Good Morning Beloved

How can a person live a clean life? By carefully reading the map of Your word. I’m single minded in pursuit of You; don’t let me miss the road signs You’ve posted.” (Psalm 119:9-10 MSG)

     Last month I spent 10 days in Elverta, California. Elverta is a rural area north of Sacramento, the capital of the state. It has a population of 5,482 spread out over a large area of rice fields ripe with dove and pheasant and is a hunter’s paradise of sorts. My niece Brandie and I were there to help my brother and his wife make arrangements and do the footwork for my nephew’s memorial service. Bringing comfort and 2 sets of extra arms were the orders of the day. That meant we had to travel roads we had never traveled.
     Renting a car we were glued to the GPS in our 2015 Ford Focus. Neither of us was familiar with that device so we ditched that amenity and went with what we knew; our phones. Good old Google maps. Long gone are the days of paper maps and a highlighter marking the way.
     I remember when Steve and I would plan our trips to Oklahoma City.  While Steve’s folks were alive we visited every other year.  Those paper maps became our “travel bible”. He was the driver and I the navigator. My husband and I are opposites in so many ways and our vision is no exception. I put glasses on to read, he takes them off. He calls me “eagle eye” because I can see the signs from afar. This kept us on interstate 10 east and not put us on the road to Wyoming (not that there’s anything wrong with Wyoming). I often wonder what has happened to the Thomas Guide which was a large spiral bound map of the streets published for every large city in America. Every year I bought Steve a new one for Christmas. We kept it in the pocket behind the passenger’s side seat in the car. Gone are those days and other industries since the invention of the mighty computer in our hands.    
     As Brandie and I navigated the unfamiliar streets we depended on signs. Street signs, road signs and warning signs. The sign read “rough road ahead” and boy they weren’t kidding! We saw the street sign for Electric Avenue and stopped to take a silly selfie that we captioned “we rocked down to…” - if you don’t know the reference you can Google it!
     One night we were to meet my friends for dinner on the other side of town. Our Google maps lady was talking us through a sketchy neighborhood. Then my device decided to have a mind of it’s own. Kind of Twilight Zone-ish. I turned off the voice as we made a few U-turns. The street signs told us to go one way and the electronic voice said another (cue spiritual application). We should have followed the street signs. More times than once I had to say “turn right at the couch”. Yep, a couch in the street! I told you the area was sketchy. Had we followed the street signs we would have gotten to our destination 20 minutes earlier. Those signs were there to give you a clearer picture of where you should go.
     Navigating life is tough. Going through areas of life that are unknown like getting married, having children, dealing with sickness and profound loss, managing heartbreak, betrayal, job loss, divorce, lack of funds, goals unmet, disappointment and other major detours in the road without a clear direction is difficult.
     In life there are no physical signs like one way, caution, watch for rocks, wrong way, yield, stop, dangerous curves ahead or that sign showing a leaping deer! The Psalmist tells us in these verses that we can navigate a clean life by reading the map of God’s word. He is asking God to help him not miss the road signs He has posted.
     The signs God gives to us are for our protection. If we don’t follow them we could be in danger. “Stop” you know you should not do that. “Yield” to Me in this decision. You are going the “Wrong Way”; follow Me. “Dangerous curves ahead”, trust Me here. “Slow, Hospital Zone” maybe I should have that nagging pain in my chest checked. There is only “One Way” to heaven through My Son Jesus Christ. These are life road signs along the map of His word. You can only be sensitive to the signs if you read and know the “map”.
     Allow God to help you travel the road of your life; get you down the way heeding the signs. Be alert, be aware, and take notice. Sometimes we are so oblivious to the signs God has to stop us in our tracks before we get run over. There are times in our outright rebellion that sign or not we want it our way and we get sideswiped. He did not abandon you on this earth without a navigation device. He loves you. Hold his hand. “Thy word is a lamp into my feet and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105 (NASB)

Good Morning Beloved

And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. (Genesis 50:20 NASB)

     Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat was the title on the program on my lap. Believe it or not I had never seen the show. So here I sat in a small downtown San Diego theater  watching our dear Lamb’s Players and my friend Joy perform this fun musical. When Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber wrote this play I just wonder if they had done any deep scriptural research. If they had surely they knew that Joseph, in the end, was not a bitter man but had become rich in character and more devout and dedicated to God as the years progressed.
     Joseph had been sold in to slavery as a young boy by his jealous brothers. Young Joe was a dreamer, an interpreter of dreams. Granted, as a youth his timing was wrong in telling his brothers they would one day bow down and worship him. That is what got him thrown in to a pit in the first place. That, and the fact that daddy gave him the most beautiful coat they had ever seen and they got zip, nada, nothing! 
     So here he was with 10 older brothers and one younger and he was telling them he was all that and a bag of chips and bingo he was sent to Egypt! That is where the plot thickens. The boys take the coat, tear it up and cover it in animal blood, tell dad Joseph is dead, weep and wail (pulling off academy award performances I am sure), and go on with their lives. 
     Meanwhile, Joseph is spending his days as a slave in a foreign land. He has been stripped of his family, his daily life, the comfort of his homeland and everything familiar, even his dignity. He cannot speak the language and I am sure he is terrified. According to the scripture he is a model slave. He ends up in jail; falsely accused. He puts his talents of interpreting dreams to good use and ends up running the country of Egypt ultimately saving the remnant of the Israelites. He forgives his brothers after messing with their minds a little and is reunited with his still grieving father. 
     God sees the big picture. Joseph told his brothers that what THEY meant for evil GOD meant for good. Joseph hung in there. He did not rebel and become bitter against God. He went with his fate. He adapted to the situations he was in. He prayed to God and trusted Him. God brought people and situations in to his life to further His plan for the big finish; to save a people. 
     I look back over my life and I see how God has used all of the dysfunction and trials in my life to work for my good. I marvel at what He has turned to His glory in that I have many stories to share with others of His faithfulness and provision. During the times of pain in the experiences I did not see the reasons but as I got through to the other side the outcomes have been a blessing. Being able to hold someone’s hand as they are sobbing and say “I know exactly where you are” is a blessing. Romans 8:28 says that God does work all things to our good when we know God and are called according to His purpose. Perhaps Paul had the story of Joseph in mind as he penned those words. 
     Precious one where do you find yourself today? Are you in that pit, in a jail of sorts, in a foreign land? That land does not necessarily mean a change of country. It can be that you are without a job and about to be homeless (foreign to you), you are gravely ill (foreign to you), you have been gobsmacked and betrayed (foreign to you). There are many foreign places we may be asked to travel. Know that a loving, merciful, all seeing God is walking beside you. He is in the business of character and faith building. Take the opportunity today to really look at your circumstances and ask God how He will work these for your good. Joseph told his brothers point blank that God used their evil deeds to bring about that present result which was the salvation of a nation; to preserve many people alive! How is He using your life today? Give it some thought. Write it down then share it with God. Let Him lead the way. Hold His hand as you traverse the road. He won’t disappoint. ❤

Good Morning Beloved

May my prayer be counted as incense before You; the lifting up of my hands as the evening offering. (Psalm 141:2 NASB)

And when He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty four elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. (Revelation 5:8 NASB)

     As a child of the 60’s burning incense was a “thing” for us. Someone would get an incense stick and light the end and what resulted was a thin line of smoke that let off a kind of acrid smell that we thought was “very cool” at the time.  I hung out with the drama kids and the debate team in high school. Some of us even were part of the Christian club who sponsored YFC (Youth For Christ) events but one thing we did at parties was burn incense. To me it smelled awful but, wanting to be part of the group being the people pleaser that I am, I would sit there holding back the choking cough. When I couldn’t take it anymore I would excuse myself to the bathroom and duck outside for a big gulp of fresh air. You’d think it wouldn’t bother me coming from a household where everyone but me smoked, but it did.
     Incense in Bible days was used by the high priests at every sacrifice. The incense mixture was a specific blend designed by God and He gave specific instructions in Exodus that no “strange incense” was to be burned. The mixture was comprised of the perfumes statce, onycha, glabanum, and pure frankincense. The last one may sound familiar as it is one of the gifts the kings gave to the baby Jesus at His birth. These perfumes were mixed and burned with the smoke headed toward the Holy of Holies where God lived among the people.
     When the priest entered the holy place with the incense all of the people were removed from the temple and from the porch and the altar. “And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering” (Luke 1:10 NASB). The priest would cast the incense on the fire burning in the holy place and bowing reverently toward the holy of holies he would leave walking slowly backward while the people prayed in profound silence. This was serious business! These prayers offered up were praises, petitions, atonements and asking forgiveness.
     God tells us in his word that prayer is serious business and, if we are reading scripture correctly, he is capturing all of these prayers and holding them as a sweet aroma before Him.  King David asked that his prayers be so serious that they be counted as incense before God just like that offered in the temple. Revelation tells us that there are golden bowls in heaven full of incense which are prayers of the saints! Prayer IS serious business.
     I have seen and talked to several people recently who seem to be going through a crisis of faith these days. There are folks who are gravely ill, young people close to me who have died, people losing homes, jobs, loved ones. They have been fervently praying  with no obvious result and wondering where is God is. Is He not hearing their prayer? They go to Him and pray their heart out and what they prayed for did not happen the way they wanted. I begged God to keep a marriage together of a loved one. That marriage failed and it crushed me to pieces. I could not take communion for over a year my heart was so bitter toward God. One day during my prayer time God humbled me as He gently reminded me that people make choices. He is a God of free will and my prayers did not go unanswered. He was listening but allowed that couple to make decisions and they would live with the consequences. I continued to pray for them and still do in their new lives and I pray that all things will work together for good for them.
     God is not our own personal genie in a bottle, or as a friend put it recently, He is not We cannot expect that He will give us a pony or our parents will stay married or he will keep our mom from going home to be with Him. I prayed for one more day with her and it was not to be.
     The incense, the sweet aroma to the Lord, is our prayers of praise, repentance, worship and petition. Praise Him for Who He is and what He is. Repent of our sins, turn to Him. Worship Him in prayer, in song and in praise. Ask Him for His will to be done.
     I prayed for 15 years for my dear husband to come to know Christ as his Savior. I prayed every which way I could think of. I knew that God said that He did not want any to perish but that He wanted all to come to repentance. My husband was part of that “all”. 15 years I did not give up. My faith grew leaps and bounds through that time as God taught me to lay my husband before Him and trust. One day the miracle happened but it was on God’s time. I learned to trust God as never before through those 15 long years.
     As I sat by my sick mom’s bedside I laid her healing down before a Sovereign God. She was still young, only 73. He could touch her like Jesus did so many in the Bible. He could make her well in an instant but that was not His plan for her life. My 18 year old nephew was killed, my friend’s one year old died of cancer, my niece lost two infants one right after the other at birth, another friend’s 20 year old was just killed in a car crash. Accepting the sovereignty of God is a tall order and, sometimes, takes some hashing out in our own hearts and minds. We wrestle with this concept.
     Be encouraged dear ones. Your prayers are being kept as a sweet fragrant aroma by a loving God who does listen. He will work all things together for your good because you love him and are called according to His purpose. It sometimes sounds cliché but His ways are not our ways. He sees it all, knows it all and works it all out. Keep praying dear one. Don’t lose heart when it seems He is not answering the way you think He should. Trust and know that you know He is listening and keeping your prayers close. Do not lose heart precious one. Our God is there and He cares. ❤

