The Mighty Power of God

 

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Last night as we sang around the campfire, our daughter Abigail suggested this song –

“I sing the mighty pow’r of God, that made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at His command, and all the stars obey.”

Isaac Watts wrote this triumphant hymn of praise to Creator God in 1715. It expresses so powerfully the fact that our universe is one of order, sustained by the mighty power of God.

We are in the middle of the excitement over the eclipse and our community will experience totality around 12:34 today. We have family and friends staying with us and anticipate a once -in-a-lifetime experience.

I recalled reading the book Miracles by Eric Metaxes. In the chapter, The Miracle of the Universe, Metaxes cites scientific evidence that demonstrates the wonder of our existence on planet Earth. The following is one piece of that evidence –

” For life to be possible anywhere in our universe, there needed to be vast amounts of carbon. In 1953, Sir Fred Hoyle – the Cambridge astronomer who coined the term “Big Bang”  – discovered that nuclear ground-state energy levels of helium, carbon, oxygen, and beryllium had to be extraordinarily fine-tuned for enough carbon to be created. If any of the ground levels were just 1 percent different, there would not have been enough carbon in the universe to allow for the possibility of life. To Hoyle, an atheist, the notion that this fine-tuning had “just happened” was statistically quite impossible.” p. 51

As we view the eclipse together with friends and family, let’s make a conscientious decision to give glory to the One responsible – our Heavenly Father.

Isaiah 40: 26

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
    Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
    and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
    not one of them is missing.

Eric Metaxes says this –

“The slimness of our being here is so slim that it’s enough to leave us goggle-eyed with terror – until in the next moment we realize we are indeed here and explode with gratitude for our very existence. This really can be the only proper and logical response to it all, to marvel and rejoice and rest in the genuinely unfathomable miracle of our being.” p. 54

As we watch this amazing display of God’s sustaining power at work in our universe, let us praise the mighty power of God.

 

 

Grace for Young Mothers

I haven’t written lately.

I haven’t painted.

I haven’t sewn a book or printed on the handmade paper I recently made.

Yet I have been doing the very things for which I retired. I am spending time with our grandchildren.

I walked into my studio yesterday to check the tiles I made with 8 of our grandchildren. The calm, creative atmosphere of the studio hit me, along with the fact that I have several projects in the works waiting to be attended to. “I LOVE working in this studio,” I thought.

But there will be time later, I thought. Grace.

These thoughts took me back 36 years to the time our children were little. It seemed like I faced a never ending cycle of meals, laundry, cleaning. Oh…. forget the cleaning. I did.

I didn’t write – except a random letter once in a great while.

I didn’t paint – except for a stick horse, a wall mural, or doll furniture.

I did not make anything “creative.”

But wait!

I was doing exactly what I planned to do when I left teaching full time. I was spending time with our children. “There would be time later to “create”, I thought.

AND THERE IS! Grace.

When God births a desire in our hearts, He is faithful to fulfill it in His time. We must wait and trust. I realized this week that I could choose to lament the time I am not in my studio, or enjoy the fact that our grandchildren are here and that I can treasure this time with them.

I am so thankful I chose the latter. We are having a lovely time. (I am worn out!)

A friend, Lena Woods, told me this week that her favorite memories from childhood were spending time with her cousins at her grandmother’s house. I hope we are creating some very special memories for our grandchildren as well.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 2  a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

This Scripture passage goes on to list many of life’s activities. Each thing has a time and a place. God’s time and God’s place.

So, I am going to go now and make lunches and we are going to ride bikes.

The studio will be there next month.

The grandchildren will not. Grace.

God’s Expectations

Phil and our first-born

” I could never live up to his expectations.”

How often have you heard this tragic statement in regard to someone talking about a parent? Sometimes a father, sometimes a mother, but equally heart-rending. Living with the feeling that you did not measure up is sometimes debilitating, but always hurtful.

The offending parent may have never verbalized their attitude towards the child, but in this case actions do speak louder than words. Looks of disdain, ignoring a child’s presence or needs,  just being too busy to listen all communicate lack of regard for a child.

Making fun of a child who makes a mistake, whether physical or verbal, is so hurtful. This can not only make a child feel inadequate, but can make a child feel like not trying something new for fear of failure.

We parents and grandparents must guard our speech to prevent hurtful words from wounding our children. Words spoken in frustration and impatience are especially scaring. One of the most harmful responses to a child is comparing that child to someone else in a negative way. “Why can’t you be like so and so…..?”

“Why can’t you be more like your brother?”

I have an older brother who was a high achiever in everything he did. He made excellent grades, was a good athlete, played the trombone, and NEVER got in trouble. Thankfully, my parents made it a point to not compare myself or my younger brother to our older sibling.

My younger brother can fix anything. He was this way as a young child. Whenever he visits, he fixes something. (Oh, about our coo-coo clock…when are you coming to visit?)

