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As a writer, needle artist and photographer, I invite you to share my pursuits with me on this site. Among other things, there is a weekly post called “D-mail” that examines the spiritual meaning in current stories, both personal and news events.  I invite your comments at  cathycongerblog@gmail.com

“The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium.”  N. Platt

Scripture: Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

Time to Say Farewell

On this Thanksgiving week I would like to share with you how thankful I am for the privilege of writing D-mails for you each week for these many years. I have always tried to prayerfully create a devotion that meets you where you live and helps you to grow spiritually. I know I have grown spiritually by researching the topics and reading the many, many scriptures God has led me to write about. When I began this endeavor, I set out with the idea of writing more in depth devotions than the usual daily type devotions that are published. I know that many times the D-mails were long, but that is part of why they were unique among devotionals. I also tried to write devotions that addressed current events and issues and I hope that was something you liked. Obviously, I loved writing D-mails. However, it took from 4-6 hours to research and compose each one. Over the last 6 months, I have been seeking God about bringing this season of my life to a close and I feel that the time has come to move on to something else.

So I must say farewell. If D-mail were to continue, God would have to raise up someone new to write them. Perhaps He has already been nudging one of you to write a D-mail now and then, but you haven’t felt the time was right or you have felt uncomfortable doing so. If that is you, please pray about it and consider being the new D-mail writer. Let me know if you’d like to continue this ministry and I will be glad to give advice and some supervision at the beginning if you wished. I will miss communicating with you. Change is always uncomfortable and it will seem strange not to be looking for a D-mail topic each week! May God bless you richly and keep you strong in the faith.

Love, Cathy

Scripture:
Job 41: 10, 11 “Who then is able to stand against me? Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me... Job 42:1 “Then Job replied to the Lord: I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.”

Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.”

Pray and Vote or Vote and Pray?

It’s coming to an end! No, not the world. Just this juggernaut of an election campaign. If you’re like me, your phone has been ringing non-stop with political calls, you cannot get through a TV program (even on Hurricane Sandy!) without a series of political ads, and the candidate’s names have almost become a thorn in your side. If one more person tells you how important your vote is, you’re going to spit in their eye. I watched the debates, tried to study the candidates’ platforms, and I still feel stressed out about voting. Let’s face it. For Christians, it’s just one of those elections where the decision is gray (perhaps they all are). A couple I spoke with recently, who have been staunch Republicans for years, said, “We’re going to reluctantly vote for Obama.” And I’ve heard others talk of reluctantly voting for Romney. It’s just that kind of election. Are you tempted to not vote at all in order to avoid supporting the wrong candidate? If you could vote on moral values alone, it might be a little more black and white. But then there’s the economic issues, etc. What to do?

Can we pray and vote, trusting God with the outcome? How many of us have come to that place of peace? Do you remember studying for a crucial exam? You did the work, studied hard, and yet felt that you could probably study round the clock and still not feel prepared. Finally, you had to say, OK. It is what it is. I did my best and God will have to do the rest. More often than not, you did just fine on the exam. Feeling like that student at exam time, I prayed. When I was praying about this election and my part in it, one scripture came to mind. “Be still and know that I am God.” ( Psalm 46:10)
At the end of the day, that’s what it comes to, doesn’t it? God is in charge. So pray and then vote. Then be still and know that God will do what he will. It is what it is.

But unlike what I said at the beginning of this D-mail, it’s really not coming to an end on November 6th. Life will go on. Things will happen that the candidates never anticipated. Abraham Lincoln couldn’t have anticipated the bloodiest war our nation had ever faced. George W. Bush could never have known that he would have to face 9/ 11. Who saw Katrina coming? President Obama could not have known how huge this recession would become or what the fallout of a hurricane striking New York City would be. So after voting on November 6th, as we should always be doing on behalf of our government, we must pray. Pray for whoever wins the election and picks up the reins of power. No matter what level of office, they have a heavy load. No matter whether we voted for them or not, they need our prayers for wisdom and courage. Our nation needs us to lift her enormous challenges up to God, who truly holds the reins of power. (see Job 41 and 42 above) So between now and next Tuesday, pray and speak your mind at the voting booth. Vote and pray, for we need God’s guidance and blessing more than ever before.

