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Rainy Day

The screen on my window is covered with rain. I wonder. Why do we associate rain with sadness and sunshine with happiness? Why is one a gloomy day and the other a pleasant, hoped-for day?

Both rain and sunshine are gifts and both are needed for nurture of the earth. Both give us cause to thank God. Yet I confess: I’m not happy now looking out at the wet leaves and hearing the sloshy roadside noises. I am, however, satisfied that I have a warm, dry home in which to live and view this rainy day.

It’s that way with life in general. I attach “don’t want it like this” to those unsuspected turns of events that are unwelcome at best. But when things go “my way,” I am more pleasant to be around. Both ups and downs contribute to my personal growth and should promote a thankful attitude. I know this but need reminders – such as this rainy, gloomy day that sent me to my desk to write this reflection. Thank You, Lord God, Creator of the universe and my tiny viewpoint.

 

Decorating Eclectic Style

The décor in our home is what some would call mix and match, but the fancy term is eclectic. That means it’s selected from various sources. My sources came from other people, not selected by me but placed in various rooms. The style has developed over the years as I have put things together for a décor that appeals to me. If you go on a quick tour of our home you will see items given to us and then placed to form our preferred style.

On the dining room table is a large vase crafted by art students at Asbury University. It was a gift to Bill, then academic dean, in appreciation for his support of the new pottery kiln in the art department. A florist designed the artificial arrangement in the vase. His shop was next to where our daughter worked in Greenwood, Indiana. She requested the arrangement for us. Included in this room are objects we’ve either bought or had given to us and they represent countries we’ve visited. Russia and Taiwan are two. There’s also a friend’s painting of a Chinese scene. She taught me that art is not to be placed according to the color of a room.

Now the kitchen has a sunflower (mostly) theme, and our granddaughter has helped decorate with her gifts ­– ceramic flour and sugar canisters, a framed cross-stitch verse, and a vividly painted pitcher from Mexico – all with sunflowers. There are also two spoon rests of sunflowers. During the Christmas season I bring out gifts from family and friends – a small framed snowman, a stuffed cloth snowman with twig arms, and a change of Christmas kitchen linens from my mother.

In the center of the coffee table in the living room is a colorful Mardi Gras glass bowl filled with potpourri. The bowl belonged to my mother-in-law, so you could say it is part of our inheritance. On the bottom shelf of a table by the window is a pair of high-top black and brown shoes obtained from an old store in Mississippi. Bill’s father saw them and said he used to wear that style when a boy. So it’s a reminder of the past. While the shoes don’t necessarily fit in with the rest of the items on that shelf – large books and a decorative plate, they have been on display in every house where we’ve lived.

Now come into our bedroom. Above the bed is a framed photo of a boat on Mobile Bay. The photographer is my brother and the scene takes me back home whenever I view it. Other wall hangings include a photo collection of trees in the parking lot at World Gospel Church. That framed photo and a cross-stich of an old sewing machine were gifts from the former custodian of that church. The latest picture we hung is another cross-stitch worked by our neighbor to the west of our home. It’s the Twenty-third Psalm.

            Over the years these deco items in our home have been reminders to pray for the gift-givers. I rejoice that we have their contributions to my eclectic home décor, but mostly I am thankful for their interaction within our lives.

New Name

I’ve noticed lately that I have a new name: Ms. Ann.

“Hi, Ms. Ann. It’s good to see you.” That recent greeting came from a friend who attends Silver Sneakers at the YMCA. But several church friends have been addressing me as Ms. (pronounced Miz.) Ann for quite some time. This time I paid attention and it got me to thinking of my other names.

My great-granddaughter who lives in Ireland calls us her great-grandpa and granny who live-in-the-woods. Yes, we have woods near our home, so Abigail makes this sweet distinction between us and her other great-grandparents. Our grandchildren call me Granny. I chose this because their grandpa started calling the grandkids by animal names and they wanted a name for me. Granny Goat seems to fit, and for a while one grandson called me Goat, much to the chagrin of guests.

To our children I am Mom or Madre (from two who took Spanish in high school). Just as my siblings differed on what each of us called our mother – I chose Mother while others used Mama, Mom, and Mommy.

