The Loving Father

Sunday Chronicles. #253. June 20, 2021. FATHER’S DAY

On this day when we honor our fathers, some of us have or had loving fathers who provided for us and taught us the right way to live. Others had fathers who were critical and abusive. Some had fathers who simply ignored them or did not want to be bothered by their children. US Census stats report one in four children in our nation are now living in a home without a father. A sad commentary on our society!

Yet all of us have a Father in Heaven who loves us, always has time for us, and wants to guide us through life. It’s almost too much to believe, isn’t it? The Great God of the Universe LOVES me? But I’ve messed up…maybe not obeyed Him? And He still loves me? When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, the first words of the prayer are “Our Father Who is in Heaven…” (Matt. 6:9). When you pray you are not talking to some stranger, but to God who loves you like a father.

A young lad in a major foreign city accompanied his grandmother each morning to temples where idol gods were set up; she took food to present to these man-made gods. When the boy ask why she did this, she told him it kept the gods from being angry with her. One day as they walked home, they saw a group of people with musical instruments singing on a street corner. The boy asked the grandmother what they were singing about. She told him, “They have a God who loves them!” Later the boy learned that these singers had a school for young people to learn about the God who loves them. He began following Jesus and became a leader in churches in his nation.

This Heavenly Father belongs to all of us who will accept Him as our Father and His Son Jesus as our Savior! Jesus told a parable that most Bibles label “The Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:11-32). I think a better name for it would be “The Loving Father.” This father had two sons; the older one assisted him on his farm. But the younger one was restless; he wanted to see the world. So he asked his father to give him his part of the inheritance; then he left home and went to “a far country.”

Unscrupulous “scam artists” quickly identified this rich young man as one without experience in life or finances. They became his “friends” until his pockets were empty; finally, to keep from starving, the young man took a job feeding pigs. For a Jewish boy, this was as low as it gets. The farmer didn’t even give him food; he had to eat with the pigs.

Hungry, wearing ragged clothes coated with filth from the pig pen, he remembered the servants in his father’s house. They had good food, adequate clothing, and a safe place to rest at night. He decided he would go back home, and ask his father to allow him to be a servant in his home. How many days he had to walk and beg food for strength to make the journey back, I have no idea; but he certainly came back in a different style than he went out!

In the meantime, his father longed to see his son. I’m guessing that many mornings, he looked down the road, and thought, “Perhaps my son will come home today!” Then one morning the father looked again and saw someone walking…..walking like his son! The father rushed down the road to meet him. He threw his arms around his boy, and the boy sobbed out his repentance and sorrow, asking only to fill a servant’s place. But the father ordered servants to bring one of the best robes for the boy, a ring for his finger, and sandals for his feet. He ordered a feast to celebrate his son’s homecoming.

In this parable, Jesus was giving His audience an understanding of a God Who loves us even when we’re not perfect. He paid the ultimate price…the death of His Son on the cross… to redeem us (see John 3:16). If the cares of life or anything else have separated you from this Loving Heavenly Father, He’s watching for you to come home. Don’t delay; enjoy His love today and share that love with someone who needs it!…Peace, jwb

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Personal Notes: It has been summertime this week in Springfield with daily temps in the 90s and no rain. But a cool front is on the way and with it possible t-storms. Lizards have returned to my patio, and I’ve discovered some birds chasing them off! Quite fun to watch! The bird population is increasing, and we work to keep feed out! Physically, I’m struggling with increased arthritis pain, especially in my knees and right arm and shoulder. I’m using my left hand more than usual. Your prayers, cards, e-mails…all the kind things you do for me…help me keep trying to write. Please pray that God will use the words I struggle to type to encourage and bless anyone who reads them.

Illustration by Clemence Sophie de Sermezy

WELCOME TO A TIME THAT WAS: Keeping God’s Kingdom FIRST!

Sunday Chronicles, # 252. 6/13/21

Place:  Nuyaka, OK – a very small community in Okmulgee County

Time:  Late 1930s — early 1940s

Greetings from Springfield, MO, on a hot, sunny Sunday! Weather people are promising us a week of sunshine. By then, we’ll be needing more rain!

From my earliest memories, Sunday was a day devoted to attending and participating in church services. My dad, a single young man, was called to preach at age 17 during a Pentecostal revival in his community that lasted three years. He began ministry by traveling with older evangelists and assisting in revivals and church planting during a move of God in Northern Arkansas. Later, after he married and my sister was born, he felt responsible for providing for his family, including his widowed mother. He continued ministry in home prayer meetings and preaching revivals, but he also farmed and worked in timber. Times were hard, and Dad thought if he didn’t plant and harvest a crop, they would starve.

In 1934, friends of my parents who had gone to California wrote begging them to come. They reported good-paying jobs were available. My parents decided to go to California to work and save money so Dad could go into full-time ministry. But their self-made plan didn’t work out. Higher cost of living and continued bouts of illness kept them drained both physically and financially.

God must have become weary of excuses! In the spring of 1935, both my mother and I were hospitalized at the point of death. One of Dad’s brothers back in Oklahoma offered to take my sister into their home. It seemed God was saying, “If you won’t go into full-time ministry and trust me with your family, I will ask you to go alone.” At a small Pentecostal church in Porterville, CA, Dad made the commitment to putting God first. That same night God began healing both my mother and me. As soon as we were able to travel, Dad took us back to Oklahoma and became the pastor of a small group of people trying to establish a Pentecostal church in Nuyaka, OK. Income from the church was often small change. To help support us, Dad worked part-time jobs as a school janitor and a bus driver, but he made clear that he wasn’t available on Sundays. My mother took day work when any was available, helping to pick apples or assist with butchering animals or canning vegetables for winter. She was often paid “in kind”–being given a small part of the fruit or meat–such as a bucket of apples. From the butchering, she often received hog liver or the hog’s head, which she cleaned and made hog’s head cheese. In her hands, nothing edible went to waste.

