Hole in the Heart

These pictures are from a yard I pass by in my neighborhood walks. I knew the man who lived there.

I met this man at an assisted living facility. He liked to visit his wife twice a day. The facility was large, and he got his daily constitutional by walking the long halls. He had a smile and a joke to tell whomever he passed in the hallways. The staff and residents loved him. He would sit and chat with his wife for a while, then leave to go about his other business. But he visited morning and afternoon. He was always a jovial fellow.

His wife was an Alzheimer’s patient. She always had a smile on her face. I suspect she enjoyed visits from her favorite suitor.

When covid hit, this gentleman was no longer allowed to visit his wife. At first, there were through-the-window visits permitted, but then the facility said no more of those, since some of the residents were perturbed by people walking around outside. Eventually they allowed inside visits, through plexiglass and with masks. Then those rules passed, and they could visit in her room. By this time, she had been moved to the memory care unit, and I don’t know if she knew him.

I didn’t see him for well over a year, not even in the grocery store or at community events. I wondered how he was.

As I passed his house on my walks, I pictured him with a hole in his heart, like this tree in his yard. He took meticulous care of his yard, even at his advanced age. All the trees and bushes were trimmed up, his grass was always mowed. I wondered if he worried about the hole in his tree; whether it would be better to take the tree, or let it live with its hole.

After all, he was living with a hole, himself, being unable to visit his wife, his life-long partner and lover. And, like the tree, I pictured him still being well-trimmed on the outside. I wondered if he was still telling his jokes, and to whom.

I saw him last month, at his wife’s funeral. He had a smile on his mouth, but sad and tired eyes. We recalled his jokes, and his walks in the hallways, and his beautiful wife.

Last week we read his obituary in the paper. They published it after his funeral was held, and we wondered why; we would have liked to go and say goodbye, and hug his family again, and relive some fond memories.

So I’m reliving my fond memories through this post. Goodbye, Gene. We miss you, and hope to see you in Heaven.

Where to Get Those Expectations

I’ve been wading through the book of Micah, and am still on Chapter 1. Verses 9 – 16 contain several metaphors, similes, onomatopoeias, and paronomasias (play on words), and led me to dig a little deeper. Yeah, God is deep; deeper than any of us can ever be.

Micah 1.12 (For the inhabitant of Maroth waited carefully for good: but evil came down from the LORD unto the gate of Jerusalem.) made sense to me. I looked up Maroth, and it means bitterness. They are waiting for relief, but God sends only evil.

It’s interesting that, whenever hardship, evil, disaster hits, we wait for relief; we pray for things to get better, back to “normal.” But our expectations are skewed.

Unbelievers may think they can work their way out, that none of this was deserved and, if there was a God, He should be cursed.

Believers can pray and hope for eternal relief / joy; but in this sinful world, we may not expect things to “get better.” Indeed, we have no right to expect things to get better: although we have every right (and we are passionately invited) to pray about every and all situation/s.

Whatever that situation is, we know that our relief, our hope comes from the Lord (Psalms 62, for example).

God has His own thoughts and plans.

Jeremiah 29.11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.

Isaiah 55.8, 9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

We must consider what our expectations are: are they realistic and Biblical? Pray to God about expectations, and ask Him to place them where they belong.

Isaiah 26.3, 4 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:

Yikes

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Can I just say, although I really enjoy the Olympics, I am appalled at the dress that is ordained for some of the sports. Beach volleyball comes directly to mind. The men get to wear long shorts and tank tops; the women, however, must don barely-there, bikini-style skimps. Like gymnastics – the men get to cover more than the poor women. The divers, male and female, sport scanty, tight suits. How is there not a chorus of protests? I did hear that one country refused to wear the official garb, and were thus fined $15,000.

Even what are generally considered modest countries wear these uniforms: China, Japan, Indonesia, Iran, etc.

I am pleased that the swimmers’ suits have evolved to cover more; although that is due to streamlining and faster times.

Sheesh!

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  • images from google images

Where Jesus Walked

I wonder stuff; do you? For instance, I got to thinking about Jesus walking around on Earth.

When Jesus was here, He was God. “In the beginning,” He was “the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1.1) So He knew every inch of that earth, and who else had walked right there; He knew what everyone had done in any given location.

