Thursday, January 16, 2020

Where's The Line To See Jesus?

Where's the Line to See Jesus?
 
     On one side of the spectrum Christianity is about adults who are called to yield to their eternal savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  On the other side of the spectrum are children whom Jesus wanted brought to Him.

     Jesus, in no uncertain words, chewed out disciples who tried to block children's access to Him, told adults to become like children or not be able to enter His kingdom and advised that those children had heavenly angels who appeared before the Father in their behalf.

"People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them.  When Jesus saw this, he was indignant.  He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them." (Mark 10:13-16, NIV)

"Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, "Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me." (Mark 9:36-37, NIV)

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones.  For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven."  (Matthew 18:10, NIV)

     Short-sighted adults deride these claims, "If God really cared about kids why doesn't He prevent all the horrible atrocities they suffer worldwide?" These mockers blame God for anything and everything heinous on this globe.

     Have they never read that the first man and woman brought sin into the world by succumbing to the treacherous lies of the evil one, Satan.  Ever since that moment the Devil has urged and nudged mankind to do unspeakable acts including diabolically mistreating children.  This is sinful man's thinking and conduct ~ not the Heavenly Father's desire.

"In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish." (Matthew 18:14, NIV)

     I've always loved children.  My wife and I became Foster Parents assuming we'd be able to make a difference in the lives of suffering children.  But after we provided care for darling kids suddenly they'd be removed.  I don't remember the exact number whom we housed but I do recall how ripped apart our hearts were when they were suddenly transferred and we never saw them again.

     One afternoon I read about a unique idea by Judge Soukup in King County Washington.  He conceived the idea of using trained community volunteers to speak for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court.  This creative idea grew out of the Judge's observation from many years as a Family Court Jurist that parents, offenders and relatives usually had an attorney to represent them ~ but the children had no one.

     I felt led by the Holy Spirit to become such a volunteer ~ for abused and neglected children.

     It required being totally vetted, after which there were many long days and hours of training.

     After about 6 months I was sworn in by a Judge as a Court Appointed Special Advocate: (CASA) for juveniles brought into Family Court.  But I had to wait until a child was assigned to me.  Wait, I did.  The system seemed so slow.  All that training and then pray that I would indeed be assigned a hurting child to help.  Then my phone rang.

     The CASA Supervisor said 2 young children had been abandoned and were now in custody of the State.  The Supervisor asked if I could advocate for both of the children.  Of course I said, "Absolutely."

     When I read the police report I couldn't believe my eyes.  The report said 911 had received a call saying there were two young children in a cold, damp car parked behind a Tavern.  Worse they had been there for 2 rainy nights.

     The police removed the young children and discovered they were not only cold but were also starving.  Scrounging around for anything to eat ~ all the food they could find was a tube of toothpaste.  They had been abandoned by their prostitute mother.

     They were in a temporary shelter home when I first met them.  Bobby and Brenda were brother and sister and so cute.  He was 7 and she was 5.  I was delighted to help these two sweet kids.

     CASA training had prepared me for typical causes why the Court would have custody of the young children.  They tended to be parents who were drug/alcohol addicts, or guilty of criminal behavior, or single moms with abusive live-in boyfriends, etc.  Often a neighbor witnessing children being mistreated in these broken and abusive homes would report them to the Authorities.

     So the Court set up the CASA program as an experiment.  Each advocate was to represent the children members of these dysfunctional homes.

     But represent is far too pregnant a term for us.  Our only involvement was to visit the children in whatever residence they were in and report to the Court what we saw.  Were they healthy, fed, bathed and safe.  Or were they in harm's way.

     As advocates no physical contact was allowed.  We really were just volunteer reporters.  We were trained to not even give a struggling child a hug.  So when Christmas rolled around Bobby and Brenda  wanted to go see Santa.  But I couldn't take them anywhere.

     Later, Bobby and Brenda were taken from the foster home in which I first met them and were returned to their mother.  She had been begging the Court to return them to her.  She lived alone in a small apartment.  The Court's allowance stipulated she was not to have any other adult residing with her.

     Mom didn't have a phone so I had to schedule a visit by knocking on her door.  She fought the visitation tooth and toe nail.  It took handing her a Court Authorization document and threatening to call a deputy to enforce it before she grudgingly allowed me inside.  I will never forget that day.

     Mom had broken the agreement and had her former boyfriend living with her and the kids.  Brenda was sitting on a stool watching TV.  But where was Bobby? 

     "Oh, he's in the bathroom.  He'll be right out." 

     When the door opened Bobby shuffled slowly toward me.  I smiled at him but he didn't smile at me.  He had obviously been quietly crying his eyes out.  I quickly saw why.

     Bobby had a nasty bruised eye and a badly swollen lip.  I wanted to rush to him and hug him and tell him everything was going to be OK.  But, as a CASA I couldn't make physical contact.  When I left I went directly to the CASA office in the Family Court and reported the obvious abuse.  First though I collapsed in my car as I couldn't drive with my eyes gushing a torrent of tears.

     The Court called a hearing to deal with the abuse report and consider moving the children to a safer home.  I had located out of town relatives who agreed to take the children.  They were a great family and I hoped the Court would send Bobby and Brenda to live with them.

