(Late) Sunday Morning Coffee: Home Alone

No, this is not about the movie.

I don’t know what happened, but I woke up early this morning with pretty severe back pain and knew I couldn’t deal with the long drive to church, nor sitting through two services and then the drive back home. It feels a little better now, thanks to good medication.

This could easily be Terry and me. Together, glad to be together, but not talking. After 53 years together, conversation is not always necessary. Quietness is valued.

So, right now, I have a quiet moment alone until everyone else gets home. I love quiet moments alone. Solitude is good for my soul. Some people replenish and renew by being around a lot of people, talking and enjoying companionship. I’m just the opposite. Give me quiet, solitude, music, and a good book and I’ll be ready to face the world again. According to some definitions I’ve heard, my love of solitude makes me an introvert. Those who feel replenished with lots of people and conversation are extroverts.

I don’t know for sure about all that. I just know I treasure “alone time,” and always have done so.

Jesus was the most balanced Man who ever lived. Luke 2:52 covers Jesus’ growing up years: He increased in wisdom (discernment, understanding, learning); stature (physical strength and development); favor with God (spiritual maturity); and favor with man (social, personality development). He was both an introvert and an extrovert. He occasionally removed Himself from the crowds, needing rest and solitude. He always ministered to the crowds, teaching and preaching and touching their physical needs. His final act at the end of Passion Week was to give of Himself utterly, completely, without holding anything back.

Here is a list of 25 verses that teach us the importance of becoming more like Christ:

https://reformedwiki.com/verses/becoming-more-like-christ/kjv

Of course, He was wholly God as well as wholly man. We, being wholly human, are at something of a disadvantage in being Christlike. However, we can remind ourselves that doing so is a process, not an event. It takes a lifetime, however long that may be, for us to reach the final goal of becoming as He is when we reach heaven.

In the meantime, when you feel the need to renew and recharge, enjoy the process–whatever it may be that works for you!

Sunday Morning Coffee: A Cool Oasis

Friday, it was oppressively hot and humid.

Saturday was a surprise, delightfully cool. We turned off the AC and opened the house to let the cool breeze blow through. Everything feels fresh and smells clean. Today is shaping up to also be a gorgeous, welcome relief from the heat we know is going to come back.

So we treasure the moment! These cool days are like a shady, cool oasis in an unrelenting desert of shimmering heat and merciless sun.

The spiritual application is clear. When we spend time in a spiritual desert, it’s usually of our own making. We allow our time spent in God’s Word to fall away; we cease to enjoy a time of prayer, hurrying to go about whatever business we must take care of. Music no longer quickens a slumbering spirit. There is no joy in life, just the dreary work of getting through each day.

Then the cool, welcome breeze of the Holy Spirit stirs in our hearts, and we bow our heads in shame that we have become lazy in our relationship with the Lord. We open His Word, and it refreshes our souls. Our prayer time chases the funk out of the dark corners of our hearts, opening up the heart’s windows to the cleansing power of His Spirit.

Maybe we sigh and shake our heads, wondering why we fell into the trap of spiritual laziness.

The right relationship with God is SO much better, just as an unexpected cool, breezy day is better than the heavy heat of summer.

We can’t control the weather. We CAN control how close we stay to the Lord!

Sunday Morning Coffee: My Thankfuls

I was watching a movie the other day while working on one of my plastic bag mats. One of the characters, during a conversation, began writing in the air with his finger. When asked what he was doing, he said he was writing down his list of thankfuls.

I used to keep what I called my Love Log. I dropped the habit somewhere along the way, and maybe I should start doing that again. It’s so easy to fall into the habit of complaining, which is not helpful to the complainer or to anyone who has to hear it.

So here’s my list for today: I’m thankful for:

  1. My wonderful new chair that cuddles my achey back and gives me such relief
  2. My piano
  3. My piano lessons
  4. All the wonderful music available to me
  5. All the different styles of music
  6. My very patient husband, who has listened to me practice for several months now and never, ever complains or seems to get tired of hearing scales 🙂
  7. The God Who created music. I can’t wait to hear Him sing!
  8. My computer, through which a world of music is available with a few taps of the keys
  9. The morning music of the birds outside my window.
  10. We’re having a hymn-sing after a church picnic today!

This list should change daily. Some things are permanent, but can be mentioned every day anyway. Sometimes, we just need to remind ourselves to be thankful for so many things we take for granted.

A happy and blessed Lord’s Day to all of you 🙂

Sunday Morning Coffee: Pain

It’s late. Almost 11:30. Terry had a bad night last night; of course, that means I did, too.

