Category Archives: Opinion

Granny Gear will Persevere by Carolyn Tucker

Carolyn Tucker. Submitted photo.

Keys to the Kingdom – Carolyn Tucker

 

My husband Jimmy and his two older brothers learned to haul hay when they were kids. This is one of the hardest jobs because it’s always miserably hot and the work is relentless. As with everything, there’s a fine art to being a real hay hauler. Not just anybody off the city sidewalk can do it — but a country boy can git ‘er done. The first year we were married, Jimmy and his friend Dave teamed up to haul hundreds of square hay bales for an area farmer. I got the easy job of driving the 1948 Chevy one-ton flatbed. All I had to do was hold ‘er in a smooth granny gear while the guys worked their sweaty precision with hay hooks, great balance, and combined coordination. Those boys had the muscles, technique, and perseverance to get the job done and deliver on their promise.

Persevere means to persist in, or remain constant, to a purpose or task in the face of difficulties. It means to follow through to the end, to stand firm, never give up, and be determined to finish. Where I come from, persevere means to carry on, keep at it, press on, hammer away, stick with it, hang on like a Bulldog and finish what you start.

There’s a fine art to being a genuine Christian. Every born-again believer can do it, but not everyone wants to live a lifestyle of unswerving commitment. Any numbskull can “lay down in the hayfield” and give up. Believers must make a lifetime decision to persevere in their walk of obedience with God. As God’s children, we ought to be strong in character and represent our Father excellently. When King David was instructing Solomon on building the temple, he told him to be courageous and get to work. Don’t be fearful of the task, for God will see to it that everything is finished correctly.

Jimmy and Dave wouldn’t have hauled the hay at no charge. They were expecting payment for their efforts, and the farmer was expecting his field to be stripped clean. The scripture states that God rewards His children when they make an effort to truly know Him. “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6 NLT).

One of the best biblical examples of perseverance is Noah. He found favor with the Lord because he was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth, and he walked in close fellowship with God. When God told Noah to build an ark, it took him 100 years to finish it! Because Noah didn’t stop hammering away, he and his family were saved from the flood. God rewarded that family of eight with the gift of life.

The end of a thing is better than its beginning; the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit” (Ecclesiastes 7:8 NKJV). It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. It wasn’t how many bales were in the field at the beginning, it’s how many were in the barn at the end. Christians are in a race to win the heavenly prize. But you’ve got to pace yourself so you can endure and make it across the finish line. It’s like living your life in granny gear — just keep it steady and don’t quit. Quitters never win and winners never quit. Believe it or not, granny gear will get you across the Jordan River and through the Pearly Gates.

The Key: Persevere, keep it in granny gear, and God will help you be a winner.

Dad’s Peanut Butter and Syrup by Carolyn Tucker

Carolyn Tucker. Submitted photo.

Keys to the Kingdom – Carolyn Tucker

 

The other day I found a nearly-empty jug of maple syrup in the refrigerator. I thought for a moment how to get rid of it in order to make more storage available in the fridge. So I pulled out a jar of peanut butter and whomped up a concoction my Dad used to eat on hot homemade biscuits. (He also ate pancakes with peanut butter and syrup.) Since I didn‘t have any biscuits or pancakes, I just ate it like pudding. I can’t remember the last time I ate peanut butter and syrup on a biscuit. Somehow, through the passing of time, I’d forgotten all about this lip-smacking treat! How could I forget something that yummy?

God knows that humans have a tendency to forget, so we’re reminded of His loving benefits in the following verses: “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your mouth with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s (Psalm 103:1-5 NKJV).

Believers are to bless and praise the Lord with our whole being (soul). Our entire life is to bring glory to God as we continually remember the great things He’s done for us. Worship is a 24-7 lifestyle and everyday is an opportunity to show the lost and broken that someone on earth and Someone they can’t see loves them. The other day while driving, I was listening to Glen Campbell sing, “Try a Little Kindness.” As I absorbed the lyrics I thought, “This is a song you could sing in church.“ Here’s verse 2: “Don’t walk around the down and out, lend a helping hand instead of doubt. And the kindness that you show every day will help someone along their way.” That sounds an awful lot like Luke 20:25-37. And at the end of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.” We need to remember this teaching.