     When the Judge called me to testify I carefully detailed what I observed.  Then there was an explosive outburst.  The Mom and boyfriend stood and screamed snake venom filth and abuse at me.

     What did the Judge do? Nothing.  What did he say?  Nothing.  Looking at his face I could see he was horribly intimidated.  I protested and said my report was the truth.  But then their vindictive rant increased.  The boyfriend said, "We're gonna follow you home and kill you and your whole family."

     Am I making this up?  No.  It is 100% true.

     What did the Court decide?  I remember the Judge scooting down in his chair a bit and saying, the Mom could retain custody of her two children.

     Having won the battle to keep her kids Mom and boyfriend quickly exited cursing me as they left.

     Is this narrative designed to deride the CASA program.  Absolutely not.  The problem was not the program.  The problem was that the forcefulness of evil is so horrendous that little can be done to corral it.

     A short-time later I worked with primary children in a special program at church.  It was very fulfilling and the forces of evil didn't vault to the front.  Instead of taking children to see Santa Claus they were introduced to Jesus.

     My wife said this story reminded her of a touching song:

Where's The Line To See Jesus?
Becky Kelley


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Friday, December 27, 2019

Life is Often Not What You Expect

Life is Often Not What You Expect

     Ruth was born in Culbertson, Montana in the second month of World War I.  Her father had a small farm and raised horses and cattle.  He also ran the ferry across the Missouri River serving north-eastern Montana and western North Dakota.  Ruth had five siblings: three older brothers and two younger sisters.  She remembers her Dad working long hours and her Mom as being a great cook.

     Dad would often rock his daughters on his lap when he had a few moments before dinner or just after.  Then one day he got real sick with horrid pain in his stomach.  The one doctor in the county took one look at him and said it was appendicitis and placed him on the first train to a hospital in Denver.  It was nearly two weeks before he returned.


     His body was still very tender and his bandage had to be replaced frequently.  Nile, the oldest son fed and watered the stock while his Dad, Adee, was on the mend.  3-year old Ruth was being rocked one afternoon when Nile came in and asked his Dad what he should do as one of the horses was acting up.  As Adee went to calm the horse he opened the gate to approach from the back.  It happened faster than the eye could see.  Suddenly the vicious beast kicked backwards with both rear hoofs ripping open Adee’s stomach.

     The neighbors got him on a stretcher for the next train to return him to the hospital in Colorado.

     Ruth didn’t know when he’d come back home and thinks it must have been a month or more before she overheard a neighbor tell her mother, “I’m sorry Adee didn’t make it.”

     Talk about a tragic and heartbreaking start to a life.  3-year old Ruth would have more than her share of heartaches along life’s way.

     After her father was killed her mother couldn’t keep up the farm nor be the nurturing Mother anymore.  Her brother in far away Oregon said she and the kids could come and stay with his family.  It was more than a thousand-mile trek and Ruth remembers how horribly long the trip was and getting motion sickness on the way.

     Finally they arrived at her Uncle’s place and, though really crowded, it was warm and felt secure.  Her Mom kept job hunting and the kids felt lonely but found ways to play between their many chores.  One afternoon her Mother kept looking out the window like she was expecting someone.

     Ruth and Lillian, just two years apart, were really close knit and were playing when there was a knock on the door.  A man and woman came in and had a cup of coffee with Ruth’s Mother.  The girls kept playing but Ruth felt she was being stared at.

     The couple stood up and Ruth’s Mom called her.  “Ruth, come here”, as she took Ruth’s hand and marched her to the couple. “Ruth, this is your new Mom and Dad.”  Though Ruth clung to her Mom she was shoved away to the man and woman.  Ruth remembers that horrible time as one of the worst in her whole life.  Not only was she leaving her own Mother but also Lillian and her other siblings.  It would be many, many years before she saw any of them again.

     After a very difficult adjustment and harsh, unreasonableness, Ruth finally became an adult.  She couldn’t move out quickly enough.  She found work on a large farm as the cook.  She was naturally gifted at cooking and remained that way all her life.

     She met Roy at the farm and later they married and moved to their own flat.  Shortly thereafter they had a sweet little blond daughter, Mary.  Roy struggled earning a living partly because he was an alcoholic.

     One morning Ruth hugged Roy goodbye when he went to work to pick up his paycheck.  But that was the last time Ruth would see him alive as he had a heart attack and passed away late that afternoon.

     Ruth was very, very hard working and her daughter, Mary, praises her to this day.  Ruth was lonely and struggled to survive with her young daughter through the great depression.  Community dances were common during that era and Ruth occasionally went, secretly hoping to meet Mr. Right.

     A handsome, strong young man asked her for a dance.  Ruth enjoyed dancing with him and felt secure in his rock-hard embrace.  They dated several times and the attraction seemed to be growing.  That is until what happened at the restaurant.

     Ed got upset at a man whom he felt made a pass at Ruth.  Ed had drank enough to be nearly drunk.  He grabbed the man and beat him so severely Ruth thought he would kill him.

