Faith perfected by God, housed imperfectly

The faith of a lot of people is being tested right now. If you’re young (in age) or in faith or both, you might feel yourself slipping. You may be asking God why this is happening. You may be scared.  Don’t be alarmed. Faith isn’t a line that graphs upward all the time. It has depressions in the line sometimes, and at others it is fueled with such exuberance that it seems like a ninety degrees vertical line.

The thing is to stay connected to the source (Jesus) of your faith always, because He’s promised to be with you always. While you’re experiencing this period of unparalleled isolation, read (no study) the word; join a cyber church if your congregation hasn’t set up one; call someone who might know the answers to questions you might have; and don’t let this isolation be an isolation from God. And, oh yes, pray, even if it’s about the lapse in faith you might be experiencing.

The bottom line here is to stick and stay. Faith grows over time, even when you might feel that it’s not growing. Body builders, with bulging biceps didn’t get that way over night. As you exercise your faith, it will grow, and God will be pleased. (Hebrews 11:6 tells us that we must have faith to please God). Don’t be intimidated by the exhibitions of faith you see in others. God is the author and finisher (Hebrews 12:2) of your faith, not any other person.

Yes, these are trying times, and let’s be honest even the person who’s been walking with God for a long time is going through a test right now. It may be like a simple pop quiz to some, or an exam requiring complicated written answers to others. It’s a test none the less.

Stay connected to the source (for all of us), and God will see that we’re stronger on the other side.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Roaches, most active during the darkest hour

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I just finished reading my Sunday newspaper. Of course, it feels awkward calling it a paper, since it comes to our home now via an iPad. My paper, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, decided a while back to cease the paper mode, except on Sundays, choosing to provide iPads to subscribers and electronic news content six days a week. So, let me get to the point.

There was an article in the paper this morning about fake police officers. Evidently, there’s been an increase in folks from around the country, who dawn themselves with attire like that of an official police officer, affix blue lights to their vehicles and proceed to stop unsuspecting citizens. The article reported the case of one morally bankrupt fellow who demanded $1,000.00 from someone because they were out and about in violation of the local coronavirus curfew.

During this dark time in world history, there have also been increased reports of ethically challenged individuals price gouging folks in need of some vital product or service. Our state’s attorney general is currently running a regular public service announcement advising people of the law about price gouging, asking folks who observe it to report it.

I have no proof; however, I suspect many of the people who raided store supplies of toilet paper and paper towels a few weeks ago were doing this in order to position themselves as sellers at some point. I recently saw a video on YouTube where someone was trying to interview a woman loading up her pickup to the brim with toilet paper and paper towels, which she had just purchased from a store. Except for some finely chosen expletives directed at the interviewer, there was little insight shared as to why this voluminous purchase was being made. The interviewer tried appealing to the woman’s sense of conscience, by pointing out that her actions would deprive others of the products. This only brought forth additional expletives.

Roaches from the insect kingdom lurk about in the dark (literally), and they scurry for cover when the light shines on them. Oh, but the two-legged kind ramp up their activity during the darkest hours of tragedy and human suffering; the presence of literal light aids them in their nefarious efforts.

The preceding doesn’t reflect my normal observations, which tend to be less negative, at least I hope so. But my chest feels a bit lighter now. I will say with strong conviction that most stories I read and observations I make are to the contrary of the two-legged roach kind. It is the innumerable acts of compassion shown by folks around the globe that will contribute much to getting us all through this, another dark hour in human history.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

The War Of Faith

Unshakable Hope

It is becoming apparent for everyone to see just how fragile the hopes of this world are. It only took a microscopic organism to expose that the hopes of this world don’t deserve our trust.

Mary and I learned this lesson twenty-three years ago when diagnosed with ALS. My health was taken from me, and I lost my career. We sold our home and the family van. Every aspect of our lives, every worldly hope we had, was shaken and crumbled because the motor neuron cells in my brain were dying off.

