Sunday Morning Coffee: The Fourth of July!

I love this holiday. For one thing, it’s my birthday–I’ll be 74 on 7/4/47 🙂 Numerologists should have a good time with that one!

In my memory, the weather is good far more often than not. There are gatherings of family and friends, fried chicken or burgers and brats, potato salad, chips, all the trimmings. We can usually see our local fireworks from our front yard.

I love the Fourth because I love America. I stand without apology for my flag, my government as our Founders created it. I’m proud of our military. And I love the music that is patriotic, so I thought I’d share some of that with you this morning.

Before I do that, I want to point to a favorite verse of mine. Galatians 5:1 says, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Even if this country falls to totalitarian rule, we are still free in the liberty of knowing Christ Jesus. We do not need to be caught in Satan’s yoke of bondage and slavery to sin.

Sunday Morning Coffee: Weariness of the Spirit

“Good grief,” you may be thinking. This one sounds like a downer!”

I’ll try not to make it that way.

Haven’t there been times when it was just hard for you to consider one more day, one more hour, one more minute? When you’ve wanted to head for the hills, build a shelter invisible from the world, and just hide there alone with an endless stack of good books and your choice of coffee, tea, or water?

Honestly, I’m feeling a little bit like that right this minute. I didn’t even scan my Facebook newsfeed yet, because I’m tired of politics and I know there will be some. I’m tired of Covid and “get the shots-don’t get the shots.” I’m just tired of man’s unkindness to man, even in Christian circles where we ought to know better.

Truth is, it’s just about impossible to hide forever in this world if techno-spying. Sometimes I feel like this funny guy:

But there is a hiding place! Tons of music floods my mind when I think about hiding in the loving arms of God, the best place I know to find shelter, peace, refuge, rest, restoration, and spiritual renewal.

If you, like me, are feeling a need for a safe haven, take heart. Jesus is just a prayer away. And maybe you do need to just check out of life for an hour, or a day, or whatever you can manage. Even Jesus had to get away from the people, go up into a high mountain or across to the other side of the lake, or take a nap in a boat during a wild storm. He understands.

Sunday Morning Coffee: Children’s Church

It’s my turn to take the 3-6 year olds for Children’s Church. We’re doing the story of Achan today. That’s not an easy story to teach little kids.

Israel was winning one battle after another, until suddenly they weren’t! God had told His people that they were not to take anything at all for themselves from the enemy encampments. No gold, silver, jewels, silk–nothing. As long as they obeyed Him, He blessed them.

But then they lost, and they went to the Lord to ask why His hand of blessing was no longer with them. The answer soon became clear. There was sin in the camp. It had to be rooted out, because God cannot bless disobedience.

Ultimately, it came down to one man. Achan had seen some things he wanted, and he took them and hid them underground inside his tent. He forgot that you cannot hide from God.

He was caught, and he and his family paid a terrible penalty for his sin. But once it was over, Israel began to win its battles again. God’s hand of blessing was restored.

Now, I will make appropriate applications for the kids I’ll be teaching today. They shouldn’t be expected to understand adult matters, so I will talk with them about how they feel when they know they have done wrong. We’ll talk about disobedience, lying, and trying to hide our sin. We’ll talk about how the whole family is affected when just one person does wrong. And we’ll talk about how to go about making things right.

I wish I’d done a better job with this sort of thing when my kids were little. Especially the job of making things right. Children need to learn to name the sin, and sincerely say they are sorry, and ask to be forgiven. It can’t be mumbled and just done by rote. There needs to be real repentance, real sorrow for having done wrong.

I’m still learning this today. Name the sin. Admit the wrongdoing. Show that you really are sorry, and ask forgiveness if you wronged someone else. If we don’t learn this as children, it’s so very much harder to do when we are adults. Pride gets in the way. We don’t like admitting we were wrong, and we tend to go immediately to blame-shifting. “Well, but YOU. . . .” And we sound like five-year-olds. Caught red-handed, we still try to find a way out.

We forget that we can’t hide from God. When there is sin in the camp, whether it be the family, the church, the community, then there will be consequences. The one who did wrong will not be the only one who suffers.

God will deal with it, sooner or later. Better to own up, ‘fess up, and get it right before it gets any worse.

Sunday Morning Coffee: A Busy Week

I can’t believe I haven’t written on this blog since Wednesday. Quite unusual for me to miss so many days in a row. Nothing dire or majorly important–just appointments and meetings that stole my mornings away from me.

And that got me thinking about how we too often lose control of our time. We all start with the same amount, 24 hours in each day, but we don’t all always use that time well. Time is so precious. You can’t get it back once it’s gone. You can’t relive even one nano-second.

