I Close My Eyes

When I was three years old, when we were driving somewhere, I told my parents I wanted a baby brother. My parents said take it up with God because after 1 (near) perfect pregnancy (that would be me) and 1 incredibly rough pregnancy/delivery (that would be my sister), a third kid wasn’t likely to happen. They like to tell how it got quiet in the back seat, so my parents looked back and saw my little hands folded, my eyes shut, and my little mouth moving in a silent prayer for a baby brother. Five days after I turned 4 years old, my baby brother was born. When my mum went to the doctor, before he as born, they asked her if she wanted to know the gender of the new baby. She said nope, her daughter had prayed for a brother, so she knew it was a boy.

That was the first time I experienced the power of prayer.

Since then, I have seen it numerous times. Sometimes the answer is no; frustratingly enough the answer is often wait, and sometimes the answer is yes!

I have learned a few things over the years. Be specific in prayer. When I ask my daddy for something, I am usually specific because he has that same ornery streak I do and will look for loopholes just to watch the expression on my face. When I talk to my heavenly Father, I am specific because, well, humans had to get that ornery streak from somewhere…we all know God has a sense of humor. More importantly, He created the universe in 6 days. Why worry about asking Him for something specific? It’s not going to be too hard or impossible for Him. If He says no, then it’s not good for you at this point in time.

Don’t be afraid to claim God’s promises. We are told several times in Scriptures that vengeance belongs to God – not us. Nothing we as humans can do comes anywhere near to what God, El Elyon, God Most High, can and will do to those who harm His children. Several times in the last five years, I have thrice claimed that promise found first in Deuteronomy 32:35 and repeated in Romans 12:19 and cried out for God to wreak havoc on those who hurt me. I didn’t need to see it; I didn’t know when, though chances are I would hear of it. I knew He would handle it in the best way in His time.

It is pretty common for me to go running to my parents with an idea for project and later go back saying I changed my mind or tweaked it a bit.

One of those times I cried out for vengeance, I went back to God a couple years later and told Him that if He was still wanting to avenge the pain caused me, ok. I wasn’t going to ask for it anymore though. Instead, I asked He convict the person instead. Specifically, I have been asking that person be unable to sleep due to a feeling that something is wrong in his life. I have been asking that poking through his thoughts is the one thought that he is missing something in his life, that what he has been doing is wrong, and that he needs the forgiveness of sins offered by God. I was able to forgive this person for how he wronged me for 11 long, long months. When I realized I was no longer angry and hurt anytime I thought of this person, I realized I should no longer cry for vengeance. Instead, if I truly forgave him, I should be 100% concerned for the status of his eternal life and less concerned about what happened several year ago with his earthly life.

I am not ADD or ADHD….maybe some OCD tendencies. I am not easily distracted, but I am always or almost always alert – looking for potential threats, remaining aware of my surroundings. With the exception of when I am driving, I have started closing my eyes when I am talking to God. Not just closing them, but also covering them with my hands or arms (my eyes don’t always close all the way unless I focus on that which takes my focus away from God). My phone gets turned off; computer gets closed. I can focus on talking to God, one on One, with no outside distractions. Obviously when I’m driving, that cannot happen. During that time, it’s more like I’m talking to someone I can actually physically see where I go on rabbit trails or talk to myself after being reminded about something and have to figure out what I was telling God before that distraction.

The differences I’ve noticed are hard to describe, but I am going to try. When my eyes are open, without a face toward which I can direct my words, as already mentioned, it is a conversation all over the place. Unfocused, unpurposed, just random thoughts. There is not necessarily anything wrong with that. However, it’s not really prayer warrior worthy discussion. It’s not as serious. Obviously, you’ll still see answers, but I personally do not feel as though that should be the norm for talking to God when it comes to requests such as vengeance, conviction, healing, protection, etc.

That is why I close my eyes. If I don’t have a face towards which I direct my attention, I need that focus of one-on-One. I check my surroundings, and then I trust that El Roi will set a guard around me while He and I talk.

