Saturday, June 29, 2013

God changed His mind

In the Old Testament God changed his mind several times when people prayed.  Father,  You are reminding me in Psalm 32:6:  "Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to You while you may be found".  Do You mean it when you say this in  II Chronicles 7:14?  "If my people who are called by My name (That's us!) will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."  Are you saying that if I fall on my face in prayer and fight with Your weapons, You will actually hear me from Heaven, and add my prayer to that of others of Your despairing children and heal our land?

You have given us as Americans, every opportunity to live righteously and humbly.  You clearly told us that You guide and give grace to the humble and that you esteem the contrite in spirit ...those who tremble at Your Word. We have become an arrogant, Godless nation. We know what follows pride.

Dear Father,  You know all things, but for the sake of the readers, is it all right with You if I review some of our history?  You chose some of your more courageous children to come and bring the newly printed Word of God to our fledgling nation.  You, dear Father, planted the passion for making the Bible readable for the multitudes into Your servant, Johannes Gutenberg in the 1400's. In the 1500's,  his and Your dream became a reality.  Many European Christians were crying out to You in distress, much as today, as political, religious and social upheaval was bringing them to the edge of despair.  Many of Your children became separatists: apolitical, wholeheartedly embracing Christ, the coming King of Kings.

These brothers and sisters or ours were persecuted bitterly, not only by Rome, but by the "reformers" as well. They were sojourners in a land of dark shadows.  They took up their Cross and followed only Your Son, Jesus. They desired to worship in a church that was entirely free from state control. Independent church gatherings were springing up all over Europe. ...but they were illegal. High churchmen looked down their noses at these non-conformists. ...but the Pilgrim Christians couldn't help themselves; they had often wondered about Jesus Christ, and now as the Word of God was made available to them,  they had found Him! They believed that all efforts to sanctify a nation or any of the kingdoms of this world would have limited success until our Messiah returns.

The Puritans, however, had faith, hope and love for the state. They believed they could turn things around, but the Pilgrims were under no such illusions. There were some sharp disagreements between these groups.  The Puritans saw the Pilgrims as being unpatriotic.  Many Pilgrims, unwilling to work with the "system" were despised, incarcerated,  burned, beheaded, hanged, crucified and worse. One such,  John Bunyan,  wrote "Pilgrim's Progress" while he was imprisoned.

Father, are you fresh out of people who have access to large audiences, like pastors, who will dare to bravely speak up at the risk of losing their non-profit status?  Are they turning up the volume of their "worship teams" so the screams of the Jews hurtling by their windows on their way to the ovens cannot be heard?

 In 1776,  our nation began on its knees, dependent upon the power of God's mighty Word.  We owed nothing to anybody, just as You directed.  Now we are in debt 16 trillion dollars.  You warned that  "The rich will rule over the poor and the borrower would be servant to the lender."

Father, there is nothing I can tell you that You do not already know, but may I quietly weep just a little?  Many of those You bring to me to counsel are people in such tangled relationships that trying to help them reminds me of my rod and reel fishing experiences as a younger woman. When a fish would hit my line and I failed to get him solidly hooked,  I'd instinctively jerk back the line which backlashed and the result was a snarled mess that seemed easier to sever than to untangle.  ...  and that's what hundreds of thousands of couples are doing: simply ending their snarled-up marriages. Their confused children are wandering around looking for a place to plug in their umbilical cord. Many are opting for marrying their own gender, believing they have a better shot at a lasting relationship in a same sex marriage. Our nation has thought we could ignore Your privilege of treating us with justice.  Father, grant us mercy! We have nearly lost our soul!

Meanwhile, here is a hymn from the late 1800's to encourage us all.

 No matter how hard goes the battle of life, God's children need never despair
His conquering grace giveth peace 'mid the strife;
There is wonderful power in prayer.

Through all the swift changes that come to us here
'Till white robes of glory we wear
We'll look up to Jesus for comfort and cheer
There is wonderful power in prayer.




Saturday, June 22, 2013

Password: Jesus

Summertime. ...and the livin'  is easy.  Really? If I term "easy" as giving myself a break from listening to my own voice teach, counsel and talk, well yes, this summer is "easy". If I think about being on the phone with an assortment of computer experts for frustrating hours at a time in futile attempts to discover what planet my several passwords prefer to inhabit,  then I am not having a summer that totally qualifies as "easy". Oh, did I mention that a hacker actually got through to me by phone and told me to "Go to hell?"  I am not going to do what he suggests because MY PASSWORD INTO HEAVEN IS UNCHANGEABLE. IT'S "JESUS"!

There are some wonderful summer days when the livin' is easy. Yesterday, for instance:  J. Vernon McGee guided me through the Preacher/Prophet Amos'  book. When Amos asks me in Heaven how I liked his Book I can look him straight in the eye and say: "Terrific!" Amos was a small town boy who pushed past his countryfied limitations and preached with the power of God to multitudes of city folk. My Ted, along with many other small town men of large faith must enjoy hanging around with Amos in Heaven.

