Friday, December 2, 2011

From the Cradle to the Cross

If you get the chance to drive by Everett and Elayne Bielby's house during the Christmas season, you will see in front of their home a very simple decoration - usually the only one displayed - a cross in blue lights. This cross was made by Everett's father when Everett was very young (and he says that was a long time ago!). And in years past if you would take a drive down Irongate Street in Woodhaven to view the beautiful decorations on homes, you would have noticed straight ahead down the street, a lighted cross in someone's front yard. I don't ever recall seeing crosses at Christmas time, do you? I like the idea though because it truly points to the real reason that Jesus came.

Even when the angel announced the future birth of Jesus to Joseph, he said that Mary would have a son. They were to name Him Jesus "for he shall save his people from their sins." Matthew 1:21. Jesus came with a save sinners. "For even the Son of man came, not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." Mark 10:45.


So you see, the cradle in that manger stall and the cross of Calvary go hand in hand. Why celebrate one without the other! The wonder of the virgin birth of Immanuel gave way to the cruelty of the substitutionary death on Good Friday and eventually to the triumphant resurrection of Christ on Easter. Christmas opens the story of redemption and the cross contains a new chapter. The book will soon be completed when Christ returns again to take us home to eternally be with Him.

During the Christmas season in some past years we have sung a special hymn for our communion service in December. This song beautifully ties together the cradle and the cross. I cannot sing it without tears.

A Communion Hymn for Christmas

Gathered round Your table on this holy eve,
Viewing Bethlehem's stable we rejoice and grieve:
Joy to see You lying in Your manger bed.
Weep to see You dying in our sinful stead.

Prince of Glory, gracing Heaven ere time began.
Now for us embracing death as Son of Man:
By Your birth so lowly, by Your love so true,
By Your cross most holy, Lord, we worship You!

Bethlehem's Incarnation, Calvary's bitter cross,
Wrought for us salvation by Your pain and loss;
Now we fall before You in this holy place, 
Prostrate we adore You, for Your gift of grace.

With profoundest wonder we Your body take
Laid in manger yonder, broken for our sake:
Hushed in adoration we approach the cup -
Bethlehem's pure oblation freely offered up.

Christmas Babe so tender, Lamb who bore our blame,
How shall sinners render praises due Your name?
Do Your own good pleasure in the lives we bring;
In Your ransomed treasure reign forever King!

(words by Margaret Clarkson)

I believe that Mary gradually began to understand throughout Jesus' life the price for sin that He came to pay. The Bible tells us that she pondered these things in her heart. Knowing that Jesus would not always be "hers", she must have savored each moment and each day with this unusual child.

As you celebrate this joyous season with your family, my prayer is that you will take a few moments each day to lovingly gaze into the face of your sleeping baby, to snuggle your toddler, and to give your older child a big savor each day we are given with these dear children. Let's not forget the wonder of their birth just as Mary must have wondered. And in her life, her own son became her Savior. "And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior." Luke 1:47. Is He your Savior and Lord? what better time to acknowledge His cross as you celebrate His cradle!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Links in a Chain

The links in a thing leads to another. That's how life is sometimes.

Five years ago this month, our family moved to Long Island so my husband could pastor a church here. Because I love books so much and have a lending library for other families, one of the first things I did after moving here was to find the library book sales available on the island. One of the first I found was the East Islip library sale. Pay your $10 and you are given a nice canvas bag to fill with as many books as you can! Yeah!!! Fun for me! I started through the children's section and began filling my bag with books. As I was doing this, a mom holding a little boy came up to me and asked for some help. "You look like you know what you are doing? Could you help me pick out some good books for my children?" We chatted a little bit and it didn't take long to realize that we were both Christians and that we both loved books. This day began a friendship with Michelle. One link in the chain!

Michelle began attending our church when she could. She was caring for her elderly, very sick, father in her home so could not come to church very often. But we kept touch and shared books back and forth. Two years ago, Michelle met a dear older lady at a library near her home and told her about our church. Lillian was searching for a church that really opened the Bible. She had a willing heart to learn and began attending our church and our ladies' Bible study. She had genuine questions and slowly God's Spirit began to help her see her need for salvation through Christ alone. Lillian came to know Christ as her Savior and soon after, was baptized and joined our church. Another link in the chain!

Michelle's father died and she was released from the responsibility of caring for him on an hourly basis. Now she began attending our church with her five children regularly. And last Sunday, she was baptized. She invited many family members and friends to the baptism. Now God is using this dear lady to reach out to another young mom who is now reading and learning from the Bible. The chain continues!

