Saturday, August 25, 2012

Two Hands that are ONE

I've been searching for Jesus in the Psalms. Of course He is there. He was there all the time. I just wasn't particularly looking for Him in the Psalms until now. As I am finding Him, He is graciously allowing me to take the hand of others and lead them with me into waters deep and crystal clear. At the same time, the evil one is battering me, hoping to discourage me so I will retire to the spectator's stand. Some days I become so weary that I can barely make it to the ever-bubbling spring to drink. ...and then will come words of Truth and encouragement from another Who pants after the waterbrook and is drinking deeply. Another day she or he will need to be comforted with His words that pour from the bubbling spring that never runs dry. Pity the Christian who struggles to navigate alone through the landmines on his battlefield. Yet, in our loneliest hours, and there are many, only Jesus is our Comfort, and we cry out to Him, and He gathers us into His mighty, but gentle arms and gives us hope as we whisper His powerful promises back to Him.

Today, because of my search for Jesus in the Psalms, I am led to the most familiar of songs written by David: The Blessed Twenty-third. This warrior with a heart that was willing to expose his emotions, wrote these words over 3,000 years ago. They are fresh, crisp and relevant; written to us personally.

Note that all of the pronouns are singular: "The Lord is MY Shepherd; I shall not want; He maketh ME to lie down... He leadeth ME... Thou art with ME. How soothing to sense my Shepherd's individual attention to MY needs. In these short six verses, we find the words "I", "my", and "me" seventeen times. In this Psalm one of the sheep is speaking.

If we turn to John 10:27-30 we discover the other side of the Shepherd Psalm. The Shepherd is speaking. Note the word "hand".

"My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father which gave them to me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand".

Two hands. One, the hand of Jesus; the other, the hand of the Father. Picture the Father's hand resting over the hand of Jesus, then think of yourself being safely held between them. No man, no demon, no devil can ever pluck us from the safety of the Father and the Son's hands.

...and then the Lord completes this beautiful picture by saying: "I and my Father are One." Those two hands cannot be separated.

HYMN OF THE WEEK: "The Lord's my Shepherd, I'll not Want"

The Lord's my Shepherd, I'll not want, He makes me down to lie
In pastures green; He leadeth me the silent waters by.

Yea, though I walk through shadowed vale, yet will I fear no ill
For Thou art with me and Thy rod and staff me comfort still.

Goodness and mercy all my days shall surely follow me
And in my Father's house always my dwelling place shall be.

Love, Jo

Friday, August 17, 2012

Belief without a corresponding behaviour is a sterile thing

How did I arrive here so quickly? There isn't much time left to finesse "the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit".  I Peter 3:4. Today's blog will underscore that thought.

All of life is a test.  ...but you knew that. We have been given every resource from the vast storehouse of God's grace and truth to conquer the tests of fear, vengefulness, repaying evil with evil, professional victimization or phariseeism (I am recalling with tongue-in-cheek the title of a book "I am a Recovering Pharisee"). Won 't it be wonderful in Heaven not to have to struggle with assessing our motives for whatever we do? I did finally come to the conclusion that, as with Paul in I Corinthians 4:3, I do not have wisdom enough to judge my own motives. ...but I still try. vain. Ted often said, "Even when we give a cup of cold water, our dirty finger dangles in the cup."  I hated it when he said that because I suspected it was true but hoped it wasn't.

...back to today's Email:  ...and even as I quote it, I am struggling with my motives for sharing it with you.  Am I:  1) "repaying evil for evil?" 2) Is there truth in this Email for which the Lord wants me to repent?  3) ... or is Satan trying for the millionth time to hit me where it hurts the most in order to cause me to believe I am so sinful, I have nothing to offer to others?  I do not fully know the answer to any of these questions. I know that this summer I was severely tested twice in the arena of the following stronghold: Have I overcome my childish need to be loved and appreciated by everybody and does that need lead me to 1)hide;  2)avoid;  3)deny? A great deal of my joy was stolen for several months as I "wrestled against principalities and powers in high places" (Ephesians 6:10) over this stronghold that has arisen again and again throughout my lifetime. I remember keenly the day three high school girls called me to say: "You're just a country girl and you do not belong with us in our town. We hate you, so why don't you stay in the country where you belong?" Those words so crushed me that ever since, when someone dismisses or attacks me,  the childhood pain of never feeling I fit anywhere threatens to overwhelm me. That "crushing" caused me to kick into high gear and become an accomplisher, never satisfied unless I gave a perfect performance.  It took years for my Father to reveal and heal that one.

