Sunday Morning Coffee: Almost Afternoon

I had a couple of very bad days on Friday and Saturday. The pain in my back can take my breath away sometimes, and put me on the floor. Not a happy place. I’m better today, but Terry and I both felt it was too soon for me to sit through the ride back and forth to church, and to sit during Sunday school and the morning service.

So I decided to have my own church. I opened my Bible to James, where I’m reading right now.  Instead of reading just the designated passage, I decided to go back and read the whole book through.

James has always been a book that both convicts and blesses me. It gets right to the point, doesn’t it?

In the very first verse, James identifies himself as a slave of God. The meaning is clear. He does nothing without the Master’s approval and direction. That is how a slave behaves. He has no will of his own, but operates only on the authority of his owner.

Then, in the next few verses, he tells us to count as joy all the trials and temptations we experience in this life.  Really?  I’m supposed to look at this terrible pain  in my back as a joy?

So I’m still thinking about that, and I’ve decided that James knew what he was talking about.  There is no joy in the pain, believe me, but there is great joy in how much time I’ve been able to spend in the Word because I’m unable to do anything else.

There is also joy in knowing that I have friends and family who are praying for me.

And there is joy and great gratitude  in  the progress there has been in controlling chronic pain.  I don’t like taking medication all the time, but I’m very thankful for the relief it gives me. Usually.

Well, that’s just skimming lightly over a few of the opening verses in the book of James.  It’s rich, practical, and convicting.  I recommend it 🙂

Sunday Morning Coffee: Music

I set my coffee mug down on the table by my chair, sat down and pulled my computer to my lap. I said, “Alexa, play Abiding Radio.” I have it set on “instrumental” right now. I love beautifully orchestrated  sacred music.

The first song I heard was “As morning gilds the skies, my heart ,awakening, cries, ‘May Jesus Christ be praised!'”  As I listened, I  did an instant time travel back to when I was about eight or nine years old.

The music director at Fourth Baptist Church in Minneapolis had decided to start a children’s choir. Oh, my heart!  I was so excited!  I loved to sing, and I think I may have been first in line to audition!

Glory!  I was accepted into the choir, and under the director’s able leadership, we tackled some pretty hard music. This hymn was one that I clearly remember.  He went over the words with us, making sure we knew exactly what the song meant.  And by the way,  that’s a really good thing to do when your kids are memorizing scripture.  Helps them “get it” faster when they fully understand what the words mean.

That hymn was a paean of praise, and I have loved it ever since.  Here’s a beautiful version for your enjoyment:

 

Sunday Morning Coffee: Alexa

My daughter and son-in-law gave me an Alexa Dot for my birthday.  Don’t know what that is?  It’s a gadget that you connect to your wi-fi and then load up with apps from the Alexa App that you can get on your smart phone.

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So, once you get it connected, you add whatever apps appeal to you–and there are lots of free ones–and you’re ready to have some fun.   There a news updates, games (I like the Jeopardy app) silly jokes, trivia, and lots of music. Some of it you can’t get without paying–that’s up to you. So far I’m sticking with the free stuff.

You operate your Alexa by speaking her name, and then asking her to do whatever you’d like.  Example:  “Alexa, play Jeopardy.”  Bingo, you’re off and running.

I’ve even figured out how to  load it up with music I have on my PC.  I transferred it to my Mac via Amazon Music, then  loaded it into my Alexa.  So now I can get music I really love, just by asking for it. If I ask it for something that hasn’t been loaded via apps or Amazon music, it will tell me so.

I can get a news update any time.  Same thing with weather.  And silly jokes. If I really want to, I can even connect it with other Alexas and use it like a telephone. Depending on the apps you choose, you can get historical information, medical information, poetry, helpful hints, or a daily inspirational Bible verse. It’s endless, really.

As I’ve played with my new toy, I’ve been thinking:  Wouldn’t it be cool if we had an app  that we could use to get direct communication with God?  Ask Him anything, and He would answer.  What am I supposed to be when I grow up?  Who should I marry? What car should I buy?  Where should I attend college?  Church? Should I move? What should we name our new baby?  Where should we go on vacation?

But wouldn’t that just turn us into robots, doing whatever the app told us to do?  Would we fail to use it if we knew we were wanting something that wouldn’t be good for us?  Would we ignore the voice that answers all our questions?

