When Are You Going To Do It?

My mother was very focused.  She was an organizer and planner.  She was a leader, not just in our family, but also in many organizations.

If I said, “I think I might do …” and then I’d lay out some dream, my Mother would say, “How are you going to do that?”

And I would say, “Oh I’m not doing it now.  I was thinking I might do it one day.”

She would then counter with, “When?  When are you going to do it?”

She said, “Success is in the details.  When we take a trip, we know where we want to end up.  We may change course on the way, but we still have some idea of when we are going, where we want to go and how we might get there.”

My Mother taught me how to combine dreams with reality.

Many of my dreams have been accomplished with focus and figuring out the details and deadlines for getting where I wanted to go.  However, as Mother reminded me, God is The One with The Plan.   She winked and added, “He knows where you are going and how you are going to get there, but He will let you help ‘pack the car’ for the trip!”

What have you been thinking about doing?  When are you going to get started?  What steps will you take to accomplish your goal?

Step 1 is talking it over with God.  Right now is a good time to do that.

“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

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Who Writes Your Story?

My mother never simply read a book to me.  She acted it out.  She changed her voice to be each character.  She put the book down and acted out the parts.  She was so funny!

But not only would she act out the stories, she would encourage me to get in on the act.  She would say, “Today, you be the rabbit!”  And I’d act out the parts to the tune of her laughter.

Then the day came when she stopped right in the middle of a story.  I wondered if something was wrong with her.  Instead of completing the story, she said, “What do you think happened next?”

I said, “I don’t know.  You haven’t read that part yet.”  

She said, “No … you finish the story.  Don’t let other people be the only ones to tell the stories.  You tell the story too.  Your story may be better!”  So I’d make up a part of the story that came next, and then she would chime in with a part, and sometimes we never read what the author intended.

Later as I began to write stories and plays, I realized the seeds of telling a good story had been planted by my mother.  Even today, I find myself thinking of alternate endings to tv shows and movies.

Who is writing your story?  Are you living a life someone else chose for you?  Do you sometimes feel you’ve made too many mistakes in your life for your story to ever have a happy ending?  

Perhaps God is prompting you right now to consider what you would like to happen next in your life.  He’s ready to act it all out with you … and yes, He can do millions of Voices too!

Finishing is better than starting … Ecclesiastes 7:8

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Where Does The Road Go?

My mother enjoyed painting.  Her paintings were all over our house.  One picture was of a road that wound around a curve and disappeared into the distance.

I asked my mother where the road went.  Instead of telling me, she asked me, “Where do you think the road goes?”  I would come up with various destinations and tell her all about them.  She would ask me questions to help me make more complete scenes in my mind.  And then she would tell me what she saw.  We spent many happy hours traveling that road together.

As I was nearing college and considering an uncertain future, I asked her again, “Where does the road go, Mother?”  She smiled and said, “It can go anywhere you would like it to go, Carolyn.  But be sure to ask God for the directions!”  

She never forced her views on me.  She gently guided me and allowed me to choose the roads I chose in life, even when some were not the roads she would have chosen for me.   The journey was always easier when I asked God for directions.  (And thank God — He allows U turns!)

After my mother died, I felt lost.  I had lost my traveling companion.  I didn’t know what would be around the next bend or on the other side of the hill.

I asked her where the road went.  Immediately I heard her answer in my spirit.  “It can go anywhere you would like it to go, Carolyn.  But be sure to ask God for the directions!”

And then she added, “I’m just a little ahead of you.  But you’ll catch up.  Keep going!”

Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. Luke 3:5

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The Unseen Guide and Protector

F71817E5-A7FA-498A-8A82-BA625E852177As I grew, I developed a streak of independence.  I frequently said rather defiantly, “I can do it myself.”  Mother let me do many things.  When I crashed, she never said, “I told you so.”  She simply picked me up and assured me things would go better the next time.

On the first day of school, we forgot a form that had to be completed.  My mother assured the teacher she would bring it after school.  When I arrived home, I announced I would take it back to the school.  This would involve walking four blocks, turning onto a busy street, walking a few more blocks and then crossing that busy street.  

When my mother told me she would walk with me and we’d take it together, I informed her I was in the first grade and I could take it “all by myself.”  To my surprise, she said, “OK.”

I bravely started down the street.  The neighbor’s big dog barked.  I jumped and considered going home.  I looked around.  There was no one in sight.  I walked on.  I felt a little disoriented.  Even with my new glasses, things didn’t look quite the same when I was walking alone.

But I made it all the way to school and proudly delivered the form and returned home.  If my mother looked a bit tired, I never noticed.  Years later, she told me of how she had followed close behind, hiding behind trees and fending off the dog herself.  She also told me how proud she was of me when I was very careful crossing the street.