When I married I became Mrs. Coker, and like many engaged girls, I wrote that name over and again on scraps of paper: Mrs. William B. Coker, Mrs. W.B. Coker, and Ann Coker. My new name brought joy. At our first pastorate in Mississippi people called me Sister Coker while their pastor was Brother Coker. It came out as Bruder Coker from the children. After we moved to Kentucky and then to Indiana, my name became Mrs. Coker or simply Ann.

My given name is after my grandmother who was Frances Ann. I’m glad my parents turned it around and named me Ann Frances. I‘ve never been fond of Frances, probably because my school friends teased me about it. My younger sisters are the only ones who get away with calling me Annie. If I had named myself, I would have chosen Anna. It has more class.

All this talk of a new name connected me to Scripture, for Zion “will be called by a new name” (Isaiah 62:2, NIV), and “to the one who is victorious . . . [Christ] will give that person a white stone with a new name written on it” (Revelation 2:17). But my favorite reference is: “I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1), for God knows my name. I am His beloved, “precious and honored” in His sight because of His personal love for me (v. 4).

When we get down to the bottom line, my name is nothing (although it’s personal and meaningful) compared to His “great name” (Joshua 7:9). My allegiance to His name connects me with His power and love. It’s His great name that I proclaim and exalt. All of life is meant to honor and glorify His name. Amen.

 

Get Help

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

The billboard posted a brief message, easy to read as I drove slowly on a busy street: “Too much hot sun or a burn on the thumb? Check it out and come get profession­al care.”

The city’s new health center was advertising for business. The written message highlighted something specific – summer’s hazards – and the thought of pain could lead readers to identify their own need. You would think, however, that if people were hurting they would not need a billboard to convince them to get help.

What about our spiritual needs, hurts, and pains brought about by sin? How often do people seek the true cure, Jesus the great physician? We tend to over­look the cause or look in wrong places for the cure. Sooner or later the sin will find us out (Numbers 32:23) and show us up for what we are – sinners in need of redemption.

The good news is that Jesus came “to call . . . sinners” (Matthew 9:13). We will not be free of sin until we come to Jesus (Romans 5:8). But we may first need to see an advertisement about the remedy.

We who have received the everlasting remedy can be that advertisement. When we share our own success story of spiri­tual health, we invite others to “check it out and come get Profes­sional Care.”

How well do we advertise the real Cure for sin?

Beauty Shop

While filing my nails memories flooded my head. Bill’s first gift to me when we started dating was a manicure set. To him it must have seemed appropriate, yet not too personal. I kept and used it for a long time. His second gift was an ID bracelet. A few years ago I brought it along with some other silver items to the jewelry shop to trade it for money, a profitable exchange. After all, my ID had not been Laird for many years.

My mother was a beautician, but she did not like doing manicures. She did like everything to do with hair. I recall one story about a regular customer, a young man who had red hair. He would come to the shop to have my mother dye his mustache for it did not grow the same color as his hair.

Before we reached the age of getting our hair permed with wave solution, Mother used a curling iron. The rod was actually made of iron and it had a clamp, similar to the ones used today. But it was not electrical. Mother heated it over the stove top. I would sit on a high stool near the stove while she heated the iron and with great care she would wrap my hair around the rod to curl it in ringlets. Another way we got curls was when Mother wrapped small strips of brown paper bag around sections of our hair and tied the strips. We would sleep in those and it did not make our head sore like plastic curlers of later years.

My sister and I had our haircuts and perms at the shop where Mother worked. Up into our teen years, we got perms at home. During the process, while Mother applied the solution to each section of hair, my job was to hand her the small white papers to wrap the hair. The solution had a strong smell, but it was worth getting curls into my straight hair. The curls were so tight and short that I called myself “cherry top.” The perm process has not changed much over the years.

Sermon: A Praying Church

You want to see what a sample of my husband’s sermon outlines looks like? It’s minus the color for emphasis. The words I don’t understand are Greek or Hebrew.

A Praying Church [Acts 4:23-33]  W.B. Coker, Sr.

Greatest miracle is the Church – ordinary people

} No question of the effectiveness of the early Church

>Why? Not perfect nor without problems

} One important factor → the power of prayer!

> Still essential for the Church today!

What Makes Prayer Possible?