Hopefully, not to the same extent, but many of you are feeling what we went through so many years ago. Can you see what’s happening?

(God is removing and exposing) “…things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a…

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Am I watching an evolution or devolution?

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I’m not going out much these days. Certainly, the pandemic is the primary thing that’s keeping me tethered to the home front; however, I’m a homebody anyway. The one time I do go out is on Fridays to Walmart to purchase groceries. That trip is presenting an interesting experience. Each week since March 20, I’ve seen changes to my weekly visit to Wally World.

March 20 was the end of the first week that things got serious. It was during this week that we saw a run on every store, from large box operations to pharmacies and small dollar-store types, for toilet tissue and paper towels. It would be nice if the demand for precious metals was to skyrocket in such a way. When I went to Walmart on March 20, the place was packed. There were just as many or more stockers replenishing inventory as customers. The shelves were bare of bread, paper products and a few other staples. I made comments to a few of the stockers, jokingly asking them if they had been able to keep up. All said they were trying. The value of these folks wasn’t loss on me.

I live equidistant from three Walmart stores.  Since living where we are, I have generally never gone to the same one each week. This variance depends of whether I have other errands to run, taking me closer to one rather than the other, or I might just feel like experiencing a variety in location. I certainly can’t experience a variety in what’s being sold, since they all have the same thing to offer. On March 27, I went to the same location as the week before. The inventory of merchandise, dry goods and food stuffs was more in supply than the week before, including toilet paper and paper towels. The brand of paper products I normally purchase weren’t on the shelves, off brand had to do. These wouldn’t allow me to do the wet-paper-towel test seen on TV. I really can’t think of any reason I need to balance a cup of coffee on a sheet of paper towels held between my hands. Oh, I should mention the employees were as friendly and helpful as usual, despite the pandemic.

I just got back from the same Walmart today, April 3, that I’ve gone to the two weeks before. I left home early this morning, hoping to beat any crowds that might show up later in the day. I drove up to what I would consider the main entrance, got out of the car and proceeded towards the door. Low and behold, the door was closed. Walmart was herding all customers into one entrance. The store had formed a cattle chute, of sorts, out of grocery carts, allowing customers to orderly enter the store through one line. They had also marked, with tape, places on the floor for customers to stand, several feet apart. That social distancing is being practiced all over the place. It doesn’t work though. I had a good conversation with the fellow six feet behind me. Someone told me that Walmart wasn’t allowing groups of people to enter, single individuals and couples only.

Out of all I experienced at Walmart today, of one thing I’m certain: Their associates need a big raise. I can honestly say they’re coping well in providing good customer service, whether things are evolving or devolving.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Nature conducts business as usual

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Lately, whenever I sit at the keyboard to write, something about the Coronavirus seems to naturally appear on my laptop screen. I think it would be inaccurate to say the pandemic isn’t on everyone’s mind. Excuse me for adding more fuel to your ad nauseam state of mind, but I must write this.

Preoccupation with the Coronavirus has taken our minds from just about everything except paper towels and toilet paper. There doesn’t seem to be a place on the planet that’s not infected or at risk of being so. It’s almost as if we have forgotten that there are other things happening, many of them are even devastating. As a species, we are forced to multi-task.

I think I’ve mentioned before that Chris and I live in Little Rock, Arkansas. Yesterday there was an event in Jonesboro, Arkansas, a city of roughly 75,000, two hours drive from Little Rock. My oldest child and many of my relatives reside in Jonesboro.  A tornado struck Jonesboro, causing significant damage. Fortunately, no one lost their life. The major shopping location for the city, Turtle Creek Mall was severely damaged. Homes and other structures were damaged also. I was quick to seek information about my family using social media. The news outlets were prompt in airing reports, but they couldn’t provide information specific to my family and friends. In short order, I had all the information required to put my mind at ease. Don’t say that social media is a complete waste of time. I think many who have said that in the past will have a thee hundred- and sixty-degree change of attitude very soon, if they haven’t already.

