“The Message – 4Him

Firstly, let me thank you, dear friends, for the prayers and support after I shared my struggles here last time we met.

There are things yet to sort through and only time will tell how my situation will progress, but I am seeing breakthroughs and finding avenues to express my concerns while keeping in mind the desire to minister.

Ok. So…onto what my title refers to. Here comes yet another group that anchored me in my teens and twenties…

Safe to say, if you haven’t figured it out already, I have always listened to a LOT of music-each with its own flavor. ๐Ÿ™‚

4Him captured my attention from the first time a cassette tape of “The Basics of Life” was played for me by a high school acquaintance. I just had to have my own copy, along with everything they produced thereafter.

The authenticity and passion combined with these four beautiful voices inspired my hunger for more of Christ. Every tune seemed to point the way and I eagerly followed.

I can well recall being up to wee hours devouring one book of my Bible after another while their music played in the background.

Sometimes, I could even be caught singing along. ๐Ÿ˜

I still remember a time my dad was home from the road one night and embarrassed me to no end knocking on my door to tell me how neat it was to hear me singing along with those guys. Maybe it was also a kind hint I might dial down on volume, but, at any rate, I think it was the compliment that threw me. ๐Ÿ™‚

Oh, it’s a nice memory, to be sure.

I think it just felt like a very private session between me and God exposed for a minute there. My relationship with my folks was beginning to mend by then, but was still often uncertain, almost awkward.

Anyway…we did wind up having a brief but good chat about where my faith was heading. And I turned back to my music further bolstered ( and turned down the volume a touch.๐Ÿ˜‰).

And so, I continued on. Grew up. Sort of….

And, over the years, through the numerous hills I climbed and valleys I found myself in, there were my many 4Him cassettes and CDs to hold onto, usually put in and cranked over the uglier noises in my world to stir my heart on (Maybe that accounted for my fixation with the volume…๐Ÿ˜).

Now…when it comes to choice of song to best represent my love of 4Him to you, I am once again in such a quandary.

So many of their songs speak so much to me.

In the end, I went with what convicts my heart most at present.

For, in the end, whatever I am dealing with now and whatever comes down the pike later on, my heart is to live a message.

One of faith.

One of truth.

To make my life stand as this group’s name testifies to…

For Him.

Listen, be stirred, be inspired to live such a message.

Blessings and prayers, dear friends! โค

Our Job

I could say a lot of things today. There remains so much…unrest. Not the first instance, of course, and certainly won’t be the last.

But, I don’t think this particular bout will leave us anytime soon, sadly. And I believe it grieves the Lord’s heart.

Contrary to popular belief, His intent for us is not to stand on harsh rhetoric and self-righteousness.

Rather, it is truth- in love.

Again, I could say a lot of things. But, I won’t.

That whole truth in love thing…it’s really important.

So….I will be obedient to that.

All He really desires of me today, it seems, is to point out one key thing:

We are all so frail.

So terribly, remarkably…human.

Far too prone to pick up the hammer in our unskilled hands and make a mess trying to fix this broken world ourselves-as if it’s our job!

Far too prone to forget there is One who already came along, gathered our shambles, and did it better -did it completely, in fact-with three nails and two rough planks of wood…๐Ÿ˜‰

And demonstrated to us just why this job is not ours, but His.

So, with a snippet of humor here and a sly dig there (trust me, I feel some elbow in my ribs, too ๐Ÿ™‚), plus a fair amount of His amazing grace to soothe it all, let me remind us what our job really is…

We are such carnal beings,

In slouchy suits

And muddy boots,

Everything seeming such vital things,

But how easily we forget all but one is temporary!

And we are ever so wrong

When we flex muscles

And throw about colorful verbiage in a tussle,

Daring to call ourselves strong-

There’s ample evidence to the contrary!๐Ÿ˜

And woe to us when we pretend

It is within our puny power

To save the world with all its myriads of trouble!

Let me just gently but decidedly burst

That particular bubble:

It’s not.

Psst.

It’s not even our job. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

“But-but, I must!

It’s on us!” comes the sob.

Yes, the price of sin is ours;

No doubt, it’s our degradation the air sours,

But, remember, friend, our salvation’s

Already been bought!

For Jesus Christ paid it all,

With all that is most dear.

With each precious drop of blood

He answered our anguished call,

Taking on our fight

And making it so we might

Face eternity without fear!

If only we’d lay down the unwieldy

Hammers of our fumbled sense

And just accept our job is to accept His love fulfilled!

