Promised Disaster Averted

What if you were sixteen years old and suddenly made president of the United States of America? What would you do?

Long ago, Josiah faced that horrendous problem when made king of Judah. For the next four years he sought God for wisdom for his chaotic land. Then, realizing the nation’s troubles were a direct result of the stench of the people’s sins and disregard for God, he set about to cleanse his country. He ordered all carved idols and cast images, all pagan shrines and altars and Asherah poles torn down and destroyed. It took six years.

Next, he sent for workers from all over the land to come to the Temple in Jerusalem. They set to work repairing, renovating, and restoring the magnificent worship center that Judah’s earlier kings had let fall into ruin.

In the midst of this work, the High Priest Hilkiah found the Book of the Law of the Land and sent it to the young king. Josiah tore his clothes in despair. “The Lord’s anger has been poured out against us  because our ancestors have not obeyed the Word of the Lord, “he cried. He then sent Hilkiah and others to ask the Lord what they must do.

The prophetess Huldah gave them a message from God. Yes, the curses written in God’s Word would come to pass because the people had abandoned him and worshiped other gods. But, because the king had humbled himself and wept before the Lord, wanting to change his ways and the ways of his nation, God would not send the promised disaster during his lifetime.

Josiah took swift action. He summoned all the people to the Temple. There he read the entire Book of the Covenant and renewed that covenant with God. He pledged to keep its commandments with all his heart and soul and required his people to do the same.

Everyone made a fresh start. Throughout Josiah’s lifetime, they worshiped only the Lord God. They lived in obedience to his Word, and God blessed them for it.

We now live in times where our nation is in great danger. The people in these United States live largely ignorant of the great precepts of our United States Constitution. They barely think of, much less prize, its amazing freedoms which are fast eroding before our very eyes. As a result, these freedoms given to us by God who impressed them on the hearts of our founding fathers may soon disappear.

Unless we turn away from our selfishness and turn back to honoring God and this country which he raised up as a haven where all men (and women) are created equal, we have little hope. Yet it’s not too late to choose God’s way and save our land. God’s Word states it clearly.

Focus: “Live in such a way that God’s love can bless you” ~ Jude 1:21, New Living Translation.

How about you? What can you do  so that God can bless you and our nation? How can you help turn things around in our nation?

The Whole Truth?

I emerged from our pop-up camper just as my husband pulled something from his wallet. Jim grinned. “Can you use this?”

Wow! Fifty dollars! “Sure.” Just what I needed to take out four grandchildren out to lunch and mini-golfing. “Thanks.”

I folded the bill twice and stuffed it deep into the pocket of my blue knit shorts.

Jim frowned. “Better put that in a safe place so you don’t lose it.”

Lose it? Did he think I was a child? I patted my pocket. “It’ll be fine right here,” I said, and hurried up the camp site hill to help my granddaughter set up her tent.

Later, I reached in my pocket to put the $50 in my purse. My heart leapt to my throat, and my knees nearly buckled. My pocket was empty.

I quickly revisited every area of our camp site I had gone to since Jim had given me the money. I had to find it before he found out it was missing.

Finally in defeat, I stood at the top of the hill and prayed. “Lord, you were trying to protect me through Jim, and I ignored you both. Please forgive me and help me find that money.”

I made the rounds again. Again without results. At the bottom of the hill and behind the camper, I bowed my head. My conscience pricked me. My wrong ran deeper than simple pride or disobedience. Though I had long ago given up telling outright lies, wasn’t I lying right now by hiding the truth from my husband?

I went to him. “Jim, I lost the $50.”

To my amazement, he calmly helped me look for the money. When I opened a folded camp chair, out dropped the $50 bill.

How easy it is to talk ourselves into not telling the whole truth in order to keep the peace, save face, or simply urge life on as we believe it should go. But neither outright lies nor keeping the truth from someone who has the right to know honors God. In all our daily choices, he gives us a gentle reminder.

Focus: “You must live in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.”~ Philippians 1:27, New Living Translation.

How about you? Have you ever been tempted to make life easier by not telling the whole truth? How did that work for you?


Facing the Empty Nest

Who is like you, O Lord? Your beauty is in all your creation. The words welled up in my aching heart as I sat alone outside my campgrounds tent.

No longer would I hold the hand of a small boy and guide him through life. My youngest son would soon be off to college. His whole senior year had been a series of goodbyes: his last high school drama, his last forensic competition, his last musical play, his last choral concert, his last prom. Then graduation. Would this be our last vacation as a family?

A Great sadness engulfed me. My life was changing, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to face the empty nest.

