It's 8:24 in the evening and I am enjoying a few peaceful, quiet moments sitting on my porch listening as night sounds begin to sing. There are birds chirping faintly and the sun is fading behind the homes across the street leaving in its wake a multitude of hues; peach, pink, purple and blue. A few day lilies remain showing their vibrant colors and the black-eyes susans have begun to bloom. I marvel that day light lingers allowing me visually to enjoy the beauty around me.
There are many times of the year I enjoy, but I would probably surmise that summer evenings are one of my favorites. No sweaters or blankets are needed, only shorts, tee-shirts and flip-flops need to be worn into the night as the smell of newly mowed grass wafts on the slight breeze welcoming the oncoming night.
As the night sounds grow louder I think about all those nights of summer growing up in Virginia. So many of my memories of summer were formed there. As a motorcycle passes by I remember riding with my dad on his Harley. Seems you can't have summer without a motorcycle ride or at least the memory of one. Our rural community was one where everyone knew each other and we all basically went to the same community church. So many great memories...
I pray that all the people in America will remember how blessed we are to live in this great country. Whatever agendas being initiated through civil unrest, division, past faults of historical leaders and generally attacking America, I would ask that we pray for all of those who seek to destroy this nation and its people. There are many vulnerable people being swayed and robbed of contentment which can only be found in Jesus Christ. As Christian believers we need to pray for them as Jesus did; be an example of love, but hold fast to our faith as we live as stellar witnesses before the world.
I would love for all Americans to experience a night of sitting quietly watching as the earth goes to sleep being sung to by night sounds. There is so much more to life than being angry. May God lay His mighty hand on this great land and heal us.
Thought for the Day: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path." Proverbs 3:5-6 (The way my Mama says it)
As most of you know from reading my blogs, I have a mother, 98 years old, in a nursing facility. Numerous times I have mentioned she is blind and is suffering with dementia. Occasionally mom is "with me" and we can have a relatively good conversation, but then there are those moments when I realize immediately I might as well turn around and leave.
With the Covid factor it's been extremely difficult to visit mom. The last time I was in the same room with her was last February. Now, I am fully cognizant many of you are dealing with the same situation and my situation is not unique. It was June before I made the 5 1/2 hour trip from Pittsburgh to visit after all the Covid warnings began in mid-March. The weather at that time was tolerable, mom had five good days in a row for the 10-15 minutes on each occasion, and I was able to see her clearly from a large window.
Last week, in July, we attempted to do the same. With temperatures in the high 90's and the heat index over 100 degrees, it wasn't easy trying to communicate through a window. The facility is still not allowing visitors to enter and the only way I can get her favorite cereal to her is through the postal service! There are no cases of Covid in the facility and for that I am deeply grateful, but this is truly hard to be on the outside looking in.
Mom didn't have as many good days this visit as before, but God graciously gave us a glimpse of yesteryear. On my last visit before heading home to Pittsburgh, I asked mom if she would like to repeat the 23rd Psalm and she immediately began with "The Lord is my Shepherd...". I only clarified her a couple of times. Then I asked if she wanted to repeat her favorite Bible verse. She asked me what it was and I started with Proverbs 3:5-6 and she began, "Trust in the Lord..." and repeated it with very little assistance. We prayed together and I told her I would be back as soon as I could. As I walked away from the window I thought maybe I wouldn't get to be in that room with her again, but I know where mom is headed when she draws her last breath. She's going to be with Jesus, my dad, her parents and sisters and all those who have gone before.
Covid....it's costing us a great deal of inconvenience, but if wearing a mask or being tested would allow me to sit at the bedside of my mother talking, singing, reading the Bible and sharing about being heaven bound, what a small price to pay to touch her hand and let her know I'm there.
In this age of unrest, let's focus on what we do have and be grateful instead of looking back at injustices. Let's begin a new tomorrow by praying for one another, loving one another and rejoicing on being heaven bound!
