Sister to Sister: Unnecessary Risks

So my husband called this morning to tell me that my digital gas gauge read zero-miles- remaining when he got to the end of our driveway this morning on his way out. I knew that, though. I live life on the edge about some things. (I’ve actually put it to the test before and I know that my Honda Pilot gauge gives a little grace…at least two miles once it’s reading zero….And, to be honest, I was coming home from the doctor, where my flu test had yielded a positive reading, when I realized I was almost out of gas, so, in my physically compromised state, I thought it was worth the risk.)

Some things are worth the risk. It’s worth the risk of an extra  pound or two to give yourself permission to splurge on a cupcake now and then. It’s worth the risk of being a minute or two late to the soccer game when you see a yard sale that calls to you. It’s worth the risk of getting stung by a bee or bitten by an ant to go on a picnic with your kids.  And it was worth the risk to me to try and make it home to my bed, even though I knew there was a small possibility that I’d get stuck on the side of the road. 

Some people, though, take spiritual risks and spiritual risks are never worth it. I know parents who know they could be helping to insure that their kids don’t fall away from the church. They could be having family Bible time each day or getting their kids involved in ministering to the elderly. They could be participating in Bible Bowl or Lads to Leaders. But they are willing to risk their children’s faithfulness on a mere three-times-a-week type religion. Big risk (In fact, it’s doubtful, even if their children emerge with the same kind of faith as their parents have, that this weak faith will weather the storms and reserve them a place around the throne.)

I know people who gamble with the calendar. They understand that they are outside of the fold of safety—lost— and they intend to do something about that…later. They fail to understand the risk of early death, the possibility of the coming of the Lord, the lack of desire they may have to obey…later. Big risk. 

I know people who take big spiritual risks in their marriages. Years slowly pass and husbands and wives grow apart, finding fewer and fewer common interests and more and more opportunities to be apart. Communication becomes strained and there are few intimate and tender moments. Marriage takes commitment and work. When one fails to commit to do marriage God’s way, the risks are of phenomenal proportions. They include the occurrence of extramarital sexual fulfillment, the dissolution of the marriage and home, the psychological  and spiritual damage to children and the eternal loss of multiple souls. Big risk.

I know those who have been influenced by others to take risks of addiction. Every first alcoholic drink is a risk. Every first drug use is a risk. Every first purposeful pornography use is a risk. In short, every addiction begins with a first use. That first experimentation is a big risk. 

It’s amazing to me that we live in a culture in which people are not about taking risks with health, or physical safety. Organic, free of preservatives or additives, free of harsh chemicals, safety belts, safety buckles, safety harnesses, safety recalls, the National Safety Council etc…etc…are all words and phrases we hear multiple times each week. It’s got to be a good thing when we heighten our awareness about health and safety. But how often do you hear “He has lung cancer and he never smoked a day in his life.”…Or…” She was killed instantly although she was wearing her safety belt.”…Or…”She was so health conscious. I can’t believe she had a heart attack.”

The point is this: Physical risks are sometimes just not truly calculable. We can do our best, but still not be prepared for what may be around the corner, health-wise. Spiritual risks are more calculable. Every one of us is headed for death. Death is not probable. It is not likely. It is not predicted. It is certain. Why would we not prioritize the spiritual safety measures that are at our disposal? Since it is certain that there will be a day when they will be of ultimate importance, why would we not want to minimize the risk of eternal tragedy in every way possible. 

One hundred years from now, it will matter very little whether my house contained an asbestos residue, or whether all the safety recalls were done on my vehicle. It will not matter much whether my eggs were organic or cost-effective. It will not matter much if my kids took antibiotics occasionally or depended entirely on herbal remedies or other homeopathic or eastern medicines. 

Please do not think this a critique on moms who are making the best health choices they can possibly make for their families. I know that’s a good thing. But we all would do well to compare the measures we take for health and safety to those spiritual measures we take daily for eternal health and safety. There’s so much about physical health that’s beyond our control. Thank God that physical health is passing and the kind of eternal well-being that we CAN control is forever. 

Don’t take unnecessary and irresponsible risks with the health of your family. More importantly, don’t cut corners spiritually. Do every thing you can to insure that every member of your family is anchored in faith…ready for the inevitable passage from life to eternity. 

“…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27).