Watching this chain grow has been joy to my heart. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Harold and the Purple Crayon


Are you a Harold trying to draw life with your purple crayon? In the children's book "Harold and the Purple Crayon", this little boy gets into one scrape after another. And what does he do? Cry to momma for help? Sit down and think about it? Pray? No, he draws himself out of his troubles. He encounters a dragon, but draws himself out of the fear. He is independent, a problem solver, fearless, triumphant. All he needs is his purple crayon and he's good!

As I browsed through this little book, Harold's self-reliance jumped out at me in bold purple images. He is in control! Aren't we like that? We want to be in control. And even if we can't control the circumstances, we can control the least we think we can. And then something comes along that reminds us we are not in control. 9-11, a heart cath, an accident, Irene (the hurricane), a loved one's death. We are not in control and we know it deep in our heart of hearts. But we want to be a Harold with our purple crayon, drawing our way out of trouble.

Recently our adult Sunday school class at church has studied the book of Daniel. Bud did a wrap-up lesson last Sunday teaching us that the theme of Daniel is that God is in control and Daniel KNEW it. Despite all the trials of Daniel's life in Babylon, he didn't pull out his purple crayon and draw his own release from captivity, his rescue from the lion's den, his dream-come-true of Jerusalem being rebuilt. He trusted God. Period! Yes, he prayed as was his custom since he was young but he trusted God to pull out the "purple crayon" when He saw best.

So put that purple crayon away. Break it, melt it, pitch it. And trust in an eternal, loving God Who is in control!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Waves Teach Us Your Ways

"Those who go down to the sea in ships,
Who do business on great waters,

They see the works of the LORD,
And His wonders in the deep.

For He commands and raises the stormy wind,
Which lifts up the waves of the sea.

They mount up to the heavens,
They go down again to the depths;
Their soul melts because of trouble.

They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man,
And are at their wits’ end.

Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble,
And He brings them out of their distresses.

He calms the storm,
So that its waves are still.

Then they are glad because they are quiet;
So He guides them to their desired haven.

Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men!"

Psalm 107:23-31

It's like the author of this psalm was looking through a telescope, down the centuries, to the story of Jesus calming the storm in the Sea of Galilee as recorded in Mark 4. 

"And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.

And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.

And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.

And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?

And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"
Mark 4:35-41

Stormy wind kicks up...
The waves of the sea are lifted up...
Down again to the depths....
Troubled soul melting...
Cry out to the Lord, "Help us, Lord"...

Does that describe your heart as you ride through the storm? And Jesus is sleeping! Does He not care? Is He even aware?

"Why, Lord, why?" 

"To show you My power, child."

"Peace, be still." 

And suddenly the wind is stilled.
The waves cease their roaring.
We are brought into safe harbor.
And our hearts rejoice 
so that we cry out,
"Thank you, Lord! How did You do that? Who are You that the winds and waves obey You?"

What is the most recent storm you've experienced? Did you cry out to God? Did you thank Him for bringing His peace in the midst of it? Do you fear this awesome, holy God?

Anyone who has been saved for a few years has had storms....some are little squalls, some are hurricanes that stir up waves so big, they tear up the beach and scour it clean. And more storms will come....for certain. Will you cry out to God for help and then stand in awe at His power?

And give thanks?

"Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,And for His wonderful works to the children of men!"

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Lilies - The Glory of God

Luke 12:27
"Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."

God has clothed the lily. Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as God clothed the lily in His glory. I love to look at the details of flowers because they show the glory of God. He's the best tailor, designer, clothier in the universe. 

So then....
How much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?
And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind.
For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things.
But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. Luke 12:28, 30, 31

Perhaps as you take a walk and you see God's glory displayed in the flowers of the season, you will let those blossoms and blooms be a reminder to your heart that God will take care of you. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bud - A Father

I think most young ladies think about the man she loves and wonders what kind of father he will be to their children someday. At least, I did. When Bud and I were dating, as I got to know him, I knew he would be a great dad. The year was 1983 and we were young and hopeful and trusting God for our future.

We started ministry together at Evangel Baptist in Taylor, moved into our first home, and then I was expecting  our first child. Over the next ten years, God gifted us with five children: Jeremy, Joanna, Jason, Janelle and Joseph. Then I had the privilege of watching Bud be a father, the father I had dreamed he would be.

