No Wallet – No Cell phone- No Keys!

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:9-10 NIV

Last night in a forgetful moment, I went for my walk around the neighborhood sans cellphone, wallet or keys. In fact, I didn’t even don a baseball cap to ward off the stray shower which in Florida, we are so prone to have. I breathed in deeply of the air, now clean from the recently ended heavy thunderstorms and cool by August standards as the sun had almost set. Then my mind turned back to my exploring days as a ten-year old out on a summer afternoon.

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Then, I had no wallet, mainly because I didn’t own one. If I needed money for the Saturday matinee, Mom would slip me a quarter for the movies and if I was lucky, another dime to buy some popcorn. We kids didn’t even have Social Security numbers, and if anyone needed to know our identity, they just asked our parents. And of course, we had no cell phones. They weren’t even invented yet and even our house phones were pretty much reserved for adults. The most I ever got to say was, “Thanks for the swell Christmas present Gammy” and then, “Gotta go. Here’s my mom.” Maybe most amazing of all to our modern readers, I had no keys. Who needed them? Our house was never locked!

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When we were out at the beach, the neighbor even sometimes stopped in to borrow an egg or a cup of sugar when she was baking a cake. No, our lives were far from perfect, but we possessed a treasure of trust that we didn’t even know we had and is now lost forever. We trusted that whatever we had was enough and that our parents knew who we were. We depended on our friends to get help if we got in trouble (which was pretty often) and we believed that we were safe enough to leave the house unlocked because the bad guys had been defeated in the war and now the good ones were in charge.

And God reminded me this morning that, though that world has disappeared forever, He has not changed. He always knows exactly what we need and will take care of us even in the farthest corner of the earth. And our true identity is safely hidden with Christ in God. Even when we forget, God remembers who He has made us to be. And last and best of all; God listens. When our cell phones go dead and the internet goes down, we stay connected to God. There is no place on earth where we need to ask, “Can you hear me now?” because He is with us always and forever. Finally, we must believe that the cross of Calvary has unlocked the door to God’s house and that it stands open for all who will come. He is always home. God is waiting for us to grow weary from play. He watches for us to come safely home with the assurance that we are welcome, we are expected, and that our place is set at Heaven’s dinner table for all who put their trust in Him!

The Gift of Altar Call

Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. Romans 12:1 Amplified Bible

John Brown* stood about 5’5” in his stocking feet but he was a spiritual giant in our lives while he, was our pastor. Though he had been through all the same training as other pastors in our denomination, his sermons always had the earthiness of the potato farm he had grown up on in Maine. I still remember his messages about the work of harvest and the barns filled with potatoes drying on the shelves. But of all the talents that Pastor Brown brought to the table, his gift of altar call outshone them all!

The root of why he delivered an impassioned altar call each week was rooted in his experience while he served overseas in the military as a young man. To outward appearances all was well. He had a good home a bright future and his whole life lay ahead of him. But despite what others thought, during that time, he felt lost and lonely, wondering what was the purpose of it all. He told us that his loneliness turned to despondency and depression till finally one evening he sat with a revolver in his hands wondering if it would be better to simply end things there. When he was at his lowest point, Jesus spoke to his heart, and gave him hope. Right there, John dedicated his heart and life to the Lord and to his service and made a promise that whenever he had opportunity to preach that he would always give people the opportunity to come to the Lord in prayer.

Though I myself responded a number of times to those altar calls for various struggles in my own life, I simply took his gift for granted, till, one Sunday when a visiting evangelist was preaching. I have no idea what the guest speaker preached on that day, but at the end, he gave an altar call, just as our pastor normally did but no one came forward. Now at that time our church had close to a thousand in attendance on any average Sunday morning. The organist continued playing softly for a while, and the choir sat quietly in their places, yet the altar still remained empty. A bit embarrassed, the evangelist turned and asked Pastor Brown if he could dismiss us in prayer. I had already begun wondering what was for lunch and was gathering our bibles when our diminutive pastor stepped up to the microphone, cleared his throat and began, “Now I don’t think some of you people were listening much to the sermon this morning.” Pastor Brown began. He went on to impress upon us our need for responding to the message, and before you could bat an eye there were twenty folks at the front asking for prayer. Now that’s the gift of altar call, and I am so glad that our pastor had it in spades!  He taught us that no one can tell from the outside what is hidden inside our hearts. How about you? Are you ready and willing to open your heart to the Lord today? God is listening and able to help you and I right now – but He will never drag us to the altar. He is leaving the choice to us!

* The name has been changed to preserve the privacy of his family.

Living Through the Covid Blues

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8 NKJV

With the death of a close friend, and both of us battling Covid (Thankfully not at the same time) the last seven days have begun to blur together. With hours of time and not a lot of energy, I have gone back to the project of digitizing our old family photos. First, comes the sorting process and deciding which of these can simply be retired. Then, I photograph each photo with our canon, upload and enhance those thousands of photos (Why did we take so many!?). By now I am up to the late 90’s and early 2000’s and the baby photos of our grandchildren are sweet. But as I see the thousands of faces, I also know the sad, sometimes tragic stories that replaced the smiles with tears. Some I simply delete, as the memories are too painful, others I preserve, because for better or worse these are the people who are part of our history. In a bout of depression, the other night, my mind turned back to the verse that has helped me so many times before. Our old friend, the Apostle Paul, sitting in his prison cell, writes to encourage his friends that when they face hardships, they need to remember the good things that God has done. No matter how low things appear, there are still things and people around us who have noble hearts. No matter how unfairly and selfishly people treat each other, there still remain things of true purity, loveliness and grace. As long as God sits on Heaven’s throne (Which is a long-long time!) – alongside the evil in this world and ruling over it are God’s goodness and glory. He is still good. He sees the whole picture and still loves and cares for each of us. It is up to me and you to decide what we allow our hearts and minds to dwell on and we can do this because our true life is in Christ and is hidden with Him in God.

One of the sisters from our prayer group sent us this song from Charity Gayle, saying it would give us something to praise God about. By the end, the ice in my soul began to melt and I was really blessed. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. There is no better way for us to set our minds on the good things God has done, that to take time out and give Him praise!