One morning when I was in the 2nd grade, we had biscuits and water gravy for breakfast. Dad went to drive the school bus; I went to school, and Mama went to prayer. She had used the last flour for breakfast, and had nothing to make for my lunch. I would come home to eat at noon because we couldn’t afford to pay the dime for a school lunch.

As Mama prayed God moved on a dear woman in the church, Sister Heard, who lived about a mile from us on a gravel road. She was relatively new to Pentecostal style worship and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

On this morning, Sister Heard had a pot of beans cooking on the stove. Sterling, her husband, had started spring plowing in new ground, and she knew he would be hungry. She went to the smokehouse and got a piece of ham to slice. As she worked, the Holy Spirit impressed her that she should bring food to our house. She knew nothing of our need and wasn’t sure if she should do this. But the urging of the Spirit became so strong that she sliced extra ham, put lard, corn meal, and flour in jars, gathered up a few potatoes and put dry beans in a paper bag. She put all this in a big tow sack (a bag made of a coarse material such as burlap which feed came in) and then decided to add a bowl of butter and a jar of milk.

She pushed her pot of beans to the back of the stove, turned the damper down to keep the stove from getting too hot, put on her coat and walked about a mile to our house, carrying this tow sack of provisions.

When my mom came to the door, she said, “Sister Wells, here’s some groceries. You have to take them whether you want them or not, because I can’t carry them back home.”

Of course, my mom was very glad to take the groceries. Sister Heard didn’t come in but hurried back home to continue her preparation for Sterling’s noon meal. As she worked in her kitchen, the joy of the Lord began to flood her soul and she shouted praises to God.

Sterling heard her shouting and thought something terrible had happened. Maybe the house was on fire, or someone had fallen into the well. He ran across a plowed field to get to the house. (Ever tried to run in plowed dirt? It’s almost impossible!) When he got there, he found his wife praising God in the kitchen. I remember Sister Heard telling my mother about it: “Sister Wells, Sterling was the maddest man you ever saw when he found out I was just praising God!” But the Holy Spirit working through his wife brought Sterling into a new relationship with God.

When I came home from school at noon that day, I smelled ham frying. I thought I was imagining things! We hadn’t had meat, not even a nickel’s worth of bologna, in a long time. Mama had biscuits ready and fried potatoes with ham. It was a happy day for the Wells family – not only because of the food but even more because God had sent it to us in our time of need. He had kept His promise to take care of us!

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?… 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ ….your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (MT. 6:25-33.)

If we keep God first in our lives and seek to do His will, He keeps His promise to meet our needs, often in surprising ways. Give Him praise! Peace, jwb

Welcome to a Time That Was! Dustbowl Years, 1930s in Oklahoma

Sunday Chronicles #251

First Posted on June 5, 2013; updated June 6, 2021

Place:  Nuyaka, OK – a very small community in Okmulgee County

Time:  Mid-1930s. Dustbowl years. Oklahoma had been Indian Territory until 1907 when it achieved statehood.

Grandma Foster

She wasn’t really my grandma.  But she’s one of the first adults outside my core family who I knew loved me.

You see, I was one of those “unexpected blessings” that sometimes come to parents later in life. I was born in 1933 when my dad was nearing forty and my mom was 32.  Their only other child, my sister Lucille, was 13 when I arrived. I was “Baby Sister.”

Let me hasten to say that although I might have been unexpected, I was not unwanted.  Even though times were hard – terribly hard in Oklahoma’s dustbowl – they welcomed me with open arms and hearts. I was their pride and joy as far back as I can remember.

Grandma Foster attended a small church my dad was leading. I’m not sure the rest of the congregation appreciated her, but I certainly did. In Oklahoma at that time, being Indian had a certain stigma and Grandma was Indian – and proud of it! She never tried to hide her heritage.

She was in her late 60s when I first remember her.  To get to church, she walked on a dirt road up a long hill. She didn’t dress up but came wearing a bib apron. As soon as she came in, I would go to her. She would pick me and set me on her lap. Then she pulled whatever she had brought me from inside the bib of her apron.

In spring and summer, it might be something from her garden; or it might be an apple or a guinea egg with a light green shell. She had a flock of guineas as much for protection of her place as for their egg production.  (Have you ever heard a flock of guineas raise a ruckus?  They’re noisier than watch dogs! And, yes, they will chase you!).

Sometimes her gift was something she had picked up in the woods and kept for me: a few pecans, a brightly-colored bird feather, a leaf or flower. She would tell me the gift’s significance, where she had found it, and why it was important.

Grandma and my mother became good friends. In the spring, we would go with her to the woods to gather edible greens. She taught us to look around the edge of brush piles or along the south banks of a small creek, where wild onions, dock, dandelion, polk, and other greens would come up as soon as the snow had gone.

Our little community had two general stores, where we bought flour, a little sugar, coffee for my dad and tea for my mom. But like most country people in those depression years, my parents had very little money, and we lived mostly on what we raised.  By spring, dried beans, sprouting potatoes, corn bread and gravy were getting old, and my mother especially longed for something fresh and green.

