Who Are You?

God does not create anyone to be villains in this story of life.

He creates each one of us to be good. He sends each of us to this specific time and place with certain gifts and a special mission.

Paul says it well when he says,

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Ephesians 2:10

Luke says,

“The God Who made the world and everything in it is The Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.

And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.

From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”

Acts 17:24-26

He gave each one of us special gifts.

Paul says,

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.”

1 Corinthians 12:4-6

God will never take back His Gifts. No one can take them. If you do not recognize your gifts, He will keep calling you until you answer.

Paul says,

“For God’s gifts and His Call can never be withdrawn.”

Romans 11:29

So since that is all true, why is the world in such a mess? Why is not everyone busily working to use their God given gifts and fulfill their mission to earth?

Satan cannot take your gifts. He cannot change your mission. But he can deceive and distract you. He can disguise himself pretty well. If you are not careful, you will end up working to fulfill his mission instead of your real God given mission.

Paul says,

“Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”

2 Corinthians 11:14

If we are not on guard, he can trick us into believing lies about ourselves and others.

Jesus said,

“He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

John 8:44

Peter says,

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

1 Peter 5:8

God is our Creator, Who created us for good and not evil. He does not want to devour anyone. God is love.

Take a few minutes right now and ask God to reveal to you who He created you to be.

And when you look at everyone else, remember God created them to do good works too. Call out the best in everyone you meet.

Hear what The Lord says to you and pass it on to the rest of His Creation.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued My Faithfulness to you.

Jeremiah 31:3

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

Isaiah 43:1

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future!”

Jeremiah 29:11

I invite you to begin your reflection by listening to this song about who you are.

Here is the link.

https://youtu.be/G8Bs2o-3D-M

Who Do You See In The Mirror?

We have lots of mirrors in our house. We put mirrors every place I thought there should be a window.

Being a bit claustrophobic, I never miss an opportunity to catch the reflection of the outside world.

This interesting feature of our house is unnerving to some, because they look not at the outside world, but at their own reflection.

It is amusing to see our guests straightening their clothes or pushing hair back into place.

Our 15 month old grandson, Gideon, loves the mirrors. Today I watched, as he ran back and forth on the sofa, looking at himself in three different mirrors.

He was absolutely delighted to find three other boys, who welcomed him, smiled at him, laughed with him, and even talked back to him.

Gideon does not yet know the boy in the mirror is him. Babies do not make this connection until 18 months or after.

So he is not focused on himself. He simply wants to connect with the “other” boy.

At one point today, he slipped on the couch and fell. He was not hurt. It just scared him momentarily. I hastened to comfort him.

He got back up, looked in the mirror and saw the boy crying. He stopped crying and reached out to the boy. The “other” little boy, of course, reached back.

Gideon then noticed the “other” little boy was also being comforted by someone. He may not have identified that person as his grandmother, but he did process that both he and the “other” little boy were safe.

“They” went back to playing. He again enjoyed the companionship of three boys. And grandma had a wonderful time watching.

Too often we look at the world around us and we see only ourselves. We focus on how to “fix” ourselves or how to make everything look good, to our specifications.

We miss the reflection of God’s Creation, even though it is right there in plain view.

Moreover, we miss seeing everyone else as Creations of God, waiting to be welcomed with a smile or pleasant greeting.

And we often miss God, standing right there, enjoying being with us and ready to catch us when we fall and comfort us until we are ready to join the world again.

Who do you see in God’s Mirror of His World? Look again and see His Glory revealed!

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror The Glory of The Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from The Lord, The Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:3

False Teachers

Many excuse outrageous actions by saying, “The devil made him do it.”

However, equally frightening is when someone believes violence is acceptable because God told them to do it.

Many “holy” wars were fought in God’s Name. Some today try to liberally mix religious fervor with their desire to create the world as they want it to be. They call their own words, words from God.