Which got me thinking about people. That’s a sentence fragment, shame on me! Not going to fix it, though. Just try to follow the maze in my brain 🙂

I got some very nice cards from some people this week. One of them was from our church family, in anticipation of our celebrating our 52nd wedding anniversary on June 7. Another was an encouragement, since I’ve missed, let’s see, at least four Sundays in a row! The time that it took for those friends to sit down, HAND-WRITE the note ( unusual and treasured!) and send it off was a gift just as much as the cards. People are important.

Speaking of 52 years! My word! How the times has flown, and I can hardly believe it’s been that long until I get an unexpected glimpse of this old woman with grey hair as I pass a mirror or reflective window. Yikes! I’ll bet I’m going to look just like her when I get old 🙂

Terry and I were talking about our 52 years the other day, remembering all sorts of things. Some of it he’d forgotten, some of it I’ve forgotten. We’ve been through so many different things, good, bad, outstanding–but never boring!

Time brings change. We hear so much about looking young these days, and I think it’s kind of sad. Of course we should always present the best appearance we can, but I am NOT ashamed of my age, and I refuse to spend gobs of money on this or that cream/serum/lotion/treatment that promises to take ten years or more off my age. It is what it is. I’ve earned every wrinkle and grey hair.

Here’s my high school grad picture, 1965:

And here’s Terry, 1961:

Yes, time has changed us. And that’s ok.

Just think, when we get to heaven we won’t have time at all! I can’t imagine, really. We’re so confined by watches, clocks, and calendars here on earth–although now that I’m retired, not so much :). But in heaven, no time. No aging. No illness. I’ll have a perfect, heavenly back! Terry will have perfect vision and hearing. And I won’t have to worry about diabetes any more. Bring on the chocolate!

I know, that’s silly. Let me have my fun, all right?

Well, this has kind of been a post about nothing. That happens sometimes. I hope you don’t mind 🙂

Sunday Morning Coffee: A Godly Husband

Once, I told him he was being a helicopter husband. That he needed to let me make my own decision and accept my own consequences.

I really was born on the Fourth of July. It’s totally appropriate for me to have been born on Independence Day.

The truth is, what I have is a godly husband.

He’s watched me struggle with a great deal of pain over the last four or five years. Even before my back went wonky, he watched me deal with two knee replacement surgeries, and that’s just the big stuff.

He has never complained when I’m having a lot of pain. He just moves in and takes over jobs that he knows are hard for me when the pain is waging an all-out attack. He does laundry. He cleans. He shops, cooks, and takes care of the dishwasher. He’s never been afraid to change a smelly diaper on any of our four kids if I was sick, and even when I wasn’t.

It is not in my nature to be fussed over. I do better when I’m left alone with my misery. So is he. When he’s sick, he doesn’t want me to do a single thing for him, but he has a hard time leaving me on my own.

He took me by surprise a couple of hours ago when he said he wants me to wait another week before I go to church. I questioned that, and I suppose he’s right. I’m better, but he sees me walking and says I’m not ready yet. It’s a 40-minute drive, then sitting from 9:45 until 11:30 or so, and then the drive back home. He says my walk makes it clear to him that I’m still favoring the place where the pain hit, and he just thinks it’s too soon for me to try to take it to church.

I will admit that my initial reaction wasn’t very thankful. I got over that fairly quickly, though, and had a little talk with Jesus about helping me to be thankful for a husband who takes such good care of me, in spite of his own chronic pain.

He absolutely does treat me as Christ treats His bride. I know without doubt that he would lay down his life for me. Sometimes I get annoyed and push against his tendency to protect me, but you know what? That’s just stupid of me! Stupid, and not godly, not virtuous, not appreciative of a man who takes such good care of me. He cherishes me, as it says in Ephesians 5, as he does his own flesh. I have taught women, many times, that when a man treats you like that, it’s very easy to accept his God-given authority as the head of your home.

So there is my sermon to myself on this Sunday morning. If you have a husband who takes care of you, and you have an independent nature, ask God to show you the treasure you have.

Don’t take it lightly.

Sunday Morning Coffee: Friends and Family

Many years ago, I believe the year was 1974, Terry and I made a huge decision that would change the course of our lives. We wanted to do something with our lives that would have more impact, more meaning. Earlier in our marriage, Terry had wondered if the Lord was calling him into the ministry. He decided to enroll in seminary, to gain more knowledge of the Bible and to see if that was the direction he was supposed to take.

It wasn’t. He still values the time he spent studying, but he knew it wasn’t the path God wanted for him, and so did I. Looking back, it is very clear how God was leading, one step at a time.

We moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where Terry was born, to take a job he’d been offered in his home town. We settled in, but there was a restlessness that we didn’t understand, and we kept seeking to know what God had for us.

Terry wrote a letter to the editor of the Christian newspaper, The Sword of the Lord. In that letter, he stated his desire to be in some kind of service, ministry, that would use his natural gifts and talents. He’s amazingly gifted in mechanical things, and he could fix anything that was broken. He had been working as a mechanical engineer for 3M when we met, but that restlessness was there even back then.

Anyway, the letter was published in The Sword, and way out in the foreign land called Pennsylvania, a woman saw the letter and pointed it out to her husband. He was serving as the youth and music minister at Bethel Baptist Church in Sellersville, PA. They told the pastor, Dr. Richard Harris, about the letter. He called our home. Terry wasn’t there, but Pastor Harris told me they were looking for someone to come and work for the church. They were in need of a man who would work full time repairing and maintaining the buses they used for the Sunday Bus Ministry, as well as for their Christian school.

Terry returned the call, and we arranged to meet in Flint, Michigan. It was about halfway between our home and a conference that Pastor Harris was attending in Ohio. He said he would be bringing a young man with him who was still in Bible college, training to go to the mission field in which he had been born to his missionary parents. Our daughter is now married to his son.

God specializes in planning ahead 🙂

In any event, Pastor Harris offered Terry the job, and we made the long trek from Upper Michigan to the foreign land of Pennsylvania. Terry had always deplored the idea of living in the concrete jungle of the east coast, but there we were, and we were happy to be there. We still are. It is home, and we do NOT live in the concrete jungle 🙂

We met the woman who had seen Terry’s letter. She and I quickly recognized a kindred spirit between us. We laugh at the same things, have a mutual wry sense of humor. We also share a love for the Bible. We’ve had some of those deep, personal conversations that you don’t share with just anybody. Our friendship now spans 47years, which seems impossible to me until I look at our grandchildren, some of whom are adults and ready to start families of their own.

They live in South Carolina now, as do many dear friends, but they came up to minister in a church here this weekend. Last night we were with them at our daughter’s place, catching up and enjoying fellowship together.

All of these memories have led me to reflect on how God has led us, step by step, through our nearly 52 years of marriage. Sometimes we have struggled with submitting our own will to the clear leading of His will, but we have been blessed beyond measure as we’ve followed where He has directed.

And, of course, there’s a song playing in my head. Let me see if I can find it:

Sunday Morning Coffee: The Dogwoods

If you’ve been with me for any length of time, you know that spring holds a great deal of joy for me. Starting with the crocus and the forsythia, there is always something new blooming. We attend church a little west and south from where we live, and they are one to two weeks ahead of our neighborhood. We already enjoying the tulips, many flowering trees, and the lush green grass that comes from snow in the winter.

I’ve decided to take a daily picture of the pink dogwood in front of the house this year. I want to be able to see the difference as the tight brown buds begin to open up and show just a hint of color. Here are the first two pictures, today and yesterday:

April 17, 2021

The wind picked up just a bit as I shot that one yesterday, so it blurred a little, but you can already see that the buds are spreading from Friday’s picture:

April 16, 2021

I have to get better at getting my thumb out of the way!

I’m so thankful for the house God had set aside for us 27 years ago. That’s a story I should tell another time. It’s a pretty neighborhood, not brand new. Our house is one of the older ones, about 70 years, I think. Most of the yards are full of color all through the spring and summer, and of course into the fall.

Our daughter gave her dad two dogwood trees ten or eleven years ago, one being just a year or so younger than the other. One is pink, the other white. The older, the pink one, gets its blossoms first.

We have a north-facing front yard, so the things we plant don’t get as much sun as the back yard, and that may be part of the reason our dogwoods tend to be a little behind some others. I really don’t know much about such things. I just enjoy them.

I’ve looked forward to spring, with it’s life and light, after this so-called “long, dark winter.” Seems to me most winters are long and dark 🙂 It’s still a little cooler here than usual at this point in April, but I know I’ll be looking forward to having it cool down again in the fall. I don’t enjoy the high temps along with the humidity than hit us in August.

I do, however, enjoy the changes of the seasons, watching the earth respond to being exposed to longer hours of sunshine. I enjoy watching the fields green up, the trees on our route to church putting out leaves, and all the wonderful gardeners around here planting color for the rest of us to enjoy.

And I love fresh asparagus! It’s a sure sign of spring when the farmer’s markets start offering asparagus!

Well. I guess this has turned into a sort of “count your blessings” post, and that’s okay with me. I often don’t know for sure what I’m going to write when I start my Sunday Morning Coffee posts.

