Two Roads + Two Gates

The Narrow and Wide Gates

 Matthew 7:13-14 and Psalm 87

 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

This scripture is equally perplexing AND frightening! It is really hard for my small brain to comprehend God’s ways sometimes. Why will only few find it? If all will hear, why will just a few enter?

As Jesus wraps up His teaching on the hillside (now called the Mount of Beatitudes), He has covered a lot ground with topics ranging from serving, to judging, to prayer. He addresses our hearts: pointing out areas of law, tradition, and ritual, and replacing them with pure motives, love, and authenticity.

In an environment of Jewish law and order reigning over all, He fulfills those laws by showing what’s at the root of them – going back to the basics/intention of the law, and then maximizing the law to the fullest with love + utmost surrender to the Lord.

Every time I read this passage, two things come to mind. Anyone else watch A Thief In the Night back in the day? I was 7 and that movie FREAKED ME OUT! The razor left in the bathroom sink… the sad sad song “I Wish We’d All Been Ready”. It was more than my developing brain could process.

The second thing my mind races to is the scripture about the lukewarm being spit out (Rev 3:16). If you’ve read any of Francis Chan’s work, you’ve likely come across some of his thoughts on this scripture.  One cool thing about heaven is we will see + know things as they truly are (1 Cor 13:12) – no more guessing!

When I think about this narrow road of a few, it’s easy for me to start feeling frightened or downtrodden. Many enter the path to destruction, but few enter the path of life. Who am I to be among the few? There are a lot more Christians that are more spiritual than me.  Yikes!

How does this scripture coincide with the popular mantra “Just Believe”? If you pray the sinner’s prayer and confess Jesus as your Lord + Savior, that’s it, right? How do we know for certain? Will we ever know for certain?  Paul’s letter to the Philippians (1:6) sure sounds assuring: Being confident of this very thing, that He that began a good work in you will complete it until the day that Christ returns. How do we get that confidence??

I don’t know the answers to all of these questions. What I do know is that God doesn’t want me living in a state of fear, worry, or a mindset of “working my way into heaven”. This is exactly what Jesus preached against.  He wants my heart surrendered and pure. If I am truly believing in His saving grace and can comprehend His love for me, then my life wouldn’t be lukewarm. My passion for Him would be evident in all areas of my life. My desire to glorify Him (not earn salvation) will supersede everything else.

So what about when it’s not? What’s happening then? Am I “saved” when I have seasons of lukewarm living? When I start walking on the wide path toward the big gate…then what?  Is there grace for that? If I had a car accident in that moment and died, can I just use the common line “well, God knows my heart”?  And is that always a comfort or is that just what people say to justify sin and lukewarm living? Because the truth is, God really does know my heart. ALL OF IT. I’m not sure that’s something I want to brag about all the time.  Sure on Sundays when I’ve sang some worship songs and taken good notes from the sermon…or when I just got back from a long run filled with talking to God. But what about when I’m stuck in traffic, see someone that’s really treated me poorly, or my kids won’t listen. Yep, He sees my heart then, too. We can’t pick and choose when and what He sees. I digress…

The bottom line is, in my heart of hearts, I have confidence in the saving grace of God, His love for me, and I choose to surrender all to Him. I can’t wait for heaven!! I believe in Jesus and I believe in heaven! And I believe I will be there.

As I say that, I also have to tell you that I’ve had moments where I couldn’t get a hold of someone… so had to call another Christian (Grandma Rita is a good one) to make sure Jesus didn’t come back and I was left behind. You know, because if anyone’s FOR SURE IN, it’s her. HA HA!

Does anyone else ponder these questions? What have you come up with?

 

 

 

 

Uncle George

In the summer of 2003, my wife Amy and I were living in a tiny apartment in the heart of Edinburgh, Scotland. In that same time period my dad’s older brother, my Uncle George and Aunt Laurelynne had plans to be in that same historical, and stunningly beautiful city for a conference.

Uncle George reached out to us to see if they could stay at our place for a few nights in order to see us and to save some money by not staying in a hotel. Amy and I were delighted to have some guests from America in our temporary home so of course we welcomed them in!