Good Morning Beloved

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it. (Revelation 2:17 NASB)

     Immediately when I read this verse I hear Nancy Rowe playing the organ at the First Baptist Church of La Mesa where I grew up. I hear a vigorous congregation singing ” There’s a new name written down in glory and it’s mine oh yes it’s mine. And the white robed angels tell the story, a sinner has come home”. Oh how I love those precious hymns full of doctrine and truth. Through the years I learned a great deal about my Christian walk through the verses of these dear songs.
     When my nephew Colton Dean was killed we all went as a family to the accident site. He was killed in a remote part of the back country when he got distracted by something in his truck and the front wheels of the vehicle rolled on to the train tracks. There are no semaphore arms or lights at the crossing; you are just supposed to know it’s there.
     As the tires rolled up on to the track his truck was struck by the train and thrown into a large fence. He was dead on impact. My niece’s husband made a beautiful and substantial cross to put at the site. We gathered around, held hands and they asked me to pray. Honestly that was the most difficult yet easiest prayer I have ever prayed. Difficult because I was holding his momma’s hand and she was crying and shaking. Easy because I knew Colton was safely in the arms of Jesus and in the company of many loving relatives who had gone before.
     After wiping the tears away we all stood there and talked. Some walked around, some started clearing debris, all of us had tears. The cross was beautiful. As I traversed the area I was actually looking for a penny. There had been one there because his mom pointed out an impression in the dirt. You could clearly see Abe Lincoln’s profile. Trusting God at the death site of an 18 year old boy with so much life in him is a tall order. Who can ever understand that except to say that I believe in the sovereignty of almighty God.
     Looking down I found two smooth white stones. I picked them up and put them in my pocket. Stones of remembrance. Not that I wanted to be morbid and remember a horrific crash site but I wanted to remember us, his family, standing together holding hands lifting our prayers to God on the very place his soul left the earth. It was a precious time and will be forever in my heart.
     God gave the apostle John, the disciple Jesus loved as he refers to himself in the book he wrote, the vision on the Isle of Patmos to write the Revelation. Here in verse 17 he tells us of hidden manna that we who are overcomers will  receive in heaven. The manna is what God fed the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. We get to taste it! That is exciting to me. To read about this mysterious provision that appeared fresh each morning packed with life sustaining nutrients so they could survive always intrigued me.
     Along with that delight we are going to receive a white stone. On this stone will be a name that only we will understand. Only the one who receives it will know it. God the Creator has a new name for you, the one who overcomes. I cannot begin to fathom what that could be in human terms because His ways are not our ways. In my finite mind I am thinking words like Faithful, Gracious, True, Hospitable, Merciful, Knowledge but I am pretty sure they will be a heavenly language we will only know as soon as He places that memorial in our hand. Oh the joy of the thought of what awaits us in heaven! Mana, white stone, new name, talking to people we’ve met in the bible (some we know by heart) and finally get to meet, streets of gold, mansions, but most of all face to face with Jesus for eternity. It is all too wonderful to take in. Makes me want to just shout GLORY! So - be my guest and 1, 2, 3, GLORY! Be amazed, be blessed. ❤

Happy Thanksgiving precious ones!

