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Thursday, April 15, 2021

I Have Finally Found a Place to Live

 Many years ago, I sat on my bed staring at the patterns on my orange fringed quilt, swaying to the music and listening to the words. “I have finally found a place to live in the presence of the Lord.” I flipped over the album cover and strained to hear the chorus. It repeated. “In the presence of the Lord.”  It blew my mind. Did Clapton find the secret of being in the presence of the Lord?  The preceding words challenged me “Everybody knows the secret; everybody knows the score.” Does everyone know the secret? Which one? The secret to living in the presence of the Lord? I didn’t know it back them, though I thought I did. 

I thought many things were the secret: I-ching, yoga, meditation, Buddha, a myriad of experiences and finally Jesus. Like Jesus. the song has stayed with me throughout my life, sometimes haunting, sometimes comforting. I wandered through many distant lands before I found Jesus or more correctly before He found me. There I was, in a pit I dug for myself. Alone. I finally came to the same conclusion as Clapton. “I have finally found a way to live, just like I never could before. And I know I don’t have much to give, But I can open any door.” At that time, I thought I was opening the door to Jesus, but I think Jesus was the one who opened it and let me out. I didn’t have much to offer him, but my sins and a broken life.

Jesus rescued me and brought me the freedom and joy I longed for, though that took some time with Him. Yet Clapton, though a brilliant guitarist, appears to have lost sight of Jesus. An easy thing to happen when your idolized by so many. Clapton had so much talent that it distracted him with all that fame. But perhaps it was just a song to him, though it sounded very sincere and he’s continued to sing it. Yet I know very little about him, as I don’t follow famous people’s lives.

However, throughout the ups and downs of my life, Jesus has become stronger and sweeter to me. The strains of the song come back to me every once in a while, “in the presence of the Lord.” Though staying in His presence has always been a challenge. It’s easy when I’m listening to music, with friends, praying and reading the Bible, but when life throws a lot of curve balls my way, I sometimes get hit in the head. When that happens, its time to sit down, relax and get in the presence of the Lord. And music helps me get there. Whatever it takes, there’s nothing sweeter that the presence of Jesus. I finally found a place to live.

 

 

 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The Greatest Blessing of All

 


A wave of nostalgia blindsided me as I took down the last of my students’ artwork from the show. As I pulled out the last of the pushpins, I realized that I wouldn’t be doing this again as I’m retiring this year. God had blessed me so much with this career as an art teacher. I made wonderful friends with some of my colleagues, had fun teaching, made a good salary, learned a lot about art and teaching kids. As I thought about how I happened on this job, I stood in awe of God’s amazing provision and timing.

One afternoon after returning from picking up my kids from school, I listened to my answering machine and heard the rich. deep voice of a man asking me to interview at a school called, The Circle of Courage. I figured it was a private school, but I didn’t’ remember applying for the position of an art teacher. The next day I discovered it turned out to be a public special education school. They had seen my application on-line. Since I had my undergraduate degree in both art and my masters in special education, I got the job, which turned out to be a God-send.

Not only had God provided me with a job, he brought great colleagues around me who became good friends. Yet that day of the art show deinstallation, I wasn’t reflecting on that particular aspect of my job. I was thinking about God’s faithfulness to me over the years. It brought on more waves of nostalgia as I reflected on how deeply God had blessed us.

My husband and I started out poor, living in Vermont on a shoestring budget. He ate a lot of bologna sandwiches and I cooked many casseroles. Though I had a part time job teaching art, at that time Vermont paid teachers less than forty of the other fifty states. As one realtor proclaimed, we were church mouse poor.

When we moved back to New York with a beautiful new baby, we lived with our mother in law for a while. Then we rented for a number of years after that. I kept a tight grip on the money and pinched every penny. We finally bought our first house, an 800 square foot former one room school house divided into five tiny rooms: Kitchen and breakfast nook, two bedrooms, living room and small bathroom. While crowded with three children, both my husband and I have fond memories of the house and our time with the children.

As I drove home and entered our present home, I was very thankful for our house of nearly thirty years, but nostalgic for the times our children were younger and grew up here. While they never had a lot of material things, I always tried to do as many free things as possible with them and tried to raise them with large doses of love and Christian principles. While we had our fair share of problems, challenges and crisis, God always saw us through.

My husband and I just celebrated our forty first year of marriage, and I saw the tremendous blessing of the Lord for persevering, being faithful and staying married through thick and thin. Not only did we celebrate our anniversary, but I celebrated my sixty-sixth birthday! Perhaps all of this celebrating brought on my thankfulness and nostalgic waves, which began to subside as I contemplated the wonderful life God has given me.

