Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Source of Light and Hope

Daddy was born 117 years ago (1902) today (January 29) and died on March 6, 1982, at the age of 80. I’ve lived almost that long but, thankfully, have never had to deal with the kind of hardships he did: the death of his first wife, the death of two children (one a child, one an adult), a houseful of children (seven!) to raise by himself, two sons going off to war, a blended family (after he and Mama married and had two children), diabetes, etc. Even with all those problems and few of life’s comforts, Daddy was a happy man, well-known for his big smile and sparkling sky-blue eyes. He loved the Lord—and people—and always had lots of friends (rich ones and poor ones).

The day before he died, he was transferred by ambulance from a small hospital in North George to a larger one in Atlanta. My husband (James) and I rushed there to be with him and Mama. The doctor came to Daddy’s bedside to examine him and to ask lots of questions. When he said, “Pops, what do you for fun?” James answered before Daddy could. “He goes to church!”

James was so right! That was what Daddy loved to do. And he didn’t just go and sit on a pew. No! He led the singing, with or without piano accompaniment. He often preached. He got on his knees during prayer time, as was the custom in Baptist churches in that part of rural North Georgia.

His religion carried over into his daily life, too. Whenever he had a minute to sit down, he’d reach for his well-used King James Version Bible and read from it. Although Daddy had only a third-grade education, he was able to read the Bible; and the Holy Spirit helped him understand what he read. He drew strength and comfort from the Scriptures and from hymns, many of which he'd memorized.

One of his favorite songs was Heavenly Sunlight, written by Henry J. Zelley, published in 1899. I think the words in that song explain why Daddy was joy-filled despite having to face so many hard things. His Source of help and hope is available to everyone who will believe in Jesus and in what He said.

Listen here and/or read the words below. May they comfort and strengthen you as you make your journey through life.

Walking in sunlight all of my journey;
Over the mountains, through the deep vale;
Jesus has said, “I’ll never forsake thee,”
Promise divine that never can fail.

Heavenly sunlight, heavenly sunlight,
Flooding my soul with glory divine:
Hallelujah, I am rejoicing,
Singing His praises, Jesus is mine.

Shadows around me, shadows above me,
Never conceal my Savior and Guide;
He is the Light, in Him is no darkness;
Ever I’m walking close to His side.

In the bright sunlight, ever rejoicing,
Pressing my way to mansions above;
Singing His praises gladly I’m walking,
Walking in sunlight, sunlight of love.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Out of... Into...

I love the old hymns for they remain as true today as when they were written many years--sometimes centuries--ago. Since I can't always remember ALL the words, I like to locate them in a hymnal or on the Internet and either sing them or simply say the words out loud.

I especially like the hymns that sound like prayers. One of my favorites is Out of My Bondage, Sorrow, and Light*. I hope you're familiar with it. If not, you can hear it here.

I hope you, too, will offer this prayer to Jesus:
"Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night, Jesus, I come. Jesus, I come. Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light, Jesus, I come to Thee."

You, too, may want (and need!) to come out of your sickness and into the health Jesus can give, out of earth's sorrows into His balm, out of life's storms and into His calm, out of distress to jubilant psalm...

When we come to Him, He gives us what we so desperately need but can't obtain on our own. He is our Source for every blessing and the Solution to every problem. Oh, Dear One, let's run to Him!

*William T. Sleeper, 1887

Sunday, January 27, 2019

It's Not All Up to Me!

Anytime I'm struggling to do something that's a challenge for me (which is quite often!), the Holy Spirit brings to my mind these comforting words spoken by God centuries ago:
After being reminded that the outcome does not depend on me alone, I relax a little. I keep doing my best, of course, but I don't feel as desperate to make things work out. I realize that God's in charge of everything, including me, and that He will "perfect that concerns me," as David says in Psalm 138:8, NKJV.

Note: Other versions translate that truth in various ways. The New Living Translation says, "The LORD will work out his plans for my life." The English Standard Version says, "The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me." The New American Standard Bible says, "The LORD will accomplish what concerns me."

