to Him in repentance instead of giving us the immediate punishment we deserve.  And He is filled with goodness, abundant, overflowing, and abounding.  His goodness is absolute.   God is goodness.  I don’t have adequate words to capture His goodness.  It is a goodness that overflows our deserts, fills our empty places, and calms our fears, a goodness that binds our wounds and a goodness that pours the oil of gladness on our grief.    

His goodness is enough.  It is a goodness that comes from a place of love and compassion.  Mercy.  It is enough for me in this life and the life to come.  But I am a mother.  I have concerns for my children, my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren and those who will come later that I will never know.  God’s goodness is sufficient for all of them.  The next verse goes on to tell us that His goodness and mercy go on to a thousand generations!  

The song tells us that God’s goodness is “running after me.”  How grateful I am, because there are times I run away from God.  He will not let me go; His mercy and goodness pursue me, run after me.  And that same goodness will run after those I love, my future generations.  I often wonder who among my ancestors prayed for me, who set his goodness in motion.  Thank you Lord for running after me!

And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, maintaining loving devotion to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin. Ex. 34:6-7a

PUSHING THE ROCK

Do you ever feel like Sisyphus?  If you have forgotten the Greek mythology you learned in high school, let me refresh your memory.  Sisyphus was an evil king who was punished by the gods with the task of pushing a large boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down each time he neared the top.  This happened over and over again for all eternity.  Can you imagine the futility?  Sort of like a really bad version of Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day.

I imagine most of us have felt like Sisyphus at some point in our lives.  The times when you feel like you keep beating your head against the same brick wall.  It could be a situation that just will not go away.  Perhaps it is that annoying co-worker or neighbor that you keep encountering in different iterations even after changing jobs or moving.  It might be the same argument you have with your spouse year after year with no resolution.  Maybe it is your recalcitrant teenager who keeps making the same bad choices over and over.  

For some of us it might be that thing we resolve to never do again, but find ourselves repeating.  In Christian circles we refer to these bad habits as besetting sins.  A besetting sin is that one (or perhaps more) toward which we are naturally inclined.  It seems to call us…over and over.  For an alcoholic it is just that one drink, for someone who struggles with sexual lust it could be the lure of pornography.  For the one who resolves to pursue a healthier lifestyle it is the call of the bag of Fritos in the pantry or the appeal of the aptly named La-Z-Boy. 

The rock may not be an active sin, but rather the consequences of a sin.  Sin always leaves a residue.  Ironically, it was Ravi Zacharias who said that sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.  The life of David in the Bible is a prime example.  God forgave him for his sins of adultery and murder, and continued to bless and use him, but David had to push the rock of family turmoil for the rest of his days on earth.

Sometimes (or often if we are honest) we want to blame others for our rock.  If only they would change I wouldn’t have to keep pushing that rock!  Blaming others is much easier than looking at myself.  Theologian John Piper took an eight-month sabbatical to do what he called a “soul check.” You can read more about it here:

https://www.epm.org/blog/2018/Oct/12/piper-identifying-fighting-besetting-sins

Piper discovered that the remedy for these besetting sins was to put them in the crosshairs and consciously do battle with them.  Those sin rocks may keep tumbling downhill as long as we are on this earth.  But hopefully as we keep chipping away at them they will become smaller and smaller.

The rock is not always sin.  Maybe it is a situation you are in over which you have very little or no control.  The COVID pandemic for instance.  We have been pushing that rock for a year.  It might be that your rock is a chronic health problem.  No matter how many doctors you see or how many treatments you try, you can’t get that rock over the hill.  I have dear friends who deal with chronic pain…day and night.  But yet they persevere.  It is that perseverance that brings me back to Sisyphus (and how many more times am I going to type that name?)   

The punishment from the gods was all I remembered about this story.  I had to do a little review on Sisyphus to remember the rest.  What I discovered was that Sisyphus never gave up.  He never surrendered to gravity.  He kept pushing, day after day. But he learned to see his condition as his purpose.  And he learned to find joy in it.  As a believer I remind myself that I am not alone in my battles.  God promises to fight with for me, to hold my hand, and renew my strength.  The Bible tells us that Paul also learned to look at his trials through a God lens and find joy in them,

 “…knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts…”   Rom. 5:3-5 ESV.

Pushing my rock with joy is all about discipleship.  It is what Eugene Peterson writes about in his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction We may stumble and fall, but we press on. I am so thankful that God’s mercies are “new every morning” and that he gives us just the right amount of grace and strength for each day.  And He promises to come alongside us and push for us.