Throughout all of these years I have seen God open the heavens and pour out a blessing—in my job, with friends, family, children, career, ministry and church. Just the other day my two daughters, son-in-law and one-and-a-half-year-old grandson went to a museum together for my birthday and out to dinner. It was a wonderful time together! The week before I had a delicious dinner that my daughter in law cooked for me, while we played with our other two grandchildren. Yesterday, I was able to go to attend a symposium and hear the bagpipes for St. Patrick’s Day. This week I’ll go out to dinner with friends. Next week, my friends are going to take me to the Botanical Gardens for the Orchid Show, one of my favorite places to go.

These are just samples of how richly God has blessed me and my family, not because we’re special, but because of his great love and faithfulness. If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke:11:13 ESV).

God desires to bless, but we must follow His principles. They are not a guarantee of material blessing, but of spiritual blessing. He desires to give us more of His Holy Spirit, which then intercedes and helps us to have the power to obey God and His Word. As we obey godly principals of tithing, trusting God with our money, our relationships, our emotions, our careers, our children and family, He pours out the blesses. Sometimes they are material, but often not. It took many years of sowing good seeds to reap a good return, even though I sewed some really wild oats in my earlier years! God is merciful, loving and gracious and want all of us to live in His presence, which is the greatest blessing of all!

 

 

Friday, February 26, 2021

Equality Act Exposed

 

Friday, February 19, 2021

The Old Testament Through a New Lens


The book, Jesus On Every Page by David Murry has deepened my understanding of the Old and the New Testament as one continuous story focused on Christ and redemption. It has opened my eyes to a new way of understanding the Old Testament in light of the suffering and redeeming Messiah.

 The book proposes that the main thrust of both the Old and New Testament is God’s plan of redemption from the beginning to the end. The author believes that the stories and characters of the Old Testament are to be understood in the light of the New, and not just as moralistic teachings. It illuminates that on every page in the Bible, Jesus is actively participating as creator and redeemer. This book has shown me that a wide, holistic view of the Bible is needed before examining the individual books and passages.

 Our Bible study leader, Tim Chariot from Goodwill New Paltz, gave us this illustration. When you 

do a puzzle, you don’t just take out a few pieces and try to fit them together. That would be futile and not give you an understanding of the whole picture. To complete a puzzle successfully, you look at the whole picture first and keep it in front of you, so then you can see where the individual pieces fit. Most people start with the edge pieces first. Like a framework they help to interpret the rest of the picture puzzle.

 When I first became a Christian, I did just that. I read a book, What the Bible is All About by 
Dr. Henrietta Mears. It helped me to get the big picture of each book in the Bible. I think because of that, I grew to love the word of God and not see God as the stern judge, but a patient loving father. If you focus just on the details, for example the punishment and expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden, you may wonder why God allowed Satan and sin to enter the world. Yet when you see the Bible as one whole work of redemption, you can understand that Adam’s failure became Christ’s triumph as Jesus Christ became the last Adam and triumphed over sin and death.

 Christ is the blood sacrifice that all the Old Testament sacrifices pointed to—the Paschal lamb who took all the punishment for our sins. While Mear’s Book gave me an overall understanding of the Bible, Jesus on Every Page has widened my view even further and bound together the Old and the New Testament as one whole book. The ultimate purpose being the suffering and redeeming Christ. It’s not that I never saw it that way, but it has deepened my understanding of its continuity in every book of the Bible. It’s easy to get caught up in the lives of the great heroes and moralize about them. A number of preachers have done that and created sermons that focus mainly on the good qualities of the Bible characters and how we can emulate them. While this is not terribly bad, it can misrepresent the Old Testament, which is a shadow of Christ. The examples of the men and women in the Old reveal the characteristics and sufferings of Christ.

 Moses led the people out of captivity just as Jesus leads us out of the captivity of sin. Abraham believed God. He was willing and faithful to offer up his only son Isaac, though God spared him. However, God offered us His son Jesus and did not spare Him. Daniel faced the lion’s den as Jesus faced the cross and did not relent from the purpose of the father. David was both a king and a shepherd like Jesus Christ.

 Yet the greatest revelation I’ve had is that the law of the Old Testament and the character of God are not separate from the New Testament, but a shadow of it. As a shadow, the law foreshadowed not only judgment but also grace. The greatest commandment was as Jesus summed it up. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). The focus is on loving God. All the consequences of the law were laid out in the beginning in the first five books of the Bible called the Torah. They were for the good of the Israelites and pointed the way to Jesus. Just like a shadow, they did not hold the full picture and light of Christ though they hinted to Jesus, who himself said, “Do not think I have come to abolish the law and the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).

