Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Dear Diary..."

When I was nine years old, my mother gave me a special little leatherette book. It was burgundy and came with its own pen and, most significantly, a lock and key! I could write down all my secret thoughts--what I really thought about people and events, not just the polite reactions that were expected of me. I could write down wishes, dreams and prayers and, days or years later, go back and see which ones had been answered and which had not been. Usually the unfulfilled wishes were the best gifts since I didn't always display wisdom in my wishing.

Now I have a blog. I can write down my thoughts, air my grievances, and unabashedly post my opinions, opinions which may later make me blush when I'm smacked up against my ignorance or wrong-headedness -- sort of like realizing you've been walking around with your skirt caught up in the back or a big piece of spinach caught in your teeth. Not too impressive... I've always loved the prayer, "Lord, make my words tender and sweet for tomorrow I may have to eat them." Sound advice. A scriptural admonition comes to mind: "...let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God," James 1:19.

Nevertheless, that innate desire to communicate my thoughts in black and white continues, now expanded beyond the pages of an adolescent diary into cyberspace. But I'm no longer content just to write down my thoughts. I love to carry on conversations with folks, many I know and some I may never meet. I never believed Simon and Garfunkel when they sang, I am a rock; I am an island... I have no need of friendship for friendship causes pain: I touch no one and no one touches me. Instead, I think I'm more in tune with whoever sang, Words are all I have to give my heart away...

John describes Jesus as The Word made flesh Who 'manifested' or made plain the Father to a world that largely rejected Him and His message. God calls us His 'workmanship' or literally, His 'poem.' Our words as His redeemed people must be salt and light to a watching, listening, hurting world. In fact, Scripture even goes so far as to say that, 'by your words are you justified and by your words you are condemned.' A very mysterious passage to me but one that reminds us that we should choose our words carefully, even when we're playing around and having fun or mad or sad.

Before I speak, either audibly or in print, I must think: are my words sanctifying and edifying? Am I so marinated in Scripture that the more mature I become, the more my language begins to sound like the language of Heaven in opposition to the careless, graceless language of a condemned world? Is it easier for me to use coarse language than Biblical language? Ephesians 4:29 instructs me to "let no unwholesome words proceed from [my] mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear." Are our words filling the need of the moment, bestowing grace on our listeners? These are important and serious markers for us to gauge our growth in grace and our usefulness as instruments of truth and peace so needed in the body life of Christ's beloved bride, the church.

Thanks for taking time to read my open 'diary.' I hope that in my words The Word will be honored and glorified and that you will take away a little encouragement, a little humor, some pathos and a lot of love. "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer." --Psalm 19:14

Grace and peace be unto you...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanks be to God...

Thirty-nine years ago, I was twenty years old. I had survived the '60's, virtually unscathed,(not really, as I still attempt to re-educate myself) despite attending a public high school and a liberal liberal-arts college for women in Atlanta and on to another one in Bristol, TN. My parents and grandparents, aunt and other near relations were all public school teachers. Back then, that's all there was, especially in the mountains of Virginia, my home. God graced me with, not only devout Christian parents, but a community and school that honored God. But the greatest blessing of all was the young man who came to be my grandfather's summer assistant in the tiny Presbyterian church in 1965 where Grandpa had pastored since his conversion by a "home" missionary, Thomas Mowbray. He was a South Carolinian with a wooden leg and a heart for God who had led my grandparents to the Lord many years before. Grandpa left the teaching profession, took seminary classes and was ordained to the Gospel ministry under what was called the 'extraordinary clause'. Joe was attending King College in Bristol, TN, at the time a rising junior, when he came to help my Grandpa that summer. That was 43 years ago,if my math and memory serve me right.