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And Let It Begin with Me

I was planning on writing a post about breed bans (I am 100% against them), but this morning at church, as usual, my mind was changed.

Apparently, pastors and churches are of the opinion that America will not see another big revival because they feel we’re too close to the second coming for it to happen.

How DARE they limit God?!

How DARE they decide that people no longer need to hear the gospel or have another opportunity to be saved?!

How DARE they ignore the part about only God knows when the rapture will be?!

Last time I checked, the job of Christians is to bring glory to God and to tell the world of the good news of the hope of salvation.

After September 11, 2001, many people in this country bent their knees and put their faith in God. Just because it may take something horrendous such as the deaths of over three thousand people in the first attack on US soil since December 7, 1941, to bring about a revival does not mean that revivals can or will not happen in this country again.

The excuse that surely we must be close to the rapture and second coming is just that: an excuse for laziness in the church. It’s an excuse for people to stay in their comfort zone or their bubble where they don’t risk being mocked or persecuted in some form for their beliefs and willingness to share those beliefs.

Here’s the thing: God is watching. If you have put your faith in Him and the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus but are not doing your job and in fact are living according to what the world wants you to do (usually, that’s the opposite of God), then you will be in trouble when you get to heaven regardless of it is following your death or the rapture.

I personally would rather see and hear of another revival in America because Christians are doing their job as Christians than because we suffered another massive tragedy. Have you considered that maybe we have so many shootings and hurricanes and fires because that is how people are coming to God?

President Trump this past week said that the attack on Christian-Judeo morals and values has come to an end. I cheered when I read that. I know many Christians working in the secular workplace who have kept their mouths shut as their co-workers actually asked how to get to heaven or what does salvation mean because they (the Christians) were worried about getting made fun of or losing their jobs because they knew the answer. I know of Christians who got tired of being mocked and left the narrow path to blend in with the world. I know of Christians who have wandered so incredibly far from God that I shudder thinking of what it will take to bring them back to Him…because they saw the world profiting and appearing to have more fun than their Christian circle. All of them will have to answer for those choices. Maybe now that we have a president who has said that our morals and beliefs are not to be attacked, now that we can legally fight back, Christians will finally come out from under the rock they’ve been hiding and do their job. Maybe now, they will end this nonsense about “oh, America will never see another revival” and instead say, as the old song goes, “Lord, send a revival, and let it begin with me.”

Children of Fire

Children of Fire

*high pitch beeping*
“____________ Fire and Rescue, request for your department. (address) for a structure fire.”
“____________ Rescue, request for your squad. (address) for male not breathing. CPR in progress.” 

The sounds of my childhood. Actually, I’ve been hearing those sounds – the beeping, the voice – since before I was born since both my parents were on our fire department.

Those calls or something similar would come over the pager, and my daddy would jump to answer. Before he left, every time, he would hear my mum; my sister; my brother; and I say, “Be careful. Have fun. I love you.”

His response, depending on how far out the door he was, usually was “yup” or “love you too” or “oh always.”

My mama is an old ER nurse from the days when nurses were actually allowed to put patient care first in their work. Supper conversation usually started with the question, “so did anyone come in for something stupid?” or “did anybody lose a finger?”

Let’s add to that. I wasn’t just raised by a firefighter/EMT and an RN/EMT; I was raised by two strong, Bible-believing Christians. My brother, sister, and I have all claimed Christ Jesus as our Saviour. We do not fear death. Process of dying? No, not looking forward to that part, but death itself is gaining an eternity in heaven.

Death. Trauma. Accidents. All were common discussion in my family. All of us have known that every time that pager goes off, especially for a fire, something could go wrong. Anytime you have a bonfire or get in a car, the rest of the family might hear those tones drop about the same time they get that sinking feeling that something in the family is wrong.