Some of my earliest childhood memories were of my uncle George. He was witty, had a great laugh, cared about others, was an excellent chef as he combined art and science, he was an outdoorsman, he was deeply knowledgable when it came to the arts and history, a coffee aficionado, a military veteran, and so much more. He was a handsome and approachable man, and in my memory he was the only person I knew at the time who had a beard and smoked a pipe. Uncle George passed away in 2011 and was loved and missed by many; his wonderful wife and partner in adventure Laurelynne, his children, siblings, in-laws, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews and more.

I shared all of these things about Uncle George because I looked up to him so much, and just recently I benefitted from a gift he and Laurelynne gave to Amy and me as a thank you for allowing them to stay with us.

The gift was one bottle of French wine, given to us in 2004. It was not just any bottle of wine. It was a 96+ point 2000 Mouton-Rothschild, Pauillac. This wine has history dating back to 1853 and is one of the most highly sought after wines in the world, therefore priced accordingly.

When George and Laurelynne gave us the bottle they said to cellar it and then sell it on our 20th anniversary, then use the money for a trip to Hawaii. That was always our plan however no matter how good a plan is, it is subject to change.

With our pending move out of the country, we decided to enjoy this bottle with our dear friends Rick and Heather who are the most knowledgable wine connoisseurs we know. Rick and Heather have been extremely generous to us over the years with their time, love, friendship, as well as their wine cellar! If anyone deserved to try this wine it was them!

The wine lived up to its hype and we had an amazing evening savoring each sip. All evening I thought of this gift and was completely blown away by the fact that first and foremost it wasn’t even necessary! George and Laurelynne didn’t need to do this, but they wanted to. Just spending their time with us was sufficient. This gift was by far the most clever, fun and enjoyable gift ever given to me.

All of this of course leads me to the cross. A gift undeserved yet freely given. A gift that cannot be bought, nor paid back. All we need to do is accept it and eternity with our loving creator is ours.

Father God, you are the ultimate giver. Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice, for loving us more than we can comprehend. You bought our future, and I choose you and your ways today. Amen.

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-12)

Today’s other reading: Psalm 86

Copycat

Today’s reading:  Matthew 7:7-8, Psalm 85

In 1988 my sister, Amanda Beasley, went away to college in eastern Tennessee. When she came home for fall break just a couple months into her freshman year, I could already detect a southern drawl in her speech.  The longer she stayed in Tennessee, the more pronounced it became.

A year and a half later, when I was a senior in high school, my parents let me go on spring break with my sister and her two friends.  As I look back on it now, I’m not sure what they were thinking.  They let me (their 17 year-old daughter at the time) take a week off of school, drive to Tennessee to pick up my sister and two friends, go to Florida for their spring break, then stay in Tennessee for another week on my high school spring break.  I was just a few months away from college myself, so maybe this was one way to prepare me for being on my own?  Or, I am a boring rule-follower, but my sister is not.  While she was having a blast as a college sophomore, maybe they sent me down to put a damper on some of her fun?  Most likely it was because I was a super snotty 17 year old girl and this was their chance to get a two week break from me.  Whatever the case, it was crazy fun.  But do you know what happened to me over those two weeks?  I picked up the southern drawl.  After two solid weeks with these girls, I naturally started to sound like them!

In our scripture today, Jesus directs us to make requests of God though prayer. Why?  Why would a God who is completely omniscient ask us to pray?  Does he need us to let him know what is going on down here on Earth?  Do you think he wants our input on what action to take?  Do you think he is just lonely?  None of these reasons make sense, as every one of them goes against who we know God to be.  He is all powerful and all knowing, perfect in every way.  He does not need our time or our money to accomplish his purposes.

The purpose of communication with God through prayer is not to change circumstances, it is to change us.  As a teenager, I started sounding like my sister and friends after spending just two weeks with them.  It is the same with God.  The more time we spend with him, the more we will start to sound like him.  The more time we spend with him, the more natural it will be to seek his ways instead of our own.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened (Matthew 7:7-8).

