The Good Shepherd, and Those Pesky Nose Flies

Sunday Chronicles. #131, Feb. 17, 2019

Greetings from Springfield, MO where cloudy skies, temps only slightly above freezing, and a frosting of ice remains on the grass and other untreated surfaces. Unable to get out, I listened to Maranatha chapel service on TV, but an echo in the PA system, apparently from a mike left open in the back, made it hard to understand. However, it was good to sing and pray along with those in the service.

My week could be described as an on-going struggle to stop, or at least slow, my continuing loss of mobility. Being alone most of the time, I often call out to Jesus for help. Early in the week, I read in a devotional book an incident where an English actor/writer was giving readings from his and other prominent works. He asked the audience for requests and an older minister suggested the actor do Psalm 23. The actor agreed and recited the Psalm with perfect intonation and phrasing. When he concluded, applause rang out from the audience. He then asked the minister to repeat the Psalm. Slowly, with love in his voice for the Shepherd, the minister said the sacred words. When he finished, there was not applause but tears, as the words of the Good Shepherd settled into hearts. The actor reached out to hug the minister and said to the audience, “I know the Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd.”

That story brought me back to a book I have read and reread several times: “ A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” by Phillip Keller, a man who spent much of his early life tending sheep. Until I read his book, I had always assumed that the phrase in v. 5, “You anoint my head with oil” was referring to the anointing of kings and prophets for their leadership roles; that is one possible interpretation, but Keller gives an entirely different view. He tells about when warm weather comes and shepherds move their herds up into mountain pastures for summer grazing how various kinds of flies annoy the sheep. One of the most deadly is the nose or nasal flies who attempt to deposit their eggs in the warm mucus membranes of the sheep’s nose. These eggs hatch into worm-like larvae which work their way up the nasal passage into the sheep’s head. Their burrow into the flesh and set up intense irritation and severe inflammation. Trying to fight off this annoyance, the sheep will beat their heads against trees, rocks or brush. In some  cases they may even kill themselves trying to get rid of the aggravation. Those who do live may become blind. (There’s a sermon there, but no space for it today.) Here’s where the shepherd comes in.  As soon as the nose flies arrive, he immediately treats his sheep with a mixture of oil, sulphur, and tar. He anoints each sheep’s head and nose with a liberal dose and continues to repeat this as long as needed.

How does this apply to me? or you? I don’t know what your pesky nose flies are, but I know several that bother me: What if the arthritis gets worse and I cannot bath or dress myself? Or if my savings run out and I can’t pay for additional care? Or if the therapy I’m doing doesn’t take the fluid off my heart and lungs? Or if I should fall and break bones that leave me bedfast? All of these scenarios steal into my mind and annoy me, partly because they happen to people living here every day. Like the sheep, I’m beating my head against stones. I know it’s useless to entertain these thoughts, so I began to praise and pray. That brings the Good Shepherd to anoint me with the oil of the Holy Spirit, and I can again praise the God of my salvation who has promised to never leave me nor forsake me. If nose flies of any description are buzzing about your head, let the Good Shepherd apply His anointing oil. He’ll give you repeated applications as long as you need them! It’s important to know and repeat the Psalm but knowing the Shepherd calms the troubled heart.

Thanks to so many of you for sharing love in various ways during this Valentine season. I’m behind on writing thank-you notes and letters. The physical therapy is both tiring and time consuming. Special thanks to all who gave to upgrade the media lab computers at Evangel. We are nearing the goal. I believe God is pleased by our efforts. Please continue to pray that I will overcome the noisy nose flies and will trust the Good Shepherd until I reach the point where I  “will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!”

May His unfailing love and mercy enrich your lives each day…Peace, jwb


The Dandelion Gospel

The Dandelion Gospel 

(A Gospel for Hard Places)

Texts: (Mt. 6:28-34; Lu. 12;27-31)

(Admitted, these text don’t mention “dandelions” per se, but they  do say “lilies of the field” (“wildflowers” MSG) so I think dandelions can fit in that category.)

Before I get to the dandelions, let me say that we had a light coat of freezing drizzle this morning and chapel here at Maranatha was dismissed as were many other Springfield churches. It’s cloudy and cold with a sharp wind.  According to forecast, we likely won’t see the sun until Tuesday.