As our family grew, so did we. We learned parenting together, made lots of mistakes, and trusted God. Bud was always there for our children. He went to their games and quiz meets, played in the back yard with them, gave them opportunities to stretch themselves physically, mentally and spiritually, involved them in ministries alongside him and other godly adults. He prayed for them faithfully and disciplined them when necessary.

If I were to capture vignettes of Bud as a father, these would come to my mind:

Because of complications when I delivered Joanna, I could not hold her. But Bud could, and he did. He fed her and took care of her for those first few days. I love the picture in my mind of him holding her.

As a family, we went rock climbing in Yosemite. All of us! A great lesson in trust in each other as Bud and Jeremy held the ropes for us.

How many games of Risk has he played with the kids???

When I miscarried our son Jonathan at 19 weeks, it was Bud who made all the funeral and burial arrangements for him. And Bud who spoke at his own son's funeral.

Bud has provided faithfully for us through all of these years. He has sacrificed to provide.  So many times he would set aside his own needs and wants to get the children what they needed.

He got up in the night to help me with fussy babies. He drove newborn Joseph back to the hospital at 2 a.m. for a bilirubin test so that we wouldn't have to leave him there for observation.

When a child learned to read, he bought them a Bible of their own.

He has guided our family with God's truth. He has taught by example how to be truthful, how to stay out of debt and trust God, how to pray for God's provision and protection.

He rejoiced as each child accepted Christ as Savior. When one of our teens stepped out in response to a sermon, he was happy in his heart.

When I would worry about one of the kids, he gave perspective and hope.

When Jeremy and Leah married, and Jason and Abbey married, he was pleased.

Yes, he has been a good, faithful father. A picture of our Heavenly Father who loves, protects, provides. I'm so glad God put us together. Exactly half my life ago, I married Bud. Definitely, the best half of my life!

Thank you, Bud,  for being a wonderful father to our children. I pray our sons follow in your footsteps and our daughters marry men who will also be like you!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Dying to Self

I Corinthians 5:7b says, “For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.” The story of the Passover, which is when the Israelites celebrate the story of their deliverance from the death angel sent to convince Pharoah to let them go from slavery in Egypt, and the story of the death of our Savior, Jesus Christ, are beautifully intertwined. This verse brings the two together, Jesus, the Lamb of God (John1:29 “...Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world.”) willingly laid down His life as a sacrifice for our sins. Just as a perfect lamb was killed for the Passover and its blood was put on the door posts of the Israelites’ homes, Jesus’ blood was shed to cleanse our hearts from sin and save us from sure destruction and judgment.

In the hours before Jesus’ crucifixion, He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. There He laid down His will to do the will of the Father. He would go to the cross to die in my place and yours. It was for our sins that He died, not for His because He has no sin. He would do as His Father had said; the whole reason He had come to earth was to be the sacrificial lamb, to die once to pay the penalty of death for the sin of the world.

The apostle Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Really Paul is saying that just as Christ laid down His will to do the Father’s will, we have the privilege of following Jesus’ example by laying down our own will to allow Christ to live through us. Our needs, our wishes, our hopes, our desires, and our dreams are all surrendered to do the will of Christ in our lives. This sounds so noble and most of us would say that we are willing to do this, but how does it work out in our day-to-day lives? How do we “die to self”? How do we put aside our pride and willful ambitions? How do we in actuality “take up our cross” and follow Jesus? The following poem tells us how. This was an eye opener for me to realize how much I still hang on to my will for my life and how far I have to do in learning how to die to self.

Dying to Self
author unknown

When you are forgotten or neglected or purposely set as naught and you do not sting and hurt at the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ,

that is dying to self.

When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart or even defend yourself but take it all in patient, loving silence,

that is dying to self.

When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, any impunctuality, or any annoyance, when you can stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensitivity, and endure it as Jesus endured it,

that is dying to self.

When you are content with any food, any offering, any raiment, any climate, any society, any solitude, any interruption by the will of God,

that is dying to self.

When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation or to record your own good works or itch after commendation, when you can truly love to be unknown,

that is dying to self.

When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself and can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising in your heart,

that is dying to self.
~ * ~ * ~

Five times in my life I have had the experience of giving birth to a child. Perhaps you have had that privilege, too. In a sense, that is also dying to self. Your own comfort, plans, and wishes are set aside in order to give life to another person. Then after the birth, you get up nights to feed this little one, change endless diapers, and basically take care of his every need no matter how you feel or what you were doing or trying to do. You die to self in order to care for the needs of another. But what a joy it is! Just as Jesus, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, so we as mothers also endure the demands in order to have the joy of bearing a child and caring for him.

