Category Archives: Friday Gleanings by Carmen

Peace, Be Still…

Friday Gleanings.009

“Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me— The very thing you’ve been unwilling to do.” (Isaiah 30:15 The Message)

I can count on my fingers the times when I have been so sick that I have been unable to get in my car and get busy for my family, for others, or for the Lord.  Therefore, when illness comes, it is a little frustrating.  However, each time the Lord has allowed me to be sick, he has impressed upon me that my busyness and self-sufficiency have reached a point that has excluded Him.

There are advantages to being horizontal and looking at the world from a position of dependency.  Dependency encourages humility, and humility is the perfect attitude for prayer and intercession.

Today, I picked up one of my old journals. On December 12, 1984, I stayed home sick.  I wrote: “This is my quiet hour.  The sun is reflecting a beautiful image on the wall.  The weather is unseasonably warm for December and the birds glide in graceful flight across the sky.  The neighborhood dogs make a chorus of joyous salutation to the morning, and yet all is still and calm outside and within me.”

If you find yourself unable to be busy today, praise the Lord.  He is giving you a gift, a quiet time to be with Him.

Dearest Heavenly Father,

You are sufficient for us.  You are always there no matter where or in what circumstances we find ourselves.  You are there waiting for us to rest in you and in your Holy Word.  You look forward to engaging us in intimate conversation, but we refuse to stop moving.  Thank you for the times that we are forced to stop and know that you are God, and forgive us for taking your presence for granted.  We take this opportunity to pray for our church, our pastor and those who are horizontal today.  We ask that they may rest in you, and delight in being at peace in your presence.

In the name of Jesus, who is our rest,

Amen

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Friday Gleanings by Carmen

Just Say Yes!

Friday Gleanings.009

“he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.” (Luke 1: 9-13 NIV)

Last week I attended a memorial service for Liston Drury.  My family’s association with Liston came late in his life. When we met him, he was a retired Poultry Science engineer, who owned and operated a Christmas tree farm.  He was an upbeat, happy man with a dry sense of humor, and a faithful family man with a servant’s heart.

What I did not know was the extent of Mr. Drury’s service to others and to the Lord.  At the memorial service his granddaughter, son and several others described his years serving in the Navy, and later as a college professor, researcher, father, and church member.  It seems to me that whenever Liston was called to serve, he said yes.

This week, I came across the story of Zechariah, in Beth Moore’s Jesus the One and Only Bible study.  Zechariah was an elderly man and the husband of Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  As a priest, he was on a rotation to serve in the temple. His turn to burn incense and send up prayers for the people had arrived.  Then, for reasons beyond our understanding, Zechariah forgets his old age and Elizabeth’s barrenness, and he sends up a prayer for a son, a prayer that has gone unanswered for the duration of his married life. Only this time, he receives an immediate response, from the Angel of the LORD, no less. The angel announces that Zechariah will indeed have a son, that he will be called John, and that he will be the one to prepare God’s people for the coming of the Messiah. Wow! Double Wow!

I have read this story many times before, but this time I marveled at the way God honored Zechariah’s faithfulness in worship, prayer and service.  The question that immediately crossed my mind was: What if Zechariah had missed this opportunity to serve?  What if he had called in sick?  What if he had failed to pray for a son this time? Surely God would have accomplished His purposes another way, but would He have used Zechariah?

By the same token, what happens when we are given opportunities to worship, pray and to serve, but we call in sick, say no, or don’t show up? In order for God to bless us and our work, we need to make ourselves available, and the way to be available is to say yes.

Dearest Heavenly Father,

We know your plans are everlasting.  We praise you for being the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  When you include us in your plans, we are both honored and frightened, just as Zechariah was.  We thank you for your plan of salvation.  We thank you for giving us your Holy Word to light our way on life’s journey.  Thank you for hearing our prayers in the same way you heard Zechariah’s prayer.  Forgive us when doubt clouds our belief, and when we fail to answer your call to service.  We ask for wisdom and discernment in recognizing your voice and for boldness to always answer yes.

In the name of Jesus, who said yes even death on a cross,

Amen

Leave a comment

Filed under Friday Gleanings by Carmen

A God-Sized Question

Friday Gleanings.009

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jeremiah 31:3

On Tuesday, my granddaughter asked me a God-sized question: “If God knew we would sin, why did he create us?”  I reassured her that God had a loving plan when he created us.  Today, after much thought and prayer, I wrote her this letter:

Dear Ashley,

Yesterday, when we picked you up from school, you were full of questions.  They were big questions, God-sized questions. I don’t know the answers to every question, but I can answer them the way Jesus answered the questions that people asked him.  He answered their questions by giving them examples and telling stories.

I’m not going to try to answer all your questions at one time, because I would have to write a book to do it.  Let’s take your questions one at a time.  Today I want to tell you what God has put in my heart to tell you about why He created us.

Your question was: If God knew we would sin, why did he create us?  I had to think hard and pray about how to answer this question, but then God gave me the answer:  God made us to love Him and other people, and to be loved by Him and by other people.  

Why do you think mothers have children?  Yes, to love them and to be loved by them.  Does it matter that those children might not always obey them?  Does it matter that maybe they might have a sick child instead of a healthy child?  Does it matter whether that child is smart or not so smart?  NO!  A good mother or father loves their child no matter what they look, like, what they do, or how smart they are.  