Did He lift His eyes to look upon the burial ground of Moses? Did He feel the great victories of David beat in His breast as He walked over the battlegrounds? Did the words of Jeremiah ring in His ears as He walked the streets of Bethlehem, feeling the terrified cries of mothers as the prophesy was fulfilled and babies were killed? Did He ponder the histories and peoples of Judah, Israel, and Samaria as He traveled region to region?

Was His body physically overwhelmed as He walked Jerusalem, contemplating Abraham bringing his son, Isaac, to sacrifice; as David brought the ark back; as the temple was built, and later destroyed and pillaged?

What other stories and people did He know from Bethany, home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus?

What other people did He ponder, how many millions did He consider who are never mentioned in the Bible, and who we will never know until we live in eternity?

Short-Sighted

We took a trip last month for our family reunion, stopping in to see other family, as well. We opt for driving over flying, even when the distances are long. We drove over 2400 miles for this trip. It was all worth it, many times over, of course.

When we drive, my husband takes the wheel for the bulk of the trip. I drive for a couple-few hours once in a while, but he is a road warrior, and enjoys driving. I am the navigator.

The navigator, you may ask? Yes, indeed. When we go on a road trip, we use paper maps. We have a good navigation system in our car, and we bring our phones with us, which are the portals to anywhere one may desire to venture.

But, as we drove from here to there, and then from there to here, I appreciated our paper maps more and more. Granted, there is much folding and re-folding involved, but those maps give us a big picture.

Before we left for the trip, my husband got out all the state and regional maps. He figured miles, which cities we would or would not drive through, how long each leg would take, and the best routes taking into consideration all our needs. We made the decisions. We were able to look at many different options, we could see other locations around where we were driving, and we could prepare for our trip using a wide range of information.

Navigation apps show the short-range. Turn here. In one-half mile, turn left. In two miles, take the exit. The small print at the top shows that we’re to travel 58 miles before the next turn-off.

It occurred to me, while on the road and using our maps, that navigation apps are a pattern of a larger issue in our society. Navigation apps are very short-sighted. The computer makes all the decisions for us, and tells us where to go. We tell it our destination, and we assume that’s where we’re going as we follow its route; but we don’t get to see our other options, we don’t get a peek at the big picture. We can see only a few miles around us at a time.

Are we turning into a short-sighted culture? We want information, and we want it now. We make snap decisions based on what our feed tells us. While short-range information and decisions have their place, how often do we step back to take a look at the big picture? When our community / state / nation makes thus-and-such decision or votes for a particular issue, do we think of the long-range effects?

Examples:

  • Wind turbines (or wind farms) are portrayed as good for the environment. We thought so, too, until we looked at the costs and energy needed to produce each turbine, the cost of using wind energy vs the cost of other types of energy, the government subsidies and the money going into promoting wind energy, the fact that the huge blades last ten years and then go into a landfill (non-recyclable materials), the cost of producing and transporting the turbines, and the minimal benefits we reap from them.
  • Defunding the police: yes, there are serious problems within our penal system. Serious problems come anywhere people are involved. Some communities are looking at long-range solutions and implications, such as diverting funds for other programs that improve the community as a whole.
  • Our addiction to sugar and fast / convenient food: We pay extra money for the easy route; but we pay in other ways, too, such as deteriorating health. Fake foods don’t have the nutrients we need, so we are increasingly hungry. We keep eating non-nutrients, and our bodies cannot be satisfied.
  • Pharmaceutical companies make lots of money from selling their “medications.” As we get sicker and sicker (cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, allergies, auto-immune diseases, Alzheimer’s ADD/ADHD, autism, and suicide numbers are at their highest-ever), we look for someone to fix it for us, rather than thinking about the long-range implications of our lifestyles. Focusing only on healthy, nutritious food and exercise, to the exclusion of junk foods and couch-potato-ing, “miraculously” heals a multitude of physical and mental ailments.
  • Government is happy to take over the education of our children, and many are happy to give it. In the long-range picture, we are training future generations to let someone else do the thinking, and to go along with whatever “they” say.
  • Government pays us when we don’t work / don’t farm. Some like the situation, but it is leading to a nation of non-workers, and worker shortages. [We know a young man in his twenties who turned down a $40,000+/year job because he could make more money by staying at home – in his parents’ house.]
  • Disposable items are right-now convenient: diapers, swiffers, plastic bags, water bottles, food storage, single-use items. But if you can see the future, you can envision that we are destroying our planet little by little.
  • Finances: use money with long-range goals in mind, not short-sighted gratification.
  • Education: whether for yourself or loved ones, look at the big picture.
  • Family values and decisions: How do you want your children to look when they grow up? Where should they be spiritually when they fly your nest? Parent with this far-reaching vision in your decisions and discipline.
  • 5G technology is celebrated and promoted as the latest and greatest, despite research evidencing the detriments to our health.
  • Our dependence on electricity and technology is growing. Are we still using and learning the “old-fashioned” way to do things, in the event that a power grid is hacked or destroyed?

You are a steward of God’s resources. Use His gifts wisely. 1 Corinthians 4.2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

If you are a long-range thinker, I applaud you and I thank you. Those who take responsibility for their own actions, who carefully consider the future outcomes of present decisions, and who make decisions based on a wide range of options are the people who will ultimately run the world. The short-sighted folks will just follow along. Since they are short-sighted, they don’t know where they’re going and don’t know where they’ll end up. Many don’t care, as long as someone is taking care of them.

Please also consider the long-range picture of eternity. If you are living for the here-and-now, you must lift your eyes and take a good, long look at where you will spend eternity; because eternity is coming, it is a reality. God is Creator of Heaven and Earth. He created time and eternity. He wants to spend eternity with you. He gives us all the information we need to understand that Jesus is The Way, The Truth, and The Life; no one comes to the Father but by Him (John 14.6).

Recipe Friday: Fambly

My dad likes to make up words. His pet word for our family is, “fambly.” We’ve all pretty much adopted it.

We had a family reunion last month. We do this every two years, for a full week, and we siblings take turns arranging the venue. We each pick a night to cook, so it’s only the one day that we need to be responsible for the meal.

My brother-in-law started this for us in 1997, and we’ve continued it. Nowadays, my generation is retired, or close-to retired. But our children are career-age and can’t always make it. My parents aren’t able to attend any more, but it pleases them to no end that we still hold it. This year’s reunion missed several of us, but those of us there really enjoyed each other.

God instituted family, and for good reason. We are to take family seriously, and work hard to make those bonds as close and good as we can. No, it’s not all in our hands to do so, but we are accountable to God, as far as it is possible, to live peaceably with all men (Romans 12.18).

Sometimes we can’t change our family dynamics. For instance, I get to have a sisters weekend every other year. We went to a nice restaurant for dinner one night, and got into conversation with the waitress. She couldn’t believe we wanted to spend time with our sisters. “If I did that with my sisters,” she said, “we’d end up killing each other.” But she thought it was so sweet that we liked spending time together.

I love my fambly. Fiercely. Each and every one. How did that happen? My parents worked at it. They taught us to work at it. We work at it. It’s worth it to work at it.

Family connections go both ways: up generations and down. If you are a parent, make specific plans to strengthen those family ties. Establish traditions (yes, they can be crazy; we have some crazy little traditions in our fambly). Keep important routines. Bake that cake or that favorite meal. Cherish your moments.

So, call your brother. Send a note to you mom. Text your sister. Send a heart emoticon to your son. Keep the connections going with love, as far as it is possible with you. God loves family. He blesses attempts to grow the bonds of love.

Recipe Friday: Vacuum Beater Brush Tip (Also a Small Takeoff on Scissors)

It’s likely that many of you have already hit upon this easy solution, but here it is for those who, like me, were unaware:

I have this long hair. And I have a vacuum with a beater brush. So you can see where this is going: I have an issue. It doesn’t happen every single time, but often the beater brush gets wound up with hair.

I’ve attacked the problem with scissors*, but that mostly leaves me frustrated. Inspiration hit (thank You, Lord), and I thought upon my seam ripper.

Problem solved. 😊

I’m thinking a very sharp pair of manicure (or “cuticle”) scissors* might also work well.

image from amazon.com

*An aside: Words are funny.

“Scissors” is in a very small group of words that are the same word, whether singular or plural. “Glasses” and “pants” are the only other ones I can think of, off hand.

“The scissors are on the counter.” [Here, you can’t even tell if it’s singular OR plural. These kinds of words are always used with a plural verb. However, “a pair of” can be used to denote a singular (with a singular verb, such as The pair of scissors is on the counter).]

“Hand me a scissors.”

“She has a collection of several antique scissors.”

I looked up the etymology, and discussions referred to Latin and French origins. It is thought that it started out as a plural since there are two blades that slide against one another. I suppose that’s the logic behind pants (two legs) and glasses (two pieces of glass), as well. Merriam-Webster refers to such words as plurale tantum. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/singular-of-scissors )

Can you think of other odd words we use?

God Judges His People

Throughout the Old Testament, God lavishes gifts upon His people. His people accept the gifts, then turn away from Him: Adam and Eve; Jacob; the Israelites: The Israelites, in escaping from Egypt and traveling to the Promised Land, saw God’s provision and miracles, and their belief in Him lasted all of about five minutes before they whined and complained about the next issue. Finally, after numerous prophets, God pronounced His judgement on His people, and they were carried away to Babylon.

Notice that God’s judgement in the Bible is only against His people. We do not read of His judgement against heathen nations, except in the Final Judgement, or as punishment for persecuting His people (i.e., Amos Chs 1 & 2). God uses heathen nations to bring judgement on His people, but God saves His judgement on Earth for His people, to bring them back to Him.

In Joshua 24.15 Joshua directs God’s people to “choose you this day whom ye will serve. We really need to do this every single day (moment).

Again and again, God’s people are enticed by the cultures around them, and adopt those customs which appeal to them. Before they know it, they are living entirely in a heathen culture, following evil practices, and have forgotten their God.

Sound like America?

There is some discussion as to whether our country was a chosen nation of God. We established our nation according to Christian principles, but we did not include God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit in our nation’s documents. Even in our founding days, we were a split nation, embracing other-than-God cultures, striving to please and include all people.

There is much talk these days about God surely bringing judgement upon America. But God has called His people to come out of a heathen culture and give our lives fully unto God, and God alone. In that we have departed from our single focus, He will bring judgement on His people to bring us back to Him, not necessarily upon America as a nation.

God does not bring judgement upon one nation or another; He judges HIS OWN PEOPLE. That takes the onus off the unbelievers in America and places it where God intends: The responsibility for obedience is on the shoulders of His people.

Just as Israel in the days they were brought to Babylon, and there were many Israelites devoted to God who were carried away because this was a judgement against God’s people as a whole; so may God bring judgement against His people in America. When God either punishes the heathen, or brings judgement upon His people, there will be much suffering across the board. Perhaps this has already begun (drought, flooding, plague, sickness).

Where are you, as a Christian? Do you follow God with your whole heart? Or, are you a convenient Christian, keeping those things close to your heart that you cherish, but which are not fully obedient to God? Do you read God’s Word daily? Do you hide His Word in your heart, so that you might not sin against Him?

David was called a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13.14; Acts 13.22). He is an excellent example of a heart wholly given to God. Did David sin? Did he give in to some of the ways of the culture around him? Of course. But David repented. He always returned to the God he loved.

From Henry M. Morris, PH.D. Sunday, June 6, 2021  https://www.icr.org/article/12798/June+6+-+The+Whole+Heart

This phrase, “the whole heart,” occurs a number of times in the Bible, especially in the psalm of the Word, Psalm 119. Note the testimony of the psalmist in this great psalm.

1. “Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart” (v. 2).
2. “With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments” (v. 10).
3. “Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart” (v. 34).
4. “I entreated thy favor with my whole heart: be merciful unto me according to thy word” (v. 58).
5. “The proud have forged a lie against me: but I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart” (v. 69).
6. “I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O LORD: I will keep thy statutes” (v. 145).

Thus, we should “keep his testimonies” (v. 2), “keep thy law” (v. 34), “keep thy precepts” (v. 69), and “keep thy statutes” (v. 145) with our whole heart, for the good and sufficient reason that He is our Lord and has given us His eternal Word, magnified above all His name. HMM

May we always give our hearts wholly to God. May we read His Word (which is Truth), and walk in obedience. May we ever repent and turn back to His ways.

God is calling us. May we be as Samuel (1 Samuel 3.10) and respond, “Speak; for thy servant heareth.” God has spoken through His Word. Let us heed Him. Do not let your heart be divided between two masters. Let go of your sin, turn to God and repent. Even those “secret sins” – they are not so secret. (Read Secret Sin Not So Secret).   Die to yourself (John 12.23 – 26).

And, an important reminder: Pray for Christians around the world to be faithful and true to Elohim. Read God’s Word and pray it back to Him. God’s Word will not return to him void (Isaiah 55.11).

For more reading, go to “Likeminded” https://www.icr.org/article/12799/June+7+Likeminded

Wobbling in the Dark

I read an interesting devotional in Our Daily Bread:  https://odb.org/US/2021/05/18/facing-the-darkness (btw, Our Daily Bread is worth the read any day.)

It gave a synopsis of a research study on the effects of darkness on the human psyche. The study is given more detail in this article: http://thescienceexplorer.com/brain-and-body/isolation-dark-drives-humans-brink-insanity-studies-find

“Science suggests that darkness can do all kinds of things to the human body and brain: It can make us more likely to lie and cheat, make mistakes at work, and even see things we don’t normally see. ‘Darkness is like a mirror: It shows you what you don’t want to see.’” From   https://elemental.medium.com/darkness-can-do-all-kinds-of-things-to-your-body-and-brain-beb3d0da2fb4#:

Darkness may be defined as the absence of light or the absence of God.

Isaiah 8 gives us some Words that God has about darkness and light:

20To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. 21And they shall pass through it, hardly bestead and hungry: and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward. 22And they shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness.

And another verse over, He says: Isaiah 9.2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

Walking in the dark will cause us to take the wrong path: the crooked way instead of the righteous way. If we persist down this path, we will continue to stumble and fall (these are like roadblocks that God will use so that we fall and look to Him). We will begin to distort God’s plumbline in our hearts by altering, warping, and stretching it. We will blur the distance between where it is and where we are, therefore overshooting or falling short. When we wander in the dark, we forget what the light was like, how we cherished it and depended on it. We begin to cherish the dark. We put ourselves in danger of discounting God altogether, and eventually denying His importance or even His existence.

Beware of visiting or dwelling in darkness. Darkness is disorienting: walking in it leads to errors, believing lies, and stumbling.

Hosea 12.8 And Ephraim boasts: “How rich I have become! I have found wealth for myself. In all my labors, they can find in me no iniquity that is sinful.”

Alas for Ephraim, to be so lost in darkness that he thinks he is innocent and smart. But the Light speaks:

Hosea 13.1When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling; he was exalted in Israel. But he incurred guilt through Baal, and he died…. 4Yet I am the LORD your God ever since the land of Egypt; you know no God but Me, for there is no Savior besides Me. 5I knew you in the wilderness, in the land of drought. 6When they had pasture, they became satisfied; when they were satisfied, their hearts became proud, and as a result they forgot Me.

Let us never become satisfied by the works of our own hands, may we never be so enthralled with the darkness that we wade in deeper and deeper, becoming lost.

Oswald Chambers: “Seeing is never believing. We interpret what we see in the light of what we believe.”

When we make our own “light,” we can believe anything in the dark.

If we walk toward the true Light, but do not step into it, then we are still walking in the dark.

The Light calls you, beckons you with tenderloving kindness. Accept Jesus’ invitation, Step into the Light.

Nothing Can Change Until I do

I was reading through Facebook, and someone shared a nice post about what a privilege it is to be a mom, how all the hard work is worth it, etc. One woman responded with bitterness, saying that in the old days women had all day to take care of the house and kids, but modern day requires both man and wife to work; and it must be nice if both of them pitched in with the kids and housework, but her husband never lifts a finger around the house and she has to do it all.

My first response was to pray for her (“Emily”). Then I thought, “Nothing can change until we do.” I can see that God must be working on her heart, giving her life lessons to cleanse her bitterness. But she won’t learn those lessons until she receives the position where God put her, and thanks Him for it.

Psalm 16.  5 The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.

6 The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.

7 I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.

8 I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.

10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

God always has a good reason for where we are. We might not like it; in fact, if it’s a hard lesson we’ll probably hate it. But God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. And – here’s the important part: He’s right. God is always right, and He always loves us.

Lord God Almighty, You created Heaven and Earth, and You designed and created us, each individual Us. Thank you. You work from Love, and You continue in Love. You desire us to live Your abundant life; but we cannot accept and live that out until You show us our sin, we repent, and You cleanse us from sin. Thank You for Your Life Lessons, for Your gifts. Teach us to forgive, Lord, and increase our faith (Luke 17.1 – 5). May we accept You and Your ways with grateful hearts. Please bless us with teachable spirits. I love You, Lord. Amen.