Unity Is The Answer

Not long ago I watched the movie, “Selma” for the first time.

I confess I didn’t know many of the details of what happened in 1965. At the time, at the age of 11, I failed to pay much attention to national news, although I knew blacks did not enjoy the same rights as whites, and my heart broke when President Kennedy was shot. I knew he believed deeply that “black lives matter.”

When I watched the movie, I marveled at the courage of those who stood against injustice—especially Martin Luther King Jr. His wife also showed bravery to stand by her husband when it meant death threats and danger for herself and her children.

What I didn’t think about when I imagined the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma in my mind was that whites marched with blacks on the bridge. As I watched the movie, my heart rejoiced at the unity I saw. I imagine whites on the bridge saw the blacks as their neighbors and their brothers and sisters. They empathized and were willing to put themselves in danger to help blacks obtain justice and equality.

Other whites failed to see the matter in that way.

The same goes on today.

Many—even in churches—see injustice against blacks ie shooting of innocent black citizens by policemen as “not my problem.” Some even put forth an attitude of “they must have done something wrong” even though videos show the wrong action on their part was “driving while black.”

Today I heard an interview with Mandisa, a black Christian singer, who felt disturbed at the time by what she saw on the news in the midst of a series of deaths of black people by the hands of police officers as well as the killing of police officers by a black man in Texas.

Out of her inner turmoil came the song “Bleed The Same” which calls for unity. If we in the church could be united and could see black people as our brothers and sisters or our neighbors, what a difference it would make.

Some tell me, “I do see blacks as my brothers and sisters.”

My question is, “Then why aren’t there any blacks in your church? Or in your circle of friends?”

One day in a prayer meeting at our church, I prayed against racism in the hearts of people in our mostly white church, where blacks had told me, “I don’t feel welcome at your church.”

A black friend explained it this way, “When I visited a Sunday School class at your church the same day as a white woman did, people in the class said to her, ‘We hope you come back,’ while to me they uttered no such words.”

After I prayed, “God, help us deal with racism in our church,” a woman interjected, “there is no racism in this church.” It was ironic that she said this since it was one of her good friends who called a security guard a number of years ago and urged them to kick out several black youth my daughter had invited to the church all because three black young men in her mind were “a dangerous gang.” Even when I told her they were our guests, she and a racist security guard still insisted, “they don’t belong here.”

That’s not unity. These youth were hungry for the Lord. What would have happened if people in our church united with these young people to help them get to know the Lord and walk with Him instead of kicking them out and telling them not to come back?

I still have contact with these three men. Their hearts continue to hunger for God, even though they have many struggles and have not fully grasped the full truth of salvation. However, the sister of two of these young men who are brothers said, “Because your church welcomed me, my life was changed. I’m a leader in my church, and you inviting me to church there made such a difference.” She knows and loves the Lord and lives a life to serve Him.

Our church did not see her as dangerous and united with her to help her grow in the Lord.

I continue to pray for God to deal with racism in the hearts of members of my church and every church in America. I pray my home church would become fully integrated. I pray we would see blacks, Hispanics, and every other individual in a minority who knows the Lord as brothers and sisters. I pray we will see those who don’t know the Lord as neighbors we can reach out to with love and concern. I pray their struggles would become our struggles, their hurts our hurts.

Not long ago as I prayed for a troubled youth who is wandering far from the Lord, these words came to mind, “Pray she will have eyes wide open.”

That’s what I pray for us in the church—that our eyes would be wide open to racism, injustice, and inequality. Then I pray we would ask God, “what is my part?” and “how can I bring unity?” Yes, we may feel these are dangerous questions, but what a difference we could make.

I want to be part of the solution of the problem of racism and every other problem in the church and in our country.

How about you?

 

Today I have two songs:

“Glory” by John Legend and Common– theme song from the movie, “Selma”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEFRPLM0nEA

“Bleed The Same” by Mandisa

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEzCQBwQkdA

The Story Behind the Song “Bleed The Same”

http://kswp.org/bleed-the-same-by-mandisa-the-story-behind-the-song/

 

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Another Gift From God

I marvel at the generosity of the Lord.

Lately difficult circumstances brought on distress and a battle with hopelessness.

God, in His goodness, delivered various gifts to help me through: music, promises from His Word, an uplifting sermon at church.

