Memories

I’ve alluded to all of the remembering that I’ve been doing recently about my days “with” Sunrise Christian Academy basketball. I’ve made a list of the memories that first pop up in my mind. There are 33 bullets on that list, so far! However, you are safe-I am not going to share all 33 with you here. You’ve already read about three of them here and on Facebook recently, so only 30! LOL! No, not really. I would like to share 5 with you, though.

The first one I will share happened seven years ago this very day. I drove down to Oklahoma City for an evening game on that Friday evening, spent the night, and then watched two SCA games the next day before going to an OU (Oklahoma University, not to be confused with UO, University of Oregon!) game that Saturday afternoon to watch Buddy Hield play. (Honestly, I really had no idea at that point who Buddy was; I was just going along with the crowd. Now I wish I’d paid more attention to the game.) My memories, though, of that weekend are from when I heard foul language flow across the gym earlier that day from the mouth of the opposing team’s coach. What made that particularly troubling to me is that we were playing another Christian private school. For privacy, I will not mention the name of the school, but I will tell you that ‘God’ was a part of their school/team name. I was shocked, and more so as I saw that our players were struggling against a team that was playing ‘dirty’ ball. You could just feel an oppressive atmosphere in the gym. So, at halftime, I decided to pray for our team. They were down at the half, and as they were running down the tunnel next to where I was sitting to go to the locker room, I hollered down to our point guard, “I’m praying for you!” And I did pray. I prayed for God to help our players continue to persevere and play as they had been taught to, in a way that would honor God. And for the first and only time, I asked God to help our boys win this game. I reasoned, “Both teams are carrying your name, Lord, but only one team is honoring you. The other team is, in fact, profaning your name. Lord, will you help Sunrise win?” When the second half started, our boys began to narrow the deficit. I felt like I could feel a different atmosphere in the gym. And when the final buzzer sounded, Sunrise was ahead!! We won!! Later, during the next game, I sat with one of the players on the Elite team who had played in the first game. I told him what had happened and what I had done. He told me that he, too, felt a different atmosphere in the gym second half!! My first Sunrise basketball memory, and I will never forget it!

Second, I’ll always remember the day that I was given a retirement gift-my own SCA jersey!! It is not possible that they could have given me anything better! I have worn it, and will continue to wear it, and it is entirely possible that I will leave word to be buried in it!

Another special memory happened last year. I was talking and joking with a student after a game and someone took our picture. The man asked my name and what was my position at the school. I told him, but had no idea that I and the student were going to end up on the front page of the Wichita Eagle the next day!

Speaking of positions, the fourth memory that I want to share with you happened during practices. My final year at Sunrise, I began to go over some days to watch our teams practice. I totally enjoyed sitting there watching them. When it began to be really interesting was when recruitment season opened, and college recruiters were also there to watch the practices. I’ll admit to being curious about who was there, but in the beginning did not dare to approach them. (I had not yet been on the front page of the Wichita Eagle, yet! LOL!) But I soon learned that they are an extroverted friendly bunch. The funniest time was when one came up to me, introduced himself, and asked what my position with the program was. Caught off guard, I am not sure now what I said. It was probably a mixture of “just an old English teacher” and “biggest fan”. After that, if I recognized the school name on their shirt, and had some talking point, I would approach them and introduce myself. I did not dare to do that to Bill Self, though. Haha! I did hate that I missed Tom Izzo, however. After the recruiters moved on, I began to use the time to sit and pray for the young men. It was a special season for me.

My fifth memory to share with you today comes from the many games that I attended when I was trying to get good photos for the players. In that process, I gained many many photos of referees’ backs! I learned that the perfect vantage point for me was also the perfect spot for them! One time when one of the men recognized me from other games and came over to chat before the game started, I laughed and asked him if we could come to some agreement as to where he was going to stand. He laughed but would not commit to one spot. LOL! Then, I remember the frustration of getting my camera lined up for a dunk only to have the player shoot a 3-pointer, or vice-versa. I cannot remember which one it was now, but I do remember asking him to give me some kind of sign as to which he was preparing to do so I’d be ready for it. It was one of those times that I got a heavy sigh, a chuckle, and a “Miss Richards!” response. Haha!