I have never in my entire life told either of my parents or my siblings that I hate them. To my knowledge, neither of my siblings have ever said such a thing. Because, God forbid, that could have been the last thing we ever said to that loved one.

Sure, we might hate the actions of that person. We might hate the feelings we experience that person has invoked in us, but we don’t hate that person.

I know many of our classmates in school and church have told their parents they hate them. They didn’t truly hate them, but the powerful words of “hate” and “love” are thrown around so carelessly in this world, that they didn’t even think about the consequences of that phrase. This morning, the preacher said something along the lines that it was pretty common for him to hear any of daughters say, “I hate you.” I could not stop thinking about that the rest of the message. All I could think about was every time I’ve stayed up listening to the pager to make sure my daddy and the other men got back to the station and signed off the air. Or every time they switched to a fireground channel, leaving me pacing around my bedroom waiting to hear them switch back to the county channel I could hear.

I started wondering how we impart that caution or thoughtfulness that, as far as I know, every Child of a Firefighter (EMT) has with their words. I’m not saying we say the right thing all the time. I regret a lot of what I’ve said. I’ve left my parents house angry at one or both of my parents. I’ve hung up on my sister and my brother because all we were doing was angering each other. Every time though, I’ve sent a text or called them to say that I love them. Every. Single. Time. They write back they love me too.

Johnny Cash has that famous song I Walk the Line. I’ve seen wives and mothers of firefighters and cops have adopted parts of that song to put on shirts and cars and even coffee mugs. It’s a shame that not everyone has that sense of cherish every moment, never let them leave without knowing they are loved obligation that families of emergency workers and military families have.

It doesn’t matter that I’m on the department right there with them. My daddy and my men are mine, so I walk that line. Because I’ve walked that line my entire life, I will never tell someone that I hate them.

 

Writing History

There has been a lot of talk in the news these days about statues. Items that are not now nor have they ever actually done anything in life because they have not lived. Pieces are of art are being accused of horrendous acts.

Throughout history and present, statues have been used to remind people passing by the artwork of a person or event of a time past. Nobody ever said that person or event had to be good. A man by the name of George Santayana is credited with the statement, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Statues of Confederate States of America generals and other Southern leaders of that time are being torn down across the United States. Statues of people who did something with which the vocal minority of our current generation disagree are being toppled. They are trying to erase a part of history from the minds of everyone in country simply because their ancestors may or may not have suffered during that history.

An article was shared on social media by one of my friends concerning a…man, if one may call a monster that, who felt as though women with a darker pigmented skin tone did not experience pain because that darker skin tone meant they were closer to animal than human (stupidity at its best since we also know animals feel pain as well, so his reasoning was grossly in error from all points of view). That monster would keep the women conscious while he conducted unspeakable horrors on them and their bodies in the name of science. He now holds the title of “father of modern gynecology.” I felt sick to my stomach reading that article, but the picture stood out and is now imprinted on my mind: four women standing in hospital gowns with fake blood (it was pink, not convincing as blood but it made the point) as the only color in the black & white photo, standing in front of a statue of that monster. The statue was not the focal point of that photo; the women were as they represented the women who were mistreated and tortured. Without that statue – despite the feelings of disgust and abhorrence it invokes – how will we have that powerful of a reminder that experimentation on humans in the name of science, completely disregarding the feelings of those humans, was done in the past and ignored? A reminder that we cannot allow that to happen again?

That is why the statues are being torn down reminding people of the Confederacy – not because the general were slave owners because many of them either never owned slaves or set their slaves free as soon as they came into their possession. No. Those statues remind people that at one point in our history, the federal government got too big and was infringing on the rights of the individual states leading a group of states to fight back for their rights. (Slavery was NOT a cause of the War Between the States….I’ll write about that later.) If a group of Americans want to use those statues as a reminder of mistreatment of their ancestors or those like their ancestors, then that is their right as Americans. However, toppling those statues will not change what happened.