 

  

 

Sister to Sister: The Bakers and the Kings

I spent an evening recently in the home of a young family that was the “real deal” for our Lord in a little town called Maud, Texas. It was a town that seemed to revolve around its young people and their collective education. This young family was no exception. Their little home school was obviously a huge success, both academically and spiritually. It was pretty cool to hear impressive vocabularies and watch a little early elementary-school chef. I even heard about their community supported lemonade stand from which all the proceeds went to the small local library for children’s books. There was creativity bulging from little conversations and good manners characterized every exchange. It was a lot of fun to share soup and cornbread at their table. 

With their parents, I talked about doctrine and morality and zeal for Him and I knew that those children’s chances of being around the throne one day were unusually good. Maybe it’s really not about chance, at all. Maybe it’s more about the propensity for success when parents are fully engaged in heaven from goal to gold, from purpose to priorities to practice.

 

 

It’s no wonder that something like this project could come from such a home. I sat there with my mouth open as I witnessed a three-year-old who really does know all of the kings of Israel and those of Judah—and the stories, for the most part, behind them. So here it is—one of the best Bible songs I’ve ever heard. It’s a song that puts knowledge that most Christian adults have never even approached, into children. It does so in a format that will cause them to keep the knowledge for life. 

I want to share this with you now, especially if you are a family-Bible-time kind of mom. You can thank the Andy Baker Family of Maud, Texas. Fellow family-Bible-time-mom, Kathryn, is the teacher and homemaker that “makes” this home so warm and Christ-centered. Dad, Andy Baker is the talent behind the songs’ compositions.  Here’s the link to some great family time in the Old Testament. Kathryn tells me we can feel free to sing and share with credit. (Actually, she didn’t even say “with credit”. But I’m saying it!)

https://www.bibleclassworkshop.com/shopcontent.asp?type=Kings-of-the-Divided-Kingdom

And, for good measure, here’s their rendition of Psalm 1:

Sister to Sister: Happy 95th…to Both!

Yesterday was my Dad’s 95th birthday. It is hard to believe that he lived in an era in which an automobile was a very rare sight in his community, but then traveled the world during World War Two in a ship called the San Saba. When he was a small lad, he disassembled a radio to try and find the “people” who were “talking in there”. Now he asks us how that tiny phone can possibly contain the answers to any and all questions we ask Siri. He owns the bell and a wooden desk from that one-room schoolhouse in Peaceburg, where he attended when he didn’t have to be in the fields picking cotton (or hiding under the cotton basket so he wouldn’t have to pick). But then he went on to be one of the first in his family, if not the first, to graduate from college. It’s hard to believe he grew up as one of eleven children, a sharecropper’s son, and now he is the single remaining person of that generation of family. He watched the world take flight, man travel to the moon, the building of interstates and infrastructures and internet, as well as the destruction of the Nazi Regime and the Soviet Union. Ironically, he served in a huge worldwide war against injustice in the 1940s while blinking his eyes in 1973 and opening them to the injustice that would take millions more lives than all of the wars in which the US has ever been involved. 

So I took my dad in the golf cart to the back of the barn on Saturday, where he thought he was going to see a new fire-pit, When all of his family shouted “Happy Birthday!” as we rounded that corner, he knew this party was all about him and he had lots of fun opening Alabama and Mayberry trivia books and clothes and blankets and collar extenders. He loved a hat that one of his nephews had made for him bearing the name and insignia of his U.S. navy ship all those years ago and a forty-eight star encased flag like the one under which he served our country. But the best surprise of the day was the news of the upcoming birth of his third great grandchild, Baby Nicholas! That was the best news for all of us. 

It’s profound. Really. Yet, it happens all the time. This 95-year-old grandfather seems so very far removed from that 95-day old baby undergoing gestation. So many years, history, trials, victories…just so much living between them. And yet, there is coming a day when they will both recall the tiny dot on a vast eternal timeline in which they both existed on planet earth, that place of preparation for what is real and never diminishes or passes. Then, it will surely seem so distant and fleeting—that dot on the eternal timeline (If one could even say “eternal” and “timeline” in one sentence)—that they, having been mortals in generations that touched briefly on earth, will seem to have existed even in the same relative moments of time. What is 95 years, anyway, on the timeline of God, to whom a thousand years is as a day? 

Of course, the oversimplification of the profundity is this: We’d better all be able to get our tiny focus out of the wars, the accomplishments, the education, and the advancements and look at time and triumphs through the eyes of our Maker. He knew about flight and WW2 and globalism and the internet when he called Noah to save a seed line for the Messiah. He knew about all of the passing productions of men when He called Abraham out of Ur. He knew he was moving a patriarch so that He could call all men through Jesus to Himself one day, where no invention or amount of progress can bring men even close to matching the perfection of heaven. The answer to that call is all that matters. It is what links the 95-year-old grandfather and the tiny baby in gestation for eternity. It is, when that baby one day puts-on our Lord, what will truly make them blood kin. It’s the blood of Jesus coursing through spiritual veins that makes us eternal family. 