For, the cross is full of evidence

Of just how agonizingly,

Yet so perfectly it was unfurled!

And, then, the task becomes to go

Share this happy truth with others,

Let His love and joy in every corner of earth spill,

Shining light to both friend and foe,

And, thereby, let Jesus be the One to

Save this broken world…

Remember, Jesus is still Jesus, my dear friends! We may be fallible, but He is mighty to save and that never changes no matter what else does! Let Him be your strength this day and every day! Blessings and prayers! โค

Good Grief, Charlie Brown or The Red Baron Strikes Again

Fair warning: I feel a bit like a cranky old lady tonight. It isn’t that this is not true to form, but it may sound a tad more sarcastic than my more poetical side. But, when He lays it on my heart, what can I do but speak it? Besides, I always remember Apostle Paul had a fair amount of sarcastic wit when he had a piece to speak. So, if the author of a good portion of our New Testament could do it, I figure God can utilize it in me, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

So…that title might stir some supposing on subject matter….

But, no...this isn’t truly about Apple’s decision to snatch away childhood memories, though the greed that appears to be behind the decision to hold the Peanuts specials more or less captive and the price-gouging of DVDs by some that has followed does play into the broader picture I wish to speak of:

Rampant self-centeredness.

In a world consumed by pandemic, it is the real plague, or to pull out the Charlie Brown analogy a bit, the Red Baron of our existence.

Always has been, honestly, though this easy access age seems to put it endlessly in our faces.

It’s what causes the all-too-abundant parade of posturing that comes out of so many walks of life:

Be it Hollywood, Washington, or-dare I say- our own neighborhood.

Far too often, in countless ways, everything boils down to “looking out for number one”.

If I get my piece of the pie or heck, the whole pie, I’m good. ๐Ÿ™„

Forget the other guy because the other guy ought to be looking out for himself.

Because, really, isn’t life about saving our own hides?

Covering our own respective hind ends?

Getting our faces in whatever limelight is afforded us?

Staking our claims.

Pressing for what we want and when we want it.

Stacking our wallets!

Getting the job, the car, the suit, the house.

The Life!

Oh, and the rep. Mustn’t ever forget the proper, politically astute, carefully couched, self-righteous posing that allows for your rep.

Most important accessory of all!

So, when you have all that together, who gives a flying fig for the other guy?

Unless, of course, the other guy can provide a photo op for your “charitable cause” or especially, as more often the case in our virtue signaling culture, if he dares to cramp your style.

Then, you care about him.

Or at least, in case of the latter, about what he’s doing wrong.

Then, he must hear about it and hear about it from you. For only you can say it right.

Not to mention all the likes you’ll accumulate from your followers or how much more you can amass for your brand when you verbally or textually take him down.

That much more power to wield from atop the tower you rest yourself upon!

Hurrah!

After all, it’s your life, right?

It’s all about yourself, is it not? ๐Ÿ™„

Ummm….no.

Ok. Not loud enough.

Ahem. Again:

Noooooo!

None of this life-I repeat-none of it is meant to be about ourselves.

No…despite so much pumped into us from birth on to the contrary, it’s really about one thing and one thing only:

Christ and Him crucified.

Rejoicing in the amazing fact He did it for us self-serving folks and seeking to instead serve Him.

And what does that often look like here on this earth?

Well… looking out for the other guy.

After all, there’s this from the Savior himself:

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.โ€™

Matt. 25:40.

Now, this is emphatically NOT so you can look good on social media.

Nor so you can put the other guy “in his place”.

*Cough.* Plank in the eye. ๐Ÿ˜‰ *Cough*.

Rather, it is so you can have the joy of sharing the love of Jesus with another human life without regard to what you can get out of it and, prayerfully, point the way to salvation through Him.

That’s it. Really.

God’s generosity to us lending itself to what should be ours to others.

Funny how that nasty Red Baron of self-centeredness has a way of complicating a truly simple matter, isn’t it?๐Ÿ˜

Oh, may we defeat this tendency for self-centeredness! May the Lord press on our hearts love and concern for the other guy!

Thanks for reading, dear friends! Much love, many blessings and prayers to you! โค

Of Hatred and Hope

A short poem on my thoughts concerning the current state in Minneapolis, Georgia, and everywhere else evil has its death grip…

Hatred bares its monstrous teeth,

Snarling its cancerous unbelief…

Nonsensical anger snuffs out a life,

Retaliating rage amplifies these ugly flames of strife.