  1. Confidence in prayer → changes things

> Eastern world more open to supernatural

  1. Confidence in God → Creator of all things

> Sovereign Lord – Devspota = power & control

> Loving Lord – who so loved the world…

  1. Confidence in their relationship with God

> Jesus’ radical teaching on Abba

> Whatever you ask the Father… [Jn 15:16]

  1. Confidence in each other – community of believers

> Walter Wangerin → the third party in marriage

> oJmoqumadovn = unity of purpose and passion

> They lifted their voice – singular focus

What Makes Prayer Powerful?

  1. Precludes self-reliance → Jr 2:13

My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken

me, the fountain of living waters, to hew out cisterns for

themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

  1. Perfects our focus → our work ║ God’s work

> That we continue to speak Your word boldly

> You heal & do signs and wonders in Jesus’ name

  1. Particularizes our faith – vague in the aim [Sangster]

> Focus on our purpose, on God’s will

  1. Promotes fellowship – unity of the Spirit

                > they were all filled with the Holy Spirit

  1. Prevents faltering – not “going it alone”

                > …they continued to speak…with boldness

What Makes Prayer Priceless?

  1. Makes our relationship with God personal

We are objects known to God until we “unveil”

ourselves in prayer… By confessing our sins and

“making known our requests”, we assume the high

rank of persons before Him. And He, descending,

becomes a Person to us. [C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm]

  1. Confronts us with the necessity of commitment

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done

  1. Decisive battleground for the issues of life [Fosdick]

>Fight out the purposes of life

>Struggle with the desires of the heart

>Hunger and thirst for righteousness

>Strive for power to see & courage to do God’s will

Pay Attention

I’m reading the book of Proverbs during September, convenient one chapter per day. I like the triplet that runs throughout the book: knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Knowledge is the facts, and understanding must follow before wisdom can help us with application of the truth.

Both chapters four and five begin with “pay attention.” That’s been my motto for several years, for that keeps me from having accidents, even slight ones. For example, while putting on makeup, I once mistakenly applied lip liner to my eyebrows. I left them red until my daughter noticed. I know things like this happen when I’m not paying attention to what I’m doing but thinking about something else. I’m told that’s the way with old folks, especially when doing what we’ve done for years, our minds tend to drift elsewhere.

Wisdom’s path leads to health and long life (3:11; 4:10, 22). Being attentive has value in physical ways, but can also be applied to my Christian walk. Then it means being steady in my disciplines, not stumbling onto the wrong paths, being sure and safe in God’s righteousness. Being attentive leads to better understanding, good instruction, and worthy teaching. “Love wisdom and she will guard you” (4:6). The righteous path is like dawn’s light. The wicked way is of darkest gloom (4:18-19).

In Proverbs, Solomon personifies Wisdom and contrasts her to the “forbidden woman.” We can take that as literal or figuratively, as in falling into worldly ways, seeking what everyone does, going along with the crowd. James writes about this in his epistle: “Don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God?” (4:4). Ironically, considering his own life, Solomon closes chapter five of Proverbs writing about the goodness of marriage – one man and one woman being lost in love forever (5:19). It is “stupidity” (5:23) to seek another when you have your own lover, bound by your marriage covenant/vow/pledge. As we say at our house, “It’s in the contract.” We made a vow and we keep it faithfully. It’s good. So pay attention to all these things and wisdom will be ours.

 

Shaken Up (unpublished devotional)

The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken – that is, created things – so that what cannot be shaken may remain.  –Hebrews 12:27

My little corner of the world seemed to be all shook up. All that I knew, all that gave me comfort and security, came unglued around me. Because the college board of directors did not renew my husband’s contract for the following year, I also would lose my job. While my work was not directly connected with the college, my boss was a member of that board.

I received a phone call from Bill while at work. He stated that he’d received a letter, pushed under the door of his office. He had no way to respond because board members had gone home and the president had left for a meeting out of town. The letter contained no satisfying explanation With a weak voice I asked, “What will we do now? What will happen next?” The phone seemed stuck to my hand, for nothing more could be said.

