Archive | March 2016

Resurrected–Pure and Simple

I am “resurrecting” a blog this morning from April 3, 2010. It was called “Pure and Simple.”  The beauty of Easter is just that—pure and simple…

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I went out to run errands yesterday. It was a rather cool spring day, but it was nice to be out in the sunshine nevertheless. The most important thing on my list was to get all the fresh fruit I would need for the fruit salad I was taking to Easter dinner at my sister’s house. Everything else on the list was pretty mundane – paper towels, toilet paper, vitamins, toothpaste and so on. But, ooh – maybe I would find a pretty new blouse, too, to wear tomorrow. Hmm…  (Got the fruit, but nothing new to wear.)

* As I drove I had the radio tuned to WMBI, the radio station of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. I enjoy much of the Christian programming that comes out of WMBI, whether it is music, teaching, preaching or just talk. Saturday afternoons are devoted to music, and not surprisingly, yesterday the program was all Easter music. It was a nice blend of old hymns, favorite popular Christian songs that I have enjoyed for decades, and some of the newer beautiful songs that are currently being played on the radio.

* As I listened to the lyrics about the cross, the empty tomb, a risen Savior, love, grace and gospelvictory, a deep feeling of contentment and joy came over me. This is what Easter is all about, I thought – the Gospel, pure and simple. That Christ died for our sin, was buried and rose again. I thought of I Corinthians 15: 1-4. “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved… For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”

* The Gospel – pure. The plan of Father, Son and Holy Spirit since before the foundations of the world that the sinless and beloved Son of God would take upon Himself the sin of the world and pay the penalty of our sin – the redemption of blood. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness Tombof times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” (Ephesians 1:7-11) The plan that included victory over death and sin and Satan for all eternity. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 15:55, 57)

* The Gospel – simple. So simple that there is nothing left for the sinner to do to receive that redemption but to believe. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Romans 10:9) So simple that even a little child can believe. So simple that we have only to become as little children and open up our hearts – and simply believe. “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” (Luke 18:17)

* The beauty of Easter is not in a pretty spring day. It is not in a church filled with lilies or tulips or daffodils. It is not in lovely spring dresses or new shoes. It is not in a basket full of colored eggs and chocolate bunnies. It is not in a table laden with ham and fruit salad and cheesecake, and not even in the family and friends gathered ‘round that table. The beauty of Easter is in an old rugged, blood-stained cross, and a rough-hewn stone rolled away from an empty tomb. The beauty of Easter is in the love of a Father who gave His beloved Son, and the love of a Savior who gave His everything.

It is as pure and simple as that.

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Saturday Night Sing-Along

Saturday nights in our house are usually reserved for Sing-Along-with Robbie. Our friend Mark comes over with his guitar and we gather in the living room for an old-fashioned singspiration—an hour of some of Robbie’s favorite hymns, choruses, children’s songs, and occasionally pulling out an old folk song or music from our teen-age years.  Robbie loves those nights.  We all do, actually.  Our sixty-something voices may not be all what they once were (although Mark still sounds good) but Robbie enjoys his favorite pastime of all—music—and we all enjoy watching him!  Mark loves ministering to Robbie in this way, and we are so thankful for it.  We gather around the table afterwards and share in some refreshment of both food and fellowship.

Last night’s sing-along was especially fun. Robbie has been doing very well lately with some medication changes and just seems to be jumping back into life with enthusiasm.  I’ve noticed this week that he’s been “singing” more—long and loud and zealously!  He loves to watch his children’s music on his little personal DVD player.  This week he’s been singing along with the music—sometimes for hours at a time!  I use the word singing loosely.  Robbie has no words, and although his melodies have expanded from one note to three or four notes, he can’t carry a tune in a thimble—nevertheless he is definitely singing in his own unique way.

This time he joined in the singing with his whole heart and soul! He has kind of hummed along on other sing-along nights, but last night he sang with gusto! So what if he couldn’t say the words?  God knew what was in his heart!  So what if his tune was unrecognizable?  He was making a joyful noise!  Praise Him, praise Him!music

Robbie knows a few signs in sign language—very few. One of those is the sign for music. He pulls it out occasionally, but I noticed this week he was signing music much more frequently.  When he wanted his DVD player turned on or when I put him to bed and he wanted me to sing to him or play the harmonica, he would sign, “Music, please!” insistently until I took notice and complied.  “Music” is the most difficult of his signs for him to do because it requires a more complex motion.  The right hand sweeps back and forth over the left forearm—as if one were playing a lute, or David’s harp.

kingdavidharpOne of the messages of the Psalms, which were mostly written by King David and mention singing more than any other book of the Bible, could be signed by Robbie—“Music, please!” I and II Chronicles, which tell the story of David, are full of instances when he sang and led the nation in singing praises unto God.