ABIDING

Most dogs are loyal, and my Max and Ruby are no exception.  They are my constant companions.  As I write these words, they are right here beside me.  If I leave the room, they will follow.  If I go upstairs, they go upstairs; when I come down, here they come after me.  And when I get comfortable to read or watch television, Max especially wants to be cuddled up with me.  He takes his job of lap dog seriously.  As you can see, his favorite position for a car ride is right behind my neck.  There are times when I think, “Could you get any closer??”

Occasionally, Ruby will go off on her own.  Usually it’s to go take a nap in a new location; she has her favorite spots.  But the other night while Jerry and I were watching television I heard a strange noise coming from the bedroom.  Ruby had gotten into the wastebasket and had strewn the contents all across the floor.  When I found her she was happily chewing on a small piece of cardboard.  She hasn’t pulled a stunt like that in a long time, and she knew she was in trouble.  They both know what they are allowed to do and what is off limits.  But sometimes the temptation to do what they want is too strong.  When they are staying close to me they stay out of trouble.

This week our Community Bible Study focused on the 15th chapter of John, and the concept of abiding in Jesus.  We had to look up the meaning of the word abide.  I thought it means “to dwell” and that is actually one meaning.  Another definition is “to accept or act in accordance with,” as “I will abide by your decision.”  But I really like the way Rick Renner explains it in his book, Sparkling Gems from the Greek.”  The Greek word for abide is meno, and it means “to stay, to remain, or continue.”  It conveys the idea of being “rooted, unmoving, and stable.”  The Bible tells us in 1 John 3:6 that anyone who abides in Jesus will not sin.  It’s when we wander away that we get in trouble.  The temptations of the world become too much for us to resist.  

This problem of temptation goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, but Jesus has given us the remedy: abide in me (John 15:4).  When we abide in Jesus, He also abides in us, permanently and steadfastly.  There have been times in my life when I felt that Jesus was holding onto me while I was losing my grip on Him.  I guess Jesus is better at abiding than I am.  But what a wonderful promise! “Remain in me and I will remain in you” (NLT).  It’s like an extra layer of protection.  He knows I will not be able to abide without His help, because He also tells us in the next verse that apart from Him we can do nothing.  He doesn’t just issue commands and say, “Good luck!”  He comes to dwell in us to help us obey His commands.  What a wonderful and gracious Lord we serve.     

POWER OUTAGE

The winter storm we have been experiencing all across the nation has led to widespread power outages.  We woke up this morning thanking God for our power, and as I write these words we are still on line.  But there are many who have lost power, and others whose power is unstable.  We are currently sitting at a temperature of -4 degrees with a wind chill of -21.  At those temps it doesn’t take long for a house to cool down.  And for the homeless it is a life or death situation.  It is dangerously cold!  I was supposed to have an important Zoom call this morning, but others on the call have lost power, so we are changing plans.  We are so reliant on power and an outage changes things quickly.  

As I was thinking about the importance of power this morning, my mind shifted to spiritual power and what it is like when we lose that kind of power.  In the first chapter of Acts, Jesus promised the disciples of a power that would come to them after He departed.  And in the very next chapter it happened, just as Jesus said it would.  The Holy Spirit came in like a rushing wind and filled them with power.  This power enabled them to do the work they were called to do.  Likewise, when we receive Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us and empower us, instantaneously and permanently.  While we can never truly lose this power, we can, in a sense, become disconnected from it.  The Bible calls this the quenching of the Spirit.  It can flicker and dim, just like what some of my friends are experiencing this morning. 

What would cause a power “outage” in the life of a believer?  1 Thessalonians 5 gives us some instructions. The first thing that comes to mind is sin.  Disobedience.  While we are secure in our salvation, we still live in a sinful world with trials and temptations.  And we still have that pesky free will that often yields to temptation.  That is why the apostle Paul admonished us in Romans 12 to present our bodies as a living sacrifice (not giving in to the temptations of the flesh).  He went on to tell us that we are not to follow the behaviors and customs of the world.  Instead we are to let God transform the way we think.  

And that brings me to the second reason we might lose our power: we neglect God’s word.  For me, this is where that transformation of thought occurs.  Where I have my “aha” moments.  I need to think God’s thoughts and see the world through His eyes.  The only way I can do this is through studying the Scriptures.   The bible is where God reveals His heart to me, where He tells me how He sees others and me.  In order to put on the mind of Christ we must know the mind of Christ.  God’s word guides me.  David said, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Ps. 119:105 NLT.  There is nothing like a power outage to revel how much we need light!