     Ruth wisely decided to not stay in relationship with a man of such a violent temper when drinking.  So she refused to date him anymore.

     About two weeks had passed when unexpectedly Ed showed up at Ruth’s flat.  Little Mary recalls the exact shirt he was wearing and would tremble ever after when anyone wore that kind of shirt around her.

     Ed came in and apologized to Ruth about his horrid-temper outburst.  He swore he’d never do it again.  He handed her a little ring and said “We’re going to get married.”

     Ruth said, “No we’re not and I want you to leave now.”

     Suddenly Ed thundered as he marched her to the kitchen, “Oh Yes we are.”  Holding Ruth by the hair he pulled a butcher knife off the counter and held it to her throat.  “I’ll slice your throat if you don’t say ~ Yes ~ right now.”

     Later it was learned that Ed was a felon on parole from a serious, violent crime, when he met Ruth at the Dance hall.  Over the years Ed and Ruth stayed married because she feared him so much.  Along the way they had three children.  Charlene, Douglas, and me


                                         Ruth Vail


A Tribute to Ruth

 

     For the rest of this story go back and read the story I wrote previously: Murder Attempt Led Me To The Lord.”
 
     Postscript: Ruth became a Christian in midlife and lived to be 86.  She was the best Mom and grandmother on the planet.  My wife loved her more than her own Mother and wrote the following epitaph for her memorial service: “Don’t cry for me because where I go Angels sing.”


When You Come Home
By Billy Gilman


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Friday, December 13, 2019

A Most Nauseating Dinner

A Most Nauseating Dinner

     Mom and Dad asked if I could come to their home and advise them what to do with their daughter.

     Desiree was turning 18 in two months.  They described her as uncontrollable,  argumentative and defiant.  In fact, Desiree had dropped out of high school and run away from home.  But they didn't want that to become public or church gossip.

     I began searching for someone who might know of her whereabouts.  My oldest Son had heard through the pipeline that she was staying with a family from another church several hundred miles away.

     I was able to leave a message that I'd drive to her current town just to talk if she'd agree to meet with me.  We met at a fish and chips restaurant and her warm hug gave me hope we could make some sense out of the separation from her parents.

     "Desiree, I've known your mom and dad since before they were married.  I've attended the same church with them but don't know them really all that well.  They told me how concerned they are about you and miss you very much.

     "Excuse me," she said as she hurried to the Rest Room.  When she returned she'd obviously been crying and her composure was unsettled.  She continued, "I didn't know you'd be getting so personal. I'm not comfortable with that.  Maybe I should just g..."

     Seeing her emotional state I wished I hadn't been so direct.  "Desiree, I've known you since you were born and have always loved you and my family does also.  You know that... so please forgive me for hurting you... but I hope you won't leave.  I've driven for hours to get here because I truly care about you."

     She shifted her body in the chair, took another drink and dipped a french fry in catsup.  "I was glad when you said you're coming just to see me.  It's a long story but I just can't take it anymore.  If I hadn't left I don't know what would have happened but it wouldn't have been good."

     Trying to read between the lines I wondered what deep, dark skeleton was in their closet.  I grew quiet as I pondered why she said something bad would have happened had she not left.  I was not prepared for what she was about to divulge.

     "I think everyone's blind to what goes on in my home behind closed doors," tearfully she whispered.

     "Can you share just a bit with me?"  Two couples were chattering at a nearby table so I leaned closer as I couldn't hear her very well.

     Her eyes welled up with tears.  "What does your family eat on Sundays after church?" she asked.

     Where o' where was Desiree going with this?  I had no idea.

    "Sweetie that varies.  You know I love pizza.  And we all eat Kentucky Fried Chicken and mashed potatoes and gravy.  My wife's meatloaf is the best on the planet.  Why do you ask?"

     "Her face contorted into a twisted sarcastic hardness, her voice accelerated and she asked, "What do you think our family eats every single Sunday?  Do you have any idea?"

     Not waiting for my response she suddenly snapped, "We have boiled elder and fried preacher.  I cannot recall any Sunday when my Mom and Dad didn't berate and gossip about anyone and most everyone. I've never heard them say, 'Boy that was a good sermon or anything nice.  I think they're hypocrites!  I had to get out of there before I exploded."

     I knew I was in over my head and asked the Lord to give me wisdom to know what to say and the kindness to help her through this.  I clearly hadn't suspected this was what had caused her to leave home.

     Suffice it to say this didn't get resolved that night.  It took several more visits and two very uncomfortable meetings I had with her parents.  When enough time elapsed and she visited her family I was told it felt very awkward at first but a lot of apologies and forgiveness was on the menu that day.

Epilogue

Hypocrisy

     The Scriptures are replete with teachings about setting good examples and being continually on guard against unchristian behavior.  I am cautious to call anyone a hypocrite though sometimes it is necessary to confront a person whose action is hypocritical.  Certainly Peter was not a "hypocrite" but he did act hypocritically a few times.  In Antioch the apostle Paul had to confront Peter for bad hypocritical conduct that was leading several Christians away from the truth.

     I suspect the most familiar Bible verse to many unbelievers is:  “Judge not, or you too will be judged." (Matt. 7:1, NIV).