Prayer

Almighty God, we humble ourselves and ask for your wisdom on voting day. I pray that all eligible citizens will go vote. We place our future in your hands. May your will be done. Amen

Scripture: Isaiah 55: 8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

GOD WORKS IN STRANGE WAYS HIS WONDERS TO PERFORM

Thanks go out to Donna Bornbach, who sent me this metaphoric story which is an extension of last week’s D-mail message!

When Your Hut’s On Fire

The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him. Every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming.
Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect himself from the elements, and to store his few possessions. One day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, with smoke rolling up to the sky. He felt the worst had happened, and everything was lost. He was stunned with disbelief, grief, and anger. He cried out, ‘God! How could you do this to me?’
Early the next day, he was awakened by the sound of a ship approaching the island! It had come to rescue him! ‘How did you know I was here?’ asked the weary man of his rescuers. ‘We saw your smoke signal,’ they replied.


It’s easy to get discouraged when things are going bad, but we shouldn’t lose heart, because God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of our pain and suffering. His ways are not our ways. Remember that the next time your little hut seems to be burning to the ground. It just may be a smoke signal that summons
the grace of God.

Prayer: Lord, help me to trust that you are working behind the scenes to answer my prayers, even when I cannot see anything happening (or something completely illogical happening) .

Amen

Scripture: Exodus 26:33, Exodus 28: 33-35, Matthew 27: 50-51, John 19:30

Hebrews 4: 14-16, Hebrews 5:7-10

APPROACH THE THRONE WITH CONFIDENCE

Have you noticed that more and more places have been cordoned off to regular folk by tighter and tighter security? People fear for their loss of privacy, leaders fear for their safety, public buildings require special “passes” to enter. When I was eight years old, I visited Washington, D.C. for the first time. I don’t remember very many of the sights we visited, but I clearly remember touring the White House. When we heard that Mamie Eisenhower was “home”, our tourist group buzzed with anticipation that at any moment, she might come around a corner and greet us – which was often known to do. On my most recent visit to Washington, the White House was closed to the public. You practically have to have an Act of Congress to see your Congressman these days. There are even thorough security checks just to get into the stadium to watch the Brewers play! And try to talk to your doctor on the phone! The only doctor I can get through to nowadays is my husband and even he is protected by a receptionist.

In the Old Testament times, no one but a temple priest could communicate with God. No one but the High Priest could enter into the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and then only once a year. A heavy embroidered curtain separated the Holy Place from the rest of the tabernacle (Exodus 26: 33) We also read in Exodus (Ex 28:33-35) that bells were sewn on the garments that the High priest wore. He was to jingle them from time to time from the other side of the curtain so that the people outside would know that God had not struck him dead. According to Jewish tradition, one end of a rope was tied to the High priest’s ankle and the other end remained outside the tabernacle. If the bells on his robe stopped tinkling while he was in the Holy Place, the fear that he had died could be tested by tugging on the rope. Talk about feeling out of touch with God! But that all changed when Jesus Christ went to the cross to pay the ransom for our sins. At the moment Jesus cried, “It is finished,” the curtain or veil that marked the door to the Holy of Holies in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:50-51 and John 19:30). Kings and presidents who rule on earth tend to make themselves in- accessible. Ordinary people almost never gain an audience with them. Even dignitaries must plow through red tape and protocol in order to speak to them. But the King of Kings declares himself totally accessible to us.

Hebrews 5: 7-10 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he (Jesus Christ) was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. (see Hebrews 7:1-3)

Hebrews 4:14-16 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.

When that curtain was torn, it opened the way for you and I to meet our Savior and Lord face to Face. No Pope or priest or any other mediator except Jesus Christ is necessary. We must never take that marvel for granted. We can commune with the Creator of the Universe anywhere and anytime – even in the comfort of our own homes. Outside of redemption for our sins, that is the most precious gift from Jesus Christ we can ever receive. So, child of God, what are you waiting for? Do not be afraid. Go on in and speak to your God.

