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THE ALTAR

Heart of pearls

Once again my sleep has been interrupted.   Using the light on my cell phone, I quietly felt around for my glasses and Bible.  A few nights ago when I was doing this same thing, I knocked over a glass which contained sweet tea.  It wasn’t a small glass, nor had I consumed any of it before going off to sleep.   No, it was a large glass almost full to the top.  I keep promising myself that I will not take a glass of anything but water to bed, and every night I break that promise.  Anyway, without turning on a light which would surely have awakened my husband, I mopped it up as best and as quietly as I could with my husband’s Sunday shirt which was hanging on the chair.  When I put my feet in my clogs, they were also filled with the sweet sticky substance.  Then I  trudged up the stairs to my computer, by way of the bathtub where I gave my feet and shoes a good washing.  I am still prying items from the sticky plastic tablecloth.  Maybe in my lifetime I will remove the tablecloth, and wipe each and every item that is glued down to its surface.  Or not.

Tonight it is the words to a very old hymn that were strumming across my heart strings and interrupting my sleep.  It is a hymn that I have not thought of  in 30 years, and I had to look up some of the lyrics to it.  It is called “Is Your All On The Altar?”

“You have longed for sweet peace, and for faith to increase, and have earnestly, fervently prayed;

But you cannot have rest, or be perfectly blest, until all on the altar is laid.

Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid? Your heart does the Spirit control?

You can only be blest, and have peace and sweet rest, as you yield Him your body and soul.”

As I think about the word “Altar”, several things come to mind.  Moses, who led God’s children through the wilderness for 40 years, would sprinkle half the blood of a sacrificed animal on the altar to show that the sinner could once again approach God because something had died in his place.  He sprinkled the other half of the blood on the people to show that the penalty for their sin had been paid and they could be reunited with God.  Then Jesus Christ came and died on the cross, shedding His blood for the remission of sin.  He became the final sacrifice, making it unnecessary to ever sacrifice another  animal.

Then there is the altar at the front of our church and most churches.  It’s a place where people can go and kneel to pray during the church service.  Usually,  this occurs during the “invitation” which is extended at the end of the service.  At this time, you are invited to come and conduct business with God, which may include  rededicating  your life, being saved, joining  the church, or just praying  for somebody.  Of course, no man-made altar can save a person.  It is just a place which enables a  soul to make public a decision which has been made in the heart.

That brings me to the “altar” mentioned in the hymn I have referenced.  It is, I think, referring to the heart’s altar–that seat of emotion that resides in these fleshly bodies of ours.  I have often heard the expression, “let your heart be your guide” or “I am heart-broken” or it was a “heart-felt prayer”,  and we could go on and on with examples of how the word is used.  Now we come to the words in our hymn: “Your heart, does the Spirit Control?”  It helps me to picture a “throne” in the center of my heart.  Daily,  I make a choice concerning that throne, like who is going to sit on it  today?   Am I  going to sit on that throne and  act as though I am  in control of my life, my circumstances, my decisions…….as if I am the one who decides that I am going to breathe today.  Luke 12:7 says that “the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

I pray that 2013 will be a year in which I relinquish more and more of my life to Him who loves me unconditionally, who gave His only son to die for my sins, who has gone to prepare a place for me so that where He is, I will also be.

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TABLE GRACE

 

I have heard it said that  “it’s the unblessed food that makes you fat.”  If that was true, I would look like a string bean instead of the Pillsbury Dough Boy’s wife.  From my earliest childhood, I remember prayers being offered at the table.  The first one I remember is :

God is great, God is good, Let us thank Him for our food.  By His hands we all are fed, Give us, Lord, our daily bread.  In Jesus’  name, Amen.

I am trying to remember how it felt to pray when I was a child.  First, I think it made me feel happy that, when called upon, I had something special to say.  Better still, it gave me an introduction, however small, to God–I learned that He was great, that He was good, and I knew in some way I couldn’t really understand, that He had provided for us.  Come to think of it, that’s a lot of prayer for a little prayer to accomplish.

I have been thinking a lot about prayer, and especially what I say when I pray.  At least in my own experience, my prayers at mealtime are sometimes lacking in sincerity.  I don’t mean to imply that I am not thankful for the food.  I am.   But sometimes I am more in a hurry to eat while it’s hot, than I am to really meaning what I am voicing in my table grace.   Or my mind wanders to other things while the prayer is being voiced.  Think about it.  If it weren’t for God’s goodness, would we have that heaping plate in front of us?

 

Grace can be short, sweet, and simple, and does not have to cover petitions for all the nations of the world, the circumstances of the entire family, and misguided path of the nation.  This kind of prayer is best done at one’s bedside.  Just my opinion.

I like the Johnny Appleseed Prayer, which says:  “Oh the Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord, for giving me the things I need, the sun and the rain and the appleseed, the Lord is good to me.  Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen.”

