Reflection

A Tribute to Grandma

  • Posted on April 22, 2019 at 8:25 pm

My grandma isn’t well known. In fact you may be wondering why I would write a tribute to her when I typically feature Southern Gospel artists. Well, as with parents, grandparents can help to contribute to how a person turns out. They can pass along their interests and other genes which help to form our young and, ultimately, old lives.

I didn’t know my grandparents before they came to know the Lord but I heard that the difference was night and day. Whereas they would play and sing in night clubs before, they chose to only sing in churches after they were saved. They would sell their records for $5 or “whatever you can afford.”

Grandma was young when I was born so she would play ball with my brother and me, take us for ice cream, do typical grandma things, but she would also encourage me to obey my mom, honor the Lord, etc. She wanted to be a positive influence in my life.

For the first 17 years of my life, we didn’t live close but, when we would visit, I spent every moment I could with Grandma. I would go with her to “help” make the church breakfast, fold bulletins, run errands … whatever Grandma was doing, there was I in the midst of it. Whenever she sat down, I was on her lap before she could get comfortable.

When we moved closer to my grandparents, Grandma would drive a couple hours to help us with a collating project. She was a quick collater too.

A number of years ago, we began to suspect that Grandma had dementia. It began to get worse and worse until we could no longer ignore the fact. We also knew that it was becoming more than Grandpa could handle on his own. So in 2017, we made the difficult decision to move our grandparents to Arizona where their daughter and grandson could care for them. We no longer saw them on a weekly basis but we were able to visit them twice, the most recent visit being in January. I will always be thankful for our time together as Grandma joined me in singing for the last time. We spent a lot of time together and, in spite of her not feeling well, she hadn’t lost her sense of humor.

We buried Grandma on Good Friday. I dreaded that day for so long but God’s grace truly was amazing. I have no doubt that my grandma is in Heaven. My aunt asked if I would sing at her funeral, and God gave me strength to do so with my brother accompanying me on guitar and vocals. I’m thankful for the promise that, if I remain faithful to the Lord, I will see her again. I greatly look forward to that reunion!

The Best Gift

  • Posted on March 26, 2019 at 5:48 pm

I am not a Barbara Streisand fan, but I grew up listening to her Christmas album. On that record, she included a song titled “The Best Gift” in which she goes on to describe the best gift that she ever got. At the end, she reveals that this gift was “a tiny newborn child.” (If you need me to explain what a record is, let me know.) 😉

Although I have received a lot of nice gifts in my 45 3/4 years of life, the best gift I ever received was the gift of salvation, made possible by Jesus Christ coming to earth and being willing to die a horrendous death on a cross. If you have never studied crucifixion and why it was the Roman’s choice of death, I encourage you to do so. It isn’t a pleasant study but it makes Jesus’ death even more meaningful. It wasn’t like a lethal injection where you die in a matter of minutes. Rather, it was a form of torture in which criminals died a slow, painful, suffocating death.

I realize that it’s not even Palm Sunday yet but I think it’s a good time to begin to think of Christ’s sacrifice, to thank Him for choosing us to be His children, and to ask Him how we can serve Him better.

I started this back in December around Christmastime but I think it’s perfect timing to finish it now. If you take communion in the next few weeks, don’t do it out of routine. Really think about the event that you are commemorating. Picture Jesus on the cross, beaten beyond recognition, blood streaming down His body, looking at you. Then think of the things you allow in your life that is the equivalent of spitting in His face. God’s grace is not cheap. It cost Christ a lot. How can we be so selfish as to not give Him every part of our lives?

For the Broken

  • Posted on March 11, 2019 at 8:38 pm

Last year, my most-read post was one I wrote in 2014 titled “I’ve Been Broken (but I’ve Been Blessed).” Broken people are not just out in the world somewhere; they are also in the Church. The fact that a post from 4 1/2 years ago is still my post popular proves that fact.

I think of the old song that said:

He never said you’d only see sunshine
He never said there’d be no rain
He only promised a heart full of singing
And at the very things that once brought pain

(from the song Give Them All to Jesus written by Phillip Johnson & Bob Benson, Sr.)

I don’t actually remember a verse where God promised that, but I do know from experience that He often grants that. It’s when we trust Him in the bad times that we realize as Henry and Hazel Slaughter sang that we “don’t need to understand; we just need to hold His hand.” That is where true joy comes from, along with the peace that passes all understanding.