(The conspiracy theorist in me is thinking that somehow the federal government – Republicans and Democrats – have had a hand in the toppling of the statues because the election of Donald Trump woke them up to the fact that We the People are angry at how they have destroyed our country, and they want to get rid of reminders that we are allowed and encouraged by our past to fight back against an overbearing federal government.)

I am actually waiting for statues of Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and other outspoken Founding Fathers to be toppled – in the name of they owned slaves of course, nothing to do with their cries of Give me Liberty or Give me Death! 

Winston Churchill once said, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” If you do not like the events of the past, do not allow them to happen again. Walk past that statue and remember and do not allow them to happen again. We cannot rewrite the past, but we can direct the course of events our posterity will read as history.

Probably Not as Intended

At the end of devotional reading today, the author of the book through which I’m currently reading and using as a study-guide wrote:

 Now, one last question. How has God spoken to you today?

My response? Probably not in the way the author intended….

I did something new today. I did the usual pour a nice hot cup of freshly made coffee and shut my computer to avoid that as a distraction. Today, I also turned down the volume on my phone to mute and flipped it over so I would not see the flashing green light alerting me to a new message. Normally, I just leave it on the counter behind me, but the beeps of the new messages still serve as a distraction from focusing on the Word of God.

I began reading about Jehovah-raah, the Lord my Shepherd.

The author had some solid insights that caused me to pause and reflect on how what she said applies or is observed in my own life. “New” verses to look up and post around my house and on facebook as a reminder throughout the week. So far so good.

Then we get to the main Scripture passage for this morning – John 10:1-17, 26-33.

The author wanted us to make some observations about the different characters in the passage, compare and contrast different actions, etc. I began reading.

The first thing I noticed or that struck me was verse two:

But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.

The power of this verse, the confidence of the shepherd in this statement caused me to pause. The first verse had a thief and robber climbing up the back way trying to avoid being seen in a cowardly, underhanded way. The shepherd just walked right in to the fold of his sheep. Picture it.

Then we get to the part where Jesus very clearly and patiently spells it out for His audience who were not quite comprehending what He was saying.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. (vs 11-12).

This is the part where my train of thought left the path the author probably intended for it to follow.

A lot of pastors refer to their congregation as their flock that they need to shepherd, to guide. As of today, I think that is something they probably should not be saying.

John is part of the New Testament. These words are coming straight from the mouth of Christ Jesus – He is the Shepherd! Go back to the Old Testament, and we have David saying, “The LORD (Jehovah-raah) is my Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). If we follow the chain of command, that means pastors are the hirelings – the help.

It makes sense. How often do we hear of pastors who left a church during a split of congregation or who back down from preaching the Word of God because it’s not the popular opinion of the world? They’re fleeing when the wolf comes for the flock of the Shepherd. Good help is hard to find….but it’s not impossible. There are many good pastors who stay to fight the wolves who enter the church with a mission to scatter and devour the flock. I am certain not every hireling in biblical times abandoned their post when a wolf came near the flock of which they were charged with protecting.

Look at the TV preachers and churches or religions with their thousands of followers…of what man is saying. They are not preaching salvation. They are not preaching that yes, God is loving, but He is also holy and just. They have just enough bits and pieces of the Bible – usually/always out of context – that they sound like they are working for the Shepherd. In reality, they are leading a group of sheep closer to the side of a cliff to fall.

 

A Lesson From 2 Timothy 4:2-5

In the Baptist, Evangelical, and really any Bible-believing church these days, there is an alarm being raised about different well-known leaders in Bible study materials. My Facebook feed has been flooded with articles and pictures and thoughts and the spiritual battle-cry about ban these authors from the materials used in church in for Sunday school, Bible studies, and recommendations from personal studies.

I am actually, partially disgusted by this.

To a point, I agree. If there is questionable theological content in their books, then that should not be included in study material given to new or young believers who need a solid foundation before they start sifting through the work of false preachers. However. To completely ban an author eliminates what could be a good learning experience for older believers, a chance to go from eating hamburger to eating steak. Allow me to explain.