Not long ago, I heard a prayer that went something like this: “Lord, we thank You for the richness of this life, and our friendship, and for this golden-crusted cornbread.  Please bless the hands that prepared it, and make us ever mindful of the needs of others, through Christ our Lord, amen.”  I chuckled, but then realized that it was the most sincere of prayers.  This person was eating his favorite food which was cooked to perfection, and he was eating  in the presence of dear friends.  What an exquisite prayer after all!

Here are some examples of other table grace:

Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, and may our meal by thee be blest.” Amen.

“Heavenly Father, bless us and keep us all alive, There’s ten of us to dinner, and not enough for five.” Amen.

Thank you for the world so sweet, thank you for the food we eat.  Thank you for the birds that sing, Thank you, God, for everything.  Amen.

The Lord has been faithful to me over the years.  He has never let me down, never failed me, always provided for my needs and more.  I think it is important to express my gratitude for what He does.

 

English: Minnesota state photograph "Grac...

 

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HASTE MAKES WASTE

The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.  proverbs 18:17

Oh how hasty we are sometimes!  We rush to judgment, don’t we?  We are so sure that we are right, that our version is the only correct one, and we are so certain about the way we feel, that we don’t allow room for differences.   If you have reached the age of 10, you know that there are two sides to every story–at least two and maybe more.  Sometimes in order to find the truth, we must first stop talking and second, we must start listening and make sure we hear both sides before making up our minds.

“The first to present his case seems right.”  Certainly we all feel this way about ourselves.  We learn early in life to make excuses–we meant to return the phone call, but we forgot; the dog ate our homework; we “accidentally” told a lie.  If we are in an argument with our spouse or a friend, we naturally bend the facts in our own direction, subtly shading the truth to make our case look stronger than it really is.  We are not intentionally lying, which would unquestionably be sinful.  Though what we are doing is harder to detect, it’s no less wrong.  We are presenting the facts to make ourselves appear in the most favorable light possible.  Most of us do this so instinctively that we don’t even realize we’re doing it.  We are all by nature biased in our own favor.  Think about it, and be honest!

“Till another comes forward and questions him.”  All the sudden, our explanation doesn’t seem so strong and our excuses look like……excuses.  What seems like an adequate defense now seems small and selfish and perhaps even deceitful.

I think for most of us, there is a lot of room for improvement in this area, not just in how we present ourselves, but in how we evaluate others.  On the one hand, we know we ought to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about our own words and deeds.  If we did this, we would never need to worry about a surprise witness arriving on the scene and impeaching us.    On the other hand, verse 13 of Proverbs 18 urges us to be slow to evaluate the facts of a given case.  It says,  “He who answers before listening-that is his folly and his shame.”  So we should not be taken in by the first person we hear.  We need to take time to hear both sides and ask hard questions, so as to get the facts.

Better to delay a decision, than to wish you had.  And better to be thought too cautious than to be too hasty.

Christ set the standard for us to follow because He was Truth personified.  He never tried to fool anyone and He was never fooled by anyone.

"No excuses^ Watch your waste." - NA...

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YOUR GIFT IS NOW

It was an ordinary day, except for the rain which was unusually cold.  I had listened to it falling on my tin roof throughout the night.   It was the kind of day for doing absolutely nothing.  I decided to go through some boxes of books, and make some decisions about their disposal.  I separated the books into 3 different stacks.  One stack was to try and sell at auction; another was to donate to the library in my small town; and the third stack were books that I wanted to keep, at least till I could examine them more closely.  One of the books caught my eye, because of its bright yellow cover and the single word “Hope” which was printed on it.  It turned out to be a journal of sorts, and was comprised of mostly blank pages.  It didn’t take long to realize that this was the journal of a person with cancer, and they were writing about their journey.  I was captivated and in no time was totally engrossed in the story of this person’s misfortune.  I wept several times as I began reading the handwritten words.  “I went through six hours of chemo this afternoon”, and on another page, “A bad, bad day…so much nausea.”  Several pages later, “Severe pain.  Don’t know if I can, or want to do this or not.”  “Overwhelming weakness and nausea.  All I want to do is sleep.”  In the midst of the heart-wrenching words of pain and discomfort, there would be lines like, “When life knocks us down, we must uncover who we are and what we treasure.  That honest  journey will usually reveal that we already have what we need to get back up.”  or “It doesn’t hurt when I laugh.” and my favorite was: “To Do List: Plan to not plan, schedule to be impulsive, make a meeting to laugh, postpone procrastination, put in a reminder to enjoy the moment.  YOUR GIFT IS NOW.”  That was the last entry.  It was written by someone else, but it was intended for me.  Sometimes we get so caught up in life with all its frustrations and business, that we neglect what is most important–to ENJOY the life we have been given, and the family and friends with whom God has blessed us.  The here and now is all we have, and it could all be gone in the next blink of an eye.  Yesterday is gone forever, and tomorrow may never come.  Your Gift is Now.