The bottom line, however, is: The Lord is in charge of me. He will take care of me. Therefore, I can fully trust Him--and I do! You, Dear Reader, can do the same.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

To a More Perfect Life

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me...
(Psalm 23:4a, NKJV)

Monday, January 21, 2019

I’m Beginning to “Get It”

It seems that everything I read here lately reminds me that I am being cared for by One far greater than I. (I wrote about that in yesterday's post on 1-20-2019.) This afternoon, while I was reading in Amy Carmichael’s wonderful book, Thou Givest...They Gather, I came to these words:
Did you ever fear a little as you thought of the difficulties ahead? Did you ever think, “The Lord Jesus has so many to take care of, how will He have time to think of me?” We have the answer to such thoughts here [Revelation 1:16-17]. It is the Hand that holds the seven stars (the seven churches, all the worlds and the Heaven of heaven) it is that Hand that is laid upon each one of us, and to each one the word is the same, “Fear not” (p.103).
This evening, as I was doing an assignment in The Quest: An Excursion Toward Greater Intimacy with God, one of the Scriptures the author (Beth Moore) included was Deuteronomy 33:3, which says:
A bit further down in that same chapter, I came to these words, which I’ve heard Elisabeth Elliot say hundreds of times on her radio program Gateway to Joy:
The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are His everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27a). 
Is it a coincidence that I’m receiving the same message from various sources? I don’t think so. I believe it is a message my Heavenly Father wants me to truly believe. Therefore, He’s allowing me to hear it again and again even though it’s expressed in slightly different words by those who recorded and then shared the words He gave them. Thankfully, the message is beginning to sink into my mind and heart. God does love me. He holds me in His mighty hand. There I am secure and have no need to fear. 

Is that a message you also need to hear, to believe, and to share with others?

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Refuse to Worry!

Do you worry about almost everything—and everyone? I tend to do that, but I’m really trying hard to stop it. My mother was a worrier, as was her mother, as was her mother.... 

Although I come from a long line of worriers, I’m hopeful that the worry “gene” has not been passed on to my daughters, since they don’t seem to worry as much as I do.

While it’s good to be concerned about ourselves and others and the challenges we face, it’s not good to fret about them. One person likened worrying to rocking in a chair. “It gives us something to do but doesn’t get us anywhere.” 

In Luke 12:25-26, Jesus pointed out the futility of worrying when He asked, “Can you add a single cubit to your stature?” (Some translations say, “Can any of you add one moment, one hour, to your life span?”) Since no one can, Jesus went on to say, in essence, “Then why are you worrying about all sorts of other things?” 

Instead of walking the floor or tossing and turning all night or talking endlessly about how awful a certain situation is, why not spend that time talking to the One who CAN do something about it? Then, trust Him to handle it in His way and in His time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


Although I don’t always attend the Burgess family reunion every year, I do think about the experiences I've had with many of those who might have been there (and those who’ve passed away).

I especially think of Daddy and Mama and the sweetness of the life we shared before his death in 1982 and hers in 2011. Although we struggled financially, we were rich in many ways. Love filled our home, our church, and our community. Family and wonderful neighbors lived nearby and always helped us, as we did them. My sister and I always felt we had TWO homes, ours and Aunt Delia and Uncle Howard’s home, which was “up the road” about a quarter of a mile from ours. On weekends, when my older brothers and sisters often brought their families, our house bulged at the seams and happy voices mingled in the air.

As I think back on those days with those dear people, I thank God for the blessing they were to me then—and now, for as the writer of Proverbs 10:7 (NIV) so rightly says, “The memory of the righteous will be a blessing.”

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Too Much on the Plate

Note: While working on a special project I came across this article I wrote in 2002. It's relevant today since "overwhelm" rarely goes away!

For a time, my eleven-month-old grandson Bailey sat in his high chair and munched happily on his Cheerios and little slivers of an apple.  When I noticed that he had eaten nearly all that was on his tray, I gave him a little more. Suddenly he began to smash his “yum-yums” with his palms and to swipe them off his tray onto the floor.

“Bailey! No! No!” I said.

His mother cleared the tray immediately, and together we wiped his hands and cleaned the floor. As we did so, she said, “That’s what Bailey does when he feels overwhelmed.”

I laughed. “I understand! All too often I feel as if I have too much on my plate.”