Thought for the Day: Psalm 55:22 (NIV). Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. Matthew 11:28-29 (NIV) “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV) Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Walking on the trail this morning I came to one of our overpasses where a mother, grandmother and a little girl approximately two years old caught my eye. The little girl’s mode of transportation, a stroller, was positioned in front of them, empty. I assume the little one wanted to walk and not be confined to a stroller or perhaps her mother’s or grandmother’s pace. She decided instead to walk. Nearing the three of them, I noticed the little girl sitting in the middle of the overpass, seemingly very comfortable and not desiring to move. Mom was trying to give reasons she needed to hop back into the stroller, but as I passed them I commented to the adults, “Some days I feel exactly the same!”
Today was one of those times when I honestly asked if God would send me an angel. Maybe I’ve been watching too many Hallmark movies of Angel Falls, but I would readily have quite a conversation with an angelic messenger from God. Instead, God decided to send me a message by way of a little girl and her stroller.
You see, there are many instances where I figure I can do all the walking on my own. After all, I’m a Christian; I’ve been given spiritual upbringing which taught me how to pray, study, write and even speak about issues of faith. Walking in the faith is a breeze! But times of slowing my pace due to burdens appears to be increasing; personal issues I can’t grasp or understand, diagnoses I’m scared of returning, friends that are going through dire experiences with cancer or awaiting results to see if cancer has returned, and those whose “normal” has completely been uprooted through the death of a loved one or spouse. Not to mention all the unrest in the country; dissension, protesting and pandemic that has the entire world fearing to step outside their doors.
I, too, want to sit down in the middle of the road and just not move. Life has become a heavy backpack that I simply can’t carry anymore. Actually, as I began to think about this little girl and her empty stroller, I remembered the scripture I referenced in the Thought for the Day, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Jesus has asked us to give all the cares and concerns to him because “if it’s not light, it’s not right” for us to handle. We need to leave all the issues of anxiety, confusion, disease, and death with the only One who can fill us with peace. “For I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
When will the rest come? When will peace be found? Well, I certainly can’t give an answer, but I do know we were not made to stay on this earth permanently. What we encounter this side of heaven will one day dissipate. We were made to live eternally with our Creator God and until He returns we need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. And when that’s not possible, get in the stroller and let God take the lead directing your moments until He calls you home. Stop fighting His Will and just surrender yours.
Although, Lord, I asked for an angel today, you sent me a message through a little girl and her empty stroller. Jesus, I give you the lead and ask that you protect, watch over and bless all those I care for, love and pray for multiple times each day. May we come to know you as Lord before breath leaves these earthly bodies. In whose name I pray, Amen!
Thought for the Day: For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 ESV
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galations 3:20 ESV
Bound, what an interesting word. If you look for the definition of this term the following explanations can be collected: 1) placed under legal or moral restraint or obligation; and
2) fastened by as if by a band : confined. There are other descriptions for this word, but I think we get the picture. To be bound means there are restrictions; legal, moral or perhaps physical. No one truly wants to be bound by anyone, anything, anywhere or anyhow. It’s the human carnal way.
The world, which I feel is currently is running amuck, is demanding we need to break free of our historical connection with the subject of slavery. In order to break free this new movement is requiring the removal of any reminder concerning the existence of slavery and anyone associated historically with its use. Although you could interview various individuals all day, I dare say you would come up empty with even one person that has experienced this lifestyle. I would go so far as to say genealogies of past generations would need to be consulted before any family member surfaced that lived a life of slavery.
It’s not a pleasant recollection and it personally makes me sick to my stomach to think about the injustices that people with a different skin color had to endure in yesteryear. But the fact we don’t agree with past history certainly doesn’t make it disappear. I decided to investigate by way of the internet concerning this subject and try to uncover the actual number of slaves that were involved in slavery from 1776-1865. This is not an exhaustive search, mind you; but I wanted a bit of information regarding the numbers. I found through an article written by an Alex Kasprak, that at the peak of slavery in 1860, only about 1.4% of Americans owned slaves. Surprisingly, there was a number of 3,000 blacks who owned a total of 20,000 slaves. That was something I didn’t expect to find.
But let’s move from this particular issue being addressed throughout the country today and focus on the many individuals truly bound in every sense of the word living in today’s society. I believe we should recognize their plight and place these men, women and children within the core of mainstream attention. These are not generation past injustices and historical facts. These are current alarming and upsetting situations and percentages that were given three years ago…can you imagine what the percentages are today?