When you have a moment, read Proverbs 31:10-31 and look for ways this godly woman demonstrated dying to self. She worked hard, reached out to the needy, got up early, brought her family’s food from afar, and learned skills with her hands. And she did all that with strength and honor, not demanding recognition for her labors.

I first found the poem “Dying to Self” almost 15 years ago. As I read it again now, I wonder how much better I’ve learned its lessons. Have I truly died to self?

Lord, help me to follow your example.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


It's been ten years! In memory of Roni and Charity Bowers

“They’re killing us! They’re killing us!” The pilot of the small Cessna plane radioed to the control tower. Also aboard the plane was a family, a man and his wife and their two children. On that day, April 20, 2001, the family was returning from obtaining a residency visa for their newly adopted daughter when a foreign air force jet was suddenly spotted flying next to them. The small plane had been mistakenly suspected for a drug smuggling flight. Minutes later bullets ripped through the plane instantly killing the mother and daughter. Though bullets had shattered his right leg, the pilot was miraculously able to steer the plane and plunge it into the river thousands of feet below. The following day this story was on the front covers of newspapers all over the world. Many news programs on television broadcasted this tragic incident.
You may have guessed by now that the family above is the Bowers family: Jim, Roni, and their two children Cory and Charity. The death of Roni and Charity was a terrible loss to her family, the body of Christ and the world. Why? Because Roni Bowers was a woman that had a passion for God, for her family, and for the lost.

A Passion for God
                Roni had a passion for God which began in her youth. She was saved at the age of twelve. She committed her life to missions when she was thirteen. Very early in her freshman year of  Bible college she made a decision that she would not date a guy unless he planned to be a missionary as well. Roni later met a young man named Jim Bowers. He had been raised by godly parents on the mission field and was planning to serve God as a missionary. Jim and Roni were married in November of 1985. God led them to Peru. There they faithfully ministered to the Peruvians in the small towns along the Amazon River.
                Roni’s passion for God continued through difficult trials. A difficult trial came when a great desire was shattered. One of Roni’s greatest desires in life was to raise godly children to share her and Jim’s life as missionaries. After many years and several tests, Roni was told that she would never be able to have her own child. After this devastating news Jim and Roni looked into adopting a child. In November of 1994 the Lord gave them a six-week-old baby boy, Cory.
                Another trial came when a difficult miscarriage was experienced. Two years after the Bowers adopted Cory, the Lord miraculously worked in Roni’s body. While in Peru during the midst of a very hectic schedule Roni found out she was pregnant. She and Jim were overjoyed to say the least! After twelve years of marriage Roni’s lifelong desire seemed to be coming into shape. Roni flew back to the United States for tests and returned to Peru with everything being normal. Then exactly one month later Roni went through a very difficult miscarriage. Being in a third world country and having very few friends and family near was hard for her. She turned to God’s Word for comfort. Psalm 23 and the book of Habakkuk meant a lot to her during this time.
                A third difficult trial came when an anticipated adoption was denied. A few years after the miscarriage the Bowers looked into adopting another child. While they were in the United States on furlough, they filled out all the papers needed for adopting. The opportunity arose for them to adopt another son right before they returned to Peru. Though Roni felt confident of the adoption, she rested in God’s will, knowing His way was best. At the last minute the adoption fell through. Though this was hard for Roni, she chose to trust God fully. She wanted Him to have His way with her, and she obediently submitted to Him, knowing His way was best.
                Several months later the Lord chose through adoption to give Jim and Roni a beautiful baby girl they named Charity.
                Roni often stated, “God doesn’t owe me anything; rather I owe Him everything.” How about you? Do you, like Roni, choose to trust God fully when you are struggling with something? Do you commit everything into God’s hands, knowing His way is best?

A Passion for her Family
                Roni had a passion for her family. She was dedicated to her husband from the beginning of their marriage. Roni knew God had called her to Peru, but she realized her first ministry was to her family. Through the first few years of marriage Roni was especially loyal to Jim. Soon after they were married in 1985, money ran out for Bible college so Jim joined the army. While Jim in the army Roni worked full-time to help provide for their needs. In the fall of 1990 they returned to Bible college.
                Roni was also dedicated to her husband from the beginning of every day. Jim and Rnoi had a special time alone in the mornings. They would read the Bible together, pray, and share how God was working in their lives. As their family grew, their morning time became even earlier, but they still kept it. Jim and Roni were able to have a wonderful relationship with each other because of important counsel they heeded from the very beginning of their marriage. For a successful marriage they needed to put God first and love Him more than each other.
                Roni was just as devoted and loyal to her children as she was to Jim. At Roni and Charity’s memorial service Jim recalled several different ways Roni demonstrated her love for their children, Cory and Charity. Roni was very concerned about making sure Cory had a good education in academic studies. She also committed herself to teaching him the Scriptures. Roni was devoted to Charity as well. When Charity wouldn’t sleep at night, Roni would be by her side trying to keep her quiet and put her back to sleep. Just caring for Charity’s needs as a baby required 100% devotion on Roni’s part. Jim once calculated Charity had drank over 60 gallons of formula in about five months’ time.
                Roni had a passion for her family. Do you? Are you committed to meeting their needs, or are you more concerned about your own personal interests and desires?