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him in psalms (songs). (Psalm 95:2 NASB)

     Thanksgiving. A combination of two powerful words thanks and giving. Early on Thanksgiving was celebrated as a day of prayer and the festivities lasted 3 days. People gathered together to praise God for the bounty of their crops and give to each other in spirit, share food and fellowship.
     One of my favorite scenes from a holiday movie is from Holiday Inn. Bing Crosby has opened an Inn in Connecticut that is only open on holidays. When the big animated calendar gets to November the turkey jumps from the third Friday in November to the fourth Friday then back with a quizzical look on it’s face. I never understood that scene so I fired up trusty(?) Wikipedia. Apparently it wasn’t until 1941 that President Roosevelt declared the fourth Thursday of November to be the legal federal holiday. Before that the holiday was on it’s own sometimes held on the 3rd Thursday and sometimes the 4th. The movie was made in 1942 so it was the first year of Thanksgiving being “legal”. Okay, there is your bit of trivia if this is ever a Jeopardy question! You can wow your party guests if you play Trivial Pursuit holiday edition.
     Thanksgiving for our family has always been a big deal. My grandmother Stephens would get up before dawn and get her famous yeast rolls started. We so looked forward to those rolls and all secretly hoped she made many extras for us to take home. Most years I spent the night before with grandma to help her in the morning so I was privileged to have a hot roll out of the oven with my made from scratch hot cocoa. The butter mixed in with the sweet taste of the roll dipped in the cocoa is a fond memory that my heart cherishes. There is literally nothing like a turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce sandwich made on grandmas rolls and served for lunch on the Friday after. I can taste it as I write!
     Turkey in the oven, kids running all over the house, mom, aunts, cousins crowding the kitchen, men playing dominoes in the sun room, hot cider, warm conversation and lots of love were always in order for the Stephens family.
     Then there was the year of my mom’s first attempt (and last) at making all of the pumpkin pies. She was determined! I was about 13 then. It was the year before everything went terribly south in my family. That year I had a well paying babysitting job (.75 an hour) the Wednesday night before  so I was not at grandmas.Mom was up early making pie crusts from scratch. There were no prepackaged Pillsbury crusts back then. Canned pumpkin and all of the spices lined the counter in our kitchen. The house smelled heavenly! She covered all 5 pies with Reynolds Wrap and off we went to my Auntie Betty’s house. We had to graduate the dinner to her house as our family had out grown grandma’s dining room. We had to move on to my aunt’s basement.
     If my memory serves me correctly we had about 25 people that year. Our Thanksgiving dinners were always open to anyone who would come. Dinner was scrumptious as always and grandmas rolls went fast. Now it was time for the pies. Mom brought out her pumpkin masterpieces. I dare to say that Martha Stewart herself would have been proud!
     I watched as mom cut each sliced and lovingly put them on plates. We should have known when she mistakenly left all of the whipping cream all prepped and hand whipped sitting in a pyrex dish in the refrigerator at home, that this was not going to turn out well.
   Sitting with a piece of pie on the plate in my lap I watched as my uncle took a bite. He had a strange look on his face. Then he took another bite and kind of gulped it down followed by a large drink of water. I bit in to my piece and immediately spit it out! “Mother” I shouted in my 13-year-old I don’t know how to say it privately and not embarrass her voice, “this pie tastes awful”. She turned several shades of red then solid white when she grabbed my fork and took a bite. Oh my gosh you have never seen ninja moves like the ones my mother performed as she confiscated all plates with the pumpkin disaster on them! You see, pumpkin pie does not resemble anything delicious if you forget to add a crucial ingredient: sugar.
     Trying to salvage them my dear grandma took them into the kitchen and sprinkled sugar on top of them and put them in the broiler to try to give them a crème brulee look and taste. Well no can do! There was, however, a silver lining for one particular guest. His name was Clem and he was diabetic. He was in pumpkin pie heaven and ate several pieces and took the remainder home. He found them quite delicious and thanked mom for her cooking foible.
     That is a day for which I am so thankful. We made a memory that year. Even today we say “Remember when mom forgot to put the sugar in the pies? Boy Clem was sure happy!” Good old Clem. He made our day!
     We come before the Lord with thanksgiving on this our national day of thanks. Thankful for the bounty set before us, for opportunities we would never have had it not been for those brave souls who forged the trail to establish our country, thankful to a loving God who has gotten us this far. Today let us shout joyfully to Him in song! Let us enter His gates with thanksgiving in our hearts and enter His courts with praise. Let us say this is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice for He has made us glad. As we go about the day while watching the Macy’s parade (that is a story for another blog post), cooking, eating, sharing, game playing, loving and missing those family members who live far away or are in heaven, let us take time first to give thanks where it is do; to a most benevolent God who started it all. Thank you Father for everything You have created and for your sovereignty over our lives. ❤
Oh, P.S. All calories consumed before midnight tonight do not count so enjoy!