OK! That’s it for tonight! I may share some more later, in bite-sized chunks so they don’t get too long. I hope you will enjoy my reminiscing; I’m loving it!!

Plan B

Sometimes God speaks to us in the most unusual ways! Awhile ago, I went to McDonalds to get my lunch. I have their app on my phone, and I have used it numerous times already. However, today for some reason, when I got to the restaurant and parked in the ‘pick up’ slot, the app and/or my phone would not connect to the Internet or phone service, so I could not complete my order. (I’ve had no problems with the app before, and no problems with my phone before or after.) So, I backed out of the slot and proceeded to the drive-through lane. As I approached the kiosk to order my meal, I saw the advertisement for Shamrock shakes. I LOVE shamrock shakes! They had not appeared on my app’s menu so I did not know that they were available. I still have no idea what was going on with my app and/or phone, but I was thrilled that by going to Plan B, I was able to order a shamrock shake rather than a Coke. I can order a Coke any ole day!

As I said last night, I have been missing my basketball world a great deal this winter, and that has led me to do a lot of reminiscing. One memory that I have is when I was told at the beginning of one school year that my classroom was going to be next to the cafeteria. I “just knew” that it wouldn’t work out because it would be so noisy. In fact, it was not noisy at all, and through the years that I was in that location, it afforded me many opportunities to join the international students & basketball players for breakfast, lunch, or supper. And many other times when I did not eat with them, but I would walk around and greet them, or chat with them briefly. For me, that room ended up being the very best spot in the whole school! None better!! Plan B was indeed the best for me!

Two illustrations of why you need to keep an open mind and trust what the Lord is doing.

Psalm 147:5 “Our Lord is great, vast in power; His understanding is infinite.” The Lord may interrupt our Plan A because He has something so much better in store for us-His Plan!! B is Better!!!

What I’ve learned from basketball players

I am missing my basketball world, coaches and players, a great deal these days. I miss the camaraderie that I have had with them throughout the last 7 years of my life. They have encouraged, comforted, and inspired me. Today, I have been thinking a lot of all that I have learned from them. I would have to write a whole book to share all that I have seen and learned! I have read multiple posts on social media about how we don’t need athletes in our lives, basically implying that athletes have nothing positive to offer us by their lives and work, and especially this is so when the going gets rough as it has this past year. However, I disagree because I have learned a great deal from athletes, specifically basketball players, concepts and challenges that are Biblical and could help us greatly to overcome times like 2020 and 2021. Years ago, I prepared the small poster pictured below and hung it on the wall of my classroom. I would like to discuss each of those points with you.