     Jesus went on to warn that judgemental people may very well be hypocrites.  "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."  (Matt. 7:2-5, NIV)

     To list the number of hypocrites discussed in the Bible takes a computer.  To list the number of hypocrites in churches today is not my assignment.  That will be the task of the angels when the Lord returns in the clouds according to two of His parables.  In Matthew 13, His disciples questioned the meaning of two of his most sobering teachings:  The parable of the Weeds and the Parable of the Drag Net.

"As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.  The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.  They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.  Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Matthew 13:40-43, NIV)

“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish.  When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore.  Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.   This is how it will be at the end of the age.  The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."  (Matthew 13:47-50, NIV)

    Honest hearts and sincere consciences will repent of hypocritical behavior.  Sometimes as a counselor, I've had to confront hypocritical behavior and/or thinking.  The old adage is so true: Thoughts lead to behavior.  Behavior leads to habits.  Habits lead to destiny.  Destiny leads to eternity.

Critical Temporary Assignment

     Some parents forget that children are, when you ponder it carefully, a temporary assignment.  Though there are exceptions to the norm the Lord assigns us the awesome and terrifying task of training our children from an early age until they're adults.  Once they can make it on their own we're to bless them and send them forward to build their own homes.

     God even created most animals to be caring parents until their young can make it on their own.  Kangaroo joeys stay in Mom's pouch for about 8 months and when they are out they suckle for a couple of more months.

     Majestic eagles typically have two eaglets.  Eaglets can't fly and are fed by their parents until they're about 3 months old.  Since eagle wings often span 6 feet, four in a nest is quite crowded.

     Mom and Dad don't push their eaglets out of the nest.  Instead when the parents think they're old enough to make it as a fledgling they quit feeding them.  That's usually about 10-12 weeks and then the eaglets anxiously test their wings... they're hungry.

     So if we are going to be successful at parenting we need to be dedicated to our children from day one.  I can't count the number of Moms who are still weeping over their grown child who will have nothing to do with Jesus.  Or the number of Dads who have disowned their own offspring.  How tragic, sad and the opposite of God's plan for our parenting.

     I'll never forget a dear friend who told about his childhood.  He said, "After Mom tucked me in for the night sometimes I'd get up to go to the bathroom.  When I did I'd hear voices.  So one night I quietly peeked into the living room. I'll never forget what I saw.  My Father and Mother were down on their knees praying... for me and my brother."

     Is it any wonder that the two boys became Ministers?

Were I The Perfect Child of God
T. Alonso and M. Mahler


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Thursday, December 5, 2019

THAT BLASTED _ _ _ _ _ _!

THAT BLASTED  _ _ _ _ _ _!

     I want to tell you a true story, which I’ve titled:“That Blasted _ _ _ _ _ _ !"

     I want to challenge you to read closely and see if you can fill in the 6-letter word following, “That Blasted”.

     Customer service has always been one of the most stressful, difficult and unfulfilling of any job on earth.  We all know that.  And that’s what several clients have told me over 40 years.  Here’s a composite description of these “customer-service” counselees as I grew to know them.

     The date they were hired they were eager to please, cheerful in disposition and possessing a gracious personality.  Given some time and dealings with customers many were altered into a glazed-eyed, muttering-psychopathic, snarling brain-dead zombie after serving their months behind that counter of infamy.

     One such zombie I actually observed, where he didn’t think he was being noticed, was tapping his forehead into a wall and stammering, “Rab...it, Rab...it, Rab...it.”   Whether you’ve been an automotive service advisor, or a refund clerk or a postal employee or anyone of 100’s of such positions… you know what I’m talking about.

     One of my new Counseling clients, Darrell, worked as an Automotive Service Department Manager.  He’d been doing it for 7 years and his health was deteriorating.  His family physician recommended he seek counseling and/or change jobs.

     When he arrived he dragged his shoes across the carpet and almost collapsed onto the couch.  His face was lock-jawed and his body was so tense I guessed his blood pressure was higher than a kite.  To say he looked stressed is a gross understatement.

     After a few sessions Darrell could even crack a grin... a momentary one.  This was only when he focused on home life, being with friends, going to church, etc.  But if I asked, “How’s work going?” it erased his grin, his face hardened and the symptoms of stress returned.

     I often prayed for my client’s well being and sought the Lord’s wisdom to guide me.  But with this honest, industrious and decent man I felt like I was letting him down.  Nothing I recommended seemed to improve his work experience.

     Well, let me add a little more information.  Realizing the high stress and casualty rate of employees working in customer service, many Psychologists have devised miracle programs and conducted seminars to train employees to improve their conflict management skills.

     They’d lecture and draw circles on white boards showing how to have genuine empathy for the customer and so on.  The efforts were aimed at the employee because it was hypothesized that customers became difficult because employees provoked them.  Or that the employees, through ignorance or by projecting as being disinterested, infuriated customers even more.  “Mrs. Jones feels like you have a non-caring attitude.”

     I had held Seminars in schools, colleges, on military bases, for retreats, churches and large companies.  But the customer-service training only provided slight improvement and a very minor reduction in reports of dealing with difficult customers with these newly acquired skills.