My understanding of the “Dandelion Gospel” came about in this way:  I’m fighting a hard battle to keep fluid from accumulating in my body. Part of the battle includes different types of physical therapy. One part is to walk with my walker a few hundred steps two or three times each day. I prefer to walk outside if possible. One day last week when we had sun, I was doing my walking on the sidewalk in front of my apartment. Looking down, I saw a splotch of yellow near the edge of the sidewalk. At first I thought someone had dropped a small piece of yellow paper, but on closer examination, I identified a fresh dandelion bloom! Snow and ice had recently covered all that area, and I wondered how the dandelion could bloom almost before the snow melted. Looking closely, I decided its roots were under the concrete sidewalk, but the plant had extended its head out and bloomed!

Using my walker is hard, and I had been feeling sorry for myself, struggling to put one foot in front of the other. As I looked at that bright little flower, it seemed that God spoke in my heart: “Yes, you are going through a hard time, but don’t let it destroy your faith. Keep your head up and bloom!”

Many people consider dandelions a nuisance and work to eradicate them from their lawn. I thought of my first acquaintance with dandelions. My dad was pastoring a church in Nuyaka, a very small country town in Oklahoma. The church people were mostly subsistence farmers who depended on what they could raise in their gardens for food. In winter cows supplied milk and butter, and chickens, eggs; but dry beans, corn bread, and potatoes that hadn’t rotted made up a major part of what people had to eat. The church people shared with us, but as one minister said “Ten percent of nothing is still nothing.” Sunday offerings were usually a few pennies and nickels, maybe a dime or a quarter. My parents took any side jobs they could get (often paid in kind instead of cash) but biscuits or cornbread and gravy were often the evening meal.

My mother loved fresh vegetables, and she hungered for greens. An Indian woman, Grandma Foster, who attended the church, lived alone about a mile from us. Her small home sat along a creek. When my mother could get a day’s work doing a washing (outside on a rub board) for someone, she would sometimes leave me with Grandma (no kin) so I could be kept warm and fed. Grandma knew a lot about herbs, plants that grew wild, and how to use them for medicines and food. As early as February on days that were sunny and not too cold, she would take me for a walk along the creek, and we would gather dandelion greens and wild onions from under brush piles. Mama was always so glad to have something fresh. Dad called them weeds, and he wouldn’t eat them, but Mama enjoyed them.

As I looked at that brave dandelion bloom, the Scriptures I’ve listed above came to mind. Jesus said that Solomon in all his glory was never as beautiful as the wild flowers. Jesus was telling His disciples that if He gave such attention to wildflowers, many of which would never be seen by anyone, they need not doubt that He would also take care of them. Mt. 6:34, the closing verse of this section says, ”Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things that come up when the time comes. “(MSG

That’s the message of the dandelion flower blooming in a hard place. Jesus knows  about hard things: think about His temptation by the devil, His rejection by the Jewish religious leaders, Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, His crucifixion—but these hard places led to the glory of Resurrection morning! Each of us passes through hard places when it seems that concrete has formed over us and we can’t break through. But Jesus says He knows and cares and that glory is waiting! So stick your head out and bloom where you are now! That’s the lesson of the Dandelion Gospel.  Peace, jwb

Shadow and Sunshine: Fear and Love

Sunday Chronicles #129, Feb. 3, 2019


Shadow and Sunshine: Fear and Love

Warm temps in Springfield, MO today, with the sun fighting to break through gray clouds that are skidding across the sky. The sun peeks out, then the clouds rush to hide it. I’m not sure which will win. Their battle reminds me of the ups and downs I’ve passed through this week. When I think I’ve figured out a solution to a problem and clouds sail in to make me think again, it’s hard to accept the clouds!

As my physical limitations increase, I look for ways to continue to live alone. Recently when medical personnel recommend raising my feet higher than my heart for several hours each day, I started considering a power lift chair/recliner. Several older friends have found them helpful, so why not me? Son Jon came down last Thursday. We looked on-line comparing prices, warranties, etc., then went out Friday expecting to buy. After trying a chair of that type, much to my disappointment, we found it didn’t work for me, so I am now exploring other possibilities. Perhaps, to quote Chaplain Paddock, “God has a better plan.” Pray with me that I will be open to see and accept God’s plan.