But somehow I sensed God reaching out to comfort me in the unfolding beauty of dawn. Dry weeds hugging the sandy soil like a delicate carpet of dusty rose. Oak trees standing tall against a blue sky, their leaves shining in the rising sun. In a flash of black and white, a red-headed woodpecker flew to a nearby tree, its busy rat-a-tat-tats echoing in the quiet of the morning. Below, a chipmunk darted across the campgrounds in bursts of quick rhythm.

Then I caught my breath. A small, fair-haired boy marched up the hill to the bathhouse, shouting, “I’m Jeremy! Follow me!”

His words hung in the air as I remembered a similar call years ago. “I’m Jesus. Come, follow me!”

I’ve never regretted answering His call. Through good times and bad, I’ve experienced God’s unfailing love. One thing will never change. I can go fearlessly into the coming years because my God will go with me.  Therefore, today and every day …

Focus: “My soul will rejoice in the lord and delight in his salvation. My whole being will exclaim, ‘Who is like you, O Lord?’ ~ Psalm 35:9-10, New International Version.

NOTE: This piece first appeared Sing a New Song, an anthology of devotions for women complied by Mary Beckwith (Evergreen Publications, 1991). Funny how, though I wrote it many years ago, its truth encourages me today.

How about you? What gives you the confidence to face uncertain days?

(The blog post adapted from a July 1991 piece published by Together in Faith in my ten-year column, Love With Shoes On.)

Never Too Late

Carol shut the door to her art studio. “Lord, I’m getting nowhere, and I’m sick of trying. I quit!”

It wasn’t as if she hadn’t tried. For years, for Pete’s sake! Okay, so she had procrastinated some. Vegging out in front of the TV and chatting with friends rather than wrestling to master that illusive painting technique.

She sighed and leaned against the wooden door. Truthfully, she hadn’t worked on her paintings anywhere near as much as she promised herself. Sometimes she just had to get that nagging housework done, had to run those errands, had to answer her email first.  Okay, so she used those distractions at times to avoid walking into that studio and facing the fear that her work would never really measure up.

Until now, she had never given up. For years, she tweaked each of her cherished paintings, dreaming that someday when she would perfect them. While her friends devoted themselves to finishing their works, had pieces commissioned by local restaurants and businesses, and saw their work qualify for art shows and museum exhibits. While some achieved “Best of the Show” awards.

They didn’t let doubts about lack of perfection hold them back. They forged ahead with single-minded determination, serving God with whatever they had to offer at the time. How Carol admired them! How she wished she could be like them. Could she?

“Lord, is it too late?”

What I see in God’s Word is that the answer for both Carol and us is no. It’s never too late to develop the skills and talents God has given to us to make this world a kinder, more loving place. Whether it’s teaching, encouraging, leadership, serving, building, inspirational writing or artwork, or something altogether different, we can determine right now to …

Focus: “Be diligent in these matters (not neglect our God-given gifts); give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress” ~ 1 Timothy 4:15, New International Version.

How About you? How do you fight doubt and use your gifts as you attempt to make this world a kinder, better place?

(This blog post is adapted from a May 2006 piece published by Together in Faith in my ten-year column, Love With Shoes On.)

The Last Supper

Jesus looked around the Upper Room where he and his disciples had gathered to eat their Passover supper. Though they were unaware, he knew his time was near. Within hours, he would hang on a cross, dying an excruciating death for the sins of all mankind. On the third day, he would come gloriously back to life.

His gaze found  Thomas who would doubt him, Peter who would deny knowing him, Judas who would sell him to his enemies. All of his disciples so devoted to him now would run for their lives when he was arrested this very night. At the moment, however, they were squabbling over who would be greatest in his coming kingdom.

Leaving his place at the table, he–the great Lord God among them in human flesh–put on the garb of the lowliest slave in a Hebrew household. Filling a basin with water, he knelt down before his astonished disciples to wash their dusty feet.

When he finished, he said, “I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet” and urged them to do the same because “no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:13-15, New International Version).

On the night before he died for all of our sins, Jesus set us a great example of humility. No matter what position, talent or wisdom we might possess, we are to be one another’s humble servants. If we willingly perform even the lowliest of tasks to serve the people in our lives, Jesus promised we will be blessed. Yes, we will be happy!

The apostle Paul expressed the same idea when he wrote that we should …

Focus: Be devoted to each other in brotherly love and honor each other more than ourselves. (Romans 12:10).

How about you? Have you served someone else and found yourself blessed by that simple act?

(This blog post adapted from a March 1999 piece published by Together in Faith in my ten-year column, Love With Shoes On.)