Prayer: We praise and thank you, our Savior and Lord, for your love and mercy and for the privilege we have of a free audience with you, which you shed your blood for on the Cross. May we never forget nor neglect this most precious gift. Amen

Scripture: Psalm 68:19 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.

I John 4:18 There is no room in love for fear. Perfect, unconditional love banishes fear, because fear is crippling. A fearful life – fear of death, fear of judgment – is one not

yet fully formed in the presence of unconditional love.

It Was My Fault

Have you ever told a lie to save your skin or to hide a failure or to simply not look foolish? It doesn’t have to be a “bad” lie. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have trouble with time. I just don’t have a feeling for how much time is elapsing. Consequently, I find myself running late a lot. I can think of several occasions when I was late for an appointment because I had overslept or dawdled too long before leaving home or just lost track of the time while enjoying a good book or lunch with a friend. On those occasions, I would grab the car keys, jump into the car, and speed toward my destination, probably breaking the speed limit. Nevertheless, I would arrive late. But instead of apologizing and accepting the consequences for not being punctual, I would find myself concocting a completely false story of why I was late, a story in which being late was not my fault at all! I didn’t want to look irresponsible. As I would explain why being late wasn’t my fault, on the inside I felt terribly guilty. I tried to rationalize the lie, but I had to face the fact that I had lied to make myself look good – or at least to not look bad. Telling the truth might have been humiliating, but at least I would have walked on feeling free and clean.

Of course, guilt and humiliation over much more serious sin can tear people apart. We hear about it every day. However, I don’t think Jesus has a priority list for sin. Sin is sin in the eyes of God. (So my little white lies didn’t get me off the hook with Jesus) Fortunately, he is more than willing to forgive our sins, “major” and “minor”. Walking along the road of life, carrying one burden of guilt on top of another, without allowing Jesus to unload them, makes walking exhausting. When the road then becomes steep or slippery, that load of guilt on our back makes us much more likely to stumble and fall. Eventually, we fall apart. I picture Jesus looking down, just shaking his head at our foolishness.

Our Lord is saying to us, “Walk with me in the freedom of forgiveness. If you ask me, I will remove that heavy burden from you. When I unburden you, you will be undeniably free.” Have you noticed that when a person is carrying something very heavy on their back, they have to stoop over to remain balanced ? Years ago, when my oldest daughter left to spend a summer backpacking through Europe, she was carrying the biggest, heaviest backpack I had ever seen! She could not stand up straight and she could barely climb a ramp, much less climb stairs or climb up into a train. I have no idea how she managed for three months traveling that way. From a physics point of view, when you stand up straight and tall and remain in that position, it becomes nearly impossible for anyone to place more burdens on your back. When Jesus forgives you and takes the burdens from your back, you can stand up straight again. In his presence, no one can pile those burdens on you again.

In Christ’s presence, you walk in unconditional love, the love that frees you from both the fear and guilt of failure and sin. Jesus will take the punishment that you fear – and deserve upon his back. Boy, doesn’t that make you feel free! Psalm 68: 19 declares that Jesus will do this daily. I John 4: 18 says that there can be no fear in the presence of unconditional love. Since only our Lord is capable of that kind of perfect love, it only makes sense that we would want to bask in his presence all of the time. One of my favorite verses is found in I Peter 5:7. I leave you with a Sunday school song that I love based on that verse and hope that it gives you a sense of the peace that comes from God’s forgiveness. It goes like this:

I cast all my cares upon You.

I lay all of my burdens

down at Your feet.

And any time I don’t know

what to do,

I will cast all my cares upon You.