My parents expressed pleasure when I won the bubble-blowing contest, praised me for the grades I earned, and more importantly, supported my unique pursuits in artistic expression and theater, things my brothers did not do.

I do not remember a sense of competition in our home – but a realistic expectation that each of us would do our personal best. We are all different, and encouraging those differences seemed important in our family. My brothers may see it differently than I do, being the only girl, I always felt valued for who I was.

What a gift!

Phil and I tried to do the same with our four children, celebrating their differences and unique qualities. I can’t say that there was never competition between them, but it was self-inflicted, not from their father or me. The following Scripture is very meaningful to me –

Psalm 62:5   “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.

It is natural for parents to have expectations for their children.

We must make certain that our children know we love and accept them unconditionally. They must know that our love is not based on whether or not they meet our expectations.  The second part of that verse holds the key – “my expectation is from Him”. We must allow God to form our children according to HIS good pleasure, not ours.

I find this verse, Ephesians 3:20 in the Amplified version, so encouraging –

“Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]–“

Now I can think of some pretty wonderful things to have happen for my children and grandchildren!

Yet this verse states the fact that what God, our Father, has planned for them is better than anything I can even think or dream!

So – the challenge for us as parents and grandparents is to let our expectations come from God.

Singing Scripture

Nana singing to twins

We often sang in the car as we traveled when I was young. My parents both had excellent voices and sang harmony, baritone and alto, in a mixed quartet while in college. They represented their school, Huntington College, Indiana, singing in various churches.

Since my parents both sang parts, someone had to carry the melody, so that fell to me. I can sing a melody line with the best of them, but I cannot sing a harmony part to save my life.

I wish I could.

We sang lots of hymns, gospel songs, folk songs, and what I think of as “camp fire songs”, Home on the Range, Cowboy Joe, etc.

I liked the gospel songs the best. They were upbeat, often had an echoing part, and were just plain fun to sing. They also rang true to me – they represented the Christian beliefs that were lived and taught in my home while growing up.

As I continued to grow, singing remained an important part of my life. In high school I started playing the guitar. I still play that same guitar today, 50 years later. I wanted to play the guitar to accompany singing, so I just play by ear, but I know LOTS of songs.

I was part of Christian singing groups in high school and college, and began learning scripture set to music.

Those scripture songs are so very dear to me. I will be thinking random thoughts and a scripture song will come to mind. I will then sing that scripture and be blessed by God’s word. It is hard for me to memorize Bible verses at my age, but I can easily remember words set to music.

It blesses my soul!

Gayleand Elaine in Israel

One of my most precious memories of our recent trip to Israel was singing scripture and hymns with my friend Elaine. We would see something, or hear someone share something and a scripture song would come to one of our minds. Several times Elaine and I had the same song on our hearts at the same time! What a blessing! We not only walked where Jesus walked, we sang as well.

Colossians 3:16

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

I will always be thankful for the musical heritage passed down to me by my parents. Phil and I sang a lot with our children, and although neither of us sing harmony, we sang lots of gospel songs, hymns, and scripture together. Truthfully, sometimes we sang to distract a fussy little traveler. It usually worked!

Now we sing with our grandchildren. I hope to pass down that same musical heritage to this next generation. An unexpected blessing has been the new songs that they teach me.

I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live…” Psalm 104:33

That is the cry of my heart.

Nana singing around campfire

 

 

Heart Condition

I took my mother to her heart doctor today as a follow up to having her pace maker replaced last week. She is doing well, the incision is healing nicely, and the data from the pace maker indicates that her heart is doing what it is designed to do.

We are thankful.

We then visited her family practice doctor to ask about some slight swelling in Mother’s legs. He asked her several questions, questions designed to reveal if  there is anything going on in the rest of her body that might signal a heart condition. The answers indicated that mother has been more active since I have been visiting with her, and that the extreme heat here in Chicagoland is causing that bit of swelling.

Nothing to be concerned about.

We were glad we went to the doctor and it got me to thinking about the questions doctors ask. Questions designed to reveal information about conditions that may not show up on the surface, but could be of grave concern. Those questions could reveal heart conditions that are hidden from view.

The questions we ask reveal much about who we are, don’t they?

I remember being in the hospital with my father right before he passed away. His condition was a mystery at first, and five different specialists were consulted to try to determine what was wrong.

Each specialist came to talk to my mother, my brother and sister-in-law, and myself. We listened to their preliminary diagnosis, and then were asked if we had any questions.

My brother would ask a question, and immediately you could see a change in the specialist’s deminor. They would ask, “Are you a medical person?” They knew immediately, without my brother saying so, that he had medical knowledge by the vocabulary he used, by the insight he had into what the specialists shared. My brother is a family practice physician and had been on the other end of these conversations countless times. His questions revealed who he is.

Jesus did the same thing when people came to Him seeking help. Jesus asked questiones to determine the condition of their hearts.