I'd never known anyone like him. He was broad shouldered, lanky and tall--almost 6' 5"--and had the manner of another Billy Graham when he preached. His flashing blue eyes could pierce to the core of your being and his booming voice captivated the congregation and his intense love for Christ and desire that all men come to know Him captured my heart. We spent the whole summer together teaching unchurched children in Bible schools--we held sixteen to be exact--all over the beautiful wild mountains of my home in southwestern Virginia. Never had I met anyone who could draw men, women, boys and girls to Jesus like this young man and still have a great sense of humor, a combination of reserve and friendliness that intrigued me, a love of good music, history and storytelling that drew me in... I never wanted to be apart from him.

The rest of our love story will have to wait for the film or historical novel version perhaps. I wanted to take note that tomorrow, November 27th, 2008, is our 39th wedding anniversary! We were married on November 27th, Thanksgiving Day. This year we will spend our anniversary, not with our children and grandchildren, a custom we always anticipate with much joy from year to year in the past and will in the future as well, with God's blessing. But this year the two of us will give thanks for all our blessings and celebrate our devotion and commitment to each other in the hospital in Macon, GA, where Joe will rest for one more day before beginning a grueling re-hab program after knee replacement surgery two days ago. He will learn to walk and do many other things he has almost lost with terrible arthritic pain for several years. We look forward now, with God's blessings, to him regaining use of his limbs and with that a happier, healthier life.

I know that if I must experience traumatic health experiences in the future, he will be there for me, even as he has been in the past. I sit with him today, not wishing we could be somewhere else, but thankful that God is with us where we are. That's what marriage is about: not just wine and roses, laughter and arguments and kissing and making up--that's a big part of it. Marriage is about the journey together, being two who grow more and more into one flesh--struggling together, celebrating life, weeping over losses, hurting and healing together. Married life is hard sometimes, but it's beautiful, too. I wouldn't want to spend my anniversary doing anything else than being with my husband, looking into his eyes and finding a stronger love than I've ever known.

I love you, Joe. More than ever you are my best friend, my mentor, my lover, my hero. Happy anniversary, honey. Next year, let's dance!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Post-Election Anti-Depression Recipe

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
to the last syllable of recorded time;
and all our yesterdays have lighted fools
the way to dusty death.
Out, out brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
that struts and frets his hour upon the stage
and then is heard no more:

it is a tale told by an idiot,
full of sound and fury,
signifying nothing...

-- Shakespeare, Macbeth, V.v.
(photo of Bothwell Castle, Scotland)

One week ago today, we anticipated election day. Maybe 'anticipated' is the wrong word. When I use that word, I'm normally thinking of something enjoyable like a birthday party, vacation or Christmas. Now Election Day, 2008 has passed. The much anticipated day has come and gone as indeed all things mortal and finite do. They pass away, become history or are simply forgotten.

Thou dost turn man back into dust, and dost say, 'Return, O children of men.' For a thousand years in Thy sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night. Thou has swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep; in the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew...
(photo of wildflowers growing in Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh, Scotland)

In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew; toward evening it fades and withers away...For all our days have declined in Thy fury; we have finished our years like a sigh. As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away...So teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom. --Psalm 90:3-6,10-12

O Lord, what is man that Thou dost take knowledge of him? Or the son of man that Thou dost think of him? Man is like a mere breath; his days are like a passing shadow. --Psalm 144:3,4

(Becky, dreaming as the shadows fall in St. Andrews Cathedral ruins, Scotland, June, 2008)

Minutes and seconds slide into hours and days which quickly mount up on wings like eagles and glide into weeks and months, insistently flying over the horizon into years, heedless of our attempts to call them back. The years drift on, like silent snow, piling up against our windows as we dream, unaware that decades have suddenly written themselves without our cognizance while we busily bustled about, unsuspecting, like children who fall asleep in the car and awaken, snug in bed.