But He also brought the gift of one person who helped me tremendously in these recent weeks.

That person is my brother, Bob.

A number of years ago, my brother started to come to Florida from Fairbanks, Alaska in the winter near Christmas. In past winters he stayed for two weeks at the most. Then he had knee surgery and didn’t come for several years. This year because of a less than full work schedule, he was able to stay over seven weeks.

The Ben Franklin saying, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days” has not applied to brother Bob.

The time we have spent together has meant so much to me. We enjoy doing many of the same activities, which include walking on the beach, bicycling, and working on puzzles together. We also enjoy watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy in the evenings (something I also do when I visit my parents.) We get to enjoy the Olympics together this year since his stay has extended into February.

It was great to visit our parents together on the other coast of Florida during his stay here.

My husband gets along well with Bob, and the two have worked on projects at the house together, which I so appreciate.

One reason I enjoy my brother’s company so much is that he possesses an easy-going nature. He maintains a calm demeanor, and that calm overflows onto me. Also, he speaks words of wisdom and says gently, “Here’s something I noticed…” and then he tells me what he observes in my behavior or in my personality. He corrects me gently. I feel like I have a therapist staying at my house, and I like it.

We also are getting to know each other better as we talk about our families and what’s important to us. We talk about our faith in God and our goals for the future. He comments on the difficult circumstances I face, but not in a negative way. Yes, that’s another reason I enjoy being with Bob: he maintains a positive attitude. And he laughs easily.

I thank God for bringing the gift of extended time with my brother during a difficult season when it comes to other relationships. There’s something wonderful about being with a sibling—someone who has known me all my life. We faced childhood traumas together and survived, which brings a deep bond.

My brother leaves today, and I will miss him.

We’ll talk on the phone in the days and weeks ahead. And as I look at all the puzzles we worked on together, I will feel uplifted. (I have them spread out on the table and coffee tables in the dining room/living room for now.)

And I have something to look forward to; he says he’s coming back again next winter and will stay at least a month.

Although I still have difficult circumstances, my brother has reminded me to have a grateful attitude as he showed me his in regard to his battles with hard times.

This verse comes to mind:

“Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus…” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 AMPC

I thank God that in the midst of grief and heart ache, He continues to bring me gifts to cheer and console me.

My brother may be leaving, but God’s blessings never do. I know fresh blessings are just around the corner.

Thank You, Lord, for the blessing of having my brother stay with me all these weeks. May he be encouraged even as you have called him to be an encourager. Thank You for helping me through these difficult days. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

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Songs In The Night

I left work after a 12-hour shift feeling drained and depressed.

Thoughts of family problems raced through my mind.

Struggles friends faced troubled me.

My right leg ached.

“Lord, help me,” I prayed.

Then I heard a voice singing sweetly as I jogged through downtown Clearwater.

As I approached, a homeless man standing with a companion yelled to the singer, across the street who sang outside at a small bar/restaurant, “I want to hear “Blowing in the Wind.’”

As the singer sang the song while she strummed her guitar, something about her voice touched me. Then a thought came, Give her $20 in her tip jar.

That’s too much, came my next thought.

All I had in my fanny pack that I wore while jogging after work was a handful of change and a twenty dollar bill.

I’ll give her all my change, I decided.

On my approach to the singer, I dug through my fanny pack for the change even while I kept on jogging.

I reached the singer as she continued to sing, “Blowing in the Wind,” and tossed the change in her tip basket. I saw that only another handful of change lay at the bottom.

“Thank you,” she said and smiled.

“Thank you,” I said. “I really appreciate your singing.”

Then I jogged away and turned the corner to head back toward my car.

The singer began another song—an original, I think. The song reached me deep in my soul, but it wasn’t the words. It seemed to be something sweet and pure about her voice. I felt my spirits lift at the beauty of her voice.

As I thought about what a gift she was to me that evening as I battled depression and negative thoughts, I realized the directive to give her $20 came from the Lord.

So I turned around.

I got out the twenty dollar bill and put it in her basket. I smiled at her, and she smiled back and  said “thank you.”

“What’s your name?” I asked, still jogging in place.

“Mallory Moyer,” she answered.

I repeated my thank you and jogged away.