We may think we are walking alone in life, but we aren’t.  Even when we are being stubborn, God will guide us.  Even when we take a wrong turn, He is there, gently guiding us back on The Way.  We are never truly lost because we are with Him.

Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,  “This is The Way; walk in it.”     Isaiah 30:21

 

The Biggest Power We’ve Got!

As we approach Mother’s Day, I think not only of my mother, but of the man who made her a mother.

I think of my father, Horace Richard Priester.  When I think of the many things he taught me, one lesson stands out.

He often repeated, “Pray about it.  Prayer is the Biggest Power we’ve got.”  

Growing up, when I awoke each morning, I would find my mother on her knees next to their bed praying.  

My father would be praying in the living room, on his knees next to a chair.  

The house was filled with The Spirit of God, Who was welcomed by my parents.

They both recounted with joy the many ways God had answered their prayers through the years.  But one prayer that was answered brought tears to my father’s eyes every time he remembered.

My parents were married for ten years before my brother was born.  My mother said they wanted children, but it just didn’t happen.

She said even though it made her sad, she knew God knew best what The Plan was for their lives.  She said it was fine to ask God for what we believe we need, but we should be open to what He desires for us.

After ten years, my mother became pregnant.  My parents were ecstatic.  The pregnancy went well.

However, after my mother went into labor, there was a complication.  At one point, the doctor came out and told my father he did not know if he could save either mother or baby.

He asked my father if he could save one, which would he prefer to be saved.  My father told the doctor he wanted both to be saved.  He refused to make a choice.

The doctor went back into the delivery room.  My father said he paced more than any other man in the waiting room … and he prayed for hours.

He said he asked God to save them both, but he left The Plan to God.

And while one man of faith looked upward and waited, God pulled back the curtains of Heaven and answered.  

My mother survived.  And they welcomed their son, Horace Richard Priester, Jr. Into the world.

My parents were married for another 62 years before my mother’s death.

Eleven years after my brother was born, I entered the world.

They had us two children.  They had four grandchildren.  They had nine great grandchildren.  They had two great great grandchildren.

All of us are bonded in The Love of a Great and Merciful God, Who answered the prayer of a man, who refused to give up … and who trusted God with the Plan.

Horace Richard Priester, IV is soon graduating from Clemson University.   I’m sure his great grandfather will be observing from Heaven with a big smile of thanksgiving.

“Now to Him Who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His Power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Ephesians 3:20-21

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How To Handle Storms

Thunder storms were common in South Carolina.  Thunder didn’t just roll.  It shook the whole house.  The lightening would light up all the houses all the way down the street.  Frequently the electricity “went out.”  

Everything would stop and in-between lightening, all would be dark.  I never liked the dark.  Those same monsters threatened to show up in the dark.  But my mother would get out the kerosene lanterns and light them.  We would cluster together near the lights.  I’d get in her lap and she would rock and sing.  She sang various soothing songs, but my favorite was “God Will Take Care of You.”  

She insisted I sing.  And then she would change the words to “God will take care of me.”  Then she would say, “God will always take care of you, Carolyn.  Don’t ever forget that.  There will always be storms, but He will take care of you.”

I had many storms in my life after those South Carolina ones.  Frequently I would find myself singing, “God will take care of me …”  And He did.

The next time you have a storm in your life, try it.

Be not dismayed whate’er betide,
God will take care of you;
Beneath His wings of love abide,
God will take care of you.

  • Refrain:
    God will take care of you,
    Through every day, o’er all the way;
    He will take care of you,
    God will take care of you.

God will take care of me. Through every day, o’er all the way;

He will take care of me.  He will take care of me!

 

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”  Then He got up and rebuked the winds  and the waves, and it was completely calm. Matthew 8:26

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Mother, Can You See Me?

My mother told me she always wanted children, but at first, it just didn’t happen.  She said she felt sad, but whatever the reasons, she also felt God knew best.  

Then ten years after she and my father married, my brother was born.  Eleven years later, I was born!  Twelve years later, my brother’s first child was born.  In the next six years, two more grandchildren followed.    And then twenty years after the first grandchild, another grandchild was born.  My mother said God gave her a Gift in allowing her active mothering and close grandmothering to last for so many years.

Take delight in The Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Psalm 37:4

I slept in the room with my parents, my single bed next to their bed.  This was fortunate because of two problems I had.

I was very nearsighted and I had an active imagination.  In the nighttime hours, the shadows on the wall easily turned into monsters.  When I reached out and touched my mother in the dark, they would go away.  She would squeeze my hand and I knew all was well.

When my brother went to college, I was “promoted” into my own room.  This was exciting until nighttime came.  When the monsters arrived on the first night, I screamed in terror.  