When scripture is added to the mix, it becomes easier for even the most faithful to be deceived. And when the words are coming from someone who is a trusted leader, how much more will those words lead to actions.

I read today of yet another religious leader who was calling on God in prayer to curse those who had a different view from his.

We must not forget that satan used scripture in his temptation of Jesus. But Jesus knew The Truth. He knew that words lined up to sound like God’s Word were in fact not The Word from God.

Jesus warned of the times in which we are living in this chilling revelation.

“The time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.

They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.

I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them.”

John 16:2-4

Why would anyone kill in God’s Name? Because they did not know Him.

Who is God? God is Love.

John put it well when he said,

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

1 John 4:7-8

“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

And this commandment we have from Him; whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

1 John 4:20-21

Do we need to fight for God? No!

Jesus was not welcomed by some. James and John were incensed.

When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them.

Luke 9:54-55

When Jesus was confronted by soldiers who came to arrest Him, Peter lost it.

“With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.

Do you think I cannot call on My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?’”

Matthew 26:51-53

The same hot-headed Peter was later to write true words that speak to us today.

“Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position.

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”

2 Peter 3:17-18

What Do You Say?

There is so much going on in the world right now. The news is coming to us from all sides.

Commentators are no longer limited to communications networks. People who once used social media to post funnies, recipes, encouragement or family pictures are now sparring with each other over various topics.

Stuck in a world of prolonged social isolation, ongoing media updates and way too much time to think, people are being drawn into other ways to ventilate.

Regretfully some have given up social media all together. I miss them. Some who were friends have unfriended each other after expressing different opinions. And some are still at it, commenting in ever increasing hostile tones.

What should we do? Well, here I am, commenting. So I believe we should continue our connections.

I believe we can have radically different views and still be friends. When someone expresses a different opinion to mine, after my initial reaction (sometimes disgust or horror), I try to step back, and try to understand where they are coming from.

I pray that God will wipe the slate clean of bias and show me what He has to say about the issue.

Sometimes God adjusts my thinking, and I come around to the other side.

Sometimes He shows me that some of what was spoken was truth and some was not. He helps me separate out the sheep from the wolves.

And sometimes He affirms that what I believed initially was true, and I need to stand firm in my beliefs.

If we are led to comment, we should use the same principles Jesus used. We should only speak what God tells us to speak when He tells us to speak it.

Here are Jesus’ Words. We should make them our own guidelines.

“Do you not believe that I am in The Father and The Father is in Me? The words I say to you, I do not speak on My Own. Instead, it is The Father dwelling in Me, performing His Works.”

John 14:10

“I do exactly what The Father has commanded Me, so that the world may know that I love The Father.”

John 14:31

“For I have never spoken on My own initiative or authority, but The Father Himself Who sent Me has given Me a commandment regarding what to say and what to speak.”

John 12:49

If we do this, we will find joy for ourselves and give joy to others.

“A person finds joy in giving an apt reply– and how good is a timely word!”

Proverbs 15:23

The Truth

Pilate asked one of the most pivotal questions in The Bible.

“What is Truth?”

John 18:48

In today’s world, everyone seems to have their own answer to that question.

Some believe the media.

Some believe in what their groups believe.

Some take what they have come to believe and strengthen their belief by finding others who believe the same way.

Many vocally assert their truth is the truth.

As we listen to all the different voices asserting their truth, we might be like Pilate, asking “What is Truth?”

Jesus answered that question.

Jesus answered, “I am the Way and The Truth and The Life.”

John 14:6

Jesus does not just tell the truth. He is The Truth!

We can believe everything He says.

We can put anything anyone else says next to Jesus’ Words and see if they line up.

If they do not, it is not truth.

But be careful about using Jesus’ Words to try to make your words fit. Satan can quote scripture, which he did when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness.

But Jesus knew what satan was doing and He quickly countered with the real Truth.

When you know Jesus, you will know whether the words you hear line up with Who He is.

