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Circle Your Wagons

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Wagon Train” and “Death Valley Days” were two very popular TV series during my early years.  They inspired their viewers with tales of American pioneers, pushing westward to a new way of life. These heroes were driven from within to face and overcome obstacles, beyond their natural strengths. Time and time again they would show a group of travelers with their covered wagons facing an attack by Indians. The Wagon Master would shout out the command: “Circle your wagons!” Quickly they followed the instructions of the leader they trusted. They gathered in a circle knowing they were safer, and more powerful as they grouped close together.

Christians, we are under attack. Just as The Pioneers faced savage Indians, we must be on guard against the attacks of Satan and his demons. It is time to circle our wagons. The Indians would catch the pioneers off guard, when they felt safe and secure.  Suddenly the sounds of the Indians war cry would fill the air. The Indians were very vocal. With their chants and cries they were announcing their attack in a very dramatic way.  Satan, the Accuser, can be very loud as well. He shouts his accusations and condemnations in your ears, and mind. Does this sound familiar? “You are worthless. You are no good. God could never love YOU. God could never forgive you!”  Just as the sounds of The Indians made the pioneers fearful, we are often paralyzed by fear at Satan’s shouts.

The Indians were known by their vicious attacks, often using flaming arrows.  Not only were they shot at the westward travelers, but also at their covered wagons.  Today Satan shoots his flaming arrows at us, (Ephesians 6:16), and at our covering. We should be covered by prayer.  It is our protection on our journey to our Promised Land.  How does he attack prayer?  Any way he can!  He tries to keep us from prayer. He distracts us during prayer. He tries to get us to use only general terms. He keeps us too busy and too tired. The pioneers did not surrender. They circled their wagons!  They kept their guns loaded.  They all joined in, each having their part.  Even the children could pass around the ammunition to the adults. Yes, we must circle our wagons. It is urgent to work together, young and old, to be over comers.  The sound of a bugler leading the charge meant victory would be possible. The Cavalry rode in to rescue the pioneers.  The Indians fled as they were pushed back by the Cavalry, with swords drawn. Calvary is our victory!  God’s word is the sword of the spirit. Can’t you hear the trumpet sounding?  We are rescued, delivered, saved. The Lord Jesus and His Heavenly Host are pushing back Satan and his evil, wicked spirits.  We can continue on our journey of faith.  “Circle your wagons!”

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Isolation

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What do you do when life get’s you down? Do you shop or eat? Will you pace the floor or go to bed? If you have a simple case of the blues, occasional depression or a serious case of chronic depression you react with surrender or attack! Don’t wave the white flag and give in. Fight back! 

It is interesting to learn how many different ways we deal with discouragement, depression, and despair. The holidays are approaching and many will find it difficult to keep a positive attitude. The economy leaves great numbers with little hope for a big Christmas celebration. Each year people are forced to spend their first Christmas alone after the death of a loved one, or following divorce.     

Will you hibernate in self imposed isolation? This is a common reaction; because the depressed have no desire for companionship or conversation. They just want to be left alone! They must force themselves to go out and face the world. “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment (Proverbs 18:1 NKJ).” The desire is to be left alone; and they might get what they ask for! People might begin to back off and will not be there to turn to. Fight depression; open your door and heart to others!

Evergreen

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My first real home’s construction materialized through the loving hands of my father, grandfather, and uncle. After my premature arrival into the family, we all lived with my aunt and uncle for a few months, waiting for the completion of our new cottage home.

Each pre-fabricated section of our  Sears and Roebuck house firmly linked together to become the Ford residence.  The four bedroom two story house, would in the future, hold parents, two older sisters, a younger sister and brother, and me, “the middle child.” I can imagine the excitement and pleasure Mom and Dad encountered the first night in their new home. They watched it going up and now excitedly moved in to settle down.