Almost ten years ago, he fell about five feet from a ladder and landed on his left foot, shattering his heel bone. I’ve written about that before, but couldn’t find it when I searched. Just take it from me, you don’t want to ever do that. It’s a life-changing injury. The pain never completely goes away. We’ve tried no end of things to help; he’s even considered having the foot amputated.

Anyway. One of the resulting problems is unrelenting leg pain that attacks him at night when he’s trying to relax. He takes a good medication for relief from the spasms, but through no fault of his own (long story) his refill won’t be here until Tuesday. The first night without his meds, he didn’t sleep until 3 a.m. Same thing last night, and because I knew he was pacing the house in an effort to get relief, I was restless, too. Two more nights until the medicine gets here. By that time, we’ll both be ready for the Funny Farm. And before you start offering remedies, I assure you, we’ve tried everything known to mankind. He finally took Advil around 3 a.m. and was actually able to sleep for a couple of hours.

You know, there are times when life is just hard. Pain, as a constant companion. It drains a person of energy. It can make you yearn for just maybe five minutes of not hurting. It would be so easy to just give in to the pain and choose to sit out the rest of your life. So far, Terry’s pain has not forced him to make that choice. I doubt he ever will. He’s always been on the move, loving to work hard, using his muscles and his mechanical skills. It would literally drive him bonkers to have to spend the rest of his life in a chair or a bed. I think he’d rather die.

With all that, though, he’s usually pretty upbeat. Sure, he gets discouraged, but he doesn’t let it be the main feature of his day. He spends a lot of time in his Bible every day, but when the pain puts him out of commission, he increases his amount of Bible-reading and prayer.

As always, there’s music in my head. Today, it’s this:

Sunday Morning Coffee: “You’re just like. . . . .”

To whom do you often get compared? One or both of your parents? A grandparent, aunt or uncle? Someone else?

It is a common trait among us to look for resemblances the moment a new baby is born. “Oh, look! He has daddy’s ears!” “Look, she has Grandma’s dimples!”

We love to see physical traits that identify our tribe. Later we look for characteristics that tend to run in families–a hot temper, a great sense of humor, a tendency to ruminate, or to be critical, or to be generally on the happy side of life. Some families have lots of artistic members, or musical, or athletic, and so on. These traits are not mutually exclusive, of course 🙂

There are several teachers on one side of my family. Several musicians, several who are quite gifted artistically. That last one skipped me. I can’t draw a convincing stick figure :). Art, however, can take other forms. I love to knit and crochet, and I used to do counted cross stitch. Not so much these days because of eye strain.

I got to thinking last night about how we really should be developing the characteristics of Jesus. Luke 2: 52 tells us that Jesus increased (grew) in wisdom (intellect) and stature (physical strength) and in favor with God (spiritual growth) and with man (social relationships). That’s a good measure of maturity, isn’t it? He set us the example for which to strive in our own lives, as well as in teaching our children to reach high personal goals.

Jesus, of course, was not afflicted with the sin nature that besets us. He never disobeyed, never was mean to His siblings, never talked back to Mary and Joseph. He never even tried to defend Himself against the outrageous accusations made against Him. He was God incarnate. We won’t reach sinless perfection until we all get to heaven. What a day of rejoicing that will be!

Sunday Morning Coffee: Pastors

I Peter 5:4. “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”

Of course, we have no true idea what the crown of glory will look like!

I’ve been thinking a lot over the past couple of days about the pastors in my life. I’ve been blessed.

I’m not in church this morning–again–because of back pain and lack of sleep. So I’ve had time to consider today’s post, which is closely related to my present study in I Peter 5: 1-3. The last verse, which I should have included in that passage, is v. 4. It is addressed to the elders, pastors, bishops–words that are used interchangeably in relation to the church.

An elder, bishop, or pastor, if he has been faithful and godly, will receive a crown of glory when Jesus hands out rewards to His people. The Bible says we will cast those crowns at His feet (Rev. 4:10-11) because only He is worthy of such glory and honor.

The first pastor I remember is Orville Peterson, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Fairmont, Minnesota about 70 years ago. His love for my mom and dad had a profound influence, changing my dad’s life and directing him into ministry himself. I don’t have any clear memories of his preaching, but they remained family friends for many years.

The second man I remember better. Dr. Richard V. Clearwaters, Fourth Baptist Church, Minneapolis. I was five when we first attended there. He baptized me when I was eight. Again, no clear memories of his preaching during those years, except that the adults loved his sermons and said “Amen!” a lot. The main memory I have there is the music, which has inspired me all the rest of my life. Majestic, alive, enthusiastic. It is where I first remember singing Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! and Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow! There was a big old pipe organ, and the organist wasn’t afraid to open up all the stops 🙂

When I was ten, we moved to Portland, OR, where my dad attended seminary. He became the next pastor in my life and would remain so, actively, until I went to college. He never, though, stopped being a pastor/teacher/counselor for me until he went to heaven nearly 30 years ago. And even though he is no longer present here, his love of God’s Word remains as a guiding influence for me. He had a gift for making the hard things of scripture understandable. I think he is the first one from whom I heard, “If the plain sense makes common sense, then any other sense is nonsense!”