As children of God, we shouldn’t forget why He created us. We’re God’s visible reps, thinking and acting as He would. God also desired fellowship with mankind. To me, one of the saddest verses in the Bible is Genesis 3:8 NKJV: “And they [Adam and Eve] heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” The moral of this story is to remember to fellowship with the Good One and not the evil one. When the serpent (Satan) began his deceptive conversation with Eve, she should have said, “Shut up, Liar!” and walked straight into God’s rock-solid arms. God wanted fellowship, but the devil only wanted to destroy a loving relationship.

There are numerous scriptures regarding the importance of not forgetting. “Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!” (Hebrews 13:1,2 NLT). To say you’ve never seen an angel may very well be an untruth. “And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God” (Hebrews 13:16 NLT). All believers have a mission and shouldn’t be standing around scratching their heads wondering what they’re supposed to do for God. It’s plain and simple: Do good and share.

The Key: Don’t forget all of God’s benefits and remember to bless His holy name.

Emmaus by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Easter season has passed. Colorful baskets are bubble-wrapped and stored in plastic containers, chocolate marshmallows have done their diet damage, and pastel, church clothes are washed and hung for the next dress-up event. Ham and scalloped potato leftovers have been devoured, the Easter bunny has started his/her 12-month hibernation, and soon 4th of July gizmos will begin appearing in store windows. We move on. Jesus did too. Three days after his death he joined two faith-shaken men—one named Cleopas and one unnamed– in their walk home after witnessing the crucifixion of the one they trusted would save them from the Romans. Seven miles outside of Jerusalem a stranger joined them and questioned their grief. Stopping in their tracks, one said to the outsider, “You must be a visitor to Jerusalem. If you lived there, you would know the things that have happened there in the last few days.” After all, anybody who was anybody had heard of the crucifixion… anybody, it appeared, except this man. So, they filled him in on the details of the empty tomb. As one pastor preached this past Sunday, “Nobody saw no body in the tomb.” What they didn’t know was the stranger walking alongside them was the very one about whom they spoke. I love the irony: “Are you the only one who does not know…?” when they are addressing the only one who really does know! (Filling Jesus in on his death is sort of like me explaining electrons to Albert Einstein.) The stranger confronted them. “How foolish you are! How long it takes you to believe all that the prophets said! Didn’t the Christ have to suffer these things and then receive His glory?” Beginning with Moses, he explained to them how the one crucified fulfilled death and resurrection prophecies made thousands of years before. (Since there are over 300 such prophecies in the Old Testament, I assume Jesus shared only the most relevant ones.) Wanting to hear more, the men begged this learned man to join them at their home for dinner. It was there Jesus broke bread, and the pair’s eyes were open to recognize their Savior, very much alive and reclining at their kitchen table. Once Jesus left, they couldn’t wait to share the good news (Is it any wonder that “Gospel” means “Good News”?) with Jesus’ closest followers, the disciples, so they sprinted back to Jerusalem to relive their encounter with their Risen Lord. So, let’s backtrack to look at a few hidden nuggets in this scripture. Did you ever question why only one of the traveler’s names is given? Some speculate that this was intentional so that we would put ourselves in the place of the nameless journeyman. If so, we should imagine the joy experienced when the once-downtrodden men realize that they have witnessed the unthinkable. The story in which they are partnering has a new beginning. The grave is empty because Jesus is alive! And they are in the elite group to witness the miracle first-hand. I wonder how many of us, like the two men, “miss” Jesus. We expect him to show up at a Sunday morning church service or a trip to a mission field, but not right beside us as a fellow sojourner. If we’re not alert and ready, we won’t take the time to invite him into our lives, and we will keep hopelessly strolling down the road without recognizing his presence. Instead, let us keep Easter season alive. Let us expect Jesus to join us in our daily walk so that we never miss an opportunity to spread the “Good News.”