  1. Practice makes perfect. LOTS of practice makes perfect. Every successful basketball player that I know spends hours a day practicing the skills that they want to be good at. Not one of them was born with NBA-ready skill. They practiced and learned and improved every skill that they are good at. While the Bible does not specifically tell us to practice (as in practicing to get better at it) the fruit and skills that we should exhibit as Christians, it does tell us in 1 Timothy 4:15 to “practice these things [the gift given to you by God]…so that your progress may be evident to all.” Progress would indicate to me that you have been doing the things over and over until you are getting better at doing them. In Hebrews 5 & 6, Paul talks about leaving elementary things behind and going on to maturity. That implies to me learning and practice. Jesus himself told us to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20) and that involves teaching and practicing the skills that we want to have as Christians. When we become a follower of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to live in us, and he will help us learn and grow in the use of the fruit of the Spirit and other qualities and skills that we need to have as Christians, but none of us just wake up one morning miraculously enabled to do any of them. Forgiving, gratitude, patience, love are all things we need to learn to do well. My own example is that I have learned to be a more thankful person as I have consciously practiced doing it over the last year or so. It is much easier to do now than when I first started. So, yes, practice makes perfect; LOTS of practice makes perfect!
  2. “It’s hard!” is no excuse. I have seen basketball players push themselves to the limits in conditioning and training so that they might get stronger and improve. In fact, back in Sunrise Christian Academy, they have made it their theme. They call it the Exit Zone. In other words, it’s only when you exit out of what is comfortable for you, only then will you begin to improve. In fact, usually “It’s hard is necessary to make any real progress in any area of life. The Bible teaches us that in several places that life will not be easy, but that in the trials and difficulties, we will grow and mature. Romans 5:3-5 tells us to “rejoice in our afflictions because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.” Not only is “It’s hard!” not an excuse, it is actually necessary! Over and over again in my own life, I have seen how I have learned the most through my difficulties, and I have heard so many others share the same testimony. Jesus himself told us that in this world we will have trouble. (John 16:33) However, he also told us to not be afraid of the trouble because he has conquered the world, and later the apostle Paul told us that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13) So, yes, not only is “It’s hard!” no excuse, it is often necessary.
  3. You keep playing even if you are losing-there is still hope for a win. I have been amazed through the years at the effort that basketball coaches and players will put in, even to the very last second of a game, trying to make a comeback. As Christians, it is also important for us to have this mindset as well. Things look bad now? It appears that you’re going to lose? No hope for a win this time? NOT SO! That is because God is “able to do above and beyond all we ask or think according to the power that works in us.” (Eph 3:20) God asked the question of Jeremiah in Jer. 32:17, “Is anything too difficult for me?” Jesus gave the answer in Luke 1:37 and Matthew 19:26 when he assured us that “nothing is impossible with God.” So, we should never give up even when things are looking grim. With our Heavenly Father, there is always the possibility of a win! So, yes, you keep playing even if you are losing-there is still hope for a win.
  4. You keep playing even if here is no hope of winning this time. You do your best until the last buzzer sounds. I did not experience it much at Sunrise Christian Academy because of the quality of their teams; it did not happen often that a Sunrise team lost by 40-50 points. But I had opportunity to observe other teams that were in that situation. However, never even once did I see a team give up and quit the game because they were so badly behind. They played their hardest and best to the very end even though their situation was humiliating. I’m reminded of King David praying for his ill son in 2 Samuel 12:16-24. He did not give up until there was no breath left in his son. But when his son had died, then he got up and ate and comforted his wife. I believe that should be our attitude. We place our hope in God, but if things do not turn out as we had prayed for and hoped for, we still trust our loving Heavenly Father, and we place what we cannot understand in His hands as well. (Proverb 3:5)

I learned through a basketball game years ago that there are more things at work than we can understand sometimes because God can see the larger picture. I remember watching a game where our Sunrise Select team lost. I had been sitting with some of the players of our Elite team. Later, I met one of the mothers of one of the players on the opposing team. I congratulated her on their win. She then told me with excitement that she could barely contain how much that win meant to her son’s team. She told me how his team had had a losing season the previous season, and then this year for their very first game they had to face Sunrise Christian Academy! They knew the odds were against them winning (In their eyes, it was a David vs. Goliath situation), but they played their best, and they won!! After parting from the mother, I sought out one of the young men that I had been sitting with and told him what I’d learned. I told him, “Isaiah, that win meant everything to them and gave them hope. Sunrise, well, we’ll survive the loss and go on to win again.” That was the day that I learned that God sees the bigger picture, and we need to do our best to the very end, but trust the end results to Him.

God’s Forgiveness is Awesome!

I’m going to open my heart today and share with you a not-so-pretty part of it, and then the lesson that I’ve learned.

Recently, someone did not follow through on a promise made to me. I could not even call this person a friend; he is just someone that I have become a little acquainted with through social media. He is a photographer, and I asked him for a favor, and he promised to do it. However, he did not keep the promise, and I became angry. I wrote an angry message to him privately on Instagram. However, after several hours, I became convicted about my anger, and left him a message admitting that I was wrong to say what I had said, and I apologized. After a day or so, I did not see a “seen” notification, so I investigated further. It appears that he has blocked me! I did however find his email address on his website and sent him an email putting, “I apologize, I was wrong” in the subject line. I feel like he will at least see that even if he does not read my email.

As I confessed my sin last night to my Lord, and prayed about the whole situation, it occurred to me that this young man is reacting much as one would expect. I cannot really blame him although I do hope that he will accept my apology and forgive me. Then, as I reflected on the difficulty that I am having to make sure that I can reach him with my apology, I began to realize once again what an awesome God I serve!

When I became convicted of my sin, I did not need to prepare any kind of gift or sacrifice, nor did I need to go to a temple anywhere to approach my God. I simply bowed my head in the spot that I was, and asked for God’s forgiveness. This was possible because Jesus became the sacrifice for my sin when he died on the cross.