Like sand pouring through the proverbial hour-glass, years crowd into centuries; and, before you can turn around twice, one millenia nudges its way against the second. They push together, surging into the third, then, at break-neck speed, the fourth one skids into line...time is relentless in its onward march. No space left to catch a deep breath...[my photo of ancient monoliths erected in a field in Kilmartin Valley, perhaps earlier than the 9th century, in Scotland]

(painting of The Venerable Bede translating the book of John, by J. D. Penrose, 1902, source, Wikipedia)

The Venerable Bede (A.D. 673-735) wrote to his Anglo-Saxon king:
The present life of man, O king, seems to me, in comparison of that time which is unknown to us, like to the flight of a sparrow through the room wherein you sit at supper in winter, with your commanders and ministers, and a good fire in the midst, whilst the storms of rain and snow prevail abroad; the sparrow, I say, flying in at one door, and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry storm; but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, into the dark winter from which he had emerged. So this life of man appears for a short space, but of what went before, or what is to follow, we are utterly ignorant."
--[from Ecclesiastical History of the English People (731 A.D.) II.xiii.]

Thanks be to God, we know without the least shadow of doubt from whence we have come and where we are going. How unnecessary for the Christian to live in such despair--we are not as sparrows flitting through a warm room into a shroud of blackness. If this picture of life is valid, should we not live for today, warming ourselves as long as we can by the fire, draining the cup of pleasure to the dregs? The non-Christian world lives by this standard. As blood-bought children of God, ransomed from the world, we have been given a different perspective.

We choose to live opposed to the base standards and God-less philosophies of our polluted world. We choose the perception of eternity in our souls that elevates our existence to noble, joyful heights. So many around us agree with John Gay, an early 19th century British playwright, who wrote this epitaph for himself: "Life is a jest, and all things show it, I thought so once, and now I know it." We must realize at the onset that our enemies are not at all as fierce as they seem. In fact, the Bible informs us that their lives are built on shifting sand and will be swept away by the first real storm that falls. Devise a plan to defeat your tendency to fear these straw men and to throttle your tendency towards fear and anxiety.

We must oppose the straw men of our day by, first, refusing to be shaped by current events and the media. Rather, become a serious student of the Bible, its teachings and history and the history of the world, ancient and modern. Immerse yourself, as much as possible, in learning good theology and REAL history. Not edited, revised and supplemented fables fabricated for public school textbooks, much of the history and discovery channel offerings and most ivy league colleges and universities. Go to original sources or those who used them to write their books -- grasp the macro-concepts of each period of history and then put flesh on the bare bones by reading the biographies and autobiographies of each era. Develop a clear and deep understanding of God's Word as well as a solid, bedrock perspective about history and the people and events that make it and you will find yourself better able to correctly interpret current events.

Second, know where you fit into the picture in your moment in history. Our very existence is defined, not by what someone else says about it but by the knowledge that God had a reason for your birth. He knows everything about you and me because He planned for each of us to be here--at this specific point in time and space, and He fills each life with a dynamic sense of meaning as we find our meaning in Him. Macbeth*[see quote above] was wrong. A Christian should never feel that he is "a poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage...full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." You are significant because God wants you here to find your rest in Him and to do all His holy will from a grateful heart. Once you've discovered your raison d'etre, passionately devote yourself to living it, every day, with every fiber of your being and every moment of time you are given. Calvin said that truly knowing yourself and God are the necessary ingredients for living a satisfying life. (Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, I,i.ii.)

Third, (or perhaps first in order of importance), believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation and you will never die--you will continue to live beyond the grave. Our bodies will grow weary and sick, although some are taken even before the aging process begins to show; but YOU, your resurrected body and soul, will never, ever, ever die! I find that truth more than comforting. Purpose infuses my days, months and years as I realize that I was created on purpose by the Sovereign God of the universe, the One Who alone keeps the planets from crashing into the sun, Who sustains all that He has created until its appointed time to die, Who has never failed in one promise He ever made, Who has revealed Himself and His holy will in His law/word in the Scriptures and through His only Son, Who daily prays for me and empowers me, by the Holy Spirit Who indwells me, to live and move and have my being in Him.