Music is as much a part of God’s awesome, beautiful, intricate, varied creation as the mountains’ grandeur, the colorful plant world, the beauty of the tropics, the vastness of the oceans, the amazing variety of animals and the mystery and complexity of humans.  God gave us music as a gift—and He wants us to give it back to Him as an offering of worship, praise and thanksgiving to our Creator.  Music, please!

When we take a look at the Psalms we see several purposes for music as our gift back to God.sing1  The first is as an avenue of worship simply for who He is—His attributes.  It is an acknowledgement that He is righteous; His name is glorious, honorable, and most high; He is strong and powerful and holy; He is merciful, and our defense and refuge; He is true and faithful, He is our rock and salvation; He is good; He is just.  (Psalms 7:17; 9:2; 21:13; 30:4; 59:16-17; 66:2; 71:22; 81:1; 89:1; 95:1; 96:2; 101:1; 138:5; 145:7)

Our music should also be a testimony before others of His greatness; of His power and the marvelous things He has done and wondrous works He has wrought; of His victorious, righteous and just rule.  It should be a testimony to those around us, to our enemies, to the nations and to the heathen.  (Psalms 9:11; 18:49; 57:9; 67:4; 98:1; 105:2l 108:2; 126:2; 138:1; 149:1)

singOur gift of music back to God should reflect thanksgiving.  He gives abundantly and bountifully far above what we deserve.  He gives us victory and redemption.  (Psalm 13:6; 27:6; 71:23; 92:1)       Psalm 147:7 says, “Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God.” and then to keep singing!  Psalm 30: 12 tells us, “To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee forever.”

Many of the verses in Psalms tell us to simply praise and rejoice in Him with singing, with musical instruments and even in dance!  Sing loudly!  Sing joyfully!  Sing for it is good and sing2Psalm104-33pleasant and beautiful!  Sing upon your bed!  Sing with all your being as long as you live!  (Psalm 33:2-3; 47:6-7; 57:7; 61:8; 65:13; 66:4; 68:4, 25, 32; 75:9; 92:1; 96:1; 98:4-5; 100:2; 104:33; 108:1; 135:3; 144:9; 146:2; 147:1; 149:3, 5)

You may be wondering why I listed all these references.  I read every one of these verses—several times, in fact—and it just made my heart happy.  Two verses in the New Testament mention psalms and singing and how they encourage, edify and uplift us and those around us.  Ephesians 5:19 says, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”  Likewise, Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and sing5spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Good news for those of you who think you can’t sing—it says in your hearts. Whether we’re listening to music, singing in our hearts or simply singing where no one can hear us, music soothes, refreshes and cheers!

God asks of us, “Music, please!”  When we give Him that gift—no matter how beautiful or how out of tune our music may be—it blesses His heart, and it blesses ours, as well.

Scary Hairy Creepy Crawlies!

She could hear giggles from the little kids’ room. They weren’t asleep yet.  “Matthew, Mandy…”she warned as she opened their door and flipped on the light.  She took several steps into the room—and screamed!  There, almost beneath her foot, was a HUGE, hairy tarantula, as big as her hand, crawling across her children’s bedroom floor!

Tarantulas-5As Laurie told me about it on the phone the next day, my skin was crawling!  I shuddered.  I had just spent a week sleeping in that room a month ago!  And to think of my precious grandchildren sleeping like little angels as monstrous creatures scurried across their innocent little bodies, sinking hideous fangs into their tender flesh—it was a nightmare that seemed all too possible!  I was freaking out just thinking about it!

That particular tarantula was only the latest that had come to call in the few weeks the Naranjos had lived in their new house.  Melissa had encountered one in her shower, and another in her bedroom the week before.  Laurie found one crawling across the schoolroom floor shortly after they’d moved in, and Sara and Gabi have found at least two up on the third floor with them.  We stood outside one night as we returned home and watched a tarantula on the exterior wall near a third floor window.  The younger kids told me that they were a little scared of the tarantulas in their lawn—as well as the leeches.  They have had run-ins with tarantulas in each of the other houses they have lived in, as well, although nothing to the extent they are having now.

