We Must Speak Up

From The Asaph Files

Sometime back, I created this category for my blogs (The Asaph Files) with the sole intention of using it to make known information that I have collected that I feel is important for you to know about. Whether or not you are in the loop on the issue or unaware of it, my intention is to shed as much light on it as I can. So that you too, can speak up.

HR 5 – The Equality Act

U.S. Representative, David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island of the 117th Congress has authored this bill that has already passed the House on February 25, 2021, and now is in committee in the Senate.

Here is the cover page of the Bill THAT I HAVE READ in entirety. Phew…

screen shot of the HR 5 bill cover page

After reading the whole, dang thing, it is clear beyond a doubt that what this bill is proposing to do is CHANGE THE LAWS of America. Many very specific laws are addressed and particular sections are highlighted for language change, with the specific language that must be amended in the previous law.

Here’s an example-

section of HR5, changing the language of previous laws

This happens dozens of times in HR5. Civil Rights Laws are being rewritten with the stroke of a pen with this bill.

Here is the stated purpose of HR5 –

  • to define sex, sexual orientation and gender identity
  • expand the definition of public accommodations to include places and establishments that provide exhibitions, exercise, amusement, gatherings of displays, goods, services or programs
  • allow the Department of Justice to intervene in equal protection actions in Federal Court
  • prohibits an individual from being denied access to shared facilities, including rest rooms, locker rooms, and dressing rooms that is in accordance with their gender identity

All under the banner of nondiscrimination protections provided for all LGBTQ people.

According to Theo Santos from the American Center of American Progress –

“The Equality Act would meaningfully expand civil rights protections for many Americans and advance treatment for LGBTQ people, women, people of faith and people of color. It’s time to extend these benefits of equality to all.”

Center for American Progress

Now, I’m for freedom for all and as you know, I believe all men (and women) are created equal. I just happen to believe there is a better, more permanent way to achieve equal justice for all under the law, other than HR5.

Because here’s what HR 5 would really do

  1. redefine sex under civil rights laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity – overriding basic biology along with millennia of tradition
  2. make it illegal to distinguish identity from biology thereby prioritizing transgender people over women
  3. erases sex as a distinct legal category
  4. forbids policy makers from ever making a distinction between male and female ( which is necessary of course for providing safety and equality of the sexes)
  5. thrashes the Civil Rights Acts of 1964
  6. guts the Religious Freedom Restoration Act
  7. threatens constitutional freedoms by eliminating conscience protections for employers, doctors, educators, & religious groups
  8. have the government dictate how Americans think about gender and sex
  9. use the Department of Justice to punish those who violate the government imposed beliefs
  10. violates constitutional freedoms and weaponizes civil rights laws
  11. expands the scope of accommodations to any establishment and opens them up to liabilities for discrimination claims
  12. biological males will be allowed to participate in female only activities
  13. all single sex spaces will be open to both sexes and adds sexual orientation and gender identity
  14. doctors and counselors could be punished for violating their conscience in gender identity treatments
  15. undermines parents rights

After researching from many different sources, I created this list with the data I gleaned from: The Wall Street Journal, The Heritage Foundation, Congress.gov, and AmericanProgress.org

new definitions of sex in HR5

OPINION

This bill would not only drastically change the country that I live in and love, but more importantly it would seek to reshape and redefine the very nature of mankind. It would discard our Judeo Christian foundation and belief in God creating male and female with the intent of them becoming one to reproduce and steward the Earth.

It would threaten faith based organizations and expose them to federal prosecution. It would stigmatize long held, virtuous and godly views about sex and marriage and the sanctity of life.

In fact, discrimination would be the law of the land.

I do not want to live in that America, that is why I am speaking up.

I cannot remain silent.

I urge you to do the same and join me in writing and calling your government representatives and speaking out against this bill and its passage.

Contact your Senator at:

https://www.senate.gov

Many times I have asked you to rise up, step up, branch out, take risks, or to do something different, here is another with easy steps you can take that WILL make a tremendous impact on our nation.

Please, please, we must speak up.

Cheers.

Clear and Present Danger

Sunday Sermon 4.10.21

Our title phrase came from the American Sedition Act of 1918 and not the 1994 movie with Harrison Ford that may have first came to your mind. However, it vividly describes our current situation in the world today.

When the phrase was first used, it ultimately was viewed as the government overstepping its bounds of First Amendment freedoms. Again I say, that vividly describes our current situation in the world today.

But this blog today, is our weekly Sunday sermon, why the “political” opening?

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the churches and believers in Rome wrote these concerning words –

” And now, dear brothers and sisters, I’d like to give you one final word of caution: Watch out for those who cause divisions and offenses among you. When they antagonize you by speaking of things that are contrary to the teachings that you’ve received, don’t be caught in their snare!”

Romans 16:17 – TPT

In the midst of the huge Roman Empire and its extensive influence and power, Paul was warning believers to WATCH OUT for the clear and very present danger of divisions, offenses, antagonizing words and tearing down of valued teachings. Again, I say, doesn’t this vividly describe our current situation?

It is vital for us to be on guard and watch out for those things that cause divisions. From every corner of our society, we see and hear the evidences of a divided nation. The Greek word used here for divisions means, “dissension, division and sedition”. It would not take long to list those things that are causing us dissension, division and sedition, would it?

But we are told to watch out for them. In other words, according to the Greek, “take aim at them”, to shoot them down! Don’t swallow them, accept them or promote them. Watch for them as a spy (the original meaning) and take them down!

In addition, we are to watch out for offenses (TPT) or obstacles (NIV) that are put in our way. The picture is clear, someone or some thing has put a K-rail, an obstacle in front of us to stop our forward motion. This not only serves as a divider, but also as a barrier to make us stop. Paul is emotionally urging believers to be on guard for such things!

What is the barrier trying to stop? What forward momentum is being pressed against?

Paul’s words, “obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching that you have learned.” NIV

Well, what have I learned? What values was I taught from childhood and onward as I grew? Here are 20 things that immediately came to mind:

  • God loves everyone the same
  • color of your skin doesn’t make anyone better than another
  • respect authority
  • hard work pays off
  • nations have laws to obey
  • obeying laws is right
  • all people are flawed
  • everyone’s voice matters
  • don’t quit
  • money isn’t everything
  • relationships matter
  • choices have consequences
  • be truthful
  • there is good and evil
  • character counts
  • I am responsible for my actions
  • don’t follow the crowd
  • America is a great nation
  • America was founded on noble values
  • in a republic, the voters make policy

What values have you been taught?

Is it possible that there are obstacles being put in place to stop the advancement of these?

Geesh! We could list all kinds of moral values, religious values, human values. What about American, constitutional republic values? There are all kinds of things and values that we have been taught.

Paul is urging believers to KEEP AWAY FROM THESE OBSTACLES! Don’t allow them to stop what you have been taught. Don’t allow the K-rails to derail truth.

Here are some Godly truths that we have been taught: (or I hope we have been taught)

  • In the beginning God created
  • God created male and female in His image
  • God is no respecter of persons
  • God is love
  • God gave His son for our redemption
  • God does not condemn
  • We are all sinners
  • We have eternal life by faith in Jesus Christ

These truths put us all on a level playing field. Therefore, it is altogether fitting for us to say “we are all created equal” because equality comes from God and not man. Wasn’t that the cry of Dr. King?

1 Corinthians 1:9-10 tells us to keep yourself steady and strong. Live in unity with one another and put to rest any division that attempts to tear you apart.

2 Samuel 23:10,12 reminds us of 2 different men who STOOD THEIR GROUND and to whom God brought a great victory.

The clear and present danger we are facing is one that is seeking to divide us and get us to abandon the things that we have been taught.

Humans are designed for change. America is equipped to change. But the kind of change we allow is up to us.

Are we willing to stand our ground and “fight” for the values that matter to us? Or are we too lazy to confront those enemies that are attacking the very values our life is built upon? This is an urgent cry! Not only from the elder statesman – Paul, but from the call of the Spirit.

This is a very clear and present danger to you, in your sphere of influence.

You have been taught about your rights as a citizen. You have been taught of your rights as a believer. What are you allowing to stand in the way of the forward advancement of those? What will you allow to divide you from another human?

One of the characters from 2 Samuel 23, Eleazar, fought so hard to defend his territory that his hand froze to his sword. He didn’t stop until the job was done, victory won and his hand had to be pried from his sword. Will we stand against the antagonization, against being silenced and cancelled until our Sword has to be pried from our hand? Will we allow the roadblocks to stop the advancement of what we have learned?

I believe we must stand our ground to see these values and truths not be lost, watered down, removed, or devalued. It is incumbent upon us to be on guard for divisions and obstacles and “fight” against them, just as unyielding as Eleazar.

In 1967, vandals broke into the Capitol building and slashed along the bottom canvas of the 20 x 30 foot oil painting called, “Signing of the Constitution”. It was subsequently removed and repaired in 1968 and eventually returned to the Capitol where it continues to hang.

In my humble opinion, I see what happened to that historical painting in 1967 as a foreshadowing of what is happening now to and in our nation and its constitution. Attempts are being made to slash away at it, damage it, and remove it.

The cornerstones of that document, free speech, free exercise of religion and freedom of the press are being slashed. K-rails are being installed to keep these things that we have learned from advancing. Obstacles have been placed in our way causing divisions and antagonizing speech has been leveled incessantly at those who hold to such values.

Scriptures calls to us to WATCH OUT. KEEP AWAY FROM THEM (such things), because there is a clear and present danger for all of us. BEWARE.

Scriptures calls for us to keep steady and strong against all forces that seek to bring division and tear us apart. Scripture empowers us to “fight the good fight of faith”. Scripture warns us of such a clear and present danger.

Will you heed the call? Will you “fight” for what you have learned?

I pray you will and are…

Go with God.

The World Turned Upside Down

If you are a musical theatre junkie, then that phrase will bring to life the lyrics from Hamilton’s – Yorktown-

“I’m not throwin’ away my shot! I’m not throwin’ away my shot! Hey yo, I’m just like my country, I’m young scrappy and hungry, and I’m not throwin’ away my shot! Til the world turns upside down, ‘Til the world turns upside down.”

The World Turned Upside Down (Yorktown); Lin-manuel Miranda

Although that song wasn’t the first thing to pop into my head, I have been thinking alot about how the world has been turned upside down, particularly in this past year. I really love that phrase – the world turned upside down and want to spend some time with it, but not as you might expect. It can be a depressing topic, so let’s turn it upside down, and make it not depressing.

So, let me present you with some things you probably believed were true, but are in fact NOT TRUE – I’m gonna turn your world upside down. 🙂

  • Sloths are slow and lazy creatures. Although they are slow – walking 2 meters per minute on the ground, they are 5 times faster under water. Because their metabolic rate is so slow, they can hold their breath for 40 minutes underwater and swim 5 x faster than they walk!
  • You can see the Great Wall of China from space – (I have even taught this.) NASA confirmed that this in fact is false, but our textbooks have not yet caught up.
  • It takes 7 years for your body to digest bubble gum. According to Healthline, the ingredients in gum will pass through your body without digesting at all.
  • Carrots improve your vision. The beta-carotene in carrots converts to vitamin A which does improve your sight. However, once your beta-carotene limit is reached, it stops making that conversion.
  • Toads give you warts. Nope, warts are caused by HPV.
  • Coffee stunts your growth. Nope again. It is linked to calcium loss but even that isn’t enough to affect your bones.
  • Bats are blind. In fact, they can see 3 times better than humans, according to Rob Miles, at Bat Conservation.
  • Cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis. I don’t like the sound of this, but what I am hearing is the nitrogen bubbles bursting in your synovial fluid. It does not lead to arthritis.
  • You swallow 8 spiders a year in your sleep. Gosh am I glad this is faaaaaaaarrrrr from truth! Scientific American deemed this as untrue because spiders view humans as rocks and if that rock is vibrating (snoring) it is warning them to stay away.
  • Einstein failed math. He did fail an entrance exam to a school in Zurich, but he nailed the math section of that test.
  • The toilet flushes in different directions in different hemispheres. (another one that I have taught) Live Science reports that the only thing that changes the direction is the shape of the toilet and the angle that the water enters.
  • Alcohol warms you up. You may think you’re warming up after a drink, but is slowing your circulation and making you colder. (my husband was right!)
  • Mount Everest is the tallest mountain. Yep, I taught this one too….It is the tallest mountain AT SEA LEVEL, but the tallest mountain from base to peak is Mount Kea in Hawaii. It winds up being a mile taller than Everest when you factor in 19,700 feet of it exists in the Pacific Ocean!
  • Dogs are color blind. In fact, a Russian scientist has proved that dogs see blue and yellow as good as we do.
  • An apple fell on Newton’s head (and thus prompted the theory of gravity). Much like Adam and Eve’s story, an apple wasn’t mentioned, only a fruit. In Sir Isaac’s case, a fruit fell and prompted his inquiries.

See, that wasn’t depressing or discouraging was it? Hopefully it was even a little insightful.

We need these little brain breaks from time to time, so that we will have the needed creativity, focus and prioritization to make the changes really needed to turn our world upside down.

Cheers to you.

Convincing Proofs

Easter Sunday Sermon 4.3.21

Happy Easter!

There are many instances when believers must trust and have faith- you know, that tangible substance of something unseen.

But the resurrection of Jesus is not one of those instances; for we have more details, and historical evidence regarding the few days before and after Jesus’ death and resurrection than any other figure in ancient history.

“On this, the greatest point we are not merely asked to have faith alone, for there exists overwhelming evidence, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring a verdict that the resurrection story is true.” Former Chief Justice of England, Lord Darling.

Jesus death and resurrection stands with historical factuality, not faith alone.

Luke, one of the disciples wrote of these facts and evidence –

” Dear friend, I am writing for you, … an orderly account of what Jesus, the Anointed One accomplished and fulfilled among us. Several eyewitness biographies have already been written, using as their source material the good news preached among us by his early disciples, who became loving servants of the Living Expression (Jesus).

But now I am passing on to you this accurate compilation of my own meticulous investigation based on numerous interviews and thorough research of the story of his life. It is appropriate for me to write this, for he also appeared to me so that I would assure you beyond any shadow of a doubt the reliability of all you have been taught of him.”

Luke, the Physician, disciple of Jesus, chapter 1, verses 1-4

The NIV translation puts that last phrase this way – “so that you may know the certainty of the things that you have been taught.”

Luke, the doctor in Jesus discipleship group, was a detailed historian who documented the events of Jesus’ life and left them for us in the gospel that bears his name.

Additionally, he documented the events of Jesus resurrection, ascension and the day of Pentecost when the disciples were empowered by the Holy Spirit and Jerusalem was rocked by that power. We find those complete details in The Acts of the Apostles, yet another book that he wrote.

As he states, his writing is based on his own first hand, eyewitness experiences, his interviews with other eyewitnesses, and his own thorough research and investigation of primary sources. The man was there and interviewed others who were also there. They are primary sources.

Luke is telling us that we can be absolutely certain, beyond any shadow of a doubt that Jesus’ death and resurrection really happened!

“After His suffering he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.”

Acts 1:3

It is important to note that in this text, Luke is using a legal term (in the Greek), that is the strongest type of legal evidence; he is making a legal declaration of convincing proofs for the resurrection of Jesus Christ; implying the weight of evidence in a trail to prove a case.

But we need not take only his word as convincing evidence, please consider these documented, primary sources, who were eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection:

  • Mary Jn. 20:16, 18
  • other women Jn. 20:9-10
  • Disciples Jn. 20:19
  • Thomas Jn. 20:24
  • 2 men on the road Mk. 16:12-13
  • Peter Lk. 24:34
  • 7 fishermen Jn. 21:1-23
  • 500 eyewitnesses 1 Cor. 15:6
  • James 1 Cor. 15:7
  • Stephen Acts 7:55
  • Paul Acts 9:5
  • John Rev. 1:10

Again, not just the empty tomb, but the actual, physical body of Jesus was seen by hundreds of people in the days following his resurrection. Firsthand, eyewitness accounts, people who spoke with him, ate with him, and watched him ascend that invisible escalator into heaven. They were staring at him, wide mouthed and in awe when the angels said to them,

“Why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way.”

Acts 1:11

On this Easter, 2021, know for certain that Jesus really, actually did die and come to life after three days – JUST AS HE SAID HE WOULD. You can be certain, beyond any doubt.

The importance of the physical resurrection of Jesus is paramount to Christianity. Jesus pointed in advance to his bodily resurrection, he foretold it would happen. John 2:19 – “Destroy this temple (his body) and in three days I will raise it up.”

Dr. Norman Geisler says, ” if Christ did not raise in the same physical body, then the resurrection loses its value as evidence of proof of his claim to be God.” Jn. 8:58; 10:30

If Jesus resurrection is not historic fact then the power over death remains unbroken, sin is not atoned for and we are without hope.

But because the resurrection is an event in history, we have new life and hope in this life and the one yet to come. Consider these factual and historic events:

  • Jesus was an actual man that lived with family and friends for over 30 years
  • Pontius Pilate literally sentenced Jesus to death
  • Jesus was killed by crucifixion
  • Jesus was placed in Joseph’s literal tomb and wrapped in grave clothes
  • his followers were dejected
  • a stone, large enough to be rolled by 20 men was placed in front of the entrance
  • the seal on the tomb was the imperial seal of the Roman government and was witnessed and affixed by the guards
  • the guards themselves (10-30 of them) were trained in military discipline and punishment for quitting a post was death
  • the disciples went their way
  • the tomb was found empty
  • the grave clothes were folded and left in the tomb
  • the seal had been broken
  • the guards were dishonored
  • the disciples were elated
  • post resurrection appearances to hundreds as listed above
  • transformed lives through over 2,000 years
  • establishment of the Christian church
  • establishment of Sunday services
  • establishments of sacraments like, Communion, and baptism
  • the martyrdom of most of the disciples (why if Jesus hadn’t been raised?)
  • the martyrdom of thousands of Christians through the ages

Each of these are actual, and real historical events. Each speaks to the tangible evidence of Jesus resurrection. Each provide for us convincing truths and undeniable evidence that what Jesus promised came to pass and if that be the case for his resurrection, He can and should be believed in all other matters.

Interestingly, Christianity as one of the four major religions based on personalities rather than philosophies, is the only one that claims an empty tomb for its founder.

Judiasm – Abraham has no resurrection claims

Buddhism – the Mahaparinibbana Sutta tells of Buddha’s death with utter finality

Mohammad – the Pali tells us that he died June 8, 632 AD at the age of 61 at Medina

Christianity – Jesus tomb is empty

It is safe to declare that without Jesus’ bodily resurrection there would be no Christianity. Christianity in fact hinges on the belief in Jesus resurrection. This fact, this hinge is solid and completely supported by evidence that would stand in a court of law. Your belief in Jesus’ resurrection need not be in faith and trust alone.

In fact, (without all the detail that excites me), we can say to those who doubt the historical accuracy and dependability of the New Testament as our source that they are totally misinformed! Here are the facts:

  • ancient literature’s authenticity is tested by 3 basic principles, 3 criteria
    • bibliographical test – how many and how reliable are the manuscript copies
    • internal evidence test – does the document support itself from within
    • external evidence test – does external evidence support the document
  • the bible when tested by these same criteria stands head and shoulders above every other ancient work, including Homer’s Iliad
  • Iliad has 643 manuscript copies with a 400 year gap between the original and the first copies
  • The New Testament has 5,366 copies with a 225 year time gap between the original and its first copies

Plato’s writings have only 7 copies over a 1,300 year gap, and Pliny the Younger 7 copies with over 750 years as the time gap.

What does this tell us?

Scholars accept the trustworthiness of these ancient classics that were copied long after the original, therefore it is clear that the New Testament’s reliability is overwhelmingly sufficient and can be rendered authentic. The sheer volume of manuscripts alone would be enough to provide convincing proof but that coupled with the short gap between author and copies is a total “drop the mic” statement.

You can stand confidently, without any doubt that your New Testament is reliable, historical and factually accurate. The evidence presented by the circumstances and the primary sources, the manuscripts, and the criteria for testing ancient documents all point to CONVINCING PROOFS of Jesus death, burial and resurrection.

You can be certain of the things that you have been taught.

We have presented you with many convincing proofs so you can celebrate His resurrection with renewed assurance, enthusiasm and conviction.

He is Risen indeed! Happy Easter.

Go with God.

New Endeavors

Just a quick moment of shameless self promotion in announcing the start of my new Podcast- The Joshua Files

Would love for you to follow and pass the word as I seek to equip and encourage these next generations to step up and lead.

Thank you for your overwhelming support.

Cheers to us!

“Cleanliness is next to godliness”

Is it? What is it’s real value?

Queen Elizabeth I of England bathed once a month, “whether I need it or not”, she said.

James I, her successor washed only his fingers.

Henry IV of France was prominently known for his body odor (from a distance even) and his son – Louis XIII boasted, “I take after my father, I smell of armpits.” (Yuck, why?)

During 17th century Europe washing the body was actually to be avoided, and let’s not forget those nasty medieval times when cleanliness was all but non existent.

It seems the importance of cleanliness changes with time and culture. Or does it?

Historically we would have to agree that to be true. Time and culture have impacted cleanliness. But has the value of cleanliness changed just because culture has changed? Is it beneficial or harmful regardless of the times and culture? Does cleanliness have value in and of itself? Could it ever be considered “next to godliness”?

In our world of covid, crazy-cleanliness this has taken on an entirely new meaning, hasn’t it? It was during the flu epidemic of 1918 that doctors in maternity wards realized that the washing of hands helped to stop the spread of contagious fever. Now look at us, how many times have you washed your hands today or disinfected them?

Today we hear alot about “Follow the science”.

So, I want to do just that, but not as it applies to covid. What does the science tells us in 2021 about cleanliness?

First off, this is not about how clean your house is or how often you bathe. There is no judgment here. But because it is “Spring cleaning time”, I wanna know if there is any real value in cleaning. Fair? What does the science say?

What are the benefits of cleanliness?

” the state of quality of being clean or being kept clean.”

Oxford dictionary

We clean our homes, cars, appliances, tools, clothes, bodies; we seek to put clean things into our body – foods, drinks, data, influences, words. Are there benefits to this cleanliness?

An Indiana study shows a strong connection between a clean home and one’s physical fitness. Their study shows in cleaner homes were people who exercise more. Why was their question. Do they possess more energy to clean or are they more disciplined? Here are some of their findings:

  • cleanliness lowers stress and fatigue – messy tells the brain there’s work to be done and creates stress
  • it reduces allergy and asthma reactions – dust mites… need we say more
  • cleanliness improves safety – falls and fires are the number 1 cause of injuries in the home
  • it reduces germ spread – and the kitchen is the no. 1 place for this, NOT the bathroom
  • cleanliness keeps pests away – I HATE ANTS AND COCKROACHES!
  • cleanliness improves diet and the waistline – seriously! Their study showed that women eat more sweets and high fat foods when faced with daily hassles. A clean house or at least uncluttered will cut down on stress and therefore cut down on sweets. (Of course removing the candy bowls around the house would help too)

Dawn Howard, in her studies of cleanliness says,

“Benefits of cleanliness are studied for treatment of people suffering from everything from anxiety to zygomycosis.” (a rare fungal infection caused by molds)

A recent UCONN study substantiates that decluttering and cleaning helps maintain well being, positive mental attitude and is energizing.

Depression, anxiety and PTSD have been proven to be reduced in homes that are monitored for cleanliness.

Our mental condition is affected by our cleanliness and our cleanliness affects our mental condition.

Controlling negative thoughts, cutting off negative forces, influences, music, hobbies and people are vital for our own mental health, our mental healthiness.

Here are 9 ideas to do just that: (as suggested by Emil Baltman, 12/18)

  1. deal with emotions
  2. stop trying to please others
  3. face & overcome your inner critic
  4. give up bad habits
  5. take positive action
  6. learn to say no
  7. don’t blame others
  8. recognize unhealthy thought patterns
  9. don’t fear pain

There are things we each can do to be as fit as possible. But as always, it is our choice and the first step is the toughest. Dealing with cleanliness in areas of our life is a simple way to take action towards that goal, towards wholeness, less anxiety, stress and peace.

Whether we believe the Talmud,

“cleanliness… for the sake of his Maker.”

The Talmud

Or we believe a 2002 study that expressly stated,

“the effects of spa therapy have been proven to reduce pain, global well being, and stiffness…”

We can say with confidence, that cleanliness does have benefits, mental, physical, and emotional.

As to whether or not it is next to godliness, we’ll let you ponder that.

For now, take a look around you, within you; where do you see a need for a clean up?

Cheers to you.

Palms, Cloaks and Artichokes

Sunday Sermon, Palm Sunday, 3.27.21

Nearly 2,000 years ago, as hundreds of thousands of travelers gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover Feast, Jesus Christ entered the city, riding on a donkey, as the victorious King of the Jews. The crowds shouted, “Hail to the King”, “Hosanna”, and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” as they waved palm branches they had cut down and carpeted the road with their cloaks.

This is recorded in all four of the Gospels in the New Testament. Without exception the crowds are characterized by waving palm branches and spreading their garments on the donkey and on the road along the procession. With passionate shouts they hailed Jesus the victorious one who they hoped would save them from Roman oppression.

In their celebration some preceded the Christ with palms and cloaks and shouts of praise while others followed in the same manner, with palms and cloaks and shouts of praise.

