The Years

     September 1. Can you believe it? It sure seems like we’ve missed out on an entire year! I’d like to say it has been the worst year of my life, but I can’t honestly do that. 2007 wins that contest hands down. It doesn’t even come in second. Or third. Being stuck in a house can’t compare to tragedy and grief striking your family with a vengeance. Of course, many have suffered that also this year, and for you, I extend my sincere condolences. It turns out several in our family actually have had Covid, but it was nothing severe for them than a mild cold. They didn’t even tell anyone until afterwards.

     Tomorrow is my son’s 44th birthday, so I’d like to wish him a happy birthday! God bless you, Kevin Pollard! You were a great kid, drove us absolutely berserk as a teenager, and have turned into a sweet, kind, wonderful man as an adult. So proud of you! May your journey continue long and prosperous, but most of all, may you become all the dear Lord intends you to be! Love you, Sweetheart!

     Also have a couple of grandchildren celebrating birthdays this week. Congratulations, Raymond Insley V, Rebecca Insley, and Noah Pollard. Love you all, and I wish that same blessing on each one of you, as well as all my grandchildren. I know you guys don’t really realize it yet, but getting older is a blessing. It’s one that comes with a lot of struggles though.

     There will be great years where everything is wonderful. You may marry, find your dream job that brings you joy and satisfaction, travel to an exotic place that simply takes your breath away, or have children that make your heart sing with happiness that makes you giggle like you were a young child yourself again.

     There may be hard years that may strain your muscles with sweat, or your mind with worry, but those may be the ones you look back on with the most pleasure in your accomplishments. The lean, hard years are the ones God uses to teach us endurance and patience for the trials to come.

     Because there will be trials! It seems like the closer we try to draw to Christ, the fiercer the trials become. The years we spend in God’s refining fire are the most difficult ones we will ever experience. If your life’s too easy, you’d better question whether you even know Him! Satan doesn’t bother those who aren’t any threat to his kingdom. But this life isn’t the end! This life only serves as preparation for the next one. So, my one desire for those I love is that you’re prepared. Don’t be worried about storing up treasure on this earth. Look around you. Nothing’s safe on this earth anyway. It’s all coming to an end, and it sure looks like it’s sooner, rather than later. Rather, store up treasures in heaven. You’ll never regret those years if you pass through the fires unscathed.

God bless you, everyone! If you’re reading this, you’re also one of those I love and address this message to!      

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Image Bearers

Jesus Loves the Little Children

I took CJ to Walmart yesterday to spend his gift card I gave him for his tenth birthday. It’s hard to believe it’s been ten and a half years since I moved to Georgia to help Kristina so she could have the baby she so much wanted. I was so broken and alone. Now I’m living in a large, beautiful house with six people, and because of the pandemic, seldom alone. Even then, I cherish those moments. I’m not lonely.

     I am old. But to me, that’s a good thing. My grandmother died at forty-two; my mom at sixty-two. So, the fact that I’ve already made it to seventy is nothing less than a miracle. After all, I wasn’t supposed to live to see my first birthday, much less seventy of them! But my God refuses to be dictated to by doctors as to when people should lie there and die. Evidently, so did I! (with a lot of help from my dad, who came home from Korea just in time to whisk me out of the hands of said doctors, and take me home to live all these years.)

     My granddaughter, Lexi Pollard, has just graduated from college and is now a pediatric cardiac care nurse at Roanoke Memorial Hospital. I’m so proud of Lexi. She was born at twenty-six weeks, and weighed three pounds when she was born, but she too fought all the odds against her. She let nothing stop her from becoming the beautiful woman she is today! She’s always loved children, and her zeal to help them is so wonderful to see.

     I suppose the point I’m making in my round-about fashion today is that society is trying its best to dictate our lives today. With all that’s going on, they’re telling people when and where they can or can’t go out. When you do go out, masks are required. There was a lady behind us at Walmart yesterday. I didn’t see her, but I was so proud of her. She wasn’t wearing a mask, and when the attendant asked, she just replied, “No, I can’t wear a mask for medical reasons.” He let her in. Supposedly, masks are a great help in suppressing people’s will. If they can’t see your face, you’re not an individual. You’re a nonentity.

     We can’t let that happen. We can’t be dictated into non-personhood. We are God’s image bearers. We are His people. He not only knows our name, but the number of our days, and even the ever-decreasing number of hairs on our head. I know I always tend to bring things back to abortion, but in a way, it’s the same. If we don’t see unborn babies as people, it’s too easy to brush them aside as unimportant. We are all important to our heavenly Father!