For starters, just because an author has recently published questionable material does not mean their earlier writings were not spiritually, biblically sound writing. They may have only recently been taking in by a false preacher and been led astray as Satan decided they were becoming to great a threat to his plans. To ban and disregard what has already been taught after being studied and deemed appropriate in the church could have damaging effects such as believers who took comfort in those writings might be questioning decisions made based on that comfort and study. A believer who came to Christ through a message in a study written by that author might now be questioning their salvation.

It also gives more mature Christians the chance to sift through tactics of the devil. Recognize the truth in the false writings to see how it has been warped so they may be better prepared in the future in an instance when they have to determine for and by themselves whether or not something is true per the Bible. They can use it as a study tool. For example, this morning during my devotions, I came across a paragraph with which I took issue. Instead of throwing away the whole book, I instead wrote in a note at the top of the page reminding myself when I read through the book again later that there is something on that page that is not necessarily biblically sound. That paragraph did not contradict Scripture per se, but the idea behind the paragraph was on shifting sand. I noted it and moved on to the rest of the chapter.

I read a book which I highly recommend (Cold Case Christianity, a Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels by J. Warner Wallace) and loved with the exception of a single concept near the end of the book regarding celibacy. It was not even that the author was promoting or stating that concept was absolute per the Bible; it was more that he was simply stating a viewpoint of another person to contribute to that section of the book. Again, I just wrote a note on the side of the page and kept reading.

Banning books or teachings of someone previously accepted just because you disagree with their theology is taking things to the extreme. This is what the Catholic, Muslim, and other churches do to control their members. It’s also not trusting of the teachers to discern the difference between the truth and false teaching nor is it giving them the opportunity to take a concept or topic provided by the banned author and turn it into a biblically sound lesson.

Part of the growth of each believer should include learning how to study the Bible on their own looking at context (verses and chapters before and after the section being studied), word origins, what scholars of old have written on that passage, etc. If that is being done correctly, and the believer is growing in their relationship with their God, they should be able to discern false teaching on their own.

Again, using evil for good, using the change of writing of a well-known author from truth to false teaching as a teaching opportunity is much better than simply banning that author and becoming like false religions attempting to eliminate free will and control the actions and beliefs of their members.

Old Soul Raised Right

The door is open letting a breeze blow into the house. Birds are singing. Alabama, Alan Jackson, and others are singing in the background of the sound of dishes being washed while coffee cake bakes in the oven.

I’ve been told before I have an old soul in a young body. I think I was just raised right – simple, appreciative, well-mannered.

As I mixed that coffee cake, I chuckled to myself. I was using my grandma’s KitchenAid mixer, Tupperware measuring utensils while other Tupperware pieces dried in the dish rack, and the recipe used is from my copy of the “big red cookbook” from which many recipes of my childhood came as my mama followed and tweaked the recipes in her copy of that cookbook given to her by her mama.

I should be used to it by now, but I am still shocked when I hear my friends say they don’t cook or when they say their girlfriends or ex-girls never baked for them. Most Saturdays, after chores were finished, the kitchen became mine as I baked cookies or cakes or some other (usually) tasty treat for my family! I was raised by a mama who loves to cook for anyone and everyone! I have that same mindset. It makes me happy to cook for family and friends and co-workers and people I’ve never met.

It truly makes me sad to hear that my age group and those younger than I no longer take pride in their ability to throw a meal together for unexpected company or no longer have a cake or bread on stand-by. Ice tea in the fridge? Nope.

(Sidenote: I’m excited to be getting a new Tupperware pitcher! It will probably be tea-stained by the end of the summer!)

I don’t know if I’m just an old soul in a young body and not up to modern behaviour or if people these days just aren’t raising their kids right – with manners and preparedness -, but as I listen to the ballads of Brad Paisley and smell the cinnamon in the coffee cake heating up, I’m content.