Here were men and women, removing not only branches from the palm trees but also their garments. Yes, their outer garments, but they willingly removed their cloak, or robe – perhaps the only clothing they owned, to pay honor and respect to Jesus Christ.

These crowds as participants in the processional, recognized who Jesus was. They acknowledged who he was with their ruckus praise and extravagant expressions. They realized this coming king was coming to bring God’s kingdom influence. They waved their palm branches in approval symbolizing His goodness, victory, joy and triumph.

The removal of their cloak too, was an expression of highest regard for Jesus Christ. This left them exposed and uncovered their lowly state. This removed their layered defenses and protections and left them with little to hide behind.

They had shed what people see in order to honor Jesus Christ and they chose to wave a palm branch as a sign of surrender to the victorious One.

This Holy Week, as we again reflect on Palm Sunday, (Good Friday and Easter,) what can be gleaned from it? We should ask ourselves these things, we should recount the events, and reconsider the fresh impact on our life. These stories are for us, for today. They have value for our everyday living, and are not just ancient history and outdated, irrelevant events.

So I offer you this, an artichoke.

Consider this thistle that we cultivate for a yummy food; it’s edible portion is the fleshy section at the base of the leaves and heart or choke at the center. Dip the leaves in butter, place in your mouth, scrape down with your teeth to remove the flesh, discard the empty leaf and start again.

Over and over and over again leaves are removed, layers peeled away, flesh is torn, and sustenance gained until the heart is revealed.

That artichoke is like those people on Palm Sunday. Like us today.

By removing their cloaks, they were peeling away at those layers that people see, their outer leaves if you will, and revealing their heart. What covers us, our cloaks must be removed, our fleshly ways must be shed to expose our heart.

Those things that we cover ourselves with and hide behind must be shed before we can join Jesus’ victorious parade. As we shed those “leaves”, a layer at a time, our heart too is laid bare and exposed, and there He finds joy in the true expressions of our heart and brings victory, joy, goodness and triumph to us.

We are living in a season of exposing the heart. He is wanting to reveal the heart of the issue, the heart of the problem, the heart of man. He is peeling away layer after layer, leaf after leaf, removing flesh and exposing the heart. Revealing what is hidden behind layers of defenses, cover ups and artificial protections.

He is revealing the heart of praise, the heart of abandon to Him, the heart of devoted passion and extravagant worship. The heart that doesn’t care what man sees, because that heart is all about reverence to the victorious king.

The heart that openly and publicly honors Him above all, lavishing praise, glory and respect to the King.

So you see, that first Palm Sunday crowd, you and artichokes share a thing or two.

I’ve heard said that God peels away at us a layer at a time, like an onion.

I submit a better analogy may be He peels away a layer at a time like an artichoke, because He wants to reveal our heart.

So, Happy Palm Sunday, and don’t forget the palms, cloaks and artichokes…

Go with God.

Chester Cheetah

You know him, don’t you, the fictional character and official mascot for Frito-Lay’s Cheetos snacks?

Anyone who knows me and our family knows how important these snacks are to my husband. He has a large cup that reads, “Den’s Cheetos” and he even has Cheetos socks. Friends and family see anything Cheeto and get it for Den or they pass on an image, or fact. So we know Chester well.

Chester is a cheetah and cheetahs are amazing animals.

Some facts about cheetahs I’m sure you know, are:

  • they are the largest cat on the planet and more social than other cats
  • they are the fastest land animal (recorded at 93-98 mph)
  • they have a light build, long, thin legs and long tail

Some additional cheetah factoids are:

  • females search for prey while males are more sedentary
  • they stalk within 200 ft., charge it, trip it during the chase and bite its throat to suffocate it to death
  • they are active during the day, especially at dusk and dawn

Why the Chester the cheetah talk, where are you going with this, Deb?

Glad you asked. I see a couple of fascinating similarities between you and me and cheetahs. Really!

According to Quora –

“…(cheetah’s) high speeds can only be maintained for 400-800 meters before exhaustion sets in and the body overheats.”

A cheetah’s entire body design is made to assist his speed:

  • he has a supersized set of lungs
  • he has a super sized heart
  • his nostrils are extremely large to take in Oxygen
  • his long tail acts as a rudder for sharp turns and in his pursuit assists with his balance
  • he has light bones
  • his reflexes are built to survive a tumble at 65 mph (wish I had that!)
  • his spine and back muscles are extremely flexible (not mine)
  • his claws are semi-retractable with tough pads for traction

Everything within the cheetah is fine tuned to allow for super speeds and yet, even with those design marvels, he still cannot maintain those speeds for very long with out facing exhaustion and overheating.

Additionally, in his sprinting, much of the time he is actually propelled through the air at long strides. One stride for him = 26 feet!

So when he sprints 300 yards, (3 football fields) his paws are actually on the ground for only 3-5 seconds! The rest of the time he is airborne. Plus, he is able to make 4 strides per second. Unreal! Cheetah’s really know how to fly.

Again though, he cannot sustain high speeds or prolonged runs very long. He must catch his prey in 30 seconds or less before he must rest. An example I read said that if a cheetah were to run 154 miles from Otjiwarongo to Windhoek (Namibia), it would need to stop and rest over 311 times. If it were able to run without stopping, it would take only 2 1/2 hours running at 68 mph. Incredible.

How are we like cheetah’s?

Our human design is masterful and yet without proper rest we, too will face exhaustion and heating up. We were made to take our strides here on earth, but our efficiency is when we are airborne, when our strides take us above ground and into the air. (Into the spiritual dimension)

Whether you find yourself in the desert, the grassy savannah (of the Serengeti), or the mountains (of the Sahara), like our cheetah friends, I trust that you will realize your absolute need for rest and your purposeful design to be airborne.

Now, let’s celebrate our cheetah likenesses by enjoying a bag of Cheetos. 🙂

Crunches to you.

What do you do when you’re displeased?

Sunday Sermon 3.20.21

First off, you probably don’t even use the word, “displeased”, right? For those of you that do, KUDOS! You get a gold star in Vocabulary for the day

Although not difficult to figure out, here is it’s meaning –

“feeling or showing annoyance and displeasure.”

Oxford disctionary

This is the biblical text that got me evaluating what I do when I am displeased –

But when they said, ” Give us a king to lead us, this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord.”

1 Samuel 8:6

Other translations put it this way –

“Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance.”

NLT

” When Samuel heard their demand … he was crushed. How awful! Samuel prayed to God.”

The Message paraphrase

” And the thing was evil in the eyes of Samuel… and he prayed to the Lord.”

The Septuagint

When I read it again this past week, I seriously thought, “Wow! Without the slightest hesitation, when Samuel was displeased, He prayed.” And of course, I began evaluating myself and my first reactions and responses. If we’re keeping score here, Samuel wins this one over me! How ’bout you? What’s your first response when you are displeased?

The Hebrew meanings of these words about Samuel’s response actually mean that he was “broken up, with an expected violent reaction. Figuratively, fear.” In other words, Samuel was so upset with what was happening, it broke him up, He was truly ticked off and in fear.

For Samuel, he was dealing with a political situation. He was the leader of the nation of Israel, and the people were now asking to have a king, “like all the other nations”. Israel had never had a king because The Lord, Jehovah wanted to be their king. But here the people were asking to be like every other nation. They wanted a king.

This is what caused Samuel such displeasure. He couldn’t believe that the Israelites were turning their backs on Jehovah God and denying His authority over them. This tore him up, and in fact it caused him fear. He was afraid for the nation. He was afraid for what it would become apart from God. He was afraid of what would become of it. He feared for the nation.

What do YOU do when you are displeased?

Without missing a step, we see Samuel taking his whole load of displeasure in prayer to the Lord. It’s like it was his go to, basketball pivot – receive displeasure = pivot and go to prayer. As quick and smooth as a Kobe move, receive the hit pivot to prayer.

I am not quite that quick. Kobe’s pivot picture makes me a laughingstock.

The truth here is this. Our displeasure, whatever the cause, can and should be taken to the Lord in prayer.

Whether it’s a displeasure that crushes us or a displeasure that incites fear within us. Be it a displeasure that angers us or confounds us, pivot and take it to the Lord in prayer.

Other choices are to let that displeasure out on another person, or to allow the anger to simmer and boil over into other areas of our life. Or maybe do or buy something stupid, or simply throw up your hands and succomb.

We do have other options for how we handle our displeasure.

But today, this is a spiritual and biblical blog, therefore the option we advise is prayer.

Samuel, in his hurt, questioning, and fear, took it all and poured it out in prayer to the Lord.

What does that mean?

Prayer is simply talking to the Lord. There are alot of different kinds of prayers, but here’s what the Bible says:

” Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. “

Ephesians 6:18

” Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

Colossians 4:2

So, we can pray for any reason, on any occasion. We can talk to God anytime, anywhere, for any reason.

But what Samuel did, his kind of prayer was a little different. His prayers actually intervened for Israel, By that, I mean, His prayers stood in the gap for Israel. Israel was on one side of the valley and God was on the other side of that valley. Samuel’s prayers made a bridge, across that valley, and connected Israel with God. He literally intervened to connect Israel with God again.

That is called intercession, when one intervenes in a relationship to bring two together.

Isn’t that what Jesus did?

He came to earth to bridge the gap between God and man. He interceded. That is why the scripture says,

“… Christ Jesus who died is at he right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”

Romans 8:34

Jesus threw himself across that chasm between God and man at the cross. He intervened.

Samuel did similarly. Confounded at Israel’s choices and stubborn refusal to follow God’s ways, afraid for what lay ahead for them, he threw himself between God and Israel in prayer. In his displeasure he immediately pivoted to prayer. Intervening for them all. Standing in the gap for the nation. EVEN THO’ HE WAS DISPLEASED.

Are we any different from Samuel? 2,950 years have passed since he prayed in his displeasure for Israel.

Undoubtedly you have faced displeasure over something recently in your life. If not, Hallelujah. Be prepared tho’, it is coming, because that is the way of life. That displeasure is meant to draw you into a place of prayer with the Lord. A place of interceding for others, intervening on their behalf to the Lord.

You don’t have to be a great spiritual leader or pastor to intercede; all you have to do is lift up that one to God in prayer. Stand before God, in prayer, on their behalf. Stand in the gap for them. Create that bridge across that valley for them.

You can intercede for another. You can make a difference. Your prayers matter. The one you’re praying for needs your prayers and the Lord will hear your prayers. Whether it be for an individual, a family or a nation. Do not hesitate to pray, intervene and intercede. Do not hesitate to pivot and pray.

In your displeasure – pray.

Go with God.

Music’s Power

For over 20 years, I was a music teacher and so I never missed the Grammy Awards on TV. Times have changed for me, but the Grammy’s aired again Sunday night, for the 63rd time.

Music is the universal language. It is a powerful communication tool, memory provider, relaxation technique, mood creator and even medicine.

Scientists tell us that music is hardwired into our brain. It’s components like rhythm and melody echoes in our physiology, our functioning and our being. It has prominent effects on our body.

Before we go any further, because I hope you too are a music lover, let’s do an exercise. You can do it there where you are, but I would love to hear your responses, so please, please consider leaving a comment when you come to the end of this blog today, please?

THINK ABOUT THE YEAR 2020. WHAT SONG WOULD YOU PICK TO BEST REPRESENT IT?

THNIK ABOUT YOUR HIGH SCHOOL YEARS. WHAT SONG BEST DESCRIBES THOSE YEARS? (If you aren’t in HS yet, think about your middle school years and choose a song)

Lastly, THINK ABOUT YOUR FUTURE. WHAT SONG WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO BEST REPRESENT YOUR HOPE FOR THE FUTURE?

Music is entertaining of course, but it is more than that. It is powerful and it’s ability to help in the healing processes are still being discovered and understood.

Because of the close association of music with memories, doctors are telling us that it could be helpful with Alzheimer’s patients. Other doctors have told us listening to hip hop music is of great benefit to those with mental disorders. Pediatricians have concluded that infants remain calmer with music rather than speech.

Chances are you may have music playing right now, somewhere around you. If not now, you probably have recently or will in the near future. Music has become the soundtrack of our life. Silence is uncomfortable for many and therefore gets filled with music and other noise.

The power of music is undeniable.

Music stimulates more parts of your brain than any other human function. “Melodic intonation Therapy” coaxes parts of the brain to take over damaged parts, and that may even help patients regain the ability to speak. For stroke patients who have lost speech, music may stimulate those functions.

Music has been proven to reduce pain and anxiety, according to Brunel University in UK. After testing over 7,000 patients who had undergone surgery, playing music during their recovery (music of their choosing is even more powerful) reduced pain.

“… if music was a drug, it would be marketable… music is a non evasive, safe, cheap intervention that should be available to everyone undergoing surgery.”

Medical News Today 2015; Brunel University, UK

A Denmark study in 2014 has found that music may be beneficial for fibromyalgia patients.

“calm, relaxing, self-chosen music reduced the pain and increased functional mobility.”

Denmark study 3/14

Listening to music triggers opiods in the brain; they are the bodies natural pain killers. Listening to music also increases dopamine in the brain.

So… the music you choose to fill your home, car and brain with has power. Power to relieve your stress, strengthen your body and brain and even heal your mind and body. Pump it up, play it on repeat, and allow music to bring to you the peace and strength that The Creator intended.

Sit back, pump it up, close your eyes, (pour a glass of wine), and soak in music’s power of healing and strength. ENJOY.

Cheers to you.

PLEASE LEAVE YOUR SONGS IN THE COMMENT SECTION.

My 2020 song – Avenue of Broken Dreams – Green Day

My high school song – I Can See Clearly Now the Rain is Gone – Johnny Nash

My future song – Waymaker – Sinach

I Am Your Oasis

Sunday Sermon 3.13.21

This is the route you’ve chosen, mile after mile of hot, dry desert sand carrying a heavy load bundled on your back or beast. Water and provisions are low, strength is vanishing, and no relief is in sight. No oasis is near.

Scattered over these Saharan desert sands are over 90 major oasis and for the largest desert in the world (about the size of the continental US), that means traveling between them will take days. Merchants and traders make the trip totally dependent on the promise of replenishment and rest that the oases provide.

An oasis is a fertile area that has a freshwater source, surrounded by a dry and arid region. They are irrigated by natural springs underground and vary in size from a small cluster of palm trees to a city with crops. Visible above ground, are date palms and other lush vegetation. Dates, cotton, olives, figs fruits and corn are commonly found in oases. In some places full cities reside in them with hotels.

The underground water sources are called “aquifers”. Sometimes a manmade well is dug to tap the aquifer and will provide more water for the city. In many settlements, the wells have been flowing and maintained for generations and centuries.

Oases became important stops along trade routes through many countries of the world. Some of the most beautiful ones are in Egypt, Israel, Brazil, Niger, China, Peru, Libya and Tunisia. Even the United States cities of Las Vegas, Phoenix and Palm Springs could be considered outgrowths of Westward expansion and merchants traveling along the oasis route. (The oasis outside of Palm Springs is still there, I took my son once.)

“Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis. Simply join your life with mine. Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I am gentle, humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me. For all that I require of you will be pleasant and easy to bear.”

Matthew 11:28-30 TPT

It is easy to visualize these verses in light of our oasis construct, isn’t it?

Jesus was speaking to weary travelers who were burdened with their loads from life. His offer, come to me, I am your oasis.

This is the only time in scripture where Jesus says, “Come to me”. Often He said, “Come after me”, or “Come follow me”, but only in this context does He say, simply, “Come to me”. The message is clear. He recognizes the fatigue, hard work, and heavy load of the listener. Nothing else is needed at this time, only rest, refreshment and replenishment. Coming to Him, The oasis, will provide just that. It’s that easy, and He knows it.

In Him we find rest. In Him we are refreshed. In Him we are resupplied to carry on. We are free to travel on when we are ready.

Although this is a temporary rest stop, He offers more than a temporary seat, He offers permanent rest for our raging soul.

A permanent supply is promised when we join our life with His. The picture Matthew gives us is one of taking on a yoke, and stepping into the yoke with Him. Living in the place of being teamed up with Jesus in all we do. Learning His ways and listening to his direction as we walk together in the yoke.

The work is not the only focus, it is the union with Jesus.

United with Him we learn and begin to understand that He is gentle and easy to please. He doesn’t get all worked up or stressed out. He doesn’t freak out. He is peaceful, kind and humble. Yoked together with Him, we learn these traits too. Our thoughts and feelings begin to change as we learn His ways.

When we lean on our own understanding, it hurts, we feel the rub. We are aware He is not leading or leaning that way. We lean His way and find it easy.

It is from this union with Jesus that we find a permanent rest for our soul, not just a refreshing drink. A fountain flowing from deep underground, a spiritual aquifer for all time and every generation. The best thirst quencher and big gulp ever. Imagine having a spiritual aquifer attached to your big gulp cup, anytime you need refreshing. (minus the calories and sugar even)

This is the route you’ve chosen, mile after mile of hot, dry desert sand carrying a heavy load bundled on your back or beast. Water and provisions are low, strength is vanishing, and RELIEF IS IN SIGHT. I see The oasis!

Stop. Unload your burden. Rest. Drink deeply from The oasis.

Realign your yoke as needed. For some, you need to step into it and team up with Jesus. Join forces with the Maker of the Universe. What a deal!

A temporary resting spot or permanent rest and refreshing is yours, because Jesus said, “I am your oasis.”

Drink deeply.

Go with God.

Healing From What We Are Harboring

Sunday Sermon 3.6.21

Recently in my reading, I was struck with a phrase that has been reverberating through my spirit, mind and soul. It was this:

Because you harbored an ancient hostility…”

Ezekiel, the Prophet, chapter 35 verse 5

Other renderings put the same phrase this way –

  • because you kept this age-old grudge. The Message
  • because you kept eternal hatred. NLT
  • because you cherished perpetual enmity. ESV
  • because you maintained perpetual hatred. CSB

The challenge to me was to inspect within myself, those areas that may be harboring any type of grudge, resentment, or bitterness; those unresolved, concealed or secret hurts, or offenses. God was calling me to identify them for what they are – hurts, painful events, and to let them go by allowing Him to uproot their poisonous taproot of resentment and bitterness.

I believe this same experience is what He would have for all of us. He is wanting to completely heal us of all of our grudges, bitterness and resentment. He wants us to be whole and unhindered by negative, past feelings, memories and experiences. Letting go of the anger, bitterness, hurt and pain of the past allows us to focus on the present.

“When we hold on to grudges and resentment, it’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.”

Piedmont Healthcare, Angela Buttimer MS, NCC, RYT, CPC

In the book of Hebrews, we find this very same issue being addressed:

“Make sure no one lives with a root of bitterness sprouting within them which will only cause trouble and poison the hearts of many.”

Hebrews 12:15 TPT

The Apostle Paul adds this piece of insight to this whole issue of anger, bitterness, resentment and grudges:

“In your anger, do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold.”

Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV

It is apparent that unresolved anger leads to poisonous roots growing in our heart, and yields a place for the devil with his toolbox of sins to grow.

One last quote and then we will look at a story.

James, the brother of Jesus, who wrote the book of James, and also knew a thing or two about envy, and selfish ambition left us this piece of wisdom: (geesh, can you imagine dealing with the envy, bitterness, resentment, and misunderstanding in this home between these brothers??!)

“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts….such wisdom is earthly, unspiritual, demonic…”

James 3:14 NIV

All of us have had conflicts from which grudges have grown. Those grudges sorta become our consolation prize- we were wronged and now we get a grudge. It seems to serve as a way to compensate for our negative feelings.

A perfect example of this is found in the story to which Ezekiel was referring in our opening statement about harboring ancient hostility.

The story begins in Genesis 25, where we see Rebekah about to give birth to twin boys who we now know as Esau and Jacob.

Even from the womb these boys were jostling, wrestling and competing. Gen. 25:22 As they grew, they developed very different likes and lifestyles. Esau was an outdoors, hunter kinda guy, while Jacob was a stay at home, cooking in the kitchen type. Esau and his Dad were close, Jacob and his Mom were close. Gen. 25:27

The first glimpse we have of growing tension between Esau and Jacob is when Esau comes in from a long and exhausting hunt and is famished. Cooking in the kitchen, is guess who? Yep, Jacob. Esau asks Jacob for some of his yummy, red, stew, so Jacob finagles a deal – food for your first-born birthright. Esau easily caves and swears an oath to Jacob, stew for my birthright. Genesis 25:34 says that Esau hated his birthright.

Esau had given up his firstborn position in the family. Some would say Jacob tricked Esau out of it. What do you think?

Either way or both ways, Jacob was now considered the firstborn son with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto. And so it begins, the grudge holding, bitterness and resentment.

Some years later, when Isaac, Esau’s dad was old and blind, he asked Esau to hunt him some game and prepare him a meal, because it was time for Isaac to pronounce his Fatherly blessing on his son. Overhearing this request, Rebekah called for Jacob and told him to fix up Dad’s favorite venison meal. While Esau was out hunting, Jacob was cooking in the kitchen.

Making a long story short, Jacob and Rebekah hatched a plan that worked and one in which the Father’s firstborn blessing would be pronounced upon, you guessed it – Jacob!

When Esau returned to Dad and heard that Dad’s blessing had been given to Jacob, all were shocked and surprised! This was not a happy family. Esau’s grudge was now exploding and all of his pent up anger, bitterness, resentment came cascading from his lips and life. Jacob was gonna be toast if Esau had his way. This was no small grudge anymore, this was a pot boiling over with hatred, hurt and blame.

“Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

Genesis 27:41

When Rebekah realizes the depth of Esau’s anger and seriousness of his threats she arranges for Jacob to steal away and live with her brother in a distant city “…for a while, until your brother’s fury subsides… when your brother is no longer angry…and when he forgets…” Gen. 27:42-45

Pausing here, we can see clearly that Esau is harboring hostility toward his twin. Who knows how many years these wounds had been festering and infecting Esau and his relationships with his family members, as well as others that he related with.

It is no secret that holding onto grudges and negative feelings affects your health and your relationships with others. In fact, as you play over and over those negative, wounding, bitter memories, your brain doesn’t know what is real and what is imagined, so your body reacts as if you are having the same experience over and over.

“Living in this chronic state of tension disables your body’s repair mechanisms, increases inflammation and the stress hormone – cortisol.”

Piedmont Healthcare

Esau was in a very unhealthy state. His blood pressure was elevated and he was now at risk for heart disease. His prolonged feelings of resentment were also impacting his metabolism, immune response and organ function. He was probably even dealing with symptoms of depression and anxiety. (Facts from Neurocore)

Esau’s choice to harbor hostility was certainly not a safe harbor.

What Esau harbored during all those years growing up and following Jacob’s departure to Uncle Laban’s, ate away at not only himself, but he passed it on to his descendants, his sons, grandsons, and eventually to all of his ancestry. His offspring through time became the kingdom of Edom. In the kingdom of Edom, each had been programmed with the ancient stories of Grandpa Esau (or Great Granddad Esau, etc.). They were well versed in what happened between Grandpa Esau and Uncle Jacob. They all knew about the loss of the birthright and the blessing. They all had learned to:

“harbor an ancient hostility…”

Ezekiel 35:5

Although Jacob and Esau’s grudge holding match lasted twenty years, (which to me is a long and serious grudge) before they reunited with gifts, tears, humility, hugs and favor; (Gen. 33) the affects of that grudge on their family was centuries long!

It is quite scary to think that as a parent, my unresolved grudges as well as my resolved grudges impact my family. They have heard stories, seen reactions, and formed opinions. They have partaken of my poisonous resentment. Even after I resolve with that family member, the root of bitterness has been planted in them.

Additionally, that twenty year period of my grudge holding (or whatever the length of time in your life) has allowed the taproot of bitterness, anger, resentment, blaming, hatred, anger and hostility to sprout and even blossom. The poison has permeated my life, my thoughts, perspective, and relationships. What I have been harboring needs healing and uprooting.

That infection in you, God wants to heal. That sensitive area that you guard is what He seeks to puncture and drain. Those inflamed emotions and memories, He will restore to health.

God has the cure for what you are harboring.

In releasing it to Him, you are not excusing anyone’s behavior and you may not forget what happened, but it will break its hold on your life. Then you and the Lord will face that pain and walk through it together. He will empower you to live a life free of poisonous grudges and bitterness. He will free you from those ancient hostilities.

He will provide full healing for what you are harboring.

Go with God.

Elephants and Camels

I want to share two stories with you.

#1 Elephants

When walking through an elephant camp, a man noticed that these elephants were only secured with a small rope that was tied around one ankle. He wondered why the elephants didn’t break free from the rope, as the elephants we certainly strong enough.

He asked the trainer why, and the trainer said that they use the same size rope for baby elephants all the way up to adulthood. Because they’re too small when they are babies to break free from the rope, they grow up thinking that the rope is stronger than they are. As adults, they think the rope can still hold them, so they don’t fight it.

#2 Camels

A mother camel and her baby were lying down, soaking up the sun. The baby camel asked his mom, “Why do we have these big bumps on our back?” The mom stopped to think and then said, “We live in the desert where there is not much water. Our humps store water to help us survive on long journeys.”

The baby camel then stopped to think and said, “Well, why do we have long legs with rounded feet?” His mother replied, “They are meant to help us walk through sand.”

The baby asked a third question, “Why are my eyelashes so long?” The mother replied, “Your eyelashes are long to offer you protection from the sand when it blows in the wind.”

