To Listen and Love

Guilty as charged, I am a word junkie. I enjoy looking up words and checking out their nuances and meanings. Today’s word is conviction. Maybe it’s because my husband and I have been binge watching the law series Suits on Amazon Prime. Or perhaps I’m curious about how people are convicted of their beliefs about God. Mesmerized I listened this past weekend when Mount Pleasant Christian Church’s senior pastor Chris Philbeck interviewed a panel of nonbelievers as to why they don’t believe in the God of the Bible.

Merriam Webster gives three meanings for conviction. The first one listed—“the act or process of finding a person guilty of a crime especially in a court of law”—appeals to my strong sense of justice and my love for law and order TV shows.

The second one is more generic: “a strong persuasion or belief; the state of being convinced.” People’s convictions drive their actions. This afternoon I finished reading Bill O’Reilly/Martin Dugard’s book Killing Kennedy. Even though I lived through November 22, 1963, my nine-year-old, fourth-grade self didn’t quite understand what was happening.

When Mrs. Noel came back from lunch, our class couldn’t grasp the gravity of why our President had been shot and why she cried all afternoon. Then I had no idea why someone would do that. After reading this book, I begin to understand Lee Harvey Oswald’s convictions and his assassin Jack Ruby’s contrary beliefs.

My takeaway? Erroneous convictions can cause a great deal of pain, suffering and needless tragedy.

Finally comes the 3a definition of conviction: “the act of convincing a person of error or of compelling the admission of a truth.” Here is where we Christians sometimes dangerously park. Too often we forget that conviction cannot be forced upon someone, even if it’s based on truth.

After hearing the panel explain how Christians come across in their beliefs, I was convicted of not listening and loving enough. God gave us the freedom to either choose or reject him. Our God relationship is not an arranged marriage. It’s a union of choosing to love, with listening and loving being the best pathway in sharing our convictions about God.

“A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. . .”

2 Timothy 2:24-25, NLT

In the Air Again

I enjoy traveling. Packing–not so much! Not that I’m complaining, because this is the only way I can see my precious kids and their families. Since Al and I retired five years ago, we have been blessed with opportunities to travel overseas to Israel, Austria, and Cyprus, with two of those three to visit our daughter and her family.

Stateside, we have put several of the 100,000+ miles on our 2008 Chevy Malibu to drive to Maryland, Florida, Texas, California, Colorado, and Michigan. Four of those destinations involved visiting family.

Today I’ve finished packing for the fourth trip this year, second one to Houston, and believe me, I’m grateful not to being going overseas to visit our daughter Valerie, her husband Charley, and our most precious granddaughter, Elianna, who will soon become a big sister to a newborn baby sister.

I love my life!

But I loved my life, too, when both in kids were in college and our big outing for the week was a Friday night trip to Chick-fil-A with coupons. Afterward, Al and I would go to Home Depot and buy a gallon of Behr’s satin finish paint, because our weekend entertainment involved painting a room in our now 32-year-old house.

Then there were the tough-but-precious-memory years when we took care of my parents who moved from their 50+ year old home in southern Indiana into the nearby Hearth at Stones Crossing. Then most of our travel involved going to Bloomfield to check on our childhood homes. During those years time trumped travel in importance.

On the horizon we have a Utah hiking trip with friends planned, another trip to Houston, and two to San Diego where we will welcome to the family our son Chris and Shwetha’s firstborn due mid-October. Weeks later we will all gather in their new home to celebrate the holidays.

I love this phase of our life and am thankful for the God-given resources to be able to visit those we love. But occasionally I wish they were just minutes away instead of hours. Our two homebound gray babies, the infamous Bevo and Bewley kitties, agree.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

1 Timothy 6:6

 

In His Arms

Last night Al and I were watching Anderson Cooper on CNN’s 360 interview with Tia Coleman, the wife and mother of the family who drowned in the Duck Boat accident near Branson, Missouri. Her tears and agony filled the screen. She described that when the boat was pulled from the bottom of the lake, her husband Glenn was found embracing their three children.

Listening to her tearfully talk of her love for her husband, Cooper, with tears, could hardly respond. She had nine family members die in the accident. Compassionately he concluded the interview by telling Tia that all of America will be thinking of and praying for her.

In times of tragedy, prayer is our lifeline to God and to healing, isn’t it? Remember 9/11? The entire nation came together to pray. In tragedy, we cling to God. In easy times, not so much.