Yes, I think we would.  After all, we have the written Word of God, and how often do we consult it when we have questions to answer?  When we’re seeking direction?

How often do we seek human counsel instead, failing to pray and search the scriptures? And getting advice that has nothing to do with godliness or His Word?

Bottom line:  Alexa is a human creation, and it knows only what is programmed into it.  It can be both fun and useful, but it doesn’t care about you, or love you, or provide a way for you to have eternal life in heaven with God.

You’ll get all that from studying God’s Word, and praying earnestly  to  know Him better.

There is no greater gift.

Sunday Morning Coffee: Pain

I tell people all the time, in my work, that we can learn something from every experience we have.  Easy for me to say, not always so easy for me to take my own advice.

How about this?  I think I’ve learned enough, okay? I mean, I’m learning patience; fortitude; endurance; how to work, when your pain pills are making you loopy, and you have to act as if you’re on your best game.  The dragging weariness at the end of a long workday when I’m  not sure  I can even make it home. I’m learning to accept interrupted sleep when I move  during the night and the pain wakes me up. I’m getting pretty good at going back to sleep quickly.

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I’m in waiting mode again.  I’ll have surgery to fuse my right sacroiliac joint. If it works as well as the left side did back in January, it will be an immense relief.  So I know that there’s almost certainly an end point.  For a while. Until something else get degenerated enough to cause pain. Then we’ll start the rounds of shots again, and if it’s possible, surgery.

Okay.  So, where do I go but to the Lord?  I can think of so many verses right now that it’s impossible to share them all.  The one that keeps rising to the top, though, is  this one.           II Corinthians 12: 8-10:

Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.  And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

See, I’m not the only one.  And Paul suffered, truly suffered, over and over again. He begged God to remove something that was a source of some kind of pain to him, and God said, “No,”  So Paul accepted God’s Word and His will, and I suspect that it was partly because he knew it would be an encouragement for other believers down through the halls of time until Christ returns.

It’s true that my condition is a natural part of aging.  The body slows down, winds down, breaks down. And it is during these so-called “declining years” that many of us have to learn as never before to depend on His strength, which is made complete in our weakness.

So that’s what I’m learning. Slowly, because sometimes I’m just stubborn,

 

Sunday Morning Coffee: Hair

I was at a birthday party last night with some good  friends.  I got to reminiscing with a dear friend who is close to my age. We were talking about how long it used to take us to get ready for church on a Sunday morning.  Mostly it was all about hair.

We’re talking about the early  1970’s.  Hair was getting bigger,  taking us toward the 80s when there was more hair than  you could imagine.

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Today, people would do this for a Halloween party 🙂  Everyone had a perm, because lots of curl and lots of body were very important.

It used to take a lot more time back then.  We tortured our hair with teasing, perms, hot rollers, and gallons of hairspray. To be on time for church, you had to give yourself about two hours of lead time. If there were also little kids to feed and dress, you needed even more.

So we were talking about how thankful we are for today’s simpler, low-maintenance styles.

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All it takes today is a good cut, some practice with a blow-dryer and a round brush, and you’re done. If you’re fortunate enough to have some natural wave or curl, all you need after you shampoo is some mousse or other styling product. Put it in, let it dry, comb it out, and you’re out the door.

So I was thinking about all this; how styles change over time. Once we thought that big, big hair was the only way to look good. Now we  look back and wondered how we ever thought it was attractive. As my friend and I chatted and laughed, I was watching her face. Here is something that has never changed in the 40+ years we’ve known each other–her kindness, her faithfulness, her thoughtfulness. The years have left their mark on both of us, but our friendship remains unchanged. She and her husband, who is facing some very serious health issues,  have remained our friends through all the changes those years have brought. They’re part of our family.

Friends like that, no matter how other things may change, are a treasure.  A gift from God.

“Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver, the other is gold.”

 

 

Sunday Morning Coffee: The Fathers in My Life

My dad.  My husband. Two of my sons. Maybe the third son, one of these days. My son-in-law.  My pastor, who has four sons.  Countless friends down through the years whose children were, appropriately, third:  God first, wife second, then children.

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(This is the best picture I have of my dad.  I think he was younger than I am now, somewhere in his early 60’s)

That’s the right order, you know.  I feel sorry for couples who lose sight of that when the first baby arrives and suddenly the spotlight gets shifted to that bundle of energy and never quite gets shifted back to where it belongs. When the children come second, or even first, the marriage is going to be in trouble.