Finally, the baby said, “If we have all of these natural abilities given to us to walk through the desert, what’s the use for camels in the Zoo?’

Allow me to play Aesop, for a minute.

From each of these stories, we can glean important life lessons, and encouragement. Listen to your heart and hear what application lies there for you. At the very least, I will offer these:

All of us, like the elephants, have grown through and are learning to fight our own programmed, learned helplessness. You know, that thing or those issues that we believe are stronger than us and so we don’t bother fighting. Be they family traits, ingrained scripts, perceived weaknesses, or whatever; they are tied about our feet, trying to keep us from moving forward. FACT: you are stronger than your childhood programming and you are strong enough to break free from it all.

Our perceptive baby camel offers us the simple truth that you have been designed to withstand what comes against you. You have all that you need, if you are in the right place. The camel is designed for the desert and is therefore fully equipped for sand, wind, dry and waterless situations. Out of that environment, he doesn’t quite fit. He doesn’t really belong in a zoo, does he? FACT: Our design is perfect and fully utilized when we are in the right environment.

I am certain that the elephant and the camel are speaking to many, and I trust that from their stories you will see yourself as strong, and well equipped for whatever you face. Break free and live life to your fullest, where you are s’posed to be!

Oh, what we can learn from the elephant and the camel.

Cheers to you.

Set

Sunday Sermon 2.27.21

Seized through the night with this word “set”, I awoke, pondering, reflecting and eventually investigating it more deeply. So let me begin by asking you, the same way I began, in what ways do we use the word set? Go ahead, think about it and begin your mental list. DON’T READ ON ’til you’re finished, k?

cement setting

Here are my “set” phrases and uses:

  • you set stones
  • in volleyball you set the ball
  • racers get set for a race
  • cement sets
  • jello sets
  • as do other desserts and foods
  • prisoners are set free
  • you can set your heart (or face) on something
  • decision, plans are set
  • broken bones are set
  • sails on a boat are set
  • then I went to the dictionary…..

How did you do? Wish I could hear your list.

That word, as you guessed is our focus today, because it is the call of the Spirit to you and me and everyone else on the planet. Seriously, everyone.

What is it that we have set our hearts on?

This setting represents a locking in on, fixing on; like a broken bone or ring setting; similar to jello but stronger and more permanent, like cement.

Set” is used 695 times in the Bible and is interesting in each setting, but in the form that we are using it, let me share this powerful verse.

  • Isaiah 50:7 – because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like a flint and I know I will not be put to shame.

In Isaiah’s image here, we have a picture of someone who, supported by the help and power of the Lord, has lasered their focus and cemented their course, as hard and sharp as the flint rock, and will not be deterred! Nothing is going to distract them, pull their focus or sidetrack them. Their face and heart is SET. Period.

It is worth mentioning that flint is a hard rock used to make hammers, chisels and knives. It is also used to start fires, because when flint hits a piece of steel or another hard object it produces sparks.

flint

So, to set your face like flint honestly means, that no matter the hard opposition in front of me, I am firm in my resolve and let the sparks fly, I am flint! The Lord is helping me and I am set, focused on Him.

Daniel set his heart, too. Scripture tells us that he “purposed in his heart”. This is the same type of setting your heart that we are discussing here. Other situations where setting occurs are:

  • Jacob set his pillow (where he dreamed of angels on a ladder) as a altar (of commitment and remembrance)
  • Moses set the laws before them
  • The serpent was set on a pole for all to look at for healing
  • Israel was to set their heart on all of His words
  • The Lord set a plumb line among His people

The call of the Spirit throughout history has been for a people to set their heart on the Almighty Jehovah. To set their faces toward Him, His Words and His ways. To set their desires on Him, to set their hope in Him and to set themselves like flint, immovable and firm on God, no matter what.

I find in interesting that the last Old Testament verse using our word “set” is in Amos 7:8:

“And the Lord asked me, “What do you see Amos?” “A plumb line,” I replied. Then the Lord said, “Look I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.

Amos- the prophet

A plumb line is a measuring device used by builders to assure the wall is perfectly vertical, and is at maximum load bearing capacity.

plumb line on a wall

So the Old Testament closes with the Lord’s challenge that He is setting a measuring device up, and he is now measuring just how vertical related His people are and if they are able to bear His load, weight, and yoke.

Why?

Because the New Testament begins with the setting of a city on a hill.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid”

Matthew 5:14

Jesus’ coming to the world, brought light, life and the plumb line to bring us into vertical alignment with the work of the Spirit here on earth. He wastes no time, for in Matthew 25, he does this –

“He will set the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.”

Jesus, teaching the parables

Let’s regroup. The question is, what is your heart set on? It is being measured, the plumb line is hanging beside us revealing our vertical connection and setting.

Scripture is clear there will be those who’s heart is set on abominable things, committed to idols, and have not set their heart on God. There will be those who actually set their face against God, and set themselves to worship at shameful altars. In those cases, scripture is also clear, that He (God) will set His face against them. THAT is a fearful place to find yourself in.

I believe we are living in the days of preparation. Kinda the “Ready, Set, Go” days. The Spirit of God is calling us to ready ourselves, measure ourselves, judge ourselves, and to get SET. Set our hearts on Him and His Kingdom alone, set our faces like flint, immovable and with sparks! It is time to check what our hearts and faces are actually cemented, set on. If it is anything other that Him, if we don’t change, judgment is coming. Time are shortening. The plumb line is speaking and we must check our set.

Digest these truths about our set, its purpose and power:

  • Acts 13:9 – the Holy Spirit set his eyes on him and said come out of him you child of the devil
  • Acts 13:47 – He has set you to be a light and to bring salvation to the world
  • Colossians 3:2 – set your affections on things above not on earthly things
  • Hebrews 6:18 – take hold of the hope set before us
  • Hebrews 12:1 – let us run the race set out before us
  • Revelation 3:8 – He has set before us an open door
  • Revelation 4:2 – there is a throne set in heaven

The Lord wants people’s hearts set on Him. Not because He is an egomaniac, but because He loves them and always has their best interests on His heart. He alone can bring the lasting happiness and fulfillment they each seek. He also wants no one to perish. He wants all to be included in His eternal home in heaven around His throne.

These are serious, spiritual introspection and evaluation days.

Check your set. What is your heart set on?

He wants you to be set on Him.

Go with God.

Not Many Wise

How many people in your immediate circle of family and friends would you consider to be wise?

Wise= “having or showing experience, knowledge, and good judgement” Webster

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Knowledge is knowing what to say; wisdom is knowing whether or not to say it.” And I would add, and knowing when to say it. If knowledge is power, then wisdom is using it the right way.

Wisdom, is considered by many, as the prominent virtue to be sought after and exercised.

“Wisdom is the supreme part of happiness.”

Sophocles

Wisdom is not innate however, it is acquired through experience. Wisdom acts in relationship to previous experiences and knowledge. Wisdom does not stand alone, it is intertwined with all of your life events and all you have learned.

Wisdom applies relevant knowledge with insight. Wisdom analyzes and reflects on experiences, files that info away and then recognizes the time it needs to be shared. Wisdom is on time and precise.

“Wisdom is the daughter of experience.”

Anonymous

Wisdom learns from past experiences and is not afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes make us better people, help us learn faster and more permanently. Therefore wisdom is willing to try new things and talk to new people, for in doing so opportunities to learn, analyze, and reflect are provided.

No one likes to mess up. Our brain doesn’t even allow us to move on until a mistake has been corrected, so wisely are we wired. But in those mistakes, as humbling as they are, data is being collected, spread sheets in our brain are being populated and we are being loaded with what will become insight and wisdom in our future encounters. Those mistakes are important and valuable for those seeking to move in increased wisdom. Wisdom learns from mistakes, risks, criticisms & errors.

Those who make the attempt to process adversity are able to gain meaning from it. Those who are able to adapt to events, situations & suggestions will find themselves being equipped with more wisdom, because wisdom is always seeking the broader picture, analyzing for applications and improvements.

Scientists tell us that wisdom rises until our mid 20’s, then stabilizes until age 75 when it declines. However, old age doesn’t affect wisdom’s decline, it is the motivation to pursue development that declines. (Psychology Today) So we could say that when we stop pursuing new experiences, ideas, or opportunities and stop taking risks, when we hold back for fear of failure, wisdom stops developing in us. That would be whether we are 75, 45 or 25.

When we, or anyone steps out to learn and analyze a new experience, then put that info to the test later, we become wiser. Becoming wiser is a noble goal and surrounding ourselves with wise friends also is a prudent goal.

I trust that through these thoughts you have reflected on your own wisdom first and then made note and given thanks for those in your life who are wise friends and family members.

Because, there are not many wise, today.

Cheers to you.

What Comes from the Cave of Confinement?

Sunday Sermon 2.20.21

There are people struggling under a chaotic world where authorities are hostile to God; zealous, local governors have enacted laws against the church, and the faithful are targeted as scapegoats. Believers are pressed to question, “Is God in control?”, if so, “Is He working all things for our good?”.

In some places there is violent persecution of the church, in other places lawless violence. The church is under pressure to conform to the society norms and are assaulted with false doctrines and calls to practice idolatrous worship. Most people have become comfortable with their affluence and face a variety of challenges to their faith.

Banished to caves/rooms of confinement, government officials seek to silence voices of truth, all the while elevating their prominence above everyone else. False charges, events sparking revolts, economic instability, blaming and instability of governmental heads, and trouble between the elites and the commoners are the marks of this society.

Are the above paragraphs describing the events of these days or another era?

Remarkably, both.

The details given above are an accurate account of what is happening today, yet is also point on in representing the events of 95AD in the Roman Empire. The parallels are actually mindboggling.

In the first century the struggle between Caesar worship/The Roman Empire and Christianity was severe, persecutions were great and martyrs were many. The Church Father, Polycarp, was burned alive for refusing to say, “Caesar is Lord.”

All of the disciples/Apostles were tortured and killed, save one – John, who was banished and confined to a small island called Patmos, where he lived in a cave approximately the size of your living room, 23 ft. x 20 ft., and slept on a hard pillow, a rock every night.

It is John, in the midst of these dreadful conditions, that I want to zoom in on today.

Here he was confined to a barren, volcanic, island. It is believed that Patmos was a penal colony in the Roman Empire, hard labor there wasn’t necessary, for the isolation, barrenness, and heat were punishment enough.

Expelled here and restricted in movement, opportunity, influence, and expression what did he do?

Revelation 1:10 says,

I was in the Spirit realm on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice…”

John, The Elder

The simplicity of his verse has always challenged me.

Here you have John, in exile and isolation, yet he chose to be in the Spirit on the Lord’s day. Choosing the Spirit over surroundings and circumstances drove him, empowered him and placed him in the position where God could reveal Jesus to him. Additionally, whether “the Lord’s day” was the Sabbath, or any day matters little. In fact, it would be an even more powerful image if John viewed every day on that island of isolation as the Lord’s day.

Those who study such things believe that John’s room of isolation, the place where he slept, is the place that he received The Revelation. There, through a crack in the ceiling, he received the vision of The Revelation of Jesus Christ. There in that Patmos Cave of confinement he heard the voice of God. It was there, that he chose to be in the realm of the Spirit, rather than the realm of the natural.

There was no denying where he was; on that rocky island, in that dark, lonely cave, cut off from others, persecuted by political edicts, or any number of other worldly circumstances. Each of them were very real and affecting the Roman Empire at large. His focus was not on them, though.

He chose to see into the spirit realm, and live in that realm regardless of the hard realities of his life in that cave. The payoff was enormous! Because of his choice, we have a powerful and beautiful, (albeit confusing,) revelation of who Jesus is and the victory that He brings to His church, His bride in the end. (I’ve read the end of the book, and we win!)

I am extremely challenged by John’s choice in his cave of confinement.

Great things come from caves of confinement. Look at Jonah confined within the whale; that brought deliverance to Nineveh. Remember too, Joseph’s multiple confinements yielding freedom for all of Egypt! No matter the prison, restriction or confinement in our lives, we can chose to see “in the Spirit”, not in the cave.

It was being in the Spirit, in confinement that he saw and wrote; Revelation 1:4-8

  • all the best to you from the God who is, the God who was and the God who is about to arrive
  • Glory and strength to Christ who loves us
  • who made us a Kingdom of priests
  • He is coming, riding on the clouds
  • people from all nations will see Him
  • He declares, “I’m A to Z. I’m the God who is, the God who was, and the God about to arrive”

And those are just the first 8 verses of His Revelation! His choosing the Spirit realm over his circumstances, caused the Spirit to explode within him with clear vision, and hearing on Earth as it is in heaven.

My Spirit is challenged and that challenge I want to share with you.

Some say there are parallel ages of man. Maybe so, but I think we can agree that The Roman Empire of John’s day and America, the world of today share many similarities.

I trust that another one just may be that in your cave of confinement, you too will “be in the Spirit realm on the Lord’s day” – today, everyday, and especially the Sabbath. May you too find a new, and powerful vision of the Revelation of Jesus Christ and His love and purpose for you. May you see beyond your cave and circumstances.

What comes from the cave of your confinement?

Go with God.

Let Him

Sunday Sermon 2.13.21

Love is a powerful force. It’s potency is beyond measure and it penetrates all boundaries, obstacles and fears. Love can see what the human eye misses, and what our mind struggles to understand. It is transforming, refreshing, empowering, and yes, sometimes frustrating.

Decades ago (yes, I’m THAT old), there was a fad called “Glamor Shots”. Those of us who gave in to it found ourselves going to the mall, and into the Glamor Shot store for our appointment. We were then made over with a new hairdo, makeup and clothes for a photo shoot. Photos were taken in silly poses with props and looks that were s’pose to be glamorous. Then you chose which shots you wanted prints of, ordered them and went home to wash off the make up. (and try to figure out what to do the rest of the day with THIS hair!) I knew my husband wanted one, which is why I was there.

Yes, I caved and bought one (maybe more, I don’t remember). I remember the one because to this day, it sits on my husband’s night stand, in our bedroom! I’ve tried to replace it, throw it away, you name it. He’ll have none of it.

For years I asked “why”, and always got the same response, “Because THAT is the way I see you. You are beautiful and glamorous to me and always will be, nothing will change that.” (Talk about humbling…)

I have had to learn to let him keep the picture and let him keep his perception, because his love is powerful and sees what others don’t. (like me)

Perhaps that is why, in the greatest love song of all time, The Song of Songs, Solomon’s love song to his bride and an allegory of Jesus and His bride- the church, Solomon begins his song with the bride/Shulamite saying this:

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.

Song of Songs 1:2

In order for love to have affect we must let it, allow it. In order for Jesus love to permeate your life, you have to let him love you. He lavishes His love on you, chooses you, desires you, sees you as the theme of his love song and yet, you must yield to his love and let His love touch you deeply.

We each hold the key to how close we become with Him, and how much of ourselves we allow Him into. Isn’t that the dance of love relationships? Fear, trust, yielding, opening up, changing, safety, love.

Will we allow Him to express His love for us, faith in us and delight over us? Will we allow His picture of how He sees us to become our picture, too?

Love is a powerful force. His love is inescapable.

In Solomon’s Song, we have a vivid picture of how He sees us. Let’s take just a peek.

In this allegory, Jesus is the Bridegroom wooing His chosen maiden, the Shulamite. Male or female, Jesus is wooing you and speaking in tender words of love, affection and devotion to you. You are being called to come close and let him have your whole heart. Let Him have your passion, focus, love.

Scripture says, “What a person desires is unfailing love.” Proverbs 19:22 This is the love that Jesus lavishes on you. Unfailing, unconditional, pure, and holy.

Digest these descriptions of how he sees you, as written in just the first 2 chapters of Song of Solomon.

  • adored
  • lovely
  • beautiful
  • radiant
  • dear one
  • thrilling
  • strong
  • regal
  • leading
  • tender
  • graceful
  • darling
  • a rose
  • the theme of His song
  • companion who stands out
  • pure in the midst of sin

YOU. That is you, glamorous you. His love sees you always and only this way!

Over and over in Song of Songs, He, Jesus, the Bridegroom calls to His bride, us and says, “Come away, my beloved.” We are His beloved, His dear one, His tender love. He gently woos us to come away with Him, to come closer, to let him love us. To trust Him. To step beyond our fear and insecurities and trust Him and His love.

I’m here to tell you my friend, that the seasons have changed. This is the season of His love and season to love Him more deeply. Listen to the call of the Spirit (to you) in Song of Solomon 2:11-15:

  • The bondage of the barren winter is over and gone
  • The season of hiding is over
  • Rains of refreshing have come
  • It’s time to bloom
  • It is a season of singing
  • A season of pruning
  • A new day of destiny is breaking forth around you
  • My purposes and plans are bursting forth
  • It’s time for buds
  • It is blooming everywhere
  • Change is in the air
  • Arise, my companion, run with me
  • Let me see your radiant face & hear your sweet voice
  • How beautiful is your worship
  • How lovely is your prayer
  • You must catch the troubling foxes that hinder our relationship
  • They raid our budding love
  • They ruin what I’ve planted within you
  • Will you catch them and remove them?
  • We will do it together

These phrases are taken directly from Song of Solomon and the Passion Translation version.

These are His words to you. This is His love and desire for relationship with you. It is a new season. He wants to hear our voice, prayers, worship. He longs to see our face as we spend time with Him. He desires for us to bloom and blossom and bud with all that He has planted inside of us.

He also wants us to check for spoilers in our relationship. He called them the “troubling foxes”, those things that will eat up our time and focus, keeping us from Him, keeping us from fruitfulness. He asks us to catch them, then He tells us we will do it together.

He is absolutely willing to help us identify our foxes and then work with us in being free of them. He longs for our freedom in relating with Him. We have nothing to fear and a wonderful, intimate relationship with Jesus to gain.

Change is in the air. His love is in the air, it is inescapable and powerful.

Will we let Him love us? Will we let him change us? Will we let his picture of us become ours? Will we see ourselves through His eyes and in His love? Will we catch those troubling foxes and let Him help us be free of them?

Let Him love you, more.

Go with God.

Finding Your Jet Stream

Who would have imagined that a sixth grade, Oklahoma farm boy drop out, armed felon, ex-con, suffering from severe depression, blinded in one eye, would become a highly decorated, world famous pilot?

Who would have imagined that in the midst of his modest life filled with adversity, he would find his jet stream?

At the age of 15, he went to the county fair with his parents and there he saw what he had never before seen – a beautiful plane. With his love for mechanical devices and now the sight of this airplane, he knew then that he would become a pilot.

At the age of 26, his flight path in aviation began, not as you would expect however. He joined a barnstorming troupe as a skydiver. In that capacity, he made over 99 jumps, and for the very handsome fee of $200 a jump, but he never lost his dream of becoming a pilot.

It was in 1926, two years later that an accident on the oil rig occurred, where a flaming piece of metal pierced his left eye. The doctors thought he would be blind, but eventually the left eye was removed and he wore a patch over that eye from then on.

Now with no depth perception, while learning to fly, he used telephone poles and 2-story buildings to gauge the height of things. This made for extremely difficult landings, but he learned by practicing over and over and over. (In today’s setting he would never even be allowed to earn his wings.)

With pilot license in hand, he became a personal pilot for oil men and flew them to their sites and barnstormed on weekends. Having received $1,800 settlement for his eye injury, he bought his first airplane.

In 1930, he entered and won the Men’s Air Derby Race from LA to Chicago by more than an hour and a half and he even had a faulty compass.

It was in 1931 that he set his first world record for the first successful aerial circumnavigation by a single engine monoplane. After 8 days, 15 hours, and 51 minutes, stopping only eleven times, in the “Winnie Mae” he had made it around the world!

He received a hero’s welcome and was celebrated at the White House and with a ticker tape parade in NYC. Following this flight, he bought another plane and wrote a book.

Not content or satisfied, he continued to press himself. Not knowing what was above him, only knowing he had to go higher and faster. (this turned out to be prophetic)

In 1933 he repeated his flight around the world, this time accomplishing it alone and using instruments that he had invented – auto pilot and the aerial navigational compass. This set another record.

Yet, still above him was his jet stream.

Even though a Japanese meteorologist had used weather balloons in the 1920’s to track upper level winds around Mount Fuji, our guy is the one who first began exploring high altitude, long distance flight. Working with Goodrich and Phillips Petroleum he was able to design a high pressure suit. This allowed him to fly at high altitudes, which had never been done before.

He was now able to fly at altitudes of 40,000 – 50,000 feet above earth’s surface. He was the first to fly at these altitudes.

While on one of his practice runs (remember, he practiced and practiced and practiced), he noticed that his measurements for speed on the ground and speed in the air were different. This told him that he was actually flying in a current of air.

He had found the jet stream.

Although the term “jet stream” wasn’t officially used until a German meteorologist used it in a research paper in 1939, it was our guy, Wiley Post, who made the first practical advances by actually flying in it in 1934.

He had discovered his jet stream. Literally.

If you have even flown on an airplane cross country, you, too have probably flown in the jet stream.

The jet stream is what makes it possible for me to go and see my sister from CA to NY in 5.5 hours, but coming home it takes 6 plus hours!

The jet stream is a fast flowing, narrow band of air currents high in the atmosphere, approximately 5-9 miles above earth, thousands of miles long, and a few hundred miles wide. They blow from West to East, which is why flights going East will always be faster.

Thanks to Wiley Post, now all airlines, and aviation industries have found themselves depending on and utilizing the jet stream. So too, do weather services, because the jet stream pushes weather patterns around the world. The position of jet streams helps meteorologists forecast future weather events.

Wiley Post’s life exhibited what he “discovered”.

You have your own forward speed BUT if you continue in it in an environment that is moving, it propels you faster.

He was propelled forward, through much adversity by his vision and dream of being a pilot and inventing devices to help him fly. The environment that dream created was like a moving walkway at the airport. As he stepped on it, it moved him faster in the advancement of his dream.

Then, one day, he flew into that moving current in the air, and there, he was propelled faster through the sky.

He had found his jet stream.

I trust that you have found your jet stream, and if not, it is still above you, waiting to be found by you.

Cheers to you.

Transformed

Sunday Sermon 2.6.21

No, not the amazing story of Remi Adeleke and his unlikely path to becoming a Navy Seal. (although it is worth the read, 2019), and definitely not pertaining to alien pods arriving in Hong Kong as portrayed in the 2017 movie.

Sorry, Chris Brown, this is not about your song “Transform Ya”, nor a spin off of Michael Bay’s movie franchise “Transformers”, either.

Transformed, it’s what is expected of believers, those choosing to walk with Jesus. Transformed, it is what happens to make a lowly grasshopper into a powerful swarm of locusts. Let’s put them together to get a picture of what could be happening in these days in the lives of those who are pressing into what God is doing. They are being transformed.

God’s Word is clear that if any person is “in Christ”, that is, wrapped in His love and forgiven of their sin, that person is a new creation. They are still human, of course, but they are now a spiritual creation not just a physical creation. They are a new creation in Christ, the old is gone and the new is come. 2 Cor. 5:17

The Word further tells us, that the new creation involves a transformation, one in which our mind is transformed, our thoughts and worldview is changed. Rom. 12:2

Keep reading- the grasshopper, locust part is coming up and very cool.

It is clear throughout the Word that Christians (those in Christ) are expected to grow, change, and mature in their relationship with Jesus. We become born again, start like babies, but then need to grow up to spiritual adulthood.

  • 1 Cor. 3:1 -infants in Christ
  • Heb. 6:1 – move beyond the elementary teachings… go toward maturity
  • 1 Pet. 2:2-3 – like newborn babies crave spiritual milk
  • Heb. 5:12-14 – solid food is for the mature
  • Col. 2:6-7 – rooted and built up in Him

As Christians, our mission is to be like Christ, that is the transformation that we seek. To be transformed into His image. This cannot happen with the waving of some magic wand and poof, we are miraculously transformed. It is a daily process of choosing and deciding to do what He wants, live His way, rather than our own.

In doing so, we are transformed, “metamorphoo” – changed into another form, inwardly, permanently by the work of the Spirit, all the while our daily, earthly, transformation is preparing us to take flight with Him one day to heaven, where we will see Him face to face, because we will be like Him – transformed.

Now onto the grasshopper and locust, because there is a connection, I assure you.

I don’t know if I knew and forgot, or didn’t know (age has it’s drawbacks), but grasshoppers and locusts are related. In fact, Wikipedia tells us that there is no taxonomic distinction between locust and grasshopper species. What?? The basis for definition is whether a species swarms or not.

grasshopper

Locust are grasshoppers that have entered into a migratory phase, swarming phase. Grasshopper and locust look alike but their behavior is different.

Why is this important to me, you ask?

Well, 1,400 years before Jesus, a report was given in which God’s people were said to be like grasshoppers in the eyes of their enemies; and in fact in their own eye site. Numbers 13:33

God’s people saw their enemies as giants, and they were right, (they were over 9 feet tall!), but they saw themselves as grasshoppers and therefore projected that view onto their enemies.

700 plus years later, the people of the earth are described as grasshoppers. Isa. 40:22

Later in Joel, 600 years before Jesus, we read about a locust army which God calls “his great army.” Joel 2:25

And the prophet Nahum, another 63 years after Joel, talks about guards and officials being like swarms of locusts. Nahum 3:17

locust

To clarify – God’s people are compared to grasshoppers and locusts. Not just the Israelites, as in Old Testament days, but believers today. All of God’s people.

