Friday, October 22, 2021

Be Still

 With all the advice being given from so many sources today, rarely do we hear this wise counsel:


Does the command to be still, intrigue you? It does me. So, I looked it up in other translations. The Contemporary English Version (CEV) says, “Calm down, and learn that I am God.” The Passion Translation (TPT) says, “Surrender your anxiety. Be still and realize I am God.”


How do we do that? Find a quiet place to read God’s Word and talk with Him. Commit to obeying whatever He says—even if it goes against whatever we might prefer or whatever advice others have given. Follow the example of Jesus, who said to His Father, “Not what I want, but what You want.”


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

I Need Thee

 Note: I hope you enjoy this fiction story I wrote. I based it on the personal experience column I submitted for the Oct. 2021 issue of Chapel Hill News and Views magazine.

As Sharon swiped the perspiration from her face, she said, “I feel sad about all the stuff that’s going on in our world. I wonder when—or if—life will return to normal again, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do! Elaine replied.

After the two friends topped the hill on their walk around their neighborhood, Elaine recovered enough breath to continue the conversation.


“Early this morning, the words in an old hymn came to mind...the one that says, “I need Thee every hour…stay Thou nearby.”

Sharon smiled. “I love that song! I wish more people, including myself, realized that human strength and human wisdom are not adequate to deal with life’s challenges.”

      “Life is hard, isn’t it? It was hard even for the saints of old.”

Sharon stopped. Making eye contact with Elaine, she said, “Funny you should mention that. I've been thinking about Psalm 18 that my pastor read last Sunday morning. I read it again this morning in the Contemporary English Version. Just listen.”

Sharon opened up the YouVersion app on her cell phone and read verse 4: “Death had wrapped its ropes around me, and I was almost swallowed by its flooding waters.”

“Wow!” Elaine said. “As bad as things are today, I wouldn’t want to swap situations with him, would you? But…don’t keep me in suspense. What did David do?”

      “He cried out to the Lord for help! And the Lord heard David’s cries and rescued him.”

      “I imagine David was one happy man!” Elaine said, grinning at her friend.

      “Yep! But he didn’t just say, ‘Thank You very much.’ He took time to praise God. Listen to what David said in verses 30b-32: ‘You are a shield for those who run to you for help…You give me strength and guide me right.’” 

    As they started up the next hill, Elaine said, “I love stories about real people with real problems, don’t you? I learn so much from them.”

They walked on in silence for a bit. Then Elaine said, “While doing my daily Bible reading this morning, I read the 3rd chapter of Lamentations. I can sooo relate to what the writer said.”

This time Elaine was the one who opened up YouVersion on her phone. “Listen to what he says in verses 19-24:

Just thinking of my troubles and my lonely wanderings makes me miserable. That’s all I ever think about, and I am depressed. Then I remember something that fills me with hope. The LORD’s kindness never fails! If he had not been merciful, we would have been destroyed. The LORD can always be trusted to show mercy each morning. Deep in my heart I say, “The LORD is all I need. I can depend on him!”

Sharon said, “He’s so right about that. Since we can’t stop thinking about all the stuff that’s going on, and neither could he, maybe we should do what he did. Take time out to focus on what we KNOW to be true about God and to remember how He has always helped us through our difficulties—little ones and big ones.”

When they reached Elaine’s driveway, they paused to chat a bit more, as was their custom. Sharon said, “Let’s take a minute and pray together.”

Elaine nodded. “O Father, since problems ranging from mere annoyances to major upheavals continue to plague the human race, we often feel powerless and hopeless and full of despair. But today we cry out to You as countless other people of faith have done. We say, ‘O Father, we don’t understand why certain things happen, particularly to good people and innocent children. We don’t know what to do or say to reduce suffering. We don’t know when relief may come. But we know that You know.”

Elaine paused in order to give Sharon an opportunity to pray. “O, Father, we do look to You. We cry out to You regarding the needs of others as well as our own. While we wait for You to intervene, help us to remember, with thanksgiving, the countless times when You came to our aid when we felt scared and hopeless.”

When Sharon’s voice broke, Elaine prayed while Sharon regained her composure. “Help us to quiet our anxious thoughts by recalling the promises You’ve made, including this one: ‘I am the LORD your God. I am holding your hand, so don’t be afraid. I am here to help you’ (Isaiah 41:13, CEV).

“So, Father, we will cry out to You again and again. We will believe You love us and want to help us even more than we want to help our children.

“O Father, help us to live in faith, fully assured of this truth expressed in Ephesians 3:20-21: You are indeed able to do far more than anyone can ever ask for or even imagine. Thank You, Father.”

Sharon and Elaine both said, “Amen” and hugged each other. “See you tomorrow!

As they walked toward their homes, each hummed the old song, I Need Thee Every Hour, for indeed they did need Him. Don’t we all?  

 

©2021 by Johnnie Ann Gaskill




Thursday, October 14, 2021

Not Alone (poem)

Note: The poem I mentioned in my previous post inspired me to try my hand at writing a poem that describes experiences I've had on beautiful beaches, especially those on the Gulf of Mexico. Please feel free to comment.

Not Alone

 My feet made prints in the wet sand
As I strolled near the ocean's foam.
I marveled at all God had made 
On that island far from my home.

The shorebirds fascinated me,
As did pelicans plunging down
To fill their large, empty pouches
With fish swimming in their playground.

As the breeze restyled my grey hair,
And the sun's rays reddened my face,
I continued on, praising God
For His handiwork in that place.