As I looked at a video of the tornado raking its way through Jonesboro, I couldn’t help but think the world continues to turn (with all its joys and sorrows) despite the blanket of suffering and death brought on by Covid-19. There are still wars going on in places of which many of us can’t name. People are still dying from ailments that have long existed before we even heard of the Coronavirus.

Jonesboro is getting a big pinch of salt added to the international wound that is daily increasing in size. Some things will continue to conduct business as usual; nature is one of those things.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

A Sunday drive on a Thursday afternoon

Corona, as in Coronavirus has been personified. It infiltrates numerous conversations these days and rightfully so. Chris and I decided to escape our self-imposed isolation for a few minutes yesterday. Our plan was to hop in the SUV, turn on the air conditioning and take a leisurely spin, no route in mind. It was 87 degrees yesterday afternoon, quite warm even for this time of year. We thought about taking the Shi-Tzu, Ari with us, but decided to leave her at home. She’s an at-home dog anyway, so she doesn’t need a Corona break.

As we exited the neighborhood, we didn’t notice anything different than normal. Traffic was about the same as it normally is. There were a few pedestrians on the streets. Several small businesses had none to a few cars parked in their parking lots. Restaurants were open for business, with services provided through their drive through windows. Our governor has made this business model available to restaurants; they had to close their dining rooms but could continue operating under this social-distancing model.

With National Public Radio playing, we drove unto the freeway, at this point with some sense of where we were going. We figured this would be a good time to checkout Pinnacle Mountain State Park. If you’re reading this and you’re not familiar with Pinnacle Mountain, it’s a volcano looking mountain just outside of Little Rock. There are acres of park land around it, offering space for picnicking, bird watching, just hanging out and enjoying nature. Yeah, this was the place to go to on such a fine, early spring day. Since we were in no hurry, we meandered through the western part of the city until we reached the park.

Obviously, there were more folks than us, who thought getting out to enjoy the nice weather was a good idea. For some reason, there were several state police vehicles parked on the side of the road near the entrance to the park.  Blue lights were also flashing. As we approached the entrance to the park, a quick survey showed that people were out and about as if it were a holiday weekend. No way were we going to pull off into that. What about social distancing? All around the park, bicyclists were hunkered down on their sleek, expensive-looking bikes, carefully navigating on the narrow shoulders of the roads. Drivers couldn’t drive too far in any direction without pulling over into the middle of the road to prevent hitting a cyclist.

This was like the Sunday drives of old, when I was a kid. We’d all hop into the reasonable facsimile of a car we owned and just go for a ride, no destination in mind. We might have stopped at a dairy stand somewhere, which as I recalled would have had a window specifically set aside for folks who looked like us. (Have you figure that out yet?) Yesterday, we chose not to stop anywhere. The cautionary measures we took to keep us from contracting the Coronavirus provided another type of segregation (social distancing). We got some fresh air, a look at some things that had changed, some things we hadn’t seen in a while. Then, back home where Ari greeted us at the door with the same toy she had before we left the house. It’s a strange new world for a Sunday drive, even on a Thursday afternoon.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

A Prayer for a time like this

I have no doubt that God loves us all. His word tells us that He loved us so much that He gave His only son as a sacrifice; providing an opportunity for us all to reside in perfect fellowship with Him.

I need not pray for God to show His love and compassion for us during this difficult time.

I do, however, feel a strong need to pray that we all will demonstrate the God-like love and compassion that He has shown and continues to show us. I pray:

That we will all follow common sense.

That we place the needs and safety of others above our selfish desires to pursue risky courses of action.

That we develop a God-like attitude of love for all humankind, not pointing fingers of division at any group.

That when any nation is attacked by this virus, we’re all being attacked.

That hoarding and preparing to protect our bounty, where there’s no threat to life, with violence is not the way.  

That we take this time to connect with family, friends and neighbors in meaningful ways.

That we sincerely pray for our political leaders, although we might not be of the same party stripe.