I wasn’t thinking of this when I started this post but, in closing, I would like to ask prayer for fellow blogger David Bruce Murray whose father passed away on Saturday. The funeral is tomorrow (Tuesday). I’m thankful that I have not yet experienced the loss of a parent but I can imagine how heartbreaking that must be. And yet, what a blessing to know that we will be reunited one day with those who love Jesus. David is the founder of Music Scribe, where I write a Sunday devotional when I’m able. He’s been supportive of my writing and some of my other business ventures, and my heart goes out to him and his family during this difficult time.

 

What Is Worship?

  • Posted on March 6, 2019 at 1:25 pm

Several months ago, someone suggested that I do a word study on praise vs. worship since I use the two interchangeably when, in fact, they are two different things. I appreciated the gentle admonition so, although it’s taken a while, I am finally sitting down to do that and am sharing my findings with you.

Dictionary.com defines “praise” as:

1. the act of expressing approval or admiration; commendation; laudation
2. the offering of grateful homage in words or song, as an act of worship (emphasis mine).

“Worship” is described as:

1. reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred
2.
formal or ceremonious rendering of such honor and homage 

I often call “praise” worship but worship encompasses much more than verbal praise. Everything you do should be worship.

John 4:23 tells us that “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.”

I think it is safe to say that the people or things that you idolize is who or what you worship. This is why Jesus told Satan, “For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve’” (Matthew 4:10). God is a jealous God, and He will not share His glory with anyone else.

Today I want to encourage you to “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 29:2).

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

 

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash.

Your Life Matters

  • Posted on February 26, 2019 at 6:29 pm

Those who got no further than the title probably assumed that this was going to be a post of psychology or a simple “God loves you” kind of post but my purpose in writing goes deeper than that.  When people talk of “finding” themselves, they typically are looking for validation, desiring to feel loved and accepted while figuring out why they were placed here on this earth. That comes closer to what I am addressing but not exactly.

Maybe I say too often that you were placed here for a reason, and you need to find that reason, but instead of rolling your eyes and moving on to other things, I want you to think about this: Your life matters. Not only to you and those around you but to future generations. Have you ever thought about that?

If you study the first five books of the Bible, you will find that God sometimes blesses future generations based on their forefathers’ faithfulness and obedience. He also punishes descendendants based on decisions their parents made. Besides that, a life lived wholly for the Lord can speak volumes after a person is dead.

I think of Jonadab who commanded his sons to never drink wine. Years after their father was gone, they were still honoring his wish. Because of this, God protected them from Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon.

On the flip side of this was King Saul whose family was wiped out because he turned away from the Lord, while David was promised that one of his descendants would always sit on the throne due to David’s faithfulness. You may think that when you make a bad, selfish, or even sinful decision, that you are hurting no one but yourself. You may be hurting a lot more than you realize.

Not long ago someone made the comment that it’s hypocritical for parents who were involved in drugs or drinking when they were younger to tell their children they can’t drink or do drugs. I disagree with this statement since we learn from our mistakes, and it is a natural desire to keep others from making those same mistakes. However, think of how much better it would be had the parents not done those things in the first place. These are the things you need to think of.

For the last week and a half, I’ve been highlighting a book on my website titled Habits: The Mother’s Helper. In this book, the author talks about how you can teach character to your children by creating habits. I appreciate that she points out that this has to start by example. Whoever said “more is caught than taught” was correct.

So, you see, your life matters. Every word, every action is not only seen by your Heavenly Father, but it is also seen by those around you who will be seen by those around them and so on until, generations later, others may be carrying on the legacy that you left behind while having no idea who they have to thank for it.

Don’t take your life for granted. Don’t assume that, once you’re gone, your life is over. If you are a Christian, you will live forever. Not only in Heaven but also in the lives of those you left behind.

Are You Burnt Out?

  • Posted on February 15, 2019 at 8:11 am

Last Fall, while traveling with my brother on one of his speaking tours, I talked with a several people who mentioned that, in the past, they had become burnt out with serving, and some had even walked away from God for a while due to being tired and disillusioned. At least one person mentioned feeling like she was carrying a lot while others were doing nothing.

I suspect burnout is a common experience but one that most don’t talk about. After all, you might appear to be not very Christian if you admit that your heart is not into your service. If this is you, I hope this post will encourage you.

You may remember the story of Martha and Mary. Martha was busy serving while Mary spent the day sitting and listening to Jesus talk instead of helping her sister. I believe Scripture records this story so that we can learn from it.

“Martha” personalities have a hard time saying No. Whenever something needs done, they sign up, not really thinking through the activities they are already committed to and making a responsible decision to know whether or not this is something they can pull off.