Baser instincts prevail; chaos reigns…

Oh, but, nothing can such begat but further pain!

Lord Jesus, how desperately we need Your hand!

Humanity’s sickness and sin is beyond all we can understand!

May we see the only way to cope is found best

In He in whom our only hope rests!

Oh, my friends, hold on tight to Him! The days are evil and, if we know our Bible, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. But, when we know that in Jesus, all will be well, because in Him is the ultimate victory, we can still be encouraged. Blessings and prayers! Thanks for reading!

Serving Up His Love

Last weekend, we had a soup kitchen Saturday with our youth group-as in an opportunity to volunteer at one. ๐Ÿ™‚

We had hoped to have all our students for this new venture, but with our constantly shifting Kansas weather, important basketball games had had to be rescheduled for…you guessed it, Saturday. ๐Ÿ˜

There went several of our regulars…

In addition to that was state Scholar’s Bowl and, wouldn’t you know it? Our middle son/awesome drummer is also rather an old soul, knowledgeable on a variety of subjects most his age are not, and, therefore, much needed for such tournaments. ( No, not a proud mama at all.

๐Ÿ˜‰)

So, suffice to say, we wound up a rather tiny troop of workers.

A Gideon sort of reduction, perhaps? ๐Ÿค”๐Ÿ™‚

Well, the thought is kind of just for humorous irony since we spent the better part of the fall studying the Old Testament warrior, but, maybe…

For, it could’ve been deflating in a sense, or more stressful with fewer hands, but, you know, as much as I really missed seeing certain faces in the mix, it was a most beautiful and triumphant day regardless!

Perhaps, even better than we could’ve thought for the quiet simplicity of it.

For I got to watch my shyer, more reserved ones, including my oldest, newly-minted adult son, find ways to step up, pitch in, and feel helpful.

I got to listen to my sweet teen autistic girl do what she does best-draw the lonely into lively conversation and boost them with her amazing gift of song at worship time.

I got to see my enthusiastic youngest boy pour over the dishes and delight the whole kitchen with his giggles as the water sprayer kept “accidentally” getting him.

I got to see my dear, gregarious husband ladle on laughs along with the baked beans and encourage everyone around him with hope as he shared the way God has built our family up from next to nothing.

And what did I do?

Well, I’ll tell you, being rather prone to awkwardness myself, I was a bit nervous on the outset about what role I could really play there without fumbling too badly.

I knew I might be okay in the kitchen, if I wasn’t having too clumsy a day.

I thought I could perhaps hand out food or provide background on the songs if I didn’t goof or go too off-key.

Or, just guide the kids in their various pursuits, as I typically do.

Parts of me truly longed to be more as my fearless daughter, she who lives to worship out loud.

I sometimes observe her at a distance and wonder how she could be mine!

Yet, I can also see little pieces of me-of the me I might’ve been if life hadn’t been so weighted with, well, hurtful things…

Or, I’ll watch my husband, he who charms lampposts, and grow wistful for just a wisp of that ability.

Spent too long in that place, I can start to wonder why someone like that chose someone like me.

Not healthy on any day! ๐Ÿ˜ณ

So, instead of pulling a lot of Gideon-aw, shucks-not-meisms, I find I must learn to look past me to the whole:

More than anything we did, we got to share with some all-too-often forgotten souls.

Young families in need, older gentlemen and ladies relatively alone in life, some who have been ravaged by disease and harsh circumstance and time.

People whom I might shyly bypass on any given day, not sure what to say, but people that when I pause long enough to really get beyond myself and look, I can see my own struggles reflected in their eyes.

For we really aren’t so different, any of us.

We all need each other and we all need the love of Jesus.

Every one of us look to be fed, not only physically, but spiritually.

Every one of us need to feel our worth. Our real worth. In Him.

Honestly, no one was counting how many of us there were or weren’t, or judging how well we handled dishing up barbecue pork, or whether we all sounded even remotely like Hillsong.

They just wanted to matter, same as anyone.

And, in serving up time, food, and, best of all, the love of Jesus, we had the opportunity to tell them they do, same as anyone.

I don’t know exactly what’s down the road. But, I hope we get to go back. Even shy, awkward me. ๐Ÿ™‚

Looking at spring… when basketball and scholar’s bowl are all done and before the summer wave of busy hits.

I know God will use us, big or small, but I wouldn’t want the rest of our kiddos to miss out on this every time! ๐Ÿ˜‰

May we all look for our chance to extend the love of Christ to the forgotten, whatever we think of what we can give. Blessings and prayers, dear friends! Thanks for reading!

