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.