Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

     Last September my mother passed away. She was our queen and we literally placed a crown on her head as she lay in her casket. She meant the world to us, and we sent her “home” in grand style with a celebration fit for royalty. Mama was the glue that kept the family together. Not only did she model grace and beauty, she also taught us the power of prayer. We rarely prayed together as a family, but I often heard her pray for so many people when I happened to pass her room any time of the day. I remember my pastor say that God had called her to build something through prayer. I never quite knew what that meant, but I imagined He had given her a great assignment which affected many lives.

As I think about her today, an old hymn is playing in my head:  “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” sung by numerous individuals like Randy Travis, Aaron Neville and Johnny Cash, as well as groups like the Staple Singers and Dolly Parton and Friends. I’m not sure what all of these fine singers had in mind, but an earlier version by the Carter family describes an intimate picture of a hearse coming to take the singers’ mother away to a gravesite. One of the singers is deeply affected by the loss of his mother. Knowing she is with the Lord gives him great comfort and challenges the family members to pursue a relationship with the Lord in hopes of seeing her again.

When I think of this song, I think of the power of a legacy of prayer. Is there anyone willing to pick up the mantle of prayer and fight for their family members? When the prophet Nehemiah, cup bearer to the king of Persia, was allowed to return to Jerusalem and oversee the rebuilding of the wall around the city, he understood the importance of strategically placing armed guards behind the lowest parts of the wall in the exposed areas. He said, “I stationed the people to stand guard by families, armed with swords, spears, and bows. Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said to them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes ( Neh. 4:13 – 14, NLT}.”

My mother understood her call. She was anointed and appointed to pick up the mantle given to my grandmother, another praying woman. And as my four children and their spouses, and I, led by my son-n-law, call our family’s prayer line on Thursday evenings, I rejoice that the legacy of prayer continues. We have experienced God’s faithfulness manifested through restored relationships, sustained health of my husband and other physical healings, job transfers, and a host of other answered prayers.

Will the circle be unbroken? Yes, Lord, by your grace through faith in the only True and Living God! The circle will not be broken!

 

Our Miracle Child

Tomorrow is my youngest son’s 37th birthday. Its’ hard to believe that the years have flown by so fast. Today Kevin is healthy, strong, and productive, but his life didn’t start that way. In fact, I wasn’t sure what lay ahead for him when I experienced a very scary moment shortly after I found out I was pregnant.

I called my sister-in-law, Varle, one morning after I realized I was bleeding. A few months prior to this pregnancy, my family had gone through a lot of turmoil after leaving our church. That’s explained in my memoir The Price of Pearls. Our oldest son Duane was eleven, our daughter Andrea was three, Christine, our youngest, had just turned one, and I was “barefoot and pregnant” again.  Needless to say, I was far from thrilled.

Varle stood at my bedside and asked me an important question:  “Do you want this baby?”  I replied hastily, “Yes.” From that moment, my heart was fixed on having a healthy baby. I set my mind on finding out what was going on and made a call to my obstetrician, who soon after conducted a sonogram. A few days later I returned to discuss the report. I had Placenta previa, a condition where the placenta covers the opening of the mother’s cervix. Ordinarily, the placenta should be at the top of the uterus. It happens in about one in 200 pregnancies. In the early stages of pregnancy, problems are not that serious. Later severe bleeding can result during labor and birth, putting the mother and baby in danger. Although Cesarean section is usually recommended, the procedure can be extremely complicated. My doctor even warned that complications might even require an abortion to spare my life. He suggested that I stay off my feet or quit my job and go on complete bedrest. Those options were not practical for us at the time. I was pretty shaken and went home to discuss the doctor’s prognosis with my husband Willie.

We fretted over the situation for a couple of weeks until we came to the conclusion that we had forgotten to do one important thing–pray. Faith rose up in us one day as we watched The 700 Club, a Christian ministry, and we knew we had no other choice but to trust God. The next day we would ask for another sonogram. My doctor was baffled and basically said there was no reason to perform another sonogram, but we insisted. Reluctantly, he agreed, saying the procedure would be a waste of money.

As I lay on the examination bed a few days later, my heart pounded like a kettle drum. I said a prayer which went like this: “God, if you’re going to heal me, you’d better move now.” Right then, I felt a shifting, like something flipped inside my abdomen. Until that time I had not felt life and I shivered at what had just happened. The technician entered and completed the procedure. I asked if he could tell me what he saw, but he refused, saying I’d have to wait for my doctor to discuss the findings with me.