...back to today's Email: "Dear you arrogant self-righteous holly-er-than-thou hippocrite....when you stand before your Jesus I hope he slaps your face and bloodys your nose." (My sick pride hastens to tell you that the spelling isn't mine.)  I have responded to the woman, asking to meet with her and clear up whatever it is that I have done to make her so angry. I truthfully do not know.

The good news is that I am not responding as I did when I was fourteen years old. The bad news is that I am not quite to the place where "I keep no record of wrongs" (I Corinthians 13:5b). That must be what my Lord is at work to perfect in me.

A Chinese friend of mine in Houston used to say: "Our Lord is very economical". Whatever is happening to one of us in the body usually has something to do with a fellow traveller, since "all temptations are common to man" (I Corinthians 10:12) perhaps He can use this potentially crippling experience in my life to give you comfort and encouragement about your own struggles.

...but none of that erases the question: "Does my corresponding behaviour match my belief?" Otherwise, I am a "sounding brass and tinkling cymbal " (I Corinthians 13:1).

                                        HYMN OF THE WEEK: OPEN MY EYES THAT I MAY SEE

Open my eyes that I may see glimpses of truth You have for me
Place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unlock and set me free
Silently now I wait for You; Ready, my God, Your will to do
Open my eyes, illumine me
Spirit divine!

Love, Jo

Friday, August 10, 2012


Carole Lewis doesn't want to be amazing. ...too much pressure. She clings like a child to Jesus and His Word. Me too. Carole heads up First Place for Health, a ministry that gives hope to thousands of women who are overweight, overwrought and have pretty much given up that they will ever be healthy. She headquarters in Houston; I met her at Round Top Retreat several years ago.  She asked me to write the first chapter in her newest book, "Live Life Right Here Right Now!" I did. It came in the mail today. You can buy it if you want by ordering from First Place For Health at 1-800-727-5223.

Today I went to Verna's house that sets waiting for a buyer.  She is 91, doesn't live here anymore, but her kids brought her to Bear Valley for a visit this weekend.  Jim and Annette who have had their own jazz band for years showed up and led us in a swingin' Singalong.

Verna worked for Moody Bible Institute for years, helping produce Science films. When Ted and I came here over 28 years ago, we both knew she was a woman to be trusted and admired. Her Bible study with a few women was the highlight of my week.  Now, I hear that from the wonderful women who come through my door on Wednesdays to study God's Word. (One brings her snow white Akita dog who lays down right beside her and snoozes.)  Around the room today at Verna's were widows and widowers and just two couples who are blessed to still have each other.  If you are still a couple, oh, do hug each other. A lot. ...and tell each other all the stuff that nobody else will ever want to listen to after one of you has gone off to Heaven.

All of my grandkids have thingies plugged into their ears listening to their music. I daresay the jazz songs we sang today would make them yawn. All six of my grandchildren always hold in their hand some gadget that connects them to a hundred people every day.  They need me for only two things: prayer and encouragement. When my thinkin' isn't stinkin' I am grateful that that's all they need me for. I have worked myself out of a job and I think that's the definition of discipleship.

Tomorrow I counsel and get a head start on Bible study for next week. Jesus is in the Old Testament concealed; in the New Testament He is revealed. ...but He is there. ...from Genesis to Revelation. I am going to new depths in my understanding of how much He is there. ...and this is the Jesus that awaits us all in eternity. God says we are already seated with Him in the Heavenlies. It doesn't feel like it, but from God's perspective, it's true. I like His perspective.

It's hot (for here) and I am tired. I have one room that is air conditioned and that's all I need. My
fluffy white comforters and my black and white fluffy cats are waiting for me there. Goodnight.