There were others. To name each one would make this post too long. So I’m going to fly through the years and land in Sellersville, PA at Bethel Baptist Church. Pastor Richard Harris was not a dynamic man in the sense of being loud, pounding the pulpit and such. But in his quiet way, he built a ministry that reached around the world at one point. His influence sent people out as pastors, teachers, evangelists, missionaries and just faithful workers in churches around the world. He influenced legislation in Pennsylvania that protected Christian schools from government restrictions that would have put them out of business. He was active and influential in national and international activities. Most of all, he was a faithful soul-winner, and he loved his flock. He’s in heaven now.

Then, there is Pastor Jim Spears at Calvary Baptist in Pottstown. I think his primary personality feature is his humility. He was truly a servant leader there, and now he has retired and is doing interim pastor work wherever he is needed. He is an expositor of the scripture, digging into the meanings of words in the original languages in which they were written. The first memory I have of him is the way he shepherded people, on a blustery wet day, from their cars into the church building using his huge umbrella. He didn’t see that as doing anything special, but I sure did.

And now we have a new pastor, a young man who has been mentored by Pastor Spears for 14 years. He, too, has a humble spirit. He especially loves the teens, having worked as youth pastor for so long, and one of his goals is to bring more youth into the church.

We need to pray for our pastors, elders, leaders in the church. Women are elders, too, although they may not hold that official title. We are all teachers, often without realizing the influence we have on others. The women in the church can and should be a huge blessing to the ministry. There have been women in my life who have cared enough for me to hold me accountable in ways that I sometimes found quite uncomfortable. That’s what we need to do for each other. Not tearing down, but edifying and building each other.

Aside from those who were my pastors, I have been privileged to hear some of the greatest leaders in Christianity over the last 70+ years; those who came to my dad’s church to speak, or to my college, or to the other churches of which we have been a part. I won’t live long enough to be as aware of the new generation of leadership, but I pray that God will raise them up and strengthen them in a time when true Christianity is being seen as the biggest enemy of freedom. How the devil twists things and lies so effectively!

But that’s a topic for another day.

Love your pastor. Be the ones who hold up his arms in hard times, not the ones who tear him down.

Sunday Morning Coffee: What do You Think?

Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

I hope you won’t mind if I go just a little psychobabble on you this morning.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is based on the idea that what you believe is true motivates your words, emotions, and behavior.

So, for example, let’s just say that you believe with everything in you that you deserve to have whatever you want, and you deserve to have it NOW! How is that thinking going to affect your emotions?

Here’s how: You will become angry when your desires are not fulfilled. You will be resentful of the people in your life that don’t believe as you do, and do not provide everything you believe you must have. You will become a complainer, argumentative and full of self pity.

And those emotions will lead to words, which will reflect your inner thoughts. Complaining. Disagreeing. Focusing on self. Being critical of anyone else who doesn’t comply and support your thinking.

Words and behaviors are closely connected. You will become a person who resents any form of regulation or discipline imposed on you against your will. Think of a two-year-old who is sitting in the grocery cart, demanding candy. You can hear this child all over the store as he screams, repeating his demands over and over. Is he just a rotten kid? Well, maybe, but it doesn’t have to continue. What needs to change is his thinking! He needs to understand that wanting and needing are not the same thing. If his longsuffering parent caves in and gives him the candy, then she is reinforcing his belief that he MUST have whatever he wants, and that he should continue to pitch a fit until he gets it. He has learned that no one else matters, just himself.

Here’s a news flash for you: Our job as parents is to disabuse our children of this self-centered thinking, and to teach them that they are NOT the center of the universe. This training needs to start before you pack the child into his car seat. He needs to be told, “Do not cry and ask for candy. If you do, I will leave the store, take you to the car, and give you a little tune-up.” “Oh,” you may say, “A two-year-old doesn’t understand that!” Yes he does, if you’ve been doing your job. That is why the tantrum stops abruptly the minute his wants are satisfied. No more screaming, no more tears. Unless, of course, it wasn’t the specific candy he wanted!

All of this takes place because he believes he is entitled to whatever he wants, RIGHT NOW! He also believes he is the boss of you, and if you cave and give him the candy, his belief is reinforced. It worked, after all. He screamed, you scrambled. He won. And it becomes a repeated behavior, reinforcing his faulty thinking every time he wins.