Sex trafficking; (written by the Human Rights First Organization) in 2017, 24.9 million victims are trapped in modern day slavery. Sixteen million (64%) exploited for labor; 4.8 million (19%) sexually exploited; 4.1 million (17%) exploited in state-imposed forced labor. Out of that number 71% are women and girls; 29% are men and boys with 15.4 million victims (75%) 18 and older and sadly 5.5 million are children under 18. These numbers are not reflective of only the United States, but we have to be kidding ourselves to think it’s not happening within our borders.
Abortions; a subject that is taboo for most, (American Life League) states in 2017, there were 862,320 abortions conducted. Although our numbers have declined, can you imagine 862,320 babies being discarded?? As a point of comparison, in 2020, the state of South Dakota was recorded to have a population of 892,631 people!
Abuse; (Martin R. Huecker and William Smock) state family and domestic health violence are estimated to affect 10 million people in the United States every year! A power struggle ensues and abusive behavior surfaces. Intimate partner violence; sexual or physical, psychological aggression, stalking. There is child abuse of any and all kinds; once again it all made me ill while I was researching therefore I will not go into detail as to what is occurring. To top it off we have elder abuse; the elders of our nation being abused by those who are supposed to be taking care of them!
And let’s not forget depression. There are estimated about 16.2 million adults in the United States; 6.7% of American adults dealing with at least one major depressive episode in a given year. Whether it be bipolar, seasonal, postpartum or a hormonal imbalance due to stress, depression is real, and people are walking through this cave of darkness while the nation is filled with unrest and unresolved issues.
And we in America are placing all our focus on issues that happened so long ago we can’t identify anyone that is currently living under those restraints?
Let’s stop blaming others and start loving our neighbors, friends, family and even those we don’t like too much. God has commanded us to love Him first and then to love others as ourselves. You wouldn’t throw a two-liter frozen water bottle at yourself, or someone you love, would you? And yet recently policemen standing in defense of private property suffered frozen bottles of water being hurdled at them from several stories above where they were standing, and they did not engage.
It only takes one person to change his/her attitude and a possible chain reaction might begin. I am appalled at some of the historical behavior that is recorded, but I believe it’s been left behind so we learn from our past and be better citizens and neighbors, not resurrect the feeling of indebtedness. Exactly who is supposed to pay the debt? Didn’t Christ die on the Cross to settle the sin debt for all time? For ALL sins of EVERY person regardless of what decade they occurred?
Honestly, we are all bound to something. We need to lay all those situations whether physical, mental, emotional, financial or spiritual at the foot of the Cross and begin to live as one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for ALL. We will never move forward if everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes without any regard for God at all. How can this nation be blessed and heal when we have asked our Creator to take a backseat so we can personally direct the focus of our own lives? God help us all!
We call out to you, Lord. With sad and broken hearts for our nation and one another. Please anoint us and fill us with love, peace, and the firm assurance You will make all things new…but until then, may we be the people of God we were created to be. In the Name that is above all Names, Jesus, I pray, Amen….
Thought for the Day: “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he." Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV)
During this time of pandemic many companies have offered their films and productions by way of streaming reaching a large audience. This has given most of us an opportunity to view in our living rooms Broadway plays that otherwise would have been missed. One such Broadway play distributed through streaming is the production of Hamilton.
Although hubby and I had heard much about this play, we could never find tickets and then, of course, when the tickets emerged they were quite costly. When we discovered it was on Disney + and we happen to have that particular link, we decided to settle in and watch this popular play written about the life of Alexander Hamilton.
To be perfectly honest, I did not know a lot about Alexander Hamilton. I knew he signed the Declaration of Independence, but the countless writings he felt urged to pen was completely unknown to me. The way the play was presented was entirely different and it took a few minutes to acclimate to the rap version of conversation. But once we caught on combined with the numerous dance numbers, well, we known exactly why this play has been popular. Additionally, Hamilton tells a story about this man’s life, his contributions, his mistakes, his background, his attitude regarding others and his love for his country.
One particular mistake, an affair, might have cost him a run for the presidency. As I thought about this fact, I compared it with leaders today and how that point alone seems not to carry any credence. Regardless of his lapse in judgement, Alexander Hamilton made significant historical contributions through treasured documents that are in place today. Should his faults overshadow his contributions? Absolutely not! Because we hopefully learn from our mistakes. We grow in those depths of discouragement and disappointment. We expectantly mature and do better next time.