I frequently remind the couples who come to my office that when the kids are all gone, they’re going to be left with each other.  Sometimes they get kind of excited about that.  Other times, one or both will look at me in utter dismay.  They have nothing to talk about but the kids.  Nothing to do but attend the kids’ events. Nothing to plan for but what the kids want, need, or are doing.

That’s bad for the marriage, and believe me, it’s bad for the kids.  And it’s bad for each individual’s relationship to the Lord.

I always knew that my dad put my mom ahead of us kids. Never seemed strange to me.  I also knew that he put God ahead of all of it.  He was a pastor, and sometimes he got called and had to leave during the dinner hour. That was unusual, though, because he made sure the people in the church knew that it was important to us that we all eat together in the evening.

Remember that?

Our family was far from perfect.  There were five of us, all strong-minded and opinionated and willing to speak up–carefully–in a good discussion.  My dad tolerated no disrespect, but he enjoyed it when we could discuss history and politics with him intelligently.  He enjoyed talking about the Bible with us, too.

Some say that women tend to marry men who are like their fathers.  Meh.  In some ways, yes, but  certainly not 100%, any more than I am 100% like Terry’s mother.

So what about the younger men in the family?  Well, I can tell you that they love God, that they love their wives, and that they love their children. We’re not very involved in the day-to-day lives of all of them because of the sheer geographical distance. But we love the rare visits we have, and I can easily see my own kids in their kids.

And I know all my children love their dad. The respect him. They know how hard he worked to provide for all of us. They miss him, those who are so far away. My son-in-law lives nearer, and we see them much more often. He loves his kids so much. There is joy just in watching them interact when he teases, which he does with great enjoyment. He’s a good and godly dad.

Fathers have been given such a great responsibility in God’s Word. They are to be the head of the household, the spiritual leader, as well as the physical provider. It’s a heavy duty, but God gave men broad shoulders so they could carry the load 🙂

I love the men in my life. I’m thankful for each one of them.

And I wish all the rest of you a blessed Father’s Day today.

Sunday Morning Coffee: The Church

It’s been a busy weekend. Friday we attended a homeschool co-op picnic to celebrate the end of the school year.  I enjoyed spending a few minutes with my lit class as I returned tests and other papers. Good fellowship, good food.

Yesterday we attended the graduation party for one of the young ladies in our church. She is a gifted artist, and it was amazing to look through her portfolio.  Again, a time of good fellowship and good food.

And of course, this morning we’ll be in church, enjoying the fellowship of our church family as we join in learning and growing together.

So, as I type these words, I’m thinking once again about how church has influenced my life. Not just church, not just the ritualistic attendance for the sake of looking “spiritual.”  No, it’s so much more than that when you are a true believer, and your church  friends become like family; when the Bible is a topic of conversation outside of church; when music is a source of joy and fellowship;  when  others of like faith influence and help, edify and encourage each other.

I gave my heart to Jesus when I was five, in a Sunday school class.

I was baptized by Dr. Richard V. Clearwaters when I was 8.

I became a “preacher’s kid” when I was 10.

I started teaching two-year-olds when I was 12, and I’ve been teaching ever since.

I started singing in church, doing duets and trios, the choir, whatever, when I was 12; also started playing the piano at about the same age when the regular pianist couldn’t be there.

My first boyfriend was a young man I met in church.

I attended a Bible college, also centered on the same Bible truths I learned in church.

I met my future husband in church, My dad baptized him after he trusted the Lord. We’ve been married for 48 years.

We’ve reared our kids in church, and they are doing the same with their own children.

It is not “The Church” as an entity or organization of authority that I love so much. It is knowing that the churches we’ve attended have held the Bible as their authority for faith and practice; that the center of attention is not a liturgy or a tradition, but the clear teaching of God’s Word.

The church is under attack today, as it has always been. Satan wants to destroy it, but of course we know he can’t. Persecution has always served to simply drive the church underground, where it thrives and grows. Persecution of the first church in Jerusalem simply resulted in believers dispersing to other places in the known world, carrying their faith with them and spreading it wherever they went.

Jesus said, “Upon this Rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it”(Matthew 16:18).