Prayer

Oh most gracious and merciful Lord, help me to lay my burdens at your feet. Help me to ask for your forgiveness when I sin so that I can find freedom in your unconditional love and mercy. Take the burden of guilt and shame from my bent back and restore me to standing straight and tall in your presence. I praise and thank you. Amen

Scripture:

Destructive people produce conflict; gossips alienate close friends.. Proverbs 16:27-29 (CEB)

The words of a whisperer or slanderer are like words of sport to some, but to others are like deadly wounds; and they go down into the innermost parts of the of the victim’s nature. Proverbs 26:22 (Amplified version)

Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. Proverbs 26:20 (NIV)

Abstain from all appearance of evil. I Thessalonians 5:22 (KJV)

Here are six things God hates,
and one more that he loathes with a passion:

eyes that are arrogant,
a tongue that lies,
hands that murder the innocent,

a heart that hatches evil plots,
feet that race down a wicked track,
a mouth that lies under oath,

a troublemaker in the family. Proverbs 6: 16-19 (The Message)

OUR WORDS ARE POWERFUL

Our words are powerful. The old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” couldn’t be further from the truth. Despite our ability to forgive and forget, a well-timed, hateful string of words can emotionally damage a person for years to come. Sometimes a truth is best taught through the vehicle of humor. For example, the following joke:

Mildred, a gossip and self appointed guardian of morals, always stuck her nose into other peoples business. She worked hard to point out the sins of others and of course was above any personal moral flaws. At a church meeting, she announced to all present that Harry was an alcoholic after she saw his car parked outside the town’s only bar one afternoon. She emphatically told Harry, and also all others at the gathering, that everyone seeing his car parked there would know what he was doing. Harry, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment, turned and left the building. He didn’t explain, didn’t deny, didn’t defend. He said nothing. However, later that day he parked his car in front of Mildred’s house — walked home — and left the car there overnight.

Harry was obviously familiar with I Thessalonians 5:22 , “Abstain from the appearance of evil” and used it to give Mildred a taste of her own medicine.. Hopefully, the two people did not cause a feud because as Proverbs 16:28 says, “Destructive people produce conflict; gossips alienate close friends.Can you just hear the rumor mill in Mildred’s church cranking out damaging information? I wonder if Mildred learned her lesson.

Abstaining from any appearance of evil goes a long way toward not providing wood for the fire of gossip. Proverbs tells us that if we want a fire to go out we should stop feeding it wood. Likewise, if we want a quarrel to die down, we should stop gossiping. The writer of Proverbs describes an unwise person as “one who speaks like the piercings of a sword” (12:18). Our tongues can be like a multi-bladed Swiss Army knife when it comes to the variety of ways that we cut and destroy each other.

Unhealthy attitudes of anger, irritation, frustration, and impatience—even disappointment, stress, guilt, and insecurity—all contribute to our damaging speech. No doubt Mildred’s need to condemn Harry and probably countless others stemmed from her unhealthy attitudes. As we cut with our words, we wound and divide friendships and relationships. It’s no wonder that the infamous list of seven things that are an abomination to the Lord includes anyone who “sows discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:16-19).

We have all gossiped at one time or another. We have also relished in hearing some juicy negative thing about someone we know. We don’t need Proverbs to know that gossip , and revenge for that matter, are wrong. And we have all been on the hurtful end of a chain of gossip.We know how hard it is to undo the falsehood that gossips have perpetrated on us.

Whenever you are tempted to spread or listen to gossip, remember Mildred and Harry. I know I will. And don’t fall into the excuse that you want to know something about someone so that you can “pray for that person”.

Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.
Will Rogers

Prayer: Father God, may we not be quick to spread gossip or repeat gossip or use our tongues to hurt another in any way. Amen

Scripture:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. II Corinthians 4:16

So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come. Psalm 71:18

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. Psalm 92:12-15

YOU ARE AS YOUNG AS YOUR FAITH

This month is doctor month for me. Somehow I managed to make appointments with my orthopedist, opthamologist, internist, podiatrist, physical therapist, psychiatrist, and pain specialist. Besides having to spend hours in medical offices, fill out reams of forms, and figuring out which doctor needs a referral from which, I discovered that everybody needs to know how much I weigh in order to treat me. I was weighed six times this week! Also, when you are over 60, there are a lot more things that have to be tested. I feel old!