That each of us takes account each day of this crisis to realize that if you’re still here, you’re blessed.

That we realize this crisis should be a lesson to us that we’re not in control.

That we realize the coronavirus has no respect of persons.

That a vaccine, indeed a cure is found quickly, and that no one capitalizes economically on its development.

That the lessons learned from this experience will not be forgotten.

Amen

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

How sound is your mind?

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There are some Christian brothers and sisters who are stronger in faith than I am. That stands to reason, since all of us are different, and we respond to things differently, including God. I had a conversation with someone recently, who said they know of some churches that are still congregating despite the coronavirus threat. These folk lean heavenly on the scripture that tells us we weren’t given a spirit of fear. Here’s that scripture in its entirety: II Timothy 1:7 – For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Please let me draw your attention to Matthew 4: 7 – Jesus said to him, “It is written again, you shall not tempt the Lord your God.” This response was given by Jesus to the devil when he asked Jesus to throw himself from the pinnacle of the temple. He told Jesus to do this, if He was in fact the Son of God. This was a test (dishonest one, of course) the devil was trying to entice Jesus to perform. We all know Jesus had no doubt about the power of His Father, but why should He do something that was undoubtedly not a good show of faith.

Let’s look closely at II Timothy 1:7. It is my opinion, you may have a different one, that many people put the end of this scripture at the wrong punctuation mark. Jesus’ quote didn’t end at FEAR. He went on to say, “…but power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” In the face of the Coronavirus, we all have:  1) the power to do what we can to stop the spread of the deadly attack on humanity; 2) the love of God to show our concern and compassion for our community of believers, by not putting them in harm’s way; and 3) exercising the mechanics of a sound mind, by demonstrating one part of the Triade being God created in us, in His image. God gave us a body, a spirit and a mind. Doesn’t He expect us to use them practically?

If we choose to walk into a tunnel, when a speeding freight train is barreling toward us, can we really expect to pass a test like that considering the entirety of II Timothy 4:7? Are we not putting God to the test, an unnecessary one at that?

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

What Now?

I do something that you may or may not do. I watch YouTube Videos of Ted Talks. The TED stands for Technology Environment and Design. These short videos provide interesting and informative ideas from various thinkers about topics I usually find of great interest. Recently, I was watching a talk recorded August 30, 2018, given by Bishop Matthew Hassan Kuhah. He is the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese in Sokoto, Nigeria. I must admit, I didn’t listen very much to the content of his speech, because I couldn’t get pass the topic: What Now? The topic drew me to what’s happening now.

History shows us that viral and bacterial infections have nearly brought civilization to a halt before.  For example, the Bubonic Plague was the cause of the Black Death that swept through Asia, Europe and Africa in the 14th century. It killed an estimate 50 million people (Wikipedia). When the Europeans invaded the Americas, the population of indigenous people was nearly emptied within just a few generations. Some academics estimate that approximately 20 million people may have died in the years following the invasion – up to 95% of the population of the Americas. No medieval force, no matter how bloodthirsty, could have achieved such enormous levels of genocide. Instead, Europeans were aided by a deadly secret weapon they weren’t aware they were carrying, Smallpox (Guns Germs and Steel).

During contemporary times, we’ve seen scares prompted by Ebola, Zika, HIV, Measles and many nasty microscopic critters that seemed to have pulled together campaigns to take us all out. Do you remember the Swine Flu pandemic of 2009? It lasted from January 2009 to August 2010. The CDC estimates that as many as 575,000 people world-wide died from the Swine Flu.

I penned these words not to scare us, or to paint some fatalistic picture portraying the eventual eradication of the human race by microscopic life forms from inner space, but to remind us of the reality that the occupiers of the top of the food chain stand confidently on a somewhat shaky pedestal.

Too often what we can’t see can hurt us the most. Maybe the world should (collectively) be developing an inner space force? It might help us deal with the never-ending wave of microscopic enemies, and to address the question What Now? more effectively.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.