     It was apparent that I couldn’t train the irritated, difficult customer.  I walked through every scenario, without even a thought as to how the difficult customer’s behavior could be changed.  So, I went back to the drawing board to redesign the Employee Training modules.  It still hadn’t dawned on me about “That Blasted _ _ _ _ _ _ !”

     I decided to visit his work site and observe like a quiet little church mouse, you know, out of sight.  What I saw was that Darrell was not causing his stress, he was being shellacked by utterly abusive, furious customers some of whose faces looked demonic and whose angry voices resonated like fighter jets taking off.

     It was high time I take on one more project.  A real-life, people-helping project.  If I couldn’t make a difference for highly-stressed-out-customer-service employees like Darrell then I was not giving it my best.

     I scratched my noggin, which is easy to do since the hair has long since whispered goodbye.  There has to be a way to get consumers to let up on these customer service reps.  If only they could see themselves: with smoke pouring out of both ears and their nostrils resembling a dragon’s fiery appearance.  And their voices yelling ear-piercing curses at the bewildered employees.

     Sarcastically I thought, I should take a picture and hand it to them.  That’d do it.  Then they’d stop.  Right?  Probably they’d just punch me in the nose for interfering.

     I shrugged and continued to ponder.  If only they really could see themselves... as they really were.  But was there any way it could be done?

     That night my scripture reading was in Luke 22.  When I got down to verses 61 and 62 something struck me.

“The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter, and Peter remembered the Lord’s words: “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”  And Peter went out and cried uncontrollably.”  (Luke 22:61-62, CEB)
     Jesus had forewarned Peter that he’d deny Him three times before morning.  But resolute Peter swore he’d never do that. But he did.  Jesus turned and looked right at Peter.  And at that moment seeing Jesus’ eyes "Peter went out and cried uncontrollably.”

     I happened to read the first chapter of James that night and paused at these two verses:

“Those... who look at their faces in a mirror.  They look at themselves, walk away, and immediately forget what they were like.”  (James 1:23-24, CEB)
     Had the Holy Spirit connected Luke and James’ verses to guide me into the long-sought solution.  Slowly I kept reading these accounts.  What was the key?

     In Luke, Peter had the warning of Jesus in his soul.  When he denied Jesus and saw Jesus look him square in the eyes his memory resurfaced creating massive guilt and shame that led to a violent tearful event.

     Then in James, we see a man who looks straight in a mirror but walks away forgetting what he looked like.  But what he had seen was himself - he forgot it because no one reminded him as the Lord’s glance at Peter did.

     BINGO!  I had the answer.  And suddenly it all made sense.

     I went to the dealership owner and told him I had a great cure for his service department’s maximumly-stressed-out employees.  And this time I knew it would work… to greatly reduce his employees’ stress and maybe even almost eliminate it.  Best of all I said, “It will cost you less than $200.”  I told him I didn’t want one penny for doing it.  He looked at me somewhat skeptically, pondered it and said, “Go for it!”

     The cool thing that the Holy Spirit was showing me was that I should not focus on changing the employees anymore.  Instead, now I was focusing on diffusing the customers.

     I met with the dealership janitor when the shop was closed.  He and I installed the $200.00 item.

     When Darrell showed up for his next appointment I asked how things are going.  He smiled and replied, “The Janitor had a clever idea. It really is helping.”

     “What was it, Darrell?”

     “Yesterday the Dealer said, “I don’t hear hardly any yelling anymore at your service counter.  What has changed?”

     Darrell said, “Ever since they saw themselves they calmed down.”

     The dealer said, “I can’t believe that blasted m i r r o r  could make so much difference.”

Epilogue:

     None of us wants to look at our mirror image with smoke pouring out of both ears and our nostrils resembling a dragon’s fiery appearance.  Nor seeing our bloody-red vocal cords yelling ear-piercing curses.

     James, the Lord’s brother wrote a very wise statement: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”  (James 1:19-20, NIV)
"Man In The _ _ _ _ _ _ "
Performed by Joyful Noise




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Monday, November 25, 2019

Does God Really Help Widows?

Does God Really Help Widows?

     Logan Davis had inherited a lucrative business and managed it well.  He was well liked in the beach town and had the Midas touch when it came to making a profit.  Then he became a Christian.  A really earnest Christian.

     He sold the business and moved across state with his wife and two little toe heads.  “I’m going to become a Minister.”

     He and I became close friends and often studied together in the library.  Our families grew close also.  When Homiletics class began Logan quickly took the bull by the horns and became a good speaker... his fervor to convert the lost was an inspiration to each of us students.

     One day, as we studied Logan excused himself and said he had a doctor’s appointment.  He asked for prayers for good news.  He had noticed lumps in a couple of his lymph nodes.

     Logan was there bright and early the next day.  He said the doctor took a biopsy as he didn’t like the look of the growths.  A bunch of us began praying for good test results.  But I confess, thinking back, I was such a worrywart I was inwardly very unsettled.

     I still remember the day he sat beside me and said, “The news wasn’t very good.  The doctor says that I have Hodgkin’s disease.”