Hallelujah! Praise Jehovah!
Oh, my soul, Jehovah praise.
I will sing the glorious praises
of my God through all my days.
Put no confidence in princes,
nor for help on man depend.
He shall die, to dust returning,
and his purposes shall end.

Happy is the man that chooses
Israel's God to be his aid.
He is blessed whose hope of blessing
on the Lord his God is stayed.
Heav'n and earth the Lord created,
seas and all that they contain.
He delivers from oppression,
righteousness He will maintain.
--Psalm 146, 1912 Psalter

One week has passed since election day, 2008. Four (or more years) of formidable socialistic, pluralistic, anti-Christian, pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, pro-'everything I'm opposed to' politics seems probable from this vantage point. I cannot change the election results. I tried as best I could to influence anyone who would listen prior to the election. So what now? I could easily choose depression, anxiety and fear as the motivating factors for my attitude and decisions in the days ahead, but to do so would demonstrate a pitiable lack of faith in God's promises.

My reaction as a Christian may only be informed by God's Word. Despite alarming headlines, I must remind myself daily to remember what I know is true: God is still on His throne, therefore, nothing essential has changed in God's universe! I need not live as a sparrow flitting through a warm room to the unknown darkness beyond it. I know something neither the sparrow nor unregenerate man can know--God reigns! Therefore, I will continue to walk down the path the Lord has clearly marked for my life until He welcomes me home, knowing without a doubt that, though trials may lie ahead, "God casues all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose," Romans 8:28. While I remain here, I will endeavor to trust Him, the all-wise Sovereign and Lord of my heart Who is the God of history. My confidence will not rest in princes nor will I fear what they can do to me. My hope rests in the knowledge of His providential care Who does all things well.

This is my recipe for post-election depression: By His grace and in His strength alone, I will nourish my hungry heart on His delicious and satisfying word; I will pray on my face before Him, begging for mercy and cleansing for myself, my dear ones, His bride the church and our poor, deceived nation. I will exercise my faith by working with all my heart in my callings "as unto the Lord." I will worship on His holy hill each Lord's day, drawing comfort and strength as I commune with Him around His table and in fellowship with His people. Finding His mercies new and fresh every morning, I will sing His praises so loudly that the din and confusion of the world will simply fade away to a dull, boring roar, like the droning of a wasp caught in a jar and fear and depression will slink away into the darkness where they belong.

I believe that God is stronger than any double-minded politician. I believe that Good will triumph over evil. I believe that Truth will win over falsehood. The world will be changed in my life-time and in the years to come as it has been in years past, not through the machinations of men and political activists, but through the blessings and curses of a mighty Warrior Who strides over His defeated enemies, the sword of His Word prevailing now as it always has throughout the centuries. Enlist in His army and know that, regardless of election results, sin and even death, the victory has already been won. Praise be to God!

"In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For Thou alone, O LORD, dost make me to dwell in safety." --Psalm 4:8

Saturday, November 1, 2008

While I was sleeping...

How surreal to me that I had posted a blog late last night entitled, Life is Short, without knowing that a precious jewel, Caroline Hartrampf, age 19, would soon thereafter rise to glory to be with the Lord she loved. I've known and loved Caroline's mother since she was 12 years old. Her grandparents are long-time friends in our church. We have rejoiced that Caroline's consistent life of commitment to the Lord was a shining witness for Christ at her school and with all who knew her. And then, in an instant on a country road, she and her boyfriend who had hoped to spend his life ministering in medicine mission work, were killed in a car wreck last night on the way home from a family wedding rehearsal dinner in Greenville, SC. Hopes and plans for their future, her special brand of joy, the smiles, hugs and sweetness--gone from our lives for eternity.

Tomorrow is not promised for you nor me nor for anyone we love. "Life," said Michael Billings, a great young man who left this life last fall also at age 19, also in a car wreck, "is but a vapor." Will we leave behind a solid, substantial testimony of unwavering faithfulness to Christ as these young people did? Or will there be enough evidence to prove we were Christians? Are we spinning spider's webs on the loom of life or leaving an inheritance of solid, substantial, faithful words and deeds for our children and, if we are blessed to live long enough, our grandchildren to hold onto after we are gone?