That’s what the love of God is like.  He loves us no matter what we do.  When we sin, He gives us many chances to ask for His forgiveness.  Because He knew that sin would be a problem for us, He sent Jesus to die for us, so that our sin would be forgiven once and for all.  All we have to do is admit that we are sinners and ask Him to be Lord of our life.  You’ve already done that, so Jesus will always be there for you no matter what happens.

Just think!  Your mother had you even though she knew she would have to get up at night to feed you.  She knew that she would have to work hard to buy food and clothes for you.  She knew that sometimes you would be grouchy and you might not always obey her.  But she still wanted a child to love.  That’s why she had you!

So, if your mother, who is just a human being, could have enough love to do those things for you, why wouldn’t a perfect, kind and loving God not want to create you?

Yes, He created us knowing we would not be perfect, because only He is perfect.  He knew we would sin.  Isn’t it amazing though, that He still wanted to love us no matter how imperfect we might turn out to be?

We can never fully know the mind of God.  If we could, then He would not be God.  I hope this helps you to appreciate your mother’s human love for you and God’s everlasting love for you.  Life is a beautiful gift God gave you through your parents.  

Instead of asking why you were created, just thank God that you are alive and have parents and grandparents who love you. And most of all be grateful that God will always love you.

Love, Grandmommy

2 Comments

Filed under Friday Gleanings by Carmen

Plymouth Colony: Chance or God’s Plan?

Friday Gleanings.009

The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9 NASB

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, our thoughts turn to the Pilgrims.  When we call to mind the brave men and women who risked their lives for religious freedom, we tend to focus on the grand harvest feast, one year after their arrival in the New World.

However, before Thanksgiving could be celebrated, the Pilgrims faced many obstacles.  First, they were persecuted in England for their religious beliefs.  Many were imprisoned, and others had to leave their country to live in Holland.  Then, they made plans to come to America, sold everything they had, and put their trust in God’s providence.

They were careful in their planning.  Their destination was Virginia, but God had other plans.  From the outset, they encountered one challenge after another.  After their departure in August of 1620, the Speedwell, a ship purchased in Holland, began to take in water, causing the pilgrims to return to port.  Repairing the ship proved impossible, so the Speedwell’s passengers had to board the Mayflower, bringing the total number of passengers to 150.

Finally, a month later, on September 6th, the Mayflower departed. Because of the delays, the passengers were weary and the food stores were low. Bad weather plagued them almost as soon as they left port.  At one point, the pilgrims had to help the crew repair the main support beam of the ship with a jackscrew which was to be used in the building of new homes once the Pilgrims arrived in Virginia.

However, they never made it to Virginia, but anchored in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Mercifully, there were only two deaths recorded during the voyage, but by the end of winter, many became ill, and half of them died.

Before landing, the pilgrims clearly stated their purpose for coming to the New World in a Document called The Mayflower Compact: “Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith…”  Like our Constitution, it was an agreement to abide by laws to be legislated, obeyed and enforced by the people.  It was a political document, but the opening words leave no doubt as to the authority behind this agreement. The document opens with the words: “In the name of God, Amen. This covenant was signed under the authority of God, in the presence of God and for the glory of God.”

The questions I ask myself are: Would I sacrifice everything for the freedom to worship God?  Would I remain faithful when faced with suffering and death?  And having survived, and thrived: To whom would I give the glory?

Dearest Heavenly Father,

Today I recognize your authority to “order my steps” and even to change my plans so that yours might be accomplished.  I celebrate your presence in my life and recommit myself to spend time with you daily.  I embrace whatever plans you have for me as an individual, as a family member, and as a church member.  And finally, I resolve to give you the glory for whatever you decide to do through your church, through each family and each individual member.

In the name of Jesus,

Amen

2 Comments

Filed under Friday Gleanings by Carmen

A Sure Supply For Every Need

Friday Gleanings.009

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105 KJV)

When I was ten years old we lived in Astoria, Queens. My Dad worked long hours to support a large family, and my mother was busy with my sisters, twin baby girls. Therefore, my brother and I were often given a list and sent out into the neighborhood to purchase various items.

There were no Supermarkets back then. If meat was on the list, we went to Ace Meat Market, where the different cuts of meat were displayed behind glass and the floor was covered with sawdust. If we wanted bologna or salami, we went to Connie’s Deli. Fish was purchased at the fish market and purchases were weighed on scales, packed in ice, and wrapped in white paper. If we wanted cheese, we went to Antoinette’s, where the cheeses hung from the ceiling. If it was aspirin we needed, we stopped at Riley’s Drugstore. It amazes me that most of the things we walked blocks to purchase can be found today under one roof and in one store.

In my younger days, I sought out spiritual food in this same way, going from one book to another, from one teacher to another, and from one philosophy to another. Then one day I realized that the spiritual food I craved was contained in one book, the Bible, the Word of God, His personal love letter to me.

Dearest Heavenly Father,

Thank you for giving us your Word. What a fountain of living water it is! We delight it in it as the psalmist of Psalm 1 delighted in the law. Thank you for sending your Son, Jesus to complete it. We promise to spend time reading, meditating and feasting on Your love letter to us this very day and every day. Keep us grounded in it, as we wait to be with you.

In the name of Jesus, the Word made flesh,

Amen

Untitled.001

Leave a comment

Filed under Friday Gleanings by Carmen

Who Do You Follow? Choose Jesus!

