Sunday Morning Coffee: A Nation Divided

This is not a political post. It is a post about how events at the highest levels of government have divided us from each other. The virulent hatred that is being spewed by both sides is unconscionable. The only real winner is Satan, because he has managed, over the course of many years, to turn us into a nation of name-calling, physically violent, hateful people who have lost their way.

I’m not even going to look for a picture to illustrate this post, because I’m sick of looking at all the protests, parades, attacks and screaming obscenities that have polluted our landscape.

I’ve even promised the Lord that I’m going on a politics fast this coming week. That means I’m not going to look at anything that has to do with the unrest in my country for seven days. I need to have a brain cleanse, you know?

It makes me so sad that friends I have who disagree with me on political issues can’t even discuss it with me without becoming angry.

So, what is the answer? Do we all just have to throw in the towel and give in to one side or the other even if it goes against all that we believe?

No. Absolutely not. We do, however, need to find a way to have a more civil discourse that will actually accomplish something rather than just ending in a shouting match.

If I’m tired of it, and I truly am, how much more must it grieve the heart of God? This country has access to more teaching from God’s Word than any other nation on earth, yet we have become so impeded in our ability to speak rationally with each other that the air is constantly polluted with F-bombs and name-calling, threats and abuse.

What can we do?

Pray more. A LOT more.

Spend a lot more time in God’s Word.

Educate ourselves by reading material that is written intelligently on all sides.

Avoid TV channels that you know provide only one aspect of the news. I know, it’s hard to find that, but it IS out there.

Be careful what you read online. Avoid the click-bait. It can eat up hours and hours of time that could be better-spent in other ways.

The best way to make sure your voice is heard is to vote whenever there is an opportunity to do so.

The thing that makes America a republic—NOT a pure democracy– is that we send people to our state and federal governments to be our representatives and senators to speak for us. If every voting-age citizen had to vote on every piece of legislation, nothing would ever get done. So we vote for those who speak in our behalf. That’s why the every-other year elections for the House and the Senate are so important. We need to pay attention to what the people in Washington are doing. They may not be representing us at all, but instead voting with special interest groups who will line their pockets in return for votes.

Yes, it does happen. Don’t be naive.

Let me clarify : America is a democracy IN a republic. It is not a pure democracy, which always leads to anarchy and then to totalitarianism.

If you hated history class, were bored spitless by civics (does anyone teach civics any more?) and had no interest in the Constitution when you were still in school, maybe now would be a good time to go back to basics. Most American who were born in America wouldn’t score very well on the test that immigrants have to take to become American citizens. We’re ignorant about our own government, and when that becomes a widespread condition, government can do whatever it wants to.

Educate yourself.

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Sunday Morning Coffee: This and That

Yup, it’s another one of those “stream of consciousness,” random, no particular goal or plan kinds of posts.

It’s been a different kind of week. I’ve been working on some physical issues that seem to be resolving positively now. I’m learning that aging has all kinds of surprises. I remember the first time I ever saw the picture below. I was young, newly married, and could hardly imagine being really old. Doesn’t seem so hard to believe any more 🙂

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About those surprises as we age; what do I mean? Well, here’s an example anyone who had very oily skin and acne as a teen will understand. I had that kind of skin, starting when I was just ten. By the time I was in high school, I was blotting the oil off my face several times each day. The acne was very bad. Back then, I never dreamed that a day would come when my skin would be so dry that I would be using Argan oil twice a day, all over my face and neck. It feels good, and it really does the job. Who knew, back when I was 15, that this day would ever come? Not me, that’s for sure!

Life changes. I was teaching my women’s Bible study class on Friday morning. We were in the 11th chapter of Ecclesiastes, in which the last couple of verses admonish us to rejoice in our youth. I wonder if any of us actually are wise enough to do that! We discussed it for a little bit, remembering how good we felt, how busy we were, how strong and active, never giving much thought to a time when those things would begin to fade.

I think we can rejoice in our age, whatever it is. We may lose things from one decade to another, but we also gain, if we’re walking with God, in faith, peace, hope, confidence, just knowing Him, and realizing that every day brings us one day closer to heaven.