Colossians 2:14 says, “He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it away by nailing it to the cross. “

Isaiah 53:5 also says, “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed

Hebrews 4:16 adds, ” Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness so that we many receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.”

And 1 John 1:9 assures us that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

ISN’T THAT AMAZING? That the Almighty God would love us so much that not only is He willing to forgive our sins against Him, but He personally made a way that that would even be possible!! AMAZING GRACE! is right!! I have learned anew the awesomeness of God’s grace and love!!

Spring will come!

This afternoon, the weather improved enough here in Eugene that I was able to go to the university campus for a walk, something that I have not been able to do for many weeks. Almost immediately, as I started I saw daffodils! I thought immediately of all of my friends who are suffering through frigid temperatures and snow and ice right now, so I stopped and took this picture just to assure you that spring is coming!

As I continued my walk, I began to think that although not all of us are experiencing extreme winter right now, some of us may be experiencing life experiences that are leaving us feeling a bit frigid and cold inside. As I walked, I tried to remember if there are Bible verses that speak of winter turning to spring, but I could not think of any. However, there are many verses that assure us that while we will have troubles in this world, they will not last forever. Here are just a few of those assurances;

Psalm 30:5 “Weeping may stay overnight, but there is joy in the morning.”

Psalm 23:4 ” Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me.

Psalm 66:12 “You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us out to abundance.”

Jeremiah 31:25 “I’ll refresh tired bodies; I’ll restore tired souls.”

And of course there are the examples of the Caleb and Joshua who made it through the wilderness, and the 3 men in the fiery furnace who came safely through the fire, and Daniel came through the lions’ den, and Joseph came through slavery to rule Egypt, and so many other examples. And for those of us who have accepted Jesus’ gift of salvation, we do not even need to fear death, for one day being with Jesus will be our ultimate deliverance.

Hang on, friends! Spring is coming!!

Update: I just received this gift from a friend—perhaps a reminder to me that this season will also come again!!

As before, I welcome your comments and feedback. Some of you have an email address for me, and you can also use: TracksintheSand@mail.com.

God bless!

Worry: It’s Something to do

I am sure that none of you have a problem with worrying. (Hear my sarcasm) But just in case there is one or two of you who do, I am going to share some of my thoughts. I remember seeing this years ago:

Image result for worrying is like a rocking chair

It is so true! I will share with you a recent example of that. When I heard that Pac-12 was not going to allow any fans into the basketball arenas this year, I began to fret and stew about it, in other words, worry. Then, in mid-December, Dante was injured and is out for the rest of the season and the need for me to get into the arena no longer existed. It was not lost on me that I had been doing a lot of time fretting and worrying over a need that soon wasn’t even going to exist! So, I’ve been trying to do better about not worrying. Today, I’m going to share with you some of the things that I am learning about worry.

In Matthew 6: 25, Jesus told us not to worry. He said, ” Don’t worry about your life…” In Philippians 4:6, Paul tells us, “Don’t worry about anything…”

So, it is clear that we are not to worry. It is not good for us. Worry will cause physical problems such as high blood pressure and ulcers. Worry will cause mental problems such as anger, bitterness, and slander. Worry will cause spiritual problems as we focus more on ourselves rather than on being obedient to God.

Here are some things that God has shown me that are helping me to overcome this besetting sin of mine.