In our current world atmosphere, it appears Americans want retribution for mistakes that happened hundreds of years ago. Please don’t misinterpret what I am writing. We need to confront racism. We need to recognize all men and women were created equal and behave as such, not only in word, but with our actions. When one citizen is harmed, we should all be appalled regardless of the color of skin. As we have heard numerous times, we all bleed the same color.
The point that I make today is history cannot be erased. There are an astronomical amount of shortcomings that have been made throughout the birth pains of America, but it culminates to form American history. Have you researched those whose statues have been erected and are demanding immediate removal? Are there more Alexander Hamiltons to be understood for the good they did that hopefully overshadows the wrongs?
Exactly what issues are we hanging our hats on today? Weigh their significance and stand up for them, but please research the individuals who are perpetrating, funding and pushing through agendas that have nothing to do with your cause. They just might be using your heartfelt, deeply believed concerns to bring down this great nation built on the blood, sweat and tears of hard-working Americans. Let’s be discerning, informed individuals and be astute with well-informed knowledge before placing our monies into the pockets of those who would seek to do our country harm.
History cannot be erased. Statues can be toppled, attempts to rewrite history made, but God Almighty is still on the throne and this will go on for so long and then answers will need to be given to the One who has graciously given us these freedoms.
Help us Father to be the people of God we need to be during times of unrest.
Thought for the Day: The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Isaiah 40:3 (NKJV). He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the LORD,” ’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” John 1:23 (NKJV)
Pondering recent events taking place in our society, I began remembering those men and women woven into the timeless stories of the Bible who stood unwavering in the face of overwhelming trials of their day. Take for instance, John the Baptist, the first cousin of Jesus. John was designated as the forerunner of Jesus. He was to prepare those who heard him preach there would be one coming after him that was greater. John was predicted by Isaiah the prophet to be the one who would be crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Seems to be a somewhat strange prediction, crying in the wilderness?
However, John was a different individual. He is described as wearing a camel's hair garment with a leather girdle about his loins, similar to the prophet Elijah in the Old Testament. John had nothing whatsoever to do with the kingdom of this world and the worldly pleasures around him, his only focus was on the kingdom of heaven and the very King who was about to appear. He had nothing to do with wealth or eloquent soft clothing or elaborate meals. His food was the food of the poorest in the land, he ate locusts which were gathered in the desert, and wild honey which was scooped out of the hollow part of trees. He never cut his hair and never drank wine. Water was his main drink. He was completely devoted to his task.
"And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey." - Matthew 3:4 (As referenced from Bible History)
John’s voice was used mightily of God to prepare people for His Son and the message of salvation.
Esther, a Jewish young woman, was brought into the King’s palace and made his Queen. Although he had no idea this beautiful woman was of Jewish heritage, she was given the opportunity to save her people from total destruction by death. But she had to go before the King without being summoned and that fact alone could have cost her life. When she entered the place where the King held court, upon seeing her, the King immediately allowed her entrance.
On the third day, Esther put on her royal attire and stood in the inner courtyard of the palace in front of the king’s quarters. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the throne room, opposite the entrance to the building. When the king saw Queen Esther standing in the courtyard, she won his favor, and the king extended to Esther the gold scepter that he was holding. Esther approached and touched the top of the scepter. The king asked her, “What do you want, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even if it’s half of the kingdom, it will be given to you.” Esther 5:1-3
Esther’s voice was heard by God and used to save the lives of countless Jewish people.
Moses, Abraham, Joshua, Job, Daniel, Rahab, Ruth and countless others were anointed with God’s protection as they used their voices to stand strong among the tsunami of opinions that were not aligned with God’s truth. Can one voice make a difference? Undergirded with the power of the Holy Spirit, yes, one voice can be heard and will be used by Almighty God to protect our hope, trust, mission and testimony of an unfailing, unrelenting Lord who lives and exists today. Never underestimate the power of ONE VOICE…yours!