While feeling sorry for myself, I began to pray about what to write in this week’s D-mail. Well, God had an idea. He led me to a poem I wrote long ago (when I was young and cocky) and to a set of words written for Jesus Love’s Me. In reading through the poem, I recognized that it needed some work, but oddly enough, its words seemed to be meant for me today! It just shows how God can use anything and anyone –even yourself- to speak his message. Here is the poem I seemed to have written for myself, such as it is. Maybe it will speak to someone else out there too.

The Ageless Soul

Age may wrinkle the skin

but to give up enthusiasm

wrinkles the soul.

Worry, doubt, fear and despair

turn the spirit back to dust

long before the body is in the ground.

Living in the state of wonder,

like staring into the heavens

or watching a newborn find his fist,

feeds your appetite for what is next.

Youth see the end of every failure

as the end of the world,

but wisdom knows that the soul

survives its adventures.

You are as young as your faith,

as old as your doubt,

as young as your confidence,

as old as your fears,

as young as your hope,

as old as your despair.

Wisdom is the knowledge

that inspiration comes with failure

and the power to hope

belongs to the longsuffering.

This is the gift saved for those

who have lived long upon the earth.

by Cathy Conger

I mentioned the following stanzas for Jesus Loves Me, the first song about Jesus most of us ever learned. Perhaps these added words will make it the song we can sing into our old age.

JESUS LOVES ME

Jesus loves me , this I know,

for the Bible tells me so.

Little ones to Him belong.

They are weak but he is strong.

(Chorus)

Yes, Jesus loves me…Yes, Jesus loves me.

Yes, Jesus loves me…the Bible tells me so.

Though my hair is white as snow.

though my sight is growing dim,

still He bids me trust in him.

Though my steps are oh so slow,

with my hand in His I’ll go

on through life let come what may,

He’ll be there to lead the way.

When the nights are dark and long,

in my heart He puts a song.

Telling me in words so clear,

“Have no fear, for I am here.”

Though I am no longer young,

and the song I have is sung,

I will serve him till the end,

my Redeemer, Lord and Friend.

When my work on earth is done,

and life’s victories are won,

He will take me home above,

then I’ll understand His love.

Yes, Jesus loves me… Yes, Jesus loves me.

Yes, Jesus loves me…the Bible tells me so.

Prayer: Jesus, we are forever grateful for your never- ending love. As those of us who are facing our senior years grow more needy physically, watch over us and provide for our safety and health. Show us how we may serve you no matter what our age and help us to share our wisdom faithfully with the young. Amen

Scripture: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3

Why Don’t You Call Me?

I think one of the greatest inventions since the telephone is Caller ID. The ability to screen the myriad number of telephone calls we get each day takes most of the annoyance out of the ring of the telephone. I can just let a call go unanswered as long as I know it isn’t a family member or close friend. No guilt, no running to the phone from the bathroom! These past months of the 2012 big election year have been the worst, haven’t they? I swear the Republican National Committee has called me twice a day for over 2 weeks – and they must be pretty persistent because I never answer! I can’t think of a single stranger I want to talk to that badly.

However, if my husband or one of our children or my parents or siblings call, I will bend over backwards to race to the phone. When you are expecting an important call from a child or other loved one far away ( like what military families are experiencing) , you’re on pins and needles waiting for the call. When each of my children was studying abroad, a phone call from them, carefully planned to account for the time difference, was very precious. And when the children and grandchildren head home from visiting us, I insist that they call once they are home to let me know they are safe. I can’t imagine what it must be like for parents whose children never pick up the phone to stay in touch. My son, Pete, had a college roommate from Brooklyn who evidently didn’t call home much. Consequently, his mother would call him – a lot. Usually the call went to the answering machine and, according to Pete, sounded something like this,

At the tone, please leave your message. Beeep…

“Hello Adam! Are you “they-ah”, Adam? Adam, this is your “moth-uh”. Why don’t you “coo-all”? You know your “fath-uh” and I worry when you don’t “coo-all”. How busy can a son possibly be that he can’t pick up the phone to “coo-all” his “ moth-uh”? Adam, I’m going to the “mahket” now, but I’ll only be out a few minutes. I want you should “coo-all” me. Oolright? So, goodbye.”