The other way we can lose our power is through prayerlessness.  Prayer is where I meet with God and get my spiritual batteries charged.  Oh, the mistakes I have made when I have gone off alone without consulting God.  My car is not going to get out of the garage unless it has gas in the tank.  When I run low on gas, it is time to get to Quiktrip and fill my tank.  In the same way, Christians will soon venture off God’s path and run out of spiritual gas without the constant filling of the Spirit we receive through prayer.  I’ve heard it said that power failures are prayer failures.  

Finally (and this might have gone first), is pride.  When we start getting real with God we will see what a problem pride is and how it keeps us from being all we can be in God’s kingdom. We get so full of self there is no room for the Holy Spirit.  And we lose power.  We are told that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).  Life is tough enough.  I certainly don’t want to go up against opposition from God Almighty.           

Sometimes the storms of life cause power outages, just like the winter storm we are enduring now.  We need to be prepared because storms are inevitable.  Confession of sin, Bible study, prayer, and humility all serve as backup generators for the sudden storms of life.  I must always be on guard against the things that disconnect me from God’s power and I must continually rely on His grace.  

Thank you, Lord for the gift of your Holy Spirit.  Please give me the grace to stay connected to you.      

LOVE IS A CHOCOLATE PIE

A couple of days ago I posted this same picture on social media along with a little story from our very early marriage days.  The story was about my first pie, a chocolate cream pie, my husband’s favorite.  I didn’t have any background in pie baking but my thought was that the filling came from a box mix so that is what I used.  In this little story I related how disappointed Jerry was with the finished product because it didn’t taste like his mother’s pie.  Well the poor guy got hammered with comments and jokes at his expense which was not my intention.

Please don’t be hard on him.  We were newlyweds.  I told my appalled daughter that we were both learning; I was learning to cook and he was learning what not to say.  But it was actually much more than that.  We were learning how to do marriage, and that is a lifetime process.  When I was active in my psychology practice I often said that in an enduring marriage you are married to several different people over the course of the marriage.  And you have several different marriages.  We are not the same callow young adults we were in the pie story.  Thank God!  You grow, and you change, and you adapt over the years.  

This is February, the love month and God has been coming at me from all directions with lessons about love.  I often say He is a multi-media God.  It seems that everything I pick up or listen to has scripture passages about love.  I attend (thanks to Zoom) Community Bible Study.  This year, classes all around the world are studying the Gospel of John.  At first I wasn’t too excited about studying this book; I had read and studied it so many times.  But God’s word is always fresh and I amazed at all I am learning and the things I never saw before.  The big lesson for me is about loving and serving others.  It’s not optional; it is a commandment.  I have to tell you, service does not come naturally to me.  I am a word person.

We tend to think of love as a feeling, something we “fall into.” But the kind of love Jesus invites us to express is different.  This kind of love is an action verb.  I can tell Jerry how much I love him all day long, but that really doesn’t speak to him.  His love language is acts of service.  He hears “I love you,” when I do things for him.  In his book, Love Languages, author Gary Chapman tells us we tend to love others in the same way we wish to be loved.  He lives for the phone calls from his daughters that begin with “Dad can you, do you mind, would you please, I hate to bother you, but…” My love language is words of affirmation, so while I am writing these words telling you about the kind of guy he is, he is in the kitchen cooking a Valentine breakfast for me. 

My Valentine to him was an old fashioned chocolate pie, the kind his mother made.  The recipe comes from my bridal cookbook, the old Better Homes and Garden Cookbook.   That book has been revised several times, as has the recipe so I am including the original below to save it for posterity.  

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. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  1 John 4:7-8 NLT

Chocolate Cream Pie

1-cup sugar

1/3-cup all-purpose flour or 3 TBL. cornstarch

¼ tsp. salt

2 cups milk

2 1-oz. squares unsweetened chocolate, chopped

3 slightly beaten egg yolks

2 TBL. butter or margarine

1 tsp. vanilla

1 9-inch baked pastry shell

1 recipe meringue

In saucepan, combine sugar, flour, and salt.  Gradually whisk in milk and chocolate.  Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils and thickens.  Cook 2 minutes longer.  Remove from heat.

Stir small amount hot mixture into yolks; return to hot mixture; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla.  Cool to room temperature.  (To prevent crust from forming, put clear plastic wrap or waxed paper directly on top, touching surface of the hot pudding clear to sides of pan.)  Pour into baked pastry shell.  

Meringue Beat 3 egg whites with ¼ tsp. cream of tartar and ½ tsp. vanilla till soft peaks form.  Gradually add 6 TBL. sugar, beating till stiff peaks form and all sugar is dissolved.  Spread atop pie sealing to pastry.  Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees) about 12-15 minutes, or until meringue is golden.  Cool.