Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Vision

"Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he."  --Proverbs 29:18

I recently was able to work in my flower garden for the first time this year.  I trimmed my rose bush, cleaned out the old foliage from my day lilies and some of my irises, and destroyed the remnants of a stray blackberry plant.  I was slightly surprised that weeds were alive and growing as soon as the snow had melted (and before this week's snow storm), and I set to work eradicating my garden of them.

Last year I had my most beautiful flower garden ever, and this year I am hoping to do better; but it takes a lot of work.  Quite a few years ago I was not diligent in keeping it weeded, and I grew a world-champion weed garden: humungous dandelions, 6-foot tall weeds, and healthy wild grasses.  I didn't have a vision for my garden and so nature took over and its floral aesthetic value declined.

The same thing happens with houses.  If someone does not take the time to clean, repair, and upkeep them, they gradually become uninhabitable. In our spiritual lives, we need to deliberately take time to read God's word and spend time with Him, or our relationship with Him will disintegrate.

Nations decline as their people become apathetic, yielding to lives of careless luxury and fruitless pleasures and losing their vision for greatness (as happened with Rome).  We have to have a robust, active vision in life.  Nature's course for men and for nations leads to degeneration, slow steady decline, and eventual death and destruction.  

God has called us to better things.  Never lose your vision.  Build your life on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ.  Spend time with Jesus; He is alive and He can show you the paths He has for you.  You need the Word of God in your life.  God's course leads us higher and higher into the inimitable exaltation of His glory.  Serving Him is our ultimate goal, and he must be glorified in all that we do.

"Whatsoever thine hand findeth to do, do it with thy might."  --Ecclesiastes 9:10

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Stand up to the Devil

"For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, 
from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have."  --Mark 4:25

     A lot of things in life are affected by the snowball effect.  The rich seem to get richer; the famous get more fame.  And the talented get more opportunities to increase their talent.  This is not at all bad, but unfortunately it works the other way too.

If you let one person (or government) knock you down or discourage you, others will know you are vulnerable and knock you even further down.  The spirits of fear, laziness, worry, and doubt are just like alcohol: addictive.  Don't yield yourself to them.  Resist evil and be strong.  

Another lesson I learned from my chickens:  Hens who were picked on by the others developed a spirit of fear.  They'd start clucking fearfully and run away whenever another chicken walked by them.  It didn't matter whether they were bigger or stronger; they were scared!  If they had stood up for themselves they might have had a chance, but sadly fear ruined their lives.

Romans 6:16 says, "Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?"  Don't let bad habits get a hold of you.  

Waking up at a decent hour is easy for someone who has done so day after day for the past year, but for someone who has said, "Yet a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep!" for the past week, it may be almost impossible.  Getting a job done is easy for someone who is diligent, but for someone who is lazy it may seem like climbing Mt. Everest.

Just like we must stay physically fit by exercising our muscles, we must exercise our will power every day and face the challenges before us.   We must face our bad habits, our fears, our enemies, and every evil that comes against us.  We must stand up to the devil!  If we cower, we may get nothing done in our lives.  We will be just like a poor scared chicken, buffaloed by everything.  But as the saying goes, "Where there's a will there's a way!"  It may be hard at first, but it will get easier as we establish good habits.  The Bible says resist the devil and he will flee!  With God all things are possible.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Oakview Volunteer Dinner

Last year I wrote (here) about how much I enjoyed the dinner Oakview Nursing gave for those who volunteer (we get to give concerts there a few times every year).  When we received an invitation to their volunteer dinner this year we didn't want to miss it for anything.

The dinner was held at the same venue as last year, the spacious Beaman Memorial Building.  We signed in for a drawing for flower vases and took our seats at a table.  The tables were decorated with umbrellas and flower arrangements to give the room a very spring-like look.  

After greeting our wonderful hostess Jane and the Oakview staff, we admired the quilts on the walls while we waited for the first course.  The butterfly quilt above is one of my mother's favorites.  

Soon salads were served, and we enjoyed the crispy lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese.  I'm not very much of a salad fan, but they definitely know how to make a simple salad taste good.
I came to dinner starving, and quickly ate all my salad.  The dangerous part of eating salad first is that it takes up so much room not enough is left to finish the main course.