Click

We got such a kick out of this typical New York Jewish mother with her Brooklyn accent, but really, the longing in that mother’s voice was truly moving. When someone you love doesn’t make an effort to communicate with you, it really hurts. Sitting by the phone, waiting for the child I’m worried about, the child I have been fervently praying for, isn’t funny at all.

I wonder if God is like Adam’s mother in a way. God, are you waiting by the phone for me to call? Do you show up every day during quiet time and wait for me to come? How many different times have you called out to me? How many ways have you tried to build communication with me and I haven’t responded?

I know God doesn’t worry about me in the same way that we mothers down here worry, but he certainly cares about his children every bit as much and a lot more. He longs to meet us and spend time with us. Someone once told me that Jeremiah 33:3 is God’s telephone number. His line is never busy and he will never put us on hold. He says to us,

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

It feels strange sometimes I know to sit all alone in an empty prayer closet and try to hear the voice of someone we cannot see. It’s awkward at first to talk to the air, isn’t it? But God is there. He’s said so all through his word. He’s asked us to call. If you knew a dear friend would be sitting in the same place in the park every day, expecting to meet you and share all the best news and advice, you would go, wouldn’t you? God is that friend. They said of Jesus that he was a friend to sinners so even if you feel unworthy, he still wants to spend time with you. He is the best listener you’ll ever know.

One of my favorite hymns is called In the Garden, partly because my Grandma Rosie used to sing it often and partly because the words are so refreshing and uplifting. It was written in 1912 by C. Austin Miles. The words go like this:

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

I’d stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.

Miles wrote of his experience writing this hymn as follows,

One day in April, 1912, 1 was seated in the dark room, where I kept my photographic equipment and organ. I drew my Bible toward me; it opened at my favorite chapter, John 20–whether by chance or inspiration let each reader decide. That meeting of Jesus and Mary had lost none of its power and charm. As I read it that day, I seemed to be part of the scene. My hands were resting on the Bible while I stared at the light blue wall. As the light faded, I seemed to be standing at the entrance of a garden, looking down a gently winding path, shaded by olive branches. A woman in white, with head bowed, hand clasping her throat, as if to choke back her sobs, walked slowly into the shadows. It was Mary. As she came to the tomb, upon which she placed her hand, she bent over to look in, and hurried away. John, in flowing robe, appeared, looking at the tomb; then came Peter, who entered the tomb. As they departed, Mary reappeared. Leaning her head upon her arm at the tomb, she wept. Then, turning, she saw Jesus standing before her, as did I! 1 knew it was Jesus. She knelt before Him, with arms outstretched and looking into His face cried, “Rabboni!”

I awakened in sunlight, grip­ping the Bible, with muscles tense and nerves vibrating. Under the inspiration of this vision I wrote as quickly as the words could be formed the poem exactly as it has since appeared. That same evening I wrote the music.

If you could walk and talk with Jesus and hear all the sweet words he had for you, wouldn’t you race to that place? My prayer for myself and for you is that this communion could happen every day for us. And the joy we’d share as we tarried there, none other would ever know.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, my dear friend, how long have you been waiting for me to come to the garden? How many times have you called me and I have ignored your call? How long have you sat by the phone waiting for me to call home? Please Lord, forgive me for neglecting you. Forgive me for neglecting the precious time we could have together. Allow me to hear your voice so that I cannot mistake it. I want to walk and talk with you. Amen

Scripture:

Psalm 6:2-7

Psalm 7:1, 2, 9, 10, 17

Psalm 10: 17

Psalm 13:1-2

Psalm 16: 2, 8

Psalm 18: 2

Psalm 20: 1-4

Psalm 22: 11, 14

Psalm 25: 15

Psalm 27: 8, 13, 14

Psalm 30:2

Psalm 32:8

Going to Pieces

This week I spent two days taking a quilting class at a retreat center in Door County, Wisconsin. I must confess that I found the skill set we were taught to be pretty difficult. By the end of the first day, I was ready to pack it up and go home! It didn’t help that the lady sewing across from me picked everything up so fast! She seemed to have no trouble at all doing beautiful work. I was stressed out to put it mildly. Day two went better, but I still was on the verge of “falling to pieces” (that’s a quilting joke!). However, because I really want to be able to use these skills, I will have to discipline myself to practice them daily until I too can do work to be proud of – which is too bad since I thought I would master this stuff right off the bat!