Well, that is just part of life in Ecuador, I suppose.  At least they don’t live in the Amazon jungle.  Oh, wait—the Amazon jungle is exactly where Laurie had her first encounter with a tarantula.  She had gone to Ecuador on a year-long missions work/study program (Arriba) as a college sophomore.  As part of that program, they took a trip into the jungle, staying in a “hotel” that consisted of a roof, an elevated floor—and no walls.  Of course there was no bathroom, either—just an outhouse.  Darkness fell quickly in the equatorial jungle.  As Laurie, armed only with a flashlight, headed down the concrete stairs with another girl to thetarantula outhouse in the black, creepy jungle, they discovered to their dismay (maybe terror is a better word) a tarantula headed up the stairs, straight at them!  I can’t recall if they ever made it to the outhouse that night, but I do remember they had to crawl into sleeping bags on the floor—and hope and pray nothing creepy crawled in with them!

Her next arach-attack wasn’t much better. It happened in the little apartment the girls on Arriba shared.  They were decorating for Christmas.  Laurie had removed a picture from the wall when one of the other girls suddenly froze and told Laurie, “There’s a tarantula on the back of the picture you’re holding!”  Arach-attack, heart attack—same difference!

I did some research about tarantulas this week after hearing about these scary hairy critters in my grandchildren’s bedrooms. Are they prone to bite, and is their bite poisonous?  Should I worry about them?  Do I ever want to return to Ecuador again?  (Silly question!  No humongous, hairy-legged, fearsome-fanged, creepy, crawly creature is going to stand between me and my grandchildren!)

It boils down to: no, I probably don’t need to worry too much. It seems the tarantulas in Ecuador are not deadly, and most of them are not aggressive, either, although I wouldn’t want to run into the Goliath bird-eater, which can grow up to 12 inches in diameter, has 1 inch fangs and eats birds, rodents and reptiles—and yes, is very aggressive toward humans.  Fortunately, it lives in swampy areas and never moves more than a few feet from its burrow.  Another aggressive species, the Ecuadorian brown velvet lives on the floor of the rainforest, grows up to 8 inches and can live up to 15 years.  Since the Naranjos live in the mountains, they are not likely to run into a nasty variety of tarantula, and as long as they don’t stick a hand into a tarantula’s burrow or corner it, they’re not likely to get bit—and if they did, it probably wouldn’t hurt any more than a bee sting.

Ok, so maybe I don’t need to have nightmares about my grandchildren being attacked by giant tarantulas, but I know if I lived in that house my eyes would be scanning every wall, ceiling and floor when I walked into a room, and if I were Laurie, I’d be checking under the sheets before I put my children to bed and then looking in on them at least once or twice a night—just to be sure. Laurie said she was so glad she had gone back into the kids’ room that night!  Even so, I think I might have a hard time getting to sleep at night, wondering if big buggy eyes were looking at me, or if any minute I would feel hairy legs crawling up my hairless legs!

Worry can be like that—the tarantula in the room.  It may not show itself most of the time, but it’s often hidden in the recesses of our minds, waiting to scurry through when we least expect it. As just the thought of one of those scary hairy creepy crawlies can set me on edge, have me checking corners and under the bed, and lying awake at night, so can worry rob me of not only sleep, but joy, peace, faith and even my physical well-being.  How do we rid ourselves of the tarantulas of worry?

worry5Jesus is the Great Exterminator (okay, that’s a paraphrase.) He has the solutions to our worries and fears.  Creepy crawlies keeping you up at night?  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 fearful—that tarantula is a Goliath bird-eater—His Word tells us, “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.”

Worry can sneak up on us in the night—or any time at all. It steals our joy.  The apostle Paul had plenty to worry about.  He wrote the book of Philippians while he was being held prisoner by Nero the Emperor of Rome. He was chained to a guard and not allowed to preach in public. He had no idea what was going to happen to him. He might be acquitted, but then again he might be beheaded! Even some of the believers at that time were against him. In spite of the danger and discomfort in which he found himself, Paul overflowed with joy.  Nineteen times he mentioned the words joy, rejoicing or gladness in this epistle. The source of his joy can be found in the Gospel of Christ.  “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4)  He refused to worry because his joy was in the Lord.philippians-4-6-8

We often let worry cheat us of peace, as well as joy. The fourth chapter of Philippians goes on to give us the antidote for worry and the source for peace: Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:6-8) Prayer and the attitude or mind-set of praise and thanksgiving can wipe out worry.