My mother patiently explained that while the shadows did look strange, they were just shadows.  She demonstrated by turning on the light.  It did seem better.  But as soon as she left the room, the monsters came back.  I begged to go back to her room.  She was firm that I was in my own room now and it would be ok.

But in an act of Mercy, she arranged my bed so she could see it from her bed in the next room.  It didn’t completely solve the problem, since I could not see her.  But when I called out from my bed, “Mother, can you see me?” she always answered, “Yes, Carolyn, I’m right here.  I can see you.”

I was eventually “promoted” to other places far outside her physical vision.  I went to college.  I lived in other places after college.  And then one day Mother was “promoted” to the place God had prepared for her in Heaven.  In the midst of grief,  I found myself calling out silently, “Mother, can you see me?”

And the funny thing was that God allowed her to answer me in my mind, “Yes, Carolyn, I’m right here.  I’m just in the next room.  I can see you.”

I would come to know that it was God Himself speaking.  As recorded in Isaiah 66:13, God said,  “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you …”

And now when things seem scary,  I reach out and say, “Can you see me?”

God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit, My Mother and my Father all answer, “Yes, Carolyn, we’re right here.  We can see you!”

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The Road to Damascus

Is anyone ever so evil there is no hope for them?  Can a person go so far that nothing can be done but eliminate them?

Many of us profess Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  We say we want our lives to be a living witness, to His Power and Authority.

Yet, sometimes we are tempted to respond to evil, using what we think is our power and authority.

How would Jesus have us respond to evil?  Hear The Answer in His Own Words.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’

“But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. 

“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 

“Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

“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.  He causes His Sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 

“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 

“And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 

“Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matthew 5:38-48

How did Jesus respond to the evil committed against Him?

“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’”

Luke 23:34

Isn’t living that way surrendering to the power of evil?  No!  It is  surrendering to The Power of God.  It is opening wide the door for Him to act.

When we surrender completely to God’s Will, we will discover He acts in a Way far beyond anything we could ever imagine.

A young man, named Stephen, preached about Jesus.  Those opposing The Way, stoned Stephen.  As he was transitioning from death to Life eternal, he saw Jesus and surrendered fully to His Power and Authority.

The witnesses to the stoning laid their coats at the feet of a young man, who was an enemy of Christians.  His name was Saul.

Saul and the others heard Stephen’s final words.

“While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’  Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’”

Acts 7:59-60

Saul did not instantly change.  But he remembered what he saw and heard that day.  He saw Stephen, but what he heard was The Voice of Jesus.

He would hear that Voice again at another time.  He would hear it on the road to Damascus.

“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. 

“He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 

“As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 

“He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?’

“‘Who are You, Lord?’ Saul asked.

“‘I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting,’ He replied. 

“‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’”

Acts 9:1-6

Saul did as Jesus directed him.  Saul became Paul.  It was through Paul that God wrote many books of our New Testament.

Thanks be to God that the Christians did not kill Saul when he was considered their enemy.  

Among the wonderful Truths Paul shared with us was his certain knowledge that nothing can separate anyone from The Love of God.

 “For I am convinced 

that neither death nor life, 

neither angels nor demons, 

neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 

neither height nor depth, 

nor anything else in all creation, 

will be able to separate us 

from The Love of God 

that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39

Damascus, the city in which Paul began his ministry, is in the news right now.  There are those who are persecuting people there.

Please pray for all, including those we might call our enemies.  God might soon raise up another Paul on the road to Damascus!

As Paul also said, 

“Rejoice always, 

pray continually, 

give thanks in all circumstances; 

for this is God’s Will for you 

in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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Is This Love?

In the rock opera, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” Mary Magdalene sings the hauntingly beautiful song, “I Don’t Know How To Love Him.”

She is puzzled by her feelings for Jesus. She has known many men before, as she says, “in very many ways.” She does not understand why Jesus should be any different.

While she repeatedly says, “He’s just a man,” her soul knows He is much more. She realizes she loves Him, but this Love is different.

Should she even trust Him? His Gentleness attracts her. His Revolutionary Teachings enthrall her. He speaks with Power and Authority. He seems to know Who He is.

He treats her with such respect. He seems to welcome her into the discussion of life. She is not afraid to speak up, even when she feels the disapproving gazes of others. She likes herself when she is with Him.

She is baffled that she feels no sexual desire for Him. She almost feels that He is already with her, bonded to her on some level that surpasses any physical union.

His touch is electric. When He touches her, all the cells of her body seem to come to attention and she feels like all the Light of The Universe pours into all the empty spaces. She feels full and satisfied.

When He hugs her and she leans against His Chest, she seems to hear thousands of heartbeats coming from inside. It is like a mighty orchestra, and she feels strangely drawn into the middle.

And when He looks at her, His eyes seem to look into her center. He knows her somehow. He knows her and loves her.