Take What You Want by Carolyn Tucker

Carolyn Tucker. Submitted photo.

Keys to the Kingdom – Carolyn Tucker

 

I’m not a know-it-all, but there are a few things I know pretty well…and one of them is chocolate. When I figured out what “connoisseur” meant, I decided I was one. Eating milk chocolate will make me pat my head, rub my tummy, and grin like a ’possum. If a friend offered me a box of cocoa-dusted truffles and said, “Take all you need,” I’d choose three.“ However, if she said, “Take all you want,” I’d take the whole box and thank her kindly. The three truffles would satisfy my sweet tooth for the moment, but a full box would satisfy all my teeth for a week or so.

The definition of need: require something because it is essential or very important. The definition of want: to crave, or to desire. God offers abundant life now and eternal life later through Jesus (His one and only Son). Jesus plainly said, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10 NLT). God knew everyone needed a Savior so He provided Jesus as the only perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world.

It’s possible to need Someone and not even want Him. Satan (the thief) dangles a dried-up carrot in front of unbelievers and they run like crazy to catch it. Jesus died and rose again to freely give humanity everything needed in order to live an abundant life. Jesus has done His part, now it’s up to each person to accept Him as Savior and Lord. Many foolishly reject His loving offer and choose to choke on the carrot. People desperately need the Lord and they don‘t even know it as they search in all the wrong places.

Jesus said, “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. …I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger and he who believes in Me shall never thirst“ (John 6:33,35 NKJV). Jesus abundantly satisfies the deepest need of the human heart.

In Matthew 5:3-11, Jesus is explicit in what God will do for those who commit their whole heart to Christ. Jesus says that if you have a spiritual need, He will bless and help you grow in grace. If you are experiencing sorrow, He will bless you with His comfort. If you are humble, kind, and obedient to God, you will receive His promised blessings. If you earnestly desire all that God offers and requires, and long to see the right prevail, you shall be peacefully satisfied. (A spiritually-mature believer is the first to do what’s right even if nobody else is doing so.)

If you show mercy and forgiveness to others, you will receive mercy from God. If you’re genuinely in love with God and your life reflects holy integrity with loving deeds, you’ll live with Him for all eternity. If you actively work at bringing peace into all your relationships, you’ll be fashioned into God’s character. If you stand for what is godly and refuse involvement in unethical or immoral behavior, the Kingdom of Heaven is yours. If hate-filled enemies mock you, slander you, or persecute you because you’re a Christ follower, your reward will be great in heaven.

It’s a no-brainer that believers and unbelievers need Jesus every hour.

The Key: Jesus is all you need and all you could ever want.

Jesus Is Alive by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

If I knew that I had only a few breaths left before I died, I would pick my words carefully. Whatever I said would hopefully have an impact and be a lasting memory for those within earshot. Conversation about my favorite food (lobster) or television show (Songland) or movie (The Greatest Showman) or vacation spot (Mazatlán) would not be important. Jesus’ last words demonstrates such importance. As he hung on the cross, his body torn to shreds from the torturous flogging, he fought desperately to take air into his lungs. Words were precious. So, what did he say? Seven memorable things, listed here in chronological order:

1. “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

2. “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23: 43

3. “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” John 19:26-27

4. “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” Mt. 27:46

5. “I am thirsty.” John 19:28

6. “It is finished!” John 19:30

7. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Luke 23:46

Jesus chose his words with eternal implications. The first three demonstrated merciful compassion. Let’s revisit them. 1. He offered forgiveness to his persecutors. He could have called for their eternal damnation (and who could blame him), but he chose instead to show them both grace and a second chance to get it right.

2. He offered eternity (with no works attached) to the criminal hanging on the cross next to him after the thief said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom!” 