That encounter happened a week ago. Since then, I’ve told quite a few people how Mallory lifted my spirits. I checked out her songs on my phone, and then played them for others.

I just left the writing of this blog to send a thank you note to Mallory on Facebook and let her know how much she blessed me.

While on Mallory’s Facebook page, I saw she would be singing at other venues in our area—at restaurants I enjoy. I hope to go and see her sing in the future and bring others with me who can also be blessed.

As I reflect on hard times, I recall other occasions when God sent a person, a song, a blessing to help me face a difficult day or days.

I thank Him for all those times and for this recent blessing and for an opportunity to give back in a small way and hopefully be a blessing to the one who blessed me.

This verse seems to apply to my encounter with Mallory: “I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:3 NIV).

That’s what I’ve been doing all week—remembering her and thanking God for how she blessed me.

“Where Do We Go From Here?” by Mallory Moyer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLmF4Nh7Ee4

 

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I Won’t Give Up On My Miracle

I love when God speaks to me through songs.

Recently I battled hopelessness in regard to the waywardness of a loved one. This seemed true: the more I say and the more I pray, the worse things get. The situation seemed impossible. I felt heartbroken. I knew God was able, and it seemed in the past He intervened. Now the circumstance slid back to worse than ever in many ways.

After work one day I got in the car, and a song I never heard before came on the radio by one of my favorite Christian groups, Unspoken.

The theme of the song spoke to my weary soul loud and clear: “Don’t give up on a miracle.”

I realized I loomed close to that point.

Yet here was God speaking to me through these singers promising me a miracle. I thought I heard Him whisper, “The miracle is coming. Just wait.”

Maybe my first miracle won’t be what I desire: for this loved to draw close to Him and let go of the poor choices she’s making. Perhaps the miracle will be in my heart in regard to her, ie that I  let go and no longer allow her ungodly life to get in the way of God’s calling on my life—to love her with God’s love no matter how much she hurts and rejects me and to spend more time writing the truth. Or my miracle could be that I will be released from weariness and worry in regard to the situation and draw closer and closer to God as she backs further and further away.

I decided to see what’s happened so far as God bringing this person to the end of her rope, so she has nowhere to turn but to Him. I want her to turn to Him, but I accept it may not happen–at least not any time soon. But I refuse to allow this to rob me of joy.

Lately I battle guilt over my wrong choices in dealing with this wayward soul. I failed to set boundaries, and I failed to speak the truth in love but at times just allowed this person to mistreat me. And so many other wrongs on my part come to mind.

The thought just came to me that as I deal with this situation and my heartbreak, it’s like going through grief. I battle with the stages described by those who study the grief process: denial, anger, guilt, bargaining, depression…The final stage is acceptance. I’m moving closer to it, and that in itself is a miracle.

This I know for sure: I’m not going through this alone. God remains with me to offer comfort, counsel, courage until the miracle in this loved one’s life comes.

I will not give up on prayer, on drawing close to Him, or on remaining daily in His Word. I look forward to God speaking to me more through songs in the days ahead. Some days in the past He gave me a new song which touched my soul. Here’s the chorus of one God gave me a number of years ago during other difficult circumstances. I played it on my guitar today and sang it to myself, to God, and against the devil.

My life changes,

But nothing changes

When it comes to You.

You’re always there

To hear my prayer.

You are faithful and true.

Nothing ever changes

When it comes to You.

I remember years ago my Bible study teacher asked, “What’s the prerequisite for a miracle?”

Then she gave the answer: “an impossible situation.”

I love that our God delights to do what others and my mind say is impossible.

Today I reflect on the many miracles God brought to me over the years, which reminded me this situation is not too difficult for Him. Matthew 19:26 proclaims that truth: “With God all things are possible.”

I refuse to give up on this wandering soul or on the miracle I pray for her.

Lord, I thank You in advance for the miracle that’s on the way.

“Miracle” by Unspoken

 

 

 

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Don’t Pass Along Bad News

“Don’t pass along the negative things she does.”

This thought came to mind after a loved one told me about another loved one’s bad decisions.

So I didn’t pass along what this person reported to me.

The next day the troubled individual made another bad choice. But this time I told others. They loved her and would want to know, I thought.

Then this occurred to me: But did they need to hear it from me?

The instruction from the day before came to mind again, and I believed it came from the Lord.