A Passion for the Lost
                Roni had a passion for the lost. She knew why she was in Peru. Jim and Roni longed to see the Peruvians come to Christ. One of Roni’s best friends remembered flying with Roni over a stretch of the Amazon River where Jim and Roni ministered. Pointing out the small villages Roni exclaimed, “That is why we’re here. Each hut represents people that need to hear the good news!”
                Though Roni knew her calling to Peru, the path to get there was definitely not an easy one. She struggled through language school. She expressed learning Spanish as "a roller coaster ride.” Roni stayed faithful to her studies, and after one long year of learning Spanish, she was teaching Sunday school and frequently sharing her testimony all in Spanish. Roni met the medical needs of the nationals. Jim and Roni would hand out aspirin and vitamins for those that needed them. They provided money for a clinic when the need was a more serious sickness or injury. Many of the Peruvian women also struggled with loss of children due to miscarriage and sickness. Because of Roni’s own experience in this area, she could more effectively minister to them.
                Are you concerned about reaching the lost for Christ, just as Roni was? When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone and witnessed to someone?

                As the plane plunged into the Amazon River, the pilot Kevin Donaldson, Jim and Cory Bowers scrambled out of the plane. Jim was able to get the dead bodies of Roni and Charity out of the plane just seconds before the cabin of the plane flipped under water. Help arrived within thirty minutes from natives who had seen the shooting. How ironic that those to whom she was so devoted – her husband and the Peruvians – were the ones who honorably cared for her body after her death as she entered the presence of the God she so faithfully served!
                Roni’s example has left us with a challenge to be men and women with a passion for God, for our families, and the for the lost. Will you take up the challenge?

(This was originally a speech given at the Talents for Christ Tune-up in March, 2002, by my daughter Joanna, age 15 at the time. A book about Jim and Roni has been written and is still available on If God Should Choose by Kristen Stagg. Caution: as you read, be ready for God to move your heart. Have the tissues on hand! The book tells thoroughly about their lives and portrays their character and love for God. I was challenged anew to commit my life to God for His use in any and in any place.)

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Glory to God
Why can’t I see what You’re trying to show me?
Why am I here? I have lost something dear.
We were just serving You with our lives
And our lives were called to give.
I know it’s Your plan and that I’m just a man
And I want to give all I have ‘cause You live.

Glory to God and not unto me.
I know this took place
So that others might see.
Some count it for loss
But she understood the cross;
And what some say was wasted
Is in the presence of God.

My prayer through this time
Is that Jesus you’ll find.
Get over the fact
That He’s all and that’s that.

Glory to God and not unto me.
I know this took place
So that others might see.
Some count it for loss
But she understood the cross;
And what some say was wasted
Is in the presence of God.

She gave her life
And we know that is true.
Now Jesus is calling
For me and for you to give…..

Glory to God and not unto me.
I know this took place
So that others might see.
Some count it for loss
But she understood the cross;
And what some say was wasted
Is in the presence of God.

(This song was written by Joe Haverlock when he was a high school senior, 
after hearing Jim Bowers speak in early July 2002. All rights reserved.)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Prayers on Easter

Christ in Easter – A Family Celebration of Holy Week by Charles Colson, Billy Graham, Max Lucado, and Joni Earechson Tada. This book I read a few years ago; it covers each day from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday and includes lessons, readings, poems, songs and activities for each day to better help family members understand the significance of the events of the Easter story. One of the articles in the book gave each of the Lord’s seven statements while He was upon the cross and gave a personal prayers based upon each statement. For my own personal Bible time, I took this concept and applied it to my own life as a mother of five children. Hopefully it will be a blessing to you as well as you pray these prayers for your own children and for yourself.