3. He offered concern and love for his mother, Mary, that she be taken care of for the rest of her life by his best friend, John.

Three statements, each demonstrating Jesus’ unfailing love for others.

The next two phrases show Jesus’ relentless, human struggle.

4. He felt abandoned, alone, forsaken by his Father. Many theologians believe that this was when God saw Jesus covered with the sins of mankind and could look on His son no longer. At this moment our Savior felt the weight of humanity’s evil and could take no more.

5. Jesus was fully human and fully divine, yet his divinity did not allow him to sidestep the realness of the anguish he was feeling, thus his thirst came from a parched mouth. He needed the ability to say two more things.

6. Jesus’ work on earth was done (a Hallelujah moment).

7. And then, finally, finally, the horrific cruelty was over. Jesus took his last breath and went Home to Heaven, thirty-three years after he came to earth.

Seven statements, some showing the humanity, some showing the divinity, of our crucified Savior. Fortunately, Jesus had more to say. Starting three days after he was buried, he appeared to offer encouragement at least 10 more times to his followers. And then again, he ascended into Heaven, once and for all. Jesus left the cross and the grave empty.

What does that mean for us?

Jesus is alive!!! (I cannot add enough exclamation marks!)

Today he sits at the right hand of the Heavenly Father where he intercedes for you and me. May we all remember that as we celebrate Resurrection Sunday!

The Laws of 2021 by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

I am proud to be an American. I love the U.S.A., but for the life of me, I’m saddened that we seem to be moving in a direction lacking common sense and fairness, and I keep calling out to Jesus to heal our land.

Example #1: My friend spent years attempting to become a legal citizen, to pay the $600, to study for the naturalization test (including ridiculous questions about the First Intercontinental Congress). I realize that, as Christians, we are to care for the less fortunate, but Covid-positive illegals are entering our country, boarding our busses and traveling to various states. We legals can’t do that. When I leave Mexico to return to the United States in a few weeks, I will need a negative Covid test within 72 hours of my flight. The airline will look at my document before allowing me to board the plane. (And yes, I would rather have a Covid test than swim the Rio Grande, but that’s not the point.)

Example #2: Hard-working citizens want their businesses to open. I have watched my granddaughter, a California beautician, be jobless for the past nine months. (Unfortunately for her, Nancy Pelosi is not her client.) My friend’s restaurants are allowed a 25% capacity—not enough to pay the wages of the employees. I don’t get it. Mexico restaurants are open. Customers’ temperatures are taken, hand sanitizer is used, and social distancing is required.

But not in America. Only in America are there more penalties for re-opening our own business than for looting and destroying someone else’s.

Example #3: “I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” said New York Governor Cuomo, explaining his behavior concerning the sexual harassment charges facing him. “Uncomfortable”? Is there a better euphemism? I’m uncomfortable if I relax on a hard chair with no cushion for more than 30 minutes. If I sit on the ground and try to get up, without the aid of Dave or a piece of furniture to help. If my friend tries on a pair of pants that clearly are two sizes too small and wants my opinion. But “uncomfortable” as a reference for his alleged victims’ feelings? Not the right word.

Example #4: This morning I was in a Bible study with two women from Seattle. Because homelessness has been allowed to overtake their area, they no longer travel into the heart of the city where they grew up. They are overwhelmed by the bombardment at street corners by pan-handlers. The tent-cities dominate the sidewalks where businesses once thrived. A problem that started out small has overtaken their beloved hometown.

Example #5: Newscasters call our country systemically racist, pointing fingers at we whites. Well, I’m confused. Could that work both ways? Could blacks be racist towards whites? I’ve certainly experienced it, yet that doesn’t keep me from loving my black friends. Or admiring them. In college I hung with the black freshmen girls who tried to teach me the latest dance steps. In the baseball world, several of our close friends were black, and in today’s society, I am in awe of the dominance of blacks with athletic/musical/artistic/academic talents. Yet I am “racist” because I’m not a fan of B.L.M. God knows my heart. No one else does.