As my mind raced back to the scripture I’d read that morning, I walked slowly back to my office, pulled my Bible out of the desk and turned to Hebrews 12. “I will shake …” (v.26). Yes, that passage described our situation, but it also gave me something solid on which to stand. God promised “what cannot be shaken may remain” (v. 27). Faith is based on a firm foundation. God would provide and be there for us. God did that by opening a door to go back into the pastorate.

Do you need to hear God’s clear guidance from scripture for a personal application? His word is true and reliable. God has built a firm foundation for our journey through life.

Visiting

It’s a lost art, for “paying a visit” is seldom practiced anymore. Yet last night a couple phoned and asked if we’d be home for a while. They wanted to bring over some homemade soup. Bill and I washed the supper dishes, brushed our teeth, and soon welcomed our friends.

We had a nice visit in the living room. The conversation started with a comment about our couch made by a friend in Kentucky. From that opening, we talked a bit about Bill’s piano teacher, how she was a part of the Coker family. She ate Sunday dinner with them most every week, and when she moved into a nursing home, she gave the Cokers several items of her furniture, some of which we now possess. Then our talk went back and forth, sharing family memories.

Now we did not schedule this visit nor did we plan ahead what we’d talk about. In fact, when I hung up the phone I gave some thought to questioning why our friends were coming. Yes, the soup was a nice gesture, but did they have something on their minds that was important to tell us. I don’t think so. It was an unplanned visit, something we rarely do these days.

I thought back to our former neighbors and how we would pop in unannounced. Bill did not knock, but would walk through their unlocked back door and holler out, “Hello, the house.” The lady of the house would appear in the kitchen and ask us to sit and have some coffee. We paid frequent visits and always felt welcomed, assuming that we had not interrupted anything important. For meals we would plan the day and time, usually after the men had a good catch of fish from the ponds.

Back during our pastorate days in Mississippi, these home visits were often labeled as “pastoral calls” on the quarterly report, but we did not plan them as such. We only wanted to share our lives together. And when we have returned to those circuits we have always been welcomed anytime and for any length of time. I miss those casual visits with country folk, for our lives felt comfortable, honest and safe.

Now we visit even our family members via the tech world – cell phones, texting, emails, Facebook and other social media sites. It’s good to stay connected anyway we can, but those home visits, casual and unimportant as they seemed at the time, make me homesick in a good way. Call (or not) and come visit. You are welcome (most) any time.

 

Complete in Christ

Guest Post: Roxanne Knott: roxanneknott.wordpress.com – August 5, 2016

My friend Roxanne Knott has written something we all need to hear. Thanks for listening.

“So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.” Colossians 2:10

“May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:19

There have been times in my life when I have felt like something was missing. Like there had to be something more to my life. It wasn’t that I was lacking the things I needed in my life. There was something inside that made me feel like I was just not complete. I would begin to think I will be happy and complete when ______ happens.

When I am out of school and get the job I love; when I get married; when I have children; when I get to be a stay at home mom; when I am doing full time ministry. The list could go on and on. Can you relate? Maybe you are there right now. What are you striving for today that you think will make you complete?

Well I have some good news for all of us today. The search is over. We don’t have to strive for completeness in anything or anyone other than Christ Jesus. We have already been made complete in Him and His love.

Though the things that we are looking or hoping for are not bad things and they can make us happy, we should not think we have to have them in order to be complete.

Once we realize we are already complete in Christ and we become content with where we are, we can then enjoy the other blessings that God brings into our lives. They end up being like the icing on the cake because we already have our worth, identity and completeness from Christ.

Before I became fully aware of this truth, I was blessed with some of the things I had desired. They did not immediately take away the feeling of incompleteness, however. I was still striving for something more. Because of this, I was unable to fully enjoy the blessings God brought into my life because I was always looking for the next thing I thought would make me happy and complete.

Once God had shown me I am already complete in Him and His love, I was then able to begin fully enjoying the blessings of God. I do not take them for granted nor do I continue to strive for something else. I now do my best to daily enjoy the fullness of life as our verse for today says. This has brought a peace and contentment into my life that I am grateful for.

We have everything we need when we have Christ. Through Him, we experience the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Prayer: Lord Jesus help me to see my completeness in you. Help me to live in the fullness of your love daily. Help me to see that my worth, my identity and my completeness come only from you, not from the temporal things I seek. In Jesus name. Amen.