If that is so, then what in the world do we as believers, new creatures in Christ have to learn from these invertebrates?

Transformed. That’s what.

Big groups of grasshoppers, prompted by drought conditions, actually transform into migratory locusts, which have developed a new brain chemistry, by having rubbed together when crowded on grass. Their bodies harden, they eventually develop wings and fly off in a swarm a billion strong.

a swarm of locust

They are transformed into a new creature.

In a crowded place of limited grass, the grasshopper shifts from “solitary life” to a group lifestyle called the “gregarious phase”. In the solitary phase, he doesn’t collect in groups, has a low metabolic rate and is sluggish. During the gregarious phase the grasshopper gathers in large groups, has a high metabolic rate and is active and nervous. He transforms many times in this state -first to a non-flying nymph or hopper, molting 5 times until he transforms into a strong, flying adult and ready to join a swarm.

The solitary phase is normal for the species. The gregarious phase is a physiological response to “violent fluctuations in the environment”. Reread that. He transforms from solitary to gregarious in response to the violence in the environment. (I feel like a locust now.)

This massive group of now mature, gregarious flying locust become a swarm. A swarms size can pack into a 1/2 square mile, but are as large as 40-80 million locusts. Locust can eat their weight in plants daily, so a swarm could eat 423 million pounds of plants every day. They have been known to devastate countries in Asia, Africa and the middle East.

locust swarms

So swarms of locusts are serious business.

The locusts ability to transform in response to serotonin being released is amazing. That serotonin triggers their Central Nervous System and the process of development from a solitary grasshopper, to strong flying locust swarm is mindboggling. For over 4 hours, the back legs of the grasshopper rub against the others in that packed space until eventually his entire inward system is transformed. He has become gregarious, no longer solitary. He is no longer a hopper but can fly, albeit not yet strong. Talk about a transformation?!

A gregarious locust/grasshopper will continue to mature and become stronger and larger and eventually join a band.

Terms worth mentioning about locust. When the gregarious bands get together, they are called outbreaks. And when outbreaks join together that is an upsurge.

These bands, outbreaks and swarms do not form where growth is favorable, no that would be too easy. Instead they actually grow where suitable habitats are scarce. When the bands expand, individuals are actually forced into marginal areas. (Are you seeing parallels here?)

Additionally, the sound of a locust swarm is deafening. The humming is overwhelming and in itself is an alarm that they are on the move. You hear them before you see them.

It is important to point out that locusts navigate using the sun. When individuals at the front edge of the swarm settle to feed, others fly past overhead and settle in for their turn leading. The whole swarm moves like a rolling unit with an ever changing leading edge, following the sun.

No wonder King Solomon said, “the locust have no king, yet they advance together in bands.” Prov. 30:27

Finally, at any point a grasshopper can become gregarious, if the conditions are right. Additionally, their transformation can be reversed or persist, and be passed on to their offspring. It all depends on the conditions. Now think about that! Wow!

Putting this all together.

I believe God is calling His people from the solitary, sluggish, grasshopper phase of being small in our our sight and only seeing insurmountable giants. He is calling us to grow, change, mature and be transformed into a gregarious, active, swarming and powerful Body of believers.

This transforming, maturing process has not been in favorable circumstances, but dry and violent ones where we have been pressed together and rubbing against one another. But in it and from it emerges a new creature seeking to follow the Sun as His mighty swarming army.

And the sound of His mighty army, is a sound of praise, and worship; the heavenly sounds of humming, singing and praise to our God. “The sounds of many rushing waters”.

The Kingdom of God is about to explode on the earth in outbreaks and upsurges. I feel it, I sense it, and by faith see it. That is why we are being transformed during these “unfavorable” and dry times.

Will you be a hopper or a flyer?

It’s time to be transformed.

Go with God.

You Can Do More Than You Think

It’s been just over a year ago that I sat down to do something I had never done before. Filled with questions, uncertainties, hope and worry, I stepped into unchartered waters trusting that it would work out for the best.

Driven by desire and conviction I set out to write; to share uplifting, challenging and humorous stories, lessons, and facts; to do what I thought I could, but wasn’t entirely sure.

They say, the first step is the hardest, and I believe it to be true. I am certain you could attest to that fact as well given your own experiences. But the truth is, you can do more than you think you can. We all can.

We are our own worst critic. We don’t forget our failures, and can rattle off our weaknesses in a split second. But ask us to note our strengths, and we all to often stall out and have trouble recognizing any that stand out, much less actually speak them out loud in front of other people. (maybe the dog or cat, tho’) We have been duped!

Psychologists tell us that it is necessary to have some degree of inner critic because it helps us to monitor our behavior. “We doubt ourselves in order to check ourselves”, as the saying goes.

Of course, a total lack of insecurity can be a sign of a narcissist or psychopath, and we certainly don’t want that either, do we?

But again, we can do more than we think that we can.

Who was it that said, “If you think you can’t, you’re right”?

We can always do more than we think that we can, but we won’t find out if we’re not willing to try.

Trying means accepting the possibility of failure, or hurt; but it is also your way to win! It is your way to take a risk on you.

Taking that risk, believing in yourself solves the biggest problem of all – taking that first step.

I don’t know what you’re facing, struggling with, or considering, but I do know that you can do more than you think you can. So much more!

Who knows, everything that you have ever wanted might just be behind that door that you haven’t had the nerve to open yet.

In this case, take advice from Nike – just do it, cuz you can do more than you think you can.

Cheers to you.

Word Pictures for 2021

Sunday Sermon 1.31.21

At the beginning of a new year, I suspect most of us do some sort of evaluations, projections and/or goal setting. For the last couple of years, that process for me has gone a bit differently and I’d like to share it with you.

Last January, (2020) when out walking and praying I saw a very unusual sight along my path. So, of course, I took pictures. Here’s what I saw:

Trail sign post cement foundation
Foundation up close

Here on the trail I was walking was a cement sign post foundation totally dug up, uprooted and laying exposed rather than firmly planted.

It’s job was to hold signs and point the way but the foundation had been dug up and it was no longer functional.

Trail sign post

The Lord used these images the rest of my walk to help me see what my purpose was to be in 2020. I was to be one who re-established the long lasting foundations and pointed the Way.

Now, as I look back over last year, I realize what I saw on that path last January was not just for me, but was a picture of our nation. Our foundations would be uprooted and signposts broken down in an attempt to remap America’s course. As you reflect on news images of tearing down statues and the like, isn’t that what we saw?

So this January, when I had the same sense that the Lord was speaking to me with pictures, I really paid attention. Could it also be that what He was showing me was a bigger picture for 2021? You decide, as I share.

Last week, I was in prayer, asking the Lord to show me His heart, and help me to see things the way that He does. Later that day, while at work, my glasses broke. The frame snapped and I caught the lens in my hand. My boss was on hand and assisted with the magic of super glue. I have since had to reglue the frame and see the eye doctor for new glasses.

Broken eyeglass frame

But within seconds of my frame breaking, I had the definite sense that He was telling me that He was breaking my framework of seeing things and replacing it with His framework for seeing things. I knew then and there, standing at Art Sea in Dana Point Harbor, that the Lord was wanting to break my way of seeing things. He was indeed answering my prayer to see things the way that He does. He wanted me to get new glasses, and I’m sure a new set of eyes altogether.

That very same week, I went to the boat to cover the dinghy in preparation for the coming rains. As I approached Lady Debra, I realized she was moving about the slip more than normal. I opened her up and then inspected her to find out what was going on.

Walking around the bow it was obvious that she was not secured tightly. The bow pulpit was bobbing and nearly bumping into the dock box. As I turned to the port side, I clearly saw why.

dock line, perfect curl

Do you see why?

Broken dock line, coiled perfectly, up close

How bout now?

Brocken dock line, obvious

The dock line had been broken in the high winds that we had just gone through. I had to replace it.

Dock lines are meant to be attached to the dock at one end and to the vessel at another end. Like this:

Red white blue dock line

Several days after the dock line incident, following a personal time of singing, “Take Me Deeper into You”, I had that sense again. That sense that the Lord was using this picture to speak to me. The message was, if you want to go deeper Debbie, you have to remove the dock lines.

If I want more of Jesus, more understanding of His Word and ways and more walking in obedience to Him; if I want to go deeper in my Christian faith and walk, I have to leave my comfortable slip in the safe harbor and “launch out into the deep.” Luke 5:4 I must cast off my insecurities and trust His direction out in the unfamiliar waters. I must release my dock lines, those things that keep me tired down to the safe and predictable Christian life.

Four dock lines have to be released before Lady Debra can leave her comfortable and safe slip. In my life, I am sure that there are those things that I hold to, believing they are my security; when all the while they need to be broken or released in order for me to launch out deeper into what God has for me.

These two visual experiences, the broken glasses and broken dock line are my personal word pictures for 2021. They will fuel me, challenge me and remind me of what I believe the Lord wants of me through this next year.

But could it be, that they are for US, too?

I am convinced that everything that can be shaken in 2021 will be shaken. Hebrews 12:27 That means, things that we don’t need will be broken off of us, whether we like it or not. The way we see things will change and and our lens must adjust. He is truly wanting us to see the world and all its people, plots and plans as He does. So we need a new framework.

Could it be that we need a new framework, a new way of seeing things because he is taking us to a place we have never been before. He is taking us out of our comfortable Christianity, where we have lived within the safe confines of our home or church and He is pushing us out into the deep, unknown, exciting life on the high seas of the Kingdom of God. Is He breaking our secure attachments so that we will trust Him while voyaging the unknown?

I do believe that 2021 will be another, different, rollercoaster ride, and for believers will be an even greater sifting time. What and how we see coupled with staying comfortable is up to us. Hot, cold, or lukewarm is our personal decision and one we will be held responsible for. Revelation 3:16

2021 will be exacting. I do not believe any of us will be immune to the Call of the Spirit to come closer, see from His perspective and move freely in the depths of His love, purpose and joy.

I’m in.

I’ve lived 66 years and I know that the best is yet to come. God is up to something fantastic and I want to be a part of it. These word pictures have helped to reaffirm that to me, even if I must leave my comfort zone.

I hope they have helped you too, visualize truth for 2021.

Go with God.

How Animals Stand Against the Wind

Today I want to share some interesting facts about a few fascinating animals, and hope that in them you will remember that we too, are in the animal kingdom, and we too can stand against the winds that blow against us.

As you know, I love to sail, and therefore should love the wind, right? Well, I do BUT… when the winds come with warnings they are no fun any longer. The National Weather Service has created an array of wind warnings, watches and advisories to help all of us animals prepare for winds; they range from high wind warnings to hurricane force wind warning. There is even a scale used to measure wind speeds, I remember teaching this in 6th grade Science – The Beaufort Scale – again ranging from calm (zero mph) to hurricane (64 mph and over.)

Winds are bound to blow and we all will face them. Winds are scary, uncertain and can be dangerous. How do animals stand against them?

Outside of my window, on the lake below, I enjoy watching the variety of birds that make the lake their home, and our favorite has become the American Coot. These guys have been especially interesting to watch in high wind situations. I marvel how a 1-2 pound bird and stay it’s course and not be blown away in the heaviest of winds.

Take a look at what I mean. These guys are tough.

How do they not get blown away? How do they stay on course? They don’t have webbed feet like ducks, even tho’ they are related to ducks, just a different order.

The secret to their staying on course during high winds is found and seen in their feet. Check these puppies out.

Weird, right?

Their feet have 2 – 3 long toes that are actually broad lobes, which are adept for land and water. They help them kick through water and their palmate toes fold back when they need to walk on land. Additionally, those odd toes are used to help them run on the surface of the water to get themselves airborne.

Lastly, their feet are used for fighting with other coots for territory, mates or food.

Built into the design of these animals is all they need to stay afloat and on course during the fiercest winds. Their weird feet, strong legs and even their internal wiring keeps them warm, on course, and strong for whatever Mother Nature brings their way.

Pretty cool, yeh?

But let’s look at other birds. Birds respond to high winds differently.

Some keep track of barometric pressure and postpone their migration. There are even some birds that fly exhaustively into the eye of the storm and keep pace with it until it dies down! Now, THAT’S strong and crazy!

Small birds, like chickadees and wrens, who don’t fly long distances will fly even less during high winds. Bluebirds and woodpeckers, who are cavity dwellers, will simply stay inside in the winds.

Solitary birds will shelter in the high grass and the perching birds have talons that lock onto branches. This lock mechanism is a reflex which requires no additional energy and so the bird can even sleep, locked on to the branch during a hurricane!

In crosswinds, while maintaining their flight speed, birds have the ability to keep their heads steady and pointing in the direction it is going. It then turns it’s body into the wind to offset the wind gusts blowing against it. All the while they are managing their steady head and body sail, they are flapping their wings at 14 flaps a second! Talk about stability??!!

Ornithologists tell us that there are 2 reasons birds survive high winds:

  • location – they take advantage of their surroundings, habitat
  • preparation – they are designed to survive in bad weather

Part of this preparation, or design genius is their “counter-current exchange”. This is the design in birds legs where heat is returned to its body and cold to its feet thereby allowing them to stand on cold ground and not get cold. This is just one of the unique features birds have to help them survive winds. What about feathers, eyes, wings?

Have you heard about the feral horses in North Carolina and how they survive the hurricanes there?

Do you know how sharks know to get out of the shallow water before a hurricane arrives?

Pick an animal. I challenge you to find one that has not been designed to survive and therefore stand in high winds.

It therefore follows, that we too as members of Kingdom Animalia have been designed to stand in high winds.

So please remember that, there are no crosswinds, no opposing winds, societal, political or media winds that blow against you that you have not been designed to withstand.

Your Creator designed you with everything that you need to not only survive the blowing winds against you but keep your head up, your course sure and your weird little feet on solid ground, or paddling through the deep waters.

Be strong, my friends. You were built for these times, to stand against the winds.

Cheers to you.

“Us verses Them”- A Time-tested Solution

Sunday Sermon 1.23.21

The nation I live in is changing and I don’t recognize who we are any longer and I wonder where we are headed.

There are terms and words and descriptions and ideas I don’t understand; words like- woke, intersectionality, gas light, call-out culture, and microaggressions, to name a very few. I have been learning a great deal and trying to make sense of it all.

Perhaps that is why, over the holidays, upon the recommendation of my son, I read and thoroughly enjoyed the book, “The Coddling of the American Mind“. (G Lukianoff, I. Haidt) In the book, the authors address many of these terms giving their foundational meanings, as well as submit what they call 3 great “Untruths”. These untruths, according to the authors, are well intended, but bad ideas being prominently promoted in academia, our culture, society and law for the past many years.

One of their ideas, using my summarization is, “Us verses Them”.

Listening to and watching events of recent months in our nation, “us verses them” is clearly visible. We are never without someone or group raging against another group. One set of beliefs is criticized and mocked by another point of view. “Us verses them” is at play.

We have been segregated into groups based on immutable qualities and characteristics that we did not even choose because they were beyond our control. We have been pitted against one another in an effort to divide us even more. “Us verses them” is at play.

But today, I want to offer a time tested solution to “us verses them”, and in doing so reaffirm a much needed foundation for not only our personal lives but our nation. For when we build on sure foundations, our security is guaranteed no matter the blasting “us verses them” winds that blow.

What foundation is that?

God made all of us.

Without exception, we were all made in God’s image, each unique in design, purpose and destiny. What God makes is good! He don’t make junk or second class citizens. Genesis 1-2

He breathed life’s breath into our lungs and as a proud parent, took joy in his design and marveled at our likeness. Created in His image, God’s idea, His child – that is who I am. I am because of Him, He made me. I had nothing to do with it. He loves me just the way He made me. Psalms 139; Psalm 71:6; Jeremiah 1:5; Galatians 1:15

All 7.8 billion people on the planet right now can make the above proclamation. God made each one of them, delights in each of them and loves all of them equally.

Please review these ancient verses:

  • Genesis 1:27 – God made man in his image, male and female he created them
  • Deuteronomy 10:17 – He does not show partiality
  • Acts 17:26 – From one man he made all nations
  • Acts 10:34-35 – God shows no partiality
  • Galatians 3:28 – There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
  • Colossians 3:11 – Here there is no Gentile nor Jew, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all
  • Acts 10:28 – But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.
  • Malachi 2:10 – Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us?

God, through Jesus death on the cross, erased forever any lines of segregation, prejudice and “us verses them”. Talk about inclusion?!

As new creations in Jesus, we are given His identity, and that identity has nothing to do with religious, ethnic, cultural or socioeconomic features. Galatians 3:26-29

Our challenge then, is to keep putting off our old identity and way of referring to others and put on the new man which should be without distinction. Colossians 3:8-11

We are reminded that upon Jesus death, when the veil in the Temple was ripped in half, it represented the destruction of barriers and all dividing walls of hostility, thus making one new humanity, in peace and reconciled to God. Ephesians 2:11-22

These and other ancient scriptures remind us of the basic foundation of the oneness of mankind. All of us made by God, in His image, for His pleasure. All. of. us.

But what happens is we forget. And when we forget, we inevitably end up sitting in judgement of others. Isn’t that prejudice? And what results is an “us verses them” mentality, or perspective. Voila, that’s where we are today.

Not one of us is without guilt here. We are not perfect and yet, we still need to strive to live by our foundation(s). That is the beauty of walking with Jesus; he loves us enough to stick with us as we change and to allow us to fail as we grow along the way. But he loves us so much He will not allow us to remain the same. Made in His image, we have our work (actually His work in us) cut out for us, right?

Jesus walked with Pharisees, tax collectors, fishermen, men, women, Jews, Greeks, soldiers, prostitutes, thieves, lepers, Samaritans, the demon possessed, rulers, peasants… you name it. Jesus not only associated with but loved equally everyone. He even took flack from others that He did so.

His heart was always driven by love and mercy. His heart was free from prejudice and favoritism. He was not partial. He is our example. In Him there is no “us verses them”. He loves us all and expects us to do the same. He told us so in John 13:34, “Love one another as I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

This foundation of love for all, because we are all made in the image of God, is for both personal and national stability. It is time-tested. It is sure.

Therefore, it is incumbent on us to re-fortify this foundation in our lives. To fight against the tendency to see things as “us verses them”, but rather to show mercy, love, and grace for all – period.

So, as I am learning these new terms and labels in our society, I will also seek to live without them and stand firmly upon the time-tested solution of love, mercy, and grace for all.

Lord, please help me, help us – all.

Go with God.

After You Have Done Everything, Stand.

This is a familiar quote from around 60 AD by an imprisoned Roman citizen.

Consider. After you have “done everything”, don’t you want to just sit? Rest. Cool off. Check out for a bit? Unplug? Disengage? You’re pooped and are not feeling like standing.

Hey, when I was teaching, on my feet all day, doing everything, guess what I wanted to do and did when I got home? Not stand.

Now, when I work, mostly short shifts of 3-5 hours on my feet, having done everything, I still want to sit not stand afterwards. What about you?

But these 3 images came to mind today and with them, our title phrase – after you have done everything, stand.

The first image – A Sentinel Tomb Guard; standing guard at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington, VA.

The second, the brave men of the 28th Regiment, 5th Marine Division, US Marines, who on Feb. 23, 1945 captured the extinct volcano, Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.

The third picture, a WW2 Veteran, who from a wheel chair and a long life of sacrifice, paid honor and tribute during a patriotic parade.

These men demonstrate what it means “after having done everything – stand.” Allow me to explain.

The Tomb Guard, a member of the 3rd Regiment (Old Guard) US Army, volunteers for this assignment and gives him or herself to the strict training that goes with it. After basic qualifications with personal records, financials and family, if accepted, they begin training.

This training is harsh, beginning with 2 weeks of basic instruction, uniform prep, walk sequence and behavioral assessments. Then they are tested. This test is the first of four that they must pass during their entire training period. If they do pass, they will spend the next 7-8 months in 12 hour duty days with homework galore. They are not allowed any TV, may not even acknowledge jokes while in quarters, may not acknowledge the public, and are not allowed even to speak to another guard unless spoken to.

During this period they are prepped and tested on three more occasions in these areas:

Uniform – they are allowed 2 minor infractions, no major infractions, and all items never more than 1/64 inch out of place. Imagine, they must pass a 100% inspection, where 97% is failing! There has never been a 100%.

Knowledge – they must memorize a 17 page packet with info on Arlington Cemetery and write it out, including punctuation. Passing the test with no more than 10 mistakes. If you miss a comma on 2 pages, that is a double fail.

Performance – On a 200 point inspection you are allowed no major infractions, 2 minor infractions. This includes performance on foot placement on the mat and cadence while walking the mat. They aim for a 72 beat per minute cadence.

There is a 10% completion rate of passing these 4 tests. Guards who fail the last test, may test again. If you fail again, you are released. You can come back but must start from the beginning. If you pass, you are a Fully Qualified Sentinel and earn the Tomb Guard Identification Badge, which is sterling silver and worn over the right, breast pocket.

While on the 24 hour duty then, every changing of the guard is evaluated and any infractions result in being released. So these highly regarded Sentinels are always doing everything to stand.

The standards for revoking their badge are the only ones in the military that are based on personal conduct. Any felonies or DUI’s means their badge is taken away and their name is stricken from the esteemed record.

These men and women, have truly done all, and their goal is to be standing in the end! If they are not standing in the end, their work has been in vain. In fact, that’s when their training comes fully into play. Standing in the end is the point of their training.

When the 4th and 5th Marine Division invaded Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945 their goal was to secure the island as an important airbase for fighter escorts and emergency landings between Japan and the US bases in the Mariana Islands. Their 36 day assault on this “Sulfur Island” of the extinct volcano Mount Suribachi, was a deadly one in which we lost 7,000 Marines and another 20,000 were wounded.

These Marines reached the base of the volcano on Feb. 21 and by nightfall the next day they had surrounded the mountain. On 2/23, by 10:30 AM they had reached the top and raised a small, American flag. Later that afternoon, 5 Marines, and a Navy Corpsman returned to raise a larger, visible American flag.

This image of that second flag raising was sent back to America and along with that flag raising, so too rose the spirits of Americans and brave warriors in each of the theatres of war.

Perhaps you’ve seen movies or read stories of the bravery displayed on that airstrip. Admiral Nimitz, famously immortalized it this way,

“Among the Americans who served on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

Pacific Fleet, Commander in Chief Admiral Chester W. Nimitz

That very image became the template for the world’s largest, bronze statue – the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, VA, AKA the Marine Corps Memorial. It’s 32 foot high figures, raising the 60 foot flag stands to remind us all of the bravery demonstrated by those Marines in that battle, who did all they possibly could to stand at the end of that battle and raise that beautiful American flag.

Lastly, that WW2 Vet, a member of The Greatest Generation, after having served, lived, fought demons in country and his own personal demons at home, after everything he had been through he chose to stand, again.

With every excuse to sit, and stay down and given every exception by others to sit, he was driven by all that was within him, by all he had been through, by all that mattered to him, and by all he had fought to preserve to STAND. He had done all and now he would stand.

The training, the battle, the long fight… what is it for if not for us to stand in the end?

After we have done all, it is time to stand; maintain our position, hold down the victories, show off our training and execute the strategic plan and purpose bred into our fiber. It’s not time to sit, hold back, give up, or rest.

If you have done everything you know to do, up to this point- then it is time for you to stand your ground.

Cheers to you.

Props to Peter

Sunday Sermon 1.16.21

What would compel a person to step out of a boat that is in a storm?

As a sailor, who enjoys sailing the coastline of Southern California, this question gripped me, “Why would anyone leave a boat in the middle of a storm?” Consider it, why?

The foundation story for this question is found in Matthew 14:22-34, where Peter, a new follower of Jesus, aboard a fishing boat (sail boat) was, along with his other disciple buddies caught in a fierce storm. Here are the conditions on the lake, when we pick up the story:

  • it was dark at night
  • they were far from land
  • they were being pounded by high waves
  • there were strong, opposing winds

The men on board this boat were not having a good time! In fact it was dire for them.

Again, from my own personal experience, were I aboard Lady Debra in these four conditions, I would be absolutely terrified! Which is why I was wondering why leave the boat? What could ever be so motivating that you would actually step INTO these conditions without the protection of the boat?

(I can honestly say that each of these four conditions are ones in which I would NEVER sail. I don’t sail at night and get concerned when the sun is setting and we are still out. I choose to sail, nearly always, with land in sight. High waves and strong winds are no-no’s for me. Absolutely not, no way, not me on my boat!)

The boys were in a very difficult situation that did not look good at all. The best thing coming was dawn.

As the story goes, “Just before dawn, Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake”. Matthew 14:25 Or put another way, “walking on the waves.”

Now we have some good news appearing. Jesus is showing up in the midst of the storm, walking on top of its waves. A lot could be said about this, but let’s focus on the disciples, who responded with terror, thinking he was a ghost, and crying out in fear. Matthew 14:26 To them, Jesus showing up like this seemed to add to the terror of the moment. Oh no, a ghost too, we’re gonna die! We’re dead.

Jesus wasted no time, and spoke to them across the waves and in the wind and said,

“Be brave and don’t be afraid. I am here.”

Matthew 14:27 TPT

These are reassuring words, for sure! We will come back to them.