Friday Gleanings.009

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…” (Psalm 23:4 KJV)

Did you ever play follow the leader?  In our urban New York neighborhood, following the leader meant skipping down a city block, going up and down stairs, crossing busy streets, traipsing through a schoolyard or meandering through a vacant lot dotted with yellow dandelions in the summer, crunchy leaves in the fall and deep snow in winter.  No matter where the leader took us, we followed.

The 23rd Psalm is about walking, being led, resting, and following. While reading verse 4, another Bible verse came to mind: Isaiah 52:7, which is quoted in the beautiful hymn Our God Reigns:

How lovely on the mountains are the feet of Him
Who brings good news, good news,
Proclaiming peace, announcing news of happiness,
Our God reigns, our God reigns.

Untitled.001

The second stanza tells us that Jesus “had no stately form, He had no majesty, that we should be drawn to Him.”  But many were drawn to Him as we are drawn to Him now, because as the third stanza tells us: It was our sin that bruised and wounded Him because like sheep, we strayed.  Nevertheless, our Shepherd came and bore our shame.  He, who was without sin, let himself be led to the slaughter, so that we might be born again.  In the final stanza, we are told:

Out from the tomb He came with grace and majesty,
He is alive, He is alive.
God loves us so, see here His hands, His feet, His side,
Yes we know He is alive…Our God reigns…

Our Lord, whom we follow, is the Good Shepherd, who leads us to the mountaintop.  To get there, however we sometimes have to walk with Him through the valleys, even the valley of the shadow of death.  He is the Lamb that was slain for our sins.  He is the King, who has defeated death and is alive.  Because He died for us, saved us, reigns over our lives today, we do not hesitate to follow Him into life’s valleys.

Several years ago, during a revival service, Ernest Easley, a cancer survivor, preached a sermon on walking through life’s valleys with the Lord.  In his sermon, he identified nine valleys: the valley of uncertainty, the valley of fear, the valley of detours, the valley of suffering, the valley of storms, the valley of discouragement, the valley of confusion, the valley of correction, and the valley of sickness.  The main point of the sermon is that victory comes through the valleys.

Dearest Heavenly Father,

You loved us so much that you sent your Son to die for us.  Amazing love! How can we not follow the one who gave his life for us, who went through his own “valley of the shadow of death” so that we might have new life in Him?  Thank you for walking with us through life’s valleys.  Forgive us when we lose sight of you on the path and begin to doubt.  When we hesitate give us confidence.  When we tire, give us strength. Gather us into your arms when we are afraid, and encourage us when we hurt.  Remind us that beyond the horizon, heaven awaits.

In the name of Jesus, wo shepherds us through life’s valleys,

Amen

2 Comments

Filed under Friday Gleanings by Carmen

A Lion Who Guards and One Who Devours

Friday Gleanings.009

But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5 NLT)

When I was four, my grandparents moved to New York City from Puerto Rico.  One of the first apartments they lived in had stone lions flanking the entrance.  The first time I went to visit, I did not want to go in because I was afraid of the lions.  Finally, I was told to close my eyes, and with my head buried in my father’s shoulder, I let myself be taken in without being attacked by the ferocious beasts of my imagination.

The next time I came to visit, my uncle explained to me that one of the lions was mean, but the other one was strong and kind and had more power than the mean lion.  He said they fought to see which one was going to be the boss.  The kind lion won, so now the mean lion had to obey the nice lion.  Then he let me get close to the kind lion and pat its head.

After several more visits, I stopped being afraid.  I became so comfortable with the kind lion that my brothers and I would sit on it and pretend he was our friend.  Somewhere in the many family photo albums there is a picture of me and my brother siting on the kind lion.  In the picture, we are smiling, completely at ease and at rest.

In the Scriptures, there are two lions.  One of them is Satan.  We are told: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 NKJV) The other Lion is our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He is kind and compassionate and is also the Lamb of God, who was slain for our transgressions.  He is also strong and mighty; He is the only one able to save us.

When Jesus speaks to his disciples about his death, he says:“But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.  I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32-33 NLT)  Also, as he spoke of his impending sacrifice on the cross for our sins, Jesus said: “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” (John 12:31 ASV)  Satan is the prince of this world, he is the roaring lion overcome by the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

In the end, there will be a final battle. Jesus will defeat Satan and his angels. In Revelation 12:10, John tells us:Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.” (NKJV)

Dearest Heavenly Father,

You have made provision for us.  You have given us a place of safety under the protection of a mighty King, your Son Jesus.  We take refuge in Him and rest on His promises till He comes again in glory.

Amen

Leave a comment

Filed under Friday Gleanings by Carmen

Worthless Rubble or Holy Dwelling?

Friday Gleanings.009

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2 NKJV)

 … the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:20-21 NIV) 

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV)

The Fitzpatrick Hotel is located in Washington, GA.  It was built by John and Thomas Fitzpatrick in 1899. After a fire threatened to drain the life out of their hometown, the two brothers returned home with the intention of giving the economy a boost.  Therefore, they not only built the hotel, but used it as a base of operations for their thriving businesses.   Their endeavor was a success and brought economic life back to Washington.

Over the years, the hotel has had several owners and several name changes.  As the economy dwindled, however, the building fell into disrepair, and would have remained that way, except that new owners rescued the structure, by cleaning, remodeling, and restoring it to its original pristine condition.  Mike and Christy Todd, who are part owners, and attend our church, saw potential in the architectural and historical features of the old building.  After a labor of love that took over two years, the hotel now sparkles and exudes the charm of ages past along with the comforts and technological advances of the present.