Good Morning Beloved

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful: and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25 NASB)

     Tonight is the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. I am pretty sure I look forward to this night more than any other night of the year. Tonight is our church’s Thanksgiving Eve service. Many churches have a Christmas Eve service and that is wonderful but at FBCLG we celebrate Thanksgiving Eve. It has been a tradition as long as I can remember.
     The day of the service volunteers come and set it up in the fellowship hall. It’s hard to picture if you havent been there but they set up 4 rows of chairs in two large semi circles facing each other. It’s funny because they never set up enough chairs! Folks are always pulling more chairs in as people arrive late or family members come who have just arrived in town. Everyone participates. We have no childcare that night so families are all sitting together. Many a service I have had one grandchild or another on my lap. It is a precious time. Boy have we made memories at some of our services.
     In preparation for the service our pastor has combed the internet (and books before there was internet) for fascinating facts about Thanksgiving. There are sayings, poems, biographies, traditions and why they are traditions, funny stories, things like that. He passed them out to people he volunteers to read them. As the service progresses these now willing volunteers will read their treasures.
     Most Tuesday nights before the Wednesday my husband, always the perfectionist, will go down to the church late in the evening to make sure all of the power point for the music is prepped and ready. He will make sure the antiquated sound system in the hall is up and running, the microphone has batteries, the projector works and all things tech are a go. He prepares the slides in beautiful fall and Thanksgiving-y backgrounds. This is an important time for him too although since, as is usual in church too, we don’t get to sit together because he is “pushing the buttons” to make sure it all works. He is  the behind the scenes guy you hear about but don’t usually think about until something goes wrong. Then everyone looks and he hates getting the hairy eyeball stare!
     As you enter the hall the autumn smells of hot apple cider with cinnamon greets you like a warm blanket. The service begins at 6:30ish with music led by the worship team. It’s so “home town” because the team is usually a eclectic mixture of whoever is still in town. It’s fun to guess how it will go!
     Pastor Jeff intersperses verses throughout the singing and readings. Then comes my favorite part; people giving personal testimony of thanksgiving. The mic is passed around and there are always tears. Some are thankful for jobs, good health, living in America, God and His Son, and always for our church family. My favorite each year is when our pastor’s daughter speaks and her voice goes up 3 octaves because she is crying and can’t get the words out about how much she loves the church family. We are her local “family”. We are all family at this church.
     The writer of Hebrews knew that church family community was important because he told us not to “forsake” it. Don’t blow it off and think you don’t have to go to church. That is not God minded. The enemy of your soul wants you to think it is OK to be a lone ranger christian. No need for community. Well that is just hogwash! Ridiculous  thinking. Forsake means abandon, renounce or give up. What? Are we going to give up or abandon each other now? We need each other daily to navigate through this life. I would not trade meeting weekly with my church family for anything. It has taken years of commitment through thick and thin loving each other warts and all belonging and praying together. I am overwhelmingly blessed. We know each other’s kids, grandkids, hurts, joys, my best friends were made there.
     Verse 23 says to hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering. That is what we do for each other. We hold each other up. Love is poured out with grace. We stimulate each other to love and good deeds. We are a team; a family in every sense of the word through Jesus’ blood shed on that cross for us. Folks may say they aren’t your “blood family” but oh yes we certainly are. When you are knit together through Christ you are blood family.
     My heart always breaks when I hear people say they just can’t get plugged in to a church. My advice is to pray and continue to pray for God’s leading. Seek out a bible believing church. Go to the bible studies, the small groups, pot lucks, ministry meetings, baby showers, get involved. Don’t wait for them to come to you. You go to them! It is God’s will for your life to be involved in a community of believers. There is comfort and acceptance there. If you are reading this today, November 25, 2015 drop by our service tonight. First Baptist Church of Lemon Grove. Blessings will surround you as you witness Hebrews 10 lived out before your eyes and at the end there is pumpkin pie with whipped cream, hot apple cider and lots of hugs and well wishes. It doesn’t get any better than that. God bless you dear one. ❤

Good Morning Beloved

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts You. (Isaiah 26:3 ESV)

People with their minds set on You, You keep completely whole, steady on their feet, because they keep at it and don’t quit. (Isaiah 26:3 The Message)