I’m thankful for many things. I’m thankful to be retired, although I loved my work. I’m thankful I’m still in my right mind. No, really, I am! I’m thankful I’m not housebound yet, that I can still drive and participate in things I enjoy. I’m thankful I have the time to write. I’m thankful for Terry, who makes sure I don’t do anything to hurt my back, which has been in pretty good shape since my last injection in June. Even though I’m pretty sure the pain will return, for right now I’m comfortable most of the time.

I’m thankful for more time to be in the Word. I’m thankful for a pastor who challenged us to pray more this year. I’m thankful for the women in my class who share my love of the Word of God, who can weep with those who weep, and who can share a good belly laugh together.

I’m thankful for my kids and grandkids. They fill my heart and my thoughts all the time. I pray for each of them every single day.

See, the thing with aging is that the longer you live, the more you have for which to be thankful—and the more time you have to pray, study, grow in the Lord.

Philippians 4:11. “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

Sunday Morning Coffee: First Snow

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This photo was taken near Washington, D.C, which is a couple of hours south of us. It looks about the same here. Not a lot of snow, and today it’s a typical clear blue day-after-the-snow sky.

January has been fairly mild so far, in spite of some quite severe storms in the Midwest that seemed to wear themselves out before they got to us. I’m thankful for the mild weather. I don’t deal as well with the cold and snow as I did years ago. But the snow does bring back memories.

We lived in Minneapolis until I was 10, when we moved to Portland, OR for five years while my dad attended seminary and started a new church. When I was 15, we moved to southern Minnesota, a little farm town called St. James. Those five years in Portland were like a time-out from the winters I was used to. Minneapolis was cold in the winter; and there was lots of wonderful snow for all the kids in the neighborhood to enjoy. Snowmen, snow forts, snowball fights, snow angels, sledding and sliding on whatever we could find that would move in the snow. Most of us didn’t have fancy snowsuits. We wore as many pairs of jeans as we could, zipped our boots over our shoes, found every pair of mittens and hats we could. Once we were soaked through, we trekked upstairs, peeled everything off and draped it all over the radiators that steamed and hissed under the load of wet clothes, and put them all back on again when they were dry. So much fun 🙂

I went to high school in St. James. We lived a long city block from the school, so I walked back and forth. Don’t misunderstand–this was not in the city. We lived across the road from a corn field. The winter winds blew unhindered across that field, finding every crevice in the old, uninsulated farmhouse we lived in. Brrrrr.

The winter of the year I graduated, in 1965, we had real prairie blizzards every single weekend in March. When it was finally over, you could quite literally walk from housetop to housetop on the drifts from the snow and wind.

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Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen snow like that, especially snow that just kept on coming. And coming. . .

It could be dangerous, but it was beautiful. When it was fresh, it sparkled in the sunlight and made sunglasses a necessity. It provided great entertainment for little kids, and snowmobiles were just making an entrance into winter activities.

And all this wandering down memory lane is bringing me to the book of Job.

Job 38:22 

22 Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?

Always, I have been fascinated by the idea that no two snowflakes are identical.

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There have been scientists who have replicated snowflakes in a lab, coming up with identical flakes. One scientist says he found two identical flakes in the same storm back in 1988. I couldn’t find a picture of that. The fact remains that there are zillions of snowflakes, and it is fascinating to see them enlarged like those above. The way the crystals develop depends on many different factors, and I don’t understand it all. Temperature, other particles in the atmosphere, and so on.

But look at those flakes! What a treasure, for example, for someone who likes to create jewelry. Or for some little kid with a stack of paper and a pair of scissors who is just learning to create his own snowflakes. It’s wonderful stuff. Provides nitrogen for the soil, and total joy for those who love to ski.

I think God has a wonderful time creating each snowfall, each snowflake. There is no end to His creativity.

Sunday Morning Coffee: That Time of Year

Every other person I know IS sick, has BEEN sick, or feels like there’s something coming on.