 By the time Christ arrived on the scene, the Pharisees and Sadducees had warped the law by adding many man-made laws and restrictions. It is why Jesus was so hard on them. They should’ve seen him in the Scriptures as Jesus said, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39). The religious leaders of the day misunderstood the Old Testament and the overall plan of God to bring salvation through Jesus. Their laws didn’t reveal the heart of the law of Moses, but stood for a man-made religion rather than a relationship with God.

But just because the powerful Sanhedrin misinterpreted the law, doesn’t mean we throw out the law of the Old Testament. The law came from God into the hands of Moses. However, we need to understand it as a shadow of Christ, while the New Testament shows the full reality. Jesus on Every Page highlights this and many other points such as Peter and Paul’s Answer to What the Old Testament is all about and Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament Law, Old Testament History and the OT Prophets. If you want to get a fuller understanding of it, I highly recommend purchasing the book. I’m only halfway through and have gleaned a lot.

 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Seasoned Words and "Free Speech"

 


With the political climate being so negatively charged and each side hurling accusations at each other, I thought it beneficial and important to look at what Jesus and the Bible has to say about our speech. How are we to react to others in what we say and do, especially when there's so many lies being perpetuated by the media? I think you will find it surprising if not challenging, what the Bible says. 

No study of this subject is complete without looking at the book of James who was the brother of Jesus. In chapter one of  James, he warns us “If anyone among you thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart and that one’s religion is useless” (v26). What an indictment!  We don’t see too much bridling of the tongue these days in the media, on-line and even with Christians condemning each other. I was lambasted by a Christian author who told me that my previous article was a bunch of lies. I wrote the article from the point of view of two friends who attended the January 6th gathering at Washington DC. My intention was to tell the truth as told to me. Some called me a jerk,(they were not believers) some brave, others said that I was vindicated by several videos and articles that confirmed my words, but that is not the total point of why I am writing this article. I want to bring to light what the Bible encourages us to do as Christians, especially when we don’t agree with a brother or sister or with someone we don’t consider a follower of Christ.

 We can disagree with others, but it is how we use our tongue that is so important. Jesus does not want us to back down from the principles of the Word of God. He never spared words or tiptoed around the self-righteous or the power mongers. He called the Pharisees “a brood of vipers and white washed tombs” (Matthew 23:27). So any picture of an always meek and mild mannered God and man is just incorrect. He knew who to "sock it to" and who to show kindness and forgiveness. 

Jesus calls us to tame our tongue in dealing with the handling of truth and the body of Christ. This is no easy feat! James explains in chapter 3: “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body” (v.2). James considers the person who can tame the tongue as perfect or complete. He knows how difficult a task this is for us. We will all fall in this area and say things that are unkind and hurt others, but we can apologize when necessary and must strive to control our tongue.

 James explains, “Even so the tongue is a little number and boasts great things. See how great of forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that is defiles a whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature, and it is set on fire by hell” (v5-8).  Wow, that is some pronouncement on the evil of the tongue, and you can see it played out everyday on the news, in the media, on Facebook, twitter and the like.

 We should be wary not to let our tongue set us on fire against each other, especially those in the church. It would behoove us to practice greater self-control in this area and confess our sins to one another, especially when we attack another believer. We must be watchful and monitor what we say. This will take a lot of wisdom and self-control.  But it is something that is very necessarily, especially in the church today.

 We are admonished by James that our words are very important and should bring blessings. James continues on this topic. “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and father, and with it we curse men who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.” (v 9 to 10). Even though it is very difficult to do, we are encouraged to bless others, not curse them, especially when they irritate us, challenge our belief’s, and say hateful words. I pray for the woman who called me a liar and I must have said something to really annoy her, though I was trying to just tell the truth. We all look at truth a little differently, but we must strive to stay true to the truths of the Word of God.

 What we say and how we express our beliefs is very important to God. Our words can bring healing or they can bring death. We want to bring life and blessing to others not curses. So how can we do this, if James even admits “no man can tame the tongue”?  Only by surrendering to the Holy Spirit and putting on the “new self” can we be victorious. We don’t want to look like the world, but a different creature— one made in the image of God, filled with His Holy Spirit and His presence. So how do we do this practically?

 When we season our words with grace and walk-in wisdom from God, we will be on the right track. “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sewn in peace by those who make peace” (v 17). We are encouraged to make peace, not to just keep the peace through compromising, but show others the way to peace with God. Those are the peace makers. We don’t insist on our way, but we show others the way to God and Jesus. We lead and guide. We challenge and love. We sew righteousness and peace. We surrender our lives wholly to God.