She can’t figure out how He could possibly know her so well. And if He does, how could He still love her? Does He love her? And if He does, what should she do?

Does He have marriage in mind? Could she be married to a man like Him? Leave everything behind and follow Him? Go everywhere with Him?

Mary Magdalene was not alone in her thoughts of loving Jesus. Peter, James, John, Thomas, Judas, Jesus’s Mother … they were all considering the feelings of Love they had for Jesus.

He had come into their lives, quietly, but radically changing them. There was something about Him that caused them to want to leave everything behind and follow Him.

There was something about Him that caused them to want to be better and to believe they could be. There was something about the way He looked at them that made each of them feel He was their best friend.

They could not deny they loved Him.

But each time any of them processed this peculiar sense of intimacy, it frightened them. They compared it to Love, as they always understood it, but it did not fit. Nothing had ever been this way before.

Then the crucifixion happened. Satan came in full force.

Satan held up his cruel mirror to their faces and accused them. He called them deserters, deniers, liars, betrayers. He reminded them of their past. He called them prostitutes, whores, adulterers, murderers.

“You said you loved Jesus? Is this how you love Him?” He roared. “Well, no matter, He does not love you. He despises you.”

Satan showed them Jesus’ mangled body and told them that was what God wanted to do to them for their sins.

He told them they had strayed so far that God had forsaken them in their misery and would never take them back.

Then satan screamed into the darkness, “You thought you loved Him … you thought He loved you? Is this Love?”

And in that moment, Love answered. He broke satan’s mirror.

They saw Jesus as He was. They saw The One they loved revealed as The One — Jesus, God and The Holy Spirit — in all His Power and Majesty loving them.

They saw satan revealed as the liar, the accuser, the torturer. They saw him trying to pay them the wages of sin.

And then they saw The One they loved stepping forward and receiving all the wages of their sin.

They knew. They believed. And all but one devoted the rest of their lives to that Love.

“And we have known and believed The Love that God has for us. God is Love and he who abides in Love abides in God, and God in him.”
1 John 4:16

“As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My Love.”
John 15:9

 

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The Cross Has Fallen!

God tells us many things through His Word, but He also leaves room for us to discover more and more about Him.

It is easy to believe we know all there is to know about The Easter Story. When we hear the “old, old story” told in the same way all the time, we may not go back and read it again. We may miss new revelations.

Such is the case with the story of Jesus’ Crucifixion. We may leave Jesus’ lifeless body hanging on the cross until He is mercifully cut down and taken to the tomb. But, did it really happen that way?

Let’s look again. To begin, let’s look at the insults that were hurled at Jesus as He hung on the cross.

“Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!’

“In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him.

‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
Matthew 27:40-43

Notice they were all taunting Jesus to come down from the cross. Did He?

When we hear “Jesus gave up His Spirit, “ we sometimes interpret that to mean He just gave up on having an earthly life. But when Jesus “gave up” His Spirit, He was connecting with The Full Power of The Three in One.

And then Jesus released The Holy Spirit of God in all its Power and Authority. What happened next?

“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open.

“The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.”
Matthew 27:51-52

Mike Mason in his writings about the rock upon which Jesus’ cross was anchored, describes what has been found about that rock at Calvary.

At The Church of the Holy Sepulcher,

“Visitors can reach their hands into the hole and touch the rock of Calvary below. The bone-colored limestone is also visible, behind glass, on either side of the altar.

“… the rock is cracked—perhaps evidence of earthquake activity, which accords with the gospel report that at the moment of Jesus’ death ‘the earth shook and the rocks split’. (Matthew 27:51).

“It is even possible that the crosses were wedged into such fissures, for as the northern extension of the Rift Valley, Israel has been subject to recurrent earthquakes (see Ps 46:2). “
From “The Rock of Calvary”(Chapter 61 of Jesus: His Story in Stone)” posted March 22, 2016.

When the earth shook and the rocks split, it is likely the crosses would have fallen.

Yet, we often see pictures that depict someone climbing up to a still standing cross to take Jesus’ Body down.

While it is not explicitly stated what happened to the crosses, I believe that the “hidden message” of Easter might have been the one that was dramatically revealed to everyone that day.

Satan’s instrument of torture was literally thrown down and God Himself was raised in Power and Majesty, just as Jesus had foretold.

When Jesus was praised on His Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the Pharisees told Him to quiet the people.

Jesus responded, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Luke 19:40

On the day of Jesus’ Crucifixion, the rocks, the stones, the very earth cried out. And in the midst of the chorus, mere men cried out too.

“When the centurion and those with Him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely He was The Son of God!’”
Matthew 27:54

It is Easter. The cross has fallen! God, Jesus and The Holy Spirit are alive and very present in us. Rejoice!

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