I urge you, dear friends, to lay aside all that encumbers you--the pursuit of all worthless things, and to press on, advancing the crown rights of King Jesus in every area of life with each breath you are given. Nothing in this life will last--no beauty, no pleasure, no earthly bauble; only what is done for the glory of Christ and the furthrance of His kingdom is worth doing.

You and I will leave a legacy. Will our legacy be that of faith and faithfulness such as Caroline left, a living testimony for the Lord so clear that, "we being dead, yet speak"? Or will those who knew us grieve because we squandered our moment in history.

We mourn with those who mourn--our hearts are broken. But Caroline would not have us grieve as those who have no hope. She would enthusiastically encourage us in Christ's strength, to be up and doing for our Lord. We must not have a faith that wavers: He Who has promised us all good things, will He not also bring it to pass?

Give us grace to believe, Lord. Grant to us a solid, solemn re-commitment to live this day, every day for Jesus until our task is done. I know Jesus welcomed Caroline with open arms, saying, "Well, done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord."

Life's too short...

Fox News provides the background noise in the room just now--pundits wagging on about the upcoming election. Thankfully, the echoes in my head are of something far lovelier that has transported me beyond the mundane--Mercy practicing cello in her room. She remarked earlier, "Mom, I'm actually going to practice cello--I have meant to practice all week."

Good intentions. I think of all I've done today, this week, this month, this year, and all I've left undone that I meant to do. The day, the week, the month, the year are drawing to a close. It's Friday, the last day of October with daylight savings time helping us 'fall back' tomorrow night in an effort to give us a little more 'time' each day. Where does time go? It disappears like the mist on the mountains as the sun rises. Now I'm young, anticipating life with its sweet mysteries yet to be unveiled; then, the noonday sun beats down, the middle of life far too busy to count the passage of days; and now I'm old or at least no longer viewing it in the far distance as the sun starts to slip lower on the horizon, still bright but casting long shadows before my dimmed eyes.

There are only two months left of this year. Where did the year go since its first momentous event, that of Joseph Charles Morecraft, V, "Charlie's" birth on his Uncle Grant Scarborough's birthday in January? Suddenly, tomorrow is November. My seventh grandbaby is due in a few days, Joe's knee replacement and recovery for several weeks following which will take us into Christmas or beyond...2008 will be history before we can envision it. We will have a new president, new crises to confront, new prayer requests, new sins to confess, new griefs to confide, new joys to express... life is unalterably short, especially for those of us who are on the downhill slide of the equation.

The Bible has a lot to say about the brevity of life; in particular the verse, "Redeem the time for the days are evil," comes to mind this election season. This verse encourages me to make the most of each day--I can't change one single person I know, but I can change myself where I'm convicted change is needed. Although I am tempted to live in regret for what is left undone, I may not waste valuable energy doing so if I can, but must learn from my sins and mistakes and continue the arduous task of re-prioritizing my time every day.

I pledge tonight, the last day of October, 2008, to try to remember that life is a gift, every second of it. I recommit to arising with a song of praise to God on my lips each morning, asking Him to use me in any way He sees fit to bring Him glory. That's all I need. That's enough...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Giving Thanks...Giving Back

Today I had a rare privilege. I was able to give back a little of the encouragement given to me as a child of eight. How well I recall standing in my little choir, softly singing along with my friends and wishing with all my heart I could sing like my teacher, Mrs. Matherly. Her eyes sparkled and her voice rang out with enthusiasm and joy. I wanted to be her; but I was shy and embarrassed. After class, she called me aside.

"Becky," she said in a kind but firm voice, "You have a beautiful voice but you need to sing out--sing like you mean it. I can barely hear you. God has given you a gift and you need to use it for His glory, honey." She continued to coax me throughout the years that she remained in our church, a church where my grandfather was the pastor.