     I was stunned.  I prayed.  The whole Bible College and faculty did as well.  Logan kept studying with me in the library, but he started losing weight and energy.  We had many heart-to-heart discussions.  The weaker he felt the more he became deeply concerned about his family.  His little boys were close to starting school and his dear wife was heartbroken.  They both trusted that the Lord would work it out as He promised: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”  (Romans 8:28, NLT)

 
     We were in a college class when someone disputed the meaning of a certain Scripture.  Logan electrified everyone when he stood and slammed his Bible on his desk, shouting, “Don’t try to tell me the Bible isn’t accurate.  You must repent of your doubt.”  You could have heard the proverbial pin hit the floor for a long time before anyone spoke again.

     Logan began standing on busy corners and urging passersby to become Christians.  He wasn’t able to continue for many more days though as he was weakening and his life’s calendar flipped pages like a high-speed fan.

     One of the Bible College teachers ministered to a nearby church.  He called to invite Logan to preach the next Sunday.  His wife, knowing how sick he was and napping said, “Oh.  I’m sorry but he’s not up to it.”

     Logan overheard the conversation and curtly asked, “Why did you say that?  God wants me to preach until I can’t.  Call him back and say I will be there to preach.”  She did so.  And he preached.

     As he and I met one day his blue eyes filled with tears, sobbing he asked, “How can I care for my family if I’m going to die?”

     I spoke softly as the lump in my throat felt like a stone.  “Logan, I promise you I’ll do everything I can to help your wife and boys.”  Our eyes met and I think he wanted to believe it, but both of us knew it was just an emotional response to my friend’s trauma.

     Logan’s Memorial Service was a full house... just over 300 people.  Several had driven the many miles from his hometown.  Before the day was concluded several of his friends and two relatives became Christians when hearing the testimonials about him.

     A while after he was gone I helped Dana a few times.  She seemed to be doing pretty well and the boys were spitting images of their Dad and well behaved.

     A few months later I was asked to preach at a small church.  The Lord laid on my heart to preach about Hell.  When the sermon was done a young visitor responded.  Philip said, “I never believed in Hell before ~ but now you’ve got me nervous.”  He asked if we had time to discuss it.

     Before long Philip decided he needed and wanted to become a Christian.  It was so joyful seeing him as he expressed his faith saying: “I believe Jesus is the Son of God, my Master and my Lord...and most of all He’s my Savior.”  He firmly committed to turn from sin and turn to God and was immersed that very night.

     Sadly, though Philip gave it his best, his girlfriend would not yield to the Lord.  Eventually, they were walking down different paths with different goals and grew apart.  She asked Philip to quit the church and travel with her through life.  Philip, instead, broke off their relationship.

     Philip grew in the faith like a heavily-limed field of alfalfa. I heard frequent praise of his steady transformation.  Perhaps a year later he attended a large inter-church rally.  He noticed an elegant and gracious woman.  He learned she wasn’t married and decided to ask her out on a date.

     I was living nearly 70 miles away and never learned about his new interest until he called me.  “Larry I’m engaged and I’d like you to meet my fiance.

     When I showed up for dinner I began weeping uncontrollably.  Philip's fiance was Logan's widow, Dana.  The sovereign Lord of the Universe had answered Logan's desperate concern.

“Our God, from your sacred home you take care of orphans and protect widows. You find families  for those who are lonely.” (Ps. 68:5, 6a, CEV)

     Better yet. Philip decided he wanted to preach.  I never will ever understand how the Lord’s timing and actions are so much higher and greater than any human could comprehend, imagine, dream, speculate wish, plan or predict.  Human tongues and human minds are incapable of beginning to express how great and awesome is our God.

     So don’t ever credit Abracadabra - Credit God!


     Father, You are Indescribable!

Chris Tomlin
"Indescribable"


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Monday, November 18, 2019

The Saddest Room In Heaven

The Saddest Room In Heaven

     When Peter nodded an angel came from the side of the open-pearly gate.  With a warm smile he stepped forward and greeted Loretta.  “Let me show you around...there’s a lot to see.”

     The pair walked by the Concert Stadium, the Creation History Library, the Pavillion that contained the Lamb’s Book of Life and a jeweled edifice that had the original manuscripts of the Old and New testaments.

     They continued on and came to a gigantic room with a dining table without end.  The angel said this is for the Lamb’s Wedding Feast when all of His children have come home.  They paused as Loretta was nearly breathless as she was so thrilled with so much to see.

     “Could we maybe stop and spend time looking at…” as she gestured back up the trail.  But the angel reminded her that time no longer exists...you’re here for all eternity...without an end.  You can visit all you want as it never gets dark.  The Father is Heaven’s light and Jesus is the lamp.

     They continued through the gates and stepped on the hill next to the river of life.  She couldn’t believe the Tree of Life that hung over both sides of the river.  It was loaded with delicious-looking fruit.  Then she had to shield her eyes from the pure gold courtyard and street.

     Loretta stopped and had a peculiar look on her face.  “What are you curious about Loretta?”

     “I saw what looked like a huge shed that was kind of dark with cobwebs hanging from covered windows and an angel asleep on a chair leaned against the door.  Everything else you’ve shown me is brilliantly light.”