A few days later I clutched the phone in my hand and dialed. When the doctor got on the phone, I took a deep breath and asked for the results. My chest tightened as I listened. “I don’t know what’s happened, but the Placenta previa has disappeared. It’s gone.” Typically, I’m pretty calm when reacting to a situation, but I shouted for joy after I told Willie the news. God had done a miracle! We gave Him all the glory. Our precious baby would be safe!

I’ve told this story so many times, but I experience the events every time I repeat what God has done for us. And so I say, “Happy birthday, Kevin! Never forget that you’re here because God intervened in your life. I am thankful for you. When we were faced with man’s recommendation to possibly terminate my pregnancy, God showed up and changed the narrative. That’s why we call you “our miracle baby!” And now you’re about to get married. I can’t wait to see what else God has for you and your family. The best is yet to come!

 

Our Miracle Child

Tomorrow is my youngest son’s 37th birthday. Its’ hard to believe that the years have flown by so fast. Today Kevin is healthy, strong, and productive, but his life didn’t start that way. In fact, I wasn’t sure what lay ahead for him when I experienced a very scary moment shortly after I found out I was pregnant.

I called my sister-in-law, Varle, one morning after I realized I was bleeding. A few months prior to this pregnancy, my family had gone through a lot of turmoil after leaving our church. That’s explained in my memoir The Price of Pearls. Our oldest son Duane was eleven, our daughter Andrea was three, Christine, our youngest, had just turned one, and I was “barefoot and pregnant” again.  Needless to say, I was far from thrilled.

Varle stood at my bedside and asked me an important question:  “Do you want this baby?”  I replied hastily, “Yes.” From that moment, my heart was fixed on having a healthy baby. I set my mind on finding out what was going on and made a call to my obstetrician, who soon after conducted a sonogram. A few days later I returned to discuss the report. I had Placenta previa, a condition where the placenta covers the opening of the mother’s cervix. Ordinarily, the placenta should be at the top of the uterus. It happens in about one in 200 pregnancies. In the early stages of pregnancy, problems are not that serious. Later severe bleeding can result during labor and birth, putting the mother and baby in danger. Although Cesarean section is usually recommended, the procedure can be extremely complicated. My doctor even warned that complications might even require an abortion to spare my life. He suggested that I stay off my feet or quit my job and go on complete bedrest. Those options were not practical for us at the time. I was pretty shaken and went home to discuss the doctor’s prognosis with my husband Willie.

We fretted over the situation for a couple of weeks until we came to the conclusion that we had forgotten to do one important thing–pray. Faith rose up in us one day as we watched The 700 Club, a Christian ministry, and we knew we had no other choice but to trust God. The next day we would ask for another sonogram. My doctor was baffled and basically said there was no reason to perform another sonogram, but we insisted. Reluctantly, he agreed, saying the procedure would be a waste of money.

As I lay on the examination bed a few days later, my heart pounded like a kettle drum. I said a prayer which went like this: “God, if you’re going to heal me, you’d better move now.” Right then, I felt a shifting, like something flipped inside my abdomen. Until that time I had not felt life and I shivered at what had just happened. The technician entered and completed the procedure. I asked if he could tell me what he saw, but he refused, saying I’d have to wait for my doctor to discuss the findings with me.

A few days later I clutched the phone in my hand and dialed. When the doctor got on the phone, I took a deep breath and asked for the results. My chest tightened as I listened. “I don’t know what’s happened, but the Placenta previa has disappeared. It’s gone.” Typically, I’m pretty calm when reacting to a situation, but I shouted for joy after I told Willie the news. God had done a miracle! We gave Him all the glory. Our precious baby would be safe!

I’ve told this story so many times, but I experience the events every time I repeat what God has done for us. And so I say, “Happy birthday, Kevin! Never forget that you’re here because God intervened in your life. I am thankful for you. When we were faced with man’s recommendation to possibly terminate my pregnancy, God showed up and changed the narrative. That’s why we call you “our miracle baby!” And now you’re about to get married. I can’t wait to see what else God has for you and your family. The best is yet to come!

 

Why I Left My Sorority

    A few weeks ago, I entered a time of fasting and was quite taken by surprise when God showed me something I needed to surrender to him. I hadn’t given much thought to this area until last year when I was invited back to my college to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the founding of my local chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. You see, I was one of the ten charter members and my name was “written in stone” for subsequent pledgees to memorize and revere.