Grandma also knew about herbs for healing. In fact my mother gave her credit for saving my life in the winter of 1935.  My parents had made a trip to California in the fall of 1934 seeking jobs and a better life. In the spring of 1935 I had a long bout with whooping cough, then measles, and finally pneumonia. Doctors in Porterville, CA, gave my parents little hope for my life. But my parents were praying people and attended a church where prayer was made. In God’s goodness, I survived.

They returned to Oklahoma in the early summer of 1935 and resumed share-cropping along with my dad’s church work.  My mother was extremely protective of me, but that winter, I again came down with pneumonia.  In spite of much prayer I continued to get worse. Finally my dad made a trip to the nearest town to get a doctor. The doctor noted my high fever and difficulty breathing and said there was nothing he could do. He told my parents that the fever would likely break that night, but in my weakened state he couldn’t offer much hope of recovery.  

After he left, Grandma Foster came to see what the doctor had said. My mother told her that he didn’t expect me to live. Grandma had brought with her some herbs and a bag of small onions. She asked my mother if she could treat me. Mama thought there was nothing to lose so she agreed.

The wood cook stove was hot; Grandma took an iron skillet and filled it with sliced onions. While the onions were heating, she made a tea with some kind of herb, and Mama held me up in bed to breathe the steam from the tea.  Then Grandma asked for a piece of wool cloth.  Mama got one, and Grandma poured the hot onions on the wool and wrapped them tightly, then wrapped the bundle in a feed-sack towel and placed on my chest. 

Grandma and Mama sat by the bed and waited. After some time I began to cough and struggle to breathe. Grandma told Mama to hold me up while she held a pan under my chin.  Mama said I began to spit yellow/greenish mucus into the pan.

Eventually I was breathing easier and soon broke into a sweat as the fever decreased. Grandma stayed the night and sat with my mother.  By morning my fever was lower, and I was on the slow road to recovery.

Later when I was about 5 years old, when my mother could get a day’s work doing washing for someone in winter (the old method – a big black washpot heated full of water and two tubs of water: one to wash the clothes with a rub-board, one to rinse them). Then she would pin them on the clothesline. When she helped with butchering, or other farm work, she sometimes left me with Grandma. If the weather was nice, Grandma took me for walks in the woods, and we gathered herbs.

On those walks, Grandma told me stories about her Indian heritage.  One of those stories was about her grandparents who had come to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears. They were young people, traveling with their families, but in love and planning to be married. The trip was a horrible journey through cold, wet weather. By the time the government-supplied food reached the travelers, it was often molded and wormy, and the young woman became ill.

The Indians traveled by horseback, walking, and horse-drawn carts. Each evening they made camp and built fires to prepare a meal. As the young woman became weaker, her lover grew increasingly concerned. Knowing that she needed nourishing food, he began to scout the farms they passed each day to buy eggs and milk for her.

They had in their camping supplies a small iron teakettle that would hang over the fire. It held 3 eggs to boil. The young man would boil the eggs and coax his beloved to eat at least one, keeping the other two for the morning and noon meal the next day. The eggs and milk, along with any other fresh food he could buy, enabled her to gain strength and survive the long trail. 

Grandma emphasized to me that the Indians paid for the food they got from the farms they passed. I didn’t understand the significance of that then, but later when I read about the Trail of Tears, I learned that some people said the Indians robbed their fields and barns for food.  Perhaps some did, but Grandma believed that her grandfather was a honorable man. Her grandparents had a great influence on her life.

Later when we moved away, Grandma gave me that little teakettle as a goodbye gift. It has moved with me through life and sits tonight on a book case.

Grandma died in 1942. As I grew up and thought of Grandma, I sometimes wondered why she told me, a 5- and 6-year-old-child, the stories about her grandparents.  But now that I am old, I find myself willing to tell children things I would not think of sharing with adults. I have decided that it is because the child is not judgmental.  When Jesus said, “Except you become as little children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” perhaps He was asking us to show more love and acceptance to our fellow travelers and less condemnation.

That’s how I remember Grandma Foster.

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Personal Notes:Sun earlier, but gray thunderheads have shut it out. Humidity is high and a t-storm is brewing. Same forecast for the next 5 days! I don’t like rainy days, but to look on the brighter side, the lawns are a lovely green and shrubs are flourishing. Since I can’t change the weather, all I can change is my attitude. The rainy weather activates more arthritis pain and stiffness, as I’m sure some of you deai with also. But God has given us these days to use for His glory! We can pray, encourage others, meditate on His creation, and how He provides for us and the birds! Thank you for your prayers, cards, e-mails… they are the bright spots in dark days. May the God of all peace be very near you!  jwb

Copyright 2013, Joyce Wells Booze

Oh, the Glory!

Sunday Chronicles. #250. 5/30/21

During this Memorial week I have thanked God for many things…among them the faith of my ancestors. Events in my Grandmother Wells’ life (nee Harriet Parlee Folks) when she was left a widow at age 36, with six children ranging in age from 14 to 2, remind me of stories from the ministry of Elijah (I Kings 17:16) and Elisha (2 Kings 4:1-7) when God supplied food in time of drought and for a widow’s need.

Grandmother was born in 1864, near the end of the Civil War. She was the third child of Elizabeth Jane Owens and Isaac Henry Folks, who were staunch believers of the Confederate cause. Her two older brothers were both named after famous Confederate leaders.

The Folks family came to northern Arkansas from Tennessee. They bought land and built a house. Although the Union had won the war, the feelings of Confederate supporters were still very strong. When Harriet married a Union man, James E. Wells, in 1883, her parents, especially her mother, were very displeased, and declared her unwelcome in their home.