Example #6: In the “Pandemic Stimulus Package” 91% of our tax dollars are funding everything BUT Covid relief. That bill has more pork than my great aunt’s 450-pound sow. Here are two specifics: (1) $1.5 million for the Seaway International Bridge between Massena, New York, and Canada, and (2) $100 million toward construction of an underground rail line linking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco district and Silicon Valley. H-E-L-L-O! Those are OUR tax dollars, folks.

Talks abound that Jesus is coming soon. I don’t know if he is or isn’t, so I continue to pray for my country that I will demonstrate love, especially to those with whom I so vehemently disagree. That’s all I know to do. I hope they do the same for me.

God’s beeline to you

Carolyn Tucker. Submitted photo.

Keys to the Kingdom – Carolyn Tucker

 

Several years ago I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was fiddling around in the fencerow and made a bumble bee ferociously mad. He stung me; I took off running, and he came after me, stinging me again and again. I didn’t waste time zigging and zagging as I flew past my in-law’s back door and ran around to the front door. I didn’t bother to knock or ring the door bell either. I barged in and slammed the door, leaving the mad bee behind me. My nephew was standing in the kitchen grinning, because he’d witnessed my 100-yard dash. Dakota was really amused by my ability to streak fully clothed past the back window. And I was shocked at how relentless that bumble bee was in stinging me. He obviously hated my guts and didn’t even know me!

The definition of beeline is: (1) a direct route traveled quickly; (2) to go directly and quickly toward someone or something. I like to think about the fact that God is making a beeline toward me when I call on Him. “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1a NKJV). Believers have a marvelous privilege in belonging to God. Even though circumstances may sometimes be challenging, we can live with assurance and hope in His faithfulness and unfailing love. God is for us in Christ, and this is the gospel in a nutshell.

Nothing can keep those who belong to Christ from receiving the benefits of God’s love. “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38,39 NKJV). It would be to our spiritual advantage if we would meditate on these verses until we really grabbed ahold of the truth of God’s fervent love for us.

Most parents understand that it’s their responsibility and privilege to supply the needs of their children. Those needs come in the form of love, protection, spiritual training, nurturing, discipline, teaching, etc. Almighty God is above and beyond earthly parents, but He is our heavenly Father and He desires to demonstrate his love and provide for all of our needs. “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NKJV). Jesus has already gone through hell and high water for us, so we shouldn’t be shy in asking for God’s help in whatever capacity we need. Life is like a book with lots of chapters and each one is different. You may need a financial miracle today, but next year you’ll need something else. Just keep in mind that God has an unbeaten track record of doing what others say can’t be done.

When God steps in and really shows off in my life, I feel like the Israelites when they traveled in the wilderness for 40 years. They followed the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. They were never left on their own because the cloud and fire symbolized God‘s presence. God went ahead of them and made a way when there seemed to be no way. All their needs were met — He supplied their food, and their clothes and sandals didn’t even wear out.

Key: God will make a beeline to you if you‘ll ask; just make sure you’ve slammed the door on the devil.

Increase Time Spent With The Son

The freezer in the sun. Submitted photo.

Your freezer door needs two hours of sunshine.”

My repairman here in Mexico explained that that would repair my water dispenser. Javier already had replaced two parts and duct-taped a couple more together, but after waiting for two days—as I was told—there still was no water. I phoned to tell him so.

I will be over at 10:00 in the morning. We will take the door off, plastic wrap your freezer, and take your door into the sun for two hours. Then it will be fine.”

10:00—no Javier. 10:30—no Javier. At 11:00, I called him. “I am a little delayed. I will be there in an hour, Mexico time.” Everyone in Mexico knows what that means: either today or possibly next week.

Thankfully, Javier showed up “almost” on time.

I had phoned my friend, Lael, to share my story, and we were laughing about the “never say die” attitude of repair people here in Mexico. Nothing is beyond hope. When we hung up, I thought that the freezer is really no different than the rest of us. We all need sunshine. Most research states that Americans are deficient in Vitamin D, also referred to as “the sunshine vitamin.”