This past Saturday, as I hurried to pack the car after a week-long stay with our daughter, Anne, in Augusta, my cell phone rang. I grabbed it on the last ring and waited to hear a friend or family member who wanted to know where I had been for a week and when I was coming home. Instead, I was amazed to hear the voice of a home-town friend I'd lost touch with for almost 40 years. "Becky," she said, "I got your number from your mother. Mrs. M. wanted me to try to find you. Stacey, her husband, died yesterday. Can you call her?"

I called her immediately and was amazed to hear the sad but same voice of my old teacher. Her grief was multiplied as she realized that she had no one to turn to for the funeral services--they had moved recently to be near her daughter because of her health conditions and those of her husband. They had no church connections in their new home which, amazingly, is only 20 minutes from my home. "I prayed for God to show me what to do," she told me with tears making her voice shake, "and suddenly, there was your face, like in a dream. Could you sing and maybe Joe preach?" she queried, her voice frail and full of sorrow and hope.

Her one request was that I sing Amazing Grace with a guitar since her husband loved guitar. "Of course," I promised with groundless confidence. Little did I realize that everyone I asked-- about ten people--would be in class or working today. One last hope appeared, four hours before the service. "Jonathan, could you possibly break away for an hour and meet me in Woodstock?" This gracious young man (whose mother's funeral Joe had preached three years ago) agreed and provided guitar accompaniment to the song that has brought so much comfort to so many through the years.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
was blind but now I see...
--John Newton

As it turned out, Joe and I were two of many representatives of my hometown, his adopted hometown. He first came to Haysi, Virginia, in 1965, as my grandfather Anderson's summer assistant and, because of my grandfather's poor health, officiated that summer at two funerals. One was for my dad's father, M. Calvin Belcher. The other was for my school-mate, Joan Ratliffe's father. Mr. R.'s brother was at the funeral in Woodstock today and 43 years later, expressed his gratitude once more to my husband. The friend who called to find me in Augusta was also grateful--Joe had performed her wedding 40 years ago. Several others in attendance remembered him as a dinner guest in their homes or befriending them and their relatives in times of need. Everybody told me how much I looked like my mother which made me happy indeed.

How wonderful to be able to be used by God to comfort and encourage those who have been a part of our lives, influencing us in ways we were not fully aware of at the time during those formative years. The young seminary student who took part in the service today alongside Joe is the grand-nephew, not only of the deceased, but of one of Joe's favorite Bible teachers in college and grandson of a bold preacher of the Gospel in SW Virginia who influenced my husband as a young pastor. Just maybe one level of God's providential hand involved influencing this tender-hearted, zealous young seminarian even as his relatives influenced Joe at his age.

In God's providence, we were able to give back today a little of what we were given as young Christians. As I looked into those dear faces today, I thought,"Who am I helping to shape and encourage in my moment in history, by words of encouragement, smiles and gentle reproach?" I praise God for the opportunity to say, "Thank you" to those who have given to me. May God bless someone by my faithful witness as well and may He receive all the glory.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fear: It's Roots and Fruits

I walked into my daughter Anne's back yard yesterday and counted five tall pine trees that could possibly--who knows--drop loose limbs on the unsuspecting heads of my granddaughters. Will I lie awake during the next strong wind and quake at the thought? I hope not. But I will encourage a watchful eye and expert opinions on those trees from time to time. 
Fear can paralyze (so could a falling limb?) and, if left unchecked and unrepented of, will cripple faith like a cankor worm gnawing away at the inside of an apparently healthy tree. When the challenging winds blow, it's fall is certain. So is the life more motivated by fear than faith.