Realizing that I was referring to responsibilities rather than to food, Jena nodded knowingly, since, “like mother, like daughter,” she, too, normally has more going on than she should have.

As I reflected on that experience, I realized that at least Bailey had the good sense to get rid of the things that were overwhelming him! While we adults ought not to dispense with our responsibilities as quickly as Bailey did his food, we can learn how to admit that we are becoming maxed out and to ask for help. (Actually, we have the option of saying “no” before we let people put more on our plates than we want. That is our best line of defense.)

Even after we accept certain responsibilities, we still have options. 
One, we can hold on to and perform our duties even though our stress reaches dangerous limits. (Not a good choice!) 

Two, we can learn time management and organizational skills that will help us juggle all our jobs more efficiently and effectively. (Better.) 

Three, we can delegate some of the tasks to others.  (Great idea for us, but perhaps not good for the persons to whom we pass part of our load!)

Fourth, we can spread out our calendars and our commitments before God and say, “These are the things I have agreed to do. But, my ‘plate’ runneth over! Help me know which ones I should keep and which ones I should let go of in order to regain my sanity and to renew my joy in serving You and others.”

You know what? He will begin to instruct us. He may speak through others as He spoke to me years ago when I was wearing not only my “Super Mom” hat but also several others. My boss at that time often said, “Johnnie, you don’t need to do things the hard way.” For example, after I’d made a batch of homemade cupcakes and delivered them to the school, he smiled and said, “You could have bought them.”

He was right, of course, but that thought almost never occurred to me. Even so, God continued to send gentle reminders to me via that dear friend, as well as others.

God also speaks through our circumstances. Sometimes we get to the point where we are absolutely unable to continue doing a particular thing. Thus, we have no choice but to remove it from our plate. And sometimes God allows us to become so miserable in a situation that we have to let go of it even though we’ve always felt we couldn’t or shouldn’t.

God also directs us through His Word, especially when we come honestly and humbly before Him. Proverbs 3:5-6 (New Living Translation) tells us the steps to follow if we want to know what we should or should not do. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.”

Monday, January 14, 2019

Proclaim the Glory of God!

1 The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
2 Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
3 They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.
4 Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
and their words to all the world.
God has made a home in the heavens for the sun.
5 It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding.
It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race.
6 The sun rises at one end of the heavens
and follows its course to the other end.
Nothing can hide from its heat.
(Psalm 19:1-6, NLT).

After I'd read those words and reflected on them, I said to God, "May all that You've enabled me to be proclaim Your glory. May I, like the rest of Your creation, display Your workmanship. May all that I am continue to testify of You day after day and night after night. May I make You known throughout my sphere of influence.

May I, like the sun You created, "burst forth" (eagerly begin) and successfully complete the course You set for me each day. May I, like a well-trained athlete, be ready to run the race You have marked out for me...."


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Good News!

Ever feel that you're a mess? That your life is a mess? That everyone around you is a mess? That the mess is impossible to clean up, especially by yourself? 

Well, there's good news! There's hope. As Matt Chandler said, "God is at work in the mess. That's the message of the Bible" (Our Daily Bread, Nov. 20, 2018).

When we cry out to Him, He will help us, as He did David, who said:
"In my distress I called upon the LORD,
And cried to my God for help;
He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry for help before Him came into His ears."
(Psalm 18:6, NASB)

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Take It Good

Today I've thought so much about my sweet mama who died eight years ago on this date (January 9). It's hard to believe she's been gone that long. Sometimes, when the grief is deep and raw, as it has been today, it seems that she died days ago. Sometimes it seems that she's been gone much longer than 8 years.

As brokenhearted as I was to have to let Mama go, I was also thankful that God had called her home, thereby releasing her from the ravages of Alzheimer's. As much as I loved her, I could not wish her to come back--under the circumstances. Although her last years were not easy, Mama remained sweet and gentle, never argumentative or combative or complaining or demanding or asking, "Why me?"

As I remember Mama's last years, I realize that "She took it good," as my mother-in-law used to say. I am so thankful she did. I pray that when I am in difficult circumstances, I will remain sweet and "take it good," like Mama did.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Where's the New?