Outside picture of the restoration of The Fitzpatrick Hotel in Washington, GA

Outside picture of the restoration of The Fitzpatrick Hotel in Washington, GA

This inside restoration of the lobby at The Fitzpatrick Hotel in Washington, GA

This inside restoration of the lobby at The Fitzpatrick Hotel in Washington, GA

When I saw the “before” and “after” pictures of the hotel, I was amazed at the faith and vision it took to believe in a positive outcome for the old building.  I was reminded of the vision God has for each of us.  He sees our underlying worth, our potential.  God takes our dilapidated minds, our burned out lives and our decrepit old bodies and restores them according to His heavenly and eternal plan.  We might give up on ourselves, but once we are His, He does not give up on us. Layer by layer and piece by piece He transforms us till our minds are renewed, our bodies are glorified and our spirits are remade in the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Dearest Heavenly Father,

You are our hope.  You are the potter, the skilled craftsman, the author and refiner of our lives.  With patience and diligence you scrape, polish, refine and rebuild the broken pieces of our existence.  Sometimes the process is painful, leaving exposed, those hidden places we do not wish to see.  When the work of sanctification is complete, however, we will shine.  Forgive us when we run away from you, afraid of the painful process of regeneration.  Today, we submit ourselves to you.  We invite you to cleanse us, to remove the debris, to make us lovely for you.  We even give up to you those secret places so long in need of tending.  We open ourselves to you completely, claiming the freedom of full disclosure, and the joy of transformation through your tender mercy and grace.

In the name of Jesus, in whose image we wish to be remade,

Amen

Leave a comment

Filed under Friday Gleanings by Carmen

Debt Free and Ready to Love

Friday Gleanings.009

 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. (Matthew 18:27 NIV)

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.  (Romans 13:8 NIV)

When my husband and I decided to retire, our goal was to be debt free, so that we could live on a reduced income.  One by one we have managed to pay off our debts.  A few weeks ago I sent off what I thought was the last payment on a credit card.  The amount owed was 351.06, which is exactly what I sent the credit card company.  I was excited about getting my next statement.  I thought of the joy and relief I would feel when I looked at the bill and the amount due was $000.00.

However, a few weeks later, I got my statement and I was terribly disappointed to see the amount due was $2.57.  I paid the bill on time, but they still charged me interest.  I immediately sent the $2.57 to them and am hoping they don’t charge me interest on that amount.

Untitled.001

My experience with the world’s economy made me appreciate God’s economy. In Matthew 18:23-35, we find the parable of the unmerciful or unforgiving servant.  A king wanted to collect outstanding debts his servants owed him.  One man owed the king 10,000 bags of gold.  When the man begged the king to give him more time, the king cancelled the debt and let him go.  No sooner was he free than he went after one of his peers who owed him 10 gold coins.  When the man could not pay his debt, the servant had him thrown in prison.  When the king found out about the forgiven man’s lack of mercy toward his brother, he handed him over to the jailers to be tortured till he paid his own debt.

I am a sinner saved by grace.  I did not deserve God’s mercy.  God sent his son, Jesus to die on a cross in order that my debt might be paid in full. When I first believed and asked God to forgive me, he cancelled my debt and set me free.  The only outstanding debt left to pay is “…to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly…” (Micah 6:8 KJV), or as Paul puts it: “…the continuing debt to love one another…” (Romans 13:8 NIV)

When we are saved by God’s grace, our debt is cancelled, but there is a continuing debt: to love God and to love one another as God has loved us.  Every time I remember that bill for $2.57, I will remember the commandment of love.

Dearest Heavenly Father,

You love us with an everlasting and incomprehensible love.  You are patient and always ready to forgive us when we cry out to you for mercy.  Thank you that our salvation has set us free to love you and one another.

In the name of Jesus, who came to seek and to save sinners,

Amen

Leave a comment

Filed under Friday Gleanings by Carmen

A Young Boy, A Small Army, and a Light Lunch

Friday Gleanings.009

My granddaughter was a small baby. While she seems to be developing well for her age, she is still the shortest student in her 4th grade class.  Recently she complained to me about her size.  As so frequently happens when grandmothers get the opportunity to share wisdom with their grandchildren, I had nothing to offer.  However, I did not stop thinking about how I could encourage her.  Today, during my morning walk, God spoke to me.  I decided to write her a letter, which I will share here.  Though I wrote this for my granddaughter, what I have written here applies to all of us, because without God, we can do nothing.

Dear Ashley,

A few days ago you complained to me about being short.  I don’t know whether I was able to give you a good answer, but I have been thinking about it.  Grandmothers don’t always have all the answers, but the Bible does.

This week, when I was reading my Bible, I came across the story of David and Goliath.  Compared to the giant Goliath, David was very young and very small.  He was just a young shepherd boy, who had not been trained to fight.  Do you remember what happened when he faced Goliath?   Yes! He defeated the giant with one little stone.  Sometimes God uses little, even unimportant people, to do his work.

Do you remember the story of Gideon.  He had to fight a huge army of 145,000 men.  Gideon had 32,000 men, but God kept telling him he had too many men.  So after God sent home all the men who were afraid and the ones that weren’t alert and watchful, Gideon was left with only 300 men.  Which army do you think won the battle, the big army or the little army?  You guessed it! Gideon defeated the Midianites with 300 soldiers.

Do you remember the story of Jesus feeding 5000 people? He fed them with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. Do you remember whose lunch he used? He used a little boy’s lunch.   So don’t worry about being small.