Although I know there are some, I really don’t see many “Marys”–people who are spending quality time in God’s presence and are making that their priority. The reason most people don’t volunteer to do things is due to laziness or not wanting to come out of their comfort zones. And this is why “Martha” is getting burnt out.

If you are exhausting yourself to the point of frustration and failing health, I would like to suggest that it might be time for you to take a break and learn to become Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus and letting Him refresh your Spirit. Fulfill any commitments you have made but don’t take on anything else unless you know it’s what God is calling you to do. If you are serving out of guilt or obligation, there is a good possibility that God never intended for you to take on so much.

I believe that one can do thankless, exhausting work and yet have joy while doing it. If you are not experiencing this joy or the grace that comes from the Spirit when you are doing His work, then it’s time to reevalute. Now, if you are a complainer who doesn’t like to do anything, I am not talking to you. This is for those who have a heart to serve but who really need a break. You know who you are. The fact is, as hard as it may be for you to believe, you are replaceable. If you are like me, you don’t like to hear that, but you are. And it’s possible that, if you step down, someone else, whom God has been working on to develop a servant’s heart, will step up to the plate.

Remember the people I talked to last Fall? They had all returned to being active in the church but they’d learned to scale back and not over-commit. Even Jesus needed rest sometimes. Don’t underestimate the importance of that.

How to Read the Bible

  • Posted on February 1, 2019 at 9:09 pm

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Reading the Bible is a discipline that many find hard to do. Those who do get into a routine of reading every day can easily fall into a rut where one is reading the text but it’s not impacting them any more than if they were reading a novel. I find myself going through this as well so I wrote down some suggestions that can help us all to get more out of our Bible reading.

Highlight commands. Years ago, a pastor said that he puts a “C” in front of every command he comes across in the Bible. I started to do that in one of my Bibles but lately I have started underlining commands that jump out at me. This can be anything from words of Jesus to instructions from Paul to the churches which could still be applied today. If you already underline verses in your Bible, then you may want to do the “C” method. Regardless of how you do it, I think it’s good to pay attention to the things that Scripture commands us to do, how to act, etc.

Slow down whenever God or Jesus asks a question. My brother has written a couple books titled Questions God Asks and Questions Jesus Asks. These books have helped me to read the Bible in a new way. If we truly believe that everything is in the Bible for a reason, then we should take the time to figure out what God is speaking to us through even the simplest things. It may look like God is asking Abraham a question, for example, but is there something in that question that we can learn from today?

Mark verses you want to be able to find quickly. I know there are some who believe we shouldn’t mark up our Bibles and, if that is your conviction, that is fine. For myself, however, underlining verses that I especially want to remember is very helpful in finding them again. I have a hard time memorizing references but I can sometimes remember the book a Scripture is in, and this saves me a lot of time.

Don’t read when tired. This is something I am working on. I like to have my prayer and Bible time the first thing in the morning but if I push myself before I’m really awake, I end up barely getting through a chapter before I’m falling back to sleep, and I don’t comprehend what I read. I also like to go through a Bible study at night which means making time to do that before I’m too tired. On the evenings that I play out early, I may review the previous evening’s study but I don’t try to do a new lesson if I don’t have the mental energy to put into it. If you find that this is your experience every morning and/or evening, then you will have to find a time that you can devote to reading. The answer isn’t to ignore the Bible but to find a way to get the most out of it.

Pray. Take time to pray before you read. I often pray that God will open my heart to receive His Word and know what He desires to speak to me, that He will give me ears to hear and a willingness to obey. I usually have a time of praise first as well which can help to prepare me to read the Word.

Let’s all endeavor to not just be hearers of the Word but doers as well. If you have found something that has helped you to get more out of your Bible study, feel free to leave a comment. I would love to hear from you.

What Every Spouse (and Future Spouse) Needs

  • Posted on January 29, 2019 at 9:00 pm

Although I am not married, I write on the topic periodically because I am grieved by how many marriages end on a daily basis. For those who are unmarried but desire to be married one day, I encourage you to work on this list now. It can also help to improve other relationships. If your marriage is on the rocks, I hope you will pray over this list and see if there are changes that you can incorporate to improve your situation. You may find that your spouse is not the problem. I don’t write because I have attained–I struggle in these areas myself–but they are Biblical principles that we all must strive for.

Humility – As you’ve no doubt heard me say before, I believe that pride is the root of every relational conflict you or I encounter. Whether the pride is in you, your spouse, or both, it is there somewhere. Humans like to be “right.” They like having their way. If you are not diligent to humble yourself when disagreements arise, you can be sure there will be conflict.