The biggest tragedy here is that he takes his faulty thinking with him into adulthood. He doesn’t feel obligated to earn his keep because every single thing he has ever demanded has been given to him. I’ve heard of young people applying for jobs who give their prospective employers a list of their demands! Can you imagine? My word!

So why am I on this track today? That’s a long story. As a long-time observer of human behavior–I’m one of those people who likes to watch other people–I can tell you that this kind of thinking and behavior is rampant today. I see people in groups of three or four who all have their eyes on their phones, paying no attention whatsoever to those they are with or other people who are expected to give way to them because they can’t be bothered to look up and show concern for anyone else.

It’s not just young people. There’s no one more cantankerous than a self-centered old person. This faulty thinking runs through every age bracket. It is a slow poison that leads society into all sorts of misery and ruin.

We need to do some self-examination, and we need to do it with humility and prayer:

“Dear Lord, am I guilty of false thinking and beliefs? ‘Search me, Oh, God, and know my heart; see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.'” (Psalm 139:24-25)

Sunday Morning Coffee: The Church

We have a big decision to make after church today. We’ll have lunch first, then a business meeting in which this important vote will be taken. I hope, of course, that it turns out the way I want it to 🙂

I’m happy to say that the cartoon above is NOT my church 🙂 Our business meetings are usually short and to the point, with anyone free to state his opinions, and no murmuring and complaining once the decision is made.

And so it ought to be. One of the main benefits of the church is that we have fellowship with other believers, in a spirit of unity and respect for one another.

No church, of course, is perfect. If you find one that is, you’d better go somewhere else because you’ll probably ruin it :). The church is comprised of sinners, saved by grace and looking forward to heaven. We are particularly blessed in my church to have some outstanding teachers both in children’s ministries and for the adult Sunday School classes.

I hear a lot of nonsense concerning church these days. Don’t really need to go, can worship God while I go fishing, the forest is my church, etc. The problem with all that, of course, is that it countermands God’s plan that church is to be a place where believers are edified, admonished, helped, and encouraged.

We have a really good group of young people. Our teens are, for the most part, open and friendly with the adults. They seem to enjoy little kids as well, and participate in helping with children’s church and in the baby nursery. They’re normal kids. They like to have fun. I enjoy them a lot in my home school co-op classes.

I’m rambling this morning. I’ve just been thinking a lot about how important the church has always been in my life for nearly 75 years. It hasn’t always been a blessing. Being the preacher’s kid puts one in an awkward position, in which you are expected to be a paragon of virtue, but are disliked for being too holy. “Be good, be an example, but don’t be holier-than thou.” Believe me, it’s a tricky rope on which to balance! However, that ends fairly early in life, and the lessons learned during those years are invaluable later on.

I love my church. I love the people, the little children, the teens, the young adults who are happy to sit and talk with me after the service is over. And I truly enjoy the older people–oh, wait. I AM an older people! Huh.

I saw a meme yesterday that said, “I hate it when I see an old person and realize he’s the same age as I am!”

Sunday Morning Coffee: Palm Sunday

Our pastor started a series last week called Jesus’ Last Days through Peter’s Eyes. It was excellent last week, giving us much to consider on our own responses, for instance, to fear and possible persecution. I’m looking forward to what he’s going to share with us today.

Palm Sunday is often a day of rejoicing as well as a day of dread. The triumphant entry of Jesus into His city was something to see. The people praised Him, worshiped Him, spread their cloaks on the ground for Him and waved palm branches before Him.

Palm was a symbol of triumph and victory, so why did they use palm branches? It was because they believed Jesus was the longed-for Messiah, coming to kick Rome out of Jerusalem and Israel and re-establish the sovereignty of the nation. After all, He had done so many miracles! Of course He could and would overthrow Rome!

They didn’t get it. Jesus had told them more than once that He had come to “seek and to save that which was lost,” and they interpreted it to mean victory over Rome.

When it became clear to the people that He was NOT going to save them from Rome, they turned on Him and demanded His crucifixion. The palm branches were left lying on the ground to be trampled by the traffic.

How short-sighted are we? Do we see Jesus as an emergency go-to when we’re in trouble? Do we ignore Him until we need Him? Do we become angry with Him when He doesn’t give us what we demand?

Who among us would be waving palm branches one day but scream for His death the next?

Sunday Morning Coffee: Psalm 61

Just a short one this morning.

Yesterday, a friend posted Psalm 61 on his newsfeed. I love that one. Here it is again, with the passages in bold italics that speak to me especially:

61 Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.

From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.

I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah.

For thou, O God, hast heard my vows: thou hast given me the heritage of those that fear thy name.

Thou wilt prolong the king’s life: and his years as many generations.

He shall abide before God for ever: O prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him.

So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my vows.

And here is the song that’s been in my head since I saw this post yesterday: