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Seasons of Life

Aging

“For different seasons in life different disciplines are appropriate” (The Imitation of Christ, p.207, Thomas À Kempis, compiled and edited by James N. Watkins, © 2015). I’ve gone through several seasons of life and find this to be true in each.

When a young wife and mother, I yearned for quiet time alone for Bible study. I found out later that I (and others in the same season) would beat ourselves up with too high expectations. While a consistent devotional life is necessary for all seasons, we tend to want what’s not reasonable for our own particular situation.

Even in mid-life I would envy my husband’s time for in-depth Bible study, but he would say it’s his job, and that I needed to develop my own patterns. So I relaxed and put in time at my own pace. Only then could I enjoy my quiet time to its full advantage. Now in retirement, I can schedule more time, but that needs also to be quality-driven.

À Kempis goes on to point out that each person has a style of spiritual exercise best suited to his or her personality and abilities. I prefer to read something dated so that I can mark progress, such as a devotional classic like My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers or Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman. But these do not replace reading the books of the Bible. I like to compare an Old Testament book with a New Testament one, such as reading Isaiah and John. Most important to my personal style is journaling. It’s a combination of reflection on Bible and devotional passages along with written prayers. But I’ve found that doesn’t suit everyone.

Prayer time is my most inconsistent habit. I’ve discovered that is true with a lot of people, but that doesn’t excuse me. The Meaning of Prayer by Harry Emerson Fosdick has been the one book on prayer that I treasure most and have read several times. Writing out my prayer requests has been helpful. Following through on resolve brings me back to consistency.

Toward the end of a year is the best time for me to decide on what book or pattern of reading I will process in the new year. How about you? What new resolve or practice is on your agenda?

Pastor Appreciation: Integrity

5-3-14 336Carrollton United Methodist Church, New Orleans, LA, where Bill was called to preach.

‟When we come down to it, the whole issue is a matter of integri­ty; the willingness to ask ourselves the really hard questions and seek to answer them with a total commitment to the truth.  Without integrity, everything else is cheapened, even the truth which we may be seeking to espouse. If Jesus taught His disciples anything, He taught them that He was THE TRUTH; that they would know the truth, and the truth would make them free; and that they would proclaim the truth to a world that was in the darkness of untruth.” That’s my husband/pastor’s writing. For me, Bill embodies the valuable quality of integrity.

In this month of October, the church and probably Hallmark promote pastor appreciation. For most of my adult life, Bill was both husband and pastor to me. And I’ve been blessed with both relationships wrapped into one.

I hope that you can say with me in regard to your pastors: ‟You are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another” (Romans 15:14), ‟serving as a priest of God’s good news” (v. 16). ‟Therefore I rejoice over you” (16:19b).

In 2008 Bill retired from World Gospel Church as senior pastor and then began a few years as volunteer associate pastor at Free Life Community Church. Both churches are in Terre Haute, IN. Now we attend Southport Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, IN, and we’re grateful for Pastors Rob Hock and Glen Massey who preach the Truth. At the beginning of Pastor Rob’s messages he says, ‟Before we go to the Word of the Lord, let’s pray to the Lord of the Word.”

Bill’s sermons always included teaching and were always founded on the Truth of God’s Word. His delivery only matched his message in presenting the Truth. To all these men of truth, I send my appreciation for your messages and your lives. I have been/am blessed.

Pastoral Prayers

WGC.artist's view

During his 19 years as senior pastor of World Gospel Church, Terre Haute, Indiana, Pastor Bill Coker led the congregation in prayer during the Sunday morning worship service. After he had already prepared his sermon during the week, he moved his attention to the pastoral prayer.

Bill’s preparation of the prayer was as important to him as offering it. He set the time apart for preparation – to be in tune with the Lord and the congregation. The writing happened on Sunday morning at the church, before anyone arrived, alone with God and thoughtful of his responsibility as shepherd of the flock God gave him.

While I cannot write adequately about Bill’s preparations for his public pastoral prayers, I was in the congregation and heard those prayers for almost 20 years. He kept those typed prayers in 7″ x 9″ three-ring binders. I read them now, and they still have a current quality, alive and fresh.

In the worship service Bill’s prayers took about five minutes, perhaps a little less for bidding prayers. His pastoral prayer would come in the early order of the service after the praise team or choir led the congregation in singing. Often the opening part of the prayer would include praise and thanksgiving, referring to the preceding worship of  music, perhaps adding a line from a hymn. The bulk of the prayer focused on the needs of the people — church, community, nation, world.

These pastoral prayers were addressed toward our heavenly Father. Not meant to bring any recognition to the author, the prayers only brought glory to the Trinity—God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Together we lifted our praise and thanksgiving to God and joined in requests and concerns related to the community of believers.

Perhaps pastoral prayers are a lost art today. What do you think?

Pointed

Sharpening a pencil to a fine point, I began to write, thankful for such a basic tool. I use a pencil to work crossword puzzles, for I’m not confident enough using a pen (like my daughter when she works Sudoku). I apply the pencil’s eraser for mistakes before looking up answers. In this one devise, a pencil, I can write and delete.

Applying this to life, I know God’s grace both when He gives strength for good deeds and His forgiveness for those mistakes (sins) I want erased. The eraser gets that point across, for we all need to rid our lives of sin and errors.

On a lesser scale but using tech devices, I type out a devotional or magazine article and the words appear on the computer screen. The editing process comes next, and with the delete button, along with cut, copy and paste, I can make the first draft more acceptable for submission to a publisher. It’s a technical improvement on a pencil with its lead point and eraser.

Snoopy.Editing

So this led me to pay attention to other uses of “point.” Our granddaughter, when complimenting her husband’s homemade dinner, wrote that the meal was “on point.” It was good!

After watching a movie one night Bill asked, “What was the point?” He did not understand (or agree with) the basic message behind the script. Our church’s missionary to Muslims in London relayed the time when he delivered his first sermon years earlier. The youth pastor had approached him and said that his exposition of the Scripture was great, but “You didn’t make a point.” In other words, the application was missing.

On Google I searched for the phrase “breaking point,” for I had heard a sports announcer say it. Along the side of the meaning, Google posted a song, “Breaking Point,” sung by Keri Hilson. That led me in a different direction – abused women who had reached their breaking point.

So what’s my point? I’m only reflecting on a word and phrase, making myself think more. This is, by the way, something I’ve learned that grade-school students these days don’t know how to do – think on their own. Think about this and make your own point.

Rule of Thumb

Rule-of-thumb

Not a precise measurement but ‟rule of thumb” is an expression that’s meant to be like a ruler or guideline. This morning I asked about dosage of vitamin C. How much? The answer is found in the percentage of a day’s value. So if one caplet of 500 mg has more than 800% of what’s needed daily, then taking more than one tablet daily is not advised. We want to enhance healing, but going overboard will only eliminate what’s not needed.

I once asked a client at CPC how she made decisions. When she wanted to know what to do, whom did she ask? Without hesitation she answered, ‟I ask my dog.” Uh oh!

This month I’m reading through the book of Proverbs (fits nicely with 31 chapters for one month) and Psalm 119. These are full of guidelines about God’s Law, the best rule of thumb for a good life. ‟Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path,” therefore ‟I am resolved to obey Your statues to the very end” (Psa. 119:105, 112). Accepting correction is something I’m not good at: ‟But a person who accepts correction is sensible” (Prov. 15:5). Again in verse 32: ‟Whoever listens to correction acquires good sense.”

What’s your ‟rule of thumb” for living?

Call In the Experts

After we’ve done all that we could possibly do, trying all the home remedies and those from the internet, we called in the experts. They know. We trust their expertise as they work for us.Days Like This

So, what was the problem? Bed bugs. How they came to live in the house, mainly in Paul’s and Becky’s bedroom, most likely moved here from a summer youth camp. So here it is September and Becky & Paul still could see these bugs in their master suite. It became time for drastic measures. And I truly mean drastic, for while the experts would do their work, the family had to prep the house for the treatment. That meant putting all fabrics in the dryer on high heat for 30 minutes and then bagging the items and moving these large bags to other quarters. We had to think of bug-infested rooms as contaminated and not even fold clothes there. Thankful for the basement, we stored the numerous bags there.

Some of these items (such as blankets and linens) we brought to a laundromat on the day of treatment, taking about four hours to complete the process. While we spent the day away from the house, the experts applied 120° of heat to the infected rooms. Yes, bed bugs are killed by high heat. All our other methods had little success, for while some bugs were killed, they still multiplied. Heat is the weapon of choice.

I could give a spiritual lesson here about needing expert wisdom for problems we try to solve on our own, but I’ll not take the space for that. Make your own application. I’ll also not ask why God let bed bugs “on the boat.” For this writing I only want to thank our daughter and her husband for their hard and long labor and for finally calling in the experts.

Awake, O Sleeper

This could also be titled “Sleeps and Grogs.” I’ll explain later. First the serious part.

We are engaged in spiritual warfare and God has designed the appropriate armor. We find that in the sixth chapter of Ephesians. The ‟sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word,” is our best offensive weapon.

Every Soldier Needs a Savior

In the second part of John Bunyan’s classic work, The Pilgrim’s Progress, Bunyan introduces a character by the name of Valiant-for-Truth. He’s my favorite, for he is confident that Truth is on his side. His sword never gets blunt, and he never gets weary. Valiant said, ‟I fought till my sword did cleave to my hand.” It’s a beautiful picture of how truth is to be part of us. We do not put it down and pick it up again. Truth grows out of us so that we can fight with courage.

During my battle to maintain a consistent devotional habit, I asked a friend to call me early each morning. That was my true wake-up call. I knew I could not hit the snooze button and return to sleep, for she would call again to check on me. We are all called to wake up and pay attention to our conduct, walking as wise, attentive to the enemy’s schemes, and making the most of our time.

We are not to mimic my son’s friend who went to great lengths to get out of school one day. He got permission from his teacher to go to the principal’s office. His excuse? He had the ‟sleeps and grogs.” This high school boy described to the principal how it works. The sleeps and grogs start at his feet and work their way up the body and finally into his eyes and he can’t keep them open. He just can’t pay attention to his teachers in class. The strange outcome, to me, was that he got to go home that day. See what a little explanation can accomplish.

Someone has said, ‟Time properly conceived is a gift from God.” Let’s use our time wisely, equipped to fight the enemy and defend the Truth.