Father, watch over us as believers in our Lord Jesus Christ. Aid us as we maneuver the tide of unpopular opinion, and with the sword of the Word of God, fill us with love, kindness and wisdom to answer countless opinions and questions that will be posed. May our answers point others to Christ without screams, chants, or anger, but with truth that cannot be denied. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
This weekend is our annual celebration of Father's Day. A day to honor and remember our dads. To honor the memory of my dad who passed away seven years ago, I'd like to tell you a bit about him.
My dad was born in 1925, December the 29th. In fact, we always tried to make his birthday special because, as most people who have a birthday around the holidays have experienced, Christmas gifts often get combined with birthday gifts! But fortunately many of those birthdays were shared with Daddy due to going "home" to Virginia for the holiday.
One of the many attributes I remember was Dad's ability to fix anything, make most anything and never hired out for work to be done in the yard or house. He was just amazing in all those categories. For instance, Mama would see a Christmas decoration made out of wood that she would like to own; Dad would come home and make it. I once started painting birdhouses and Dad decided he would make the birdhouses and then paint a few himself! (All the grandchildren got one of those, by the way). And then there was one night Daddy wanted cake to eat, so he got in the kitchen and made a cake!
I especially remember the day he took me out to the garage and showed me how to change a tire on my car. He said he didn't want me in a position where I needed to wait for assistance because women needed to know these things!
Daddy never readily said he loved me when I was growing up. I don't know why, but when I got married it all changed. I've never lived close to my parents from the day I married, but each time I came home and got ready to leave, Daddy had tears in his eyes. From that point on, he hugged me and told me he loved me when I'd leave.
I will always remember when Gary and I married and moved to Idaho, Daddy helped box a lot of my things. One of the items was a ceramic Christmas tree that I display each year. When I opened the box (in April) there was a big note that said, "I love you...Dad". I sat in the living room and cried my eyes out. I so missed home at that very moment and having Dad's availability just down the road.
There were countless hours spent on Mom and Dad's screened in porch each morning drinking coffee. In fact, it often went into lunchtime while we sat and talked about life. Often we spoke about the things of Christ and living the Christian life and anytime I had a question or came up on a particular bump in the road, I would ask his opinion. He never disappointed with food for thought. In fact, when it came time to choose a cover for my second devotional book, Daddy picked out the cover and added why it would be his choice. It instantly made sense to me because I considered my Dad a wise man.
Gospel music, wow how Daddy loved gospel quartet music! Each Sunday morning he'd be in the bathroom shaving, getting ready for church and be whistling those gospel tunes. He loved to sing and sang in several gospel quartets. He even wrote a song that was recorded when sung at his funeral. I can hear his voice in my mind when certain songs are played and/or sung in church.
I'm not saying Daddy was perfect. He was opinionated and during a discussion he'd give you a run for your money with the reasons why his idea or opinion was the best. However, I saw him mellow through the years. I heard him apologize for past mistakes, tell me many times the things he wished he'd done for Gary and our family when we were struggling with two little ones.
But Daddy loved us; my mother, whom he wouldn't hardly let out of his sight; us kids and especially all the grandchildren. I can still see Daddy swinging on the porch with Nicholas by his side just talking. I have no idea what they talked about, but they would spend hours out there. And all those times Kimberly sat on his lap...even as she became a young woman. As one person commented, "You're never too old to sit on Papa's lap." From the time she was a little thing, she would crawl up in Papa's lap and just be close to him.
He always tried to impart his knowledge to us, the things only time and experience can teach, but the one thing I will always remember is listening to Daddy pray with Mama every morning. Daddy would pray for each one of us, calling us by name and asking God to lead us all to the foot of the Cross. He would name whatever struggle we had shared and ask the Lord to show us how to handle it. My dad was a child of God and I know in my heart that he is rejoicing this Father's Day with our heavenly Father God.
I love you, Dad and I miss you. I could use some of that experienced wisdom. As Mama said to you when the Lord led you home, "Don't walk too fast because I'm coming." I'll meet you at the gate of heaven, Daddy, where we'll sing forever in the heavenly choir! Happy Father's Day, Love "Miss Cook"!
Lord, thank you for dads who are trying their best to live for you and be the best fathers they can be this side of heaven. The sacrifices made, the love extended unconditionally, the faith shown and deeds done for Jesus Christ, may prayers that have been lifted bring honor to our Lord. In Jesus' Name, Amen.