If you’ve ever had your bloodwork done, there’s a good chance you are on the low end of that necessary vitamin. The problem is, you might not know so until there are signs like weak bones, bone pain and muscle weakness. Other issues might show up in your nervous, muscle, and immune systems. Without those symptoms (or bloodwork), we can go on our merry way and not realize that we are in danger…until, regrettably, it’s too late. There is, however, a warning. Taking more than 50,000 IU daily of Vitamin D over long periods can lead to high blood levels of calcium (hypercalcemia), which can lead to death.

When I started thinking of how we—and my freezer—depend on sunshine to function properly, I also considered how there’s another sunshine we need, only the spelling is different. I’m talking about Son-shine–you know, as the Son of God. His best friend, John, quoted Jesus as saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,” and “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Is there a better way to be hope-full than to understand the benefits of soaking up Jesus’ kind of son-shine? Not according to Peter who reminded Jesus’ followers, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)

One of my favorite things to do is to curl up with my Bible where I read about how much I am loved and how there is One who constantly pulls me towards the light and teaches me ways to dispel the dark. The story hasn’t changed since the beginning of creation, yet it’s up to us to determine just how much Son-shine we want.

And here’s the cool part! Overdosing on Jesus is impossible. With him, we never are beyond hope. Maybe it’s time to increase the time we spend in the Son.

 

The Simple Trust of a Four-Year-Old

Carolyn Tucker. Submitted photo.

Keys to the Kingdom – Carolyn Tucker

 

I have three cute and funny granddaughters: Lydia Mae 6 years, Felicity 4, and Vivienne 2. When the girls sleep at night, they each have a favorite sleeping companion they like to hold. Recently, after spending the night with me, it came time for all the family to pack up their belongings and head back to Missouri. Well, Felicity couldn’t find Tigee anywhere and was rather distressed. This little orange-and-black tiger has seen better days as both of his arms are held on with safety pins. I assured Felicity that I would find him later, so she was brave and went home without him.

Sure enough, I accidentally found him a few days later hiding on Pappy’s side of the closet floor. I immediately called my daughter and she handed the phone to Felicity so I could tell her the good news of finding Tigee. I felt impressed to go the extra mile and tell her not to worry about him, that he would sleep with me so he would be happy. She said, “OK” in her tiny soft voice, and everything seemed fine. Case closed, no problem.

When I got in bed that night, I was all comfortable and looking forward to sawing logs. But my mind was pricked with the words of my own mouth when I remembered that I had promised Felicity that Tigee would sleep with me. So I got out of bed, went into Mariam’s bedroom and scooped up the ratty-looking “stuffy” and climbed back into bed. To be honest I felt kinda’ stupid, but I knew that keeping my word was more important than feeling stupid.

The next day, I called my daughter and asked her to tell Felicity that Tigee had slept with me. Her response was, “I know, she said she would.” This green-eyed four-year-old’s confident response is the subject of my column this week. Jesus spoke several times about children. Little children have absolute trust in their parents and grandparents. And that is what our heavenly Father wants us to do — trust Him to do what His Word says He will do. If my granddaughter trusted me (as a human) to do what I said I would do, how much more can we trust the Master Creator to keep His Word!

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14 ESV). The honest humility of a young child consists of trust, vulnerability, and the need for help from a loving parent. Usually adults are to be the examples for children, but in this case Jesus instructs adults to come to Him like little children come to their parents.

As adult believers, Jesus tells us: “Do not be anxious for your life….Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith? Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?‘ …your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow…” (Matthew 6:25-34 NASB).

The Key: Trust in God like a four-year-old and you’ll be on the right track.

Lukewarm by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

A spider and a centipede are having tea. The centipede gets up and offers to go buy snacks. He goes out the door and hours pass. The spider is so hungry, wondering what happened, and opens the door, only to find the centipede sitting on the doormat, still putting on his shoes.

