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Archive for July, 2009

8 He said, “They are my very own people.
Surely they will not betray me again.”
And he became their Savior.

9 In all their suffering he also suffered,
and he personally[a] rescued them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them.
He lifted them up and carried them
through all the years.

10 But they rebelled against him
and grieved his Holy Spirit.
So he became their enemy
and fought against them.

Now there is an enemy you don’t want to have.  From Savior to enemy.  I am sitting in my car at Freedom Florence watching my daughter practice her cross-country running.  I am minding my own business reading throug Isaiah when I am again captivated by a loving God who looks at the love of His life, those who are “…my very own people…”, and watches them rebell again.  He loves them so much.  He wants them to be true at the heart to HIM.  I noticed the change in emotions on God’s part just in these few verses.  He loves them.  He is excited that they are focused on Him again.  He journeys with them in suffering – rescues them personally – redeems them – carries them – stuff you really do with whom you are in love.  BUT they rebelled (I have never done that :)) and they grieved the Holy Spirit (I have never done that :)).  Now he has moved from the love with them to an enemy fighting against them.  WOW!

I saw Kimberly just run by.  She yelled up to me, “Hey!”  How she loves her dad.  God looked at the love of his life and said, “My people…”  “Mine…”  I love them.  They have come home.  He reminded me again this morning how special I am.  He looked in the window of my truck this morning as I sit here enjoying His breeze, “There’s Jim, he’s mine…”

Surely I will not betray him again.  He redeemed me.  He lifts me up.  He carries me.  I am looking for a day – one more glorious day – when I won’t blow it again.  Sin will be out of the picture.  I will anticipate a day today where my focus will be on Him…where my love will not unfocus for Him… and that is my hope and prayer.  I am reminded that I, too, am a sinner.  I blew it yesterday.  Thank God for His grace.

I am also reminded WHO the love of my life is.  It is HOLY God.  He is not some good ole boy that just travels along with us.  He joins me in my journey today.   But HE joins me in my journey.  I am reminded this morning that there is no one greater that God.  Because of Christ I am in the family.  It is not on the basis of what I have done.  I didn’t earn it.  I should treat that fact with respect and live appreciatively different.

I don’t know why it gripped me this morning but when I read that last line above out of Isaiah, I thougth, “He’s the very last person I would want as my enemy – fighting against me!”  I know the outcome of that battle.  It is over before it starts.  But, I guess I would be the one that caused the fight to start with.

Here she comes again…”Hey!”

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Beauty for Ashes…

3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.

Maybe it is me, however, I find myself reeling this morning from what I have experienced yesterday.  Mr. Nutter is on his way to heaven an hour at a time.  His heart is in bad shape.  He is weak.  His family is loving and caring for him as well.  I was reminded of a daughter who loves her mother who is struggling with Alzheimer’s Disease.  Having to care for her mom at home while she tries to teach in high school and has very little support in the care of her mother is a tough thing to watch.  I get a call last evening that Vivian Benton has had to move her husband from a nursing facility to McLeod’s Hospice House and she is watching the last hours of his life on this side of eternity pass by.  Her voice was heavy on the phone.  I am looking forward to our time together today as I visit them in the hospice house.   My friend, Steve Pigate, has joined his sister Michelle as they patiently watch post-surgery progress following brain surgery on their mother, Janice.  The surgery went longer than projected at first and now they are patiently learning to trust God through trauma units and life support machines.  The prospects are good for her recovery but it is a critical time this morning.   Sister Mary faces knee replacement surgery this morning in a few hours.

Israel’s hearts were heavy as well.  The darkness inthe national life screamed for some light.  They were ready for the grieving to stop and the rejoicing to begin.  The blandness of their faces needed the oil of gladness and their sad songs needed a bit of praise to lighten up their steps.

While we walk through tough stuff, we still have hope.  Our faith in the living God and the promises of the Word of God find a way of bringing to us in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ a new crown, new oil, and a new garment.  A crown of beauty that will replace the crown of ashes that lay on our grieving heads, new oil from heaven that will brighten up the shine on our faces, and a garment of praise removing the spirit of heaviness.

I am reminded of my life verse this morning – Proverbs 3:5-6

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct[a] your paths.

And thank you Barry Lord for Psalm 90:14 – heard from those Filipino singers –

14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

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1 Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear.

11Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives.

I was thinking this morning that you don’t have to spend one second of your life wondering if Michael Jordan was a great basketball player.  All one has to do is watch the tapes.  I remember growing up in Atlanta watching guys like Hank Aaron hit a ball or Maddox pitch a game.  They were great in the arena of baseball.  There was a corrolation between what they said they could do and what they did.  You simply could tell by watching.  One says that they are a ball player and it corresponds to what you see from their lives.

Isaiah reminded me again that – “1 Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear.”  His arm is not too short to save nor his ear to dull to hear.  He can come to our aid and he will hear our plea.  The people of God were living lives that were so inconsistent to the faith they said they held.  They were sinners, liars, people filled with injustice.  It was very difficult to tell the difference between the people of faith and those who had no faith at all.

Then in the same set of readings for today Peter writes asking that in the light of the coming of Christ and in the light of this world in which we live, what kind of life should we live. In his second letter, Peter begins to declare the truth of the soon return of Christ.  I sensed that he was saying that IF you  believe he is coming that should impact your lifestyle.  There should be an urgency to live boldly for Christ in this world today.