     I QUIT! Those words can bring emotion, fear, resignation, closure, relief, comfort, pain, anger, frustration, joy and many more emotions too numerable to count. Have you ever said those words or wanted to?
     When I was 17 I had my first job at T G & Y. You “baby boomers” will remember that place. It was an upgraded Woolworth store (another baby boomer reference) so let’s see if I can make a reference for today’s world. Okay how about a much smaller Wal-Mart. I worked in the fabric department cutting fabric and making sure it was always ready for customers.
     Since I made all of my own dresses in high school this was a bonanza for me because I got a discount. I got to see all of the new fabric as it came in and all of the new up to date McCalls and Butterick patterns. Pure joy for this budding seamstress! I even learned how to “ring customers up” at the cash register where I had to push buttons down and actually make change using math in my head. Someone gave me a $20 for a $5.17 purchase I had to figure out the difference. I have to confess there were times I put my own money in so the register balanced but that didn’t happen often. I did not now until much later in life that you were not supposed to do that!
     During that time I was very active in my youth group at church and going to church was the high light of my week. Being around the folks at First Baptist La Mesa was my joy so you can imagine my disappointment when I saw Terrie Smith on the schedule to work Sunday opening at 10AM. My heart was crushed. I loved my job and the perks it brought especially regarding the fabric end of the deal but I loved going to church more.
     Sunday came and I went to work heavy hearted, almost in tears. Mr. Krings was the manager and a guy named Tom was the assistant manager who acted like he was the king of the world (you know the type). Compliant, never make any waves me just went along with my shift.       
     Never working on Sundays Mr. Krings came in to the store that day to retrieve his coat. He saw me standing at the fabric counter kind of dabbing my eyes. I kept thinking “It’s 10:30 now everyone is singing” “it’s 10:45 now Pastor is preaching” etc. As I saw him walking over to me to inquire if I was OK I wiped my eyes and tried to look bright. When he asked me I lied and said yes. He said he would be in tomorrow if I wanted to talk to him.
     That evening I went to youth group and church and shared my dilemma. I really needed my job as it was the only way I would get anything I needed. In my family there was barely enough money for food and we were always borrowing from neighbors; but that story is for another day. Through the discussion we came to the conclusion that I needed to quit my job if I had to keep working Sundays. I was determined to test my faith in God. I knew He would provide for me.
     The next day I went in early and requested to talk to Mr. Krings. He was such a kind gentle man who always wore black slacks, white short sleeved shirt, thin black or navy tie and a pocket protector full of pens. Nervous cannot begin to describe that 17-year-old me. I told him I was a christian and very active in my church and that missing Sundays was not an option for me so I was giving my 2 weeks notice. I let him know how much I loved my job and especially took pride in keeping the fabric department looking customer ready. He commented that I was a hard worker, a bright spot to my customers and he did not want to lose me. He told me to sit tight that he would work something out. I was grateful. Later I found out that Mr. Krings was a deacon in his church and did not work Sundays so he could go to church.
     What happened next was astonishing to me. He told Tom, the overpowering assistant manager, not to schedule me on Sundays. Well that did not sit well with Tom! He came to me and said as much. I told him I went to church on Sundays and he told me it was not his problem. That is when the work place harassment began before it was “a thing”. No reporting him in the 60’s. Today that guy would have been fired in the spot!
     The schedule came out and I only had a total of 8 hours. Since it was summer I was used to working every day. I inquired about the schedule and he said I could have worked all day Sunday but I asked not to. Yes I cried and ran to a co-worker. Little did I know she was in Tom’s back pocket and told him everything I said. Dummy me learned a lesson about keeping my mouth shut.
     As time went by things got worse. Nothing was right at work. I went in very sick one day to the point of almost passing out and Tom would not let me go home. I still did my best praying all the time, walking closer to God than ever, making reports to my youth group, building our faith in a sustaining God who was proving Himself over and over to me.
     That fateful day came when sweet kindly Mr. Krings got transferred to another store. Cue the foreboding music in the background ( dunt dunt dahhhhh). You guessed it; Tom was our new manager and my name was on the schedule for Sunday! This was it. Putting all of my faith in a living God Who had been holding me all together while this little titan took advantage of his workers gave me the courage to do what I had to do. I told him I had to quit. He sat right down, wrote me a paycheck and escorted me to the door. I was holding it together until I got outside then burst in to sobs.
     My mind immediately was calmed by “thinking in these things”. My Sunday school teacher the day before had taught a lesson on Philippians 4:8. I prayed and asked God to bless Tom because I had been taught to love my enemies and pray for them. Tears of utter defeat became tears of success in Christ. It was like  a movie scene. I wiped my tears, smiled at passersby who were starring at me, raised my head high and walked home.
     A few weeks later I got a job as a gift wrapper at The Broadway which is now called Macy’s. There were so many people working there they didn’t need me on Sundays. The store did not have a fabric department but I did get a discount on ready made clothing. God guarded me through that traumatic experience in my developing teen faith experience years. I was taught by faithful servants of Christ to trust Him, walk with Him and give my faith a test drive. That experience was a huge building block in my walk with an ever faithful God Who never leaves me or forsakes me. I was committed to Him and knew it even more day by day. Leaning on Him and hoping confidently in Him; not quitting Him gave me the courage to seek other employment and continue to trust His sovereignty in my life.
     I never knew what happened to Tom but he has crossed my mind through the years. I know Mr. Krings has a jewel in his crown with my name on it. Keep at it dear friend. Keep trusting, praying, focusing your mind on Christ. Don’t be a quitter where He is concerned. Things may not be going “your way” right now but hang in there for He knows and sees the big picture. Give Him your total focus and take your faith for a test drive. ❤