The first 17 years of Harriet’s married life went well. James Wells was a businessman who ran freight wagons from Mountain View, Arkansas, to other towns. The family attended Methodist churches, and reports are that James gave the land for the First Methodist church in Mountain View. I have been unable to verify that, but I do know that my grandmother was a woman of faith. Without God’s help, she would not have been able to survive the hard life she had after she became a widow in 1900.

That year James Wells and another man had planted crops in “the bottoms,” an area of rich soil near Newark, AR. James took his family in two covered wagons to help with the work. When an outbreak of typhoid fever hit, James and family, some of them ill, started home. They camped at night in areas provided by small towns with wood and water for travelers.

James died at one of these campsites, and was buried in the local cemetery. Grandmother was extremely ill with typhoid and said her only memory was being raised up to see him in the coffin after he was ready for burial. The whole family had typhoid except Fred, who was 11 at the time. Lizzie (Elizabeth), 14; Herb, 13; Fred, 11; Katie, 8; Harold (my father) 5; Howard, 3; and Walter, 2 (from 1900 census). I don’t know who drove the wagons and got Harriet and the children home to their cabin.

At the cabin, Harriet, still very weak and grieving James’s death, assumed care of the sick children and prepared food for them. Some of the provisions James had left stored had been stolen. While the others recovered, Fred had to get wood for the fire and water from the well. He also did some hunting with bow and arrows and trapping for food. They couldn’t afford to buy shotgun shells.

My dad told me that Grandmother kept a small stone jar setting on the hearth by the fireplace that winter with a homemade sour dough mix in it. At night she stirred in a little flour or cornmeal (and another type of meal from some sort of tree nuts). Each day she made pancakes from the contents of the jar, thinking there wouldn’t be enough for another meal, but every morning there was enough for that day. They also had homemade “coffee” from another tree nut. A goat provided some milk. They lived on this for days, until Lizzie, seeing her mother was near exhaustion, went to her Folks grandparents and told them that if they didn’t help, Harriet was going to die and all the kids would be left on them. They grudgingly gave her a side of bacon from their smokehouse and a bag of home ground cornmeal.

When the Pentecostal message came to this area of Arkansas in 1912, Grandmother and most of her children accepted it. Grandmother died in June 1937. She was living with Uncle Howard at that time. She called to him in the night and told him she was sick. He got up immediately to help her, but didn’t light a lamp. (Their house had no electricity.) He was holding her in a sitting position in the bed when the room lit up with the brightest light he had ever seen. Grandmother was ushered into Glory! As long as he lived, Uncle Howard talked about the brightness of that light.

“Oh, the glory of His presence! Oh, the beauty of His face…” I’m waiting to go! Peace, jwb

Strange Opposites: Good Cheer During Tribulation?

Sunday Chronicles. #249. 5/23/21

A sunny, humid afternoon in Springfield, MO, with the return of t-storms predicted for later today. We’ve had more than our fair share of rain this week, the kind of weather that makes arthritis difficult to live with.

I have been meditating on some of Jesus’ last words to His disciples in John 16:33: “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer (KJV). Tribulation brings “good cheer”? I struggled with that concept. NIV uses “take heart” instead of “good cheer,“ and NAS has “take courage.” Apparently, there was no direct equivalent in English, and translators chose what they considered the best alternative.

Scholars debate what language John wrote in. Most choose Aramaic or Greek as the original language. Since John heard Jesus speak those words in Aramaic, I’m guessing as he wrote, he could hear them in his mind. It’s probable that the Greek versions of John’s Gospel came later.

Most of us have no trouble understanding “tribulation.” Anytime you follow Jesus you will meet some type of opposition. At that point, to keep your friendship with Jesus, you must choose between what you know to be right, and what’s being offered you. I left a job with a major religious evangelistic association because I refused to print a story that contained elements of untruth. The senior editor’s reason for wanting to go with the story: he had good pictures! But our small “tribulations” in no way compare with what many Christians in other nations endure. Some spend years in prison; others are put to death, sometimes in ways that look like “accidents.” Those suffering for their faith in Jesus should be included in our daily prayers.

While living in a small town in the 1960’s, a minister friend told us this story: He had promised one of his church members that he would be at the hospital, in a city about a hundred miles away, to pray with the man before he was taken into surgery. On the morning of the surgery, the minister’s alarm clock failed to go off, and he got up late. He dressed quickly and hurried out to his car to discover he had a flat tire. He put on the spare, and decided to take a short cut, trying to make up time. But that road had a bridge out, so he had to backtrack to the main highway. A few miles further, he was stopped for speeding. He told the officer the story of his delays and that he was on his way to the hospital to see a friend, omitting the fact that he was a minister. The officer looked at him kindly, and said, “I used to have days like that before I became a Christian.” Being a Christian does not deliver you from problems, but it does give you a Friend Who is always with you and Who helps you through them.

In John chapter 16, Jesus knows that His time in HIs earthly body will soon be over, and He is giving His disciples final instructions. He warns them about difficulties they will encounter, and concludes with the warning above, “In this world you will have trouble” or “tribulation.” But He didn’t stop there! The next phrase must be hard to translate into English because it varies in different versions. Take heart… take courage… be of good cheer (NIV, NAS, KJV).

The final clause gives the reason we are to take heart, take courage, and be of good cheer: JESUS has overcome the world on our behalf. So be of good cheer, fellow traveler! The days may be gloomy and the road you are on filled with potholes, but Jesus has promised to be with you, and to never leave you! Sometimes, to be of “good cheer” when I’m feeling down, I sing the chorus:

’Tis true, oh, yes, ’tis true,
God’s wonderful promise is true;
For I’ve trusted, and tested, and tried it,
And I know God’s promise is true. (Lelia N. Morris, 1899)

And I know God’s promise is true. My body continues to deteriorate, but God’s promise remains true! So join me in taking heart, being of good cheer, and taking courage. Jesus, our Savior, has overcome the world on our behalf!