Holding the Standard

I haven’t absorbed as much as you’d think being married to a handyman for nearly eight years.๐Ÿ˜

(Maybe it has something to do with aptitude…or my downright clumsiness with tools. ๐Ÿ˜)

But, despite that, there is one thing I have learned.

When it comes to any aspect of building, there is a standard to be met and held.

Without it, you stand a risk of all sorts of problems, to say the least!

The same can be said for our spiritual walk.

Now, I am not one to beat folks over the head with a list of “do’s” and “don’t’s”.

Such legalism can leave a person feeling mighty hopeless.

But, I must say that often, too often, it seems the bar is being lowered in this land of the living.

Particularly, sadly, for those of us who count ourselves the Lord’s own, more and more so as the clock wears on.

Oh, we have God’s grace. And we mustn’t ever forget we have that grace.

His grace is the only way we will ever measure up, after all.

For that matter, His grace is the only way we even recognize the sin stain which causes us not to measure up-on our own, that is.

Because, yes, our redemption is that amazing grace, found solely through the death and resurrection of the Son, praise God.

But, that said, so many of us, too many of us, take this beautiful sacrifice as a free pass.

“I have my ‘God Insurance’ in the game of life, so, now, I can just hop on the do-as-I-please express!” ๐Ÿ™„

But, oh, friends, you don’t want that ride! It’s a ride, I’m here to tell you, that does nothing in the end but disappoint at best!

And at worst? Well, let’s just say a crash and burn is painful beyond description. ๐Ÿ™

It’s not always easy to provide such cautions.

I always want to make sure I am coming from a place of love.

Too much danger of tipping into the sanctimonious otherwise.

Now, it’s great when you encounter those who get the spirit you intend, or, better yet, are at the table, already hungry for such truth.

But, try to kindly counsel others, especially those who look around and just can’t seem to recognize their own emaciation staring back at them, and it’s a whole new ball of wax.

It can be rather dismaying to watch the hostility, labels, and angry epithets fly then.

Or, worse yet, indifference.

For, there’s a disturbing trend to keep a tight grip on spiritual compromise in these days.

It’s everywhere we look.

Media. Government. Schools. Homes. Churches.

Our hearts.

It’s becoming increasingly unpopular to do otherwise!

Oh, perhaps, it’s not really so new. One only has to peruse the scriptures to see such littering page after page.

It’s only become more prevalent, perhaps, as everything’s on a twenty-four-seven information overload.

The world’s got more opportunities than ever to spew out an ongoing parade of violence and vulgarity.

Not to mention, time is drawing nigh and satan, the defeated foe, is seeking to entangle and take down all those he can with him.

And no one is what I’d call immune from his schemes.

For, even for those of us saved by God’s grace, there is the endless subtlety of distraction, in all its countless forms.

The strategy being if the devil can’t snatch our soul, he can at least sideline us with the world’s many “goodies”.

That way there’s no one left to hold up the standard.

Or, after a while, as our Bibles collect dust in favor of a pulpit pep talk, even remember what the standard is supposed to be.

So, what is one to do? Hole up from the whole world, singing our Kumbayahs under a blanket and wait on the Lord from the comfort of a hermetically sealed bubble? ๐Ÿ˜

Well, no, of course not!

That defeats the “in the world, not of it” principle set out in scripture.

Not to mention it’s kind of difficult to shine a light for Jesus burrowed in your down comforter. ๐Ÿ™‚

So…no…we mustn’t duck and cover from it all.

Rather, ours is to remain firm in the Lord in the midst of it all.

To celebrate that grace that saves us, but never allow it to become cheap.

To seek the light of His truth that it might grow us and direct others to the same.

Ours is to know the standards set forth in the Holy Word and hold it fast.

And to refuse to build our house on anything less.

Blessings and prayers to you, dear friends! May we be mindful of the many distractions this world throws at us and may we indeed hold up the standard the Lord set forth for us in the midst of it all.

Pursuing Peace

You know how it is when you have a well-thought out post all written and ready to hit publish, only to have WordPress swallow it? Or maybe that’s just me. ๐Ÿ˜ Anyway, I tried to recall all those fastflying words, but something always shifts. Sigh. But, importantly, the message is still the same….

Turn from evil and do good.
Seek peace and pursue it.

Psalm 34:14

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Phil. 4:7

Peace. Such a nice sounding word. It brings such a hush to my heart in the midst of a day going like gangbusters.

It has had many a connotation over time.