     He said “Loretta we’ll head that way but may I ask you a couple of questions?  There was a woman in the Bible that often went to the door-post of the temple to pray.  Who was it and what did she pray for?”

     Loretta said, “It was Hannah and she was barren and prayed that God would let her give birth to a son.”

     “You’re exactly right Loretta.  ‘For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him.’ (1 Samuel 1:27, NKJV)  God has answered that same prayer over and over for those who asked him for a miracle.”

     “In fact, The Holy Spirit assigns some angels to grant the prayer request of many who ask for a miracle ~ believing He will provide it.”

     “Loretta can you think of any Bible story where people prayed but doubted God would answer their request?”

     “I kind of do.  Wasn’t there an apostle in jail and a group prayed that he’d be released?”

     “Again you’re right on, it happened shortly after the church began on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem.  Wicked Herod had Peter locked up in a jail outside the city.  So the church held a prayer meeting with a lot of Christians asking the Lord to release him.  So the Father sent an angel who walked Peter out of the locked room and took him back into the city.”

     “At first Peter thought he was having a vision and then he realized it wasn’t a vision.  He was miraculously free.  So Peter went to Mary’s house (she was John Mark’s Mom) and knocked and knocked and finally a servant girl, Rhoda answered the door.”

     “Do you know what happened when Rhoda answered the door, Loretta?”

     “I think so.  Didn’t the disciples think she had seen a ghost?”

     “Yes,” said the angel, “and do you know why they thought it was a ghost?”

     “Please tell me.”

     “Because they were like many people throughout time who prayed but didn’t believe their prayer was heard, nor that it would be answered.”

     “Yet God is so good He answered their prayer, even though many doubted, to teach the early church that He is the Sovereign God of the Universe and hungers to provide for those who trust in Him.

     One man years ago said, “Some people think God does not like to be troubled with our constant coming and asking.  The way to trouble God is not to come at all.”

     “God really does want us to trouble Him with any and everything.  It isn’t trouble to Him it is our trust in and reliance on Him that brings Him great joy.”

     “Loretta here are some other examples of God answering prayers:”

     “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.

"For the Lord is a God of justice.  Blessed are all who wait for him! People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more.  How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.” (Isaiah 30:18-19, NIV)

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5, NIV)

“My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:2, NIV)

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7, NIV)

“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”  (John 14:13-14, NIV)

“For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help.” (Psalms 72:12, NIV)

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24, NIV)

“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress.  He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.  They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.” (Psalm 107:28-30, NIV)

“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18:19, NIV)

“So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11, NIV)

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6, NIV)

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4, NIV)

     Loretta, just before we check out the cobwebbed building look at this special verse:
“Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.” (Isaiah 65:24, NIV)

     Many don’t know how great is their Almighty God.  This verse clearly shows that before His people even ask Him for help He sends the answer.

     They had arrived at the mysterious building about which Loretta had inquired.  “Are you ready to go inside Loretta?”

     “Yes, I sure am curious.”

     When they entered she couldn’t believe her eyes.  “Why this is full of gifts.  From wall to wall and floor to ceiling.  I even see upper balconies with gifts hanging off the rails.  And I can’t see the end of the room ~ it looks endless!”

     “Do you have any idea who these gifts are for, Loretta?”

     “I can’t possibly imagine.  Who are the gifts for?”

     These are gifts that the Lord had his angels prepare for people He loves when he knew their needy situation  ~  but  ~ they  ~ didn’t  ~ ask.

     So they were never sent.

     That is why this giant gift warehouse is Heaven’s Saddest room.
___________________

     This is a “what if” message designed to help God’s children pray and rely on Him for His answer.


Joey Feek
"See You There"


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Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Black Handkerchief

 The Black Handkerchief

     The claim that cats have several lives is found in many cultures.  Shakespeare said cats have 9 lives.  Arabic legends say 6 lives.  Spain says 7.  An old adage says:  "A cat has nine lives.  For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays".

     Though nimble, quick, cunning and part wild this claim is obviously false.  Falling cats usually do land on their feet and even from a great height seem unhurt.  But they only have one life.

     How about people?  Do any of us have 9 lives?  The Bible is very clear, “We die only once, and then we are judged.”  (Hebrews 9:27, CEV)

     Yet for some people, Guardian Angels work extra hard to prevent them from dying multiple times.  Let me introduce you to Rocky... he kept his Guardian Angel working overtime.

     It was a while before I met Rocky.  His wife, Molly, and daughter regularly attended the services.  In fact, Rocky’s Dad was also active in the Church.  He and I meshed.  He would give the proverbial shirt off his back to any needy person.  I learned that Rocky had quit coming to church because he believed he found God when he was out in the woods.  He thought that was all the religion anyone needed.

     He ignored the pleas from his family.

     After church one Sunday Molly told what had happened to her husband that week.


     “Near a logging town, a log truck crossed the center line and smashed into his VW bug.  The logger, fearing the worst, stepped down from the cab and ran to the bug.   But when he pried the door open Rocky got out unscathed.”  Molly continued, “None of us could figure out how anyone could survive in that smashed VW.”  She asked for special prayers that Rocky would thank the Lord that he was spared and come back to church.