Patience – First Corinthians 13:4 tells us that love is patient and kind. It is very hard to be patient with those you live with. When dating, you may overlook a person’s quirks or idiosyncracies but these can become annoying when you experience them on a daily basis. If something is bothering you, talk with your spouse but do it in a gentle, loving manner. It’s possible that your significant other will be able to change some things to accommodate you. If they can’t or won’t, you must learn to have patience and love them anyway.

Selflessness – Love also does not seek its own way (1 Corinthians 13:5) but it esteems others as better than himself (Philippians 2:3). This is extremely hard to do but, if you want a truly joyful marriage, it is a must. I’ve known marriages that have ended because a husband or wife did not get the “me time” they wanted. Then I hear others complain that their spouse is never around. Everyone’s needs and desires are different so, if you are not yet married but are planning to be, this would be a good topic to discuss before your marriage. Find out what the expectations are and make sure that you are on the same page. If you are already married and struggling with this issue, again, talk it out. See if you can come up with a plan that will allow both parties to receive the time together and the time alone that they need.

I’m very aware that marriage is hard work (every married person I talk to wants to make sure that I know this) but the Bible talks about it as being a good thing and, with God’s help, I believe it can be. Not everyone is called to marry, but if you are, I hope that you will ask God to make you the husband or wife that your spouse needs. Two are only better than one if God is the one bringing them together. If He is, then you must allow Him to do a work in your heart to save your marriage if at all possible. If your spouse walks away anyway, then you can rest in knowing that you did all you could do, and your husband or wife is now in His hands. You may, however, find yourself loving your spouse more than you ever thought possible. God can do so much with a heart truly surrendered to Him.

Live Like Today is Your Last

  • Posted on January 15, 2019 at 7:35 pm

In the last few years, several of my friends have gone Home to be with Jesus–some unexpectedly.

I think a lot about the brevity of life. We live like there will be a tomorrow, but the fact is that we don’t know whether we will live another day or not. This becomes more clear to me every day.

I wonder how differently I would live if I knew that this would be my last day on earth. I expect that I would spend more time with God and with my family. I would make sure those I love know how much they mean to me. The good news is that we can live this way every day … and I think we should.

In the eternal scheme of things, life is short. We have one chance to make a difference. I, for one, hope to live each day as if it were my last. I expect that I won’t always do it flawlessly but this is one of my goals for 2019. May God help each one of us to know what He desires of us, and may we be faithful to complete those tasks until the day He calls us Home.

What Does Humility Look Like?

  • Posted on January 6, 2019 at 10:29 pm

This year, my mind has been going in so many directions that, whenever I come up with an idea for a blog post, I go ahead and make a draft with a title so that I can write it when I have time to put my thoughts together. This morning, I did a Facebook live video and shared a few thoughts on pride and humility. Therefore, I had to smile when I opened my drafts folder and found this title that I saved back in September. It is not easy writing this way as it can be hard to remember the direction I wanted to go months ago or what exactly was on my mind, but I know that God’s timing is perfect, and He has a way of bringing the posts together anyway.

Some of the points I made in my video were that pride seems to be the one sin that everyone struggles with. I don’t think I am overstating that. I believe that pride is at the root of every relational conflict when either one or more parties are determined to be “right,” to have their way, or to save face. With this in mind, I think it is important to understand what humility is … and what it is not.

I love how C.S. Lewis put it:

Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.

A humble person does not constantly beat herself up as she focuses on everything she can’t do right or doesn’t think she is any good at. No, a truly humble person will “work heartily as to the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). The focus will be on Him, not one’s own inadequacies. This is something I have not mastered but I pray to improve in this area.

I rarely post anything on Facebook that people will argue with me about but occasionally I remind people that “self-esteem” is not Biblical. This typically brings a response. If you study Scripture, you will not find one place where we are told to love ourselves. In fact, in Romans 12:3, Paul gives us the opposite instruction:

I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

The answer is not low self-esteem either, as this can be rooted in as much pride as high self-esteem. The problem with self-esteem is the word “self.” You need to esteem others as better than yourself (Philippians 2:3). When you do this, you will become the servant Christ is calling you to be.

The best way to humble yourself is to focus completely on Christ and on others. When your goal is to please Him and serve others, you won’t have a need to brag and puff yourself up because you will know that you are only accomplishing what you are because of Him. He will increase but you will decrease … and you won’t mind one bit.

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