Archive | July 2015

Dear John

Have you ever written a Dear John letter? I can’t say that I ever have, but I have heard of them. You Dear John 1know—the kind of letter where you tell your boyfriend, “Adios, Amigo! Buh-bye! Hasta la vista, baby!” These days, I suppose, it would be a Dear John e-mail or, if you’re really hard-hearted, a Dear John tweet.

Well, I wrote my first Dear John letter this week—but it’s not what you may be thinking! Actually, my pastor asked me to write it! He is beginning a new series of messages from the book of I John and asked me to write a “Dear John” letter as an introduction to each of his messages—a letter that might be written by a typical person in the pew in these contemporary days to the apostle John. Each letter is from the perspective of imaginary Christians from different demographics. Pastor will ask someone who fits the demographic that week to read the letter as if it was their own words as the introduction to his message. This week’s letter was supposed to be from an active church mom who feels like she’s just going through the motions of her faith and feels like something is missing in her spiritual life. Well, here—I’ll let you read it for yourself:

Dear John,

Well, this has been a crazy week—as usual! I can’t believe here it is Sunday again. The days fly by so quickly and I wonder when I finally fall into bed at night if I’ve really accomplished anything. My list of things to do seems never-ending! Between my husband, the kids and all their activities, the house, my job and church—well, sometimes I feel like I am just spinning my wheels trying to get it all done.

Church. Hmm, I’m busy in my church, singing in the choir, teaching kids and helping wherever I can.   I’m there every time the doors are open. I mean, church has just been a part of my life since I was a little girl and asked Jesus into my heart way back then. But, John, lately I feel like I am just going through the motions in my faith, as well. Church sometimes feels to me like just another thing on my list of activities, just another place to socialize, just another responsibility. Remember the old chorus “There is Joy in Serving Jesus”? Where is that joy? And where is the joy of worship? Why isn’t it more satisfying? Other Christians I know seem to be doing just fine, but I feel a little—empty sometimes.

And it’s not just at church, either. I hate to admit this, but even at home my personal Bible-reading and prayer is just hit or miss most of the time. I used to be excited about the things of the Lord. What’s happened? Something is missing in my spiritual life.

John, it’s hard to say this, but I’m even beginning to wonder if I really am a Christian…



I don’t know exactly what our pastor will preach today, but I can certainly feel for poor Marissa—can’t you? We probably have all been there to some extent or another in our spiritual lives. That feeling that we’ve become so busy in the matters of life that the things of the Lord kind of get shoved to the back burner. Oh, maybe we’re involved in church but there is a difference between being busy in church activities and responsibilities and being focused on our relationship with the Lord and having a healthy spiritual life.

Pastor is preaching from I John today, but I want to look at an old familiar passage we find in the book of Luke. Verses 38 – 42 recount the story of Mary and Martha:

38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”

41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

I’ve always felt a little sorry for Martha, especially since I have been on the serving end of hospitality many, many times throughout my adult life. I mean, somebody had to feed all those men, right? It’s not like they could simply call out for pizza delivery when thirteen men suddenly dropped in on them! It was a huge task to whip up a meal from scratch, and I am sure Martha wanted to serve her best to the Lord. Of course she needed help. Of course she felt stressed and harried. I know how I would feel in a situation like that!

It wasn’t that Martha was grumbling about having company suddenly thrust upon her, or that she was being inhospitable. Verse 38 says that Martha welcomed Jesus—and his disciples—into her home. I am sure she felt honored to have Him there. She loved Jesus and wanted to serve Him. But it was a big, stressful job—and there sat her sister, not helping at all. I would be a little—no, a lot—peeved, too!

toobusy2We often hear it said that Jesus rebuked Martha. I don’t see it that way. I think Jesus was sympathetic to her. He knew how big the job was to prepare a meal for all those men. He knew that she wanted to do her best for Him. I’m sure He knew that she loved him and her hospitality was an extension of that love.   I can just hear his voice when He acknowledged, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.” It was a voice of sympathy and love for her, not a harsh retort of “Get over it, woman!”

