Joyce Long

Faith in the Journey

Author: joycelong (page 1 of 2)

Fresh and Flourishing

Lately legacy has been on my mind. Literally the word’s primary definition is “a gift by will of money and property” (Merriam Webster Dictionary). But legacy’s concept reaches beyond into the intangibles taught and experienced within a family—love, loyalty, faith, pain, indecision, apathy. . . We can fill in more blanks, can’t we?

Having one adorably cute, soon-to-be two-year-old granddaughter with two other grandchildren on the way, I feel God’s incredible blessing along with the responsibility to pass on a legacy of faith and love.

But it’s difficult to do on Face Time. When I was growing up, both sets of grandparents lived within five miles of our home. We knew my mother’s parents better because Granny made herself more available and needed more of our help since our grandfather was crippled by a stroke. Dad’s parents milked cows, gathered eggs, and took care of 100 acres until they wore out. Long distance love wasn’t an issue. We often spent Sundays together and witnessed how each lived out their lives.

Both sets of grandparents modeled faith in Jesus Christ and a strong work ethic. My parents carried that onward. My prayer this morning is that my husband and I can roll that legacy forward, too.

By no accident through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, today’s devotional verse is:
“Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing, to declare that the LORD is upright.” Psalm 92:13-15

Thank you, Jesus, for your saving grace and faith legacy that we can pass on to those we love, fresh and flourishing even in our old age.

 

Impatiently Yours

Dear God,

One of your Midwest daughters, who happens to enjoy golf and gardening and considers herself a four-season-kind-of-girl, reporting in! I’m writing to request that you remove the snow and sub-par temperatures from our spring, soon to be a month old.

On behalf of my fellow Hoosiers, I am boldly requesting that the gray days, chilly mornings, and snow flurries disappear until Thanksgiving. Even though You’ve resurrected my perennials, these plants would appreciate more sunshine. I could use some, too. I like winter, but it has its place. Now is the time for April showers, rainbows, and sunshine. Especially sunshine!

While I’m mature enough in my faith to understand this world is not my forever home, I’m still here. Looking out my front window, I see gray clouds and asphalt patches filling caved-in concrete—a poor substitute for streets of gold and Your glorious light!

Now I don’t like to compare myself with others because that gets me into trouble, but my children, one family who calls Houston home and the other one residing in San Diego, occasionally taunt their father and me with reports of sunshine and temperate weather. Please make them more sensitive to their parents’ frame of reference. While they’ve invited us to visit, the minute we leave, our grass will grow a foot tall and the 13-year-old kitties will decide it’s time for a hairball contest.

No, for the moment, we’re staying home—indoors—in Indiana. But I know this can’t last forever, so I’m simply asking for a quicker turnaround than what perhaps You’ve planned for our state and state of mind.

Impatiently yours,

Joyce

 

An Eyewitness

In this era of fake news, history told by an eyewitness—someone who lived during a treacherous time—stimulates our minds and tugs at our hearts. Last week we experienced the 1930s and 1940s made relevant and alive when 97-year-old Walter Sommers shared his story. Al and I, along with our friends Anne and Larry, visited Terre Haute’s CANDLES Holocaust Museum where Walter is the docent on Wednesdays and Fridays (www.candlesholocaustmuseum.org).

Born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1920, Walter saw firsthand how Adolf Hitler rose to power. His parents witnessed their rights as citizens and business owners implode as the Nazis destroyed Jewish-owned businesses and homes November 9,1938, during the “Kristallnacht” or “Night of Broken Glass,” after which his father was imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp.

According to Walter, Hitler had developed his hatred for Jews during his teen years when a few Jewish youth were accepted into a Vienna art school while he was denied admission. Even though young Adolf didn’t have a high school diploma, which the school required, he still despised his Jewish counterparts for being admitted. That hatred grew as he did.

A month after his father was imprisoned, he was released with the condition his family would sell their businesses to the government and leave Germany. And so they did in January 1939, sailing to America guarded by Nazis. Ironically a few years later Walter would serve in the U.S. Army’s 77th Infantry.

Besides learning more about Holocaust history, I came home with a broader principle. An eyewitness verifies truth. Hearsay can easily become fake news. Because he experienced it, Walter’s story painted the truth about Kristallnacht.

Truth can be verified when it’s lived.

I’m asking myself what that looks like when being a witness for Jesus Christ.

 “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21 NLT

 

 

By the Blood

When my memory scrolls back to 1966, it isn’t just the Beach Boys’ mega-hit, Good Vibrations I hear. Growing up in an acapella church with sometimes intriguing four-part harmony, I remember many hymns—classics like The Old Rugged Cross and Amazing Grace.

Yet the hymn that shouts back through the years is: Are You Washed in the Blood?—written by Elisha A. Hoffmann. Its refrain, “Are you washed (in my southern Indiana town pronounced ‘warshed’) in the blood, in the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb? Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”

For a young girl, whose stomach still to this day turns over at the sight of blood, that song was troublesome. My Sunday school teachers had not explained Old Testament animal sacrifice. Perhaps that was best.