                          HYMN OF THE WEEK: WHEN WE ALL GET TO HEAVEN

Sing the wondrous love of Jesus. Sing his mercy and His grace
In the mansions bright and blessed, He'll prepare for us a place.



Saturday, August 4, 2012


Do you think our basic personalities will be kept intact in Heaven?  I  would so appreciate being changed into a sanguine like my husband and first son were.  God made me a melancholic/choleric.  One of our kids drew the short straw and got my personality; the other two got their dad's. Few situations on this earth pull a sanguine down into the dumps.  I've heard from a good Source that none of us will be in the dumps in Heaven. I like that.  Note that there isn't one phlegmatic in my immediate family. (Webster's can give you a pretty good definition of these personality types.)

I hate the negative thoughts that come with being a melancholic personality. The creative, intuitive, sensitive aspects of my personality can be a blessing. ... or a curse. (We're the musicians, writers, artists.)  Because I am approaching being ancient, I have collected lots of friends. ...and probably a few enemies, but don't tell me if you know who they are. I will obsess because I am not pleasing them, will rain on God's parade and maybe yours too. ...a note about cholerics. I can usually pull myself out of a funk by going to work. We LOVE productivity.

At night when the tsunami of tears sometimes washes over me, carrying tons of flotsam and jetsam that sometime around midnight I may finally be able to lay on Jesus' breast, there is nothing to do but endure the emotions that have been stored up through the day.  Why has my Potter made me thus?  This much I have figured out: I have no choice but to be desperately dependent upon His Word. Leaning on my own understanding is not smart, and I will hurt people. ...and God. 

While Ted was here with me, often I did not have the time required for study and listening before ministering to others. Now I have lots of time alone. Well, almost alone. Bootsie and I begin our day early. He insists upon a kneading session while I do my own "kneading" on Jesus; then my contented cat curls up and naps on my shoulder while I drink my coffee and open my Bible.  Recently I found  another of Ted's devotional/study Bibles and am brought closer to my husband's heart as I note his underlinings and thoughts in the margins.  When I leave this earth, I have instructed my daughter to burn my Bibles for there are names of people in the margins that I have wanted to throttle during my lifetime. I don't find any names in Ted's margins. Sanguines are seldom mad at people long enough to write down their names.

This morning at 4:45 A.M.  Grandson Luke (Doug's 19-year-old) gently awoke me to tell me "Goodbye".  He is on his way to Granite Bay (Sacramento) to live with Jeff (Son #2) and Carla, precious daughter-in-law.  As I am watching the third generation go out the door, I feel two ways, but then we melancholics always feel at least two ways about everything. Luke's going to live with Jeff and Carla is an answer to prayer. He has a job already and is excited about entering college in a few weeks. Yahoo!!!

Last night I was sitting in a little park in town under the stars and full moon, watching three of my beloved musical buddies give a  performance that was a WOW. Another Yahoo yesterday was a call from one of my teenage students telling me he is witnessing to three lost teens and needed scriptures to help them across the abyss.  None of the students of different generations that I teach would consider stopping our study in Corinthians this summer. We will head into the Psalms for awhile now. Paul will just have to figure out how to straighten out the young churches without our help. Tonight I get to bring some joy to whoever shows up to listen to me entertain at the Apple Shed. I LOVE this "gig" (I never did like that inelegant word.) because I don't have to consider what other musicians want to play.  People request songs that go all the way to the ragtime era a hundred years ago. Some may want a classic and I am forced to pull out actual music lest I rattle the bones of  the deceased composers.  Fortunately, I have a brain that remembers (or can phoney) countless tunes. Now why can't I remember where a scripture verse is when I want it? 

                                       HYMN OF THE WEEK: CLEANSE ME

Search me, O God, and know my heart today
Try me, O Saviour, know my thoughts, I pray
See if there be some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from every sin, and set me free.

Lord, take my life and make it wholly Thine;
Fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine
Take all my will, my passion, self and pride
I now surrender, Lord--in me abide.

Love, Jo