Jesus said, “Then you will know The Truth and The Truth will set you free.”

John 8:32

What should we do when we know The Real Truth?

John said it well when he said,

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in Truth.”

1 John 3:18

Timothy said, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles The Word of Truth.”

2 Timothy 2:15

Paul said, “Speaking The Truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him Who is The Head, that is, Christ.”

Ephesians 4:15

In this challenging time, may we all seek to listen closely to Jesus, Who is The Truth.

May we guard our mouth, our pens, our keyboards, and every form of communication so that we only say what He wants us to say when He wants us to say it.

May we join David in his prayer.

“Teach me Your Ways, O Lord, that I may live according to Your Truth. Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you.”

Psalm 86:11

I invite you to take a few moments and let Jesus raise you up above all the noise and tell you The Truth. Here is the link to a song to begin your journey upward!

https://youtu.be/Yfwlj0gba_k

The True Commander

In the military, there are ranks. When the commanding officer speaks, their word tops that of any lower officer giving a command.

When commands are given, those who have been trained will know whether it is their real commander speaking.

How? They recognize their voice. They know whether what they are saying lines up with what they have been taught.

Jesus said,  “My sheep hear My Voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

John 10:27

Each country has a designated leader.

However, there is One Who outranks any leader. His Commands are the ones we must follow.

“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God.”

Deuteronomy 10:17

He is here now. He is giving His Commands to the troubled world.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

John 13:34

“My Command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

John 15:12

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:43-45

In this troubled time, there are many professing to be followers of Jesus. There is one simple way to know if they are true followers.

Jesus said,

“If you love me, keep my commands.”

John 14:15

Sunrise, Sunset …

Today’s blog post is dedicated to the memory of Kathy Jenkins Hightower, graduate of the class of 1970, Medical University of South Carolina, College of Nursing.

I graduated from The Medical University of South Carolina College of Nursing in 1970.

When I entered, it was still The Medical College of South Carolina School of Nursing. I was accepted into a three year Nurses Training Program.

After being accepted, The College received its approval to become a University and The School of Nursing was approved to become The College of Nursing.

We were told we could continue in the three year program in which we enrolled or be a part of the first BSN program and stay for four years instead of three. I opted for the BSN program.

With the three year and the four year applicants being split, each class was small. Therefore we got to know each other very well.

We were all female and our college dorm was like living in a Charleston finishing school. We all lived on one floor. There were housemothers, who assured we were studying and acting as good Southern ladies were expected to act.

We were formally called “Miss.”. I was never “Carolyn” to my housemothers or instructors. I was “Miss Priester.”

There were social functions called “tea dances” which boys from approved schools, such as The Citadel, were allowed to attend. It was the first step, no doubt, in getting us married off to approved men.

However, marriage while in school or especially pregnancy out of wedlock was forbidden. We were expected to concentrate on our studies, socialize as directed, and be equally worthy of wearing a pure white nurses’ uniform and a pure white wedding dress when the wedding day finally came.

Our class shared various momentous moments in history. While much was reported about the first female at the all male Citadel, we, in fact were the first female students to grace the halls of El Cid.

With a new MUSC program in place, the curriculum was expanded to include non-nursing classes such as English Literature, History, Chemistry and Biology.

Citadel professors were brought on board and classes were held in the basement of our dorm. Thus the fact that girls were reaping the benefits of a Citadel education was kept under wraps.

However, part of the biology class included a lab practicum. Unfortunately the Medical University did not have the appropriate labs at the time You could study germs under a microscope, but you could not pith a frog!

So we girls were put in a bus that had been painted green (unknown why) and we were bussed to The Citadel. I was told by more than one cadet that their favorite time of the week was when the “green bomb” arrived and the nursing students got out.

We were not supposed to talk, but always a few cadets whistled. And of course, being perfect finishing school type girls, we always looked demurely down and smiled.

Some of us married those cadets after college. Some of the marriages lasted. Some didn’t. But wherever we are, we still have our memories.