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GO BUY A PITCH FORK!

Super muddy chihuahua

DOODLEBUG

We have a mole problem.  Oh it’s not the kind that resides on your face.  These are pesky rodents who have one goal in life – to tear up our yard.  Along comes Doodlebug.  He’s our blue chihuahua.  His one goal in life is to go from hole to hole chasing this mole (or moles) and did I mention that he makes each hole bigger as he goes?  Even if it has rained the night before, and the holes are filled with water, Doodlebug splashes out the water and by the time he is finished digging, his nose is coated with mud and his paws are so muddy, he can hardly lift them to walk.  That’s when he decides to come to the deck where we are trying to enjoy that first cup of coffee.  It’s a beautiful fall morning, the air is crisp, the leaves are changing colors, we’re enjoying the red birds at the feeders, and the coffee is oh so perfect. That’s when Doodlebug remembers that he hasn’t had his morning rub down and “treats”.  Did I mention that he doesn’t know clean from dirty, and in no time, his muddy boots have rubbed off on one of us.  Every day, and I mean EVERY day, my husband says, “If I had a pitch fork, I’d take care of that mole”. I bet you thought I was going to say that he’d use it on Doodlebug.  Gotcha.   And every day, and I mean EVERY day, I say to him, “Go buy a pitch fork!”  And the process is repeated over and over.

Anyway, it started me thinking about the “First Rule of Holes”, which says “When you’re in a hole, stop digging.” What do you do when you’re already in debt?  The answer is to get out of debt as quickly as possible.  If you’re in a financial hole, don’t make it worse by using your credit cards, because you don’t want to dig yourself any deeper.  Right?

This principle applies across the board.  If you want to lose weight, stop digging.  You’re already in a hole and it’s a tight fit because your waistline, and hips, and….well, I don’t need to expound on that…have expanded.  So lay off the carbs and sweets and stop overeating, and don’t eat snacks, and don’t eat late at night and don’t eat those things you crave, and drink 3 gallons of water a day, and start slow and taper off on those exercises.  Somehow I don’t think that’s quite how you’re supposed to exercise.  Oh, and somewhere in there, you should add alfalfa sprouts to your diet.

How about changing your sinful behavior?  The first step is to stop the destructive actions that have gotten you into the mess you are in.  Are you angry or bitter, or are you trapped by repeated failure?  Are you in trouble morally, spiritually, financially, emotionally?  Would you like to see true change in your life?  There are many things you can do to help yourself, but none of them will do any good until you remember the First Rule of Holes: When you’re in a hole stop digging.

You may recall the story in the Bible of the woman caught in adultery (John 8)  Jesus didn’t condemn her, nor did he condone her behavior, either.  After scattering her accusers, He told her that neither did He condemn her.  He said for her to go and leave her life of sin.  I believe she was forgiven by Jesus and that she had a new life.  But in point of fact, she had suddenly come from immorality into a relationship with Jesus Christ.  He would not condemn her, for she had condemned herself by her sin.  But now that new life must be evidenced by a radical change in behavior: “Go and sin no more.”

Lord, I need Your help to stop doing the things that are hurting me so that I can begin to do things that will make me better.  Amen

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THE CLOCK IS TICKING

It has been several weeks since my last blog.  Have been busy, but at day’s end, I couldn’t really give you a list of my accomplishments.    When I stop to think about how my time is spent, I am ashamed when I realize how much of  it is spent loafing or daydreaming (yes, I still do that!) or just plain idle.  I justify it sometimes by saying things like, “I worked all those years.  Now I am entitled to do what I want.   No more alarm clocks, no time schedules, no boss telling me what to do, no real demands on my life.  So think I’ll just pop in that movie or watch some television.”  I can actually sit for hours on my deck and watch the birds at our feeders.  Meanwhile, the laundry piles up, there are dishes in the sink, and the bed is unmade.  It’s the way of no plans, no forethought, no enthusiasm, no diligence.  It’s the easy way.  It’s the “soft and cuddly” way.  It’s the way of laziness, the way of the sluggard.

Here’s an important insight that we would do well to remember: God is on the hard road.  He’s not sitting with the couch potatoes.  The easy road looks easy and the hard road looks hard.  But the facts remain (hard and cold though they are) that the easy road is deceptive.  It is the way of destruction, poverty, starvation, and desperation.  It is the way to wasted days, wasted weeks, wasted months, and wasted years.  It takes you down to the bottom.