Sea oats swayed in the gentle breeze, 
And puffy white clouds drifted by.
Seagulls swooped and strutted and shrieked,
While some swimmers toweled themselves dry.

Concerns and fears I’d brought with me
Vanished quicker than morning dew,
As I pondered this awesome truth:
God made me and sustains me, too!

I saw no footprints beside mine,
Yet, I sensed I was not alone.
Awed by His presence near to me,
I praised Him as we journeyed on.
 --Johnnie Ann Burgess Gaskill, (c) 2021
 
[Jesus said to His disciples:]
"I am with you always,
even to the end of the age."
--Matthew 28:20, NLT
 
Photo courtesy of Upsplash


Thursday, October 7, 2021

Sensing His Presence

As I read Patience Allison Hartbauer’s poem entitled Footprints, which I recently found in a pocket-sized booklet I’d had for years, I recalled many experiences similar to the one she describes.


I, too, have walked along the beach and marveled at all the things God has created. I, too, have felt a renewed sense of peace and hope. I, too, have worshipped God as I walked on sandy shores. I, too, have concluded that, although I did not see His footprints in the sand, I knew He was walking with me. 

(c)2017, Sanibel Island, Florida

I pray you have had a similar experience. You may have sensed God with you at places other than the beach. The place we experience Him could be anywhere. According to the Bible, Paul and Silas felt His presence while in a prison cell. David knew God was with him even while David was hiding out in a cave. Moses experienced God out in the desert. I’ve felt His presence in a hospital room. On a mountaintop. In the grocery store... 


He is everywhere! How extra blessed we are when we sense Him--wherever we are. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Seen and Unseen

 

When I stepped outside to photograph the sunrise, I couldn’t see the sun, as I do most mornings here on Sanibel Island, Florida. Even though clouds obstructed my view of it, I knew God had caused it to rise again this morning as He has done every morning since He created it eons ago. How did I know? I saw evidence of it. Everything in my view was being bathed in brighter and brighter light. If the sun had not risen, there would have been no light to drive away the darkness that had reigned during the night. God was still on His throne, still running the world, still causing ALL things to work according to His purposes and His plans. 

I think of that often, especially when a crisis arises. I need not panic. God is in charge. He is ever faithful, ever wise, ever powerful. I can trust Him…and I do. Even though I can’t see HIM, I can see evidence that He is working. I can feel the peace He provides. I can praise Him for who He is and thank Him for ALL He does—seen and unseen.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Five Minute Friday: Love Lifts

I wrote these words in five minutes in response to a writing prompt (lift) provided by Kate Motaung at www.FiveMinuteFriday.com.

Since childhood, I’ve known the words to the old hymn, Love Lifted Me. But the older I get, the more those words mean to me. The Lord’s love lifts my spirits when I’m feeling down. It encourages me when I’m tempted to give up. It causes me to pause throughout the day and just thank HIm and praise Him.

Love from other people lifts me, too, as does the love I feel for others. Love for the work I do lifts me.

How does love lift you?

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Five Minute Friday: Disagree

 I wrote this post (in approximately five minutes) in response to a one-word prompt (disagree) from Kate Motaung. For more information and to read other posts, visit www.fiveminutefriday.com

Disagreements are unavoidable, aren’t they? When they arise, I remind myself of these four bits of wise counsel:


(1) “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity [love]” (circa 1627).


(2) “Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t be mean when you say it.” (I don’t know the source, but a fellow member of the Toastmasters club I attend shares that advice when it’s time to evaluate speeches made during the meeting.)


(3) “A soft answer turns away wrath, / But a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1, NKJV).


(4) "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all people” (Romans 12:18, CSB).



Saturday, June 5, 2021

Five Minute Friday: SLOW

NOTE: Below is my response to the June 4, 2021, writing prompt (slow) provided by Kate Motaung on her website, http://fiveminutefriday.com/ This first (and short) attempt at getting words on a page is “nothing to brag about.” However, I plan to include, in a longer piece, these thoughts—and others I could not type in only five minutes. By participating each week in Five Minute Friday, I’m learning that writing even a few words matters! Those words, however, lackluster, can be turned into a thoughtful, polished, piece!


Slow. Interesting word, isn’t it?


A friend says sadly, “I’m as slow as pond water.”


Years ago, when my youngest daughter was reluctant to climb out of her cozy bed, especially on school mornings, but would finally drag herself to the breakfast table, I’d teasingly say, “Honey, you’re as slow as molasses on a cold winter morning.”


Once, when talking with a friend, we agreed we were like “two ol’ turtles living in the fast lane.”


So, I wonder, can being slow be a good thing? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no.


For example, the Bible says God is slow to become angry. But He is not slow regarding His promises. Being slow to obey is not good. But being slow (sure/careful/methodical) is.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Why?

Do you get weary of trying to figure out what’s going on in this crazy, mixed-up world? I do! 


But like the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes, I’ve concluded that we won’t ever be able to make sense of what’s going on. For example: why bad things happen to good people. Why people we trust to do the right thing don’t. Why things don’t work out even though we are doing the best we can.

Like the writer of Ecclesiastes, I’ve concluded it’s pointless to even try to figure out all this stuff that makes no sense, from the human perspective. God’s in charge. He understands it all. Ultimately, He will right every wrong. And, as one of the old hymns* says, “Farther along, we’ll know all about it. Farther along, we’ll understand why.”


In the meantime, let’s love and trust our God and gratefully receive the blessings He gives us here in this world and anticipate those in the life that awaits us. Once we are with Him in Heaven, all the “stuff” of this life will seem as nothing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W44URlOwYWw