The upstairs had not yet been finalized; that could wait and be tackled a little bit at a time. Our parents were anxious to be in their own home. It is amazing to know the story behind the land firmly holding the foundation and basement of our home. It previously served as a dumping area by folks in the small neighborhood. My father visualized the potential for the half acre piece of property, bordered by a crick and pasture land. Over the years he made that dream come true, but at first it still showed signs of earlier use. Mom took snapshots of me as a baby, around one year of age, sitting on a blanket in our front yard. I can see tin cans in the black and white background scattered across the undeveloped property.

How do you transform a dumping area into a well groomed yard in a middle class community? It takes sweat, a hard working man, who does not mind getting his hands dirty, and time. Hours are invested in planting, watering, weeding and waiting to see things grow. Roots traveled down and grass, trees, and flowers sprang up! My father worked two jobs to provide for his family and still found time to keep an immaculate yard.

One focal point in landscaping done by my parents could be easily spotted approaching our driveway from either direction. The planting of two small evergreen trees at opposite ends of the entrance provided a scenic view to the front of our home. Their planting and my life began at nearly the same time. As I grew up, they reached up towards the sky. Most parents chart the growth of a child with marks on a wall; I remember those lines in a large walk-in upstairs closet, but I know my parents also measured my height and age watching those trees.

At the time of planting my parents did not realize how tall the evergreens would grow. Sadly, they became a hazard, blocking the approaching traffic on the busy highway, a destination to a popular state park. The cherished trees that bound me to my past needed to come down. It must have been a difficult decision and one Mom and Dad considered seriously before taking action.

In life we see many special hopes and dreams going up; we stand back and take great pleasure in the dream becoming a reality. Maybe we put too much trust or focus into those dreams, clinging to the temporary satisfaction they bring. Suddenly they tumble down around us, leaving us feeling empty and sad. Take a look at the whole picture, seeing life’s ups and downs from God’s point of view.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls (down) into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it (springing up) to life eternal (John 12: 24-25 NAS).” When things bring you down, look up in faith!

I’m A Little Tea Pot!

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Tea pots are very special to me! The children’s song, “I’m A Little Tea Pot” is a tune I remember clearly from kindergarten. Even the motions involved to act out the song remain in my memories. The lyrics have a profound message within the simple words:

“I’m a little tea pot, short and stout,

Here is my handle, [place one hand on hip] here is my spout [other arm held out straight]

When I get all steamed up, hear me shout

Just tip me over and pour me out! [Bending over, arm bent, as pouring from spout]

At home my mom often offered a fresh pot of tea on the kitchen table during meal times. The pot held no monetary value, constructed from simple aluminum, practicality made it appreciated. The tea pot brought out special feelings of comfort and relaxation.

As an adult I became a contented tea drinker. When I reached my mid life years, I began to collect tea pots, starting my collection with a gift from my daughter. She later lived in England, with her husband and sons at Lakenheath AFB, near Cambridge. During two visits with her family I had the treat of enjoying the most delicious tea I ever tasted!            

 I am blessed to own a gold trimmed white porcelain tea set, given as a 50th wedding anniversary gift to Grandma and Grandpa Ford. It is a center piece attraction on my dining room table, and cherished in my heart.      

Now, back to our song… As a Christian I can be a vessel for service, “God’s Little Tea Pot.” I am “little,” at five feet tall; that is a match. Am I “stout?” I’m trying to avoid middle age spread; so, I’ll skip that one! I guess the “handle” would represent my hands to be reaching out, to touch, and give to others. What about my “spout?” That would represent a life open, and free of sin, allowing God to work through me. The “steam” is a picture of God’s glory, just as smoke filled the temple. What do we hear when the tea begins to boil? A whistle is our signal, to remove the pot from the stove. I desire my life to express the melody of joy, praise and music. Those around me may be led to “give a little whistle!”

Now, for the finished product, it is time to “pour me out!” Our lives should be a living sacrifice. “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1 NAS).” We should be poured out and empty of selfishness, allowing the Holy Spirit to take control, flowing into the lives of others. “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering (2 Timothy 4:6a NAS).”  I’m a “Little Tea Pot;” and it is always tea time! Won’t you join me?