“Father, forgive them;
For they know not what they do.”
Luke 23:34a

Lord, help me to teach my children to be meek, to refrain from lashing out in retaliation to those who hurt them, to be still when others wrong them, to forgive as He forgave. Ephesians 4:31-32

“Verily, I say unto thee,
Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
Luke 23:43

Lord, thank you that my children came to accept your give of eternal salvation at an early age and that they received forgiveness for their sins with simple, child-like faith. Help them to tell others of your boundless forgiveness. Luke 18:15 – 17

He said unto his mother,
“Woman, behold they son!”
He said to this disciple,
“Behold thy mother!”

Lord, even when I’m hurting or sad, open my eyes and my heart to the needs of others, especially my husband and children. Proverbs 31:20; I John 3:16 – 18

“My God, my God,
Why hast thou forsaken me?”
Matthew 27:46

Lord, help my children to know that sometimes there are questions beyond our feeble understanding, and to know an almighty, sovereign God Who can be totally and completely trusted. Isaiah 55:8 – 9

“I thirst."
John 19:28

Lord, you were fully God, yet you full experienced the pain and limitations of humanity. May my children take their heartaches and troubles to You, knowing that You intimately understand. Hebrews 4:14 – 16

“It is finished.”
John 19:30

Lord, your redemption work at Calvary gives me absolute assurance of my eternal salvation. I pray that my children will have utmost confidence in the sure salvation they receive from you instead of wandering through life in doubt. Hebrews 10:10 – 12

“Father, into your hands
I commend my spirit.”
Luke 23:46

Lord, this is my prayer for my life and the lives of my children: Take my love – my God, I pour. At Thy feet its treasure store; Take myself – and I will be ever, only, all for Thee; ever, only all for Thee. (words by Frances R. Havergal, 1836 – 1879).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Read Me a Book, Mommy ~ Biographies

Ride along on Hudson Taylor’s  first voyage to China..
.trek through the virgin forests with George Washington, the young surveyor...
.painstakingly sew a flag with Betsy Ross....
suffer the grief of a mother dying with Abraham Lincoln...
.brave the dangers of going to a remote tribe with David Livingstone.

All of these adventures and more will be yours and your children’s as you read biographies aloud. But this isn’t the only benefit to reading biographies to your children. The true story of a great man or woman will set before your sons and daughters a wonderful example for them to follow. Most of the heroes of today’s society are not fit to be copied. But godly men and women of the past and present as well as the great statesmen and patriots of our American heritage are worthy of presenting to our children. Reading biographies helps us understand the backgrounds of these people’s lives that lead to the great feats they did usually in their later lives. Let’s raise our children’s dreams to those thing that are noble and good, that are unselfish and of pure motive, that are full of worthy character. All of this can be done by reading aloud biographies to them.

Reading the tales of great people also indirectly teaches history to your children. This is so much more effective than a straight historical account in a textbook. The people of history “come alive”. After all, what is history? God’s work in the lives of people involves in the circumstances of life.

Many series of biographies are available today at reasonable costs. Not everything you can sign out of libraries will be good for your children to read. Choose carefully. Remember that most of the public library books will not be written from a Christian perspective. So a great American who was a Christian will be presented without that important part of his life being portrayed. Those who opposed Christianity throughout history will be presented as worthy role models. So be careful when you are picking biographies. Listed below are some good sets of biographies and some good publishers, as well as some sources for finding these for your family. Grade levels listed are approximate and for your child reading the book for himself. Of course, these books can be read aloud to children younger or older than listed.

It may take awhile for your children to learn to really appreciate a good biography because this type of literature is rarely assigned in school work today. And when was the last time you read a biography? Perhaps I can challenge you to read at least one. I find the missionary biographies particularly interesting. When I read these, my problems become petty; my “sufferings” are meager; and my faith is found wanting. I need these giants of the faith to keep my life in perspective. We love biographies so much that our family has collected almost 2,000 of them! You are welcome to come by and borrow some for your spring and summer reading. We also have some excellent audio cassette and CD sets of great biographies. Wonderful for traveling time!

Biography Sets

Childhood of Famous Americans - This popular set was first published in the 1950's and some of the 200+ titles have been reprinted in paperback now. We have found almost 100 of the old edition at book sales. They are wonderful stories, telling about the childhood of famous American people. Our children loved them. Each book is close to 200 pages with black and white sketch drawings or silhouette illustrations. For grades 3-5. Not from a Christian perspective but do not mock these heroes  for their beliefs and Christianity.

The Sower Series - Published by Mott Media, a Christian company, these biographies will tell of the true Christian character of many famous people such as Appleseed, Morse, Wesley, Handel, carver, Webster. For grades 5-8, about 150-200 pages.

Men & Women of Faith series - This set is mainly of men and women who were missionaries and portrays their faith in God including Carmichael, ten Book, Elliot, Stam, Muller, Kuhn, Slessor and Carey. Reading level is grade 6 through adult. Published by Bethany House.

Hero Tales - four volumes - by Dave & Neta Jackson. A family treasury of true stories from the lives of Christian heroes. Short biographical information and three stories that display the person’s character plus Scripture verses and thought provoking discussion questions. For all ages.

Biographies for girls by Tracy M. Leininger - Priscilla Mullins, Nan Harper, Sacagawea, and Dolley Madison. Available from Vision Forum. Other titles of biographies from this company as well for boys and adults.

Living Principles of America - Audio dramatizations of America’s Greatest Heroes. CD. Each set has 12 stories.

Your Story Hour recordings - Audio dramatizations of American heroes. CD.

Focus on the Family Radio Theater - They have produced many biographical audio dramas. For example: Squanto, Corrie ten Boom, William Wilberforce, John Newton, etc.

Voice of the Martyrs - Beautiful picture story books of famous people including St. Nicholas, St. Valentine, and others. Lovely!

The Reading Parent

I had a parent who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
Blackbirds stowed in the hold beneath.

I had a parent who read me plays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every child has a right to know.

I had a parent who read me
Tales of Gelert the Hound of the Hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness bent with his final breath.

I had a parent who read me the things
That wholesome life to the child heart brings -
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each parent of children were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold,
Richer than I you can never be -
I had a parent who read to me.

~Author unknown~

The photo above is my husband's grandmother's aunt and her two children. Photographed in the 1920's. Isn't it precious?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Jews' Shoes

Deuteronomy 29:5
"And I have led you forty years in the wilderness.
Your clothes have not worn out on you, 
and your sandals have not worn out on your feet."

We have two vehicles: a '98 Dodge Caravan with 232,000 miles on it and a 2002 Chevy Suburban with 199,000 miles on it. So......what does that have to do with the sandals in Deuteronomy 29:5?

Recently as I drove the Caravan (which is not my preferred vehicle!!!), the Lord brought Deuteronomy 29:5 to my mind. Just like the Jews' shoes did not wear out in their journey through the wilderness, this old Dodge just keeps going. My husband, the optimist in the family, always says "It hasn't let me down yet," when I worry about him taking it on a trip longer than just the 3 miles to work! 

The reason God favored the wandering Israelites with sandals that did not wear out is stated in the next verse:
Deuteronomy 29:6b ".... that you may know that I am the LORD your God." He wanted them to know He was their God, a capable, loving, enabling, maintaining God. A gracious God. He knew there were no sandal shops in the wilderness. He knew their funds were limited. He foresaw the problem and took care of it for them. One less thing to worry about! 

And so, even though this Caravan is not my favorite car to drive, I am truly thankful that God keeps it running and running and running. I know, Lord, you are Lord even over the purple minivan in our driveway. You are God!

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Breath of Life ~ From First to Last

Sarah and Mercy, age 2
September 29, 2004, 7:02 p.m. - Sarah was born, much to the relief of the dear mother, father, family, doctor/midwife, and friends. As Sarah entered the world, we held our breath, waiting for her to breathe. Come on, little one.......what seemed like a minute or two passed, but was only a few seconds......there it is! A lusty wail was heard as her lungs filled with air, a totally new experience for her. Her eyes opened and her parents looked into them for the first time. Sarah was handed to me as I sat on the bed next to the momma.  Just minutes later, Sarah's sister came forth and the same anticipation occurred. We waited.......come on, baby, breathe!.......Ah, yes, then Mercy cried out. She was okay. We all exhaled. Mercy's eyes were open, gazing about at all the new sights. What a special moment to see the faces of these two new daughters for the first time. Matt and Pam and their five other children welcomed with tears of joy and relief these two new little ones. What a privilege to be there as these babies breathed their first breath of life.