Sometimes I am that centipede. It takes me F.O.R.E.V.E.R. to tie my hundred shoes, to get going…in a spiritual sense, I mean. In real world activities, I am the Energizer Bunny.

Francis Chan’s “New York Times” best seller, Crazy Love, makes me wonder if I am taking my own sweet time in becoming what God desires for me, even after 43 years of being a Christian. Chan writes much about “lukewarm Christians” (in other words, not Christians at all). They love God for what He can do for them (like eternity in Heaven) and not for who He is.

The test is simple, using the question John Piper wrote in God In the Gospel: “If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?” Spend some time before answering.

The author is concerned about the unfaithfulness of Christians. Referring to the question “Can I go to heaven without truly and faithfully loving Jesus?”, Chan’s response comes as no surprise. “I don’t see anywhere in Scripture how the answer to that question could be yes.”

We know that Jesus’ sacrifice to die on the cross for our sins benefits us eternally, but have we ever considered the emotional pain well before the crucifixion, like how it had to grieve God to say farewell to His son and send him to earth to live with sinners who would reject him, abandon him, deny him and kill him? (If you are a parent, put yourself in God’s shoes.) Leading up to that Heavenly good-bye, I wonder if the angels were huddled in panic. Were there lingering hugs and tears? Surely Jesus knew what was ahead, that he would be grieved, tempted, exhausted, frustrated and would agonize over his impending death. Still, he volunteered to come, to offer to die in our place.

How much love he has for you and me, that he made that choice!

Jesus wasn’t finished. He returned to Heaven but did not leave us without help: the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His followers and therefore us, “… it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go the Helper will not come …” (John 16:7). Get that? Better than Jesus remaining with the disciples is that we can be gifted with his Spirit. And what a gift he is! In John 14, we learn much about what we Christians have living inside of us, thank you, Jesus, waiting to be used. A helper. A comforter. A teacher. A guide. A prophet. A convicter. An intercessor.

Christians, we have been given everything we need to faithfully follow Jesus. It is time we lace up our spiritual shoes and get moving. Luke 10:2 reminds us of Jesus’ words, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;…”

Last week, I wrote about the horrific death of Jacque, a friend of close friends, but one with whom I had spent time on several occasions when we talked about politics, charities in Mazatlán, the increasing traffic and our families. I just never got around to putting on the Jesus shoe to tell her what mattered most.

I have to wonder, Would Chan use that as a definition of “lukewarm”?

Jacque by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

About once a month I receive a “Mexico Alert” from Jacque, an American friend living in Mazatlán, in order to keep me abreast of the happenings in our beach town. Updates about Covid or travel are typically the lead topics. It was she who, years ago, began a philanthropic activity (“Friends of Mexico”) after seeing the impoverished needs of the Mazatlán community. Until this year, a gala at a local hotel was held annually where money raised helped the down-and-out. Jacque was the Mistress of Ceremonies for the event and has been labeled the “Ambassador of Mazatlán.” She was all about helping others.

Bill, a tall, white-haired gentleman-attorney with an engaging grin, and Jacque, a stately, classy, beautiful woman who has a way of making everyone feel special, are known all over Mazatlán. If Dave and I ran into them at the Organic Market, it was not uncommon to find several locals engaging them in conversation. We would take our turn.

Every Sunday for several years, Jacque and Bill met up with our mutual friends Howard and Joyce for Sunday lunch. Same time, same restaurant, same food. Occasionally we all would go to dinner, or they would come to our condominium development where they knew several of the owners.

Dave and I had been invited to their home at the top of Icebox Hill the last time we were in Mazatlán. Built high on a cliff overlooking the beach and ocean, I was terrified to appreciate the landscape from one of their many balconies. Straight down to the bottom were only sharp rocks to break the view.