I was honored when I got a call from a sister regarding the upcoming celebration. She informed me that the chapter wanted to find members of the charter line and that we would be honored at the event. It just so happened that I would be visiting my family in Maryland at the time. I would be a few miles from the event location. I was thrilled! The anniversary was more than expected. I felt like the queen of the ball, as I was the only charter member there that day. As I sat at the head table and took pictures with so many smiling ladies, I thought, “This is great! I’m so proud to be a part of this wonderful sorority. What could top this day?” I left with several gifts and warm memories.

A few months later I looked at the commemorative items on my dresser and smiled. “Wow! That was a celebration I’ll never forget.” About nine months later I felt God nudging me to start a fast, a time of drawing closer to Him and seeking His will for my life. I decided to spend less time watching TV and being on social media. I chose to get in the word and to watch teachings on YouTube for support. One day I listened to a young lady who talked about why she walked away from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Her testimony profoundly affected me. She had my attention. I had teased a couple of church members about their sorority from time to time, and they had joked with me as well. We often ribbed one another about whose sorority was the best and who had made a mistake in choosing her sorority. But this was different. God had my attention. I was captivated and I knew I was entering into a time of research and decision-making.

One of the most noticeable concerns for me were the first and second commandments: 

  1. “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
  2. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image (idol). You shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

I was convicted. I had never looked at my sorority as a god before, but as I desired to walk closer with My God, I knew He was bringing DST to my attention. I was serving another god, and that was a serious problem. Some might say, “It’s not that serious. It’s only a sisterhood. Come on.” But I took a closer look. The young lady I listened to pointed out the symbol on the sorority hat and I looked at my hat on my dresser. The symbol was the Roman goddess Minerva. I googled the history and discovered she was supposedly the goddess of wisdom, war, art, schools, and commerce. It was said that she was in charge of so many things that she was thought to be “the goddess of a thousand works.” She was said to be influenced by the Greek goddess Athena. These false gods were highly revered by ancient peoples. Minerva was celebrated (worshiped) in a variety of festivals in ancient Rome. Although I did not intentionally worship this false goddess, she would no longer have a place of honor in my life. I wanted my family to be blessed, not cursed by my serving a false goddess. 

Another troublesome issue pointed out was that one of the past presidents of DST edited 1Corinthians 13 to bring prominence to DST, substituting the organizational name for God in the love chapter. For example, the fourth verse goes like this: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up. The edited version reads, “DST suffers long and is kind; DST does not envy; DST does not parade itself, is not puffed up.” As a born-again Christian, I could no longer align my self with an organization which took liberty to change the holy scriptures for its benefit.

As a result of my newfound revelations, the next thing I did was clean house. Any paraphernalia related to DST had to go: pictures, hat, elephants, or other things representing the sorority. I also contacted my local chapter and asked that my name not be used in any ceremonial events or secret rituals. Deuteronomy 20:29, says “The secret things belong to the Lord our God….” My next step is to contact the national council to publicly renounce my association with the organization.

My heart’s desire is to walk with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in close fellowship or intimacy. That involves dying to myself daily, surrendering anything which stands between me and Him. This is my chosen journey, with God’s help.  I, in no way, wish to condemn anyone who desires to participate in any Greek organizations. Joshua 24: 15 reads, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

I am a work in process, and so are you. We are all on a journey. God’s not finished with any of us yet. May our goal be to behold Him and pursue Him. May our heart’s desire be to serve Him, and Him alone, all the days of our lives and to bring glory to His Name forevermore! Come, Lord Jesus!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Today is the best day of my life! Do you want to know why? It’s simple. Yesterday’s gone, and tomorrow is not promised. The only day I have is today, so I will rejoice that I’m still alive! I have breath, I have strength, I have hope, and I have a song in my heart. This morning I heard the classic song, Bridge Over Troubled Waters. Immediately, I thought of the One who gave me life, the One who chose me and gave me purpose, the One who has ordered my steps since I met Him at the age of twenty-eight. What a mighty God!

He has been my bridge over troubled waters for a long time. He has brought me through sickness, carried me through many fiery trials, picked me up when I have fallen over and over again, adopted me into His wonderful kingdom, and sealed me with His precious Holy Spirit! Truly He’s my bridge over troubled waters.