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (II Peter 3:8)

It’s just profound.

Sister to Sister: Oasis!

 

There are small oases in the desert for Christians in America throughout any year’s months of  the drought of truth in our land. But there is one huge oasis every August and we have just traveled to the streams which are at Polishing the Pulpit. Our strength is renewed. We are emboldened and better prepared to stand for truth and to share it in love with those around us who are thirsty, too. And we more acutely long for heaven. 

The Wilderness Resort is quiet now. My husband and I are preparing to leave this morning. The folks at the front desk are talking about how wonderful the week was. They’re not Christians, but they are quick to tell us that this is their best week of the year. God’s people have shined a light in this place.  We are determined to individually trim our wicks and refuel our lamps to shine brighter all over this great country. 

Here are a few of my personal highlights from the week. I know you have them, too, if you were here:

  1. The eclipse. I sang “There is Sunshine in my Soul Today” with a small group of sisters while the light was still bright and then “How Great Thou Art” when it was hidden. We praised Him in prayer and begged Him to help us never to let anything get between us and the light that is His Son. I will never forget those moments.

  2. The chance to talk about the mothering lives of Millennial Moms in a small group setting with all those babies and sweet children—souls fresh from God—all over the floor and the pews. That was an epic opportunity for me. In that room was a very strong current that will flow into future generations for Him; not because I was teaching, but because they are already so doggedly determined to bring up generations for Him.

  3. The late night prayers with Glenn after long days with brethren. These reminded me of the enormous blessing that God has given me in this man. We talked over some serious eternity-affecting problems with people all through our days at PTP. But at night, this man of God, just laid them with me, at the feet of the One who already inhabits eternity (Is. 57:15). These times breathed into my spiritual muscles the ability to go do this again the next day. They gave me the real hope that we can overcome obstacles and make progress collectively toward heaven. 

  4. Being real, I have to say that the grandchildren were a definite highlight. I got to show my family in the Lord my new Colleyanna, in her pink bonnet and her long green and pink prairie dress. I got to have a sweet almost-three year old sleeping in the bed beside our bed almost every night. Glenn and I had bedtime Bible time and prayers with him at hours that were way too late for him to be awake. But it’s once a year and it’s a mammy’s paradise, in that respect. It’s the realization that my life is headed toward a sunset and a new light is arising. It’s profound in the spiritual context of PTP.

  5. The truth emanating from that conference center. It was everywhere and it does affect every faithful church, every mission point, every youth group, every area where the gospel is going. This is not because this is any kind of headquarters for His church. That’s not in the plan. But the beauty of this gathering is just that. Individuals are hearing about PTP and taking vacation times as families and the Word is going forth in mighty ways directed by the Providence of God and through the zeal of individual Christians who take it home and just keep on influencing others who teach others, who talk to others, who show Him to others. It’s how PTP has grown from 3 people, only a few years ago, to 4800 in these relatively few years. It is amazing and I believe it is arguably the one most powerful gospel-spreading gathering since the apostolic age when Pentecost occurred. I know that’s a big statement and I do not know all about all historical events of His people, but I cannot conceive of a gathering that could be more influential, certainly in modern times. (My personal favorite of the lessons I heard? The Sunday morning lesson by his great servant, Dan Winkler. Let’s be done with cheap substitutes and offer him the best perfume! But I also really loved some of those in Deep Creek about “Milk that Tastes Like Meat.”) 

In a land of spiritual famine, we have the sustenance. We have the Bread and Water of Life. The synergy of PTP is the right blessing, though, to remind us of just what we have in His truth. May we, in the harder times, throughout this year, remind ourselves that we are not alone! There will be another gathering on a hilltop in Sevierville next year, Lord willing. And there will one day be a gathering on the mountain of Zion for His faithful—a gathering from which we will never pack up and leave!

Sister to Sister: Conversations about Malignancy

Here’s a snippet of the shocking conversation as I sat that Sunday morning on the second pew, as a visitor. The lady next to me, a member of that congregation,  a middle ager and with her husband, spoke very casually:

The lady: “Yes….My daughter lives in Little Rock with her husband.”

Me: “Well, How are they enjoying that area?”