We also have shared memories of the strike that occurred during the civil rights disturbances of the early 70s.

The Medical University Hospital, faced with the absence of many of their staff, coped with the problem by putting us students to work in their places.

With threats all around us, marches being held, and the National Guard escorting us into the hospital, we hung together and survived.

We had many more adventures together that spanned the four years we were there. I was a writer even then. So I wrote our class song to the tune of the song, Sunrise, Sunset. Somewhere in my very large collection of writing, I still have the lyrics.

It turned out to be prophetic, as our lives unfolded. Some of those dreams that were woven together back then actually came true. Some didn’t. There was laughter. There were tears.

We took our nursing skills across the country and around the world. Some of us married. Some of us lost our spouses, either by death or divorce. Some of us had children. Some of us now have grandchildren.

Many of us kept in touch or rediscovered each other through social media. We looked with joy and appreciation at pictures of our mature selves. We remembered ourselves as young people, and still find traces of those same people in the smiles.

And sadly, we had to accept that even though we studied how to be healers, we were not immune from illness ourselves.

Soon after college, we lost my college roommate, Martha Madden, to cancer. Today, I received news that another of us, Kathy Hightower, has been promoted to Heaven after a courageous battle with cancer.

Those of us who remain in our earthly assignments, remember each other and the four important years of our life that brought us together and now hold us together in memory.

“Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset,

Swiftly flow the days.

Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers

Blossoming even as we gaze.

Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset.

Swiftly fly the years,

One season following another

Laden with happiness and tears.”

We are a part of the sunrises and sunsets. But we have now seen enough of them to know when the sun sets one place, it rises somewhere else!

For Such A Time As This

Do you ever have the desire to be able to time travel? If you got out of your time machine in 2020 or 2021, would you want to quickly get back in and choose another year?

Perhaps a return to a time from the past when life was simpler? Perhaps a time in the future when things would be more advanced?

But the fact of the matter is we don’t choose the time in which we live. God does!

He has The Plan for all times. He knows who He wants to be His “boots on the ground” when.

You are here for this exact moment. All the way back to the first humans, everyone was born at the exact time God ordained for them to be here.

There is no such thing as “unplanned births” with God. If you are here, no matter what the circumstances that brought you here, God wants you here.

David said, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 139:16

Before you even appeared on earth, God knew you were coming!

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

Ecclesiastes 3:11

God also knew what He was calling you to do.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Ephesians 2:10

Many of the people written about in the Bible endured great hardships before it was revealed that God had called them to that specific time and place. Moses, Joseph, Esther and others.

I invite you to listen to this song by Wayne Watson and reflect on the lyrics. Ask God to reveal to you what He wants you to do in such a time as this.

Here is the link to the song.

https://youtu.be/LXcJUIAJNW0

Heavenly History Lesson

The quest for power is a story old as time. Satan was once a beautiful angel. Satan admired what God created more than he appreciated His Creator.

More than that, satan looked at the way the other angels worshipped God, and he decided he wanted some of that. Why not? After all, he was beautiful.

But then, his appetite increased. Why settle for some of that worship when he could have all of it? His quest for admiration fed into a bigger desire for power.

He no longer wanted to serve God. He wanted to be God.

Satan got a bunch of his admirers and practiced what would be his major tactic on earth. He convinced them they did not have enough. God had deprived them.

He told them they had been settling for just a sliver of the pie when they could have the whole pie. They agreed.

So satan led a rebellion of angels against God. They lost. God sent satan out of Heaven to earth.

There is no mention of his buddies coming with him. On the earth, he was powerless, except for what power he could derive from the humans, who were new to the neighborhood.

So satan used his old tactic that had worked for him in Heaven. He convinced the humans God had deprived them.

Sure He had given them a beautiful place to live and good food to eat, but what He didn’t give them was access to being wise. He told them the forbidden fruit would give them the super power of wisdom in addition to being delicious.