My Bible reading this week has been in Deuteronomy (especially chapters 6-12). Moses is reminding the people of Israel of all that God has done for them: bringing them out of slavery, covering them with a cloud to give them shade by day and light by night, supplying water from a rock in the desert, sending quails when they longed for meat; how, in spite of their complaining and rebellion, God cared for them through all their journey to the Promised Land. Now they were about to cross Jordan, and they were afraid of what their future there might hold.

As I read, God reminded me of the times in my life when He performed miracles beginning with my healing at age18 months when doctors didn’t expect me to live through the night; my struggle for an education and His provision through 5 colleges; allowing me the privilege of teaching/mentoring young people in high schools and colleges where Nelson’s pastoral ministry took us, and opening doors for me to work in editorial positions that a woman had never held.  And now in my 85th year, giving me opportunity to share His blessings with others through technology. After all His care through the years, should I now live in fear of the future? Can I doubt that He will see me safely across my Jordan?

No doubt you, too, face fears and problems you don’t see a solution for. In my early years I was afraid of God. Many preachers made Him out to be a terrible judge, just waiting to zap me if I made a mistake. Altar calls were often preceded by messages about “Would you be ready if Jesus came tonight?” I suppose some of the “saints” could answer yes, but not being a saint, I lived in fear that Jesus wouldn’t take me to heaven if He came. Slowly, I came to understand that God is love; deeper, sweeter love, more forgiving than we can grasp or understand. Think of the parable of the Prodigal Son: he had committed a laundry list of sins; yet the Father (representing God) looked and longed for his return. When he came, there was no shaming or judging–only love, restoration, and celebration. ( Lu. 15:11-24)

February is heart health month and also Valentine’s Day, a time to express your love to those most important to you. Added to that, celebrate the Father’s love by reaching out to someone who may feel unloved or unworthy of love. It will increase your heart health and help bring a fellow traveler into the arms of a loving Heavenly Father. My continuing appreciation for all the kindnesses shown to me. My prayer is that God will bless you abundantly as He wraps you in His love. Thanks, too, for your comments on FB and WordPress. They help me know if there’s an audience.  Peace, jwb

P.S. I took a break and walked outside with my walker (part of my daily physical therapy). In the grass along the edge of the walk I saw tiny purple blooms…the Sweet Williams say Spring is coming! God is keeping His promise. See Genesis 8:22.

A Cure for Fretting

Sunday Chronicles. #128, January 27, 2019


Greetings from Springfield, MO! How wonderful to have sunshine so bright that it is almost blinding! Projected temps will reach into the 40s before we began another plunge to low teens with sub-zero wind chills. So far, 2019 weather here has been a roller-coaster ride!

Unable to get to chapel, I was ready to participate via TV….the pictures came on but no sound. I called the nurses’ station (one of the few phones in the administrative section that is answered on Sundays) and requested that chapel personnel be notified to turn on the sound. Words to the songs were put up on the screen and I could see that but after singing was finished, the screen was removed and silence continued. I was extremely disappointed. Missing church services is a downer for me. Yes, I know TV offers a smorgasbord of ministers on Sundays, but they don’t satisfy my desire to be in “my” church.

So on this beautiful day, here I am fretting about life’s little inconveniences! Another fret is the confusion in the mail service here. If you wrote to me or sent a card during Christmas and didn’t get a reply, let me know. Often mail addressed to someone else is put in my box, and my mail goes wondering around. Last week a friend brought me a handful of mail from the duplex which I left in August. Some was junk, but some was important tax info and Christmas mail. I’ve notified senders, the post office, friends, etc…of my change of address. No problem with catalogs, advertisements, appeals for money – they made the change immediately and upped their blitz!

On my annual trek through the Bible I’m reading in Numbers now. As I’ve gone through Exodus and Leviticus, I have been awed at how often God came down in a cloud of glory to speak personally with Moses. What an experience that must have been! Even the fretting Israelites were shocked into silence for a short period when God made an appearance. However, in a few days they began complaining again. Such seems to be the human condition. No matter how attentive God is to us, we lapse into blaming Him for our fretting, most of which comes from our lack of trust in HIm.