Anyway, on the drive home, I began to think about how our lives are like a quilt. Except for what is called a whole cloth quilt, all quilts are made up of many pieces cut from various yards of cloth. When the pieces are sewn together in patterns, they become a quilt. When we look at a quilt, we recognize that it has been pieced from many shapes, yet we think of it as one whole blanket or covering. Sewn together properly, a quilt will function as something stronger than its many pieces. Any normal person is going to experience at least one time in their life when the stresses or tragedies they face will cause them to fall to pieces. In the middle of life’s tribulations, we wonder if we’ll ever be able to pull ourselves together again. Some of us never do. But there is a way to recover.

The secret to pulling ourselves together again is to rely on God rather than ourselves! Only God, who knows what wholeness for each of us should look like, can pick up our many pieces and weave them back together until, like a quilt, we are stronger than before and more beautiful too. I never cease to be amazed how the stacks of fabric pieces I have cut from a dozen colors and designs, come together to make a beautiful and functional piece of textile art, which is the quilt. In the same way, I am amazed to see how God can take a broken, frazzled human being and knit them back together into someone whole, strong, and more beautiful than before. In Psalm 7 we find David crying out to God as a man who has most certainly fallen to pieces despite the fact that God has anointed him the next king of Israel.

“O Lord my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me, or they will tear me like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.” Psalm 7:1-2

In Psalm 6: 2-7, David cries,

“Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint; O Lord heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long? Turn, O Lord, and deliver me because of your unfailing love…I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.”

and later,

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” Psalm 13: 1-2

“Do not be far from me, Lord, for trouble is near and there is no one to help… I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax and melted away within me.” Psalm 22:11, 14

But David comes to the same resolution over and over,

“O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring an end to the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure. My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart… I will give thanks to the Lord because of His righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.” Psalm 7: 9-10, 17

You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them and you listen to their cry.” Psalm 10:17

I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing… I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:2, 8

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer,; my God is my rock in whom I take refuge.” Psalm 18:2

“My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release me from the snare.” Psalm 25:15

The Lord is my light and salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?… My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face! Your face will I seek… I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27: 8, 13-14

O Lord, I called to you for help and you healed me.” Psalm 30:2

Are you at your wits end? Have you fallen to pieces as a result of stress or tragedy? Do you feel lost, without direction? Do what David did. Fall into the arms of God and ask him to sew you back together again.

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. Psalm 20: 1-4

For our God says,

I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8)

Prayer: O Lord our God, how great is your goodness which you have stored up for those who fear you. I trust in you. You are my God. My times are in your hands. May your face shine on all those who turn to you in their distress. Knit those who have fallen to pieces back together again like a beautiful, strong quilt. Amen

Scripture: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” II Chronicles 7:14

How About a Little History Lesson?

Known as both the Fourth of July and Independence Day, July 4th, as I was surprised to find out, has been a paid, federal holiday in the United States only since 1941. However, the tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution (1775-83). In June 1776, representatives of the 13 colonies then fighting in the revolutionary struggle weighed a resolution that would declare their independence from Great Britain. On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later its delegates adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson. From 1776 until the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with typical festivities ranging from fireworks, parades and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues.

From 1774 to 1789, the Continental Congress served as the government of the 13 American colonies and later the United States. The Declaration of Independence announced the intention of the 13 American colonies to separate from Great Britain. The British parliament and King George III had no such intention! Up to this point in history, no colony had ever risen up against its mother government and certainly none had ever done so successfully. The American colonists had to fight not only for their independence, but for their very lives. They backed up their intentions with blood and miraculously won. It’s no wonder that on the day that British General Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington at Yorktown, VA, the British band played the tune The World Turned Upside Down.