It’s after the holidays, when everyone’s adrenaline was high. That crashes, and whatever nasty little bugs are running around out there lookin’ for a home (see video below) zero in on people who’s immune systems are compromised due to lack of sleep, too many late nights, too much shopping and cleaning and baking and prepping and decorating and card-writing and didn’t Christmas used to be FUN?

I’m reminded of that old folk song about the boll weevil, scourge of the cotton plantations.

Take the flu virus. Not really, but think about it. It circles the world, lookin’ for a home. The doctors wave their needles, warning everyone about the dangers of not getting flu shot. So you go get one. A week later you find out it wasn’t the right one, that a new strain has appeared.

You could get a new flu shot every week!

Well, this post really isn’t about shots or boll weevils. At least, I didn’t think it would be. Sometimes I surprise myself with what leaks from my brain to my fingers.

Actually, I was thinking about the relative quiet of the new year. Yes, a lot of people have colds and other illnesses, but the rush is over, and there’s more time to just think.

I’ve been thinking about a sermon our pastor preached a couple of weeks ago from the book of James, emphasizing the importance of prayer. He challenged us to double our prayer time in 2020. I took it to heart,

I don’t really know how much time I spend in prayer, because I tend to talk to the Lord off and on all day. It’s just a habit, I guess, and a good one! But I decided to dedicate a period of time daily to prayer, and my prayer list has grown like topsy. I think of something to pray about while I’m praying, so I quickly write it down. Otherwise I’d forget.

In just a couple of weeks, I have felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit in my heart more than ever before. It’s not that I wasn’t praying; but I wasn’t setting aside time to focus on nothing BUT prayer.

Many years ago, I started to pray, as I was doing housework, for the family member whose clothes I was ironing or mending; or whose lunch I was packing, or who came to my room for a late night visit because our days were so busy then, there was no other time. I prayed for them when they started driving, and when they got jobs that sometimes had them out very late. I prayed for Terry when he took an over-the-road trucking job for a while. Mostly I prayed that he would quit. And he did, because God opened a different, unexpected door for us.

I prayed for our kids when they started getting interested in the opposite sex. I prayed for each one when it became apparent that THE ONE had appeared. And now I have nine grandchildren to add to my list, plus three daughters-in-law and a son-in-law. And Terry, and our four adult children.

And I won’t even start on the things I pray for in our church, ’cause I’m getting tired, and my body is lookin’ for a bed 🙂

Prayer is a wonderful thing. The more you do it, the more you do it!

Reflecting

The holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving, always makes me a bit nostalgic. Most of my memories are good, warm, fun; filled with laughter good food, friends, family. There are, of course, some that are outstanding.

One that comes to mind, because this Christmas marked our 50th as a married couple, is the first Christmas after our first child was born. He was only four months old, but he was totally fascinated with the pretty decorations, the lights, and the pretty music. How do I know he liked the music? Because he waved his chubby little arms in perfect time to it. And he still loves music 🙂

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We took him up to Iron River, MI, that Christmas. His Kreger grandparents were so excited. Mike was the first grandchild on both my side of the family, and Terry’s. Having little kids, even infants, makes Christmas all the more special. Maybe that’s because the very first Christmas, even though it wasn’t called Christmas yet, was all about a Baby.

There were Christmas trips to South Carolina to visit my parents. One memorable trip stays in my mind. We were in the mountains, and it was growing dark. We were driving an old van, and Terry had been concerned about some mechanical issues, and he traveled with tools stowed in the back. Our four teens were stretched out on mats and blankets, dozing off and on. And then it happened. In my memory, I think it was a broken timing chain. I could be wrong. But it wasn’t something Terry could fix with bubble gum and safety pins 🙂

I don’t remember if someone stopped to offer help. This was pre-cell phone, so I’m pretty sure it was either another traveler or perhaps a cruising police officer. In any event, we got a tow into the nearest town, where there was a garage still open. The owner kindly agreed to help us, and he worked while we snacked on vending machine junk food. It was fully dark by the time we were back on the road, due to the help and kindness of strangers. We could have been stranded for two or three days if people hadn’t been willing to help us.