Some well-meaning but misguided. Some more of a plea.

A few, at least, with some Biblical grounding.

The extended olive branch is, traditionally, the symbol of peace.

A very interesting choice, if you know your Biblical history, specifically the story of the flood. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The mantra of many a tired, gritted teeth mama:

“Can I please get a little peace and quiet?!”

Relatable. Not exactly a grace-filled moment. But, relatable. ๐Ÿ˜

In the 60’s, the catchphrase became: “All I’m really saying is give peace a chance.”

Understandable desire.

And, in that vein, to culminate the decade, came the words emblazoned on a poster alongside a dove, a neck of a guitar, and a strumming hand:

“Three Days of Peace, Love, and Music”

Not a terrible hope on the surface, but, unfortunately, also a misplaced one muddied deep in sin and debauchery.

But, to switch gears, here are two favorite and more uplifting samples:

“When peace like a river attendth my way…”

And, similarly:

“I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river in my soul…”

Lovely declarations indeed!

Any way you slice it, all these various thoughts are full of sentiment for the word “peace”, if not always an understanding of the full import.

We grab at the idea at moments, as in those last two songs referenced.

Oh, we like to think that shows we get it but how often do we really? ๐Ÿค”

When we are divisive with our neighbors, is that peace?

When we yell at traffic, is it evidence of that river flowing inside?

When we grumble at our spouse, our kids, the news, the slow line at the store, is that us getting it?

Oh, we may pridefully claim to be above the real wickedness in this world today, but, honestly, one cursory glance around and it’s obvious none of us really grasp the concept.

And that is chiefly because we fail to remember that first and infinitely vital key from the first verse there:

“Turn from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it.”

We neglect to make that turn before seeking peace.

Oh, we like to believe the myth mankind has some inherent goodness.

But, the facts are this:

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

Psalm 14:3

Nope. Not even a solitary do-gooder.

A little disheartening on the face of it, eh?

But-He does not leave us there!

For, He who is peace embodied came down to shed His blood for us.

He became the olive branch extended to a harassed and harried group of no goodnicks like us.

We need only seek and recognize this truth, snatch it up tight, and run determinedly with it.

Pursue it, if you will…

Allow it to fill us up from within, bubble over, and, thereby, spill out beautifully to those around us.

Like a splashing, happy river. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Only then can we even possess a paltry fraction of understanding His peace!

The rest must come on the other side. Hopefully, Lord willing, soon!

Dear God, may we turn from evil, seek peace, and pursue it with everything in us.

Blessings and prayers, friends! Thanks for reading!

Feeling Your Heartbreak

Reposting for those wishing to leave comments. It’s been a while since that section went on the fritz. I was kind of hoping I’d left that problem behind with the old year, but, alas!

Empathy.

More than โ€œOh, I feel bad for you.โ€

Noโ€ฆ

It involves something deeper than a perfunctory phrase.

I donโ€™t pretend to be a psychological expert, but I do know that mingled in there is the ability to feel what your fellow man feels.

Or, at least, to understand it.

Something which is becoming a rare commodity these days, unfortunately.

You only have to tune in to television, scroll through social media, or just walk into the local grocery to see an appalling lack of thought for the other guy.

People spout impatient cruelty and knee-jerk opinions at one another, and call it โ€œjust speaking our mindsโ€.

We pronounce judgments aplenty-and deftly excuse and defend ourselves from such.

Love is something that we indulge in for the warm fuzzies when it strikes our fancy, but quickly bypass when we encounter what we deem undeserving.

Easy to become desensitized. Far too easy.๐Ÿ˜ž

And, for those of us who grieve the current status of the world, it can be a sad, dismaying burden indeed.

But, lest I just be a downer today, let me insert some slightly lighter truth in here.

For one, we donโ€™t have to allow this ugliness to permeate our souls-when we choose to live in light of His grace.

And for those of us who feel grief over fallen mankind rather keenly, it can be a gift.

Grief a gift? ๐Ÿค”

Yes, when we realize it is His grief we are being allowed to feel.

The Lord grants us the ability to see with His eyes that we might recognize the ragged need we all have.

For Him. For His incomparable cleansing. His extraordinary sacrifice. His matchless love.

It serves to stir compassion we would honestly not be capable of otherwise.

Soโ€ฆhard as it can be, I would much rather be able to feel His heartbreak than not.

I pray we all can tap into it more and more.

Blessings and prayers to you, dear friends! May we each live in light of His grace and allow His compassion for us to extend to our fellow man.