As I reflected, I realized how often I passed along bad reports. When I did, I felt more discouraged.

In this matter, I could have waited until the person who made bad decisions told her version of what happened, which she did.

When I went to my work place, I remained silent about my loved ones irresponsible and what looked like irrational behavior. In the past I told details–to get them off my chest, I told myself.

When I didn’t “tell” this time, I felt so much better in my emotional life, and in how I viewed the one who did wrong. Instead of allowing bitterness to brew, I prayed about the loved one and asked God to redeem the situation. I gave thanks to the Lord in regard to what didn’t and what could have happened.  I thanked God for positive qualities in this person.

In the last two days, as I reflected on how I tend to speak out loud negative details of people’s behaviors that affect me, I realized when I do that, it pleases the devil.

“I can’t believe the latest thing she did,” I tell others and give the details.

In my mind I can now picture the enemy celebrating each time I do that. While I say, “Isn’t it terrible?” he probably says, “Yes, it is, and I’m so glad–especially with her reporting how I was able to get her loved one to do wrong.”

Further, I saw my tendency to bring a “bad report,” communicated, “God is not answering my prayers.”

The truth remains that God does answer my prayers. And His instruction to refrain from passing along a negative report will help keep matters calmer in the family and also keep me from feeling depressed about circumstances, which feel too difficult to bear.

I determine to keep my eyes open for good news—even small changes in the lives of those not walking with the Lord.

The conclusion I came to about the latest situation is that God will use it to turn around the life of this person whose name lies near the top of my prayer list. I have asked God many times in the past to “please do something to intervene in her life.” Once again He has, but not in the way I thought would happen. He allowed her to go further in her negative choices than I thought she could to urge her toward a turn-around and to show those closest to her—including me–how they may be contributing to her problems.

I heard more negative news yesterday, and instead of passing it along, I prayed and thanked God for some positive aspects of the seemingly “bad news.”

Today I celebrate how much God loves me and my loved ones–even when we mess up.

I seek God daily with how to reach out to my troubled loved one.  A vital instruction He gives often: “Pray.” I also feel led to send a card to let her know I’m praying and a few details of what I’m praying for her.

I look forward to how God will use these present heartbreaking circumstances to bring about good. He’s a genius when it comes to that.

In the “mean time,” Philippians 4:8 repeatedly comes to mind: “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Thinking about “such things” helps keep me from speaking negativity.

Also, I hold to Romans 8:28: “and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” and “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” James 5:16b.

And I’m letting God hold me. It’s a wonderful place to be.

“Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIZitK6_IMQ

 

 

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Stand Firm in 2018

A new year. A fresh start. A renewed sense of anticipation.

 

New problems. Fresh pressures. Resurrected heartaches.

 

I faced both lists in these early days of 2018.

 

A part of me wants to give up, abandon hope, flee from the fortress of faith in certain circumstances, which seem impossible to resolve. In areas where God intervened in the past, I feel shoved back to where I (we) started.

 

Some days I feel alone, misunderstood, unloved.

 

Tears flowed this past Sunday when two different loved ones lashed out at me with angry words and seemed incapable of empathy or understanding. In fact, they seemed banded together against me.

 

The evening before after cruel treatment from one of these loved ones who faced her own struggles and let her negative emotions overflow onto me, God reminded me of a song. I heard these powerful words several times on the radio in recent days. I got my guitar out that Saturday evening and learned the chords to the song.

 

I sang it to myself, the Lord, and even to the enemy.

 

The song spoke of the need to stand firm in the midst of difficulties. I thought of the verse with the words “stand firm” in it: “…stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13 NIV).

 

I knew with God’s help I could stand firm. Yes, these circumstances look bleak if I only see them with my human eyes. But as I turn my view to God’s perspective, I remember how in the past He used dark circumstances to bring about His plan and purpose in my life and in the lives of my loved ones.

 

So once again on Sunday in the midst of tears, I determined to trust Him and stand firm in my faith. I recalled His faithfulness, and I felt certain a miracle would soon burst forth like the Florida sun on cloud-filled days.

 

In the “mean time,” I also need to follow the instruction in the verse after the “stand firm” verse: “Do everything in love” (verse 14).

 

A while ago a song by the same singer who sings the “stand firm in your faith” song touched me so much, I made it my theme song for 2017: “Trust in Him” by Lauren Daigle.