     I’m not saying don’t wear a mask (although I really don’t believe they’re necessary or efficient). I’m saying don’t let it define you. Don’t let it make you live in fear. Don’t give in to society’s message that you don’t matter. You do! God has a great plan for your life! Live each day to the fullest. Become all that He intends for you to be! Every day of your life has value! Live it for Him!

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ABC’s

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

    

John MacArthur held a church service Sunday. So what? Doesn’t he hold one every Sunday? Don’t all churches? No. It’s now become illegal to hold church services of more than fifty people in California. Caesar’s Palace can host 500. Abortion clinics are unrestricted. But MacArthur’s church, which can seat 5,000, can’t seat more than 50? Who would have ever thought it could happen in America? He opened by stating he was hosting a “peaceful protest.”

     Our service was fuller Sunday morning as the summer heat seemed to drive more people to the inside service. They’ve roped off every other row, and asked families to space themselves out from others, but friends can still sit together if they wish. One thing that also helped was the preschoolers-2nd graders were able to meet during the service, and the older kids were having their classes that afternoon.

     It’s really bothered me that so many kids weren’t getting Christian instruction this summer. I’m not just talking about at our church. Summer VBS is the time most kids below the age of twelve accept Christ. A large percentage of kids attending VBS have no other Christian influence or instruction. They can get more actual teaching time in one week of VBS than three months of regular Sunday School. Surveys show that a huge percentage of Christians accepted Christ as children, and the odds of ever accepting Christ drop to single digits if a person hasn’t by the age of twelve. How many Christians were lost to the kingdom simply because there weren’t many churches holding VBS this year?

     I know I’m rambling, but it really seems the attack on the church, and the weakening of the church by the pandemic are strong indicators that we are in those final days. My prayer is that Jesus is coming soon. I just want everyone to accept Him before it’s too late. Especially all those I know and love. I know that’s prejudiced. I’m human.

     As I always told my kids in VBS, it’s as easy as ABC. A-Admit to God you’re a sinner. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)  B-Believe that Jesus lived a perfect life, died to pay the penalty for your sin, and was resurrected on the third day, thereby proving He was Who He said He was, and did what He said He did. “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus, our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) C-Confess Him as your Savior and Lord. “If we believe in our hearts and confess with our lips that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, we shall be saved. (Romans 10:9) If you have never given your life to Christ, please don’t put it off another day. I truly believe the time is short, and that trumpet could sound at any minute! Christians won’t have to worry about it anymore. But for those left behind, life is going to be hell on earth. That’s not the worst of it though. A far worse punishment awaits if they’ve never accepted Christ and are deceived by the Anti-Christ. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy, much less those I love.

God bless.     

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Work!

    

My family just came back from eight days of vacationing in Florida. We had a great time eating, and fishing, eating and walking the beach, eating some more, relaxing by the pool, eating and…you get the picture—a typical beach vacation. Even having to wear a mask everywhere indoors couldn’t ruin it, because basically the only times we were indoors for any length of time besides being in our own room was when we were eating, which we didn’t have to wear a mask for, thankfully. The only real problem was that eight days is simply too long a vacation for my workaholic family! By day six, my son-in-law was more than ready to hop on the first available plane home.  

     I tend to wonder if so much of the unrest in the country right now isn’t because so many people aren’t able to work. They’re bored and restless, and becoming just as grumpy as Ray got when he couldn’t get back to his normal routine of hard work. My daughter had her laptop, so even a thousand miles away, she never did entirely quit working. She got up early every morning to answer emails, and even made a sale on Facebook while sitting by the pool! Still, she was fussing this morning how much work had piled up while she was gone. I think she loves that though. Everyone needs to feel needed, and know they were missed when they’re gone.

     Facebook even had a meme this morning asking how people were able to take so much time off from work to protest. It’s a good question. I guess what they were really asking was if someone was paying them, but unfortunately, the government itself was probably the one paying them. The unemployment rates during Covid are more than many people make at work. This should never be allowed. Work is essential to our mental and emotional well-being. By eliminating the incentive to work, in the long run, the ones being hurt by the payments are the ones they sought to help. And yes, as a retired person, I do realize I have no real right to speak about this, but even I keep my daughter’s house, write this blog, teach my connect group, and do many other things to help feel like I’m still earning my place on this planet.