 I don’t know about you, but that is a very tall order, especially when we as Americans and particularly New Yorkers, are known to speak our mind. We have the right to “freedom of speech,” but this privilege should not be abused. We as Christians should show the world what it is to truly love one another with what we say and do and not be at each other’s throats or condemning. Be mindful of what we say. Think before we speak. Weigh the impact of our words before we say or write them. I’m speaking for myself as much as anyone else out there. I want to speak truth and life, but I must do it in a way that doesn’t tear down another, but challenges them to see truth. Though it may seem impossible, we know that all things are possible with God!

 I'd like to close with a  verse which sheds light on how we should interact with others in our speech. It is a verse I have chosen to mediate upon on Tuesdays, which is today. “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). This verse sums it up as to how we are to live. Mindful of the life of Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit living in us, nothing will be impossible. Even taming our tongue.

 Dear Father,

Please give us the wisdom, self-control and ability to speak words of healing and blessing over the Body of Christ and the nation. In the name of Jesus Amen.

 

 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Two Eyewitness Accounts of January 6th in Washington, DC

 There’s a lot of miss information flying around these days especially concerning the events that happened in Washington DC on January 6 when Trump called for his supporters to peacefully meet. Two good friends of mine responded to his request. One went down on a bus and one in a private car, which made their experiences different. I will relate their eyewitness accounts.(Below is a video from the Epoch Times)

An analysis of January 6th's Events

 Because of the volatility of this subject and  censorship in the media, I will not disclose their names. Friend number one took a bus from Orange County, New York. Before the bus left, an assemblyman got on and prayed with them. He prayed for peace and for all to go well, but then got off the bus to take care of his wife and a newborn baby. My friend said as they headed to Washington, it was evident that most of them were Christians as they were cordial, polite and praying on the bus. A number of them had experience with large gatherings as they were pro-life and were informing them of how to assemble peacefully.

 When they arrived in DC, one of the men took a large pole and put a flag on top so that they could identify their group. They disembarked and she told me that there was a mass of people, which she estimated to be about 1 million. They found a place to gather towards the end of the crowd. After they assembled and began to walk to the area where the President would be speaking; she smelled pot and knew something was wrong. "Most Trump supporters don’t smoke pot." She then noticed that peppered throughout the crowd were men dressed in black wearing bulletproof vests. She assumed they were Antifa, as they had no designation of police. As they began to walk, she said people lined the streets, hurling insults at them and heckling the crowd. 

When they got to the area where Trump was giving his speech, all was peaceful. They were there for a couple of hours. When he finished speaking, they started moving towards the Capitol building. When they arrived in the Capitol parking lot, there were reports of violence and so the organizer decided that they should leave, which they did. My friend was very upset because she said 99.9% of them were very peaceful and she felt that they missed a great opportunity to pray all together. She also noted that Trump was not at the Capitol at that time when the violence erupted. He had been speaking to them at that time. She also said that reports of the timeline verified this.

 What’s really disturbing is what happened the next day. The Democratic Party called for the resignation of the assemblyman who they accused of going down on the bus with a group of insurrectionists and rioters, which was a lie. So the assemblyman called a meeting of the press the next day and invited all those who had been on the bus to go down and meet at his office. He then showed the press that the group that had been on the bus, which consisted of regular Americans: men and woman, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and a priest. They were not insurrectionists or rioters. He asked the Democratic party to apologize for calling them that, which they did not. Furthermore, he had not gone down on the bus with them. This is when it gets really upsetting. That evening the assemblyman received death threats from the Democratic Party and he had to move his wife and baby into hiding for their safety. Imagine that! You may not believe this but this is true. A number of people have been receiving death threats from the Democratic Party(see The Epoch Times Dec. 30)  for not verifying the votes. Also, remember all those fires and smashing storefront windows, even black people’s stores as well as other merchants? You didn’t hear the Democrats denounce that.


The violence at the Capitol was for the most part staged. From America Stands. My other friend is an eyewitness to that. Being at the front of the crowd, she could see more of what was happening. She too had heard Trump speak, but was able to get over to the Capitol building quicker than others. She was on the steps with a large crowd  when suddenly an aggressive group of people shoved past them, with a mission in mind, but she didn't know  their agenda. She wondered and was surprised by their aggressive attitude. She didn't think they were trump supporters because they were different than everyone else in the crowd. When their driver  in their group saw this, he sensed it wouldn’t be good, so they left. 