As I’ve matured and studied more, I realize how vital blood is to life. Physicians use blood tests to evaluate our health. A blood transfusion can restore life. When the Old Testament prophet Isaiah points to Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for our sins, he infers that blood heals: “But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” Isaiah 53:5 NLT

If you’ve watched Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, perhaps you can still visualize the brutality of Jesus’ flogging and his beaten body nailed upon a wooden cross. And ask, “But why?”

The simple answer is unadulterated holiness and evil (sin) cannot be compatible. If we want a relationship with the Holy Father, we who sin (all of us miss the mark of perfection) must accept the human sacrifice of His Son as our redemption—the bridge between holiness and sin. Our reward? A resurrected life!

“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.” Romans 8:11, NLT

 

Turning Right onto Main Street

If you know me well, you know that eggs are one of my food favorites. They also bring back great memories of backyard Easter egg hunts where our children, even when they were too old for it, enjoyed racing each other around, digging through mulch for the “money” egg or looking in tree branches for the Tootsie Roll-filled plastic egg. From such memories comes our daughter’s infamous line, which we will never let her forget: “It’s only a race if I win.”

So it makes sense now that I’m retired, I seek out farm fresh eggs. Perhaps it’s because of my amazing omelet reputation or because they remind me of growing up in the country, but whatever the reason, I love stopping at Walker Eggs off of Main Street. Usually I buy two dozen of their jumbo-sized eggs.

Before leaving home for my bi-weekly egg run, I had already planned to turn right when leaving Walker’s. Making a left turn without a traffic light is almost impossible, especially on Main Street. After turning right, I planned to cut through a nearby housing addition and then proceed to a roundabout, adding ten minutes to my journey home. However when turning right, I realized there were no oncoming cars. I could have made the left turn and saved myself the detour.

Preconceived assumptions are like that, aren’t they? We prepare, plan and pre-determine what to do in case of whatever. Too often I neglect the now moment, which would allow the Holy Spirit to navigate, as God would like. I make the right turn out of fear instead of taking the risky but open route. The easy turn causes me to follow the longer way home. Perhaps you can relate.

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25

Responding to God’s Glory

At approximately 2:24 this afternoon in central Indiana, the moon will block about 90% of the sun. Experts caution us to not look up without the protective solar eclipse glasses labeled ISO 12312-2 (aas.org).

In thinking about this eclipse, I remember where Al and I were four years ago this month. August 2013 was a pivotal month in our lives because Al retired. A week later we traveled to Israel to visit our daughter. While there we heard her casually mention a guy,  just a friend who loved missions. Thirteen months later that guy  would be welcomed into our family as a beloved son-in-law.

God has blessed us since that trip with not only a godly son-in-law, but the kindest, most beautiful daughter-in-law God could have given us and the cutest granddaughter ever. We are beyond-words thankful for his provision and kindness.

But today we look up in awe, using those protective glasses, at his glory displayed in the heavens, which reminds me of another time God’s glory appeared.

During the trip we visited the biblical botanical gardens located near the Israel Museum. My writing/gardening friend Janet Hommel Mangas had suggested we photograph some of those plants. In their vast array was the Holy Bramble, the “burning bush” God used to display his glory as recorded in Exodus 3:

The angel of the Lord appeared to him in fiery flames from within a bush.  Moses saw the bush was on fire, but it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from with  the bush. “Moses, Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. . .” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was  afraid to look at God.

Exodus 3: 2-5, 6b, Holy Bible, New International Version, 1973

Unless you have protective glasses this afternoon, don’t look up at the solar eclipse, but do know you are in the presence of the Holy God who created the heavens and earth.

In awe, let’s worship him wholeheartedly!

 

Anticipating “the Eye of God”

Saturday morning while my husband Al and I ate our BLT breakfast, we enjoyed reading about next Monday’s (August 21, 2017) solar eclipse. This is a big deal since it’s the first time in a century 0.5 percent of the earth obscured by the moon’s shadow will cross the whole of North America, starting in northwest Oregon heading kitty-corner across our nation into South Carolina.

Folks are getting excited! A local well known, free-lance professional photographer ordered 10 pairs of special viewing glasses from Amazon with plans to view this phenomena in Evansville. My neighbor Cathie came home from southern Illinois with 16 pairs of glasses, sold for $1.50 each at Carbondale’s Mexican restaurant, Tres Hombres, to share with friends and family. Apparently southern Illinois is expecting thousands of extra spectators a week from today.

British particle physicist Frank Close describes this total solar eclipse as taking about an hour for the moon to cover the sun. When the bright disc shrinks to a sliver and twilight falls, the temperature drops, and from the west, the moon shadow moves in, creating a wall of darkness.

“Look up and you will see stars as if it were normal night, but accompanied by a blackened moon surrounded by the sun’s shimmering white corona. . .and as one observer described, ‘looking into the valley of death with the lights of heaven far away calling me to enter.’ Another exclaimed: ‘Is that the eye of God?’” (Frank Close, 8.12.17, Daily Journal: Tracking ‘the eye of God’: A U.S. Solar Eclipse)

For those of us who often take God’s glory for granted, let’s go outside, with our eyes protected, between 2 – 2:30pm next Monday and watch how the heavens and earth are truly God’s footstool.