...And that can be disappointing when the main course consists of a generous helping of potatoes, pork, and green beans.  The potatoes were wonderful.

Next came the most important part of the meal!  Guess what?!
Raspberry Cheesecake and French Silk Pie!

My youngest sister and I split a piece of each so we could taste both.  The French Silk was very sweet and light and the raspberry cheesecake was splendid (I love the taste of raspberries!).

After dessert the 3 tables of people were assigned to write a story about 3 elderly people, George (a 92 year old veteran), Ethel (an 80-something lady with an attitude), and Bill (A charming 82 year old gentleman).  Table 1 was to write about their morning.  Table 2 would write about lunch and the afternoon, and Table 3 would write about the evening.  We were also given several words that we had to implement in our stories.  It was fun to do, and very interesting to hear the completed story.
Then everyone who wanted to participate was invited to sit in a wide circle, and while music played we passed around a few packaged presents.  When the music stopped, whoever had them in hand had to unwrap one layer, and then the music would start again.  The people who unwrapped the last layer of packaging received the present.  Some people got Gatorade, others M&Ms, chocolate, and packaged cakes, and I received chewing gum (above).  My mother won a vase of flowers in the drawing.

It was a very pleasant evening, and I would like to thank Jane, Lynn, and all the staff at Oakview for the wonderful dinner.  They know how to make a dinner both fun and delicious, and Oakview once again retains its title as a wonderful place to volunteer.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Decisions, Decisions

"Do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men?
 for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ."  --Galations 1:10

Be wise when making decisions.  You are the only one who will have to live with the decisions you make for the rest of your life.  Other people are well-meaning, and in trying to influence your decisions, they may have your best interest in mind, but they won't have to live with your decisions.  You do.  

Ask the Lord for guidance, follow His leading, and make the decisions you believe are best.  Don't let others pressure you into making decisions you may later regret. 

In Reassess Your Chess, Silman tells us that we have to defend our position and prove it is superior.  You need to believe in what you are doing.  If you don't, no one will.  Your opponent will insist that his position is better, but don't listen to him.  It's your job to prove your position is the best.   

Seize the opportunities you have; if you don't they will soon be gone.  But don't go into commitments half-heartedly.  Acknowledge the Lord in all your ways, and He will direct your paths.  As Davy Crockett said, "First make sure you're right, then go ahead."  

Pleasing others is a hopeless cause.  It doesn't matter what people think of you; they come and go.  Don't depend on other people's principles.  People fail.  People change.  But God is always there; He never fails or changes.  Nothing can be hid from him.  On Judgment Day you won't be answerable to anyone else.  You don't have to give account of your deeds to friends or church or anyone.  You will give account to God.

We each must have the attitude to say, "I'm going to do what God wants me to do, regardless of what anyone else in the entire world says, does, or thinks."  Only people with that attitude will be able to stand in the face of trial.

Throughout history most people simply flow with the tide.  In Nazi Germany most churches started singing the praises of Hitler from the pulpit and the pews.  Only a few dared to stand against it; they suffered persecution.  Under other wicked regimes the story has always been the same; only a chosen few will raise their voices against evil and refuse to bow to the devil when all their friends do.

God is your Judge.  What you do in your life is between you and God.  It doesn't matter what other people say.  Please God.



"Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?  If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.  If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.  Yea, the darkness hideth not from not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.  For thou has possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.  I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made:  marvellous are thy works;
 and that my soul knoweth right well."  --Psalm 139:7-14

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Legacy

"The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage."  --Psalm 16:6

If time continues, sooner or later, we all will die.  What matters is how we live our lives and what we leave behind us.  What will be our legacy?  Will our lives continue to bless others long after we are gone?

Bach and Beethoven will never be forgotten.  Their music has blessed others for hundreds of years.  Anthony Burger died when he was only 44, yet his piano playing still blesses people today.  Many authors like Victor Hugo, songwriters such as Fanny Crosby, actors like John Wayne, statesmen like Thomas Jefferson, tyrants like Mao Zedong, conquerors like Alexander the Great, criminals like Jesse James, lawmen like Wyatt Earp, and inventors such as Thomas Edison have all earned places for their names in history, whether in fame or infamy.  