 

I decided this new song, “Oh, Lord” will be my theme song for 2018. Yes, I believe for the best in this coming year, but often the best springs from the worst in my life.

 

Both songs center on trusting God, and one goal I gravitate toward each year proclaims, “Trust God more.”

 

I met that goal in 2017. And I look forward to the same achievement in 2018 with the acceptance of this fact: my growth in trust often comes through trials, traumas, and even tragedies.

 

Today I celebrate that God will walk with me every step of the way through 2018. And I will give Him all the glory for every way I become more like Him and grow in trusting Him.

 

“Oh Lord” by Lauren Daigle

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrvHnLNWjpw

 

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My Gratitude Journal for 2017

Each year at the end of the old and the beginning of the new I make a “thank you” list to show my gratitude to the Lord for all the ways He blessed me in the previous year.

This year my annual helpful habit is unfolding a bit differently.

In 2016 a good friend game me a gift of a gratitude journal. I waited for 2017, and each day of the year I wrote in this journal what I was grateful for in regard to the day that just passed.

So now instead of writing a new list of thank yous, I’m reviewing what I wrote over the past year.

Here are some entries from January 2017:

Thank You, Lord, for giving me strength to go on a bike ride. It was 70 degrees, sunny, and lovely.

Thank You, that Julie came over, and we had a nice visit. Thank You for her.

Thank You that I got a good report at the eye doctor.

Thank You that my dryer is fixed, thanks to Lance from Hanson’s.

Thank You, Lord, for a wonderful visit with relatives in Tallahassee.

Thank You, Lord, for strength to fast today.

Thank You, that my brother, John, called.

Thank You for my time at Marie’s Bible study.

As I review all God worked in me and through me, and how He blessed me in so many ways, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude. This journal reminds me of blessings I would easily forget if I didn’t write them down. When I keep track of blessings, it helps me to keep a positive attitude instead of focusing on all that seems to go wrong on a regular basis.

Somehow maintaining an attitude of gratitude through recording God’s blessings in black and white works to keep the enemy at bay.

Yes, I still have troubles and trials in my life and in the lives of my loved ones, but I learned over time to thank God for how He works in those situations. Here’s an example from my 2017 gratitude journal: “Thank You that you helped me not to have a negative attitude toward ________” (someone in my life who tends to lash out at me in harsh ways.)

Already, I started a new gratitude journal for 2018 in the journal my daughter gave me for Christmas. The outside cover reads this way: “Be Joyful Always; Pray Continually; Give thanks In All Circumstances 1 Thessalonians 5:18” These are excellent goals for this new year.

Here are a few entries I’ve written for 2018:

Thank You for a good day on Clearwater Beach with Carol, Bob, Amanda, and Destiny—despite the cold. (We booked a number of days in a condo on the beach with relatives who were here from Alaska, Illinois, and Louisiana.)

Thank You for a special dinner at Frenchy’s Saltwater Café with Bob, Amanda, Carol, Mindy, Tam, and Des.

Thank You for a fun time at Countryside Mall with Des, Amanda, Bob, and Carol.

My entries aren’t necessarily spiritual, but I do give God credit for all the good which happens in my life. I feel blessed to continue to have physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial health, and my entries in my journal reflect these.

I realize God bestowed many blessings upon me in 2017 that I’m not even aware of ie, protecting me from dangers I never saw.

I look forward to all the goodness God will show me in 2018. I celebrate His faithfulness over the years, and I feel glad to have a place to record it. My journals are just the tip of the iceberg as far as ways He blesses and all I have to thank Him for.

As I reviewed my journal, I felt led to make another list—an ABC list of ways God blessed me over the past year.

Affirmations, Boldness, Comfort, Direction, Energy, Freedom, Grace, Help, Intervention,

Joy, Kindness, Love, Mercy, Nearness, Order, Peace, Quietness, Restoration, Strength,

Truth, Understanding, Victory, eXcitement, Yearning, Zeal

Lord, thank You for the scores of ways You blessed me in 2017. I pray for help to maintain an attitude of gratitude in 2018. Keep my eyes open to Your goodness and let me continue to record the many ways You show Your goodness to me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

“Thank You, Lord” by Don Moen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sax4aTgZ9dw

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