At a critical moment during WWII, FDR bolstered the flagging spirits of the Allied troops with a stirring speech from which this sentence is often quoted: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." For many, fear becomes a way of life, habituated to the point that it impels our behavior in areas that may surprise us if we dare explore our true motivations. Show me a bitter, whining woman and, without digging deeply at all, I will show you a woman filled with fear rather than faith. Listen to the domineering, spiteful husband and father and you will find a man mastered by his fears rather than his faith in a caring heavenly Father Who has a perfect plan for his life despite all that he perceives is going wrong. Look at Peter. When Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, the Lord of the winds and the waves, he walked on water! Imagine that! But when he looked at the waves and sensed his inability to save himself from impending doom, he sank beneath them. Only the strong hand of his Lord could pull him from the vortex of fear in which he was literally drowning. 

Have you ever been afraid, really afraid? Not just startled with momentary heart-thumping results, but the kind of deep-seated fear that is accompanied by dread and gut-wrenching anguish. Childish fears, fears that are ungrounded in reality, are fears easily overcome as we mature. Perhaps childhood fears that are left unattended nourish fears in us as adults. But maybe your fears are rooted in your failings or those of someone else. Perhaps you have learned to live above the surface of your worst fears, only allowing them into your conscious thinking during 'weak' moments. Whatever shape the monster assumes in your mind, all fear is born of the same 'mother.' William Gurnall, a great Puritan preacher, said, "We fear men so much because we fear God so little." What then is the remedy for our fears? In the Biblical sense, fear God.
Dr. George Robertson, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Georgia, reminded us last Sunday morning that adversity--situations that tend to engender a spirit of faithless fear--will peel back our layers and expose what really motivates us. We may be able to show ourselves full of faith until the storms hit; but our faith must be nourished by the means of grace God provides us -- consistent Bible study and sound preaching, the fellowship of the saints, earnest prayer, putting to death sin in our lives on a consistent, daily basis, prostrating our plans and thoughts before a holy God, consistently putting others before ourselves -- otherwise we will find ourselves weak and unable to withstand our natural and sinful fears.

Why is fear such a common factor in our failures? Perhaps because we find it easier to fear the unknown or the too well-known than to trust our lives and the lives and well-being of those we love to God's sovereign purposes. Humility is perhaps the most difficult virtue to obtain because pride is it's antithetical vice and we are all born with the cankor worm of pride ready to destroy us. 
The fruit of fear destroys us while the fruit of faith -- contentment, submission to our sovereign, loving God shown in us as women by a quiet and joyful spirit -- conquers fear and sets us free to live lives of gratitude, free from bitterness and anxiety. Fear God and all other fears will fade into unimportance as the peace that passes all understanding fills your heart and mind. 

Peace be unto you!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

All of Grace

Mid-October has already arrived and not a day too soon! I feel the release of tensions of every description when I look at the burnished leaves, feel the crunch of hickory nuts underfoot on my walk and breathe in the crisp, cleansing air.

October--August only crowns your place

of months significant in time and space;

for then it was my newborn cries rang shrill.

And yet, you argue, "Nay, October's still

the month to laud above your humble start."

I bow to you for he who won my heart

and reigns o'er it as king of all I do

was blessed to find beginnings then in you!

Happy birthday poem (impromptu and un-edited though it be) dedicated to my dear husband. More to come...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Grace Notes

Lo, the midnight hour has silently slipped past. Often have I wondered at the passage of time. I sit at the computer creating my first blog--a word I only heard for the first time about a year ago--wondering what my grandchildren will be doing when they are at the ripe old age of almost 60! I hope sleeping soundly in warm beds having enjoyed worship on the Sabbath Day past in a church blessed with Biblical preaching and the fellowship of many close friends. I pray they will have feasted on God's Word, communed with the saints around the table and gone to sleep with smiles of contentment on their lips after kissing a house filled to the brim with godly children goodnight. I pray that their neighbors and communities will all love the Lord so that it will be difficult to find someone to tell the good news of the Gospel to...I pray that grace will conquer sin, fear and wickedness in their generation. I know that day will come...I don't know when. God, make us faithful unto death...