     The real point is though that none of us can earn that place. It was a gift from God, and all we can do is use that gift as well as we can to advance His Kingdom. This earth is going to pass away, and all the signs say it’s going to happen soon. When our work here is done, He has a new heaven and a new earth awaiting us. Our job here is to prepare us for what He has in store there.

     When some people picture heaven, they have this weird image of lying on a cloud strumming a harp for thousands of years. How boring!! I’d be bored out of my skull in two days! That’s not the picture God paints at all! God is a Creator. He’s an Artist. He’s a Musician. He’s a Builder. What on earth would make us think all that would cease and He’d just want us to be lazy layabouts for the millennia? He has work for us to do! But it won’t be tedious, mind-numbing work we’d hate. It will be the work that thrills our soul, and makes us want to shout for joy! It will be heaven!   

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Statues and Pawns

    So, the craziness continues, now with statues being the silent victims of protests? What did those poor statues ever do to anybody? I swear the world has gone nuts! And some of these statues, you have to ask, why would that offend anyone? It doesn’t seem to have any rhyme or reason, simply destruction for the sake of destruction. That’s just it though, isn’t it? God is the Creative Force of the universe. Satan is a destructive force.

     When I think of some of the men these statues represented, like Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Francis Scott Key, Ulysses S. Grant, and Robert E. Lee, I see the history of our country. I see virtues like courage, independence, love of God and country, and hope for the future. They certainly weren’t perfect. I never expected them to be. Except Jesus, no one ever was.

     Now they even want to tear down Jesus’ statue because it’s also supposedly a symbol of “white supremacy”?? Since Jesus was Jewish, not Caucasian, I can’t quite figure that one out, but like I said, it doesn’t seem to have to make sense. (And yes, I do know that the statue in question is a “white Jesus”, in which He’s depicted as having Caucasian features, which is in itself absurd, but was rather typical of the era. Jesus has been depicted in many different ways by artists and authors through the ages. I don’t always agree with those depictions, (such as Jesus as a black woman in The Shack) but they usually have a specific purpose, and God may be able to use them to reach others with His Truth.     

But it all makes perfect sense when we realize the battle going on isn’t an earthly one, but a spiritual war between angelic and demonic forces. We’re just pawns. I’ve always loved the works of authors like Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker. These authors help us to visualize this war around us. They give me hope that all this nonsense isn’t for nothing. It’s evidence that we’re nearing His coming on the clouds to receive His people. In a good novel, the action always becomes more chaotic when we near the climax of the story. The drama and confusion at last give way to the glorious resolution as Truth and Justice prevail. The Bible is the Greatest Story ever told, and the greatest thing about it is it’s true, and it’s being played out right before our eyes.

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God is Good

 

    My mama used to always say, “if you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all.” So, I’ve tried to keep my big mouth shut for the past few weeks. It’s been hard.

     But now I have to say this, God is still sovereign. God is still good. He’s still on His throne, and He still cares. Even in the midst of all the chaos, He sends us little reminders of His loving provision. An old friend of mine has been diagnosed with dementia, and her husband is facing surgery. But their sweet daughter has stepped up to take care of both her mom and dad. God is good.

Scattered into the incidents in the news, mostly not reported by the mainstream media, are little nuggets of stories of good Samaritans in the midst of the chaos. These give us hope that there are still good people seeking to be a light in all the darkness. One of these stories was of a white man and a black man who worked together to save another white man’s life after he’d been shot by another black man. Thank You, Lord for men like these first two.

    My friend Krystal and I have just begun studying the book of Zechariah by telephone. It’s an interesting book, written at the end of the exile, when God was encouraging His people to put away their sinful ways, return to Jerusalem and finish rebuilding the temple. His call is simple. “Return to Me…that I may return to you.” (Zech. 1:3) Do you ever feel that God’s presence has left America? I do. I’ve felt that way a lot these last few weeks. But it’s not true. As long as there are still Christians here, He’s still here; a wall of fire protecting His people.

But Zechariah is a book of prophetic visions that dovetails with Haggai, Daniel and Revelation. It’s mostly talking about a time when Christians will no longer be here, and wrath will be poured out as God avenges the injustices that have plagued His people. If we look around us, we can’t help but believe this time is upon us. We wonder how much longer can He possibly linger. Praise the Lord, He assures us that He “is not slow about His promise…, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance. His timing is always perfect. I get impatient, but He never does because He truly is Good.