Good Morning Beloved

And I saw heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He judges and wages war (Revelation 19:11 NASV)

And He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood; and His name is called The Word Of God. (Revelation 19:13 NASV)

And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:16 NASV)

     Traveling by air; boy have times changed. When I took my very first plane trip it was on Western Airlines (“the only way to fly” was their motto). I flew out  of San Diego Airport to Palm Springs to visit my Aunt & Uncle. Those were the days when my grandpa Smith could walk me right up to the fence and I would give him a hug, walk across the tarmac and climb the moveable staircase to the plane. The stewardesses wore mini skirts and were a size 2 or smaller! 
     My husband told me of his flight from San Diego back to Memphis where he was going to school when he was in the military in 1970. He sat in the car in the airport parking lot with his girlfriend at the time saying their goodbyes up until the very last second when he would sprint for the boarding area, ran down the breezeway and on to the plane just before they closed the door.  Not any more. 
     Today we are flying home from spending a lovely 4 days having an early Thanksgiving with our daughter and her family in Grants Pass Oregon. We flew in to Sacramento California, rented a car and drove the 5 hours to their home. It’s just easier and cheaper believe it or not. If you want to fly in to Medford, which is the closest airport, you have to take a plane to Phoenix then to Seattle then down to Medford or drive to Los Angeles, leave your car and fly in direct. Oy! It’s a “you cant get there from here” scenario.
     Now days we get to the airport 2 hours early. The world is such that we no longer have the luxury of an easy, carefree flight. We stand in line to check our bag unless, of course, we pack light which is NEVER my style. Hey, a girl needs choices, right? Then on to the majorly dreaded TSA inspection. When I say dreaded that is exactly what I mean since we are now of a certain age with various replaced body parts. My sweet husband has to practically disrobe these days due to the medical device in his chest. He can no longer be scanned. He has to get the full body pat down. I call it his free massage. 
     When we came home a month ago from attending my nephew’s funeral I had a definite “uh-oh” moment. He was being patted down,  which was expected, then I watched the agent go over and swab the gloves he used for the pat down. He was looking for gun powder residue. Well wouldn’t you know my brother’s hobby is reloading ammunition and we had been out in his shop and both of us hugged him goodbye! My face went white as that thought hit me that there may be powder traces on our clothing. “I look terrible in orange” I thought! How do we explain? Relief flooded me as the gloves came back without a trace. 
     This time I walked through and had to be X-rayed due to the fact that my titanium knee set the machine blaring.  Come to find out it wasn’t my knee but it was my hair clip and my underwire bra! Off I went to be properly inspected by a female agent who was highly professional but I couldn’t help but chuckle under my breath thinking she must be so tired of feeling up one more old lady (sorry if that offends it just crossed my mind). 
     As I was gathering my several bags, purse, blanket, jacket, cane and shoes I was feeling very put out. Man we have to go through so much! Flying really isnt a joy or any fun for the Beardens any more. Too much trouble. Why? Because people had their evil agenda to interrupt our world and set it spinning in a completely opposite direction. Evil reigns in this world and I was ticked off. I was mad, put out, uncomfortable, wanting to tell someone off for this mess human kind is in. Then I saw it on the ground a few feet in front of me; a shiny penny.  Totally out of place in the area. Looking around to see if anyone was watching, and they weren’t, I picked it up and tucked it safely in my pocket. As I did I took a minute to pray. I thanked God for the In God We Trust inscription on the front of that penny. I thanked Him that it was still there considering our legislature has all but wiped God out of our government. 
     Reminding myself that none of the evil happenings in the world occur without God’s notice I rested from the momentary temper tantrum in my mind. Times are changing. We are getting closer to the coming of our King to this earth; Jesus Christ Himself. He will come for His people on a white stallion ready for battle and put an end to this madness once and for all. How do I know? Because He said He would. Satan knows that too. Until then we will live our lives, travel by air inconveniently, be alert and aware of our surroundings, study God’s word, pray, attend church, be faithful and trust Him. Thank you Lord for always sending a penny to remind me that You have got this! ❤