October 21, 2004, about 5:30 p.m. - Bill lay quietly on his bed at the nursing home in Riverview. His eyes were closed; there was no response from him. His wife and I talked quietly to him and to one another. Every once in a while we stopped to listen to his breathing.......shallow.......with between. Several times we leaned over waiting for him to breathe again.......15 seconds passed. Come on, Bill, breathe. There it was........another long, slow exhale. Minutes later, there was a 20 second interval between breaths. We talked quietly on about how wonderful of a man he was, how she loved to serve him and make his life happy.......a long pause again.......20 seconds passed.......then 30......I leaned over to listen for his next breath. I took his hand and tried to find a pulse. No more breaths came, no pulse. He was at rest. Bill entered heaven with joy and rejoicing. The pain and suffering of recent months was all gone; He was seeing his Savior face-to-face. For his wife, a time of sorrow and relief. Losing a husband two times in 5 short years was not easy. What a privilege to be there with her and with Bill as he took his last breath.

Such were the experiences I had just three weeks apart that fall. As I drove home after Bill had died, the words of the verse in Genesis 2:7 came to my mind, "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breathe of life; and man became a living being." I had watched Sarah and Mercy breathe their first air; I had watched Bill breathe his last. Yes, the babies were very much alive in the womb with their needed oxygen coming through the placentas from their mother's blood, but seeing them take in air for themselves for the first time was amazing. Who tells them to do that? Think of all the physiological changes that must take place for this to happen. And for Bill, who told him to breathe his last? Why at that moment? "For it is appointed unto man, once to die....."  God! He is the answer to the first and the last breath we take. He is the source of all life. He gives it; and He takes it away. And as many have said through the centuries along with Job, "...the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Job 1:21b

Obviously, if you are reading this article, you are breathing. You probably don't even remember your first breath of life at your birth, and most of you were not conscious of your breathing throughout today.....unless you felt out of breath chasing two toddlers all day! When will your last breath be? At this point in time, only God knows. Are you ready? Will you be ready when your last breath comes? Do you know what will happen to you then? The Bible tells us in Hebrews 9:27 that " is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment." If you have acknowledged your sin to God and asked Him to be your personal Savior, since He has already paid the penalty for your sins on the cross, you can be absolutely assured that you will be with Him. If you are not sure what will happen to you when you breathe your last, please read the following verses from the Bible:

Romans 10:9, 10, 13  "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.....for 'whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.'"

From our first breath to our last....."Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow." Psalm 144:4 Because of that, let everything that has breath, praise the Lord." Psalm 150:6

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bigger and Better ~ A Penny for a Dryer?

Many years ago when Bud and I were young newlyweds, we were working with the teens at our church. We planned a YAC (Youth after Church) for a Sunday night and had about 30 kids in our home for fun and food. Bud divided the teens up into teams of 4 or 5, gave each team a penny, and sent them out into our neighborhood to trade that penny for something bigger and better. They could trade up as many times as they could convince people to trade, and they had to be back to our house by a certain time. Off they went! Some very interesting items came back to our home that night! Lots of laughs. I remember a bird cage even. But the one thing that was most exciting to this wife and soon-to-be-mother was a dryer. It didn’t run….but that didn’t stop us. Bud discovered it needed a $7 part, fixed it, and we were good to go. I think we used that dryer for our family of 7 for about 20 years!!

When I was a little girl, I made a trade that changed the course of my life. I traded my sin for the righteousness of God. I traded my plans for my life for God’s plans for my life. I traded my selfishness for God’s love.  And I’m so glad! It was a great trade. Something far bigger and better! This song gives my testimony.

Trading My Sorrows by Darrell Evans 
I'm trading my sorrow
I'm trading my shame
I'm laying it down for the joy of the Lord

I'm trading my sickness
I'm trading my pain
I'm laying it down for the joy of the Lord

And we say yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord Amen

I'm pressed but not crushed persecuted not abandoned
Struck down but not destroyed
I'm blessed beyond the curse for his promise will endure
And his joy's gonna be my strength

Though the sorrow may last for the night
His joy comes with the morning

The  Scriptures give many examples of men and women through the ages who traded for bigger and better.

Abraham traded the security and comfort of his home in Ur for obedience to follow God to the unknown, believing in the promises of God. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; or he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Hebrews 11:8-10

Sarah traded barrenness for the strength to bear a child.  “By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.” Hebrews 11:11

Did Moses ever dream he would lead the nation of his people, the Jews, out of bondage in Egypt? Hebrews 11 tells us he traded the passing pleasures of sin for suffering affliction with the people of God; he traded the treasures of Egypt for the reproach of Christ.

“And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:16

And my mind goes to the quote by Jim Elliot, a missionary martyr in Ecuador in the 50’s,  “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

So many godly examples of those who were willing to trade for something bigger and better.

Why then do we hang on tight to the “penny”? What are you hanging on to? Can you not see that God has something bigger and better in mind for you? Trade in that penny for God’s best!