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Personal Notes: It’s been a difficult week—dark, rainy days; loss of electricity for 6 hours one night; having to depend on others for help in the basics of life; fighting depression; but God’s promises are still true. Just when I think I can’t keep trying for another day, God sends encouragement, sometimes by His Spirit, or by a card or e-mail from a friend, and even by the birds that visit the patio… All remind me of His care! Thank you for your love and prayers. jwb

“God meant it for good…”

Sunday Chronicles # 248. 5/16/21

A humid, gray afternoon in Springfield, MO. We had some morning sun which was greatly appreciated since cloudy days and rain have been our weather for much of this week…with more forecast for next week. The grass and shrubs appreciate it more than we humans do!

In last week’s blog, I quoted from a report written by a woman who was a student at RIFT VALLEY ACADEMY the night the Mau Mau warriors intended to invade and kill everyone there. But God allowed the invaders to see angel warriors guarding the school, and they turned and fled. Students and school personnel did not know what caused the warriors to flee until later when some warriors told what they saw that night. She closed her report by saying many students who witnessed that miracle of protection returned to Africa as missionaries or entered some other type of full-time ministry. That made me think of Biblical characters who endured difficult circumstances that God sent their way to accomplish His plan for a greater good. Here are my thoughts about a few of them:

Joseph: Sold by his jealous brothers into Egyptian slavery when he was 17 years old, Joseph was bought by one of Pharaoh’s generals. After being falsely accused by his master’s wife, he was imprisoned for eight to ten years, in the prison where the king’s prisoners were kept. While there he interpreted the dreams of two of Pharaoh’s servants. One man‘s dream indicated that he would be returned to his position, and he promised to remember Joseph to Pharaoh.  However, for two years, he forgot his promise, while Joseph remained in prison.  Finally, Joseph’s release and promotion came. His time in prison honed his leadership skills and his reliance on God.   “God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:12)

Moses: Raised as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses had an education in leadership in the most advanced culture of the world at that time…..yet he would never have been able to lead the Israelites through the desert had he not spent 40 years herding sheep in the arid backcountry. He learned how to find water, pasture, food…how to keep a flock together….all things he needed to know for the 40 years of travel from Egypt to the Jordan River. “God meant it for good.”

David: David’s popularity caused King Saul to become jealous and seek to kill him. David and his followers stayed on the run or in hiding for 8 to 10 years. We wouldn’t have many of the Psalms that comfort and sustain us in trouble had David not had to endure hardship. “God meant it for good.”

Paul: After years of difficult and dangerous travel and supporting himself by tent-making, Paul had established churches in major cities of the Greek/Roman world. Then in his old age, he was confined to an underground cell in a Roman prison. His eyes were failing, but he wrote “letters,” sometimes with the help of younger friends, that became the foundational documents of the Christian church. Had he been free to continue his travels, we might not have the rich instructions that guide our church meetings. “God meant it for good.”

John: Known as “the Beloved,” he was probably the youngest of Jesus’ disciples. In his final years he was condemned to solitary confinement on the Isle of Patmos in the Aegean Sea.  There, he penned the Book of Revelation that gives us warning of the terrible end-times. He had leaned on Jesus’ breast at the last supper, and even in exile, he continued his worship and was “in the spirit on the Lord’s day.” His physical situation was difficult, but his spiritual life was flourishing! “God meant it for good.”

As the writer of Hebrews tells us:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God  (Heb. 12:1,2 NIV).

Jesus said, “In this world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!” When we face difficult circumstances, let us remember: God is bringing about something good!

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Instead of personal notes today: If you think of a Bible character who experienced difficult times for the greater good, add his or her name in your comment below.

Angels Among Us

Sunday Chronicles. #247. 5/09/21

To my knowledge, I’ve never seen an angel. However, some happenings in my life make me wonder if angels were protecting me. I’ve pondered the possibility of having entertained angels unaware (Heb.13:2) as the writer of Hebrews tells us. In the early 1960s my husband and I pastored a church on a busy state highway. One Saturday I was preparing teaching material for Sunday’s children’s church, with a little girl named Brenda helping me. Two men and a woman stopped and asked for food. My husband told me to make sandwiches for them. I had plenty of eggs given to us by church families, so I began to scramble eggs. As I worked, Brenda was putting butter on slices of bread; she could tell I was not happy with this interruption, and she whispered to me, “Why are we doing this?” I answered, “Because we may be entertaining angels unawares!” Brenda’s eyes got big and she whispered back: “Joyce, I didn’t even know angels wore underwear!” I had to make an attitude adjustment and do some explaining!

Angels appear dozens of times in both Old and New Testament events. My favorite in the Old Testament is 2 Kings 6:14-17. The Syrian army was seeking Elisha and had sent an army to surround the city of Dothan where he lived. Elisha’s servant saw the army and trembled in fear. Elisha responded: “They that be with us are greater than they that be with them.” Elisha prayed that God would allow his servant to see what he saw: a huge army of chariots and horses of fire protecting them. In the New Testament, angels delivered Peter from prison (Acts 12:5-11) when he was scheduled for execution by King Herod. Shackled between two soldiers, Peter was sleeping when an angel awoke him and led him out of the prison with locked doors automatically opening before them.