  1. We do not know what the future holds, and so many of the things that we worry about just never take place. But God does know what will happen, and as hard as it is to understand, He is already there. As we go into our futures, we will not be there alone.
  2. We have a God who is wiser than we are. He is a good God. He can see the larger picture, and in His wisdom and love, He will take care of us, no matter what happens. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast your cares on Him because He cares about you.” So, we will have our own personal cares and worries, but we are to remember that in these times, God cares about us and our suffering. In fact, in Hebrews 2:18, it says that Jesus “himself suffered when he was tempted” and “he is able to help those who are tempted”. Also, sometimes because we are part of a larger body in Christ, that larger picture may include suffering because when one of us suffers, we will all be affected/suffer in some way. (1 Cor. 12) However, we do not need to think that we are suffering needlessly, because we are assured in Romans 5 that “suffering will produce perseverance, and perseverance will produce character, and character will produce hope.” We are in this (life) together, and we are learning & growing together. And there are times that how we handle the adversity and suffering will be a testimony that encourages someone else, or even leads them to the Lord.
  3. We should not worry because we serve a powerful God (Psalm 147:5) who can do “above and beyond all that we ask or think.” (Eph. 3:20) There is nothing that is too hard for Him to do. (Jeremiah 32:17) I worry because I cannot imagine how a certain situation will turn out for the good. However, I need to remember that God can do things that I can’t even imagine to make that situation turn out good! And what shows God’s greatness even more is that God can take what I consider a mess and a bad situation, and turn it good. Even if the bad thing that I’m worrying about does happen, God can somehow in His infinite power make it turn out for good. If we love the Lord, and allow Him to do His work, then “ALL things work together for good.” (Romans 8:28) WOW! It is honestly beyond my capacity to understand that, but I know that it is true!

I hope this will help and encourage some of you; it has helped me just by getting my thoughts down here in ‘black and white.’

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and what you’ve learned along life’s road about worry. If you would like to respond to me in a more private manner, send me an email at: TracksintheSand@mail.com.

God bless you! Hope to hear from you!

We Need Each Other

I got news on Sunday that a dear friend had passed away suddenly. I had not seen Linda since 2005, but we had stayed in contact, and especially so these last few months. She was one of my friends who told me that she prayed for me, and for Dante, every night, and that was so encouraging and comforting. So, even though I had not seen her in so very long, Sunday night I could feel that she was no longer with me. I could feel the loss.

The whole incident has caused me to think much about all of my friends who have walked with me through so many of life’s adventures. And I have thought about how important the prayers, encouragement, advice, comfort, and understanding of my friends have been over the last almost a year now, and especially over the last seven-eight months as I have moved here to Oregon, and the events that have happened since then. I truly couldn’t have done it without you all!

I am reminded that this is the way that God intends it to be. In Ephesians 4, we are told that we are members of one body, each with our unique gifts and tasks to be used to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry, to build up the body of Christ.” (v.12) 1 Corinthians 12 also teaches the same concept. 1 Corinthians 12 also adds that we are to suffer together, and to be honored together. (v.26) Galatians 6:2 instructs us to “carry one another’s burdens.” Romans 12:15 tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” As I type these verses, I am reminded that Jesus said that we will be known as his disciples by the love that we show for one another. (John 13:35) I think this will never be more evident than when we are rejoicing with each other, weeping with each other, helping each other carry a heavy burden, or building each other up.

1 Corinthians 12:25 also warns us to not allow any division between us. Jesus also taught us that a divided house will not stand. (Mark 3:25) The devil likes nothing better than when he gets us to fight with each other, so we must carefully guard against that. We are at our best when we are building and strengthening each other, not tearing each other down. And the world will notice. I can remember one time when a university student in Taiwan attended church for the very first time. When asked afterwards what she thought of the church, she mentioned two things: 1) Wow! You all love each other! 2) What is the meaning of the flowers at the front of the church near the speaker? (Remember, she was used to offerings of various sorts at the front of a temple.) I have laughed often about our flowers at the front of our churches since then, but also always remembered that the thing that impressed her most was the love the church members had for each other.

And so I just wanted to share here with you my renewed conviction of how important the work of the Body of Christ if to the members. This past year has been tough as we have not been able to meet together so frequently. But there are still ways to encourage each other. I have received emails, letters, cards, messages, phone calls, and gifts. In addition, the Lord has given me a friend here in Eugene who walks with me and listens to me; her expressed love and understanding and advice have been monumental in keeping me sane! EVERY ONE has been an encouragement and comfort, and the Lord has used them to keep me going through the difficult times. Thank you to each and every one of you!!

Just as a P.S. For those of you who know him, Dante seems to be recovering from his surgery very well. Saturday, I saw him at the game (via TV) walking without crutches and bending those sore knees. (He had surgery on Jan. 20th on both knees!) I even saw him jump up one time and walk to a teammate who was on the floor to help him stand back up! Thank you so much for your prayers for him!

Praying for healing

This morning I want to share with you something that the Lord has convicted me of.