A devotional in the January-February 2019 issue of The Upper Room begins with a delightful story (page 8) about a little boy who expressed great excitement about the coming of a New Year. But when the New Year arrived, he ran around looking everywhere for the New Year--or at least something new. But, of course, he found everything the same as before. "Where's the new?" he demanded.

The writer of that story (Sriparna Mahanty from Odisha, India) goes on to say that she often wonders whether or not there's anything new in her life now that's she's a Christian. You and I wonder the same thing, don't we? After all, as she points out, the Bible does say, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Corinthians 5:17, NASB).

Although we may look pretty much the same, there will be more love that shows on our face and in our voice and in our
actions. We will be more forgiving and more patient with others. There are other pieces of evidence, such as those listed in Galatians 5:22-23, that prove we are changing from the inside out. We'll give up many of our old habits and develop new (better) ones. We'll see changes in our attitude-- sometimes subtle ones, sometimes major ones. 

The "new" is there and will become increasingly evident the more we talk with God, the more we read and study His Word, and the more we do what it says. 

Just as a seed that's planted grows imperceptively over time as it comes to full fruition, so also newness of spiritual life is a process that begins the moment we receive Christ. We are growing. We are becoming all that Christ will enable us to be. In the meantime, let's not be disappointed if we don't see major newness all at once. Rather, let's look for all the little signs of new growth we see in ourselves and desire more.

Monday, January 7, 2019

How to Cast Your Cares Away

Casting all our cares on God is hard to do, isn't it? We know that He causes all things to work together for His glory and our good. We know that He knows the best way to handle everything that concerns us. Yet, we do what a dear friend says she does: "I take my burdens to the Lord and leave them there. But then I go right back and pick them up again. Then the worry starts all over again, and I feel the weight of them again."

How do we release them? In my humble opinion, it's a bit like losing weight. We commit to doing it, and then comes the hard part. Moment by moment and day after day, we are faced with decisions. Do I eat this or avoid it? Do I exercise today or find reasons to skip it? Do I go to bed on time to give my body the rest it needs? Do I drink sugar-laden drinks or water? 

These are not once-and-done decisions. How much easier weight loss would be if that were the case. But we have to make those same decisions again and again and again. I think giving our burdens to the Lord is a lot like that, don't you? 

I heard one woman talk about a way she does that day-by-day surrendering. 

"Every single time a worry pops into my mind, I say to myself, 'For this [whatever the this may be] I have Jesus.' If the troublesome thought enters my mind again, which can be hundreds of times a day, I simply remind myself again: 'For this I have Jesus.' I can't keep the thought from coming, but I can refuse to let my mind dwell on the problem, no matter how big the problem is." 

Saturday, January 5, 2019

A Brightly Shining Light

When the memorial service ended, I headed straight to the college-age woman who had sung so beautifully and said, “I just have to tell you how touched I was with your singing. Your voice is like that of an angel. And the light of Christ shines from within you.”

She smiled sweetly and said, “I do love the Lord.”

“That’s very obvious,” I said.

During the few minutes we talked, she told me that her life’s verse is Matthew 5:16. She even uses m516 as part of her blog address, which reminds her of that verse every time she types the address or shares it with a friend, as she did with me.

A day or so later, I looked up that verse and the surrounding ones. As I read Matthew 5:14-16, I noticed that Jesus had spoken those words to His disciples, which means they apply to us today.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15nor does anyone put a lamp under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (NASB).

She was a wonderful example of that. The light of the Lord was all over her: in her eyes, on her face, in her body language, and in the emotion with which she sang “Amazing Grace” and “When We All Get to Heaven.”

Because I want to be a light like that, I prayed, “O Father, I do want to let others see Jesus in me. I want His light to be so evident in me that people (even strangers) will be attracted to the light they see in/on me and will inquire about it, as I did with the young lady. And when they inquire, may I acknowledge, as she did, that Jesus is the source of that light, that He is the One who deserves the praise and glory for the beautiful light that radiates from me to others."

Friday, January 4, 2019

Wonder and Worship

I photographed this sunrise from the balcony on another day.
 I woke up when it was still dark but decided to stay in bed for a few minutes longer and listen to BBN Radio via an app on my phone. As I gazed out the large, uncovered windows, I marveled at the beautiful changes in the sky as a new day dawned.