The appearance and help of angels is not limited to past times. God still sends angels to protect and rescue His people. In the early 1950s the Mau Mau Rebellion was raging in the nation of Kenya. Rumors circulated of a possible attack on Rift Valley Academy, a boarding school for missionary children. The 700-acre property also included a hospital, a school for African girls, a literature production facility, and a fire station. On March 26,1953, word reached school leaders that an attack was eminent. They decided not to tell the students, but some of the conversations were overheard by older students. Here’s a report from a student who was in school there at that time:

 “After supper, we went to our dorm that was located just below the old hospital. I couldn’t study and neither could anyone else. We decided to wear our jeans to bed, and we wrote letters to our parents and sewed them into our jeans in case our dead bodies were someday found. Perhaps we were being melodramatic. But many of us prayed and re-dedicated our lives to the Lord. We crawled into bed that night wondering if it would be our last night. Not everyone in the dorm knew what we older ones knew. Our group was seventh grade through twelfth. …My bed was next to the only window in the dorm, and I sat there and looked out. It must have been full moon because the whole area was bathed in bright moonlight. I imagined terrorists hiding in the deep shadows under the trees and bushes.

“I don’t know what time the alarm bell rang. The tall fire bell tower was put up ostensibly to warn of fires, but also to warn of attack. Its toll could be heard all over the 700-acre station. It was also the signal for each house or building to blow the automobile horn they had in their attics. Each one had a code so others would know which building it came from, the same code as the telephone party line. Each beep would be an all-clear signal, and we counted the beeps as we huddled under the window. The omission of a horn meant trouble at that spot, and on the second round the hospital did not give their signal. They had sighted the terrorists.

“As I looked out the window, I saw our brave KAR troops, about 20 all together, march up the hill toward the hospital. After a short while, we heard a number of rifle shots, then just quiet. Soon the troops marched back down the hill to their quarters. Later, they said they did not fire the shots we heard. The fire bell sounded an all clear. And that was it, until some weeks later when we heard the real story. A Mau Mau leader was captured and interrogated, and also asked about the purported attack. He told the following story: Indeed, a large number of Mau Mau had gathered in the forest intending to attack the mission at night and kill us all. They had taken a vile, satanic vow to do that.

“But when they came down to attack the hospital first, they found men standing all around the station perimeter. Thinking they were soldiers, they shot at these men, but they didn’t die even when it appeared they had been hit. They decided that the mission had stronger magic than the Mau Mau had, so they turned and ran. After this event, we were blessed with a full contingent of Lancashire Fusiliers, British soldiers of distinction, who camped in tents on the lower soccer field until some time after I graduated.

“I am sure it is not coincidence that so many of my age-mates returned to Africa as missionaries, or became preachers or some other fulltime work for the Lord. Knowing God’s miraculous protection had a deep impression on me in particular, and I believe that my prayers that night were a turning point in my life.” (Story from the writings of Joyce Baker Porte: See website at www.joycebakerporte.com )

ANGEL FACTS: Angels are created beings (Col. 1:16-17)— created before Adam and Eve. They were originally all holy angels who served the triune God, under the leadership of three leading angels: Gabriel, Michael, and Lucifer. When Lucifer led a rebellion against God, some angels joined him; they and Lucifer were cast out of heaven. Lucifer became the devil and the lesser angels became demons. The angels who remained true to God serve Him under the leadership of Michael and Gabriel as messengers, warriors against evil, and protectors of God’s people. They also carry those who die with faith in Jesus to the heavenly world. During the end times, the war between Satan and the good angels will intensify; some Bible teachers believe this began in the last century when books, movies, and other media began promoting “entertainment” centered around demonic activity.

Personal notes: A cloudy, blustery Sunday in Springfield, MO. Heavy rain and t-storms during the night. Grass is greener and growing rapidly. Birds are busy at the feeders. So far, no lizard sightings on the patio this week! Thanks for the cards, e-mails, visits – all the kind things you do for me. Medical tests this week showed an extreme shortage of vitamin D, so I’m now taking mega doses of that. Please continue prayers for knees and shoulders, as I pray for you. And remember, “They that are with us are greater than those against us” Peace, jwb

THREE GARDENS; THREE CHOICES

Sunday Chronicles. #246 5/02/21

Hello from Springfield, MO, on a cool, cloudy Sunday afternoon with t-storms predicted for later. Seeing the growing grass and plants has stirred the gardening instinct in me, and I hope next week will allow time and suitable weather for putting a few plants in my “grow” boxes. These thoughts led me to my topic for today. God’s efforts to offer salvation to sinners includes three gardens: Eden, a place of perfection; Gethsemane, a place of suffering; and Heaven, the garden of God, where a crystal river flows and waters the Tree of Life.

The first garden: Eden – God placed Adam and Eve there to care for the plants and enjoy the fruit. He came down in the cool of the day to walk and talk with them. Can you imagine what BLISS that was? Read Genesis, Chapter 2, and take a minute to picture yourself in that perfect world.

In Chapter 3, Satan appears in a beautiful form and convinces Eve that God didn’t really mean what He said. (A tactic he still uses today!) Surely, God would want her to have some of this special fruit! Eve ate of the forbidden fruit and gave some to Adam. Paradise ended; disobedience ruled. Sin had entered our world, and that garden was closed.

The second garden is Gethsemane, where, on the final night of His life on earth, God’s Son—the Lamb of God — prayed alone, in such emotional agony that He was sweating great drops of blood. He knew the kind of death He was facing, and He begged the Father that “if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will but as Thou wilt…not My will but thine be donel” This is a hard prayer to pray, yet all true prayer has to include our submission to the will of the Father. Jesus committed His will to God’s plan to offer salvation to the human race. (Read Mt. 26:36-46). 