In the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, I did join with some of my sisters in Christ to pray for our nation. But, I will confess that I moved away from that and have not done it in a long time. I got busy with my move and life here in Eugene, Oregon, and have just forgotten to do it. The Lord has convicted me of that this morning, so I am publicly committing myself to do that.

The Lord led me to 2 Chronicles 7:13-14. I’ll share those verses here although I know many of you are very familiar with them. I’m writing from the CSB version.

“…if I send pestilence on my people, and my people who bear my name humble themselves, pray and seek my face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.”

Here is what the Lord said to me from these verses:

  1. I am to humble myself. That will probably look different for each of us. But it says that I am to humble myself. For me, this morning it was to admit that I have forgotten to pray, and I have been depending on my own actions to keep myself safe. As we have across our nation, and we are seeing that despite our good and best efforts, the death toll is still rising, and the virus is still spreading and mutating. And despite good efforts, there is not enough vaccine even for those who want it, and there is chaos in the distribution of it. Man’s efforts are not enough, and we need to humble ourselves to admit that.
  2. I am to pray and seek God. (not the President, not the CDC, not the governor, not the local Health authorities, but God and God alone) This is about me and my relationship with God.
  3. I am to turn from my evil ways. I will be spending time today and the days to follow with God learning about what I need to turn from. However, what I did see in this is that again, it is about me and my relationship with God. It does not tell me to pray first for my neighbor or friend to turn from their evil ways, or to pray for them only. I am to first confess my own sins to God. In addition, I do want to add here what I shared last week, that we are to pray for our nation and for its leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-2), but I do not see that in this passage in Chronicles. This is about me getting right with my God first of all. I will share below a quote from Tony Evans that got me started down this road yesterday.
May be an image of text that says 'Never let your pride keep you from accepting the solution to your problem. Toyfrana #UTurns'

Would you join me in prayer, using 2 Chronicles 7:14 as our first guide? And then move on to 1 Timothy 2:1-4 to pray for our nation? In addition, I have so often included Col. 4: 3-4 in my requests for prayer, and I think it would be appropriate for us to pray now, as well.

I will write out all of those passages here in case it will make it easier for us to pray:

“…if I send pestilence on my people, and my people who bear my name humble themselves, pray and seek my face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:13-14

” First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God, our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4

“At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains, so that I may make it known as I should.” Colossians 4:3-4

If you will join me in prayer for the healing of our nation and world, would you leave a comment so that I and all of you will be encouraged and know that we are praying together for this common cause?

God bless you! To Him be the glory!!

Reflections, Part 2

As I approach this blog & topic today, it is a difficult one to write because I fear that I am probably going to offend some of my friends. I do not want to do that, but because of some recent incidences, it is one that I feel like I must share.. Therefore, I am approaching this blog after much prayer and meditation. I know what I will be telling you here is true. It is my prayer that you will accept my witness here also with prayer and meditation.

Over the past several months, I have had three distinct opportunities to witness to people who call themselves “not a Christian.” In all three of those instances, I have not been able to talk about Jesus with them because of the reflection they are seeing in the lives and attitudes of the majority of Christians in the United States at this time. I will come out and say it plainly, because so many Christians in the United States have excused or condoned the behavior of our previous President, they have no desire to even consider following Jesus Christ.

I have tried to get them to focus on Jesus and not men, but at this point, they are unwilling or unable to do it. And so I am writing down my thoughts here today.

  1. We Christians are told to seek God’s Kingdom first of all (Matthew 6:33), and that our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20) It is true that we are told to pray for the country and leaders where we are, (1 Timothy 2:1-2), and we are to obey the laws of that land (Romans 13:1-2), but one of the things that got the Pharisees in deep trouble was that they expected the Messiah to be a political ruler, and that he would overthrow the Roman government that was oppressing them. This led them to reject Jesus as the Messiah. I think we as Christians need to be very careful about looking to any political leader to be our “savior” or the one who will make us great. In fact, I cannot find any Biblical teaching that tells us to be “great” as it has been used recently in the United States.
  2. Over and over again, God’s Word teaches us that God’s kingdom is a kingdom of nations. (Isa. 66:19, Matt. 28: 19, Rev. 5:9, Psa 96:3) We need to be careful if we are seeking to exalt ourselves over any other people. In Proverb 6:16, we are told of the things that God hates. I hope you will read the article linked below written by Billy Graham about this passage. https://decisionmagazine.com/things-god-hates/. We need to be careful that pride does not cause us to we begin to think of ourselves as greater or better than any other nation. During my time in Taiwan and China, I found that our pride as Americans was often a stumbling block to others even being willing to consider the claims of Jesus.