 

Pigs and Pearls

Todays reading is from Matthew 7:6 and Psalm 84.

“Don’t give what is Holy to unholy people. Don’t give pearls to swine! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you” Matthew 7:6

Ive always struggled with this verse. It seems to me the unholy people are exactly who I should be sharing the good news with at any opportunity. Don’t they deserve to hear about Jesus too?

The people of that time understood when Jesus spoke of swine. They were “unclean” animals according to Jewish law. He says not to give pearls, a very precious item, to them because they will never wear them as they were intended to be worn. They wouldn’t even know what they were or that they had any significance at all. Their uncleaness would overpower the pearls. And the pearls would be lost on them.

Jesus wants us to share all the things He has done in our lives and the good news of the Gospel to everyone, but when we see “swine” in our midst it’s time to be discerning. The swine in our lives are the people who like to argue us out of our faith and trample on our sacred ground. They won’t be won to Christ with our holy words or knowledge of the Bible. They will trample the “pearls” with another comment or remark. Only the Holy Spirit can change a heart. Not our continuous arguing.

When discussions get heated over Jesus, theology, or whether or not the Bible is the inspired word of God……we are throwing pearls to swine. They will not understand Holy things and they will use your words to continue the argument. Step back. Save your pearls for someone who wants to hear and know more about their significance. Pray for the swine and show Gods love in actions.

Judging Others

Matthew 7:1-5 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. 3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

Growing up I had a fear of being judged, in being honest, I can find myself slipping down this road again at times.  Why do we do this? For myself, growing up what I saw as, various obstacles, made me think our family was different.  Parents with multiple failed marriages, addictions to alcohol or drugs, abuse, and to top it off being very poor. My mind or heart as a child was not set on a richness in being content in the Lord, but on a worldly expectation of keeping up with others or appearing to have it all figured out. I worried (worry) what others thought about me and/or my family? (Thank you Lynden for a great reflection on not worrying. )

When I was younger, if people knew what happened in my house, what would they think? How would they look at me?  Would they even like me? In my head the answer was no. So what did I do? I became a master of pointing out what others where doing wrong. Sadly at times, made fun of others.  I was judging others and pointing out others shortcomings trying to get the spotlight off my dysfunctional family and self. I was tearing down others to try to build myself up.  How sad….  I’m sorry for my insecurities and have prayed many prayers of apology whole heartedly for my lack of understanding of our real judge.  My hurting of others through my words or actions caused genuine pain, while honestly looking in the mirror caused more?

So what does this scripture mean? Why do I share that sad story of an insecure young man?  Because the struggle can be real for many. We have fear of any kind of failure, and when we do mess up it’s a lot easier to call out others to get the magnifying glass of ourselves.

I have really loved digging into various scriptures on not judging others.  Knowing that we have but one Father, one Judge, one that has put us in His perfect place allowing us to trust Him. He pulled me out of a selfish pit and helps me to share my story.  As we have said the phrase before audience of 1.

Here are some scriptures that can help you to walk a mile in anyone else’s shoes.  That can help us to see others like God sees each of us.

Luke 6:37 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.

1 Corinthians 4:3 As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. 4 My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.

Jesus is telling us to examine our own motives and actions. What we tend to call out in others is often what we need to reflect on ourselves.  The world teaches us to judge people by their appearance. But God doesn’t judge people by how they look — and neither should we.

1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t make decisions the way you do! People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at a person’s thoughts and intentions.”

2 Timothy 4:8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Revelation 19:11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.

33 Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!

Dear Father,

You know our hearts.  Continue to due open heart surgery to help to know, trust, and show your love to all others.  God please remind us of you being the only judge and for us to first seek your kingdom in everything we do.  God we can’t do this, the world pulls us many directions.  But you can! Your wisdom, knowledge, and love blankets us. Thank you Lord for being our one true judge.  Amen

Psalm 119:66 
I believe in your commands; now teach me good judgment and knowledge.

Today’s Reading Matthew 7:1-5, Psalm 83

Why Worry?