Rocking Chairs

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I began writing this article sitting comfortably in a rocker glider. I have been a rocking chair fan most of my life. My mom placed one in our living room; and there were rockers on my grandparent’s porches. I believe babies are to be loved, fed, diapered, bathed, and ROCKED! I started babysitting at age eleven; and I have happily rocked many babies.

After our first child’s birth we picked up an old wooden rocker. A couple of years later I gave birth to our next child.  One Christmas my husband’s parents gave me a beautiful small white rocker, with a cushioned back and seat. I could not have been more thrilled! In the past forty years there have been many rockers, some holding special memories. I enjoy old movies, especially from the 1930-1950’s era. One of my favorite Christmas classics is “Christmas in Connecticut,” starring Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan. In one scene he demonstrated different methods and reasons for rocking. It’s a keeper!

The “Britannica World Language Dictionary” explains rocking in ways such as: “moving back and forth, to sway…to soothe, as to put to sleep.” We sing “rock-a-bye lullabies!” Now I understand the appeal of rockers; it is soothing to rock! The dictionary defines soothe: “to restore to calm, to a quiet or normal state.” Jesus, who “calmed” the raging sea, (Mark 4:39) is my Rock. He soothes me as He rocks me in His arms!

Audit the Books

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The holiday classic “It’s a wonderful life” pulls at our heart strings each Christmas. We can identify with the life problems and the characters involved. The crisis at the family operated savings and loan mushroomed with the arrival of the bank examiner. The audit of the books revealed missing cash. If the books don’t balance every penny must be accounted for!         

Many times we feel like our entire life is under the scrutiny of an audit. Do we add up? Have the stresses of life subtracted from our plus column? In a ledger do we show up in the red or in the black? It can be very unsettling to imagine the books opened for inspection!

A good auditor uncovers even small errors, if recorded intentionally or in carelessness. If we were to audit the open books of others, what would we find?…   (Love) “does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered (1 Corinthians 13:5 NAS).” The accounts would balance; and no errors would be found! In love we would not keep track, or take into account any errors against us! Love not only looks over errors; it covers them up! “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8 NAS).” Dust off the books and begin a new chapter today!

Interior Decorator

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We lived contentedly in our home for many years, and raised our children there. Now, I anxiously adjusted to the “empty nest.” As I looked around me, I decided it would be the perfect time to make some changes. The drab house cried out for redecorating, not just a fresh coat of paint! Where would I start? I already felt overwhelmed, and came very close to changing my mind. No, I must get started.  I’d just take one step at a time. First I would have to choose an interior decorator. I decided to let my “fingers do the walking” through the Yellow Pages. To my amazement our small city had many to select from. Could I place this project in the hands of someone that I picked out of a phone book? No, I needed to ask around and see who our friends and neighbors used. My confidence began to grow. Soon, I made my decision based on three recommendations for the same man. If they trusted him, I could too.

I called and made an appointment for the following Monday morning at 10am. That would be a good time to make a fresh start. All week I walked back and forth through my house, while looking, really looking all around me. Now, I felt nervous about the arrival of Monday. Maybe I have bit off more than I can chew. I realized that there would be much more work needed than I first thought. I should form a plan of action, and decide on my priorities. I felt sure that the best place to start would be my front door entrance. It looked so dark and dreary. Improvements there would give visitors a good first impression. Yes, we will start there; next we’d move on to the living room and den. The other areas of the house would be done last.

Sunday afternoon I ran around the house like a chicken with her head cut off! I cleared clutter, I scrubbed, and I polished. I did not want the interior decorator to find things out of place or think of me as a bad housekeeper! The following morning he arrived about ten minutes early. I liked that!  He seemed eager to get started. He warmly shook my hand, and a smile drew me to him instantly. I would feel comfortable with him in my home. I gave the ten cent tour, chattering all the while. Why do I do that? I showed him my list of priorities, as he quietly jotted down information in a small note pad. He lifted his head, with his eyes meeting mine and said “We will start in the basement; then we will do all of the closets.”