Peter, upon hearing Jesus’ words responded with a statement, that on its face, to me seems odd. He said,

“Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” (and waves and winds, in the darkness a long way from shore)

Matthew 14:28

Herein lies, our opening question. Why in the world would anyone leave a boat and step into the storm surrounding it? That’s crazy!

Well, I thought of 3 reasons why someone might do that –

  1. the ship is sinking – escaping it may save my life (remember Titanic?)
  2. suicide – taking a permanent solution to a temporary problem
  3. delusional – extreme conditions at sea causing me to see ghosts

Clearly, none of these apply to Peter and the gang. So why step out into those conditions? Why?

I can vividly imagine these conditions on the lake and the guys in the boat. I can vividly see the waves overwhelming the boat and the winds opposing their every attempt to right the boat. I can imagine the panic of darkness in this storm all the while knowing there is no land in sight or even near. This is real in my minds eye. This is horrific.

And yet Peter steps out of the relative safety of the boat and into the uncertainty of this dark storm. Why? What motivates him?

In one way, Peter’s statement back to Jesus is not unlike what many of us have said; Peter said, “if it’s you…”.

How many times have you said or heard said,

  • God, if you’re real…
  • God, if it’s really you…
  • God, if you’re in this…

That part I get, I understand because I have done it, said it. How ’bout you?

But Peter’s “conditional statement” If it’s you… then tell me to come to you…” puzzles me.

In math, the conditional statement formula is, p ➡ q. P equals the hypothesis, q equals the conclusion and the arrow shows the logical connection.

To me, I fail to see the logical connection between the two. It is not logical to come to Jesus on the high waves in this storm, yet it for sure is a conditional statement. So, what’s the connection? Why did he leave the boat and step willfully into the dark storm?

When Jesus responded to Peter’s statement, he did so by simply saying to him, “Come, join me.” Matthew 14:29

Peter made the connection and stepped into the stormy waves, not the glassy lake. Peter stepped into the roaring winds, just as the new day was dawning. Peter left the little safety he had in the storm tossed vessel in blatant defiance of all things logical. Yet, for him it made totally, logical sense to step towards Jesus on the turbulent sea.

Why?

Remember what Jesus told the guys when they first saw him on the water?

“Take courage. I am here. Don’t be afraid.”

Matthew 14:27 NIV

THAT statement is the key! THAT statement is Peter’s motivation! THAT statement was Peter’s reason for stepping into the storm and towards Jesus! THAT statement!

Peter was familiar with part of THAT statement. He’d heard about it for his whole Jewish life.

He’d heard how his ancestors had at one time called their God Elohim, (this is a title, not a name) until Exodus chapter 3, when God revealed to Moses His name as “I AM”. Exodus 3:14

He’d heard how I AM had delivered the Israelites from 400 years of slavery, sent plagues and judgment to Egypt, parted the Red Sea, delivered them from enemies, armies, threats, disease, judgment and so much more.

He’d heard that I AM was the source of all power and eternal in nature. How I AM was self-sufficient, self-sustaining. How I AM was and is and will be forever the same omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God of the universe.

He knew the name I AM. He’d heard it his whole life. He believed in I AM as the God of his ancestry.

NOW, Jesus, the one he had chosen to follow, was standing before him, declaring to him, “I AM. Don’t be afraid. Come to me.”

Peter now saw Jesus as the Almighty, omnipotent, self sufficient, name above all names, God who is in control of all things. THAT was his motivation for stepping out of the boat and into the storm. THAT was his solid ground he stepped onto when he left that boat.

How could he go wrong stepping towards I AM? There was no fear, no hesitation. When I AM says “Come to me” you step towards Him. Confident. Sure. Unflappable. Secure. Certain. Comfortable. Unshaken. Doubtless. Peaceful.

Even though “I AM” or the “tetragrammaton” appears over 6,000 times in the Bible this one, for Peter was his moment of truth. The dawning of a new day for Peter’s understanding of who he had committed his life to follow.

Although scribes through the ages could not say I AM out loud, nor fully spell it out, here was Peter walking towards the great I AM, fully able to express himself before Him and be accepted, cared for and destined for greatness

I AM brought proper perspective to Peter. Peter saw that, when he saw Jesus as the great I AM.

When you realize the great I AM is in control and calling you to come close to Him, you come close to Him, regardless of stormy circumstances, dark times, opposing winds or overwhelming waves. It makes perfect sense and is the only logical thing to do.

THAT would compel many to leave the boat and step into the storm.

So I say, “Props to Peter!” (Lord, help me.)

Go with God.

Digital Dependence

That’s the phrase I woke up with.

Whhaat? Why? So after some coffee and AM focus, I dove in to investigate this phrase.

Digital. What does that mean? Go ahead, how would you define it? Ummm, having to do with digits???, the internet??? How are you doing? Easy? Challenging?

“Digital, in its broadest sense, is any piece of technology that connects people and machines with each other or with information.” According to Leighton.com/whatdoesdigitalreallymean

For us old timers, we first knew it as IT – “Information Technology”, and it was how documents, spreadsheets and databases created information through the use of hardware, software and their necessary methods.

The term digital has now superseded IT and includes the addition of social media, mobile and cloud services.

But why does this matter and why should you keep reading?

Because we are living in a digital world and it is changing rapidly. So fast, in fact, that we cannot keep up with it, nor can our legislation. It, this digital world, is at the forefront of our First Amendment rights and the loss of them.

From October 29, 1969, when the US Dept. of Defense’s ARPANET delivered it’s first message from UCLA to Sanford and crashed the ARPA network, the technology has grown to a rate of 11 new users per second, resulting in one million new users each day. (“wearesocial.com/2019-global-internet-use)

Of the 7.8 billion people in the world today, 4.388 billion are active internet users, representing 57% of the total population; the vast majority of those are mobile users, 3.986 billion or 52% of the total population.

The stats reveal that these users are spending on average 6 hours and 42 minutes online each day. That means we are connected to devices hundreds of times each day.

These are the places those 4.4 billion are visiting during those 6+ hours digitally connected.

Please notice those companies, especially the ones at the top.

Now, we realize that time spent on devices is not all play and scrolling. We are emailing, reporting, comparing, creating, ordering, communicating, you know, actually working. The lines between leisure and work however, are slowly slipping away, as we are responding to emails “off the clock” and checking Facebook while “on the clock”. Our devices and their APPS, all digital, are “making life easier”, so they say.

In whatever amount of time we are spending in the digital world, we are being bombarded with messages of all sorts. We know that our search history is collected and we are targeted by ads and other messages that “they” deem important.

I can’t for the life of me figure out why, on my Instagram feed, since the election, COVID19 warnings and messages have disappeared! Has the pandemic ended? Why is it no longer inserted after nearly every picture? (I jest, but seriously!) Is it no longer important?

But back to the title, Digital Dependence.

Whether we like it or not, we are dependent on our digital world. Banking, PC/laptop data, cloud storage, medical records, records of most kinds for that matter, travel, communications, etc. We are dependent.

So, the first action step for me is to do whatever I can, to cover my butt, in the event those digital connections are lost. I mean it, folks. In the world in which we live, you cannot discount that possibility. My husband speaks of “EMP’s”, but as we are seeing now, there are several more ways our digital world could be upset. So back up, keep hard copies, write things down, arrange for other means of taking care of your business and dealings. Seriously.

Second action step, we need to make any changes in our surfing habits that are necessary. Six plus hours a day for the average person, online???? Don’t tell me you don’t have time to pray, read the Bible, meditate, talk with your family, visit neighbors or call your father.

Third and last action step, beware of the messages that are bombarding you while in the digital world. I am so ticked at some of these that just keep showing up on my feed or in my stream. I don’t believe them, hate seeing them and can’t get rid of them. I refuse to allow them to cloud my thinking and will seek to keep my head above the foggy, rising waters that wants to overwhelm me. The best way to do that, I have found, is to get off the devices!

I am an optimist and I do walk by faith, but the digital dependence we have learned to lean on is teetering, and I feel in my spirit we must prepare, we must beware, we must wise up. Change is coming and we need to be ready for it. Forewarned is forearmed.

photo from Larry Elder

What do you think? Am I off base? Where are you on my three action steps in our digital dependence?

Cheers to you.

When Things Don’t Go As Expected

Sunday Sermon 1.9.21

The previous year, 2020, has provided for all of us more than ample situations or events that most certainly did not go as expected. Were we to have a race writing things down, the only thing slowing us down would be our ability to write fast and the fact that no one would really want to win the race.

And here we are only nine days into the new year and that list just keeps growing. So many things are not going as expected. Not even close.

Shoot, here in my house, we were expecting a wonderful two week visit over the holidays with our son and his new wife – we got that and more – Covid. All four of us! So we actually got a plus three week visit instead.

Here’s the thing, when your life belongs to Jesus, God uses things intended to harm you for His good.

“You intended to harm me but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done.”

Genesis 50:20

It sometimes is a hard pill to swallow, but He really does “work all things for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

All things means just that – all things!

Personal issues, relational issues, family, work, school, politics, church, community, health, financial, supply, housing, pets, neighbors, business, government, all things!

He works in each and every situation, always, to bring good from it for us. He is God, that is who He is and that is what He does.

“No weapon, (plan or purpose, idea, threat, legislation, edict,) formed against thee shall prosper…” Isaiah 54:17

When faced with the unexpected, watch what God can and will bring from it for you. Take a look at these few bible characters to get you going:

Joseph – the earlier quote from Genesis came from his lips after his brothers dashed his dreams by selling him into slavery in Egypt. There, after many years in prison, he eventually became the Egyptian vizier, 2nd in command. His dreams fulfilled and his brothers bowing down to him.

But consider how many times things did not go as expected for him. Goodness! Our hearts bleed when we recall so many injustices and seemingly bad outcomes for him. Beaten by brothers, abandoned, sold, forgotten, imprisoned, mistreated, ridiculed, forgotten again, promoted, falsely accused of rape, imprisoned again, promoted again, respected, empowered, honored, restored to family, blessed his family and the nation.

Joseph’s life is a vivid example for us of how all things really do work for good. All things are not good, but God is able to work them for good for you, and Joseph.

Consider another – Noah. Noah was living in a horribly wicked and violent era; so bad in fact God had it with the world. Seriously. You know the story. Noah built a floating barge under God’s direction and then God sent animals to Noah to fill the barge. Noah, his family (wife, three sons and their wives) all boarded the barge and God opened the windows of heaven and fountains of the deep, and rain as never before seen, flooded the earth and destroyed all mankind.

Did things go as Noah expected? Well, first off, he had never even seen rain before, so right there we have the unexpected. How ’bout the length of time for this rain stuff? Expected? How ’bout after the rain stopped and the flood waters covered even the highest mountains? How ’bout living in an indoor zoo for over a year, with your family??? Expected?

Noah certainly faced the unexpected and he too experienced the faithfulness of God. From that time aboard the barge, God worked for the good of Noah, eventually resulting in a blessing for he and his family and an agreement with Noah’s name on it – the Noahic Covenant; which turned out as a blessing for future generations around the world.

Abraham/Isaac– When this father and son went up to the top of the mountain with all the supplies and tools to make an offering to the Lord, do you think their expectations included Isaac being tied and laid on the altar? Could a father imagine holding a knife over his son, ready to slice his throat as he would an animal?

Why would a father do such an unexpected thing?

“Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.”

Hebrews 11:19

What followed? God worked it for good and revealed a ram, just out of sight to be used as the offering. Issac was untied as were his fears and faith in his dad, not to mention Jehovah God. Oh, and remember what God said to Abraham, “Now, because you have not withheld your only son Isaac, I will bless you and you will be the father of many nations and your offspring will be more than the sand on the sea shore and stars in the sky.” Genesis 22:12, 17

I have several more to share. But stop and think. When things don’t go as expected, what is really happening for you?

Is all lost? Are hopes dashed? Is faith gone? I hope not, but if any of those are close, then this word today is vital for you. When you hit a wall, an unexpected and firm obstacle, God is still at work on your behalf, bringing to you a bigger, broader purpose than what you see in the immediate. He is working whether or not you see what he is doing.

What is faith after all? “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:6

In the face of the unexpected, faith sees God working. We walk by faith, not by sight.

Joseph, Noah, Abraham and Isaac all looked beyond what their eyes saw. They looked beyond the immediate and to the One who was at work for them preparing them for the good which would eventually be forthcoming.

We could add to those men Moses, who went from basket, to burning bush, to bondage to being broke free. Did he face the unexpected, you bet. Did he have faith God was working, sometimes.

How about Rahab? This one was a business woman who happened to offer protection to some spies, and was rewarded by being the only family saved when the city was destroyed. Unexpected? Faith? Yep!

John the Baptist began his life the result of a prophetic word. He was filled with the Holy Spirit before he was even born and grew up being a voice that called the Jews to return to the Lord and His ways. He was all in serving the Lord, all the time. Bold. Brave. Brazen.

Did his life all go as expected? He was beheaded, probably not expected.

But was God at work for good even in THAT situation? It did turn out for good for him, he went immediately to heaven. And it turned out for good for the disciples and for us too. His life God used for good, even though the enemy meant his death for evil.

One last bible character, Peter. The unexpected fisher of men. The unexpected walker on water. The unexpected insightful friend, (YOU are the Christ!). The unexpected voice of Satan, (Get thee behind me, Satan.) The unexpected ear cutter-offer. The unexpected denier. The unexpected witness at the tomb. The unexpected preacher at Pentecost, saving 3,000! The unexpected healer, deliverer, teacher, prayer, leader. The unexpected martyr.

The unexpected result? This man is now listed as one of “these men who have turned the world upside down.” Acts 17:6

Walking by faith, each of these persevered through difficult situations for them. They looked beyond what they saw to a God who was at work on their behalf. The wall was not all they saw. The problem was not all they saw. The impossibility was not all they saw. The unexpected did not deter them or their faith.

When things don’t go as expected, where do you put your faith?

Please allow me to close with a recent personal, account.

My husband had to have surgery on his L4, L5 in his spine. He prepped and was ready for the in one day, out the next expected hospital stay. Seven days later, after having unexpected drug interactions, and him being unresponsive, The Rapid Response Team was called.

During his unresponsiveness, from where we were, we thought we were loosing him. It was terrifying.

But later we found out, during that time of his unexpected, unresponsiveness, he was having an out of body experience, hovering above his body, watching all that was happening to him in his room. He was talking to an old man. Den asked the man, “So I guess now is the time I get to choose whether to go or stay?” The man, whose face was only a bright light, firmly told him, “I will tell you when it’s time!”

Those words sent Dennis back to earth, into his body and into a responsive state. Those words changed his life forever. The medical team, to this day still cannot explain what happened or why.

Den was released from the hospital the next day! Less than 24 hours from when we thought we had lost him. In fact, we had gained a totally new man, spiritual fervor and dedication stronger than it had ever been. His fire and passion for life and the Lord burning brighter than it ever had. God had once again, according to his promise, been working in all things for the good of Den, for us. From this unexpected event, has come Dennis’ greatest freedom, joy, and empowering; and one of my greatest joys and desires.

Covid free and facing the unexpected together with faith.

We serve a God of the impossible. All things are possible with God and our faith will remain anchored to Him, not to events. For when circumstances appear to be harm to us, He intends it for good. He is at work, he never stops working for the good of those who love him.

When things don’t go as expected, have faith and keep going. He is at work for your good.

Go with God.

Strange Things

With such a title, it leaves a wide variety of avenues for possible exploration.

First, although it is a bit tempting, we will not be addressing the similar title “Stranger Things”. You’ve probably heard of it, it is the science fiction, Netflix series about Hawkins, Indiana, the boy Will, the girl Eleven and their battles against The Upside Down alternate dimension. Nope, tempting but not going there.

There are so many times when reading news about my city, my state, my nation; politically, socially, morally, personally, corporately in which I find myself shaking my head and declaring the things I am witnessing as strange. Seriously, where would I begin my list, were I to begin a list of strange things in 2020?

We are living in strange times. Things in nearly every arena are simply strange.

There is already enough about our strange times being written and aired, so I want to go a different direction.

I want to share with you 10 strange and very interesting creatures in our world that I hope will make you smile or maybe even creep you out. But let’s just enjoy looking at some different strange things, shall we?

Axolotl

This amphibian lives in lakes and canals in Mexico and can grow to 18 inches long.

Velvet ants

These furry creatures look like ants but are actually wasps. Found mostly in South America, watch out for them, they are known for their extremely painful sting and in fact are called “cow killers”.

Sparklemuffin

He is also known as the Australian peacock spider. They were only recently discovered in 2015 and measure just 5 mm in length. He looks like he is “dabbing” and in fact, his leg is seeking to attract a mate. Who wouldn’t be attracted to a dabbing spider?

Southern Cassowary

These guys have earned the reputation for being the “most dangerous bird in the world” due to their razor sharp talons they use to defend themselves. So watch out for these flightless 6 foot tall, 190 pound meanies. If looks could kill….

Alligator Gar

This is a fish that grows to 8 feet in length! If you near fresh water rivers and lakes near the Rio Grande to the Missouri River, you just may see one. Sorry, this is just creepy.

Maned wolf

Nope, they are not in fact wolves, they belong to the dog family. That is probably why I think he is sorta cute. Although they are omnivores, they prefer veggies. You will find them in Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and Argentina. I think I want one.

Magnificent frigate bird

You’ve probably seen these before, as their big red sac on the males chest that balloon up are quite famous. Just ask the females. (Galapagos Islands) It looks uncomfortable… yikes!

Jabiru Stork

This guy grows to 5 feet tall and has been known to attack by stabbing with his 14 inch long bill. Ask the zoo attendees in Belize. I wouldn’t want this stork bring my baby, he looks dark and evil!

Pink fairy Armadillo

In Argentina you will find this lil guy, who is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. They are very rare and shy and scientists are still learning about them. Don’t you want to just pull off that top, ribbed layer?

Aye-aye

The aye-aye’s home is in Madagascar. He is known for his bulging eyes, growing teeth and long fingers. He is actually a type of lemur and will forage through the night. He looks like a fun one to hang out with at night, right? Never a dull moment.

Up until a few hours ago, I had never heard of most of these strange things. But at least now, I have more strange things to add to my already growing list of strange things happening in 2021.

Cheers to you, and smiles too.

Fill Your Sails

Sunday Sermon 1.2.2021

Earlier this week I felt impressed to create and share this image –

It is a message that I cannot shake off or ignore. I believe it is a call for us all, for the new year.

Our life is like a sailboat.

It is designed to sail, to catch the wind and navigate the lakes and seas, and then return safely to dock. It is not designed to stay tied up dockside, sheltered from the wind.

Don’t get me wrong, we have spent many wonderful times at the harbor, in the slip entertaining, laughing, talking, playing, and sharing aboard our sailboat. In fact, we have spent more time dockside than sailing. But that is not what the boat is designed for. She was made to sail.

Such excitement overcomes me when I make preparations to actually go sailing. Gauges are checked, items secured, unnecessary items removed, motor started, sails checked, and untied, lines checked, etc.

Then, using the motor, we back out of the slip and head for the open ocean. Before leaving the harbor, we face into the wind to hoist the mainsail, and then continue out of the harbor. Once beyond the jetty, we cut the motor, unravel the jib and allow the wind to fill both sails. We are now sailing.

aboard Lady Debra
click to play video

The wind is the power that drives the boat along. I steer the ship based on the direction of the wind, power of the wind, and our desired destination.

Without the wind, we go nowhere. Or facing the wrong direction in the wind, we also go nowhere. “Luffing” on a sailboat means your sails are not full and the wind is not being harnessed properly.

A friend of mine and I had been out for several hours and we had tacked to return back home. As anxious as we were to return, the wind was not cooperating. There was very little wind, and we were getting nowhere fast. To top it off, we would be loosing daylight soon. Although we were loving sailing, it was now time to use the motor; for without it, we wouldn’t make it back in daylight. (which is a rule of mine)

A sailboat, has a motor, but it’s primary power is from the wind. That is the way of it’s design. The sails are used for receiving the wind, embracing the wind and thereby powering the vessel. As the sails fill up the boat moves. The sails must fill in order for the boat to advance.

If the sails don’t fill, the boat is not fulfilling it’s purpose.

Lady Debra, under motor, not sail

The mainsail and the jib (front sail) are intended to fill with the wind. In this picture, you can see, they are not even up, much less filling with wind.

Here’s the Sunday sermon part, my friends.

Jesus told his disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for the gift that the Father had promised. He told them that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit, and that baptism would endue them with power. Acts 1:5,7

On the day of Pentecost, the power showed up in the form of a strong, blowing wind that filled the house where the 120 were sitting. All of them heard it and then saw dancing fire flames on one another’s heads. Acts 2:4 says that all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.

When we are born again, our spirit is regenerated, reborn, made alive. We are a new creation in Christ Jesus. We are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. Our spirit is alive now, within us.

Our spirit is like the sails of our sailboat. The wind of the Holy Spirit comes to fill our sails and empower us. The power of the wind (Holy Spirit) fills us, drives us, empowers us and allows us to advance. Without the power of the wind (Holy Spirit) we get nowhere. Our sails are “luffing”, we are floundering, without direction or power.

But the Holy Spirit blows on us and fills us we are thereby empowered to heal sicknesses, diseases, and drive out evil spirits. That is what we have been commissioned to do. That is our purpose. That is our call and our destiny. That is what Jesus authorized us to do.

We have been called to cast off the bow lines, leave the safe harbor, and hoist our sails to catch the powerful winds of the Holy Spirit that are blowing.

Mark Twain had it right.

It is time to allow your sails to be filled and experience the exuberance of sailing under the direction of the Holy Spirit, going where he leads and doing what he directs. Trusting him to use you where ever you are.

Your sailboat, life is meant for sharing. Everything that you have gone through, experienced, struggled with, lost to and gained victory over is meant to be shared with others. Your Christian life of peace, prayer, Word and worship is meant to be shared.

This horrendous pandemic with all of its ramifications has provided a ripe seedbed for hungry people, seeking truth, life and hope -all of which you have and have been commissioned to share.

I call forth 2021 to be a season of sailing under the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. A season of leaving the safety of the slip and venturing into the exuberance of a purpose filled life affecting others for the Kingdom of God.

That is what you, oh great sailboat were designed for!

Hoist up your sails and let the Holy Spirit fill you a fresh for an exciting 2021.

Go with God.

Washington’s Cruiser Flag

It was 1775 and General George Washington had personally outfitted seven ships in an attempt to drive the British from New England. He believed it was important to be able to attack the British from sea as well as land. Having already surrounded Boston and trapped the British army inside, his mission was to prevent British ships from delivering supplies to the army in Boston.

These seven ships or floating batteries as they were called, in order to be identified as “friendly” to one another, were flying a flag of white, with a pine tree in the middle and the motto, “Appeal to Heaven”; this also became known as Washington’s Cruiser Flag.

This fleet sailed before the first US Navy had even been commissioned, and was also known as “Washington’s Secret Navy”. These schooners captured many a British ship, including the British Brigantine named the “Nancy” that was carrying over a years worth of supplies. This capture is considered the greatest capture of the entire Revolution and it also inspired the birth of the American Navy as we know it today.

In April of 1776, the State of Massachusetts adopted this flag for its own navy as well as ordered the colors of the uniforms of the officers to be green and white. They sailed twenty-five ships in defense of America and were eventually absorbed into the US Navy.

Why this motto – “Appeal to Heaven”?

I’ll attempt to reel in my US History teacher bend and summarize it like so.

John Locke, one of American’s foremost political philosophers argued that

“When all other political and individual methods of resisting tyranny are exhausted, only “an appeal to heaven” remains.”

Second Treatise of Civil Government – John Locke

In summary, he contended that “no man had inherent power to regulate or restrict divine arbitration in civil affairs. Even in dire circumstances, natural rights transcended the political process.”

It was clear to our founding fathers that “God governs in the affairs of men”, and Benjamin Franklin clearly, and unapologetically stated that. It therefore held true, that in all things, Locke’s motto- appealing to heaven, should inspire the citizenry to work to the bitter end to achieve a remedy.

Locke maintained “people should be diligent to oppose egregious acts through political action. Rather than a tactic of last resort, an appeal to heaven was warning sign.”

Though today, Locke’s motto may be overlooked, it appears to me, it represents the very place we again find ourselves standing. It indeed is our focus, battle cry and our course of action.

I join with Washington, the founding fathers, and other revolutionaries who on behalf of a nation lift an appeal to heaven against all tyranny, foreign and domestic. If not now, when?

Won’t you join us in this appeal to heaven?

Cheers to you.

Messages of Comfort Part 4 Comfort in God’s Power

Sunday Sermon 12.26.20
The fourth and final part of a series from Isaiah 40

As we wrap up our look at Isaiah chapter 40 and the comfort it brings, let’s review.

Isaiah is writing to a nation in deep do do, who’s decisions had turned them away from God and toward certain judgment and doom. He had been warning them of their pending judgment and attempting to rally them back to God. News of oppression, doom and gloom just kept mounting until chapter 40 brings a dramatic shift to the book’s focus.

Like a shaft of light and hope piercing the skies, comes the declaration of chapter 40 and it’s opening first two words – COMFORT, COMFORT.

Resounding through the dark days rings crisp and clear hope, consoling comfort and encouraging vision. In the previous weeks, we looked at these comforting messages – “Comfort in Doom”, “Comfort in Obstacles” and last week, “Comfort and Good News”.