 

Today’s Reading Matthew 6:25-34 ; Psalms 82

Upon reading todays passage of the Sermon on the Mount, “Worry”, my mind started to sing different songs about “Worry”.  The first melody that I started to think of was “Don’t you Worry ‘bout A Thing”- Stevie Wonder, due to the countless times that the movie “Sing” has been played in our house for the last several months.  The next song was “Three Little Birds”-Bob Marley and then the iconic “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.  My curiosity kept me searching and I found that hundreds of songs subject is Worry and anxiety. The conclusion is there is so much Worry and Anxiety everywhere in the world.

As I think about the worry and anxiety, I wonder if the where the origin of this visceral emotion started, The Garden of Eden?  Before Original Sin, Adam and Eve did not have to worry about anything: food, clothing, shelter, protection, or the future.  But once they took their focus off of God and began to think about self, then worry and anxiety started to creep in and manifest in their mind.

Jesus purpose for the Sermon of the Mount was to give us guidance and direction in some of the most profound issues that were separating us from God.  His main purpose was to bring the true word of God and create a new relationship between God and us.  In these verses Jesus tells us that we should not allow the anxieties and worries of this life to distract us from the ultimate goal of living for God.  In another example we are shown that even in the midst of Christ we can have worry.

Matthew 14: 28-33

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind,[d] he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

While on the Sea of Galilee, Peter sees Jesus walking on water to the ship.  When Peter knew that it was Christ, he asked to come and he started to walk on the water to Christ.  When the Peter felt the shift in the wind and sea, he started to worry and took his eyes off of Christ and started to sink.

We have the tendency to worry about many things on a daily, sometime hourly basis.  We worry about finances, family and friends, the future.  We worry about jobs, schools, food, shelter, and keeping up with others.   We have to really ask ourselves “why are we worrying?”  Why do we worry when God has the ultimate control?  He has the control over all things, including Satan.  Satan has to ask for permission to expose, inflict, tempt, and create worry.    Worry is the illusion of having power and the fear of losing this power.   God has control and has planned good things for us, why worry?

 

Matthew 19:13-15: 13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.   As I have stated on many occasions, God speaks through me from my experience as a father. The one verse that resonates with me about worry and God’s provision for me is the one mention previously.  We have to have the heart of a child and allow God to be our Father.   With my kids, I can take them to the doctor’s office, the movies, the museum, the dentist’s office, event up rocky hikes and steep cliffs and they will be at ease and calm.  They have experienced that I will protect them and give them good things and love them unconditionally.  If we adults can have this same amount of trust in Our Heavenly Father, we will not have to worry.

God,

Allow us to not lose sight of you when the world gives us obstacles that distract us from you. Please give us the ability to realign and focus on you and rest in your Calm and Comfort. Amen

Does $ make you happy?

Writing these bi-weekly posts is complicated! I am sure each writer of this Bible Journal agrees that each post takes time of prayer, thought, research, study and time spent writing. We all want each post to be personal and soul-touching. We want God to speak to you through these words so that You, the reader my draw closer to our Heavenly Father. That being said, sometimes I dig too deep in what other people have said about my selection of verses for the day. I let their thoughts influence me and begin to think that what I have to say is not good enough. Well, today’s post might be pretty simple, but I believe God has put these simple thoughts in my mind to share with you today. Hopefully, you can draw near to God today and these words will creep into your thinking as you go throughout your day and think about serving God.

Our verse today is Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

We all know that money is important to survive day to day in this life. We need a roof over our head, clothes on our bodies, and food in our tummies. These are our basic needs, then we have all of the other needs that flood into our lives…medical bills, school loans, activity bills, car loans, extra-curricular expenses, and the list goes on and on, it never ends. I think back 20 years and remember when my husband and I were moving from 2 incomes to 1 income so that I could stay home with our soon to arrive newborn. We lived for a long while out of envelopes! Have you ever done this?? There is a certain amount of cash in each envelope and that is all you have for the month! We had envelopes for food, clothing, miscellaneous, entertainment, and emergencies. Every month without fail we would run out of the food money. We would be eating mac&cheese the last few nights of every month! It was not easy, but we ultimately were able to meet our goal of living on one income before our son entered this world. It was worth every bowl of pasta we ate!