While watching the dramatic changes, I focused on these words to a song that was playing on BBN Radio: “I will glorify the King of Kings. I will glorify the Lamb.” I lifted my hands in praise and worshipped Him.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Words of Comfort

In her wonderful book, Thou Givest...They Gather (p.27), Amy Carmichael shares these comforting words sent to her by a friend from South Africa. May they minister hope to you today.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

I'm Not Perfect!

While working on a special project, I looked through hundreds of columns I've written since 1984. When I read this one, written in 2003, I decided to share it with you.

A stranger e-mailed to say she reads and enjoys my columns. When I thanked her for writing, she sent another e-mail, telling me a bit about her life. In closing, she said, “I didn't mean to bend your ear so; but, as I said, you talk like a friend and family.”

Thrilled by that compliment, I sent her an e-mail, saying, “Thank you for helping me to know you. I love it when readers do that! And I appreciate your saying that I sound like a friend and family member. I hope that means I sound ‘real,’ for I do want to be authentic and open, rather than ‘holier than thou,’ which sometimes happens when one writes a ‘religious’ column.

“Actually, I am (painfully!) aware of how often I stumble and how much I struggle to overcome habits that I should have conquered years ago. Whenever I admit such struggles, I'm ‘plumb embarrassed,’ and I wonder what readers think of me.”

When I re-read those e-mail messages, I thought about the advice successful “inspirational” writers often give. “Tell the truth. Be vulnerable. Don’t try to make your readers think you are perfect or that you have it 'all together.'" 

Although it is embarrassing to admit one’s failures, a writer who urges readers to become more Christ-like must be willing to at least imply, “I’m not perfect, but I am trying to become more like Christ. Let’s journey together toward that goal.”

And it’s progress toward that goal, rather than perfection, that we seek. As long as we are in this life, we will make mistakes. We will stumble. We will sin—sometimes unintentionally, sometimes willfully.

David and Paul (who, under the inspiration of God’s Spirit, wrote major portions of the Bible) often confessed their faults and failures. Yet, we (the readers) turn again and again to their writings. Why? Knowing we are not the only ones who try and fail…try and fail…makes us feel better!

Instead of encouraging us to wallow in the mire of our humanity, the testimonies of others inspire us to get up and try again. For example, when David says,“ I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me” (Psalm 51:3, New International Version), we say, “That’s true of me, too.” So we read on, eager to find out how David deals with his guilt.

When David prays, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me…Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:10, 12, NIV), we say, “Ah! I need to do that, too.”

Like David, the Apostle Paul often referred to his shameful past, but he always quickly pointed out how God had been gracious and merciful to a sinner such as he. (See 1 Timothy 1:12-17.)

From such stories, we learn that God will extend unmerited mercy and grace to us, also. And we, along with untold millions, might have missed knowing that (and other wonderful truths, as well,) if David and Paul had been too ashamed to admit they weren’t perfect.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Pair'em Up! Get'em Done!

A lady who sends frequent emails says she's trying something new this year. Instead of making resolutions, she's setting up habits that will help her accomplish things she needs to do. For example, instead of just resolving to "eat more fruits and vegetables this year," she's planning to develop the habit of snacking on a fruit or veggie each day at 3 p.m. While she's munching on a healthy snack, she's going to watch Lightroom videos so that she can learn more about photo editing. Pairing something she NEEDS to do (eat fruits and veggies) but is not likely to do with something she WANTS to do (and will do!) should strengthen the habit of eating healthy snacks. Smart, I'd say!

Most of us eagerly do what we want to do, but we aren't always so faithful in doing the things we know we should do but find it difficult to do. But if we pair something easy to do with something hard, we're more likely to do the hard thing, aren't we?

In light of that, I've enrolled in a program that encourages me to take 7500 steps (or more!) per day for at least 20 out of 30 days each month. I've committed to do that--and I will. However, since I'm not as faithful in having an extended prayer time each day, I'm going to pair the walking with talking with God.

Any ideas about what you can pair together? If so, please click on POST A COMMENT below and share your plans.