God can use you no matter how big or small you are, but he seems to prefer to use little people, who are also humble and sometimes weak.  When God uses a small person to do great things, we know that it was God who helped them do it.  Then, God gets the glory. God made us the way we are for a reason.  Besides, I love you just the way you are and so does God.

Love, Grandmommy

Untitled.001

Dearest Heavenly Father,

Thank you for our weaknesses and imperfections.  They make us humble and yielded to you.  Thank you for using the “weak things of the world” for your glory.

In the name of Jesus, who urged us to become as little children,

Amen.

1 Comment

Filed under Friday Gleanings by Carmen

God Always Makes Room For Us

Friday Gleanings.009

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  (Matthew 7:7 NIV)

In my Father’s house there was always room for family. An extra bed could be the couch, a roll away bed or a pallet on the floor.  No one was ever turned away.  An extra place could always be set at the table.  Food, conversation, and laughter were always plentiful for us and for anyone we brought home with us.

There is nothing my father would withhold from his children.  When we were little, he worked long hours in a hot kitchen so that we could have the things we needed.  Even after we left home to marry and start families of our own, we knew that we could always come back to my father’s house for advice, for comfort, and for emotional or financial support.

If we knocked at the door, no matter what the hour, we were certain that the door would be opened and that we would be well-received, and that anyone we brought with us would be welcomed warmly and sincerely.

In my Heavenly Father’s House, there are many mansions.  Someday I will live there.  In the meantime, I can pray asking for what I need for myself and for others.  I can be certain that my Father will listen.  He will not withhold wisdom and comfort, mercy and grace, or forgiveness.  If I seek Him and bring others to meet with Him, he will be gracious, and He will receive them also.  He will fill them with wisdom, shower them with love, heal them and comfort them as he does all those of us who have been grafted into His family.

Dearest Heavenly Father,

You are our Abba. You are also our Lord, our God and King whom we worship in spirit and in truth.   We love you and want to be with you.  Every day we come to you asking for spiritual food for us and for others.  We come seeking your wisdom, your love, your mercy, and your grace.  We know that when we knock on Your door, we will be received, accepted, fed, healed and returned to our daily life refreshed and replenished.  Forgive us when we hesitate to knock on the door.  Forgive us when we fail to bring others to you.  Today, we come asking, seeking and knocking.  We long to be embraced, fed and strengthened.

In the name of Jesus, who fed the multitudes and feeds us still with His Word,

Amen

2 Comments

Filed under Friday Gleanings by Carmen

If My People Will Humble Themselves and Pray…

Friday Gleanings.009

 

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire. (Psalm 46:9 NKJV)

On September 11, 2011, President Obama read Psalm 46 during a memorial service honoring those who died during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  As I read the news report, I asked myself: When was the last time we had peace?

According to several online sources, the longest period of time in history without war is from the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815 to the outbreak of World War I in 1914.  Though many reasons are given for the absence of worldwide conflict during this time, I believe that one of the reasons is that the hearts of mankind were turned toward God.

In all my searching, I discovered that this peaceful time coincides with the Second Great Awakening in the United States, a time of spiritual revival, when many acknowledged and embraced Jesus Christ as Savior.  During this time, most of the student body at Yale University is saved. Itinerant preachers travel from place to place in the South preaching the Gospel to ordinary people.  As Western expansion progresses, the throngs of settlers moving into sparsely populated lands take their Bibles with them into an untamed land.  They rely on it for inspiration, for instruction and as the foundation for building character in their offspring.

Salvation brings about individual and collective change.  It shifts our focus from self to God, and consequently, to others. Being a Christian promotes selfless giving. As a result, benevolent societies are created.  In response to the Great Commission, organizations such as the American Bible Society, spring up to propagate the Word.  A true relationship with Jesus Christ leads people to examine matters of conscience.  Therefore, the issues of temperance, women’s rights and slavery come under scrutiny during this time.

After the September 11th attacks, we rallied together to give aide and assistance to those affected by tragedy. Many flocked back to our churches out of fear.  But fear is not enough.  Fear does not make us free or hold us together for long.  When the danger or crisis is past, we tend to revert to our old way of living.  Instead, we need true conversion, which comes through love, and is powered by faith and undergirded by the hope of a future with God in heaven.

Jonah 2:9 says, “Salvation comes from the Lord.” Peace also comes from Him.

Dearest Heavenly Father,

You are our refuge and our strength.  Thank you for the gift of salvation.  Thank you for sending us your Son to redeem us from sin.  Forgive us for keeping your Word to ourselves.  The nations are hungry for the power they contain.  Through your great mercy you make it possible for us to reach millions through the air waves and electronically. You give us opportunities daily to tell others about you.  Though today we are faced by a new threat of war with Syria, we know that you hear our prayers and that we can trust you to answer. 

In the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace,

Amen

 

4 Comments

Filed under Friday Gleanings by Carmen

When You Walk Through The Fire

Friday Gleanings.009

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4 NIV)

In April 2013, Oconee Street Methodist Church, in Athens, GA, a church that has served the needy for 25 years was gutted by a late-night fire. The day after the fire, my husband and I were driving into town with our 9 year-old granddaughter and she noticed the yellow tape and the burned out steeple.

She immediately asked; “What happened?”

We repeated the information we had heard on the radio about the fire.  We also told her about the ministry of the church and how they fed the homeless and the poor people in Athens through a program called Our Daily Bread.