What? You have got to be kidding! Nobody sees them; that is where I put things away out of sight. That would be a waste of time and money! Is there time to back out? I have not signed any contract. He read my face like a book, gently put his hand on my shoulder, and said “Trust me. I know what I am doing.” I did not feel fully convinced. I’ve come this far, I might as well get started. If things don’t work out, I can always replace Him. I asked him when he could start, expecting him to place me at the bottom of a long waiting list. He started to roll up his sleeves and said “Right now.” Wow! I had no idea things would move so fast. He pointed toward the basement and I slowly moved forward. He asked me to bring large trash bags for getting rid of unwanted things. I opened the door to the basement and turned on the light. I glanced down the long set of stairs and wanted to bolt the door and run! The sprawling mess down there looked like a disaster zone! For years when I couldn’t decide what to do with something, or when I couldn’t bear to part with it, it would be stashed in the basement. Now, it caught up with me; and I felt humiliated. He seemed to sense my embarrassment, chuckled and said “I won’t see anything that I have not seen before!”As soon as we were down in the cellar he opened windows, and turned on all of the lights. He asked me to open the door to our back entrance. I knew it would be a dirty job; but I had no idea what lay ahead. Useless junk towered above me, stacked all the way up to the ceiling. He found piles crammed between the rafters! The smell of mold and mildew made it difficult to breathe. We began to inch our way around, sorting and sorting…discard, keep, or save. Sorting went on and on. The strange thing is what I thought should be buried, he said should be saved!  He told me to carry many things out into the light, in the sunshine. He assured me sunshine would make them fresh and fragrant again. I still did not see much promise in what he set aside for later use. The work in the basement took all week. I wanted to shout hallelujah when he said “Time to go back upstairs.” I took one last glance around. I sure had hated to start there; but I felt at peace with a job well done.

Upstairs he asked for a glass of fresh cool water, before we began to organize the closets. It felt good to have the chance to do such a simple thing for him. He did so much for me. We made it through the week to Friday; and the basement turned out to be a really big job. He looked in each closet, then took more notes, and said he looked forward to seeing me at daybreak next Monday. He said the best work can be accomplished when started bright and early.

I did not feel as stressed when we began again. I now knew what to expect. In closet after closet we followed the same sorting routine: discard, keep, or share. It seemed easier each day to follow his instructions. Weeks turned into months, as we moved from room to room. We sorted; we cleaned; and we painted. Our last work area would be the front door entrance, where I planned to begin! I thought we were finished and prepared to discuss his final fees, and grab my check book. He said, “Now you have a lovely remodeled house. Let’s make it a home!” He said what we would now be using were the things we set aside to be saved, from the basement and closets. No, how can I make you understand? I don’t want them! I don’t even like looking at them! That is why I hid them in the basement and closets!  

He kept busy boxing things up to use. I had no idea what he planned to do. I just kind of stood by in a daze. Suddenly, he turned and explained very patiently. When people come into our homes, they should be able to relax, and be themselves. They are not perfect; they have their faults and problems. If I hide mine away, stash all the imperfections, they will not feel at ease. They would not feel at home. He placed my hidden items in open sight, all around the house. It seemed so strange, as if I just took a deep breath of fresh air! My life felt open and free! Things were no longer hidden! Before leaving he said the only final suggestions he could make would be simple and inexpensive. I liked that! He said to add as much natural sunlight and fresh air as possible. People would need that. Other things he encouraged me to do included fresh flowers arrangements when ever possible, and using soft throw pillows in sitting areas. They would be a comfy treat for my guests! His last idea came as another surprise. He urged me to spend more time around the kitchen table with my company. The feeling of closeness while enjoying simple foods and beverages would be special. Those times would be cherished; and we could more easily share those things we try to hide. I highly recommend this interior decorator, JESUS! He created all things. (Colossians 1:16) If He could decorate our world, He can redecorate our lives! He can be reached anytime of day or night at this number: J-O-H-N- 3:16