This topic of envelopes just came up the other night in our house. We have some changes coming up for our family and we are discussing options as to where God may have our family headed in the next few years. Believe it our not, money plays a huge part in where we see ourselves in the future. We can base our future on what we could have and what the world would see as successful or we can focus on what God has in store for us and bring glory to Him by how we choose to spend our money.   It is fun to dream of “bigger and better”, but ultimately, we know that this will not make us happy. My husband and I came to the delightful conclusion that we are no happier today (not living out of envelopes) then we were 20 years ago! In looking at our future, we cannot put our focus on material possessions or how happy we think something will make us.

In preparation for changes coming to our family, we have been cleaning out our house! Closets, rooms, drawers, desks, storage rooms, and the garage! Why do we collect so many things?!?! In the past month we have donated, given away, and thrown away so much! Things that at one time we must have thought we needed, but only sat around and gathered dust. We are a culture of accumulators! The world around us tries to convince us that we need certain things. That our life will be easier if we have this gadget, or that we will be happier if we only add this ____to our life! Our family has a saying that pops up when we see something that is really enticing. My dad actually started this saying when we were growing up and because he was in the home building business it usually centered around seeing beautiful houses. He would take us to see these houses and we would really wish we could live there. He would say,  “Then We Will Be Happy!!!” We knew that just living in a beautiful house would not make us happy. That saying has transferred even to small things in our lives, like a new outfit, or even just a small un-needed purchase from the grocery store. We ask ourselves, “will that really make you happy?” Maybe for the moment or a couple hours, but ultimately the “happy” feeling will fade and need to be replaced by another purchase. Only God can fix our happy all the time. Our focus has to be totally fixed on God and what He has for us. It is so easy to get caught up in what everybody around us has and it is easy to get discouraged.

Jesus wants us to be content with Him and Him alone. We cannot store up treasures here on earth (Matthew 6:19) because God wants us to serve Him and not the things of this world. We should love God more than things. We should spend more time with God and less time on thinking of what might make us happy. We should sacrifice self for God and desire in our hearts to serve Him more and more each day. Loving God more than things should be our daily goal.

Psalm 80 today is pertinent to this text in Matthew!
Verses 8-10: “Listen to me, O my People, while I give you stern warnings, O Israel, if you would only listen! You must never have a foreign god; you must not bow down before a false god. For it was I , the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things.”

Visual Acuity

Matthew 6:22-23, Psalms 80

I remember a sailing trip with my father.  I was standing in the cockpit with him and his friend looking at the islands a few miles away.  We were picking out landmarks that would help us identify our position.  But, there was a problem.  My dad could not see them.  We kept pointing to them and trying to direct him toward them, but it was no use.  He could not see.  Finally, our friend suggested that he try on his glasses.  The result was shocking.  Not only did my dad see the landmarks we were referring to, he could see everything.  He couldn’t believe it.  Even the leaves on trees were visible.  From that moment on, my dad saw the world differently.  He is not the only one.  According to Google (the ultimate truth for everything under the sun), 61% of the population uses corrective lenses of some type.  Why do they need them?  Simply put, our eyes are not healthy.

Today in Matthew 6:22-23, Jesus talks about the health of our spiritual eyes.  Have you ever considered how well you see spiritually?  When we take a cue from our physical eyes, the answer is not very encouraging.  In fact, our picture of God is really fuzzy and unclear.  When that is true, Godly choices are hard to make.  In fact, as the scripture points out, they may be flat out wrong.  Even worse, just like my dad, we don’t know that we don’t have the whole picture.  We are being led astray and don’t even know it!

Thankfully, just like our physical sight, we are able to improve our spiritual vision.  Consider these two distinct ways to test our spiritual sight.  First, is the Bible.  Psalm 119:105 says that God’s word is “a lamp unto our feet.” Additionally,  2 Peter 1:19 says that the light of scripture will light our path until our hearts can see clearly on their own.  The second significant source of clear spiritual vision is other believers.  Acts 2:42 tells us that through the teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers with other believers many are able to see clearly.