God bless you.

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One Little Candle

     What a disgraceful week in our nation’s history! The inciting incident was despicable, and every single American in our country would agree with that, I’m sure. No one in their right mind could believe what happened to that poor man was warranted or justified. I don’t care whether you’re black, white, or green, no one thinks it’s acceptable or right. Protesting is an acceptable American right that has brought about significant change in our country. Protest was warranted to this atrocity. But what we’ve seen this week isn’t protest. It’s organized anarchy! And who has it hurt the most? The black communities in the inner cities where the riots occurred.

     I’ve admitted in this blog before that I grew up in a thoroughly racist home. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the way things were in the South in the fifties. Desegregation only started when I was in high school, and even then, I could probably count the number of black kids in my high school on one hand. My sisters can’t quite say the same though because forced busing began the year after I graduated. That started a lot of civil unrest, to say the least.

     My ex had pretty much the same experience I did. Yet, when we moved to Blacksburg for him to go to college, we began to make a few black friends, and realized they had exactly the same dreams and aspirations we did, and they weren’t the evil monsters we’d been led to believe. We determined never to raise our own kids with the prejudices our parents had tried to instill in us. I hope we were able to do so, in spite of their grandparents trying to undermine our efforts in that direction. Our kids never could understand why their grandparents had such conniption fits over them watching “Good Times” or the “Cosby Show”. And I’m not sure the kids ever explained to their grandparents that they each had best friends who together could have made a pretty good U.N. delegation.

     I really thought the country was making so much progress in this area. Our kids and grandkids didn’t think anything of the fact their classrooms were fairly evenly mixed racially, or that our next-door neighbors were Lebanese. Why would they?

     But it seems like for the last several years, we’re regressing. People like to blame it on Donald Trump. The interesting thing is that until he ran for president on the Republican ticket, no one had ever called him a racist! He won the Ellis Island award along with Rosa Parks! He cares about black lives, about George Floyd’s life, about police lives, and about the lives of millions of babies, both black and white, that are being lost to abortion. He cares about all lives, and especially the American lives he’s giving his own life to serve and protect at the moment. As far as I can see, he’s not the racist in this week’s drama. But I don’t want to start any political debate here about who did. That’s not the point at the moment. Please pray for our president.    

     The point is, no matter how it’s happening, no matter who started it, racism is wrong! It has to stop! And as Christians, we’re the only ones who can do it! Darkness can’t drive out darkness. Only light can. I learned a song as a teenager called “One Little Candle.” I’ve never forgotten it. It ends, “and if everyone lit just one little candle, what a bright world this would be.” Be a candle against the darkness in our world today!  

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New Normal

photo by Bill Culbertson

     It’s Tuesday again. Hard to believe. Without the church activities that normally punctuate my life, it seems like the days just melt into each other. CJ finished fourth grade last week, so I don’t even have him bugging me for help on assignments to differentiate them. Kristina will be going back to her office to work soon, so that may make a difference. And our church is reopening its doors this coming Sunday. Hallelujah! Maybe life is starting to regain some semblance of normalcy! Or is it?

     I guess the question now is, will life ever be “normal” again? This country has certainly weathered more than its share of crises. From civil war to 9/11, it’s always withstood the test of time. Why would this time be any different? I hope it won’t, but I do worry. Freedom and liberty are under extreme attack, not from without, but from within.

     Could we have even imagined a few months ago that our own government would have demanded that we shut down every house of worship (while at the same time they allowed liquor stores and abortion clinics to remain open) and we would meekly obey without protest? Or that when they are “graciously allowed” to reopen, many states would demand lists of attendees for their “contact tracing”, and those churches would again comply? As far as I know, Georgia is not one of those states, and I hope we never allow it to become one.  But, as Christians, we do know that the time is short. The book of Revelation is playing out right before our eyes!

     But instead of boldly speaking the truth, Christians are cringing in their houses in fear! We can’t do it! We cannot let a virus, or any other obstacle for that matter, keep us from doing the things the Lord has called us to do! He has tasks that have our name on them-tasks that only we were meant to do. Jesus always knew that a cross awaited Him at the end of His journey, yet from the time He was twelve years old, He proclaimed to everyone, “I must be about My Father’s business.” The same is true of us.