There’s a job to be done!  There’s a call to arms, right now!  It will probably mean getting out of your “comfort zone” and daring to meet the challenge that has been given to all Christians.  It’s the hard road, but ultimately the road of blessing, fulfillment, and ultimately the road that leads you to the top.  And the challenge is this!  People all around us are dying.  Have we even bothered to tell them that death is not the end, but the beginning, and that the soul continues on for eternity?  Have we told them that by  placing their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, heaven will be their home when they die, and that receiving Christ  is the only way to heaven?  Have we told them that not to do so, will send their soul to eternal damnation in hell?  Why do we shrink back from this Great Commission that we have been given in Matthew 28:18-20?  If I knew the cure for cancer, I wouldn’t withhold it from anyone.  I would broadcast it so that people could be healed.  Why then are we so negligent about spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ?   Could it be that we forget  He’s the One doing it and all we have to do is make ourselves available.

Lord God, give me the courage and the discipline to stay on the hard road today.  Amen

Wall Clock (141/365)

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LITTLE BOY BLUE

The little toy dog is covered with dust, but sturdy and staunch he stands;

and the little toy soldier is red with rust, and his musket moulds in his hands.

Time was when the little toy dog was new, and the soldier was passing fair;

And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue kissed them and put them there.

“Now don’t you go till I come,” he said, “And don’t you make any noise!”

So, toddling off to his trundle-bed, he dreamt of his pretty toys;

And as he was dreaming, an angel song awakened our Little Boy Blue.

Oh! The years are many, the years are long, But the little toy friends are true!

Aye, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand, each in the same old place.

Awaiting the touch of a little hand, the smile of a little face.

And they wonder, as waiting the long years through in the dust of that little chair,

What has become of our Little Boy Blue, since he kissed them and put them there.

Seems like only yesterday that I was reading this poem by Eugene Field to my little boys.    It was a precious time which I shall always cherish.  I am glad that God does not allow us to see into the future.  Had I known then that I would only have John for a brief 30 years,  there would have been dread instead of joy, as I delighted in his growth and maturity.  The night he died was the darkest night of my life.  Even now, I can recall every detail of the crash that took his life.  Many nights, my sleep has been robbed by the vivid pictures that flash through my mind.  If I didn’t know positively, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that he is with His Lord, in whom he placed his trust,  I think I would have tumbled into that horrible brink of despair.  It must be a dreadful thing to have no hope of a hereafter, or of seeing our loved ones again.

Another poem comes to mind, in a beloved hymn.  Anyone hearing me sing at this ridiculous hour would think that I have lost my mind.  It goes something like this:

“I know not when my Lord may come, at night or noon day fair, or if I’ll walk the vale with him or meet Him in the air, but I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.”  You see, that part of us that lives on after our body dies, goes on for eternity.  John’s soul was in good hands on September 1, 2009 because he had taken care of that most important detail.  Christ took the sting out of death when He rose from the dead, victorious over the grave.  Because He did that, I can find comfort in the knowledge that I’ll see John again one day.

John Daniel Tatum was born April 26, 1979 and died September 1, 2009.

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DIETER’S PRAYER – DAY THIRTY

Day Thirty – I Praise You For My Family

Dear God, Today I praise You for my family!  When I think about how much I love them, I regret the times I resent the work it takes to keep our household intact and food on the table.  Forgive me, and give me a grateful heart, Lord.  With every meal I serve, may I be conscious about what I am teaching my family about food, and about You.  I pray for healthy bodies for everyone who lives in this house.  Bless this food to our bodies!  And make us mindful of the needs of others.  Let every grace we pray ring true, and let every meal we share remind us to praise You for Your abundance.  Amen.

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DIETER’S PRAYER – DAY TWENTY NINE

Day Twenty Nine – Grant Me Courage To Receive Love

Dear God, because You say it is true, I know it is so.  I am dearly beloved!  I am loved by You, and by many other people, too.  I don’t want to push them away!  I don’t want to think “I’m not worth loving!”  Give me the courage instead to receive love with grace and gratitude.  May I always be ready to turn the love I get into love that I give away.  And may my growing belief in the fact that I’m loved be one more reason to treat my body with care.  Thank you, God, that I am Your dearly loved child!  Because this is true, I can live a life of love-received and returned.  Amen.

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DIETER’S PRAYER – DAY TWENTY EIGHT

Dieter’s Prayer – Day Twenty Eight

Dear God, You know that I live in a land of temptation, a land where each day I must ask for grace and help from You.  Keep me from mistaking these temptations as a sign of failure or weakness that will lead inexorably to my defeat.  Remind me that they exist exactly because I am striving for holiness.  Thank You that You are greater than any temptation or power.  And You live in me!  Thank You for Your mercies, which are always greater, always more complete than I ever imagine.  Let every temptation chase me into Your arms, and grant me the vision to grasp the unfathomable greatness of Your grace.  Amen

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