We need to pray for this family and all who were involved. Yes, the Colemans are grieving now and rightfully so because death is ugly, not at all what God intended when He created mankind. And God Almighty is grieving along with them. Through Jesus Christ, He has provided a glorious Plan B, one that rests on the fact Jesus Christ, as both God and man, overcame death, was resurrected, and lives forever in Heaven, now inviting us to follow him.

Even in her grief, Tia Coleman testifies hope. The pastor of the church she grew up in marveled at her strength during Saturday’s press conference: “She came forth as a witness. Every third or fourth word out of her mouth was giving glory to God, and that is where the rubber meets the road. In situations like that, you’ve got to have it down in your heart.” (Bishop Thomas E. Griffith as quoted by Justin L. Mack, Indianapolis Star, 7.23.18, p.6A)

The father of the Coleman family huddled his children—Reece (9), Evan (7), and Arya (1)—near his heart as they left this world to enter eternal life. Missed by those who loved them deeply, they live on in the arms of Jesus and will be reunited, together again someday.

 

Oh No! Not Another Evil Oxalis!

I would call it a love-hate relationship, but mostly love. I’m talking about a spring and summer, time-consuming passion in my life—gardening. With the recent intense heat, my bicep building involves carrying plastic reusable cat litter cartons full of water and fertilizer to bolster my droopy tomato plants. Providing our entire plant world a drink takes over an hour.

But I water out of love. Weeding, on the other hand, not so much. Weeds, many disguised as yellow flowers, make me angry, especially when they overrun my parched flowers after a storm.

Especially despised is a sneaky dude. It looks innocent enough with its petite cloverleaf petals sporting cute, yellow star-like blooms, but it’s evil. Its delicate roots go deep and spread worse than chiggers after a picnic.

Oxalis is a leach, crowding all bonafide beauty. Even lawn care companies rate it, also called creeping woodsorrel, the worst weed to control. As one blogger said, “It doesn’t roll over and die like dandelions or clover. This weed is just plain tough.” (https://tomlinsonbomberger.com/blog/kill-oxalis-lawn-weed-control/)

When I’m digging deep and gently pulling its thin roots out of my mulched flower patches, I can’t help but think how much this weed reminds me of Satan. He surrounds purity with creepy deception. What he offers may look good, sound good, feel good, but it’s only temporary pleasure with life-destroying consequences.

For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  So it is no great thing if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their destiny will be according to their works.” 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, HCSB

Fight the good fight! Don’t let oxalis take over your garden. And more importantly, beware of sin taking over your life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alms for Alexa?

“Dear Lord, thank you for this glorious morning, for the rain and sunshine, for all the love You give us. . .”

“Do you want me to play the lullaby, All The Love?

Heads bowed, praying while sitting on her couch, my younger friend and I looked up. I began laughing. She giggled. This was a first for our weekly Thursday morning prayer time.

Their family’s digital assistant that Amazon has affectionately named Alexa had joined the prayer dialogue. Her interrupting me with a question seemed totally odd. But that’s her job—to listen and then respond. Kinda like a live-in disk jockey?!

My friend told her, “No.” Still laughing I was too freaked out to continue praying.

“Doesn’t that creep you out?” I asked, now internally affirming I would never want a plugged-in digital assistant eavesdropping in my house.

“Well, she’s a part of our security system so we are used to her. Plus, she plays music on command.”

I’m shaking my head, knowing technology has already passed me by.

“Alexa, you’re so silly!” I mumbled.

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” returned her automated reply.

Shaking my head again, I laughed. She had gotten the last word.

If Alexa is that attentive, then I know God is listening. I will choose my words more carefully.

“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24, NIV

 

Ten Things I LOVE about Our Two Year Old Granddaughter!

 

  • how she pronounces, “aaaa pull saws, pleez?” (translation: “apple sauce, please?”)
  • how she sings “Jesus Loves Me” in a whisper as I rock her.
  • how she breaks into a smile and then laughs as FaceTime begins.
  • when she studies me floating in the pool and then tries doing it, too.
  • when she lets me babysit her special doll while she “cooks.”
  • when she “shushes” and bounces her baby doll snuggled over her shoulder.
  • when we both pat our babies’ backs and shout “burp!” and then giggle uncontrollably.
  • how she entwines the blue variegated, grandma-made blankie around her tiny hand as she sucks her thumb.
  • when she tosses her purse over her shoulder like her mother and gets into her molded plastic, pink car.
  • when she grabs my hand and takes me to the playground.

Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children. Proverbs 17:6

Thank You, Jesus, for this gift of grandchildren. I had no idea what a blessing they are and how they make aging more rewarding. May they grow up loving, obeying, and serving You now and forever. May they continue the legacy of those in our family who are now in eternity with Jesus. Amen!

 

 

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