Jesus’ submission to His Father’s plan placed Him on the center cross, between two thieves. One asked Jesus for pardon and received it with a promise of being in Paradise with Jesus that day; the other thief rejected Jesus, and lost his chance to be in the next garden. In one sense these three crosses represent the three gardens: 1. Man sinned (Eden) 2. Jesus paid the penalty for man’s sin (Gethsemane and Calvary). (3) The thief who repented received mercy and a promise of Paradise, the third garden.

 What is this third garden like? Here’s John’s description of it from Revelation 22:1-5:

 “Then the Angel showed me Water-of-Life River, crystal bright. It flowed from the Throne of God and the Lamb, right down the middle of the street. The Tree of Life was planted on each side of the River, producing twelve kinds of fruit, a ripe fruit each month. The leaves of the Tree are for healing the nations. Never again will anything be cursed. The Throne of God and of the Lamb is at the center. His servants will offer God service—worshiping, they’ll look on his face, their foreheads mirroring God. Never again will there be any night. No one will need lamplight or sunlight. The shining of God, the Master, is all the light anyone needs. And they will rule with him age after age after age. (The Message)

I want to go there, don’t you?

When we choose to accept Jesus’ forgiveness for unwise choices that separate us from Him, the Mercy Seat is available to us. In the Temple at Jerusalem, the Mercy Seat was curtained off and only a designated priest was allowed to enter that area once each year on the “Day of Atonement” to offer the blood of lambs for the sins of the people. Jesus died at the exact hour the lambs were being slain. At that hour, the curtain that separated the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place was torn in two from top to bottom (Mt. 27:51; see also Hebrews 9:1-5), indicating that the Mercy Seat was now open at all times and to anyone who needed to bow there.

What a gracious, loving Lord we have. He is even now preparing a place for us in that third garden where there is no night and the crystal waters flow constantly from the thrones of God and the Lamb Who died for our sins. As you garden, give Him praise for opening the third garden to us for our eternal home.

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Personal notes: It’s been a week of chaos for me; medical appointments were postponed because doctor was “out of the office,” my son’s planned visit was delayed; and I had increasing physical problems. Worst of all: THE LIZARDS ARE BACK! We are working hard to keep them outside. I hope they will feel the “Not welcome” vibes and move on. On the positive side, the birds continue to be a delight, and I enjoyed visits from minister friends who were in town for SOMO District Council. I was researching another topic for today’s blog, but the “Three Gardens” thoughts became so forceful that I understood they were for today. For those of us nearing the “EXIT” sign from this life, knowing God has a place ready for us brings peace. Because of a positive COVID test in staff, Maranatha Chapel was back on lockdown today; only Chaplin Orberg was allowed in the chapel…so he operated the audio equipment, led singing with the help of recorded music, prayed, and preached. The lockdown includes next Sunday also. Please remember all of us in your prayers…we are weary of isolation. Peace, jwb

Jesus: Every Sinner’s Friend

Sunday Chronicles. # 245. 4/25/21

Salutations from Springfield, MO, on a warm spring day. Trees wave their leaves under a baby-blue sky in appreciation for comforting breezes. Here’s hoping that winter has now gone south!

At a time when our nation is torn by numerous problems, I have been thinking about how Jesus was all-inclusive. He never turned anyone away who came to Him with a need; in fact, he grieved over those who couldn’t give up this world’s attractions for eternal values (see Luke 18:18-24).

Beginning early in His ministry, Jesus was harassed by the Jewish Scribes and Pharisees. One major criticism was that Jesus ate with “publicans and sinners.” Let’s meet a few of these “publicans and sinners”:

1. Zacchaeus: in the opinion of the religious Jews, Zacchaeus was a major sinner because he had sold out to the Romans and collected taxes for them. The day Jesus called him down out of a tree and went to his house to eat, onlookers grumbled that Jesus was going to eat with a sinner. However, they didn’t know the rest of the story: on the way to his house, Zacchaeus told Jesus that he would give half of his possessions to the poor and if he had defrauded anyone, he would give back four times as much. Jesus replied, “Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 10: 1-10).

2. While Jesus was teaching in the temple courtyard, a group of men brought a woman through the crowd and pushed her out in front of Jesus. They claimed they had caught her in the act of adultery. They quoted the Old Testament law that those guilty of adultery should be stoned to death. (The Law applied both to men and women, so where was the man in this case?) These “religious” people asked Jesus what He thought should be done to her. Jesus didn’t answer, but stooped down and wrote on the ground. When the accusers continued asking Him for a verdict, He told them, “Let he that is without sin cast the first stone.” Again he stooped down and continued writing on the ground. The accusers left, one by one, beginning with oldest. When Jesus raised up again, He spoke to the woman: “Where are your accusers? Has no one condemned thee?” She answered, “No man, Lord.” She must have been fearful that Jesus would condemn her, but His answer was kind and tender: “Neither do I condemn thee. Go, and sin no more” (John 8:1-11).

3. Jesus also reached out to non-Jews. Matthew and Luke both record an incident of Jesus healing the servant of a Roman army officer. Since the Romans were their rulers, many Jews despised them, but this officer believed that Jesus could “speak the word” and his servant would be healed. Amazed at his faith, Jesus said: “I have not found such great faith in Israel” and the servant was healed (Matthew 8:5-10; Luke 7:6-10).