But Jesus had to speak the truth, as well. He was appreciative of the meal she was preparing and the love with which it was offered. The truth was, however, that there are some things of vast more importance than earthly food; things that say “I love you, Lord!” far better than busyness and material giving. There are things that rob us of the joy in serving Jesus and giving to Him. Jesus was not extolling or praising Mary above Martha. He was simply saying that Mary had made a better choice in sitting at His feet—a choice that had eternal value. Earthly food could have waited. Spiritual food, the Bread of Life—He, Himself—was the better choice. And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35) Hunger pangs will come again very quickly, but He is the one who satisfies eternally.toobusy4

We get so busy in this earthly life serving the Lord that, like Martha, sometimes we just neglect to sit at His feet. We may be totally involved in serving in our church or busy in some other ministry and we equate that with having a right relationship with Him. We minister to our families, we give to others, we run ourselves ragged sometimes and we lose the joy and fulfillment there is in simply walking with Him. We forget to simply worship. We do not sit at the feet of the Master to learn and be filled with Him. We’re too busy.

No wonder we sometimes feel as though we are just going through the motions and our spiritual life is not as satisfying and joyful as it once was. Take time to sit at Jesus’ feet—putting Him and your relationship with Him above everything else. Serving is good and necessary, but it should not come before time spent with Him in His Word and in prayer and worship. When we are too busy for that, we are too busy.

God wants our attention. He cares more about our hearts’ devotion than the busy work of our hands. He does not want us to get so busy for Him that we are too busy for Him. Martha was a good woman. She simply got her priorities mixed up. Let’s be careful not to do the same. Let us put Jesus and our relationship with Him first. Everything that is important will fall into place then afterwards.


Party Crashers!

Something happened to me yesterday that was a once-in-forty-years, red letter, let the party begin, very special event! I attended a mini-reunion within a reunion and met up with three of my closest friends from way back—way, way back—in the 1970’s! Marilyn, Dottie, Pat and I attended a little church in the country together all those decades ago when we were young moms in our twenties, raising our kids, serving the Lord at Faith Baptist Church, and supporting and encouraging one another along the way. Life happens, though, and one by one our families had moved away and we lost touch.

You have to hand it to Facebook, though—it has a way of bringing old friends back together again! Fast forward to now—we’re four grandmas (Pat’s even a great-grandma!) and we couldn’t have been more thrilled to be reunited! I have to confess—we actually had to crash a party to make it happen! (Yeah, I know—just call me a wild thing!) Dottie lives in South Carolina now, but she had organized a reunion for the church she had attended before she went to Faith Baptist Church. When we heard she was going to be in the area we wanted to get together, but the only time she could do it was actually during the church’s reunion. It was important to us, though (so important that Pat drove all the way from Ohio to join us!) so, crash the party we did and had our own little reunion within their bigger one! We could just see the wheels turning inside some people’s heads as they tried to recall who we were. I even got a few “What are you doing here?” remarks from some people who knew I had never attended their church. I must admit—I gleefully confessed to being a party crasher!

The craziest, funniest part of it all, though, was how the four of us looked at one another and in awe, assured each other, “Wow! Can you believe it? Here we are in our sixties and early seventies and none of us have changed a bit! oldladies6We all still look just the same!” A moment later, “Hmm,” I asked them, “What does that mean? Either we all look fabulous—or forty years ago we were pretty haggard and old for our age!” Today, looking at the pictures we took yesterday, I still think they all look wonderful and unchanged—but I definitely look forty years older and not quite so fabulous!

It was fun; it was heart-warming; it was good hearing all about their children and grandchildren; it was sad hearing about all the really hard trials in life they’ve been through—deaths, very serious illnesses, broken relationships and so many other struggles. I’ve had my own difficult times over the years, but it seemed to me that they all had had much heavier burdens to bear than I had. It made me feel sad, too, that I had let my friendships with these wonderful women fall by the wayside when I should have been there to help bear the burdens.

Life gets busy. We become insulated with the cares of our own small family. We get stressed out with too many things on our plate. And these days people don’t always stay in one small hometown, but often move far away, and maybe not just once, but several times. It is easy to let time and distance and circumstances tear us away from the old friends we once held dear. Why, many of us have even gotten away from the annual Christmas letter that at least helped us touch base once a year. On the other hand, we now have Facebook and Twitter and other social media that enable us to stay in touch easily with friends and family on a weekly, even daily, basis if we so choose. But that’s just it—we have to choose to keep those friendships alive and well—and fabulous!