Children are another important legacy.  They are the ones who can carry on the good fight after the parents' generation is long gone.  In them, many of the parents' traits, characteristics, and (hopefully!) wisdom can live on.  

Many people's life's labor is in providing for themselves and their families; in their endeavors these ordinary people play an integral part in keeping society running smoothly.  They construct buildings, build tractors and cars, drive trucks and busses, fly airplanes, deliver newspapers, repair farm machinery, sew clothing, and doctor the sick.  They leave a legacy of hard work and prosperity.  Without these "ordinary" people, society would long ago have collapsed.  

But sadly, the names of ordinary individuals are often forgotten, by society and even by their own descendents.  Someone may see their names etched on gravestones, but who they are and what they were like is unfortunately soon lost forever.  As Ecclesiastes says, "The memory of them is forgotten.  Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun."

There are a lot of things that we think are very important now that won't matter at all 100 years from now.  But there are other things that will never be forgotten.  Small deeds of kindness and acts of love live on.  Today we still talk about Mary who anointed Jesus' feet with ointment and wiped them with her hair.  

We don't have to conquer the world to leave a worthwhile legacy.  But we must remember that our lives will soon be over; we have only a short time to leave our mark upon this world.  Leave a legacy that will make the world a better place, and shine the Light of Christ.  Be a blessing to others.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Thankful Heart


"You never know how good you have it until it's gone...gone!"  Aunt Esther used to remind us, frequently starting to cry as she repeated "gone."  She had a long and sometimes hard life.  She was born in 1900, before the first airplane flew and the Titanic sank.  She was from a different era, and she saw many things come and go before her death in 2009.  Though she now too has passed on, her advice on thankfulness has stayed with me.

I was reminded of it again this Thursday morning when I temporarily lost my voice due to a mild cold.  I wanted to sing a song; I wanted to talk with my family; I wanted to call my grandparents; but all I could manage was an occasional whisper.  I generally have very good health (thank the Lord), so this rarely happens; it's certainly a reminder of how thankful I should be for my voice!

It's easy to take a lot of the wonderful things God has given us for granted; we sometimes are guilty of complaining when in reality we have everything so good!  We 21st century Americans are particularly spoiled.  We have clean running hot and cold water at every faucet, electricity, more food than we know what to do with, high speed internet connections, good medical care, and nice warm homes.  We haven't had foreign troops invading our soil since the war of 1812.  Many of us have loving families and good health.

We have everything to thank God for. We need to appreciate all the Lord has done for us and give Him the credit.

God hates it when people who are very blessed complain and turn their backs on Him.  God said to Israel in Deuteronomy 28, "Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the Lord shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee."

Take a moment to tell the Lord how much you appreciate all the wonderful things He has done for you today.  In every circumstance there is always something for which we can be grateful.  The Lord always sends a ray of sunshine and a beam of hope.  Thank Him!

Friday, April 4, 2014

I Know Who Holds Tomorrow

"Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength."  --Corrie ten Boom

God gives us the strength we need to face each day.  He understands our weaknesses and watches our steps, making sure our burdens are never heavier than we can bear.  

Today is the day He has given us to live.  We make life hard for ourselves when we spend our days regretting our yesterdays and fretting over our tomorrows.  We weren't meant to bear the pains, fears, and cares of 20 years in one day.  We are meant to live today.  

Learn from yesterday.  Forgive and forget the bad things; learn from mistakes, and cherish the sweet by-gone moments.  But live today.  Our wildest imaginations can not grasp what tomorrow will bring, but our heavenly Father holds our future in His Almighty Hand.  We must nurture our relationship with Him.  His plans for us are good; He will see us through every challenge, every mountain, and every valley we must face.  He will give us the strength, fortitude, and wisdom we need.  He gives us our future as we are able to bear it: one moment, one hour, one day at a time.  

We may not know what tomorrow holds, but we know the One who holds tomorrow.