4. John records Jesus’ interaction with a Samaritan woman who came to the village well to draw water while Jesus was resting there. Jews and Samaritans had a long-standing dislike for each other, but Jesus spoke to the woman. After some discussion of the differences in their holy places, the woman said, “I know that Messiah is coming and He will tell us all things.” Jesus responded with a surprising revelation: “I who speak to you am He.” This Samaritan woman, who had had five husbands and was currently living with a man not her husband, was the first person to whom Jesus revealed His true identify! (see John 4:4-30)

5. Jesus also had friends among highly respected Jewish families, such as Lazarus, Mary, and Martha of Bethany. Another was Nicodemus, a Pharisee and teacher of the Jewish laws, who first came to Jesus by night (John 3:1-21). He appears briefly in John 7:45-53 where he makes a plea on behalf of Jesus for the law to be applied fairly but is mocked by the Pharisees. He is not seen again until the day of Jesus’ crucifixion when he and Joseph of Arimathea, another high-class secret disciple, get permission from Pilate to prepare Jesus’ body for burial.

6. In the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day women were considered second-class citizens, but Jesus interacted freely with those who came to Him with needs. Examples are (1) a woman suffering with a hemorrhage issue for 12 years, and thereby considered unclean. Mark 5:25-34 recounts her healing. (2) Early in His ministry, Jesus was speaking in a synagogue on the Sabbath. A woman there suffered from her body being bowed down. Jesus called her to Him and set her free. She stood up straight and glorified God (Luke 13:10-17).

7. Jesus’ ministry also included people in non-Jewish areas. (1) He delivered a demon-possessed man who lived unclothed among the tombs in the Gentile province of Gerasa. (2) On a visit to Tyre and Sidon, a woman identified in Mark’s gospel as a Greek-speaking Syrophenician came to Jesus seeking help for her daughter. After her expression of faith, Jesus answered her request by saying “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt” and her daughter was healed that same hour” (see Matthew 15:21-28).

Jesus came as a Redeemer for all sinners. His father, God, “so loved the WORLD that He SENT His son…”(John 3:16). Of the world’s major religions, Jesus-followers are the only group who have a God who loves them! Our assignment is to be all inclusive in sharing that love.

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No personal notes this week.

Keeping Up the Morale

Sunday Chronicles #244. 4/18/2021

When our son Jon was in Junior High, he tried out for the basketball team. I knew next to nothing about basketball (I’m a sandlot softball girl) but Nelson understood the game and the terms used. We went to the games, which at first consisted mostly of a few minutes of play and a lot of whistle blowing by the referee. I often had to ask Nelson why the referee had stopped the game again. Once when a foul was called on Jon, I asked Nelson what was wrong. He said, “Jon was walking with the ball.” I said, “He was not!  He was running with it!” It seems he should also have been dribbling the ball….

When the final team was chosen, every other guy on the team was a much better player than Jon! Jon worked hard, but he didn’t have the “moves” the other guys did. One day after a game while I was waiting for Jon to come out, the coach was standing near me. We chatted a bit, and I told him I could see that the other guys were better players than Jon and I wondered why he kept Jon on the team. He looked me up and down, and said, “Because he’s so good for morale!  He keeps the other guys encouraged and settles little squabbles among them.” 

Years later when Jon learned about this chat, he got a good laugh. He thinks I might be the only mother who ever asked why her son was “on the team” instead of “not on the team”!

In high school Jon determined he was never going to make it to the NBA and decided to give up basketball to focus on academics. However, his junior year at college was spent at Cambridge, England. He tried out for the basketball team there and made it! He was thrilled at first, but soon learned that basketball in England is not the major sport it is in America. When the team traveled to other colleges for games, Jon and one other player were the only team members who did not drink. They sometimes had to act as caretakers to drunken members and get them to the hotel. At the end of the season the team had T-shirts made with all their names on the back. Arranged alphabetically, Jon’s name was first: it reads, Jon “I don’t drink” Booze. Perhaps he also was a morale builder on that team.

The dictionary defines morale as “the mental and emotional condition (as of enthusiasm, confidence, or loyalty) of an individual or group with regard to function or task at hand.” We have come through a difficult year, deprived of being able to get together for worship, fellowship, and sharing. In spite of our efforts to keep our faith high, at times morale sank to a new low. God has not changed; He is still all He said He’d be, but our circumstances have been turned upside down. We need to be especially loving and tender with each other while we adjust to the “new normal.” Gal. 5:22-23 gives us the pattern to be morale builders: “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law…..let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another”  (Gal. 5:22-23, 26, NAS)

People expect pastors, teachers, musicians, technicians, ushers, and children’s workers in the church to “do their jobs,” and so they should. But there are also unseen jobs: who cleans the bathrooms and empties the trash cans? Who buys paper towels and cleaning supplies and sees that they are placed where they are needed? This list could go on, but I’m sure you understand my point. To be a morale builder, give encouragement to people who are faithful in small jobs, but who get little or no recognition for their work. But don’t overlook those who fill the “big” jobs. They, too, are human and a sincere compliment is always appreciated. In my experience, I’ve never regretted saying kind words, but I have regretted not saying them more often. This week, let’s all be “morale  builders.”  

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Personal Notes: It’s spring in Springfield, MO! The Bradford pear trees have shed their blooms like snow coming down! Now they have a full topping of green leaves. Today, a weak morning sun is giving away to rain clouds on the horizon. The birds seem to be observing a Sabbath; very few have come to the feeders today. The Village is quiet, almost no traffic…a rest from the daily hustle and bustle!

Keep me in your prayers as I do you. Thanks for the many kind words you readers send me. They keep my morale from hitting bottom. Peace, jwb