Bear Mountain Nature News:  #1. I came upon a brand new-born fawn one day this week, wobbling on unsteady legs trying to follow its mommy up the hill. ...and I thought of the years my own babies wobbled, walked, then sprinted right past me.  #2. A big bear is roaming around a thousand or so feet above where I live. He was on Bear Mountain first, so that's his prerogative.  #3. It was so cold this week that I turned on the furnace, and that made a computer expert in blistering hot Los Vegas nearly cry when I mentioned that to her.  She and I have had some little talks about Jesus. Yesterday she said:  "You have made my day!" Well, she not only "made my day"; she saved my laptop from being slung over the rail of my deck to its final resting place a thousand or so feet below.  #4. The gophers keep chewing through the sprinkler system lines and my kitties can't seem to catch the varmints in the act.  So,  my friends, that's the Nature News from Bear Valley Springs, California.

It was a fine treat to work with a team of women in honoring Verna Williams at her Memorial the other night. Verna, mentor, discipler and Bible teacher,  lived 90 plus years to bless all who knew her. A long time ago, she made me promise I would play Dixieland and Ragtime at her funeral.  as Verna's friends came through the door, they heard "Ain't She Sweet"; "Five Foot Two"; "Sweet Georgia Brown", "Bill Bailey", "Rockabye My Baby With a Dixie Melody",  and Scott Joplin's  "Entertainer".   ...then we sang Old Gospel, some hymns, and told beautiful "Verna stories" and were finally allowed to know and eat the dessert recipe she kept secreted all her life! Oh, dear Lord, I hope You let her listen in. She always loved a party!

One would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to note that "natural tragedies" follow one after the other, marching across our beloved America as at no other time in our history. Next, will there be a wildfire on my mountain? Could be. Will the rocks and trees on my property be rearranged by the "Big One"?  Possibly.

Following is a sketchy summation of experiences in Ted's and my life together: parenting three kids with unexpected "knock-the-idealist-stars-outta-your-eyes" happenings; several car crashes; a flood requiring a quick evacuation;  two hurricanes,  each leaving a messy aftermath with house still standing; a tornado that missed us by a block; the inside of our Houston home torched by an arsonist; between the two of us, around eight surgeries; two simultaneously fractured arms (mine); one broken hip (mine);  a severed toe on a left foot (mine); staff relationships and sometimes lack thereof in nine churches and on three mission boards; foreign mission assignments in nine countries on three continents; the building of two churches from small beginnings into ongoing fruit-bearing ministries;  the birthing, alongside precious disciples of an ongoing "knock-your-socks-off"  Retreat ministry in Round Top, Texas; the crashing of two pastorates; a temporary black hole depression (mine);  location changes from Kansas to Minnesota, back to Kansas, to Texas, to California, back to Texas then at last, back to our beloved California;  the deaths from cancer of my husband and son within a year of each other; and hardly worth mentioning: two harmless snakes in my house (one on the third floor!) and one under my dining table. Compared to the life stories of countless saints, I can truthfully say that "The lines have fallen for us in pleasant places".  There is no reason to ask "Why" when we know "Who".

Will our beloved country continue to "fall from within" as have Empires before us?  How can we not live in the reality that we are being judged by our Righteous Sovereign God?  "To whom much is given, much is required". ...and God means it!

I am reading "America the Beautiful" by Ben Carson, M.D. (the lightning rod speaker for the recent Presidential Prayer Breakfast).  I'm not even smart enough to quote him correctly.  I suggest that you just read the book.

...and now I am going up the mountain to my daughter's home and immerse my aging body into her hot Jacuzzi that overlooks all of Bear Valley. Now, that qualifies as easy summer livin'.

                                         HYMN TO PONDER

O beautiful for heroes proved; in liberating strife
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!




Saturday, June 15, 2013

Cool it, Jo

This is one of those days when I miss Ted so much I think I would rather lie down and die. ...but of course I probably won't.  I will get through it with Jesus' comfort,  and go on to the next thing. I became so exhausted from life and ministry a few weeks ago that like Elisha,  I looked for a juniper tree under which  I could hide from everything and everyone that was scaring me.  Sometimes we simply need rest, sleep, spiritual refilling, and exercise.  Some of us "think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think" and resist taking a break lest people figure out they can get along without us. Our Jesus is beckoning us to lie down and pour out everything that is taxing our soul and listen to His counsel;  not anybody else's, including our own.

One of Ted's finest character traits was that he learned early on to pace himself. He reminded me often to do the same, but I just couldn't quite keep my gait slow and steady for very long at a time. Getting old has its advantage.  Something is usually aching, reminding me to slow down!