Good Morning Beloved

And how blessed all those in whom You live, whose lives become roads You travel. (Psalm 84:5 MSG)

     Last night, as we lay on the bed waiting for that second we were to push the button on the Southwest Airlines website to get our boarding passes to go home from a lovely visit with our daughter and her family, my husband and I became very reflective of our lives. Did we ever in our wildest dreams think we would be holding small computers in our hands that connected us instantly with basically everything and everyone in the world? When we were young had we ever thought that we would be happily married in our 60’s? Had we even thought about being 60? Oh my goodness how time has slipped passed us like when you pour the hot spaghetti in the colander in the sink, it misses the colander because your glasses have fogged over from the steam and it all goes right down in to the disposal. There is no 5 second rule when the spaghetti has made it to THAT destination. My point is that life can slip through your fingers before you know it.
     Here in this verse the Psalmist is saying that there is blessing in walking with God. Steve and I reflected on the road we had traveled together, the hard ugly “Is this the end?” times, the we are so in love we can’t stand it times but mainly the every day-ness of a life lived with God walking in and through us. Of these golden years, so they are called, we pondered why they were called golden and laughed about gold crowns, titanium knees and high grade metal casings on pace makers. We also agreed that they were golden because God has been our partner. He has been the center and third party in this covenant we made on April 22, 1978. The glue that has held us together down this road. We purposed to never give up on each other no matter what. 
     Whatever is going on in your life, your journey down the road and in your every day; walking with God makes the difference. Give Him your attention. Allow Him to guide your steps. Walk WITH Him. Be aware of Him in all you do. My life has been full of bumps, twists, long rocky paths, dark tunnels, disappointments, grief, pain and through it all there has been joy. That joy can only come from a walk with a living, loving, long suffering, life giving Father  who has been by my side every minute. I choose to walk with God. It is a choice I make every day. You have that very same privilege; to choose God. Let your life become a testament to Him. Choose God. ❤ 

Good Morning Beloved

He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness. (Malachi 3:3 NASB)

     Sitting in my Physical Geography class was a treat. I love geography, it was my minor in college. I took every geography class offered. It was in that class one day I found out something that would be a life changing example for me.
     In Southern California we are used to wild fires. Those Santa Ana winds whip up combined with ultra dry terrain and it is a recipe for a flaming inferno. One little careless campfire ember, a lightening strike, a lit cigarette tossed out a car window and bam, you have yourself a raging fire.
     There have been two occasions in the last ten years that the entire county of San Diego has been closed down because of the fires. The smoke hangs over America’s Finest City like a huge tent and it comfortably stays put until the winds move it along. Not healthy for moving around or even breathing.
     My instructor told us of certain seeds, trees and plants that need the heat of the fire to thrive and grow. Interesting! I had never heard of such a thing. The jack pine tree produces a pine cone so compact and coated with resin that only the heat of a fire will loosen the cone and release the seeds. They fall to the ground and sprout new trees in the rich ash produced by the burning foliage.
     Another bush pretty much native to our deserts is the manzanita. It has a beautiful shiny reddish brown wood that looks highly polished. I remember going on a field trip in 6th grade to the desert. The teacher told us we could not take any manzanita or break any off as it was against the law. Of course a couple of boys who shall remain nameless smuggled some in their backpacks. Wonder if they still have that contraband? I kept waiting for the manzanita police to board our bus and take them away in handcuffs! Apparently manzanita is protected and only it’s fruit can be harvested with a permit. Who knew? Anyway, the manzanita seeds are extremely hard and need the fire to pop open and reproduce.
     As a silver refiner starts his refining process he is continually turning up the heat on his smelting pot to force the impurities in the silver to come to the surface. As he sees these impurities called dross immerse he scoops them off and discards them. He continues this process until he can see his reflection in the highly processed silver.
     When, in life, the heat gets turned up we can choose to rely on God to get us through or succumb to the fire. We can let the impurities in our personality and life choices burn off and be gently scooped away or we can go down in flames. Believe me I have done both! The going down in flames part can be devastating. I have learned over my life that when I see the little kindling of the fire start to smolder I pray first. That prayer gets me going on a path to face that fire and walk forward.
     Never in my life did I ever think I would survive the fire that was the death of my mom. The heat of the grief was overwhelming. So much baggage from childhood, 4  years of restoration then she was gone. My precious Lord carried me through and out of that fire like a well trained firefighter. I came out more compassionate for those in depression, more resilient to life, with a deeper understanding of God’s love and care and learned that breathing was my friend. Refined for the moment.
     Praise God for the refiner’s fire. Praise God for examples in nature and in life that He gives to us so we can relate. He has made a way for us to present to a holy God our offerings of righteousness. ❤