Friendship is important. It is one of the relationships God gives us here on earth to make our journey through life easier, strengthened, and much more—fun! God’s Word tells us that a true friend is:

A true friend is always thereThis is where I have failed so many times. I love my friends. I am loyal to them and would always stand beside them for support and behind them for strength, but in order to do that you have to be present. Oh, not necessarily present physically. We can’t always do that when hundreds, or even thousands of miles separate us. But we can always pick up the phone, or write a note or an e-mail, or help with a need when we know of it. Just letting that friend know that I am still thinking of her; still interested in what is going on in her life; still love and care about her—that is how to keep a friendship alive. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.” Be present. The next chapter goes on to say, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24) Be loyal.

I admire my sister Cheree. She is a wonderful friend and has many friends, all from different seasons of life and times and places where she has been. She treasures those friendships and gets together regularly with old friends from high school, from different jobs she has held, from different places she’s lived and different churches she attended. Where I have often been guilty of letting friendships slip away due to neglect, she has nurtured her friendships and seen them last for decades. She is obeying Proverbs 27:10 which says, “Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend.” Be there.

A true friend is there to encourage and edify. Friends ought to help one another grow. We should strengthen one another and encourage each other. Proverbs 27:17 tells us, “As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” In other words, we stimulate one another to growth and improvement and maturity. Fun and laughter in a friendship is great, but we need to be ready to help each other with godly counsel and encouragement, as well. I think Proverbs 27:9 is a beautiful verse. It says, “Ointment and perfume delight the heart, And the sweetness of a man’s Friendship-Quotes-4friend gives delight by hearty counsel.” A true friend should be willing to give, and to receive, godly counsel. A true friend will share from the heart in love and with the motivation to help, not hurt. Proverbs 27:6 tells us, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Honest counsel and constructive criticism is hard to give sometimes, and equally hard to receive, but when it is shared in love and with the correct motivation, we must not be afraid of it.


A true friend is there to share in life. Life is a journey and God has given us family and friends to help us along the way. We share the work. Ecclesiastes 4:9 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor.” A heavy load carried by two is much easier than trying to bear the weight all alone. That is true of the emotional and spiritual burdens we bear as well. We all need a shoulder to lean on—or even cry on—from time to time. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” We need to be available, ready and willing, to bear the burdens of our friends. Just being there with a listening ear, a comforting hug, a soothing word can mean the world. “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” (Romans 12:15) We sometimes share in the tears of our friends, but how wonderful when we can share in the joys, as well! To have a friend on the other end of the phone jumping up and down and doing the happy dance right along with us! Our road on life’s pathway is never easy. It has its ups and downs, its twists and turns, but the journey is so much easier when shared with a friend!

John 15:3 tells us what the true love of a real friend is, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”  Jesus, of course, was that True Friend who laid down his life for us.  That was a sacrificial love. We will most likely not be called upon to die for our friends, but we can still exhibit that sacrificial love for one another in being willing to give up some time, expend some effort, share what we have in order to nurture our friendships. I am sorry I have not been a better friend. I am happy and thankful that my friends forgive me for that and are willing to accept me despite my shortcomings.

I gave credit to Facebook earlier in getting us all in touch again, but really the praise goes to God.  He made us sisters in Christ with a bond that will last for all eternity, and He brought us all together again yesterday.  I thank Him for that!  And thank you, Marilyn, Dottie and Pat for a beautiful day yesterday and the many happy memories we share. I love you all and you really are—fabulous!


A Little Sleep, A Little Slumber

A little sleep, a little slumber…  Ahhh!  Sounds pretty good, right?  Well, actually those words come as a warning in the book of Proverbs, “How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep?  A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to sleep—So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, And your need like an armed man.”  (Proverbs 6:9-11)  In other words—“Get up and get to work, you lazy-bones!”  Sleep is a good thing, and a gift from God to us for our health and welfare, but when we sleep too much, to the detriment of what we ought to be doing, the Lord tells us there are better ways to use our time!

There are some people, however, who would groan, “A little sleep!  If only I could get a little sleep, a little slumber!”  We’ve probably all been there at one time or another—those sleepless nights when we toss andinsomnia-causes-and-symptoms turn, or check the clock every fifteen minutes through the night, dreading the sound of the alarm, and yet afraid we will miss it.  We get up finally and drag ourselves through a long, long day, wishing we could just go back to bed—and hoping our insomnia doesn’t happen again!

Now imagine that it does—night after night after night.  More than 30% of the population in the US suffers from insomnia.  Between 40% and 60% of people over the age of 60 experience chronic sleeplessness, and women are twice as likely as men to suffer from insomnia.