And the implication was if they got all that wisdom, they would be as smart as God. And of course, you can see where satan was going with that. If you know all God knows, who needs Him? They could write their own ticket.

He convinced them God had put all that within their grasp, but He would not let them have it.

He convinced them they deserved it. It was their right. All they had to do was take it.

So the humans did. They chose not to obey God. They chose what they believed was the route to power.

Satan lost. The humans learned a valuable lesson about Who has Power and who does not.

But satan never gave up. He used the same tactics down through history. He uses the same tactics today.

He tempts by creating a feeling of deprivation.

He lies. He tells us God could give us everything we want in a second, but He isn’t doing it.

He tells us God is depriving us because He is not good and He does not love us.

He tells us he (satan) has the solution. He is on our side.

And then he goes in for the kill. Just take it by force.

This is not a political commentary. It is true that I am writing it on the day we watched in horror as a group of rebellious people took the capitol by force.

But the characters in the above story came out of the Bible. Any resemblance to people living today is not intended.

But you must admit, it makes you think about the state of our world and how it came to be that way.

Truth.

God is good all the time.

God loves us.

God gives us everything we need, but not necessarily everything we want.

Most importantly, He is God. He tops everyone. There is no one higher nor will there ever be!

“Be still, and know that I am God;

    I will be exalted among the nations,

    I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:10

Praise the Lord, my soul;

    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the Lord, my soul,

    and forget not all his benefits—

who forgives all your sins

    and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit

    and crowns you with love and compassion,

who satisfies your desires with good things!

Psalm 103:1-5

A True Friend

1975 was a pivotal year for me. In the midst of several traumatizing life events, I was lost, alone and questioning many spiritual things I thought I had understood.

The ones who looked like good people were not. I did not trust anyone.

My view of the world was further confused by my work. I was a nurse on a locked acute psychiatric unit. There were times when stepping into the delusional life of the patients was comforting to me.

I was essentially homeless. I was not out on the street yet, but I was between the home I had chosen to leave and too uncertain to simply return to my home with my parents in South Carolina.

I had no car. I had a limited income. I had not yet realized that God was with me until … He appeared through my coworker.

Jane was a nurse on the same psychiatric unit. I admired Jane because she was the perfect combination of strength and compassion. She really listened to patients and they listened to her.

She listened to me. One night, she said gently, but firmly, “You need to come home with me. I’ll take you.” And she did.

When we got to her home, I processed the full generosity of her offer. Jane lived in a tiny one room apartment. But she pulled out her sofa bed and set to making me welcome.

She was a wonderful cook. She fed me.

She had a car. She drove me to places I needed to go.

We sat up long nights and she comforted me.

Jane made a very significant investment in my future, even though none of us knew it then. She introduced me to her neighbor, Jay, who has been The Love of My Life for 43 years now.

Most of all, she restored my faith in God, not by preaching to me or making judgements about my choices, but by being there for me, a very present Comforter and Guide.

We took different paths after my time of crisis. We stayed in touch over the years, but mostly just once a year through letters and an occasional phone call. Each contact brought back fond memories.

This year, she called me, encouraging me to call her back. I laughed when I heard her message and she said, “Call me. When people get old, they just want to talk!”

I called her today. We reminisced about life, as it was long ago, and what had happened to us over the years. We talked of choices we had made, some we wished we could change, some that turned out well.

We acknowledged how the years had taken its physical toll on all of us, but we reaffirmed that we were glad we could still connect in heart.

We agreed we needed to communicate more than once a year. We’re getting old now. Waiting a year may be too long!

Tonight I am once again feeling intense gratitude to Jane, who was The Hands and Feet of Jesus to me. And I am realizing she probably never knew how much of a difference she made in my life.

Jane, you were and are a true friend. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in …”

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.”

Matthew 25:35 and 40

May The Love of Jesus surround you and enfold you always!