As we close this series, we end with a powerful picture of God’s great and amazing power. The section (verses 12-14) begins peppering us with 10 questions – check some of them out –

  • who has measured the waters in the hallow of his hand?
  • or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
  • who has held the dust of the earth in a basket?
  • who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord?
  • who can instruct the Lord or be his counselor?
  • who taught Him the right way?
  • whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him?

Each of these, gives us the perspective of a mighty, powerful Creator God. His hand holds and measures the oceans of the world. The extension of his fingers, from thumb to pinky measures the length of the heavens. He needs no counselor, advisor or teacher, for within the Spirit of the Lord we find all wisdom, insight, and knowledge.

We can and should find great comfort in the power of the living God. But by choice, we must focus on his power and his abilities, for if we don’t, we too can become discouraged and weary, just like Israel did, in the midst of national upheaval.

His power is over the nations, too. Isaiah reminds us in verses 15-17 that the nations are but a drop in the bucket, regarded as dust, so small they are to our amazing God. Every national crisis, government and situation is within his firm control and grasp. There is no nation or national crisis that he is not involved with. We must be reminded of this.

Our comfort and security come from seeing him, powerful and mighty “sitting on the circle of the earth” v. 22 From knowing that he is in control and there is nothing hidden from him or outside of his power and care.

Read these verses –

“Do you not know? Have you nor heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and his people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them like a tent to live in”

Isaiah 40:21-22

” He brings princes to naught and reduces rulers to nothing.”

Isaiah 40:23

It has always been a puzzling mystery why “God allows” certain things; that I will not argue. In fact, at a recent family gathering, we had just that conversation. We can develop our responses, answers and theories, or we can flounder for a meaningful response. But what I hope we will do, regardless of the outcome of our “why God allows” questions, I hope we fall back on HE IS IN CONTROL whether or not we see or feel it.

He is in control and in the blink of an eye or snap of his fingers he can change things, fix things, heal things, or judge things. He can show up in his power at any time, in any place, in any form that he wants and do the impossible right before our eyes.

In God’s power, I find comfort. True, therein lies a fair amount of fear and respect, but mostly comfort, that regardless of what my eyes see, he is at work!

Isaiah asks the nation of Israel –

“Why do you complain? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; and my cause is disregarded by my God?”

Isaiah 40:27

Are we foolish enough to think that our God doesn’t hear our complaints, whining, cries, requests? Do we really think he isn’t aware of our every situation and bent to hear our every prayer?

Isaiah encourages us to remember, that the Lord “will not grow tired or weary”. Isaiah 40:28

God is not like a man who wears out and grows weary. He never tires of hearing from us, responding to us and working all things in our life for good. He delights in bringing from our rubble and ruins hope, and building again within our heart a safe, strong place of trust in his ways and ability to get it done.

From Isaiah chapter 40, the message of Comfort in God’s power thunders from the heavens and resonates through every human heart on the planet.

We are reminded that even young people will get tired and weary (geesh, what does that say about us “older people”?) BUT –

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar… like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Isaiah 40:30-31

In these days of national crisis, in the midst of waves of discouragement, let us remember to look up. Look to the power of the Almighty God to “lift us up where we belong”, to see things from his perspective, the eagle overview, and to draw from his power in our fatigue and discouragement.

His power is our comfort and his promise is to increase the power of the weak. (v. 29) So what do we have to loose?

Next time you’re needing a lift, remember God’s power is over all. Look to him, talk to him, allow him to lift and empower you.

Allow him to bring you comfort in his power.

Go with God.

Messages of Comfort – Part 3 Comfort and Good News

Sunday Sermon 12.19.20 The third of a four part series on Comfort from Isaiah 40

To quickly recap, as we approach Isaiah chapter 40 contextually remember, the nation of Israel had been facing the rigid edicts and judgments of the secular rulers surrounding them. For the previous thirty-nine chapters things were pretty grim and hopeless.

Then comes chapter 40, who’s first words resound, “COMFORT, COMFORT”. The tone and direction of the remainder of the book then shifts to promises of redemption, direction and purpose.

The whole shift starts with comfort, and that is the focus of this series.

Last week we were reminded of the comfort that comes amid the obstacles that we face, and the first week we saw how comfort comes in the midst of doom and gloom.

Today, we will look at comfort along side of good news. Yay, right?

Here’s the text:

” You who bring good news, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

Isaiah 40:9-11 NIV

Notice the theme in this portion is about good news and those who bring it.

It is interesting to note that twice in this passage the phrase “you who bring good news” is used. The Message paraphrase says it this way,

“Climb a high mountain, you’re the preacher of good news.

“Raise your voice, you’re the preacher of good news.”

Isaiah 40:9 The Message

What is Isaiah saying here?

First off, he is saying that there will be those who bring good news. He is declaring it. Could it be another people coming to bring good news? Could it be from within Israel herself? It could be argued for both.

Here’s the message though, those who do bring the good news get up to a high place, raise your voice, make it loud and clear, and don’t be timid in sharing it! Loud and proud shout out the good news for all to hear. It is much needed!

What is the good news that’s worth shouting from the high places for all to hear and find comfort in?

Here is your God!

Isaiah 40:9

Look no further, lift up your eyes, God is here. God is present. You are not alone. He is with you. Here he is.

Fantastic good news to a hopeless and weary nation. Amazing reminder to a nation that God has not left them. Encouraging declaration in the midst of dark, confusing times. Israel and our nation, “take heart”, Isaiah is saying, the good news is “GOD IS HERE.”

We can declare “God is here” in our life, situation, family, job. We can bring that comforting good news to those around us. We can make it our passion and profession no matter what – “God is here!” We can be the ones who bring that good news into a situation and we can speak it to our weary and worn out hearts as often as we need.

When God shows up in a situation things change. When God shows up people change. When God is present (invited, chosen, & yielded to) look what he brings.

He comes in power, ready to take action. He is the creator of all and will come to take over, take charge, bring order back. He is the Master of the universe and all powers are subjected to Him, so when He comes, everything else must bow. (Isaiah 40:10)

He also comes bringing a couple of things with Him. He comes with payback and He comes with rewards. (Isaiah 40:10)

He is bringing with Him recompense or payback for his enemies. He will show up ready to make amends for the loss and harm suffered. When God is here, so is his promise of recompense. Don’t loose heart, God is faithful and is bringing payback for loss.

When he is present, he also brings rewards for those who love Him.

There are wages earned by those who love Him and the good news is that God’s presence is our payment. Him being with us, through it all, comforts us and is our reward.

But wait, there’s more. (that sounds like a commercial)

The comforting, good news is not only that he is here in power, but that he is here like a shepherd. He comes to his people tenderly, as a caring shepherd who would gather his lambs up in his arms and carry them close to his heart.

Note, the shepherd is hugging his sheep. Touching them, caring for them tenderly. There is no social distancing with Him. He is pulling them close and holding them tight. Speaking to them up close and personal. (without a mask on)

THAT IS GOOD NEWS and very comforting.

As powerful as God is, let’s never loose sight of His tender loving care and compassion for His people. God is love. All love, only love. Even His power is demonstrated because of love.

Today I pray you first of all hear the good news that “God is here” and then experience the comfort of His presence, care and powerful touch.

I trust too, that you will find opportunity to be the one who brings that much needed good news to others. Find that soapbox, be bold – “you’re the preacher of good news.”

Feel His warm embrace enfolding you, infilling you and rest in the assurance that He will take care of both payback and reward.

Find comfort and assurance in the good news today that, “God is here”.

Go with God.

From the Asaph Files

Weird title?

I want to start a series to which I will add information that I have been researching that I feel is important for you to know about. Information about different topics and on different themes.

Because Asaph was a collector or gatherer, I am calling this my Asaph files. Today is the first installment from the Asaph Files.

Topic – The World Economic Forum’s global plan called “The Great Reset”

This past Fall I began hearing about “The World Economic Forum” and its founder and Executive Chairman, Klaus Schwab. What captured my attention was the bold declarations and plans of this group –

“to shape national economics, priorities and business models.”

http://www.weforum.org

The plan of The Great Reset Initiative as stated in the “Sustainable Development Plan Agenda 201” is to institute “a set of dimensions to build a new social contract that honors every human being.”

Now, there are parts of that that sound good and respectful. Of course we should honor every human being, who doesn’t want that?

And that is where I don’t want people to stop listening or paying attention, because this initiative is not honorable to every human being.

Here’s their plan on how they will shape a new economy, set new priorities and business models that “honor every human being”.

First, lest you think I am on some sort of weird tangent or conspiracy theory, here is a partial list of companies that have already jumped fully on board with The Great Reset. There are over 639 global companies on board, I counted each one!

  • American Heart Assoc.
  • AARP
  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Bloomberg
  • Bank of America
  • Chevron
  • China
  • CVS
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Hewlet Packard
  • Honda
  • Japan Bank
  • Kaiser
  • Mastercard
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Microsoft
  • NASDAQ
  • NEC
  • Pfizer
  • Pepsi
  • PayPal
  • Rockwell
  • Russian Direct
  • Sun Pharmaceutical
  • SAP
  • The Coca Cola Co
  • The Lego Brand
  • Time
  • Tyson Foods
  • Verizon
  • Visa
  • Volvo
  • Walmart
  • Zurich Insurance

These companies, along with the big four accounting firms, led by the Bank of America CEO Brian T. Moynihan, are already underway in the execution of the Davios Manifesto and the new “Duty to Society”.

Here is a summary of what they are committed to and how they plan to achieve it. Again, this is research anyone can do, who is interested in what is going on.

The Davios Manifesto (which will be officially rolled out in January of 2021) makes these three declarations:

The purpose of a company is to engage all its stakeholders“. via – a. fair competition b. treating people fairly c. suppliers are partners d. supports the community e. shareholders return on investment

A company is more than an economic investment. It fulfills human and societal aspirations, in a broad social system. Performance is measured not just on return, but environmental objectives.”

A company is multinational in scope and serves all those stakeholders.”

Bottom line here – according to Klaus Schwab, “shareholder capitalism, as we currently know it, must change to stakeholder capitalism.”

Check these quotes revealing their business plans.

As stated in “The Four Building Blocks of The Great Reset”, August 11, 2020,

” 1. “Change our mindset” 2. Set new metrics 3. Design new incentives 4. Build genuine connection”

“COVID19 is redrawing the geopolitical map of the world and providing a unique opportunity to reimagine capitalism and think about the kind of people we want to be.” (TIME – The Great Reset)

Bank of America has released “Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics” that will be added to companies annual reporting in two years.

Folks, businesses as we know them will cease to exist.

The small business I work for, will no longer be able to function as it has for the past twenty-one years. Soon, new metrics will be placed on them, mandating that every vendor in their supply chain receive equal treatment, provide fair and safe work environments, are practicing green practices, and is equally sharing in their stake in the business. My boss will no longer be responsible for his employees but for every person, in every country that he even remotely does business with.

We are told that businesses do not have to stop sharing profits for their shareholders, they “only need to shift to a long term perspective on their mission; looking beyond the next year to the next decade.” (TIME – The Great Reset)

Whaatt??

The small businesses today are struggling the make it into the next year, and are in no position to forecast ten years down the road! C’mon!

With “every country, from the US to China must participate” and “every industry, from oil and gas to tech, must be transformed” wrote Klaus Schwab, we are seriously looking at a plan to fundamentally change not just America, but businesses in America and around the world.

“To rebalance economies” means taking away from those who have and giving to those who have not, across the nations – down the supply chain.

It means the merging of businesses with the state.

It means global government, and one unified global order.

It means no local governments or individual empowerment.

It means that by 2030, no one will own property.

It means international decisions are made over local independence and sovereignty.

THIS, is The Great Reset. This is moving ahead. This is the shape of the future.

“We are at a turning point of human kind – we should not underestimate the historical significance of the situation that we are in.”

Professor Schwab 11/20

DUH. Ya think?

There is so much more I could say and other branches to this, but that is not for now.

What is vital right now, is that YOU be aware of how America and the the world are being set up for CHANGE. There is a serious, global move to change the world as we know it. The plan is clear, in print and espoused by hundreds of global businesses and governments.

I am not wanting to be an alarmist, but a reporter of facts. This is underway!

Be aware. Investigate it for yourself. Take action as you see fit.

Until next time.

Running on Empty

Thank you Jackson Browne for that great song utilizing the famous phrase, “running on empty”. Today, Imma use it. Here’s the song if you wanna listen to it – 1977 baby!!

What do these things have in common?

  • banking
  • taking a vacation
  • catching up with a friend
  • touching base with a family member

When I was tending to some banking recently, I saw a connection between each of these four activities I had just participated in.

Do you see it?

At the bank I was making a deposit.

The vacation was an overdue necessity to retain sanity.

Close friends were chatting about what’s been happening in their lives.

Family love and connection was desperately required, poured out and yearned for.

In each case, a deposit was required to avoid running on empty, or perhaps to refill where the warning light was already illuminated.

Triple A keeps records of how many people run out of gas and receive their assistance. In 2006, 116,000 motorists ran out of gas.

I wish I could tell you how many people run out of gas emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually, or how many are running on empty right now. I bet it would be many of you.

There are signs when your car is nearing empty. That light illuminates on your dashboard and signals you have 30-50 more miles to go before you will be on empty. After that, there will be no more going until you refill.

And if you do completely run out of gas, because your car is fuel injected, meaning the pump is inside the tank, that pump will be running dry which is harmful to the pump and engine and can cause costly damage.

When you do refuel, it then takes time for the gas to pump through the pump and carburetor, crank the engine and then it will finally start up again. Hopefully, without any damage.

Let me stick with this car scenario for one more point.

There are common symptoms of running out of gas – running on empty. They are:

  • indicator light on dash lights up
  • car won’t start
  • car stalls out regularly

Me thinks people may very well have similar symptoms when they are running on empty.

Like in the cases above.

It had been years since a vacation had been planned, taken or enjoyed. There were warning lights being ignored, fatigue was making starting more difficult and stalling out more regular.

After several busy and stressful weeks these friends finally were getting caught up. Only to find the fuel tank nearly empty and running on fumes. The conversation was helpful to refill the tanks, but fuel levels were dangerously low. There were many warning lights flashing, damage was imminent and much more refilling was needed.

2020 had taken it’s toll on these family members; the separation, isolation, loneliness, stresses, numerous disappointments were emptying the tanks. Phone conversations for temporary refueling were helpful, but what was needed was face to face, extended time being together, and that was coming up this week!!!! Tons of warning lights, stalling and just not being able to get motivated were signaling it could not come fast enough. They were running on empty.

The bank account was in need of a deposit as well, before it too became too dangerously close to empty. Luckily, a hefty deposit saved the day and things kept running.

I am concerned about you, about people today. Are there warning lights trying to tell us we are about to run out of gas? Are we in need of a deposit? Emotional deposit? Physical deposit? Spiritual deposit?

I urge you to stop and take notice. Do not go one step further without evaluating your fuel levels. Are you low on emotional fortitude? Physical energy? Spiritual drive?

Have you been finding it difficult to get going, or start things? Is your motivation nill and interest low?

How are you doing with completing tasks? Do you finish, make it through to the end or stall out somewhere before?

These are signs that you are running on empty, that you need a deposit of some sort.

For me, I recognize the signals in my life when I am running on empty; irritable, antsy, unhappy, hard to please, selfish, tired… Anyone else?

And for me, usually what is needed most is I need to get outside and spend time alone out there just being. Unplug, disconnect and refuel. Get my personal tank resupplied.

Jackson Browne had it right when he said, “Looking into their eyes I see them too… running on empty…” “Running on empty, running blind.”

Get refueled, refilled, make those deposits, receive those deposits and heed the warning signs. Keep yourself from running on empty.

Cheers to you.

Messages of Comfort – Part 2 Comfort in Obstacles

Sunday Sermon 12.12.20 This is the 2nd of a four part series from Isaiah 40 on Comfort

Look no further, here you will find COMFORT, encouragement, help and hope.

Regardless of the previous voices that you have been hearing, this voice, right here, is speaking comfort – freedom from pain or constraint and ease of grief or distress.

Busting into your world of distress, weariness, and discouragement is a resounding voice calling – “Make room for the Lord! Get ready. Give Him space.” Isaiah 40:3

Keep reading and I will show you how He comes to bring you comfort from:

  • depression
  • mountains of trouble
  • rough places
  • corruption

All of these situations are spoken of clearly in Isaiah 40.

Isaiah 40 represents a dramatic shift in the book and that shift starts with a comforting voice speaking into these obstacles in our life. Check it out.

To begin with, the comfort offered here comes from the arrival of the Lord. By that we mean, God’s presence actually showing up in your life and situation. Make space for Him, make way for Him, prepare for His presence in your life. He’s coming to bring you comfort.

Are you prepared for His presence to overwhelm you, right now, as you sit there? Make yourself ready, prepare your heart to receive the provision that comes with His presence. Stop, focus, breathe deeply, soak Him in.

When He arrives He promises to do several things. The first one mentioned in Isaiah 40:4 is –

“Every valley will be raised up”

Valleys are low places, depressions in the landscape. Many times surrounded by mountains and covered in shadows. Valleys can be lonely places, dark places, isolating places. Psalm 23 tells us there is a valley of the shadow of death.

These valleys represent depression. In the low places of depression, His presence will overshadow you. His presence will comfort you. His presence will raise you up. EVERY VALLEY WILL BE RAISED UP.

He wants you to be free of depression and hopelessness. He has a plan for you and a future. He knows your path and will walk with you through the valley to the other side. Make room for Him. Prepare for His presence. Place you hand in His and allow Him to lead you through your depressed valleys and raise you up.

Next He promises –

“Every mountain and hill will be made low.”

Those mountains of troublesome ideas, thoughts, and plans that are so big they can be scary… He will bring them down to size!

Mountains are huge obstacles and sometimes the thoughts within our minds are huge obstacles. Other times, the obstacle is a mountain of seemingly unsurpassable roadblocks. No matter what, whether facing the mountain and even the smaller sized hill, we can find His comfort.

In scripture mountains represent governments. So even when government seems like an obstacle, God promises to bring them down to size.

Remember Jesus told his disciples, “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”, and it will move.” Matthew 17:20

I’m still working on that kind of faith. I guess I still don’t have even a tiny mustard seed worth yet, but I’m not giving up, and I am still believing. I will exercise my faith, to see His presence and comfort in the face of my mountainous obstacles.

The third promise He gives us is that He will make –

“the rough places plain”

Haven’t there been excessive rough places in your life? Rough situations, rough expectations, rough disappointments, rough relationships, rough, rough, rough. Geesh, we sound like a dog.

Bumps here and ruts there. Rough storms and issues to deal with.

Our comforting God assures us that He will make those rough, bumpy places smooth.

Just like He did for the disciples, in that boat, in the storm, He will stand next to you and speak to the storm, “Peace, be still”, and you will see smooth water where there were rough seas.

His comfort, peace and safety come when facing the rough obstacles.

Lastly, His comfort is promised when facing the obstacle of corruption. Look at what Isaiah says:

“and the crooked places plain.”

“Crooked” always represents twisted, and corrupt ways, ideas and people.

Scripture is full of judgment being called down on corruption. Corruption is never blessed or honored and even though it’s judgment may not come until the next life, it will surely come.

But it is satisfying here, in Isaiah 40, amidst this dramatic shift for the Israelites and thereby for us, that we are comforted by the fact that corruption will be made plain. Corruption will be exposed. Corruption will be judged.

These four obstacles have wormed their way into our lives: depression, mountains of trouble, rough patches and corruption. Yet, we are not without hope, consolation and comfort.

Make room in your life for the presence of the Lord. Prepare a place for Him to reside and in doing so you will find the comfort, strength and victory over these obstacles that you crave.

Don’t delay. This can be immediate and permanent.

And should you face these or any obstacles, keep exercising that faith muscle, so that you can reach the mustard seed size.

In the face of all of your obstacles, there is a voice calling to you, offering you peace and comfort.

In fact, “Tidings of Comfort and Joy”.

Go with God.

The Electoral College (and more)

Election season is usually the time that we brush up on what the electoral college is and now more than ever, I believe that refresher course is needed.

America’s form of government and how it works is built upon the the Constitution of the United States of America. The Constitution determines how our government is set up, run and changed as needed.

The Constitution is not a political document, in fact it is the compass for politics, (if there must be politics). It is the guiding force of our nation, providing structure, certainty, safety and direction. It tells us how to do what needs to be done.

All Federal employees, officers, workers, and many State as well, when assuming their jobs, take an oath of office, “to uphold the Constitution of the United States”. The Constitution is our most prized and protected document, for within it we find our foundations.

In Article Two of our Constitution we find our guidelines for “The Presidency”. The four sections of that Article lay out for America, how she is to select the President of the United States. All the details are there.

In Article 2, sections 2,3, and 4 we read about the “Electors”. This is the collection of people that we, today call “The Electoral College”. I will explain more, in a minute.

Let me first say a word about why the framers designed it that way they did to choose our President.

You’ll remember, our original 13 colonies were a collection of small and big states.

From the very beginning of our nation, there has always been heated discussions between the large and small states. Both accuse the other of not understanding their state’s needs or need for power.

As early as 1787, at the Constitutional Convention, the large state of Virginia was fighting with the small state of New Jersey about representation.

Virginia believed their governmental representation should be based on population – because they were big, had a large population, they would have more status and power.

New Jersey believed that each state should have equal representation in their government and therefore equal power. (Just cuz they were small didn’t mean that they didn’t matter, right?)

They were at a stalemate and moving no where fast.

The founding fathers realized that both the big and small states must be represented in our United States, in our government and especially in our elections.

What came of it was what they called, “The Great Compromise”. One in which the states would be represented by population in the House of Representatives (the Lower House) and the states would also be represented equally in the Senate (the Upper House).

This is what has worked for 233 years, and what we call Congress, The Legislative Branch of our government.

Now, this is important and affects our presidential elections too.

Why? Because the founders had no intention of having the popular vote determine the outcome of the presidential election. They knew the large states could easily overpower the smaller states by the shear size of their voting blocks.

Therefore, in writing the Constitution they fleshed out a plan based on “electors”.

How does it work?

Rather than have a candidate win only large states, and thus not truly represent ALL Americans, the candidate would need to earn the electors from many states, thus representing a cross-section of Americans.

The popular vote of a state would determine who would receive those valued electors.

Each state would then hold their national election and it’s outcome would determine how their electors would be assigned.

How many electors does each state get?

They receive the number equal to their representatives in Congress. For example, I live in California, and CA has 55 electors – the same number that represent us in Washington DC.

The electors are people, who are selected to attend a meeting, after the general election; at which time they will cast their assigned vote, based on their states popular vote (except Maine and Nebraska) for President and Vice President. This process is called “The Electoral College”.

What this provides for is the representation of all states in our election. Candidates must work to relate to many states and their people’s needs, many differing ideas and ways. The majority, therefore represents the majority of electoral votes and not the majority of popular votes. Whoever receives 270 electoral votes, receives the majority and thereby represents a broad swath of American ideals.

This is how the Founders designed our system to work. It is not perfect, but for over 200 years it has worked, even in turbulent elections (1800, 1824, 1836, 1872, 1876, 1888, and 2000).

Now here’s the deal, our 2020 electoral college is scheduled to meet on Monday, December 14, at which time, the electors should be casting their votes.

However, because the state legislatures must certify their elections prior to the electors voting, and because that is currently NOT the case in every state, there is the possibility that the December 14 date may be affected.

Additionally, the idea of “safe harbor” – or that safe zone for disputed election results is looming today.

To be clear though, the “safe harbor” ruling says that, “if an election dispute is not resolved by the State by the safe harbor deadline, Congress has discretion over the disposition over the State’s electoral votes.” THAT is a wide open statement in my humble opinion.

Wait, what… whadoyamean?

What I mean is this – the Constitution of the United States has provided direction and guidance for us through very sketchy times, for a very long time. It is the law of the land, and it is working.

However, still to play out are the disputes and contestations – they actually have more time to evolve and will probably be sorted out by some mix of The Supreme Court and Congress. (again, in my opinion)

To close, I am a Constitutionalist, I dearly believe we need it (AND the Electoral College) to be the America we love. I also believe our current election is far from over. There are still unaddressed and contested outliers yet to be adjudicated.

I pray that all of my readers find themselves on the side of the Constitution, regardless of what side you may be on politically.

My continued prayer is God, please Bless America.

Cheers to you.

Messages of Comfort Part 1 – Comfort in Doom

This Sunday Sermon, is the first in a four part series that I have created on Comfort based upon Isaiah chapter 40.

As I look around at my family, friends, community, nation and world I see a tremendous need for comfort, consolation and encouragement.

Battered by uncontrollable edicts, changing norms, judgments, unresolved politics, and losses, people are worn down, frazzled, afraid, and even becoming hopeless. It has been difficult to find encouragement and keep ourselves propped up with positivity.

We are all in this struggle together. You are not alone in the adversity that you face nor in the weariness that accompanies it.

Therefore, today, and in the next three Sunday Sermons, I will share a message of COMFORT, because we all need the assurances and peace that come with comfort.

In the Bible book of Isaiah, the fortieth chapter begins with

” Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”

Isaiah 40:1-2

Notice the double imperative that starts that text. COMFORT, COMFORT.

What we see here is a bold declaration of comfort, consolation and heartfelt pity.

Why?