And so my dear friends, I’m just asking you to think carefully about what you are reflecting to others. I know you’ve all heard the quote, “You may be the only Bible that some people read.” If your words, attitude, and behavior are building a wall so that nonbelievers will not even consider the claims of Jesus, then something is wrong. We need to be extremely careful about who or what we are trying to exalt or make great.

Jesus said, “If I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32) He was speaking of the manner of his death, but I believe he was also speaking to who we are “lifting up” in our lives. If we are lifting up ourselves, our country, our party, etc., then in pride we are causing others to stumble and turn away. However, if we lift up Jesus and His kingdom, ALL people will be drawn to their Savior.

Let us all think carefully about what we are reflecting to those who do not know Jesus.

Today’s Walk

The last day or two, as many of you know, I’ve felt a bit like I was climbing a steep mountain blind-folded or in a thick fog. I read a story yesterday about a blind horse and its friend who wore a bell. (Link below) The blind horse would follow the sound of the bell when it was time to move. He’d learned to trust his friend with the bell. I asked the Lord if He would send some “bells” each day to help me make my way through the dark fog. Yesterday, I heard that “bell” many times through emails from friends, God speaking me through His Word, and through thoughts that He gave to me.

https://truthbook.com/stories/animals/the-blind-horse

This afternoon, I again started out for a walk and asked the Lord for more “bells”. The first thing that happened was that I saw two coins on the ground and picked them up. Why is that such a big deal? Well, a couple of years ago, I read an article about a man who used a dropped coin to repeat to himself, “In God I trust” (because In God We Trust is imprinted on each coin). I liked the idea and have been doing it ever since. Seeing two coins today at a time that I’m struggling a bit seemed like both an invitation and a promise (two coins!) from God. “You can surely trust Me; will you?”

I walked a bit further and came to a curve in the sidewalk. As you can see, I could not see around the curve to know what was ahead. Immediately, the Lord spoke to me through this incident. He said that I may not be able to see the future, but I am to trust Him and walk by faith. He knows what’s around the curve, and He is in control. I was much encouraged again.

Then, I walked around the curve and found a patch of beautiful roses! I could hear the Lord saying to me once again, “You are going to make it through the fog, and there will be something beautiful there! Just keep walking; keep taking the next step, and I will guide you through.

I continued my walk and worshiped along with my praise music as I walked. Then, I saw a Chinese student, and the idea popped into my head to do one of the craziest things I’ve ever done, and you all know I’ve done some crazy ones! I hollered over to him in Chinese, “Where are you from? He responded, “Henan,” and we began visiting, first in Chinese, and then in English. We visited for an hour, and I was able to answer a few questions that he had including some about my own experience as a Christian. We exchanged names & phone numbers and I hope to be back in contact with him again.

So, God’s bells were ringing pretty loudly this afternoon!

For those praying for Dante and I, thank you for your prayers, and please keep them coming, especially over the next week. I believe his surgery will be Wednesday, the 20th, but I’m pretty much out of the loop for information right now, and that is the most difficult part for me, and why I feel so blind. But God knows exactly what is around the curve/what’s going on and what will go on. Pray for Dante as he goes through the surgery and the pain of recovery. Pray for me as I wait blindly and walk by faith (He will go to L.A. for the surgery and be gone 4 days.) Pray for me to be able to wait patiently to see him when he gets back. When he doesn’t feel well, he likes to be left alone. (I am trying to get in contact with him to see him tonight or tomorrow before he goes, but he’s a busy young man, and it’s hard for me to reach him. Especially now that he’s been having phone problems on top of his own stress.)

As I have written all of this up just now, it occurs to me that one day in the weeks ahead, I hope that the Lord will open up a door for me to share my struggles during this time and how God helped me. Pray Col. 4:3-4

To God Be the Glory!!