My friend had heard reports of e-mails that went back and forth between Antifa followers to dress up in Trump regalia, which seemed to make sense with what she experienced. The next day she was horrified when she learned what had taken place—the breaching of the Capitol building and violence. One Trump supporter, who was interviewed, said he went in to see if could talk to someone or help out. He and others had not planned any violence. (I'm not saying all the Trump supporters were peaceful, but the vast majority of them.)

The following day, my friend was trying to figure out everything that happened as she watched the news reports. On video, she saw several white vans pull up and a determined looking crowd disembarked. Although they were dressed in MAGA hats and Trump paraphernalia, she thought most of them were not “Trumpers,” She could tell by their demeanor and attitude as they shoved their way through the crowd towards the Capitol building. They began to agitate the crowd and surged the Capitol steps. These may have been the very ones who shoved passed her on the steps or a very similar group. She stated that the regular Trump supporters around her, had not premediated any violence, nor was it spearheaded by Trump, neither was he an insurrectionist! (After watching some other raw footage, I will concede that some Trump supporters did force their way into the Capitol and were aggressive, but nothing like the violent demonstrations  of this summer.) 

We must be in prayer for our nation, and the deep deception that is being played out over the people of the United States—friends and family are falling prey to their web of lies. Will you please gather with your church family and friends and continue to pray that the truth will be revealed? I believe the answer to all the lies and our nation’s problems lies in a true relationship with Jesus Christ and not in political parties, but neither can we bury our head in the sand. What do you think?

 PLEASE DO NOT GO TO THE CAPITOL FOR THE INAUGERATION ON THE 20TH. LETS BE PRAYING INSTEAD! 


 

 

 

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Victory Over Fear

              

I sat in the parking lot of the Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie and my car wouldn’t start. My phone had just died and there wasn’t anyone I knew around the area. I didn’t exactly panic, but became anxious. I grew increasingly annoyed as I tried several times to get the engine to turn over. What could I do? I said a hasty prayer and tried turning on my dead phone. It responded! I immediately called roadside assistance and hoped that it would connect me before the phone turned off. I was nervous because there’s always so much info to input before you got a person. On top of it, this company wanted me to do it all on-line to pinpoint my location. I prayed a little more fervently. My phone didn’t die and I got through. Now to wait for the call back. I phoned home just in case by some miracle my husband would pick up. NO such luck. I texted my friends that the writer’s meeting at my house would be delayed. A friend offered to come and get me, but I declined. I needed to be with the car.

I awaited the tow company’s phone call. About a half an hour passed and still no tow truck. Finally, it showed up. The service man tried jumping it with his special battery pack. NO go. I got worried. Oh no. What will happen next? The dealership is so far and they’ll change me and arm and a leg! It turned out that they did have to tow the car all the way to Kingston. The tow guy said it was probably the starter. Of course, the warranty had just run out and I had just paid off the car this month, but I refused to get depressed. The guy was very nice and offered to drive me to a diner where I could wait for a ride. My friend Evelyn rushed over to pick me up. In the end it all turned out well, though I had some anxious and fearful moments.

           Fear. It can hold you in its grip if you let it. We’re all subject to it and the slew of anxieties that result from its wake. Since God is our creator, He understands our weakness to give into fear. Concerned, He has encouraged us over three hundred times in the Bible, “Do not fear.” You could easily argue, easier said than done. After all, He’s God. Yet the Almighty goes further to assure us why we don’t need to fear

          Here are a few scriptures that God gives us reasons why we don’t need to let fear have the upper hand. Do not fear because:

            God will be with you. Joshua 1:9

God will be with you and strengthen you. Isaiah 41:10

God knows everything ahead of time. Isaiah 44: 8

God has redeemed you and will protect you. Isaiah 43:1

God has given us the kingdom. Luke 12:32

God gives us peace unlike the world knows. John 14:27

If we can get a hold of that fear, face it head on and proclaim faith in God to work it all out for good, we’re well on our way to conquering fear. If we can believe in a few of the hundreds of promises His Word offers us, we will begin the journey of trusting and   overcoming fear. If we can look fear in the face and tell it. “You’re a liar," then our false beliefs about ourselves, God and our circumstances will fall away like dead leaves.

 I encourage you today to get into the Word of God and mine the treasures of His promises. One of my favorites is “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and might and a sound mind” (1 Timothy). Knowing that God has the power and might and ability to give us a sound mind over fear sets the stage for victory. Alongside is another verse I quote in fearful circumstances. “If God be for us who can be against us" (Romans 8:31). God is on our side when we are on His, so we have nothing to fear even when fear seems to be knocking on our door. God can overcome this fear for you when you allow His truth to penetrate your fear.