If you have not accepted the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, I invite you to discover the Person who can be your bridge as well. It’s simple:

  1. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
  2. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
  3. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus.”
  4. Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess withy your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
  5. It’s that simple: Admit that you are a sinner, that you need His forgiveness, that you accept His free gift of salvation, and that you want Him to be your bridge over troubled waters. Ask Him to come into your heart and help you live a life of purpose. He is faithful! He will never leave you alone. What do you have to lose? All the weights you’ve been carrying? What will you gain? Eternal life!

I Almost Didn’t Make It

This morning I almost got tossed into the trash. You see, my gardener’s wife was on a journey to clean the house, and once she starts the journey, there’s no stopping her. I thought it was bad enough yesterday. She sprayed my leaves with Endust, as I relaxed on the dining room table. I coughed and choked, thinking I was dying. She didn’t notice, but kept right on spraying anything with a trace of dust. I hoped my gardener would notice, but he was asleep on the sofa. She finally tired and collapsed on the sofa next to him. Whew! What a close call!

Today she started her cleaning frenzy again. In fact, she picked me up, gave a quick assessment of my shape and asked my gardener a frightening question. “Is it okay if I toss this plant? I don’t see any flowers.”

He sat up and reminded her that I still had leaves. You should have seen her face when she took another look. See for yourself. I’m still an orchid, not just any old flower. Just because I have no blossoms now doesn’t mean I’m dead. In a matter of time, with the proper care, I’ll be stronger and more beautiful. If she’d only leave me alone and let my master take care of me, in time, I’d bloom again.

What if plants really talked? I’m sure they’d have me on the “plant watch list.” I wonder how many people we’ve discounted or cast out for having no blossoms.  The good news is God’s not through with any of us yet. The Bible says “In His time, He makes all things beautiful.” Let’s patiently wait on Him and ask Him to help us see from His perspective.   Plant Picture

Who You Gonna Call? Ghostbusters?

What’s your first thought after spending the afternoon with two of your most energetic grandsons? If you’re like me, you want to find your most comfortable couch and curl up for the rest of the evening. Who am I kidding?  The whole thing went down like a classic horror picture.

     My husband and I dragged behind two rambunctious boys who elbowed each other toward the mudroom door. You know the routine. We imagined a long nap for everybody. Nicholas, the seven year old, pictured a much anticipated drumming session, while Christian, the older,  jibber-jabbered about his next You Tube dramatization.

     “Where’s my iPad?” was the question I didn’t want to hear. For the next 30 minutes, everybody went on the hunt for the precious instrument. Before long, blood, sweat, and tears intensified our search.

     Finally, I had the most profound revelation. PRAY! Yep, hadn’t given it any thought, until I couldn’t stand the frustration anymore. Christian and I held hands and whispered a short prayer, thanking God for His help.

     After ten minutes, the iPad mysteriously appeared under a stack of mail on the kitchen table. Bravo! I rehearsed with Christian the words he would say to briefly explain his problem and give God credit. I called for Nicholas. Here would be Christian’s opportunity to “testify of God’s goodness.” I was so excited; Christian was not. In fact, he completely forgot every word I’d coached him for his platform. I sighed as I put every single word in his mouth. My dear husband left me with these words of wisdom: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he gets old he will not depart.” Alas, the teachable moment was for me…and you. Let’s always give God the glory! He deserves it!

 

What’s Eating You?

“Ouch! My tummy hurts!” My friend’s son was not his usual energetic self. His eyes drooped and he lay on her sofa for most of the weekend. The problem? He’s a picky eater and his diet had finally caught up with him. You see, he had packed in what he wanted to eat, but nothing was coming out (Get my drift?). His little tummy was round and tight. Nothing she tried worked, so off they went to a local hospital. Two hours later Timmy bounced out of the building, surely two pounds lighter, and giggled as he and his mom headed back home. A warm bag of water did the trick and he was as good as new. Water! How powerful is that? He needed the cleansing power of water to get rid of energy-sapping toxins. What about us?

We’ve come to the last chapter in the book of Nehemiah, and we find God’s people still dealing with an assortment of toxins, which were clearly forbidden by the Book of the Law. Here’s a brief summary:

1. Marriage to foreigners and worshipping their gods

2. Dishonoring the temple of God

3. Failure to provide for those ministering in the temple

4. Failure to respect the Sabbath

5. Having leaders under the influence of their enemies.

So what did Nehemiah when he saw the build-up of so many toxic behaviors?