I am grateful for this opportunity with BibleJournal.  Every day, it presents a unique opportunity to see God rightly with a Biblical foundation in the presence of other believers.

“Well done, my good and faithful servant!”

Today’s reading is Matthew 6:19-21 and Psalm 79.

Matthew 6:19-21 could not be more fitting for today. I’m always amazed at God’s timing which makes me know there are no coincidences.

Last Tuesday April 24th, this Earth lost an amazing lady in Mary Ellen Bandy. Mary Ellen was my grandmother, but to me, and many others, she was Memaw.

Today would have marked her 94th birthday.

Memaw did not have monetary wealth when she passed away. Instead, her treasure was her wonderful heart she gave to the Lord and to others as Matthew 6:21 says. She laid herself up for treasures in Heaven by giving her life to the Lord and serving others in same the way the Lord served us.  Rev. Mark Doane said, “Mary Ellen did not talk about her faith very much, but she lived it!” As the famous song says, “…they’ll know we are Christians by our love..” Others seeing our love by our actions is more important than anything we say. People will be drawn to Christ when they see our genuine, peaceful, and caring heart we have through a relationship with Him. They will want what we have.

Memaw left an amazing legacy for us to follow, and I’m confident when she entered Heaven the Lord greeted her with a big hug and said, “Well done. my good and faithful servant!”

Happy birthday in Heaven, Memaw!

Here as an excerpt from her eulogy last week…

Memaw was just so memorable..she wasn’t just our Memaw..everyone knew her as Memaw. I have received messages from many over the last few days who may have only met her once… but they remembered her and specific things like maybe having a beer with her or talking about the Cubs or Illini. Her dad gave her the nickname “Pee-wee” because she was small, and my great Aunt Sister, Uncle Roy and their side of the family continued to call her that which was neat… but there was nothing tiny about her personality and how she lived her life! People just didn’t forget her.

Like Chad said..she NEVER missed a game..not a one..and you could always hear her yelling “Easy does it..now..Easy does it!” to whoever was on the free throw line! She was the first person I called when the Cubs won the World Series, and I’m so happy she lived to see it. She always had the Cubs game on when I called her. One of my most special memories is watching the Cubs with her and Papaw and singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame. I learned to golf by her taking me a couple times a week to Oak Leaf starting at probably 7 and can still hear her little sayings on the course. My Mom is a great cook..and I’m told I have Memaw to thank for that as well because she apparently couldn’t boil water before she was married. Thank you, Memaw! I was, and still am for that matter, skinny enough growing up. I can only imagine how bad it would have been if Mom couldn’t cook!

Memaw truly left an amazing legacy and example for all of her family to follow and continue. I believe we are called to glorify God through our life and Memaw absolutely did this.

Many of the Psalms speak of singing praises to God with Psalm 98:4 specifically saying…

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!”

Let’s just say Memaw was not known for her singing voice, but she didn’t care! She wasn’t singing to please you..she was singing for her Lord and Savior and to Him…. her voice was awesome though…because it was praising and glorifying Him. There is a great lesson for all of us in that. She had confidence in who God made her and lived for an Audience of One..caring only what He thought.

The book of Acts talks about how the first Church cared for the needy and widows. They served each other in the same way Christ served us. Memaw lived her life in the same way much like the first church did. She would make meals for events like today, and she made costumes for the church play up until just a few years ago. She volunteered with the Red Cross after Papaw passed serving in LA after an Earthquake and the Great Flood of the Mississippi in ‘93. She would do anything for you and give you the shirt off her back. Uncle Tim tells the story of one of his classmates, Ruthie, who was always dirty and unkept. When Uncle Tim came home from middle-school one day and told Memaw he didn’t think she had a dress for the dance..which is pretty neat, Uncle Tim…Memaw promptly went to her house and asked her parents if she could take her shopping. Not only did she buy her a dress and shoes, but she even brought her over to their house before the dance to clean her up and do her hair and dress her. Talk about going above in beyond! My Dad also told the story about how there was a man named “Little Butch” in the small town they lived in, Hindsboro, IL, who likely had mental disabilities and didn’t have any family..let alone any money. What do you think Memaw did…she always made sure “Little Butch” had a gift and food for Christmas. I wonder who the “Little Butch” is in my life I should be helping? I know I see my Dad continuing her legacy and helping widows and others in need, and Dad…she was and is very proud of you.