Because for the first 39 chapters of Isaiah, it was all doom and gloom, judgment, and loss. In Jerusalem things were getting really, really bad. Things were constantly changing and moving from bad to worse. New leaders were showing up with prideful, arrogance and flexing their political and military muscles. Jerusalem was becoming more and more secular, oppressed and just plain worn out. It was looking very bleak.

Chapter 40 begins a new emphasis, a new direction and hope for the remainder of the book. Therefore, it is altogether appropriate to begin with COMFORT, COMFORT.

It is altogether appropriate to have comfort and doom side by side, because the message here is that comfort triumphs over doom.

It has been said, that the seeds of comfort take root in the soil of adversity. And it is true that you may not escape adversity, but you may find God’s comfort in it.

God promises to comfort his people. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.”

To those in relationship with Him, who call Him their God, he promises to comfort. In Him they find peace, consolation, and tender mercies filled with strength and hope. They hear His loving voice reassuring them that their sins are forgiven and their hard service is completed. He promises double blessing and double comfort – COMFORT, COMFORT, because of the double price paid for their redemption.

The comfort He offers His own in the middle of grief, distress and doom is meant to be felt and experienced worldwide. His comfort is available to all.

So, let’s review -in the midst of doom and gloom Isaiah tells the people

  • God is speaking comfortably, to the heart, tenderly to you
  • the time for your release from doom has come
  • your debt has been paid in full
  • a great price (double) has been paid for your sins

How is that message any less important, timely or needed for us, today?

Reread those and be reassured that is God’s message to YOU too.

A dramatic shift occurs when we choose to focus on Him rather than on the doom of the day. Just like Isaiah’s shift in chapter 40, when we focus on God and His comfort and consolation rather than on trusting in the secular rulers of the day, things change for us too.

I trust you will find renewed faith to look to Him above all else and in doing so find new comfort, encouragement and strength to live in daily victory.

“Praise be to the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles…”

2 Corinthians 1:2

John 16:33 -” I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

The God of all comfort wants to be your comfort. He will tenderly draw you close to Him and speak gently to your weary heart. See His love for you and power to lift you and change you with His comfort during these days of doom.

Isaiah 40 is packed full of truths that apply to our times, so I hope you will check back for the second installment of Messages of Comfort from Isaiah 40.

Next up – Comfort and Obstacles – Isaiah 40:3-8

I am wishing you tidings of Comfort and Joy this holiday season.

Go with God.

Thinking of You

No one really knows what races through our thoughts and minds each day.

Some say that the majority of our thoughts are useless and unimportant ones. Perhaps though, there are creative ideas either way, thoughts are much like butterflies, ever flying around from one flower to another, rarely standing still.

Medicines are even given to some who have uncontrollable thoughts, impulses and inclinations in their minds. They actually need assistance controlling and settling their thoughts.

Science tells us the average person has between 6,200 and 80,000 thoughts a day. The numbers vary with a common thought being 72,000 thoughts a day!

If that is true, (Dr. Deepak Chopra thinks it is) that would mean you have:

  • 3,000 thoughts per hour
  • 50 thoughts per minute
  • 1 thought per second

And those thought are fast little suckers; like those fleeting butterflies.

When we receive some sort of sensory stimuli, it takes about 50 milliseconds for our brain to become aware of it. If we are to respond to that stimuli, then that takes 150 milliseconds to take action. (Sciencefocus.com) That is super fast!

I’m sure that you have found all that gobbledygook to be true, each time you sit to try to meditate, or study, or rest quietly.

Your mind and thoughts are racing, and the busier you are, it seems the faster and more distracting the thoughts. So you do your best to allow those butterfly thoughts to stop and still. It is very much like herding cats. Good luck with that.

One last little scientific detail – Psychologists say that “the psychological present” is a window of about 3 seconds. Everything else is past or future. So, the present is only 3 seconds long.

You’ve heard the term… “we need to be present” aka fully engaged in the moment, body soul, mind and spirit. Now we know that present window is only 3 seconds.

We struggle with being present for 3 seconds??!! Focusing for only 3 seconds. Really?

Yep, cuz our mind is so full of thoughts, butterflies, cats needing to be herded.

Can you imagine being the target of all of those thoughts? The object? The intended receiver of each and every one?

Try to, because you actually are.

Every single moment you are thinking of me! How precious and wonderful to consider that you cherish me constantly in your every thought! O God, your desires toward me are more than the grains of sand on every shore.”

Psalms 139:17-18

It is estimated that there are roughly 7.5 x 10 to the 18th power, or 7 quintrillion pieces of sand on Earth.

Now realize, that God’s thoughts to YOU are MORE than 7 quintrillion every single moment! In every 3 second, present moment 7 quintrillion thoughts are coming at you. In the next present moment, 7 quintrillion thoughts coming at you.

He is covering you, every moment with innumerable thoughts. He is present for your present moments. In every breath, every beat of your heart, every thought of you mind – He is showering you with loving thoughts. More than you can comprehend.

“How vast is the sum of them”, David said. I couldn’t agree more.

Recently, I was singing a song, who’s lyrics were :

“Is it true that you are thinking of me?” YES! It is true!

Today, be reminded that God is thinking of you, and it is AMAZING!

Over 7 quintrillion times amazing!

Cheers to you.

Broccoli Man

Sunday Sermon 11.28.20

As I am writing this, we just finished celebrating Thanksgiving a few days ago.

Thanksgiving is an important celebration for alot of good reasons, but I would like to suggest one – because we humans forget, we are forgetful. So to help us remember the good, positive and even bad and troublesome things, we give thanks, we intentionally choose to remember and not become a victim of forgetfulness.

We “forget” the pain of childbirth even though we swear it was so bad we will never forget.

We “forget” abuses of people and keep walking back into the same ole situation.

We “forget” the positive words and remember only the negative ones.

We “forget” the painful consequences of sin and remember the moments of pleasure.

We say we will never forget, and yet there is a generation who has never even heard.

We are a forgetful people.

The Bible uses the word forgot or one of its forms over 110 times. I’d like to share one of them with you.

” … and after looking at himself in the mirror, (he) goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like…”

James 1:23-24

In this passage, James is talking about a person who looks at himself in the mirror and afterwards goes away from the mirror and forgets what he looks like. Who does that? That’s crazy, right?

We all can remember what we look like, isn’t that why we generally don’t like even looking in the mirror in the first place? But no…

I used to explain this verse as a guy looking into the mirror, seeing he has broccoli stuck in his teeth, and walking away, doing nothing about it – sharing his broccoli smile with everyone he meets.

I sat next to a guy on an airplane once with twice this… pleasant flight…

But that’s not really accurate.

You see, in the context of what James is teaching, the mirror isn’t a glass, painted with Rustoleum Mirror Effect. He was not referring to a typical mirror, mirror on the wall.

He tells us that the mirror is actually The Word (of God), the Bible. (verses 22-25)

So here’s the picture James is creating for us – a man looks into the bible, reads it, sees an image of himself, and walks away from the mirror and forgets the image he saw.

I always thought the image the man saw of himself was “the broccoli man” – you, know, the one with sin, blemishes and tons of imperfections, including broccoli in his teeth. So of course, he’s gonna walk away and forget! He doesn’t want to remember what a sinner he really is. Duh.

Alas, again I was wrong.

Listen to what James is really trying to tell us –

“…You become like the person who looks in the mirror of the Word to discover the reflection of his face in the beginning. You perceive how God sees you in the mirror of the Word, but then you go out and forget your divine origin.

James 1:23-24 TPT

What broccoli man really sees in the mirror, the Word, is an image of his own divine origin, created in the image of God. In that reflection, broccoli man sees himself as God sees him, before the broccoli, before all sin, before the consequences of sin.

He sees the man created in the image, beauty and glory of God. No broccoli whatsoever. He sees the reflection of Jesus in him.

Now THAT’S amazing and confusing. Broccoli man looks into the Word and sees an image of himself that he doesn’t recognize. An image unfamiliar. A new creature.

In the mirror (the Word) broccoli man sees himself in God’s light:

  • God sees his heart and not his outer, physical appearance 1 Sam.16:7
  • as having a hopeful future Jer. 29:11
  • as a masterpiece for good Eph. 2:10
  • as a loved child of God 1 Jn. 3:1
  • as chosen, royal, holy 1 Pet. 2:9
  • as worthy of Jesus’ sacrifice Jn. 3:16
  • as a new creation 2 Cor. 5:17
  • as chosen, loved, compassionate, kind, humble, meek and patient Col. 3:12
  • as light the darkness Mat. 5:14
  • as a son or daughter and heir of all heavenly blessings Gal. 4:6-7
  • as being wonderfully made Ps. 139:13-16
  • as a friend of God Jn. 15:15
  • as a place where Jesus and His Spirit lives 1 Cor. 6:19-20

Holy Schmokes!!

THAT is the image broccoli man sees in the mirror. He can’t believe it. That is not who he lives with, who he struggles with, who he thinks about. That is not what plays over and over in his mind. That image is not one that sticks with him easily…

So as he walks away from the mirror (Word), it is not long before he forgets what he saw.

We are a forgetful people. We tend to easily forget the image in the mirror/Word that God is wanting to become implanted in our memory. Over and over God reminds us of how He really sees us. Time and time again, as we gaze into the Word/mirror we catch a glimpse of what He sees for us.

There are times of encouragement, confidence, and strength. Then we forget, wander away from the true image of who we are and who we are meant to be.

Not one of us will maintain the divine image of who he has meant for us to be without returning to the mirror, over and over and over and over. It is by the constant viewing of His image for us, and that image being mixed into our daily actions and thoughts, that helps us to actually remember who we really are.

You are so much more than what you see reflected in that glass mirror!

Turn to the mirror of the Word to see the truly valuable, beautiful, worthy, loved and chosen image of you, that He sees.

Don’t forget it. Work it into your thoughts, words, and lifestyle.

No more broccoli man. His image of you is way beyond that.

Lord, help us to NOT forget our divine image of who you have made us to be.

Go with God.

Are They Really That Important?

It’s true, I might have a touch of OCD, but yes, those things do matter, to me.

What things?

Well, let’s take planning a meal for a large crowd hosted in your home. How ’bout those things?

Pre-prep:

  • house in order (this statement alone is fraught with important details!)
  • menu determined
  • groceries purchased
  • guests contacted and informed
  • seating sufficient
  • kitchen pots and pans, dishes, utensils available
  • lighting set, candles?
  • fragrance determined
  • appropriate decorations in place
  • music and speakers ready
  • food prepped as needed (oh my, details!)

Are these little things or big things?

Then there’s the event, itself:

  • strategic hors d’oeuvers placement (yes! it matters)
  • plate, and napkins too
  • coat, purse placement
  • drinks arranged and all that’s needed for them
  • greeting guests upon arrival
  • directing and introducing each
  • receiving the fares that they have brought
  • dealing with the placement and needs of those
  • keeping a watchful eye and nose on the kitchen, where all the foods are warming or on their final countdown towards launch
  • being hospitable
  • smiling
  • keeping a calm attitude and demeanor

I must stop, I can feel my heart racing…

Remember that old adage –

“The devil is in the details”

I sorta believe that. I believe unattended details cause problems, so I seek to address the details so the problems can be forestalled.

How ’bout you? How into the details are you?

Do they really matter yo you?

They mattered to Martha, too.

She invited Jesus and his disciples to dinner at her home where she lived with her sister, Mary and brother, Lazarus.

When Jesus and his crew arrived, Martha welcomes them and then begins her hostess “duties”. AKA the list above… she paid great attention to those details.

In fact, here’s how the bible explains her demeanor –

“”Martha became exasperated by finishing the numerous household chores for preparation for her guests…”

Luke 10:40 TPT

Oh my goodness, I can so relate to Martha. There have been times, behind my smiley, hostess demeanor, I was exasperated. Am I alone? Have you?

Martha’s exasperation was not only with the tasks needing to be completed but the fact that her sister wasn’t even helping her. Martha felt that she was doing it all herself and it was unfair.

Ouch, I have felt that too. My thought bubble would read, “It sure would be nice to have some help around here. Why am I the only one?”

Martha was so worked up about this, that she went over to Jesus, who was seated in the front room, teaching those gathered, including her sister, Mary, and said,

“Lord, don’t you think it’s unfair that my sister left me to do all the work myself? You should tell her to get up and help me.”

Luke 10:40 TPT

Talk about things really being important!!?? These dinner details were super important to Martha. They were also robbing her of her joy, peace, compassion and keeping her from being with Jesus.

Again, I can relate to Martha and have been robbed of the same.

Imagine it, though… here Jesus is in the middle of a family squabble, now made public. All eyes are on Jesus and the hostess, Martha. Mary, I am sure turns and glares at her sister for outing her in public. This does not look like a happy family dinner gathering.

Martha, bitter and exasperated; Mary, betrayed; guests wondering what to do. And Jesus.

Jesus answered Martha,

“Martha, my beloved Martha. Why are you upset and troubled, pulled away by all these many distractions? Are they really that important?

“Mary has discovered the one thing most important by choosing to sit at my feet. She is undistracted, and I won’t take this privilege from her.”

Luke 10:41-42 TPT

Jesus, He always gets it so right. For everyone involved. Wow!

That whole list of hostess responsibilities… Martha’s exasperation… Mary’s choice… the guests… Jesus … What is really important? What is the one thing that is most important?

All the distractions, the things pulling us away, demanding our attention, requiring our focus… what is the one thing that is most important?

Geesh, does it really matter if the olives aren’t in that spot on the table or the white and dark meat are not separated? Does it really matter if the plates don’t match, or the house isn’t immaculate?

All the distractions. All the details that pull us away from what is most important. Oh my…

Mary discovered what was important.

She chose to be undistracted. She chose to refuse the pull into the unimportant details. She chose the most important thing.

What a privilege to have Jesus’ attention. Mary had it and wasn’t about to give it up for what was of lesser importance, regardless of Martha’s tattling.

My friends, during this busy season, may we not loose sight of what is most important, what really matters.

May we fight the distractions of unending, tiring and draining details and focus on what is most important- enjoying Jesus’ attention and the love of family and friends that surround us.

It is our choice. We choose what is really important to us.

Are they really that important?

Happy Undistracted Thanksgiving.

Cheers to you.

You’ve Never Heard About Goliath Like This

Yesterday, 11/15/20, I woke up burdened by the Lord with the word – Goliath. So I got up and began digging into 1 Samuel 17.

What you will find here is a teaching video of me telling what I discovered, what it means and how it applies to us today.

I feel the urgency to get the word out, so I am using all of the platforms that I have to do just that. These are days for swift and full obedience.

Please take some quiet time to watch and ask the Lord what He would have you to do.

11.15.20

Go with God.

Overwhelmed? Discouraged? You’re not alone.

Sunday Sermon 11.14.20

1. Feeling tired and afraid, he said, “I’ve had enough!”

2. Overwhelmed with complete exasperation, ready to quit, yet emboldened.

3. Clouded in anger and self-pity.

4. Discouraged by feeling unsafe and gripped with bitterness.

5. Life, livelihood and family threatened.

6. Alone, poor, troubled, weepy and sorrowful.

7. Acquainted with sorrows and grief.

Can you identify with any of these feelings? Could they match anything you have felt lately? If they do, you are not alone.

Those statements are taken from seven different bible characters. Take a look at them again. Can you guess which person each statement identifies? I’ll wait…

Lets briefly examine each one.

  1. 1 Kings 19:3-5 – Elijah was afraid, said I have had enough and laid down and went to sleep.
  2. Exodus 32:32 – Moses was exasperated with the people’s sin, ready to quit yet he prayed for them boldly
  3. Jonah 4:3,9 – Jonah threw a pity party, and was angry with God
  4. Job 10:1; 30:15-17 -Job was filled with bitterness, hated his life, felt unsafe
  5. Psalms – David was chased down, his family affected and position lost
  6. Jeremiah 20:18 – Jeremiah never married, had no kids, was alone, ministered alone, was called the weeping prophet, and experienced trouble and sorrow
  7. Isaiah 53:3 – Jesus was a man familiar with grief and sorrow

How did you do?

More importantly, check out these men of faith and the truth about their discouragement and feeling overwhelmed. Amazing, right?

These guys are some of the greats. We love their books, and stories. And yet, they were just normal, human beings, filled with emotions, feelings, and personal struggles too. They battled their discouragement. They fought against being pulled under by their circumstances.

They weren’t anything but ordinary. (except Jesus, of course.)

In the fight with their feelings, they were honest with God, and held nothing back. They were real and raw in voicing their complaints, emotions, and prayers.

I remember when I was teaching, I was always amazed that people felt that they could not tell God their real feelings. To a man, (woman or child), through the years, in schools, jails, prisons, church, and family rooms, people felt they could not tell God they were mad, angry or hurt. They weren’t allowed to, He wouldn’t look favorably on them.

That is so wrong. God expects honesty from us. Open communication about everything.

Have you read the Psalms? Geesh, so many different authors venting feelings and fears. The prophets hid nothing in their expressions to God. They all were totally real with God and voicing their situation.

This week I was reading in the Psalms and came to Psalm 102. Here’s how it starts:

“A prayer for those who are overwhelmed and for all the discouraged who come to pour out their hearts before the Lord. “

Psalm 102 – the title, The Passion Translation

I was blown away!

Here we have in the very first verse such important information.

Remember, the titles of the Psalms, those italicized words after the chapter number and before our verse 1 are literally verse 1 in the Hebrew bible.

We would call its content the setting of the Psalm, and it is. But it is inspired, given by God, and God breathed.

In the inspired “title” of Psalm 102 we see can understand that the verses that will follow are a prayer specifically for the overwhelmed and discouraged. Written clearly, by someone who was overwhelmed and discouraged.

He was not holding back whatever discouragement, bitterness, anger, frustration, or exasperation that he had. He was sharing it all with God. No holds barred. Just open, honest, heartfelt and teary sharing with his Creator.

Without even reading any more of the verses of Psalm 102, we can find encouragement in the title. Encouragement to pour out our hearts before the Lord, even in the midst of feeling overwhelmed and discouraged.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we don’t need the twenty-eight verse chapter. That chapter, as you can imagine, is packed with gut wrenching feelings, and emotions, truths and challenges. But that is not to be my focus today.

Today, the focus is to those of us who may be feeling overwhelmed and discouraged – we are not alone.

In fact, the great Charles Spurgeon, writes this about Psalm 102, placing it in what could be a very similar political circumstance

” It is a prayer of a sufferer – it has it’s own bitterness. This is a patriots lament over his country’s distress.”

We are not alone in our discouragement, in being overwhelmed. Whether it be in politics, education, religious freedoms, family relations or personal wholeness, multitudes have fought and are fighting these battles too.

So in the midst of whatever emotions that have parked on you, realize afresh that God wants to hear your voice pour it all out to Him.

He hears us. He cares. He has compassion. He understands.

In our weakness He is strong.

We can cast our anxiety on Him. 1 Peter 5:7 We can come to Him with any and everything. Matthew 1:28-30 His grace is sufficient and his strength is perfect. 2 Corinthians 12:9

We don’t have to be anxious and troubled. Luke 10:41-42 When we come to Him He will arm us with strength. Psalms 18:3

He has promised to never leave you and that includes even when you are overwhelmed and discouraged.

You’re not alone. God is ever present for you and with you.

You’re not alone in the feelings of discouragement, anger, tiredness, loss and fear.

Pour our your prayer to Him, and experience His strength, insight, peace and grace.

You are not alone.

Go with God.

The Unfinished Work

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

President Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863

This speech, given one hundred and fifty-six years ago highlights still the unfinished work of honoring the bravery, and sacrifice of our veterans; those parents, children, grandparents, friends, neighbors, coworkers, spouses, and community workers who whether they volunteered or were conscripted, served the nations interests rather than their own.

To them, no matter their walk of life, the conflict they were or are assigned to, or their MOS (military occupational specialty), we owe the ever unfinished work of our gratitude and the expressions thereof.

Not everyone is called to serve. Not everyone can serve. There should be no judgment for nor expectation of it.

There should however be expectation by all, of honoring those who do serve; not only those who die in service (Memorial Day) but those who serve.

Those like me, who have not served, will never know or understand fully their service. Their sacrifices. Their pain. Their selflessness. Their longings. Their courage. Their solitude. Their commitment. Their obedience. Their patriotism.

We cannot fathom the depths of their memories, their losses, scars, and injuries, both physical and mental.

We little recognize the demons of survivors guilt, depression, or other PTSD symptoms.

We cannot count the number who have elevated rates of anxiety, substance abuse or suicidal thoughts.

To our veterans, who have given us safety, security and freedom, we owe honor, gratitude, and thanks. To those men and women who are currently serving, we owe the same.

We owe them honor not just with our words, but with our lifestyle.

Living a life that honors our republic. Honors our values. Honors our flag, the Constitution, our Bill of Rights. Living a life not only for our own interests, but for the best interests of our country. Living a life of respect through differences and obedience to laws. Living a life of self sacrifice for the greater good.

“It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated” to giving our veterans the honor that they deserve; with our lips and with our lives.

May we be about this unfinished work, not only this week, but throughout our lives and through the generations that will follow.

I proudly honor and respect:

Dennis “Doc” Chaney, Richard Olson, Andrew Chaney, David Olson, Wes Styles II, Kathy Olson, Sidney Shaw, Glen Foster, Joe Kiszeli, Zack (?Hanson), Aaron Partridge, and Ryan Garner.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart for your selflessness. We are forever indebted to you. Ryan, my prayers still ascend for you, your mission, call and safety.

Won’t you join me in seeking to complete the unfinished work of honoring our veterans?

Cheers to you.

But God

Sunday Sermon 11.7.20

Those two words are like a hinge. They open things up.

When I was teaching middle schoolers, I would often say, “I love the buts of the bible.” Of course, they laughed and leaned in to listen to what in the world I meant.

I explained, that no matter what was happening in the story, when you read the word “but”, things were about to change. Get ready. Then we’d look at examples.

But, what is even more exciting and powerful is the phrase “But God“. Because with God, a whole new world opens up; no more closed, dark, hard and constricting places.

It really doesn’t matter what the situation is before the phrase, because after the phrase it no longer is domineering. Think of it… blah, blah, blah BUT GOD, and now the pivot, the hinge, things change and open up!

Let’s consider a few bible examples.

The first, Noah. He found himself living in a wicked, violent, and evil world. Genesis 6:5-9 says that in Noah’s day, man’s heart was only evil all the time. So, God’s heart was deeply troubled and he brought judgment of the earth.

Noah was to build a giant, floating, farmhouse to carry pairs of animals and his family when judgment came. You know the story, judgment rained upon the world and lifted Noah and his ark above earth and he floated on the waters.

He was in that ark for one hundred and fifty days, that’s five months, when we read this powerful lil verse:

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.”

Genesis 8:1

But God changed things for Noah.

Another good example, most of you will remember is Joseph, Jacob’s son.

Remember, he was the dreamer, who kept sharing his lofty dreams with his brothers, who didn’t take too kindly to his self exaltation. Finally, having had enough of his big dreams, they plotted to fake his death, tell their dad he was gone and get on with their lives.

It worked. Joseph wound up being sold to merchants who took him to Egypt as a slave. There, he ended up serving in the palace and became a trusted servant to Potiphar.

While in Egypt, Joseph went to jail on false accusations, was released from jail and restored, even becoming Potiphar’s Prime Minister of the land.

Eventually, after many years, Joseph’s brothers had to come to Egypt and face him. They didn’t recognize him, but when he revealed himself to them, needless to say, they were frightened, and they had good reason to be. But look what Joseph said to his brothers –

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done.”

Genesis 49:20

But God changed things for Joseph.

But God. A powerful hinge, a turning point, open door.

Last week, I was reading Psalms 64, about secret plots of evil doers, wicked conspiracies, cruel words, and unjust plans. The first six verses were like reading todays news. BUT, guess what popped up in verse seven?

But God will shoot them with his arrows; they will suddenly be struck down.”

Psalm 64:7

In verse seven, after six verses of craziness, is But God, and what God will do in spite of the wicked, evil, cruel and unjust actions. But God, the hinge, the change, the open door.

It was then, that I decided to write this post, realizing no matter what happened in the coming week, the hinge, change, and door that mattered is that phrase – BUT GOD.

As believers, there is always a BUT GOD. Our circumstances, world events, death or the enemy do not get the last word – God does.

There are ample verses to support this thesis. Here are some Old Testament references. Psalm 66:19; Genesis 39:21; 45:8; 32:42; 1 Samuel 23:14; 2 Chronicles 20:15; Psalm 49:15; 73:26.

Here are some New Testament verses: Matthew 19:26; Acts 2:24; Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 1:27.

Of course the bible is filled with stories of miraculous turn abouts, stories of divine intervention. I started a list, but you could too. Just think of the stories you know and see how the hinge, But God changed things.

But even outside of the Bible we can read stories of miraculous victories because of divine intervention. In spite of insurmountable odds and statistical improbabilities, the hinge of divine intervention – But God, changed things.

You can find such stories in the annals of every war of in the world. Go as far back as you like, stay current or don’t bother at all. But know, they are there, documented and clearly But God moments.

God is always the unseen thumb on the scale tipping things on your behalf. It matters little what hardship, trouble, impossibility, danger, defeat, or lack you face. The hinge, the turning point, the change comes with But God.

Therefore, we strive to stay focused above the battle, and beyond the immediate.

“Therefore, we do not lose heart.

We fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:16, 18

But God changes things for us, too. For you, for me, for all who focus on him.

But God, the hinge to open up and unlock new hope, perspective and victory.

Be encouraged today.

Go with God.

American Values

There’s alot to think about on this election day.

For me, at the hub of my thoughts is who America is, who she is meant to be, and who she is to become. For me, it boils down to American values; what are they, what are we doing with them, are we defending them?

Let me share this acrostic that developed in my mind last night.

American

V ote

The bedrock of our nation is that it is a REPUBLIC. We the People hold the power to willingly elect our leaders to represent us and legislate on our behalf. Our voice and choice is expressed via our vote. This can never be diminished or voided. For if it is, our nation will cease to exist.

A rticles & amendments

The document that allows for our republic to function as such, and provides the basis for structure, covering and balance in our governance is the Constitution. That document, its seven articles and twenty-seven amendments protects us as a nation. It sets us apart from other nations. It is clear and specific in its vision of American government and what it must be.

This is why every civil service employee and military candidate must “swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic” prior to taking their place of employment.

L aws

We are a nation of laws. They are laws to be followed by all. Lady Justice is blind, and all are bound by her laws of the land.

A society without laws and governmental control is called anarchy. A society without a moral code will rarely survive for any length of time. America is bound to something greater than anarchy.

U nited

From thirteen loosely knit colonies forged from the heat of revolution into a nation; we have grown into fifty states, one federal district (Washington D.C.), five major territories ( Samoa, Guam, Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico & U.S. Virgin Islands), and nine unpopulated territories.

E Pluribus Unum – our national motto, “Out of many one”. Our national name – UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. We are one nation with many people. We are different but united. The Civil War didn’t divide us nor the World Wars, and area conflicts that followed.

We are a people united. May our name continue to define us. U.S.A.

E quality, exceptionalism

Because of the exceptionalism of this nation, from its inception there have been struggles for equality. Because of our exceptionalism, I believe there will continue to be cries for equality, and justice for all. Because America does value all of its citizens and those seeking to be such, she will continue to rally for the poor, the downtrodden, the marginalized, the disenfranchised, and the weak.

But she will also push back against those in power who hoard their power, abuse their power, and misuse their power over the masses. Equality means all are treated the same. Rich and poor.

S tars and stripes

Our flag, Old Glory, The Stars and Stripes, is our ensign.

Its thirteen, equal, stripes of red and white represent those thirteen original colonies who declared independence from, fought and won that independence against Great Britain. The red forever reminding us of the cost of freedom in blood from the valiant who, through the years have fought for it. The white speaking of the purity and singleness of that commitment.

Fifty, five pointed stars, on a field of blue – the union, forever aligned to demonstrate our commitment to and pride in our fifty, united, states. And just like the people in the nation are different, so too, are the states in this union. All different, beautiful, strong and united.

Long may it wave, and may patriots all over this great nation forever honor and cherish The Stars and Stripes.

American Values

May we not loose sight of who we are or who we are intended to be. May we be as courageous as those who gave their all, as we seek to preserve our precious American values.

May we speak out, stand up, and defend this great nation. She is not perfect because we are not perfect, people are not perfect.

United we stand, divided we fall.

God Bless America.

Cheers to you.

Testing Positive

Sunday Sermon 10.31.2020

We are living in the days of testing.

My husband, the President, and Justin Turner, to name a few. Who do you know that’s been tested? Who do you know that has tested positive?

Of the three I listed above, two tested positive, one tested negative. One failed the test.

The Bible is always relevant, check out this passage about testing positive, in 2 Corinthians 13:5.

Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular check ups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.

The Message

Paul, the writer here, urges the people of the churches in Corinth to test themselves and see if they test positive for Jesus. And if they test negative, to do something about it.

How simple is that? What a clear challenge.

Using the original language, a transliteration of that verse would more accurately read, “Test, scrutinize and prove yourselves. Could your convictions relating to God and your convictions relating to Jesus Christ be approved or rejected?”

I love the fact here that the testing is done as a self assessment. We look at ourselves seeking proof, or evidence that Jesus Christ resides in us. No one else is judging us, we get the first look, the first cut as it were.

How do we know if Jesus is in us? How can you tell? What evidence or proofs are there?

We can tell if Jesus is in us by what comes out of us. The evidence is our actions, words, habits – our fruit.

There are all sorts of things that are tested and done so with the sole intent as to prove its quality and what lies within.

Athletes are tested.

Coach Bear Bryant said, “If a man is a quitter I’d rather find out in practice than in a game.” He therefore designed grueling practices for his teams all intended to show the quitters. He said, “Championships are won when the stages are empty.” He knew if an athlete could survive the practice runs and plays, they proved themselves worthy and passed the test for the big game.

Swords are tested.

Taken from the sheath long before war, swords are tested in peace, under stress, fire and disaster drills when there is no real danger. They are tried, scrutinized, and approved for battle.

Gold and silver are tested.

Gold is put in a crucible and heated to 1100 degrees Celsius allowing the dross (impurities) to rise to the surface, where it is then skimmed off. The process is repeated until there are no impurities left.

Silver goes through “fire assaying”, which is the process of separating all of its impurities. Again, the goal is to test what is inside as pure, to at least 92.5% silver. Thus silver 925.

We, people, believers are tested, too.

We are told in 1 Peter 4:12, to not be surprised or think that it is strange that we are being tested.

1 Peter 1:7 says that the test is to prove the genuineness of our faith and remove the impurities. When the heat is up, the impurities come out until all that’s left is Jesus. So that one day, when the heat comes up, all that comes out of us is Jesus, no more impurities.

Psalm 66:10 – “For you, God tested us; you refined us like silver.”

James 1:2-4 is a classic passage, reminding us that the testing of our faith produces perseverance. Very much like the practice runs and plays by Coach Bryant, the practice sessions for us in the heat of life will reveal what we’re made of and whether or not we are quitters.

Those who persevere, do not quit. With each test, they are proven solid in their faith and test positive for Jesus emanating from their life.

If in the test, they test negative for Jesus, they do something about it. They check the symptoms and do what is needed to correct the evidence.

Testing negative for Jesus is no reason to quit. The testing is meant to produce perseverance in you. Get back up, get right, and keep on walking. “For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.” Proverbs 24:16

THAT is perseverance. Doing something about the negative test and getting ready for the next test. Cuz you know, it’s coming.

The tests will continue until there are no impurities left. Until only Jesus is left. Only his reactions, words, mind, attitude, feelings, emotions, ways, and thoughts.

So we will have ample opportunities for testing positive for Jesus.

And there is even a promise –

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

James 1:12

One other thought in closing.

The heat of life, the tests of life come to us to reveal to us what lies within our heart. To give us firsthand evidence or proof of what we’re made of. God already knows whether we test positive or negative for him – he wants us to know. So he has designed these practice runs to reveal what is in us. Deuteronomy 8:2; Job 23:10

Returning to and reviewing our starting text, the charge is – give yourselves regular check ups – check for firsthand evidence of Jesus in your life and seek to test positive, but if you fail, do something about it.

Because we are living in days of testing, and we need to test positive.

Go with God.

Silent Sentinels

Strong armed by four men and two women, who strapped her to a chair, her arms and legs secured with leather lashes, they then forced her mouth open while one woman straddled her holding it so against her protestations.

A rubber tube was then inserted into her nose and pushed into her stomach. Blood ran from her nose while abrasions and bruises began to appear on her body.

Raw eggs and milk were then poured into the tube which then landed directly into her stomach. She later described the pain as “a ball of lead in my stomach”.

Against her will, she was being force fed.

This happened three times a day.

On one night, the superintendent of the prison ordered many to be severely beaten. These were mid to upper class women, who were beaten by the guards, all of whom were hurt, some to unconsciousness.

This night is referred to as The Night of Terror, November 14, 1917. Lorton, Workshouse for Women, VA, 20 miles southwest of Washington D.C.

These women, arrested and charged with trivial charges like “obstructing traffic”, were given the choice to pay a fine or go to the workhouse, where they would serve six months in prison.

Not all were force fed. But Alice Paul, one who was sentenced to seven months for obstructing traffic was treated so roughly and fed only bread and water, decided to go on a hunger strike. Again, the superintendent decided he would have no one “die” on his watch, and ordered her to be torturously force fed three times a day.

Her crime? Those women’s real crime?

Silently marching outside the White House, protesting the lack of women’s voting rights. Those women were called, “Silent Sentinels”.

News leaked about the night of terror and abuses within the workhouse and two weeks later the women were released.

Three years later, August, 1920, the 19th Amendment was passed assuring women as citizens and providing them the right to vote.

“The right of citizens to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the U.S. or any State on account of sex.”

The 19th Amendment

The right to vote has been passionately fought for. Not only for women, but for many disenfranchised citizens. Our nation has a rich history of many such battles, protests, and yes, finally victories.

The right to vote, the freedom to vote, as with all freedoms, is not free. It has not come without a high cost and sacrifices. Many there be with stories like the Silent Sentinels, who stood their ground amid persecution and abuses and thereby won the freedoms we enjoy.

In 2019, two billion people in fifty countries voted.

Next week, in America, citizens will again vote. (or like me, perhaps have already voted by mail.)

My prayer is that you will be one who takes your freedom and responsibility seriously and with your ballot and voice be that sentinel keeping watch over America and her values.

Cheers to you and to America.

It’s No Joke, it is Real

Sunday Sermon 10.24.20

Recently, while walking through a neighborhood close to my home, I encountered a home that was decorated in the most ghoulish manner imaginable. I have never seen a homegrown display of such blood, death, dismemberment, pain, destruction, and evil. Proudly displayed in the center of the lawn was a sign that read, “House of evil”.

Here on display for all to see was the blatant declaration of evil.

And there on that street, I decried the evil unleashed there, in that home, on that family and in that neighborhood.

Evil is no joke, it is not some cute theme for decorating, it is real. It’s powers are real, it’s players are real and in the end it all will be pulverized!

With that as our springboard, let’s talk about evil spirits.

Evil is not only present in our world but reigning in and over it because of Lucifer’s pride, rebellion and enmity with God as displayed in heaven in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 and then on earth in the garden in Genesis 3.

Because of his iniquity, pride and rebellion, Lucifer was cast from heaven to earth and if we take Revelation into account (12;4), with him he brought a third of the angels. (now also rebellious and following Lucifer in the heavenly rebellion and earthly assault.)

From Genesis until now, he has been, as Ephesians says, “The prince of the power of the air. The spirit at work in the disobedient.” Ephesians 2:2

“It wasn’t that long ago that you lived in the religion, customs and values of this world, obeying the dark ruler of the earthly realm who fills the atmosphere with his authority, and works diligently in the hearts of those who are disobedient to the truth of God.”

The Passion Translation Ephesians 2:2

Lucifer, once a beautiful, covering angel of heaven, now has spiritual dominion over earth and those who refuse to obey the truth. His angels/ demons work diligently in those hearts for one purpose, they are bent on destroying plans, works and people of God.

He has a host of demons/spirits following him. In addition, of course, are holy angels – those who still follow God’s orders. Scripture speaks of these:

Cheribum, seraphim, and rank and file holy angels who each have their own function and realm of service.

Then there are what appears to be a hierarchy of demonic powers as found in these verses:

Ephesians 6:12; Romans 8:38; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Ephesians 1:21; 3:10; Colossians 1:16; 2:15

They are:

Principalities, powers, worlds rulers, spiritual wickedness in high places and thrones or authorities.

The Old Testament speaks of evil spirits that trouble people, stir up dissention, murder, divide nations, and deceive nations. Judges 9; 1 Samuel 16; 19; 1 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 33

It also speaks of a territorial spirit called a Prince that resisted the release of God’s revelation for twenty one days. Daniel 10:12 Here, prayer had gone up from earth, God heard and answered, but “the Prince of Persia” – a demonic ruler had delayed God’s response from being delivered for twenty one days. So Michael, the Archangel was dispatched to assist in the release of the answer and defeat of the hindrance.

There are spiritual rulers over nations, over world rulers, over cities. Evil spirits are real and made obvious by and through people.

The New Testament mentions the word demon 75 times. They are real!

Jesus clearly not only believed in evil or unclean spirits, but he dealt specifically with many. He commissioned his disciples to “cast out demons”. Matthew 10:1,8; Luke 10:17; Mark 3:14

Jesus dealt with demons in the following ways:

He expelled them (cast them out) from people who were tormented by their influence. Mark 1:39 He spoke to them. Mark 1:24 They fell down before him. Mark 3:11 He sent them into pigs. Luke 8:31 He commanded those who were delivered from demons to testify of their freedom, and they gladly did. Luke 8:1-3

Jesus never sent anyone out to preach the gospel without commissioning them to cast out demons. John 14:12 Very interesting.

Demons, Satan and evil spirits are real. Evil is real, and we need to take this seriously, because we are its target.

Ignorance is not bliss. Indecision is a decision. Idling is going nowhere.

Even Anton La Vey, the author of the Satanic Bible and founder of the church of Satan said, “We smile at the amateur explorers of their own inner darkness – for we know they enjoy their brief dip into the pool of the shadow world.”

In another place, he says, “I’m glad that Christian parents let their children worship the devil at least one night out of the year and touch darkness, which is a daily mode of existence for Satanists”.

Evil is real. It is not a joke.

1 Peter 5:8 says, “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” He is on the look out for people on earth who are open to his influences and and twists of truth. Open to his temptations, deceptions, and accusations. He is, after all the father of lies and there is no truth in him. John 8:44

We live under an atmosphere of his prevailing winds. Winds that blow lies, dishonesty, perversion, pride, arrogance, selfishness, greed, destruction, murder, hatred… geesh.

And yet – THERE IS ONE GREATER. There is a conqueror, victor, champion, helper, savior, JESUS.

When Jesus came to earth from heaven he came to crush the head of the devil as foretold in Genesis 3. He came and won the total and complete victory over Satan by his death on the cross and resurrection from that grave. He ascended into heaven the Victor, where he now sits in full authority and power over every other power in the universe.

1 Peter 3:22 – He has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

John 16:33 – I have overcome the world

Ephesians 4:4 – he descended into the lowest parts of the earth and took captivity captive

Colossians 1:5 – he disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Therefore, if Jesus lives in us, the prince of the power of the air has no authority over us. Although he will lie and try to tell us differently.

That is why John said, “Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

Therefore, my friends, it is imperative that we live as “wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.” Matthew 10:16 By that I mean, we must wise up and recognize the evil influences and demonic attacks and not give in or yield to them.

Paul tells the believers “do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:27

The Greek words here are powerful and are clear – they are saying do not, even once, not ever give a gift to or supply the slanderer, accuser an opportunity, a place, room or city in your life!

You see, as believers we have a choice to allow the devil or his evil spirits to gain a beachhead in our life. Those are places he can land and spread out his lies. We give him that gift or supply him that opportunity when we:

  • harden our hearts
  • give way to impurity
  • are greedy
  • lie and speak falsehood
  • give way to angry outbursts
  • steal (time, attention, items, honor)
  • have filthy speech
  • are unforgiving
  • slander
  • walk in apathy
  • don’t know the Word
  • fail to fellowship
  • do our own thing
  • don’t submit to the Holy Spirit
  • check out Ephesians 4:17-5:20 for a full list of opportunities

When these tendencies and choices show up outside our lives, scripture tells us to resist them. James 4:4; 1 Peter 5:8-9

If we find a beachhead begun inside of our lives we expel those evil influences. Kick them out. We ask forgiveness and do what is needed to close off that opportunity and take away every link in the supply chain.

Evil is real. We have a choice. Resist, expel, be free of evil spirits.

For generations of mankind, evil has been real and pervasive. Ours is no different. Evil spirits influencing TV and movies are not casual entertainment. They are demonic and evil and they are no joke.

“The Prince of the Power of the Air” – hummm… that sounds like airwaves.

Dear readers, although we live in the world we are not of this world. If we believe in Jesus, we are not under the authority of the devil or his demonic spirits. We are covered by the blood of Jesus and empowered as children of the King to live in His authority.

But we too, must make it our regular, personal, practice to resist the devil and not give him any territory or room in our life. No more opportunities of unforgiveness, selfishness, etc.

This is where being covered in God’s wrap around, spiritual armor comes in. Time does not permit for explanation, but Ephesians 6:10-18 should be our daily “suit up” list.

Evil is real, it is no joke.

God is good, He sent Jesus to overcome evil and empower us to do the same through the power of the Word of God and the grace and mercy of the Holy Spirit.

Go with God, dear ones.

Butt seriously, folks

We need some levity

This is what I see daily on the lake below our balcony. It is so funny to watch these bobbing bottoms on the surface of the water and then see some of them dive own to grab their meal.

I studied the anatomy of those birds to understand how and why they play “butts up” with intent to share here. But in that process, it seemed way more fun to look at other animal butts and their unique designs and uses.

Why? Because we need some levity in these days.

Bums and their designs are serious business. There is nothing by accident about bottoms in the animal kingdom.

For example, consider the Skipper caterpillars. These guys have a defensive tool called “scat firing”. When they are attacked, they launch poop at the enemy at speeds of 1.3 meters per second. That poo deters it’s main predator, the paper wasp, who is attracted by the odor of the poo.

Butt seriously… wow!

Maybe you’ve heard of the sea cucumbers bum. I’ve held many, but after learning this, that will probably stop. When they are in attack mode, they contract their bodies and eject their internal organs out of their anuses onto predators, often entangling them them in toxic fluid strands. YUCK! No worries about their loss tho’, because within six to ten weeks the thrown organs will regenerate. Crazy right?

Butt seriously…

Here’s a weird one and he lives on you, on your face! He is the face mite – Demodex folliculorum. This guy doesn’t even have a butt. None. Not at all. He eats up your dead skin cells which then stays in his large gut cells. Then after his sixteen day life span, he dies and releases his waste onto our faces once he disintegrates. I’d bet you’re touching you face right now.

A favorite of mine has even earned the nick name “bum breather” – he is the Fitzroy River turtle. This turtle can stay underwater for up tp three weeks without having to take in air through nostrils like other turtles. Why? Because his cloaca/anus extracts 41% more Oxygen thus allowing longer underwater stays. He breathes through his bum.

How bout wombats? They live mostly underground and have an amazing security system at their door. Their backside. It is used to block its burrow to protect itself from predators. It’s bum is super tough, filled with cartilage which sorta makes it like an armored car. His powerful buttocks is used as a weapon and can smash the skull of it enemy into the walls or roof of its burrow. Violent, ouch.

Just one more, giraffes. I used to collect them, especially after having been in Kenya and seeing them in their natural habitat. Who doesn’t love them? Long necks, elegant stride, beautiful colors. But what about their butts? Giraffes twist themselves into what looks to us like uncomfortable positions when they are ready to sleep. They do this to use their bum as a pillow. Yuppers. They actually rest their head on their bottom to sleep their 30 minutes a day.

Butt seriously, folks.

Time and interest don’t permit me to speak of disappearing butts, filtering sand bums, propelling bottoms, or detaching bums. But they are there.

Think about it. Shake your head in wonder. Marvel at the design and purpose in each of these. Such a small, seemingly insignificant body part – the bum. Yet, miraculously engineered, assembled and installed in each living creature. (well almost all)

But seriously, folks,

All things work together for good…”

And aren’t you glad they do?

Cheers to you.

There’s Always Hope

Bansky
Sunday Sermon 10.17.20

Spoiled foods can be beyond hope. A totaled car can be beyond hope. A fire’s destruction can be beyond hope.

But for people there is always hope. There is no situation so bad, no sin so grievous, no distress so deep that hope is inaccessible or change not possible.

Some of you may need to reread that last sentence. Go ahead. I know it is bold, but I also know it is accurate.

To support that statement and encourage you today, I want to take a deep dive into the bible king Manasseh, of Judah. You will find his story in 2 Chronicles 33 and 2 Kings 21.

As we look at his life, notice his situation, sins and distress. Compare across to your life, draw comparisons and gather your takeaways.

Here we go.

Manasseh was the 14th king of Judah and the oldest son of Hezekiah, the previous king. He was born during the 15 years that God added to Hezekiah’s life. Hezekiah was a really good king who followed God’s ways. (that is why in his sickness he prayed and asked God’s help, to which he was granted 15 more years of life.)

Manasseh’s name means “one who forgets”. That’s important.

Manasseh reigned over Judah for 55 long years. In those years he totally undid, disgraced, rejected and demolished all the good that his dad had done in the kingdom. He was one who forgot the ways of his dad the ways of his upbringing.

Not only did he forget, he willfully, actively, passionately and nationally followed these evil practices. These practices were not only a regular part of his daily life, but he had them instituted as national norms in Judah. The entire nation followed these “detestable” practices.

From 1 Chronicles 33:3-10:

  • he rebuilt the high places his father had destroyed – these were sex and religion shrines scattered all over the nation. The sexual perversion involved here is astonishing and involved phallic statues in abundance.
  • he bowed down to the starry hosts – he worshipped cosmic powers and took orders from the constellations.
  • he built altars in the Lord’s temple – cosmic altars, altars to Baal and Asherah, altars to many secular gods.
  • he practiced child sacrifice – Molech was worshipped by offering children in the fire. He offered his own sons and perhaps even his grandsons in this ritual sacrifice.
  • he practiced witchcraft, sought omens, and consulted mediums – he gave full way to Satanic rituals, seances and the underworld.
  • “he did much evil in the eyes of the Lord” – bad dude!
  • the last straw, he had built and erected a statue to Asherah in the Lord’s temple – this sex goddess, was now worshipped in the Lord’s temple
  • Manasseh led the people astray – what he did privately was put into national practice and legislation
  • “they did more evil than the nations” – now that’s saying something, that’s alot of evil

One last sad note to Manasseh and the nations evil practices-

“The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention.”

2 Chronicles 33:10

Not only was he one evil practicing, sex maniac, proud, idolatrous, killer, but when the Lord spoke to him, he ignored the Lord’s voice.

Manasseh is considered the most wicked king in Judah’s history. There was none worse. Ahab was the worst in Israel and Manasseh the worst in Judah. Now you can see why, right?

Tradition and scholars tell us that Manasseh is probably the one who had the prophet Isaiah cut in two. Now that’s no way to treat your Grandfather. Geesh.

His tyrannical reign lasted for over half century!

So Manasseh’s situation is pretty dire. He is in deep, needless to say. His sins are pretty insurmountable as well, cuz these are “big time sins”. So how is his distress? Let’s check it out.

First, we must continue the story.

The Bible tells us that because Manasseh and the people paid no attention to the Lord, (forgot the Lord and His ways), the Lord allowed the Assyrians to overthrow the city and capture the King. He was taken to Babylon as a prisoner, bound in shackles, and a hook in his nose. 2 Chronicles 33:11

Here is where we identify Manasseh’s distress.

“In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors.” And he prayed to him.

2 Chronicles 33:12

While a prisoner of war, in prison, in a foreign land we see his distress. While he is powerless, alone, overwhelmed, outnumbered and empty his distress is evident.

What does he do in this state?

He sought God’s favor, humbled himself greatly and prayed.

Now that is a turn around!

Somehow, in his distress he remembered the spiritual training of his childhood. The training of his ancestors. “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” I’m sure Hezekiah was looking over the balcony of heaven finally cheering on his once evil son.

So we have the most vile, perverse, corrupt, person & political leader crying out to God. He needed his own experience with God, not his dad’s. He was calling out for it.

“God speaks to us in our pleasures but he shouts to us in our pains.”

God had been shouting to Manasseh but now Manasseh was shouting out to him.

How did God respond?

“And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.”

2 Chronicles 33:13

This is mindboggling to me.

After life long practices of gross and despicable sins, once Manasseh humbled himself and sincerely presented himself before the Lord – THE LORD WAS MOVED!

His humility, laying down his pride, and seeking God’s blessing and favor actually moved God to the action of restoring Manasseh to his kingdom.

In the Apocryphal book of “The Prayer of Manasses” he says, “I have sinned above the number of the sands of the sea.”

There is always hope.

Our God is compassionate, loving, forgiving, just, strong, engaging, and ever present.

The story doesn’t end there tho’. Manasseh made a drastic and remarkable change when he returned to Jerusalem.

Side note- Do you think the citizens of the city were glad to see him return or scared for their lives? You see, personal repentance brings forgiveness but the influence of sin lingers and abides.

When he returned, he:

  • rebuilt the city wall & made it higher- reinforced the city defenses
  • stationed guards around the city
  • got rid of foreign gods
  • removed all the idols and altars in the temple
  • restored the altar of the Lord

His personal experience with God, “knowing that the Lord is God” motivated his change in behavior, word and deed. He took action nationally to undo what he had done. He took action personally. He had truly met God and was changed.

The amount of evil he had done was totally forgiven and covered because he humbled himself, sought the favor of the Lord and prayed to Him. His sins were forgiven, his distress was lifted and his situation changed.

God heard. God was moved. God responded to Manasseh’s humility and entreaty. God changed him. his situation, his sin, and his distress.

There is always hope.

If there is hope for Manasseh there is hope for all.

“No mortal man hath excuse to perish is despair. No one is justified in saying God will never forgive me.”

Spurgeon

Let’s return to our opening – There is no situation so bad, no sin so grievous, no distress so deep that hope is inaccessible or change not possible.

There is always hope for those who in humility make their entreaty of the Lord.

There is always hope.

Go with God.