A devotionaI I read this week refers to Isa.49:14-16, where the remnant of Israel feels that God doesn’t even know they exist! (Admit it: you’ve felt that way at times, and so have I!) But God speaks to reassure them. First, He says that a mother cannot forget her nursing child, but even if she did, He won’t forget Israel. Then He makes what seems to be a clinching statement: “Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands.” (NIV has “palms” where MSG has “backs.”) I can’t imagine how big God’s hands must be to hold all our names, but Isa. 40:12 tells us that in creation God measured the waters of the oceans in His hands, so I’d say they are quite large! Isaiah further says God measured the sky between His thumb and little finger (MSG) and our best telescopes cannot see to the end of the heavens! I think we are safe to believe that His hands are big enough to hold not only all our names, but all of us as well.

Let us go to God this week, believing that He knows our names and our needs, whether they be physical, spiritual, emotional, financial, or any other: Isa. 40:13, “He tends His flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in HIs arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.” I believe He will also carry those of us who can no longer care for ourselves but must depend on helpers. May He lead us “beside the still waters and restore our souls” as we wait to join Him and our loved ones in Heaven.

I promised to let you know the response to the need for funds to update the media lab computers at Evangel. More than half of the needed amount has come in. Thank you for your giving and your prayers as Evangel seeks to give students the best preparation possible for their future. Thanks, too, for your continuing investment in me by your cards, e-mails, comments on FB, visits, help with shopping, buying stamps,. bringing McD treats, all the kind things you do to make my life easier. God bless us everyone!…Peace, jwb


Writing/Editing on a Foundation of Truth

Sunday Chronicles. # 127, Jan. 20, 2019

Writing/Editing on a Foundation of Truth

After a week of dreary days, we have sunshine reflecting off light snow. It’s so bright I’ve lowered the blinds to stop the glare. Chapel service was cancelled this morning because of the extreme cold and ice on driveways and parking lots.

Yesterday a young friend who is enjoying a successful career sent an e-mail telling about some of her opportunities. She closed by asking me, “Did you have a favorite job early on that you loved?” It doesn’t take much to start me down memory lane, and I wrote her about my first job in writing/editing. After two years of junior college at SAGC in Waxahachie, TX, I was hired by the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association (OREA) in May 1955, as a proof reader and copy editor for their print publications. At first, I shared an office with a woman who was an experienced writer and my immediate supervisor. I learned much from her, and soon I was promoted to preparing testimonies of those who had been healed in one of Oral’s meetings. Those stories impacted my life and do so even to this day. Here’s a condensed version of one:

Sandy Jenkins, a young man who lived on an island off the coast of Canada, was dying of tuberculosis. Medical help had been exhausted. His family was not especially religious, but in their village someone was receiving copies of the OREA magazine ABUNDANT LIFE. Believers began visiting the young man and sharing stories of healing from the magazine. Faith grew in his heart, and he felt that if he could get to an OREA meeting he would be healed. A crusade was scheduled in North Carolina, and Sandy decided to go.

He and his father left home in a dog sled, the only means of travel to get them to the nearest train station. The train took them to the island’s only airport. En-route the young man suffered a hemorrhage. He was so weak he had to have help to stand. His father, believing the journey would kill his son, tried to persuade him to give up and go back home. But Sandy’s faith held strong, and they continued. At the crusade he was wonderfully healed! Back home, he regained his strength, attended Bible school, and became a pastor in Canada.

At the time I wrote this story, I was enrolled in a 2-year writing course at University of Tulsa night school, the youngest person in a class of non-believers. (I learned this from the stories they read aloud; several were trying to break into print by writing true confession stories which were so graphic that I went out at break to throw-up!) Each student had to turn in 30 pages per month of original writing. I turned in the Sandy Jenkins story to count toward my required pages, but with a note to the teacher saying that I preferred not to read the story to the class as I knew some students would be offended.

At the next session, our teacher read my note to the class, told them we were all adults, and she insisted that I read the story. I was so nervous my knees shook. I held to the podium to stand up, but as I read, the Holy Spirit took over and made me strong! My fear was gone! When I finished reading, I was hit by a barrage of questions. I had no trouble answering, because I had done the intense vetting process required for all testimonies published by OREA. A few students sneered a bit, but most were sincerely interested. For the next few years if I met any of those students anywhere their first question was about Sandy Jenkins: Was he still healed?  I was happy to tell them, “Yes! He’s pastoring churches in Canada.”