When the initial battles in the Revolutionary War broke out in April 1775, few colonists desired complete independence from Great Britain, and those who did were considered radical. By the middle of the following year, however, many more colonists had come to favor independence, thanks to growing hostility against Britain and the spread of revolutionary sentiments such as those expressed in Thomas Paine’s bestselling pamphlet “Common Sense,” published in early 1776.  On June 7, when the Continental Congress met in what would later be called Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the Virginia delegate, Richard Henry Lee, introduced a motion calling for the colonies’ independence. Amid heated debate, Congress postponed the vote on Lee’s resolution, but appointed a five-man committee–including Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Robert R. Livingston of New York–to draft a formal statement justifying the break with Great Britain. Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) authored the Declaration of Independence and served as America’s third president from 1801 to 1809. John Adams, one of the delegates from Massachusetts and America’s second president, was a ferocious supporter of independence. On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of Lee’s resolution for independence in a near-unanimous vote (the New York delegation abstained, but later voted affirmatively). On that day, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail that July 2 “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival” and that the celebration should include “Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.”

On July 4th, the Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, which had been written largely by Jefferson. Though the vote for actual independence took place on July 2nd, from then on the 4th became the day that was celebrated as the birth of American independence.  John Adams believed that July 2nd was the correct date on which to celebrate the birth of American independence, and would reportedly turn down invitations to appear at July 4th events in protest. Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826–the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

In the pre-Revolutionary years, colonists had held annual celebrations of the king’s birthday, which traditionally included the ringing of bells, bonfires, processions and speechmaking. By contrast, during the summer of 1776 some colonists celebrated the birth of independence by holding mock funerals for King George III, as a way of symbolizing the end of the monarchy’s hold on America and the triumph of liberty. Festivities including concerts, bonfires, parades and the firing of cannons and muskets usually accompanied the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence, beginning immediately after its adoption. Philadelphia held the first annual commemoration of independence on July 4, 1777, while Congress was still occupied with the ongoing war. George Washington, the Commander-in-chief of the armed forces, issued double rations of rum to all his soldiers to mark the anniversary of independence in 1778. In 1781, several months before the key American victory at Yorktown, Massachusetts became the first state to make July 4th an official state holiday.

After the Revolutionary War, Americans continued to commemorate Independence Day every year in celebrations that allowed the new nation’s emerging political leaders to address citizens and create a feeling of unity. By the last decade of the 18th century, the two major political parties of the day–Federalists and Democratic-Republicans — began holding separate Independence Day celebrations in many large cities. The tradition of patriotic celebration became even more widespread after the War of 1812, in which the United States again faced Great Britain. In 1870, the U.S. Congress made July 4th a federal holiday; in 1941, the provision was expanded to grant a paid holiday to all federal employees. Over the years, the political importance of the holiday would decline, but Independence Day remains an important national holiday and a symbol of patriotism.

When our founding fathers were in passionate debate as to whether or not the American colonies should declare their independence, Benjamin Franklin stood and said these words, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” He may have been jesting a wee bit when he said that, but everyone in the chambers that day knew the cold truth of what he said. They were plotting treason and only God could know how it would turn out. In faith, they placed their lives, their future and the future of a nation in God’s hands. As Americans today, we are not in imminent danger of punishment for treason, but America faces dangers through which only God can guide us. On this 236th birthday of our nation, let us honor the courage and faith of our founders by, as they most certainly did, lifting her up to God in fervent prayer.

Prayer: Almighty God, as you were there in the chambers of the Continental Congress when in trepidation they forged their intentions to form a new nation, as you were there when issues like slavery threatened to dissolve that fragile new nation, as you were there when powers of evil threatened the freedom our nation holds so dear, we hold up our beloved United States of America to you today. We acknowledge that as citizens and government we have sinned and held selfish interests above the greater good. Forgive us Lord. We humbly ask that you would turn us away from greed and haughty pride so that the terrible mistakes that have put the nation in jeopardy will not destroy us. Help us to make wise decisions in this election year. Remind us what has made us great. Lord, heal our land. May we turn to you in every circumstance. Amen