Last Monday night, Jacque fell to her death from that hill. Her body was found at its bottom. On Tuesday, Howard and Dave drove to Bill’s home and heard the horrific details. The couple had retired for the evening, but their dog—who had not been “put down” only because Jacque couldn’t agree–needed to go outside Jacque volunteered to take him for a walk. When too much time passed, Bill went to the front door and found their dog still on a leash, but without his owner.

Bill said that he spent the next hour searching the three stories of their home, closet by closet. Soon, the police arrived, and Bill was asked to go to the hospital to identify his wife’s body. Bill speculated that her fall might have been caused by the loose gravel next door to their hillside home where a condominium complex was under construction. No one knows if Jacque stepped on it in the dark and slipped or if the dog pulled her that direction. It doesn’t matter. She fell 207’ (20 stories) to her death.

Over the past few days, as friends grieve Jacque’s loss, they all share one thought: Every day counts. None of us know the time nor the hour when our time on earth is up. I can guarantee that when Jacque stepped outside with her dog, the idea that she would fall off that cliff never entered her mind.

Frederick Buechner writes, “Intellectually we all know that we will die, but we do not really know it in the sense that the knowledge becomes a part of us. We do not really know it in the sense of living as though it were true. On the contrary, we tend to live as though our lives would go on forever.”

We must be prepared for eternity. Please, Readers, this is my “Mexico Alert” to you. Take the time to stop whatever you are doing and ask Jesus to be your Lord, to forgive you of your sins, and to draw you close to him. Start reading your Bible, God’s Word of how much He loves you and how much He wants you to love Him back. Ask yourself, if this is your last day on earth, what is the most important thing you need to do. Before it’s too late.

A Song In The Night By Carolyn Tucker

Carolyn Tucker. Submitted photo.

Keys to the Kingdom

 

After 40 years of marriage, I laid my kind and gentle husband to rest on February 25. One of my earliest memories as a young child was attending the funeral of a relative on my mother’s side. From that day on, I’ve attended or provided music for hundreds of memorial services. Over the years, I’ve said, “Death is just as much a part of life as living is, but most people don’t know how to deal with it.”

Trying to stuff hurting emotions way down inside your soul is not God’s way. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount included The Beatitudes in Matthew 5:4 NKJV: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Believers need to understand that the blessing is not in the mourning, but the blessing is in the comfort you receive if you resign yourself to grieve appropriately. Jesus can’t comfort you if you refuse to mourn, because He cannot go against His own word.

God’s Word is the best source regarding the topics of death and grieving. Reading and studying the Bible teaches us how to live a holy life, and how to get ahold of “dying grace” that only comes through Christ. Thousands of songs have been written about death and heaven. Country music artist Kenny Chesney recorded a song with these lyrics: “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to go now.“

Those lyrics reflect a truthful sentiment, but that’s not the song I recently found myself singing upon my bed in the night. I awoke after a couple of hours of sleep and began to sing a Dottie Rambo song: “The things that I love and hold dear to my heart are just borrowed, they’re not mine at all. Jesus only let me use them to brighten my life, so remind me, remind me dear Lord. Roll back the curtain of memory now and then. Show me where you brought me from and where I could have been. Remember, I‘m human and humans forget; so remind me, remind me dear Lord.”

By day, the Lord is a continuous source of comfort, anointing our lives with His grace and tender mercies. “The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me” (Psalm 42:8 NKJV). I’ve never sung a song in the night before, but I’ve never had a reason to until now.

I like King David’s meditation in Psalm 77:6 NKJV: “I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search.” Believers have the choice to reflect upon God’s merciful help in the past and to trust that He will remain faithful to provide comfort and peace for the days ahead. David refused to allow present heartache to erase the reality of God’s unfailing forever love.

Jimmy’s Bible has the following scriptures underlined: “I look up to the mountains — does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the One who watches over you will not slumber. The Lord Himself watches over you” (Psalm 121:1-3,5 NLT).

The Key: If you sing a song in the middle of the night, just go ahead and cry while you‘re at it. You’ll then be blessed by God’s loving comfort and peace.