1. Confronted the people, reminding them of God’s expectations.

2. Drove a wicked leader away.

3. Called for purification and a return to holiness.

4. Reminded them to take care of those laboring for the Lord.

5. Asked God to remember him with favor.

As believers, we are no longer under the law. Hallelujah! Jesus paid the price for our salvation and we are brand new creatures, washed by His blood. Now we must wash in the water of His Word daily. We must read God’s Word and let Him rid us of toxins we pick up in our daily walk. That may include things like fear, disappointment, anger, apathy, hopelessness, bitterness, or the like.

1 John 1:9 states, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (NIV).”

1 John 4:16, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”

Hebrews 10:22, “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

We have GOOD NEWS! As we trust in God’s Word, let us freely allow the Father to use us to draw others into this great family of believers! Father, enlarge our territory! Thy kingdom come! Through me (and you)!

Be encouraged!

As always,

Patricia

      

 

 

 

The Most Important Purpose of Praise

 

Yesterday morning I woke up feeling like I wanted to pull the covers over my head. I’m usually excited about going to church but I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep and every part of my body shouted, “Stay in bed! You’re tired! You deserve to rest.” You see, I had wrestled with some thoughts and my energy was sapped. “Ugh!” So what did I do? I got my butt out of bed and made up my mind that I needed to go, just as I was. Isn’t that how God desires us to come to Him? In a conversation with a friend and mentor today, I got further insight. I was thinking I needed to praise God to make myself feel better, but she reminded me that we as believers have kingdom work to do and that starts with PRAISE!!!!

In Nehemiah 12, we see just how important praise and worship was in temple worship. After returning from Babylonian captivity, certain men in Jerusalem were put in charge of songs of thanksgiving and praise. Others were brought in from neighboring villages to joyfully celebrate the dedication of the rebuilt wall around the city. Other people were assigned various duties in the temple to support the priests. Much to my surprise, choirs existed back then, giving thanks with musical instruments. The word “choir” literally means “thanks.” Above all, everybody–men, women and children–rejoiced! They were so loud they could be heard far away! In addition, everyone brought tithes and offerings into the storehouses for temple support.

Wow! Praise and worship is absolutely essential to create an atmosphere where God shows up and reveals Himself. The Psalms reminds of our call to worship the One True and Living God:

Psalm 100:4 reads “I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart; I will enter His courts with praise. I will say this is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice for He has made me glad!”

Psalm 27:4 reads “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my lie, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.”

Passionate pursuit of God creates an atmosphere for God to show up! Teach us, Father, to chase after You–to hunger and thirst for you. When Jesus was on the cross and said, “I thirst,” He was crying out for Your Presence. Let passion be born out of our praise and thanksgiving and let the Spirit of God fall on us today! Thy Kingdom come! Thy will be done! LET US GET TO WORK!

Next week is our last lesson in Nehemiah. Read chapter 13 and discover the man of God’s final actions. You’ll be surprised!

As always,

Patricia

 

Why I’ve Chosen to Live in the City

“Mommo, Nicholas won’t stay in the tent with me!” My seven-year-old grandson Christian was at his wit’s end. He had found a place to build a tent and had invited his younger brother Nicholas to spend some time with him. The problem was that Nicholas, only five, got distracted and was soon headed to play with his race car. Sound familiar?

In Nehemiah 11, the people of God returned to Jerusalem, the holy city, and rebuilt its walls, under the direction of Nehemiah, a great leader. However, many people settled in the “suburbs,” not in the holy city, similar to people living outside Atlanta, such as Norcross, Lawrenceville, or Dacula.

Very few chose to live in Jerusalem. Many were fearful of living in a hated city, even though its walls had been secured again. They understood that Jerusalem was likely to be attacked by enemies and preferred the comforts of the “suburbs.” They chose to take their chances and dwell in unprotected areas to pursue their own desires. Others did not want to sacrifice their own agendas. Nehemiah knew that if more people made the holy city their dwelling place, others would be encouraged to follow.

Scripture reassures us of the benefits of making the Most High God our dwelling place today. Here are three examples:

Psalm 27:5-6 “For in the day of trouble he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.”

Psalm 91:1 “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Psalm 91:9 “If you make the Most High your dwelling–even the Lord, who is my refuge–then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”

You might ask, “How do I make God my dwelling place?” Accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior is the beginning. After that, you must spend time in his Word and practice his presence throughout the day. Talk to him, sing, meditate, clap, dance, listen, etc. The more you do this, the more real he becomes to you. Our circumstances may not change but our praise and worship will affect our perspective!

Continue reading Nehemiah 12 and find out how the Jews celebrated in the city.

As always,

Patricia