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD. Isaiah 66:1-2 NIV

Eclipse Schedule for Monday, August 21, 2017

12:57 pm – Countdown begins

2:24 pm – Maximum viewing

3:48 pm – Ends

Magnitude: 0.93

https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/in/usa/indianapolis

photo by: Dennis DiCicco, https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/images-videos

 

In Faith


Yesterday afternoon Al and I visited a dear Christian woman who had recently discovered no more medical treatment could treat her cancer. Hospice is her new reality. Yet, in the few minutes we chatted, prayed, and held her hands, she radiated God’s peace. She knew beyond any doubt her final resting place is not a realm of nothingness. Eternity with Jesus Christ and his saints await her.

Spending time with her reminded me of when, as a child, I wanted Jesus in my heart and life and decided to accept God’s free gift of salvation through his death, burial and resurrection. Yet I remember coming to Jesus out of fear.

If memory serves me correctly, I was a child who was afraid of a lot of things—the unknown; the dark; shadows made by car lights infiltrating my bedroom—the only one facing the highway. The Wizard of Oz and the Wicked Witch of the West scared me so much  I spent most of the movie wrapped in gray and chartreuse floral floor-length curtains, occasionally peeking out to catch glimpses of Scarecrow, Dorothy, and Tin Man.

Fast forward life.  I’m living my seventh decade. Jesus is not simply my gateway from fear and passport out of hell into heaven. My Savior has become real and personal through prayer and meditation, other people and life circumstances. Amazingly, I’m rarely afraid unless random thoughts creep in regarding my family’s safety. Fortunately I’ve learned to pray those away, giving them to God whom I know loves them more than I do.

Still, when it’s my turn to die (and yes, our finite bodies do indeed experience death no matter how many green smoothies we drink), I know Jesus will be there to comfort and guide me through “the valley of the shadow of death where I will fear no evil.” I’ve witnessed that confidence in both the living and dying.

Yesterday I saw that same assurance in my Christian sister’s eyes.

In faith, fear cannot reign.

Breathe in God’s Peace

This morning I took the time to walk around the house, dead heading petunias and hibiscus blossoms while I stumbled along through the dew drenched grass. I couldn’t help but think how much I’ve changed through the years. Now I enjoy such a simple pleasure and love “messing with” my plants.” The poison ivy I got Saturday while weeding my strawberry patch proves that “mess.”

Twenty years ago at 43, the best I could have done was to occasionally water a few flowers, a task undertaken more out of duty rather than love. The interest wasn’t there because time was tight. Then our children would’ve been 12 and 14, busy ages with lots of time spent in the minivan.

Forty years ago at 23, I was newly married, going to grad school while teaching full-time. We lived in an apartment near Eagle Creek. Gardening and flowers simply weren’t on my radar. The only connecting activity then as compared to now is my husband and I still occasionally take our 42-year-old matching Myata bikes out for a spin, but certainly traveling not as fast nor as far.

Fifty years ago at 13, my “Granny” and I spent a lot of time together while both of my parents worked full time. She taught me to stem strawberries, snap peas, and pick (while sampling) grapes. But more than that, she taught me about Jesus. One of her favorite songs, “In the Garden”, has become one of mine.

Take a moment to breathe in God’s peace, one that passes all understanding. Then find your garden to enjoy!

In the Garden

  1. I come to the garden alone,
    While the dew is still on the roses,
    And the voice I hear falling on my ear
    The Son of God discloses.

    • Refrain:
      And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
      And He tells me I am His own;
      And the joy we share as we tarry there,
      None other has ever known.
  2. He speaks, and the sound of His voice
    Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
    And the melody that He gave to me
    Within my heart is ringing.
  3. I’d stay in the garden with Him,
    Though the night around me be falling,
    But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
    His voice to me is calling.

(public domain – lyrics by Charles A. Miles, 1913)

My Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me like down in green pastures, he leads me besides still waters. He restores my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his namesake.  (Psalm 23:1-3)

On the morning of my 63rd birthday, my husband Al and I took a walk around the area where our daughter and her family live in Cyprus. In the days before, we had become fascinated with the goat farm located just minutes from their house. There didn’t seem to be enough grass or water for any animal to survive or thrive.

Even though the living conditions were dusty, barren and stifling hot, their shepherd still cared for the flock. Note in the photo how the goats gathered in the shade, seeking relief from the piercing sun.

I couldn’t help but think of how our loving Father God wants us to thrive. He makes us lie down in green pastures because we need our physical rest. Note that his pastures are  green.

He wants us to walk with him besides still waters, to be quiet in His presence and refresh ourselves spiritually and emotionally. During those times the reflections of our lives become clear.

Finally, God wants to refresh us so we can pursue paths of righteousness for His name’s sake–to live that purpose-driven life Saddleback Church’s Pastor Rick Warren described so well a few years back.  Father God sent us a loving Shepherd to guide us through far-from-perfect trails.

Thank you, Jesus, for being our willing and sacrificial guide and shepherd sent from our loving Father.

“I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me–just as the Father knows me and I know the Father–and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

  • John 10:14-16
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