The lady: “Well, I’m not sure. I think my daughter may not be well. She might have cancer.”

Me: “Well, is she going for treatment? Has she been diagnosed?”

The lady: You know I’m just not sure about her condition or what she is doing about it.  I’m not sure if she is going to see her physician or not. I don’t know what type of cancer she has or how large the tumor is.  I need to ask her again. We also have a son who may be sick, too. I just can’t remember what he said about his condition, either. Oh dear.  Honey, what is the name of that condition he has? Can you remember? (Looking over at her husband).

That was not exactly the conversation. But what would you think if it was?…That this mother was insane?… That she had been traumatized at some point, becoming cold and calloused about her own children?…That she was simply unfeeling and very different from the Christ we had all gathered to memorialize that Sunday? 

Here’s the real conversation:

The Lady: “Yes. Our daughter lives in Little Rock with her husband.” 

Me: “Well, where do they worship there?”

The Lady: “You know I am not sure. I can’t really recall what kind of church she said they are attending. I need to ask her again.

Me: (a little shocked). And you have more children?

The lady: Yes. Our son….He lives in Florida….Now he goes to some other church, too…I think he does. Oh, Honey, can you remember what kind of church he goes to?” …Oh…I’m trying to think…”

Just then the service began and I tried to pick my jaw up off the floor and frame my startled mind to worship the God of the Universe…the One who spoke the world into existence and yet knows how many hairs are on the head of this woman’s daughter….And He knows where that head is bowed on any given Sunday, if it is bowed at all. He knows if this woman’s son and daughter have a spiritual malignancy. He knows and offers the cure.  But until this woman becomes more keenly aware of the eternal urgency of the spiritual welfare of her children, she will never be helpful to them in battling the spiritual cancer.

I was a visitor. Granted, I do not know the ins and outs of the relationship this couple have with their children. I do not know how recently the conversion of this middle-aged couple occurred. I do not know if their children have had a chance to hear the pure good news. But I know that, if this woman is emotionally and mentally stable, and if she loves the Lord and His church, she will quickly grow into knowing about, caring for and sacrificing for sin’s cure for her children. She will be plugged in to the treatment plan and she will be offering them the resource that will save their spiritual lives. 

The difference between the cancer conversation and the one that really happened that morning? The first has to do with the speck in eternity that is our lives and the second has to do with the infinite remainder of eternity (and we really can’t even use the word “remainder” when we speak of infinite time. The remainder is still infinity.) The first has to do with a mortal body that houses the soul. The second is about the soul, itself—the essence of every human being. The souls of her children—who they are—is what this woman knew very little about. I pray that I may always know my children. 

The second conversation, the real one, is far and away–infinitely–more important.

 

  

Sister to Sister: Can We Go to the Playground?

 

I smiled at  a recent conversation between my two-and-a-half-year-old grandson and his mother:

Ezra: “Can we go to the playground today?”

Ezra’s mom: “No…not today, baby.”

Ezra: “Can we go to the playground?” 

Ezra’s mom: “I said ‘Not today,’ Ezra.”

Ezra: “I’m going to give you oooone more chance, Mama. I said ‘Can we go to the playground?’”

Ezra’s mom: “Ezra, Mama and Daddy are the only ones who can say  ‘one more chance’”.

Ezra: “Oh…Well…Can we go to the playground?”

We do this sometimes with God. We wish for things and sometimes we even ask for things that we know are against His expressed will. He has already told us we cannot go to that playground, but we keep insisting that going there is what we desire, as if we are not listening to him at all. Sometimes we ask for material things, knowing all along that we already are much too obsessed with riches. We ask for promotions to other cities, not minding the fact that there are no faithful churches or Christian encouragers there. We ask for success on the corporate ladder without ever giving a thought to the stairway to heaven. This can also be described as the Balaam syndrome. (Read Numbers 22-24). 

Then we give God “another chance” sometimes. We act as if we are in control. We build our own little towers of Babel (Genesis 11) and begin to actually think we can make our own rules of philosophy and morality. We discount His absolute truth in favor of our relativism. We dismiss His power and talk about how we can save the planet. We even decide we can define things like life’s beginning point and marriage and even gender. We just kind of tell God that we’ll give Him another chance to get it right. 

James said it this way: 

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God (James 4:4).

All of our misguided ambitions and repeated pleas for things outside His will make  us His enemies and, ultimately separate us from Him eternally.

James also gives us the direct route to true success. It’s friendship with God. It’s spelled out in verses six through ten of the same chapter:

But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.