Her next question was one we ponder when bad things happen to good people.

“But if they were doing good things, why did God…?”

We responded that we did not know the cause of the fire, but a building can be repaired or rebuilt.  We assured her that nobody had been hurt in the fire, and that surely God had a plan to expand and bless the ministry of that church.  Our job was to pray for the workers and the people who depended on the meals served there.

Our words turned out to be prophetic.  Yesterday’s newspaper confirmed God’s faithfulness to replace our losses with something better than we could ever have dreamed or imagined.  The fire destroyed a building, but the faithful in the church and community persevered.  The very next day meals were served on the lawn. Four months later, Our Daily Bread has relocated to First Baptist Church in downtown Athens. The end result has been better facilities and a 15% increase in attendance.  Due to the central location of First Baptist, more people are being fed physically and spiritually.  To God be the glory!

Dearest Heavenly Father,

We all face trials in this life.  In your Word, you tell us that your plan is to refine us, to build up our spiritual strength, our faith and perseverance. We know that there is nothing we can do in our own strength, but when we rely on you and remain faithful till the end, we are rewarded with evidence of your love and presence in our lives and in the lives of those for whom we pray.

In the name of Jesus, who is the Bread of Life,

Amen

Leave a comment

Filed under Friday Gleanings by Carmen

More Precious Than Gold and Sweeter Than Honey

Friday Gleanings.009

I delight in your decrees;
 I will not neglect your word.” Psalm 119:16 (NIV)

All of my life I have been a reader.  When choosing a profession, I chose to be a Library Media Specialist. While books can inform and entertain, newspapers can sway public opinion, and magazines can address a multitude of topics, there is one book without which I would not want to live.  That book is The Holy Bible, the Word of God.

Psalm 19:7 says that the Word of God is perfect and restores the soul.  It is trustworthy and makes wise the simple.

Dearest Heavenly Father,

Your Word breathes life into me, revives my soul, and gives me hope.  It is a fountain of wisdom.  When I am thirsty, I can drink from it.  When I am tired, I can rest on its promises. Thank you for your Word.

Psalm 19:8 says that the Word of God is right.  Therefore, it brings joy to the heart.  It is also radiant and brings light to the eyes.

Dearest Heavenly Father,

When I spend time in your word, my eyes are opened to those things that please you. When I know my life is pleasing to you, I am filled with unspeakable joy, and I want to share that joy with others. Thank you for your Word.

Psalm 19:9 says the Word of God is pure and endures forever.  It is sure, certain and true and reliable. 

Dearest Heavenly Father,

Jesus is the Word. Therefore, I can rely on the Scriptures to guide me through good times and bad times.  Because your Word lives in me, it is available to me every minute of every day. Thank you for your Word.

Psalm 19:10 says the Word of God is more precious than the finest gold and sweeter than honey from the honeycomb.

Dearest Heavenly Father,

Your Word is a treasure that cannot be taken from me.  It is food for my soul that I can delight in daily.  Thank you for your Word.

And finally, Psalm 19:11-14 says that the Word of God gives us warnings so that we do not sin. 

Dearest Heavenly Father,

Your Word shines a light on my own sin, prompting me to seek your forgiveness and making me more willing to forgive others when they sin against me. Thank you for your Word.

Amen.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Friday Gleanings by Carmen

Beating Around the Bush and The Cow’s Tail

Friday Gleanings.009

“And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them.” (Deuteronomy 28:13 NKJV)

Subtlety was not a teaching strategy when I was growing up.  At home, my parents never “beat around the bush” when telling us exactly what was expected of us.  In school, the teachers did not mince words when it came to making their expectation for behavior clear.  Noncompliance was not an option.

As I read Deuteronomy 28:13 recently, I remembered a former teacher’s words to us:  “If you do not listen and follow directions, you will always wind up being the cow’s tail.  The cow’s tail is always last.” That made an impression on me.  I had no desire to be the cow’s tail, so I resolved to listen and be obedient.  Besides, I loved my teacher and wanted to please her.  Love always spills over into obedience.

In the Scriptures, God does not mince words.  He is not concerned about our fragile egos or worried that we might take offence.  His desire is not to harm us, but to prosper us and to save us. (Jeremiah 29:11) Therefore, clarity and honesty are of the utmost importance.

In the tradition of Deuteronomy, Jesus was also clear.  He said: “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”  (John 14:21 NIV)

On the other hand, He says: “Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”  (John 14:24 NIV)  True, lasting  and whole-hearted obedience always hinges on love and respect.

Dearest Heavenly Father,

You are I AM.  We love, respect and fear you with reverent awe.  Thank you for loving us enough to send Jesus to pull us out of the dark pit of sin and into the light of your presence.  We love you, because you first loved us and revealed to us what we must do to be saved.  Today we make pleasing you our top priority.

In the name of Jesus, who is the head of the church and Savior of the body,

Amen

Leave a comment

Filed under Friday Gleanings by Carmen

A Life Lived Full and Well

Friday Gleanings.009

Dear friends,

Today I take one more step toward the middle of my sixth decade.  It seems like just yesterday, I was excited about celebrating my third birthday.  My first memories of church are of trying to see the altar through a wall of tall adults.  Was it that long ago?

It seems like only yesterday I went to school for the first time.  I can still remember the excitement of opening the crisp pages of a brand new reading book.  I can still remember how exciting it was to put those first words on paper with a newly sharpened pencil.  I can still picture my first grade teacher’s smile.