Christmases with the grandchildren haven’ t been frequent, because there’s a lot of distance. But for the last 15 years or so, we’ve been able to enjoy Christmas with our daughter and her family. When I think about it, how fast they’re growing up, I hold each season of the year, not just the winter holidays, especially close to my heart.

I don’t know how many more Christmases I’ll enjoy before the Lord takes me to heaven. Each one will be treasured because of the One we honor; because of family and friends, because of memories of Christmases past.

Who knows, there could even be a great-grandchild sometime in the next few years 🙂

Sunday Morning Coffee: The Gift of Music

I went to a concert with a friend last night. It was a Gaither Vocal Band Christmas event, with several other of their regulars, including Lynda Randle and Ernie Hasse’s Signature Sound.

I loved it. The fellowship with my friend is always lively and both funny and very deep. She’s young enough to be my daughter, but her life has had some trauma and trials, and she has an “old soul.”

The music was amazing. We sang along often, which is always enjoyable. There’s something wonderful about singing with a huge crowd, songs of praise and worship to the God Who is the Creator of music.

She didn’t sing this one last night, but it is one of my favorites. One of the reason I enjoy her so much, I think, is that our vocal ranges are quite similar.

On the way home, my friend and I talked about our love of music and how it has affected and colored our lives. How it isn’t just a thing we enjoy now and then, but that we need in our lives. Music calms, soothes, heals; it lifts us up, excites us, expresses joy and the love of God. For me, going without music would be like going without water. I think I’d just dry up!

In Ephesians 5:18-19, God tells us that music is one of the results of being filled with the Holy Spirit:

“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

 “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”

I’m 72, and most of those years have been spent learning and singing great old hymns of the faith; gospel songs that tell of our love for Him and His for us. I have so much music in my head! But do you know one of the things I’m really looking forward to in heaven?

I’ll get to hear God sing!

I can’t even imagine! All I know for sure is that the Bible is filled with references to music from Genesis to Revelation. God is the Creator of music. He has given that gift to us to use for our good and His glory, and I can’t wait to hear Him sing! Imagine all of heaven filled with the resonant, rich, perfect voice of God.

What a day that will be!

Sunday Morning Coffee: The Friendship of Women

When you’ve always moved around a lot, you don’t have those “best friends since kindergarten” relationships. You make friends you really love, but then you move again, and sometimes absence and distance just don’t make the heart grow fonder.

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Then your life changes, you stay in one place longer, you settle into wonderful friendships that started at church, so your bond is joined with faith, and you begin to hope that you won’t move ever again. But you do. Time passes, some friendships remain, but the years pass.

Then you get a phone call, and you go back. You find the old friends are still your friends, and you make new ones. But things happen, and you have to leave the church you loved. Some friendships are destroyed because leaving a church is always hurtful.

But you find a new place. It’s a little harder. You’re older, your kids are all grown up. It takes longer to start making connections that blossom into friendships, but slowly it does happen.

And then, one morning in a Bible study, the women in the classroom begin to share with each other. Some of these women have known each other a long time, but have never talked quite so openly. There are tears, there is laughter, there is bonding and a realization that all of us have stories that we don’t share with many other people.

Through our stories, we may hurt; we may cry; we may feel as if the world will never come right again. But slowly, as we walk with the Lord, stay in His Word, pray, and learn forgiveness, things do heal. We do go on. We’ll always have scars, but they won’t always be raw and painful.

One of the things we learn is that God’s got it, anyway. We don’t need to solve everything. We just need to be obedient, and trust His love and grace. He will show us how we can be a blessing to someone else.

There is something very special about the fellowship of women; godly women who don’t gossip, who don’t judge, but who share in grace and patience and understanding.

I hope the next move will be to heaven. But even if it’s not, I have confidence that these friendships will always have a special place in my heart–along with many others along the backtrail of my life. Rich in friends, rich in God’s love. Rich in my family. It’s all good.