This writing class was my first experience in secular higher education. From this incident, I learned never to be afraid or ashamed to share the truth. Through the years, the Holy Spirit helped me “speak the truth in love” to various atheistic instructors and students. In my writing I still seek to speak the truth, because truth is the foundation for knowing God.

My health continues to decline, and I have both dental and mobility issues to deal with soon. Please pray for wisdom in decision making. Health care professionals are insisting that I need a recliner/lift chair to sit with my feet higher than my heart. We may shop for that this next week. Any advice from experience in this area would be appreciated.

Your prayers and encouragement are very important. Thank you! Peace, jwb

The Case for Praise

Sunday Chronicles  #126, Jan. 13, 201



Dear Readers,

I trust you are safe and warm, wherever you are reading this. In Springfield, MO the thermometer is hovering just above freezing. Dull grey skies look as if they could dump more precipitation on us at any time. The major snow storm moving across the US from West to East passed north of us, but the cold air following it has camped here! The windows on this apartment apparently were never sealed, and cold air breezes in around the glass. I’m typing with stiff fingers and a warm scarf over my left ear that hurts when it’s cold. If the auto-correct takes over, you may get a comedy!

This week brought several changes to my schedule: more time-consuming physical therapy to do daily, more adjustments to deal with my increasing handicaps, more giving up of things I’d like to keep. It’s been a time of soul searching and talking with God, part of which was brought about by my being asked to answer the question, “Have you ever doubted your faith?” I think that most people have at some time (and usually more than once) had to examine what they believe about God and determine if their faith is holding steady.

Here’s part of my answer:

Two Bible characters represent two types of faith to me:  Abraham and Job. They lived close together in time if not in space. Abraham seems to have had a strong faith that he never questioned or doubted, even when God asked him to give his son Isaac as a sacrifice. But Job wanted a hearing with God to give him answers to what seemed to him unfair treatment. I’m more the Job type; I have argued with God when He placed hard things in my life, but I have come to understand that God’s wisdom far exceeds mine. True faith must be based on the foundation of submission to God’s will, as the Lord’s Prayer states: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Even Jesus in His hour of trial pleaded with the Father that if possible to spare Him, but He followed His pleas with “Thy will be done.”  (Lu.22:39-42)

During life’s “dark winters of discontent” we may question our faith; but two truths hold us steady:  (1) God always works for our good, even when we don’t see or understand why unpleasant things happen to us or others: (2) When the “dark winter” passes  and we began to catch a glimpse of what God is doing through and in us, we will be stronger, and can express with Job:  “I know that my Redeemer lives!” (Job 19:25).

In times of testing and discouragement, we can recover our spiritual strength by practicing two disciplines: (1) Praise God even if you don’t feel like it. Remember that one of the first lines in the Lord’s Prayer is “Hallowed be thy Name.” Recognize that God is worthy of our respect and veneration. Especially if you are struggling with depression or a lingering illness, immerse yourself in praise; sing praise songs, play praise music. (2) Focus on who God is.  In Ex. 3:14, God tells Moses His name is “I AM.” Jesus repeats that name and applies it to Himself in His talk with the Samaritan woman (Jn. 4:26.) In English grammar, “I AM” represents first person singular and present tense. That tells us that God is the person speaking (first person singular) and the tense (time) is the present. In everyday lingo that means God is with us wherever we are and He’s there in the present time. What do we have to worry about if the “I AM” God is with us?

I joined Maranatha Chapel service via TV today. Chaplain Paddock spoke from Ps. 138 encouraging us to praise. His sermon reminded me of the powerful benefits I and others have experienced from praise. Apparently, heaven is filled with praise. Perhaps praise is the master key that brings a bit of heaven to us on earth. Read Ps. 138 (or one of your choice) and join David in his outpouring of praise.