Has it been so long since I crunched autumn leaves with my cousins or had snowball fights with my brothers?  Has it been that long since we found new lives in states far removed from one another?  One day I was in college.  Then I was a bride saying I do, and before I knew it, a mother cradling a little girl.

How did I get from Delancey Street to the Bronx, and from the Bronx to Queens, from Queens to Puerto Rico and New Jersey, and finally to Winterville, Georgia? I don’t know the answers to these questions, and perhaps I don’t even want an explanation.  Maybe I just want to marvel and be grateful today for every wonderful moment of my life.  I am thankful for each and every day and for every person God has given me to know and love.  Today I feel rich in years and rich in love.

Slide for 8-16-13 Devotional.001

Dearest Heavenly Father,

Before we existed, you knew us.  Thank you for keeping us close to you all these years.  Thanks for being with us in the valley and on the mountain top. Thank you for our families and many loved ones, especially those who belong to the Body of Christ.  We praise you, Lord for every day you have given us. We thank you for today and any future days you see fit to add to our lives.  May they be for your glory!

In the name of Jesus, who is from everlasting to everlasting,

Amen

Leave a comment

Filed under Friday Gleanings by Carmen

With Love and Prayers on Every Side – Moore, Oklahoma

Friday Gleanings.009

“12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:12-13 (NIV)

2…I Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to Jeremiah, the prophet… 3.So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.” Daniel 9:2-3 (NIV)

On Sunday, my son and several friends left for Moore, Oklahoma to do disaster relief work there.  It is his first mission trip as an adult. This time, he would not be taking a church bus. This time, he would be making the trip on his own.  As a mother, I was nervous about this 1000 mile trip across four states.  At the same time, however, I felt blessed by his choice to dedicate his time and energy to helping others.

Moore, Oklahoma Disaster Relief Trip

Moore, Oklahoma
Disaster Relief Trip

In preparation for the trip, we had the car inspected, tuned up, and new tires installed.  We shopped for working gloves, appropriate clothes, and purchased snacks for him to eat and share along the way.  We gave him a Subway gift card, and people in our church gave him gas cards and money for expenses.  All of these things were important, but the most important thing we did was to pray and to ask others to pray. I know Christians in Moore are praying for this project.  Because we have Facebook, Christians in other states are also praying.

A few Sundays ago, I taught a Sunday school lesson about two prophets separated geographically, but bound together by prayer.  One man, Daniel, was called by God to serve Him in captivity. The other man, Jeremiah, was called by God to stay in the destroyed city of Jerusalem to preach and prophecy. During his lifetime, he was beaten, arrested, thrown in a cistern, humiliated, ridiculed, and abused.  But the beauty of God’s plan is that though the people of Jerusalem did not heed Jeremiah’s warnings, a man in faraway Babylon understood Jeremiah’s message, turned to God, and prayed.

And so, in the wake of a disaster in Moore, young people have decided to go and lend a hand. People in Georgia and Oklahoma pray, and others, who know them and even those who do not know them personally, all across the country, turn to the LORD in prayer.  United in prayer and in the beauty of God’s plan, we are strengthened, a town is rebuilt, and God is glorified.  Praise God!

Moore, Oklahoma Disaster Relief Team

Moore, Oklahoma
Disaster Relief Team

Moore, Oklahoma Disaster Relief Team

Moore, Oklahoma
Disaster Relief Team

Moore, Oklahoma Disaster Relief Team

Moore, Oklahoma
Disaster Relief Team

Dearest Heavenly Father,

Lord, today we recall Philippians 4:6 (KJV): “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God”. How beautiful it is to be bound together in prayer, to know you are always present in our lives and ready to receive our praise, our thanks, concerns and petitions.  Today, we make our requests known to you.  We ask you to restore the town of Moore, but most of all we ask you to do a mighty work in the hearts of the people there.  We ask you to bless those who have gone there to help and return them safely to us.  We thank you for your guidance and protection, and in all these things we seek your glory.

In the name of Jesus,

Amen

One of our Christian authors, Rene Gutteridge, lives in the Moore, OK area and in her blog she shares her experience of that day.  It was scary and makes it so real.  http://www.renegutteridge.blogspot.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Friday Gleanings by Carmen

Wood, Nails and Lots of Love

Devotion on blog Aug 2 2013.001

The year I turned ten, my brothers and I decided to build a clubhouse.  Our decision, however, did not go without opposition.  Living in a three story house with relatives, meant we all shared one back yard.  One day, I overheard a conversation my parents had with my grandfather and my uncle.  I recall the term “eye-sore” being used more than once.  At some point, however, my grandfather and uncle must have relented.  After much deliberation, it was decided that we could have our clubhouse till it was time for my grandmother to plant her flowers in the spring.

Joyfully we went right to work.  Most of our building materials came from Weber’s lot.  At Weber’s lot, treasures that only a ten-year old could appreciate were available for the taking:  two by fours with only a couple of nails to pull out, a metal shelf with only a dent or two, and a perfectly good step-ladder with only one rung missing.  Our local grocer supplied us with discarded wooden fruit crates.  We raised money for nails by collecting pop bottles and turning them in for cash: 2 cents for the small ones and 5 cents for the large ones.