I want to tell you about another characteristic I respected about Ted Stone. He wouldn't give up. ...on anything! His agenda might hide under the radar for awhile, but before long, there he was again, relentlessly pushing against the gates of hell that threatened to prevail against God's beloved Church. Every virtue has a vice, however. I think that he might have been wise to walk away from a skirmish before the blood began to spill. ...but then my timing has been off in such matters. ...recently, as a matter of fact.

Right now I am reading J. Vernon McGee's last written commentary before cancer took him Home: "The Through the Bible Series".  In his lesson the other day he admitted that more than once he stepped out of the pulpit, puffed up like a balloon as people swarmed around him, telling him how amazing his message had been. ...then no sooner had he and Mrs. McGee settled in their car for the drive home than she stuck a pointy pin in his balloon.  J. Vernon declared that every man needs such a good wife. Chuck Swindoll says it this way: "Every pulpit man needs accountability lest we begin to believe all our own stuff".

Here's a Tedism:  "The path to a good marriage or any other relationship is strewn with humiliation."  Well, we both endured many humiliations. Countless times our Lord reminded us that "Without Him, we can do nothing."

I attend at least two churches,  cautiously dipping one oar in at a time lest I become the deign of the present pastor: a know-it-all former pastor's wife.  I encourage pastors and wives because I know how very much they need and deserve it. Whatever they can gain from me they are entitled to until that day when I "...lay down my burden, down by the riverside and study war no more". Those  black slaves really knew how to sing from their souls, didn't they?  Some of us white folk didn't even know we had a soul until we reached middle age.  ...and we get to sing and sing and sing with each other in Heaven. ...and we will sing with white-robed martyred saints who suffered  indescribable death for the Saviour. I was just reading about the Prophet Isaiah, whose assignment spanned  the reign of four kings. At the end of his life, he was strung between two trees and sawn in two. about your warm-fuzzy farewell funeral service!

If you have a pastor who is faithfully serving God, please be kind to him.  I can nearly guarantee that at least one day recently he has been swatting at pesky gnats that swarm around his head, burrow  into his ears and land in his eyeballs. hug him and don't bug him.

Here's an oldie:

My Savior comes and walks with me, and sweet communion here have we
He gently leads me by His hand, for this is Heaven's borderland.




Friday, June 7, 2013

We wait; God works

Many years ago, in a devotional my Ted sent to his beloved congregation entitled "Strength",  he wrote: "What does it mean to 'wait' on the Lord? This Hebrew word originally was used to convey how a rope was made by taking a strand, then weaving other strands in and out until there was a rope that would not break.  As we trust the Lord with every problem from the very first weak strand of faith that we exercised, He begins to weave into our experience those strands of strong fiber that cannot be broken.

God not only works while we wait; He battles for us as we believe. God does not help those who help themselves. He can only help the helpless. His power and strength are unleashed as we wait upon Him. When coming up behind him were thousands of Egyptians with only one purpose in mind: to KILL, and milling around him were two and a half million screaming, terrorized Israelites, it came all over Moses that there was no hope of deliverance unless God showed up. God  did 'show up' and spoke to Moses in Exodus 14:13 and 14:  'Do not be afraid; stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.', ask God to help you thank Him for your Red Sea experiences and take your place along with others found in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11, who 'endured, as seeing Him Who is invisible' ".

It's not easy to stand still, unafraid, when within seconds our life on this earth may be over. Done.  History. It is humanly impossible to recall that our Father is all powerful, all knowing, everywhere present, righteous, just, holy, loving, sovereign and faithful at these paralyzing times. The most difficult assignment during our short time on this earth is to ...wait. While God was rolling back that Sea, the short time it took must have seemed like hours to the throng of fleeing slaves. ...and they could do...nothing! ...except wait!

Remember the dad in Mark 9 whose son had been thrown numerous times to the ground, foaming at the mouth,  even cast into fire and water by a demonic spirit? Jesus asked that the boy be brought to Him and when the spirit saw Jesus he threw the boy into a convulsion. Jesus told the dad and the watching crowd: "Everything is possible  for him who believes."  Immediately the dad exclaimed: "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" Jesus took the boy by the hand,  lifted him to his feet and he stood up, healed. The disciples asked Jesus privately why they had been unable to heal him and Jesus answered: "This kind can come out only by prayer."  

Waiting was no problem for my Ted.  In fact, he enjoyed it. It took me years to figure out that all the time he was appearing to be doing nothing to fix whatever problem was current,  he was actually thinking and planning and ...praying.  Eventually he would let me in on what he was thinking, planning and praying about.  I was either going to learn to pray and wait or destroy by nagging,  not only our marriage, but our children, our children's children and countless others who were desperately searching for a couple whose marriage gave them hope for theirs.

...a fitting hymn:


But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay
For the favor He shows, and the joy He bestows
Are for them who will trust and obey.