I am reminded that today will be full of opportunities to give witness to the fact that if you call yourself a Christian and a preacher and a pastor and a godly leader, then there should be a corresponding behavior.  I desire this morning in a new way for the communication lines to be very open between God and myself.  I want nothing to stand in between.  I take inventory of my lifestyle.  I have a friend who, because of some major stuff going on in his life, finds it necessary and profitable to utilize what is going on as motivation to do an inventory of his life.  There are things that need to be cleaned up, some things that need to be removed, and others that need to be strengthened.  I am proud of what God is doing in his life right now.

G0d is singing that same tune this morning to me as well.  I know his hand is not short and his ear is not dull.

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Thursday!

Nancy and I will be on the way home this morning.  We have enjoyed helping Jason and Jenn (my son and his wife) paint parts of their townhouse for the past three days.  Our task is complete and their home has a new facelift.  We, too, have enjoyed being around them.  How we long to be closer to them.  The older we get the more wonderful conversations we have and how our hearts long to see them more.  All we needed was an excuse to share some time with them.  Nancy and I enjoy the creative aspects of painting and watching a place take on a brand new character.

I am reminded that I am not as young as I used to be.  I am blessed by God in so many ways. God has been gracious to provide us with strength and protection as we have worked here.  We are thankful for his goodness.

We are humbled to have such great children.  They bring such joy to our lives.  Jason and our daughter in law Jenn, along with Jeremy and Kimberly are such blessing to us.  Jason left a few minutes ago to go to Baltimore to work as an accountant.  Jenn is a social worker and a student who works with Maryland’s Department of Social Services working with another young woman as a team who deals with families who have their children taken away from the parents.  Jeremy is such a gifted and creative young man.  He is planning on either serving in the Coast Guard or some form of military service with the hopes of being in police work one of these days or working out of his graphic arts skills and talents.  He is blessed of God in his creative abilities.  Kimberly is working hard on preparing for her last semester at South Florence High School.  She is preparing to play tennis and run cross country with the school’s teams as well.  She is planning on going to Florence Darlington Technical College for the rest of the school year with the hopes of attending Charleston Southern University.    We are blessed.

We have enjoyed our visit with Jason and Jenn and now on the way home to see Jeremy and Kimberly (and Lacey, too!).

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1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.

5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.

7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Selah

11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Selah

God is.  And I am glad!

A few quotes from The Shack that came to mind as I thought about God IS…

Papa: “The problem is that many folks try to grasp some sense of who I am by taking the best version of themselves, projecting that to the nth degree, factoring in all the goodness they can perceive, which often isn’t much, and then call that God. And while it may seem like a noble effort, it falls pitifully short of who I really am. I’m not merely the best version of you that you can think of. I am far more than that, above and beyond all that you can ask or think” (98).

Jesus: “Because you don’t believe. You don’t know that we love you. The person who lives by their fears will not find freedom in my love… to the degree that those fears have a place in your life, you neither believe that I am good nor know deep in your heart that I love you. You sing about it; you talk about it, but you don’t know it” (142).

One of the reasons I enjoyed reading The Shack a while back was the picture it gives of God being with us.  He is good enough to give us stories (as we read the Bible) of the past for our reflection, guidance, and an introduction of Himself to us.  His promise is that HE IS with us in the present as he lives in us…so I would have to say that the stories and truths written down in days past are for our guidance in faith and practice in the present.  He WAS to them.  He IS to us right now in this part of my journey.  He IS so much more than we could ask or think…HE IS…

HE chooses to love us in the present as we are journeying together.  I am glad that He is there to catch me when I fall…

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8 And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness.
The unclean will not journey on it;
it will be for those who walk in that Way;
wicked fools will not go about on it.

I don’t think I am alone.  I think there are others who are looking forward to things to come.  I have heard that our President and his cronies are going to “fix” our health care system.  I hear him make all kinds of promises while he prints more money that one of these days someone is going to have to pay back after I am dead and gone to heaven.  I watched with unbelief a man walk across a motel in another country with a bag full of explosives and enter eternity.  Eight are now dead including the TWO bombers.  Walk in and fear and terror flood the place.

I know the historical context of this passage.  Hezekiah’s kingdom will flourish and all that, but I take great comfort in this proclaiming a kingdom to come that will bring a way of righteousness.  There will be peace ON EARTH one of these days.  There is already PEACE in my heart and a “…way of Holiness…” that lives inside me in the person of Jesus Christ.  I am looking forward to a place where wickedness no longer runs rampant.

I was encouraged again this morning that a different day is ahead of us.  I am reminded as I read the last few pages of our Bible that we win.  We are not on the loosing team.  Our future is secure.  These momentary times of dealing with life will not rule supreme.

The Holy One is HERE.  The “…way to Holiness…” will come!

123_0455Sidebar:  Nancy and I will enjoy a few days in Maryland with Jason and Jenn as we join them in a painting project at their house.  Kimberly and Jeremy are both working and both getting ready to go back to school.  Where in the world did out summer go?  I am praying for Rick as he preaches this coming Sunday.  I will keep you posted as to our progress!

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Vicious Dog Pack Attack on a Florida Gator

Perhaps you have seen this; it’s been circulating on the Internet. If not, be prepared for a shock.

At times nature can be cruel, but there is also a raw beauty, and even a certain justice manifested within that cruelty.

The alligator, one of the oldest and ultimate predators, normally considered the “apex predator” in it’s natural eco-system, can still fall victim to implemented ‘team work’ strategy, made possible due to the tight-knit social structure and “survival of the fittest pack mentality”, bred into the canines over the last several hundreds of years by natural selection.

See the attached remarkable photograph courtesy of Nature Magazine. Note that the Alpha dog has a muzzle hold on the gator preventing it from breathing, while the remainder of the pack prevents the beast from rolling.

Not for the squeamish or small children.

gator00 bite pets ho

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