I hope you’ll enjoy the next few weeks of warmer weather, longer days, and lots of colorful flowers bursting into full glory.

Sunday Morning Coffee: Spring

I think it’s really here. It’s been peeking around the corner, withdrawing, peeking again. But now the flowering trees are doing their thing, lifting bouquets of glorious beauty up to the Creator. Daffodils are loaning us their delightful, happy yellow.

And soon, there will be tulips. I love tulips. The colors are so vibrant. They just make me smile.

Isn’t that just gorgeous! How I would love to be there during blooming season in Holland.

I really don’t have much else to say this morning. Sometimes the heart is just too full for words. But never for music!

Sunday Morning Coffee: A Movie

So I’m watching a Hallmark movie–not embarrassed to admit it–on Saturday evening. It’s about an Amish girl who is struggling with the restrictions of her life, not sure she wants to stay in it. She knows that if she chooses to go to the “Englishers,” it will be a blow to her family and her community. She hasn’t joined the church yet, so she would not be put under the Meidung, in which she would be shunned by even her closest family members.

When we first moved to Pennsylvania in 1974, I was intrigued with the whole Amish culture. We didn’t have a computer back then, didn’t even know for sure what they were. So I used the library, looked at various magazines, did a lot of reading and even got an Amish cookbook that I still use quite often.

They don’t want to have their pictures taken. They even make dolls with no faces for their little girls. Too much like making a graven image.

Cloth Amish Doll

Some communities are much more strict. Others have loosened the reins just a bit, hoping to keep their young people in the church. I’m not writing tonight to comment or express any opinions about any of this. I have, however, been reflecting on my own upbringing.

I was the kid who wasn’t allowed to learn to dance in gym class. I didn’t attend movies; didn’t ever, not even once, try smoking or drinking. There were other things, but they didn’t bother me a whole lot. Life was good. I had friends, was involved in lots of extra-curriculars at school, was busy at church, and spent a lot of time trying to learn to play the piano for church. I even had a boyfriend or two 🙂

So why the rules? Well, let’s back up a bit.

My parents were born in the 1920’s, grew up in the Depression, got through WWII. Dad trusted the Lord as his Savior when he was 14, but no one really discipled him. He joined the Navy at 19, after he and Mom were married. She was 16. Things were different then, huh?

While Dad was away, my Mom got saved. Dad was learning to drink and carouse and he was not impressed when Mom wrote to tell him. They had some rough years once he came home, until he finally surrendered to God’s call on his life to be a preacher.

They both grew up in what we knew as “worldly” activities, things that, looking back, they felt did not bring honor to God. They chose to rear us differently, avoiding worldly activities and thereby the temptations that could destroy our lives.

Did I agree with everything? No. But I loved and respected them, and as I said, life was really pretty good. I never felt deprived, really, although I think I would have loved to learn to dance 🙂

Didn’t I ever have a rebellious thought or desire? Well, sure. I’m very, very human.

I’ll tell you one thing for sure, though. I’m not sorry at all that I have nothing to regret in abiding by my parent’s rules. I was saved when I was only five, but I understood that I was a sinner. Lying is sin. Temper is sin. Cheating. Jealousy. Gossip. All just a sinful as the list of Baptist no-no’s that I grew up with. I’m not sorry I’ve never been addicted to alcohol or drugs. Never had to fight the terrible battle of giving up nicotine. There have been plenty of other battles that are just between me and God, and I’m so thankful that He knows all about me and loves me anyway.

I’m also thankful that I understood that I could never be good enough in my own strength to be allowed into heaven. That it was “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us (Titus 3:5-7). It is not belonging to any particular church, or denomination, or creed, or community that paves my way to heaven. It is the precious blood of Jesus, shed in my behalf, that cleanses me from sin and gains me entrance to heaven.

Sunday Morning Coffee: Friends

I have a friend who is just a little older than I am. Her daughter is just a little younger than mine. Several years ago, we got together for a game night. We’ve done that a few times over the years, and today we spent the afternoon together. Good food, good conversation, lots of laughter and even some tears. We’ve shared some common experiences over the years. I treasure these friends, and I’m so thankful we can meet now and then just for relaxation.

If you have old friends, treasure them It’s been harder to keep in touch this past year, but it’s worth the effort. I have a lunch date with a newer friend on Tuesday. And I need to pick up the phone to arrange something with a couple of other old friends. There is an old saying: Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver, the other is gold.”

God has given us the gift of friendship. The best friend of all is Jesus. Here’s another song I love:

If you have an old friend you haven’t talked with in a while, pick up your phone. You’ll be glad you did.