In Matthew 19:3-6 Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees. Jesus asks them a question to test their hearts.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Jesus knew they were trying to trap him, but instead Jesus revealed the condition of their hearts.

We must guard our hearts that they do not become hard. Our words reveal the condition of our hearts, don’t they?

Jesus says in Matthew 12:34b

For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart,

I pray that our hearts are in good condition.

Every Tribe, Every Nation

 

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“Red, brown, yellow, black and white, we’re all precious in His sight….”

Since Phil and I returned home last Thursday, people have asked me, “What impression impacted you the most from your trip to Israel?”

I expected to see Jewish people, some from many different continents as the diaspora have returned to the nation of Israel since it’s modern establishment in 1948. I also expected to see many Arabs who have populated this region since their beginnings as children of Abraham’s son, Ishmael.

What I did not expect to see was the many hundreds of Christian pilgrims from every tribe and every nation on earth.

The second through fifth days of our trip were spent hiking the Jesus Trail. This is a well marked trail from Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, to Capernaum along the Sea of Galilee where Jesus spent most of His time in ministry. Our group of 10 people walked where Jesus walked and lived, seeing the locations of several of His miracles and the ruins of the occupying Roman government. This is not a heavily populated area and the  people we saw were mainly Jews and Arabs, living in a delicate balance of religious and political tolerance.

The next few days were spent mainly in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, visiting the many significant sights of Jesus birth, death, and resurrection. This is a modern urban area, surrounding the old cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem. There were hundreds of people arriving on large tour buses at each site we visited.

This is what surprised and blessed me.

This is what I did not expect.

The “pilgrims” like myself, were Christians from every people group I can think of.  The following nationalities represent people we either spoke to or we heard them say that they were –

  •  Africans – from Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya
  •  Asians – from China, Korea, Japan, India and Taiwan
  • Hispanics – from Ecuador, Argentina. and Mexico
  • Europeans,  – from Spain, France, Great Britain, Italy
  • Eastern Europeans – from Poland, Czech Republic, Russia
  • Australians
  • New Zealanders
  • Canadians, Virgian Islands
  • US Citizens from many different states

 

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All of these people came to pay homage to Jesus and the places where Jesus lived and and carried out His ministry.

Why did this bless me so much? Why was I surprised to see people from every tribe and every nation worshipping Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

I have to admit that my response revealed my narrow view of the Body of Christ and the Kingdom that Jesus will establish when He returns again to earth.

In Revelation John shares the following vision.

Revelation 7:9-10

9. After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10. And they cried out in a loud voice:    

“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

Seeing these large groups of people from nations throughout the world should not have surprised me. We were after all near the very location where the Bible teaches God created the first people. If I believe this Biblical account, and I do, then all the various people I was seeing had ancestors who originated here as well, just like I did.

I was overcome by the blessing of seeing this very diverse representation of my brothers and sisters in Christ, the Body of Christ, the Church. Our church gatherings here in the United States are but a small representation of what God has gathered together in the Body of Christ world wide. My visit to Jerusalem gave me a glimpse into this much bigger picture.

We looked different, dressed differently, talked and sang differently, prayed differently, even expressed our love for Jesus in different ways, but we had a common purpose.

We were there in Israel to honor Jesus, the King of Kings.

I will sing that familiar children’s song with new meaning now……

“Red, brown, yellow, black and white, we’re all precious in His sight….”

 

 

 

A Living Sacrifice

As pregnant women, we get a true picture of what it means for our bodies to not be our own. We feel that little life (or lives) moving inside and we realize it is no longer about us.

We may feel sick from certain smells that never bothered us before pregnancy, we also may crave certain foods for no apparent reason. We are no longer in charge and often don’t even understand the changes taking place in our own bodies. This is just the beginning.

Romans 12:1 says “Therefore I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”

As mothers of young children your body is a living sacrifice.

You are no longer your own. You get up in the morning, change diapers, breastfeed, have meals, tend to chores (when able) and meet others’ needs all day long according to their schedule, not your own.

A loving mother sacrifices her own wants and needs for her family. I can remember thinking when our four children were small that I would never feel rested again. I couldn’t imagine getting enough rest.

Yet, God convicted me with the truth of the above scripture one day at our home group. The home group leader, Phil, asked us to think about what in our lives were hindrances to worship. The immediate response that came to my mind was “my children”!

Then I felt shame.

These were gifts from God!  Why did I see them as a hindrance? Because I did not see my service to them as significant in God’s eyes. I thought a “ministry” was more important. Yet, the Lord showed me those children were my ministry at that time. NOTHING was more important. Offering my body as a living sacrifice WAS an act of worship – one very pleasing to our Lord.

As we have contemplated this Easter weekend the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross, let us embrace the sacrifices we make as mothers moment by moment, day by day.

Jesus is our example – He laid down His life. As His follower, I must do likewise and be a living sacrifice.