My Dad’s letter to her on her 90th birthday highlighted 6 lessons she taught him which I wanted to share…

  1. The greatest legacy any of us can leave to our children…raising him and Uncle Tim to believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Memaw always said..”if you can find time for all the other activities in the week..you can find time for church!”
  2. Treat all people with respect..we are not better than anyone else regardless of race or ethnicity.
  3. Always stand up for what is true and honest..even when it’s difficult.
  4. Help the downtrodden and the poor as I previously shared.
  5. Stand up for yourself and never let people walk on you. The confidence I previously spoke of.
  6. Give to the needs of your family, friends, and your church before yourself.

One of my favorite sayings which Memaw lived out is, “Being humble means thinking of yourself less, not thinking less of yourself!”

 This was how Memaw lived and taught us to live. What an amazing legacy of servant leadership and loving God she left to us! I will do my best to carry on that legacy and example for Deklin, Reese, and Hudson.

Memaw….I will end by saying to you the same last words you said to me on Sunday..”Love you more than you’ll ever know.”

Fasting

Fasting. When you hear the word today, what does it mean to you? What images does it conjure up in your head? Dieting? Cleansing? Detox? If we take dieting in today’s world, we think of restricting our food intake to conserve calories with the ultimate goal of losing weight. We often hear people talking about the need for “dieting” to fit into clothes or just to be healthier. January New Year’s resolutions often include “going on a diet”.   Lately, we also hear more and more about “cleaning”.  The 3-day juice cleanse. The 21-day detox kit. Drink these shakes to “cleanse” to a healthier you. To take it to the next level, there are infomercials on specific cleanse routines. People sharing their testimonial about how successful their cleansing was and how much weight they lost. You get it. We all get it. It’s everywhere.

Our verses today are Matthew 6:16-18:

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

If we go back to biblical times, fasting was common. It was often attributed to people who were very sad, or in deep distress. They “put on sackcloth and covered themselves in ashes”. It was a ritual viewed as humbling the soul and doing all to give focus to God. People were so upset, they didn’t eat. They didn’t have time to eat nor was it on their list of priorities for the day. They needed to be focused on prayer.

The other fasting in the bible had to do with very significant events. Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness before beginning his journey into the land to share his word. Moses fasted for 40 days before going up to Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. As I prepared to write this post and researched fasting vs. dieting, I altered my prior view of fasting to giving up something you like. I think of it more of how people give up sweets or diet coke or chocolate during Lent, not completely starve without food or water.

In today’s message, Jesus teaches us how to fast the “correct” way. He does not want it to be a public display of “hey look at me, I’m on a diet (fasting)”. He doesn’t want us to fast for attention. He suggests if we are to fast, we must do it in secret or quietly. We don’t need to put ashes on or even sackcloth. He suggests we are clean when we decide to fast or give something up. It seems as if he does think fasting draws our attention to prayer, to being close to God. If we give something up, and we are in the word with God, we have an opportunity to truly listen to what he may be telling us or sharing with us during our prayer time. He suggests that we will hear his word if we are silent and away from others to avoid distraction. We will enjoy his “reward”.

I am not exactly sure what I am going to do about fasting after reading and studying these verses.  Maybe I should rethink Lent next year? I am open to your ideas too! I do walk away thinking more about how he directs us to be close to him in prayer. Just as he tells us not to serve just for attention or to give just to say we gave, we shouldn’t fast for the wrong reasons.  Another lesson for us on how to listen to God and to give him our undivided attention as we pray.

Psalm 78