My continuing appreciation for your prayers, the cards you send, comments on FB or WordPress, e-mails, visits, and love that you show. As my physical struggles grow more intense, knowing that you care and pray for me helps me face hard days with praise to God and thanksgiving for all of you! Peace, jwb

A Child’s Prayer

Sunday Chronicles #125, Jan 6, 2019

A Child’s Prayer

Greetings from Springfield, MO on what I call a “life” weather day: The sun comes out beautifully for awhile, then a big thunderhead rolls over it, and we have a semi-dark period. That’s life, isn’t it? Good days when all things go well, and then dreary days when we praise God that He is still with us even if we don’t see Him.

I want to share part of a Christmas story with you. I see no point in confining Christmas stories to one week each year! After all, Jesus being born into our world, taking human form, was the greatest God-ordained event since creation. The story, written by John Russell Coryell and first published in 1885,  focuses on a family with six children who lived in a lighthouse, build on a huge rock formation, about 10 miles off-shore in northern seas. The father, the lighthouse keeper, had planned to go to the mainland to buy special foods and gifts for Christmas, but a bank failure wiped out his money. He called the children together and explained that there would be no gifts and no Christmas goose to bake as they had enjoyed in the past. The children seemed to accept the “no gifts” but the older ones felt that a goose must be obtained. They could never remember a Christmas without a baked goose!

The children held a meeting and decided that they would give up their collected treasures for their dad to sell to a mainland merchant who served tourists and collectors. They had shark’s teeth, sea moss, a whale’s tooth, and even a new toy sailboat that Tom, the oldest child, had made. Baby Deb, the youngest, had nothing to donate except a very tattered rag doll. In fact, she didn’t really understand what was going on, except that a Christmas goose seemed very important to her brothers and sisters.

The children’s mother has been teaching Baby Deb to pray. She had told her that prayers should be quietly and secretly made (see Mt. 6:6). Baby Deb decided that if a goose was necessary, it was an appropriate matter for prayer. She found a tiny crevice in the rocks near the door where she went to pray. The day the father and Tom intended to go to the mainland to sell the children’s treasures and buy the goose, a horrific storm blew in. It was much too dangerous to get out on the water in a boat. The children stood at the windows, watching the waves blow over the rocks and ice form. By Christmas Eve they had given up hope of having a Christmas goose….all except Baby Deb. At low tide that evening, she crept out to her prayer rock, hid in the crevice and prayed for a goose. Suddenly there was a loud thump near her. Reaching out her hand she felt the soft feathers and warm body of a goose. Excited, she struggled to get it in the door, shouting, “It’s tummed! It’s tummed.” (Baby Deb could not pronounce certain sounds clearly.) When things quieted down, the father asked her where she got the goose. She replied, “I p’ayed Dod for it!” “Paid Dodd?” her father asked. “’Es,” said Baby Deb, “Dod–ze dood Lord. I pa’yed to Him and He sended it to me, dess now.” Father examined the goose. It had a broken neck. He surmised that blinded by the lighthouse light, the goose had flown into the glass. It was dressed and cooked for Christmas day and after tasting it, Baby Deb announced, “Dod’s doose is dood!” And so are all God’s gifts!  Including child-like faith (See Matt. 18:1-3).

I watched Maranatha Chapel today via TV. Chaplain spoke on prayer from Ps. 143. David is beseeching God for mercy, setting an example of coming to God with a humble heart. Effective prayer flows from our heart to God’s heart. We turn over to Him things we can’t control. If you are a regular reader, you know that I have been praying for funds to be donated to Evangel to update the computers used by the media students. Classes start this week, and the need is pressing. Will you join me in prayer that God will provide in whatever way He chooses to meet this need?  If you want to give online, go to the “Donate Now – Evangel University” page, select “other” and in the designated area fill in “Media Publications Lab.” If you have questions, call or e-mail me. I will not mention this again other than to report what God does! Through the years I’ve invested time, love, prayers, and sometimes money in young people; I’ve never regretted any of it. They continue to enrich my life and build God’s Kingdom.

Your prayers and expressions of sympathy on the unexpected death of my nephew have helped ease the pain. His burial was Wednesday, Jan. 2. The reality that he is gone has hit hard this week, especially for his mother my sister Lucille, and his wife Dianna. My prayer for you as we move into 2019 is that God will supply all your needs – emotional, physical, financial, spiritual –“According to His riches in Glory” – and that you will experience the joy of blessing others! Peace, jwb