So what brings this topic to mind?  I have been praying for my sweet little granddaughter Hannah this week.  She is only eleven and she has been struggling with insomnia in recent months, and it seems to be getting worse.  Bless her heart—she struggles to get to sleep, and when she finally does, she wakes up an hour or two later and then lies awake for hours through the night.  The struggle to sleep is making her anxious.  She is tired throughout the day, and sometimes a little cranky, which is not like our sunny little girl.  And then she worries that she won’t be able to sleep the next night.  It has become a vicious cycle.

Of course, her mom and dad are searching for solutions.  In her research on the subject, Julie discovered that insomnia in preteen and teen girls is surprisingly common.  Nearly 17% of adolescent girls between the ages of 13 to 16 suffer from chronic or frequently recurring insomnia, beginning at an average age of 11—Hannah’s age.  Girls have a 50% higher risk than boys, with puberty appearing to be a major factor in its occurrence.

They are trying natural remedies for now—chamomile tea and other natural ingredients—and avoiding caffeine, sugar and activities that might be too much stimulation before bed.  At her age, they want to stay away from sleeping pills or other medication, if possible.  We are praying this problem will be short-lived.  In some girls it lasts only weeks or months; in others it can last years—or a lifetime.  Poor sweet Hannah.  I pray she will get some sleep.

Hannah’s problem seems to stem from a change in hormones.  But what causes us our sleepless nights?  Sometimes it is a physical issue—pain or discomfort from some ailment; a hormonal imbalance as in Hannah’s case; less than ideal surroundings, etc.  Many times, however, there are other things that keep us up at night.

Have you ever laid awake, hearing every little creak and groan of the house, every little thing that went bump in the night?  Bob travels for his work, so I am home alone a lot.  Most of the time I am just fine with that, but I must admit there have been times when I have propped pans against the door, or hung jingle bells on the door knob because I was nervous that someone would try to break in while I was sleeping.  Jesus has a cure for that: “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”  (Psalm 4:8)  Proverbs 3:24 says that when we trust in Him, “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.”

Just as Jesus has a cure for our fears, He has a remedy for those worries that have us tossing and turning at night as well.  When it is a worry about financial matters He reminds us to “Return to your rest, O my soul, For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.”  (Psalm 116:7)  He has provided in the past; He will do so again.  When we are anxious over some matter, He says, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him…” (Psalm 37:7a)  His answer will come.  When we are burdened with care He tells us, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28, 29)

When we are struggling with depression or grief, He sends comfort and restoration in many forms, and one of those is sleep.  He wants us to rest in Him and sleep.  Psalm 127:2 says, “It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late, To eat the bread of sorrows; For so He gives His beloved sleep.” 

Sometimes we work so hard or are so busy that we cannot seem to find the time to sleep.  Jesus tells us to “come aside and rest a while!”  Mark 6:30, 31 recounts just such a situation: “Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught.  And He said to them, ‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’  For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.”

Jesus is our Good Shepherd.  He wants us to look to him for all that we need, including the cure for our weariness.  “He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.”  (Psalm 23:2)  We can trust Him to take care of it all while we sleep.  He never sleeps or slumbers!  (Psalm 121:4)  So good night—and sweet dreams!  Trust in Him.

The Golden Arches–Shining Once Again!

Robbie grew up wearing the title “The Cheeseburger King.” He loved, loved, loved McDonald’s golden-arches cheeseburgers. He wasn’t able to read, but he knew the Golden Arches when he saw them. Whether they were on a building or simply adorning a bag, he knew they signified there was something good inside! We crisscrossed the country frequently when he was younger and we would try to distract his attention if we saw the Golden Arches off the highway in the distance. If he saw them before we did, he would hone in on them and cry, “Da! Da!”—the only times he would ever try to say Dad—as if to say, “Dad! Stop, Dad! I see McDonald’s!” Do you know how many McDonald’s there are off I-80? I think we must have stopped at every one of them at one time or another! The rest of the family got mighty tired of MD’s, but if Robbie had had his way, we would have hit them all clear across the country on every trip!

In 2001, after being on a ventilator for several weeks, and heavily drugged with anti-seizure medicine, Robbie lost his ability to swallow and received a feeding tube. For a time, we tried to coax him into at least trying to eat something by mouth. I remember clearly our last attempt. We took him to McDonald’s and he turned his face away from the cheeseburger that he had so loved. We didn’t try it again. If he couldn’t be tempted by a McDonald’s cheeseburger, he wouldn’t be tempted by anything. It broke my heart to think that Robbie would never again enjoy the simple pleasure of having something good in his mouth to eat, or something refreshing to drink when he woke up in the morning.