     From day one after the Resurrection, Peter and John and the other disciples faced persecution. Yes, at first they also hid in their houses in fear. Then, something amazing happened! They saw the resurrected Christ! He walked with them for forty days (appearing to over 500!) before returning to sit at the right hand of the Father. On the fiftieth day, Pentecost, He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell  and empower them. When we accepted Christ that same Spirit came to us, and we need have no fear! “If God is for us, who can be against us?” That promise includes powers, principalities, and even viruses. Yes, it could take our life, but only if God allows it to, and if He does, so what? Death is not the end for Christians. It’s only the beginning. This was why the early Christians could be so seemingly fearless in the face of extreme persecution. It’s why we can too–No matter what our “new normal” may look like.  

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I’d Rather Have Jesus

Good morning. It’s been quite a while since I’ve written anything. I’d pretty much given up, but somehow I don’t think God is finished with me yet, so maybe I’ll keep plugging along as He gives me words to say. Yet, I’m not even sure yet what’s on my mind this morning.

I had the weirdest dream, and I’m trying to make sense of it. Somehow I was back at college, but my age now. John Lennon was coming to campus, so I got this crazy idea to write a Beatles novel called “A Long Night’s Day”, a campy spoof type mystery novel, of course starring the Beatles. I had the whole plot in my head, and I was excitedly sharing my idea with my professors and a few friends, while at the same time, absurdly afraid someone would steal the idea.

Who would even care? In this generation, what college student would even know or care who the Beatles were? John Lennon’s claim in the 60’s that the Beatles were more popular than God seems so ludicrous now, doesn’t it? If you asked my grandson about them, he wouldn’t have a clue who you were talking about!

The old song, “I’d Rather Have Jesus” comes to my mind. I think it’s the second verse that says, “I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame. I’d rather be true to His precious Name. I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.”

Our world has gone nuts. People are so polarized over politics, and locked down in their houses in fear of a virus they can’t do a thing to control, but they seem to be forgetting that Jesus is still in control. He’s still on His throne, and He cares about His children! How many times does the Bible say things like, “Fear not, for I am with you!” or “I will never forsake you, and I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” ?

I just got back from North Carolina, where I helped my friend Krystal move into her new home. They’re still on lock down much more than we are in Georgia, but we were still able to walk through her new neighborhood and say hi and greet her new neighbors and introduce ourselves. All of them were friendly and seemed to welcome her, a couple of them even bringing her small gifts to welcome her to the neighborhood. Krystal has the gift of evangelism. She loves to talk about the Lord, and boldly share Him with others. We should all be doing that in whatever ways He has blessed us. Maybe this was one of my ways, and I was neglecting it. I’m sorry, Lord.

What gift has He given you that you need to develop at this time in your life?

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Rewriting History

Our Encore (Seniors) group of our church visited the History Center in Atlanta yesterday, and it was a great day. The History Center was built to house one of only two cycloramas left in the United States. (The other is in Gettysburg.) It depicts the Civil War Battle of Atlanta, and was originally made by 17 German immigrant artists only twenty-three years after the battle.

A cyclorama was the 19th century equivalent of virtual reality, and it definitely does give you the feeling of being right there in the midst of the battle, but like virtual reality, it bears little actual resemblance to the reality it depicts so realistically. So it seems that rewriting history to suit your purposes is nothing new to the twenty-first century!

These German artists added generals, an eagle, and even a whole troop of infantry to the battle who were nowhere near Atlanta that day. When the painting was sold to a southern audience, later artists changed it to look more like a southern victory, which was the way it stayed for many years before it was finally restored more to its original form, except it still includes a dead Northern soldier with a “remarkable” resemblance to Clark Gable because he claimed “the only way it would be better is if he were in it.” The cyclorama was for entertainment purposes, and like novels and movies, there’s nothing wrong with presenting a historical background to tell whatever story you wish to tell–as long as people know it’s fiction.

Rewriting history to indoctrinate our children to a false reality, however, is another thing altogether. Tearing down statues, and refusing to teach about real historical figures because they owned slaves or made what are now deemed unacceptable statements doesn’t make them any more or less the heroes (or villains) that they were. Putting them in their correct historical context is the only way to understand them.

One of the reasons I love the Bible so much is that it shows our Biblical forefathers with all their flaws and foibles. It doesn’t try to portray the heroes of the faith as perfect, far from it. It tells the good, the bad, and the ugly–and that’s just the way we should present our American history. We can’t “whitewash” any of them. Let history judge–and it will! How can it if what’s presented becomes a “virtual reality” that bears little resemblance to the truth?

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