     Was he in Church that next Sunday?  No.

     Later in the Summer Rocky was setting choke for a log company when his boss screamed "Look out there's a log coming down the hill."  Rocky was only able to fall flat on his face awaiting the deadly crush, when he heard a loud thud and then something flew right over him.  His boss said, "I thought you were dead as a doorknob.  But that log hit that boulder and flipped it right over you.  You must be doing something right."

     That evening Rocky’s Dad said, "Son...God is talking to you.  You need to repent and return to Him."   Was he in Church that next Sunday?  No.  So Rocky's minister dropped by the house and urged him to make a u-turn and give his life back to the Lord.  But Rocky was stubbornly ignoring the Grim Reaper.

     His Mom stopped by early Sunday and asked Rocky to please bring his family to church that day.  After she left he began loading his car... not with his family but with outdoor gear.  Molly begged him to go to church with her and their daughter.  Instead he said, "It's a beautiful day... I'm going fishing."

     When he got to his favorite spot he was irked as someone else had grabbed it.  He went back to his car and drove a short distance before parking.  Pulling his hip boots out of the trunk he hiked through the thick brush.  He found a place with a sandy beach island a few yards away from land.  He slipped his hip boots on and stepped into the frigid river.  Feeling his way gingerly he suddenly lost his step and fell backwards which allowed the swift river to fill his hip boots and tumble him down the, rock strewn river.  Over and over he fiercely was knocked from rock to rock.  Blood ran from his battered arms and head.  Had it not been for an overhanging tree branch he would have been a goner.

     At midweek Prayer Meeting I heard the most jaw-dropping prayer request made by Rocky's Mom.  "Dear Heavenly Father, please do whatever it takes to get my Son to repent and come back to you."

     Four days later my heart raced when Rocky’s Dad stood behind the pulpit.  He held up a small grocery-type paper bag.  From the bag he pulled out a black shriveled up piece of material that was about the size of a large handkerchief.  Grief stricken he said, "Yesterday my Son went to his brother's place to fly model airplanes.  They were laughing and partying as Rocky said, ‘Look at how high my plane can…’”

     “But … but... he never finished as his model airplane struck a high voltage wire... and a crack of lightning-like bolt knocked him to the ground... stopping his heart and scorching his body.  He was burned so severely it looked like a giant blow torch had burnt him.”

     “His brother screamed for help and tried administering first aid.  But pieces of Rocky's skin came off in his hands.  Still his brother kept trying to bring him back to life.  When the ambulance arrived Rocky had a pulse... but it was weak and very erratic.”

     Dad choked up trying to say more, so our Minister took the sack and said: “Bystanders said there was a thunderous clap and a lightning bolt.  They couldn't believe their eyes.  They saw Rocky sizzled on the ground. "This," as he held up the black-looking hanky, "is all that remains of the jeans he was wearing."


     After church the Minister asked me to go to the hospital with him.  I had never seen anything like it.  Rocky was covered in some type of medication and the color was horribly indescribable.  I was mute and overwhelmed seeing such a wounded body.  The Minister said, “Well Rocky I hoped you'd come to your senses.  But, now look at you.”

     Rocky couldn’t open his eyes and his mouth was swollen beyond recognition.  Yet he whispered, "I am returning to Jesus... I don't want to burn forever as I am now.”

     The doctor wouldn't give the family much hope that he'd survive the horrid trauma… ”He has second and third-degree burns over 70% of his body.”

     I later was told 15% of people who were electrocuted by a high voltage power line died instantly.  And nearly 40% of the survivors had damaged organs, heart arrhythmia and required multiple skin grafts.

     Several years later, Rocky kept his vow and enrolled in Bible College and, the last I knew, he stayed true to the Lord from that moment on.

     Rocky had refused every opportunity to turn back to the Lord.  The consequences of his stubbornness could have been death.  “Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.”  (Proverbs 29:1, NIV)

 
     However, God gave him another chance to yield because, “The Lord is not slow about keeping His promise as some people think.  He is waiting for you.  The Lord does not want any person to be punished forever.  He wants all people to be sorry for their sins and turn from them.”  (2 Peter 3:9, NLV)

     Along life’s way I’ve met other Rockys.  Some of them changed before it was too late.  But others made foolish, life-costing choices.  This is proof that Satan is active at his work to destroy us anyway he can get it done.

     Each of us needs to deeply appreciate that our God tries incalculable ways to bring us back to Him.  “All of us must die eventually.  Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again.  But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.”  (2 Samuel 14:14, NLT)

 
     Rocky’s Guardian Angel saved him from dying in his VW Bug, from the log crushing him, from the raging river and from electrocution.  How true is that oft-quoted verse: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God,...” (Romans 8:28a, NASB) 

 
     Rocky’s scars will one day be removed and he and his family will be reunited where there is no pain, tears or dying.  Thank you Rocky for finally turning tenderly back to the Lord.

     “Yes, this is our God, our great God forever.  He will lead us onward until the end, through all time, beyond death, and into eternity!”  (Ps 48:14, TPT) 


Softly and Tenderly
by Selah


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