Fast forward to September of 2013. We were on our way to a weekend family event. We stopped at a McDonald’s along the way with my daughter’s family for a little break. Whether it was because we were with the kids, or just seeing and smelling those old familiar treats, or simply being in his once-favorite place again, all of a sudden Robbie decided he wanted to try to eat! We were scared to death he might choke and aspirate, but Bob cautiously tried him with just a tiny bit of ice cream on a spoon. We could see his throat muscles working as Robbie swallowed! He eagerly ate that entire ice cream, bit by bit! All that weekend he insisted he wanted to eat, even reaching for the fried chicken on my plate! Of course, he didn’t get it, but we did carefully allow him some soft, easy to swallow treats.

A couple weeks ago I told you that since then Robbie has been enjoying things like jello, pudding and yogurt, and progressed to foods like eggs, beans and spaghetti. Well, this week Robbie had his first McDonald’s cheeseburger in fourteen years! I wish you could have seen the look of wonder and joy on his face when he took that first bite! I don’t know who was more excited, though—Robbie or Bob and me! For so many years, we never dreamed we would get back to this point, but here we are—seeing Robbie get stronger and better all the time. We have pretty much taken him off the liquid diet and he is eating regular meals now with only a few limitations.

And the good news doesn’t end there! That same night that Robbie ate the cheeseburger, he decided he was done with being confined to the bed, his recliner and wheelchair! Robbie has not walked in fourteen years, either. I was in the kitchen when he saw one of his favorite little pillows that he likes to play with on the floor in the other room. He got down off his bed, crawled on his hands and knees to the pillow (about 12 or 13 feet away), put the pillow in his lap, scooched back, and climbed back up on his bed! I had seen him sliding off the bed and come running, but when I saw the look of determination on his face I just stood back in amazement and cheered him on! “Go, Robbie, go! You can do it!” Who knows what he will do next! During those years in which we saw Robbie steadily declining in strength and abilities had us believing that he would never regain what he had lost, but now we dare to hope again.

These things had me pondering this week about the unexpected blessings God brings into our lives. Things that we didn’t even dare to hope for. Things that surprise and delight us when we suddenly realize we have just witnessed a “God-thing.” Things that move us when we recognize the loving hand of our Heavenly Father touching our lives with His love in extraordinary ways.

Oswald Chambers, in his book My Utmost for His Highest says it far better than I can. In The Graciousness of Uncertainty, he writes,


It doth not yet appear what we shall be. (1 John 3:2)  The nature of spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty, consequently we do not make our nests anywhere…  Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life: gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life.  To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth.   This is generally said with a sigh of sadness, it should be rather an expression of breathless expectation.   We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God   …He packs our life with surprises all the time…  Jesus said, “Except ye become as little children.”   Spiritual life is the life of a child.   We are not uncertain of God, but uncertain of what He is going to do next.   If we are only certain in our beliefs, we get dignified and severe and have the ban of finality about our views; but when we are rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy…  “Believe also in Me,” said Jesus, not – “Believe certain things about Me.” Leave the whole thing to Him, it is gloriously uncertain how He will come in, but He will come.



Breathless expectation!  I love that phrase!  What is God going to do next??  I may not be sure of many things in my life, but I am sure of God!  I may not know the next step, but I am sure He does and He will lead me.  I may not know His plans for me, but He does!  I may not know how He will provide, but He will!  And far beyond just the ordinary, everyday blessings which He showers upon us, come those unexpected blessings!  Chambers says, “when we are rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy… “

We often shake our heads sadly when something tragic happens and say, “Well, you never know what a day will bring forth.”  Chambers says this phrase should rather be said every day with a feeling of glad expectation, breathless expectation.  “I can hardly wait to see what God will do today!”

Why should those little miracles, those little “God-things” be unexpected?  Our hope is in Him!  If we truly trust Him as a little child we can expect Him to surprise us!  Psalm 62:5 says, “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.”  Philippians 1:20 tells us “according to my earnest expectation and my hope” that Christ will be magnified in us!  Let us then live in breathless expectation to see what He will do next!  What a day may bring forth may just be something amazing!