Laying the foundation and erecting the four corners of our rectangular structure was as far as we got before running into technical difficulties.  While we worked, my grandfather sat on the patio reading his paper. From time to time, he would make a suggestion, or measure and then, saw a piece of wood.  Sometimes Uncle John helped us hammer nails, and once Uncle Frank stopped by to help us put a latch on the door.  Soon the whole family was involved.  My grandmother provided a piece of linoleum for the floor, my aunt, an area rug, and my mom, a flashlight and snacks.  My Dad helped us paint.

We enjoyed our clubhouse that fall and winter, but before long, it was time for my grandmother to plant her flowers.  With heavy hearts, we tore down the clubhouse.  In truth, springtime called us to enjoy other outdoor activities and the initial excitement and enthusiasm for the clubhouse had waned.  What remained intact was the solidarity that developed in our relationship with our relatives.  It was a thing of beauty, to work together for a common purpose.

A church is a family.  Sometimes its members do not agree on the merits of a project, but that is all right, as long as an agreement is reached and we decide to work together to achieve a common goal.

Dear Heavenly Father,

How wonderful that you let us call you Father and that you call us children.  We thank you for adopting us, and for placing us in a church family.  As we worship and serve you, there will be times of disagreement.  Help us to discern the things that need to stay the same and those we need to change. Teach us how to work together for your eternal purposes, and to love each other through our differences.

In the name of Jesus, our cornerstone,

Amen

Leave a comment

Filed under Friday Gleanings by Carmen

Restored To A Perfect Shine

Devotional Picture 7-26-13.001

When I was 15, our family moved to an old colonial style home on the outskirts of San Juan, Puerto Rico.  My father immediately assessed the property and saw its potential.  He decided that with a little paint and TLC, we could make this 5 bedroom house into a home for our family of 9.  The painting was going to be easy, but have you ever restored hardwood floors the old fashioned way?

First, we emptied the room and removed the vinyl carpet.  Next, we got rid of protruding nails.  After all the nails were gone and some of the floor boards replaced, we scrubbed the dirtiest areas with a brush, we swept and we mopped.

Once dry, the floor was ready to be sanded.  Each of us was handed a piece of sandpaper which we used to smooth down our designated area of the floor. While we worked, my father moved from one spot to another encouraging and advising us on how much pressure to apply and how to move the sandpaper in a circular fashion.  Every night we had to sweep the dust away, since we did not own a vacuum cleaner.

By the third day, some of us got grumpy thinking we would never see an end to this project. Then, finally, one day, the floor was ready for my father to stain and varnish. When he finished, the floor looked beautiful, shiny and new.

My father had restored wood floors before, so he knew how it would look when we were through doing all the hard work.  He had a plan.  He was sure we could do the work.  He also knew we would do the work because we trusted that he knew what he was doing.  He probably didn’t tell us how long it would take because knowing that would have been overwhelming.

God is in the business of restoring people.  He has a plan.  He created us and is aware of our strengths and weaknesses.  He knows the true measure of our faith and trust.  And ultimately, He is the only one who knows the duration and the outcome of his plan for us and future generations.  Sometimes He will even use us to smooth the way for others to come to Him.  Because He has been faithful to keep his promises in the past, we have the assurance that His plans are “to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11) in this life and the next.

Dearest Heavenly Father,

Thank you for your faithfulness, your loving-kindness and your discipline.  Thank you for taking the time to wash away our sins.  Thank you for smoothing out the rough places in our lives and for using us in preparing the way for others to come to you.  Forgive us when we lose heart, and encourage us when we hesitate to come along beside you.  Knowing your timing is perfect, we give you our hands, our hearts and our will. May they be used for your glory!

In the name of the one who makes us a new creation,

Amen

Leave a comment

Filed under Friday Gleanings by Carmen

A Song To Sweeten Our Sorrows

Friday Gleanings.009

“After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”  (Mark 14:26 NASB)

One treasured memory of my childhood is hearing my mother sing as she went about her daily tasks.  As we grew older, she taught us those songs and we sang them in the car when we went on family outings.  Most of them were songs she learned when she sang in the church choir and some that reminded her of her Puerto Rican homeland.

Just before I got married and left home to come to Georgia, my mom confessed to me that when she came to live in New York City as a young bride, she was homesick and afraid of living in so huge a metropolis.  She said that singing those songs gave her courage to face each day.

Recently, I read an article about two Christian women, Gisela Wieberdink-Söhnlein and Hetty Voûte who were arrested in Amsterdam for hiding Jewish children in World War II.  They were sent to Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, Germany in 1944.  To survive there and at Vught Camp, where they were later transferred, they wrote and sang songs.  The songs offered comfort to their fellow inmates, were a source of entertainment, and provided a distraction from the ugliness and brutality that surrounded them.  Both women survived the war.

Remembering my Mom’s story and reading about these women brought to mind the hymn that says:

God of grace and God of glory.

On Thy people pour Thy power;

Crown Thine ancient church’s story,

Bring her bud to glorious flower,

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,

For the facing of this hour.

No matter how small or how great our suffering, the Lord grants us grace for each day and each hour.  What a wonderful God we serve!

Dearest Heavenly Father,

Before going to the Mount of Olives, Jesus sang with his disciples.  It is clear by the verses that follow that He knew Golgotha awaited Him beyond that garden of prayer.  Then, You sent an angel to strengthen Him, and He was able to say: “Your will be done.” Thank You for sending us Jesus. As we wait for the fulfillment of your promise to receive us in your kingdom, put a song on our lips, and strengthen our resolve, so that we will live a life that is pleasing to you.

In His precious and holy name,

Amen!

4 Comments

Filed under Friday Gleanings by Carmen