When we are prone to worry, we are weak on faith.  Whatever our need, God will provide when we trust in Him.  One of the names of God, Jehovah Jireh, means “The Lord will provide.” We find that name in Genesis 22, in the account of Abraham and Isaac.  God had asked Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, and in obedience and faith they went up on the mountain where God provided a ram to take the place of Isaac.  The name Jehovah Jireh does not mean “The LORD did provide,” but “The LORD will provide.” We can trust that it Worry-Ends_Cyandoes not apply to only past events, but also to future ones!  In Philippians 4:13 we see He gives us strength to trust, I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. And again in Philippians 4 we see His provision in verse 19: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” When we trust in Him, when we have His strength and peace and provision, why worry?

Sweep the corners for the tarantula of worry. Sweep it right out—crush it if you have to!  There’s no reason to fear the creepy crawlies by night or the scary critters waiting to jump out at you any moment.  The joy of the Lord, His strength, peace, and faith in Him will exterminate those pests!

Beautiful Adornment

I have been blessed—truly, wonderfully, abundantly blessed—with two beautiful daughters.  Both are godly, compassionate, nurturing women who believe their highest calling from the Lord is to be mothers—and both have excelled in that area, to say the least!  Laura has seven children and Julie has six—and praying the Lord will bring another one or two (or more!) into her life.  Not that the number of children makes them exceptional mothers, of course (although in this day and age it is rather unusual), but the proof of their mothering skills lies in the exceptional children they are raising.  Of course, being those children’s grandma, I am not biased or anything…  No, really—they are sweet, loving, amazing kids who love the laurieLord—because their mamas and dads are raising them well.

I was in Ecuador with Laurie a month ago to celebrate her birthday with her. I thank the Lord for allowing me that special time with her.  We had a wonderful time together and I will treasure those memories for a long time.  I can hardly wait for this summer when Laura and her whole family will be here with us for a few months!

Today, however, is Julie’s birthday and although sadly I cannot be with her, I want to take this opportunity to celebrate her.  I certainly named her well.  Julie means “youthful,” and although she is forty-something now, she still has that same youthful spirit about her that she’s always had.  She was always a giggler julieand she still loves to laugh, play, entertain and tease.  She’s ready to break into a little song and dance anytime she thinks it will make her kids laugh—or groan in embarrassment—whether it is a silly version of “Let me Entertain You” just as the neighbors happen to drive by, or “So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye” as her loved ones roll out of the driveway.  She loves to play board games with the kids, or hide and seek out in the yard.  She’s older than I was when I became a grandma, but she has a one-year-old and is not ready to stop there if the Lord would allow her to have more.  I suppose having young’uns is bound to keep you young as well!

If I were to choose a Scripture verse that I think exemplifies Julie, I think it would be 1 Peter 3:3-4 which says, “Do not let your adorning be external, the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear, but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” Julie’s beauty lies in her tender loving heart, her compassion and thoughtfulness for others, and her commitment to the Lord.  She is kind and good and yet strong.  She shows it in how she is raising her children with what I like to call a “velvet glove”—love, patience, gentleness but firmness in quiet discipline.  The children respond with cheerful, willing obedience and devotion to her.

I wish I had had that touch when I was raising my children!  (Somehow they turned out well in spite of me!)  I always wished I was a gentler, quieter mother.  When I see those qualities in my daughters, it touches my heart.  My grandchildren are blessed with mothers of true inner beauty, and godly fathers.  Thank you, Lord!

As we get older, most of us strive to hang on to at least a little of our youthful looks—maybe we cover the gray or soften our makeup to hide the tell-tale signs of aging.  After a while there is not much we can do to undo the passage of time.  These verses in I Peter, however, tell us that true inner beauty need not fade away.  A sweet, humble, patient, peaceful spirit is a precious ornament that beautifies not only the inner woman, but shines forth on her face as well, no matter her age!  Want to look beautiful at ninety?  Let the beauty of that gentle, quiet spirit radiate!

Jesus was our example. Philippians 2 reminds us of His mindset, His spirit: “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.  Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:  And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:2-8) We are to have the same mindset as Jesus—love, mercy, humility, selflessness, servanthood, sacrifice…  Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in us!

So, Happy Birthday, Julie! You get more beautiful with every passing year as you simply radiate Jesus!beauty