Peace in Action

Tuesday I paired photos of wildflowers with verses on peace from the Bible, promulgating the biblical claim that peace can come to our hearts if we will open them to God’s Holy Spirit and allow him to quiet us. Quite coincidentally, all that day (Tuesday), our entire Sunday school class had been praying for one of our members—Sam, who had an MRI scheduled and was worried about how he would do because he’s been extremely claustrophobic for years. That evening we received the following update, and it was such a “real life” confirmation of what God says He will do for us that I want to share it with you today, in case you’re frightened about something in your life. This is the response Sam sent via our Sunday school prayer chain:

Praise the Lord for how He used you and your prayers for my good and His Glory.  For me to ask you for this prayer request was humbling. What does it say about a clinical psychologist who is asking for help dealing with a phobia?  I did not have a problem asking the Lord for His help, but it was humbling to share my problem with each of you. My specific request was for God to remove my fear of feeling horizontally trapped in an MRI machine today.

I think it may be helpful to share a little of the history of where
and how my experience with claustrophobia began.  If you are not
familiar with farm machinery you may not know what a combine is.  When
harvesting soybeans in the fall, especially in the evening, the stalks
can get tough and the combine can get plugged up.  Being 12 years of age
and small, I was the one chosen to climb in the back of the combine
(on my stomach) and unplug the piece of machinery. However, I got stuck; I was frozen and could not move forward, backward, up or down. To add to the problem it was getting dark and my uncle had to dismantle part of machine to free me and get me out.  Never will I forget that evening, but after today it has a new meaning. I’m sure it will still affect me, but it will never again control me.

Most of us know that the solution to getting something out of our mind that we don’t want in there is to use addition, not subtraction.  This is where the power of corporate prayer resides.  I knew that Jesus was with me, and my plan today was to quote Scripture the whole time and to block everything else out of my mind. (This is not a bad idea—God tells us to do that, and it’s often the right thing to do.) However, for today (God, not the devil) told me not to use this particular method.

Over and over again, He said, “All I want you to do is: LISTEN TO ME.”
He told me that hundreds of people were praying for me “this very hour,
right now,”  and that all I needed to do was, “Listen to Me.” I found endless
comfort in Exodus 14:14 (“The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace”) and Psalm 46:10 (“Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth”)!  What an intimate experience I had with Jesus!  Never once did I experience any fear. It was enjoyable, peaceful, and comforting.

Thank you for praying for me today.  Thank you for taking time out of
your day and for listening to God and for praying for me.  I have been
praying that God would bless each one of you, for your service to Him.
Because you prayed, all I did was listen to Jesus. Your prayers today
enabled me to experience the Joy of the Lord in a whole new dimension.

I expect to find out the results of the MRI test in 3–5 days. I will
let you know when I know. My prayer request for this week is for God
to be glorified through whatever the results of the test are. I am
excited about what He has planned for me.  I trust Him.  Because God
is Love, He always wills what is best for me. He is omniscient. He knows what I need, and since He is sovereign He has the power to bring it all together.  I trust Him.

To God be the Glory,

Samuel J. Roth

Reading Sam’s testimony to God’s faithfulness and mercy brought this verse to my mind: “O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong. And when he had spoken unto me, I was strengthened, and said, Let my lord speak; for thou hast strengthened me” (Daniel 10:19). And, I know that He is willing to strengthen any of us to cry out to Him for help!

P.S.—Thank you, Sam, for giving me permission to share this wonderful account of God’s deliverance and your peace. God is so good!!

New Friends From Around the World: Meet Jérôme from France!

One of the unique privileges of blogging is getting to know people you’d never meet otherwise here on earth. What a joy to make new friends who live far away—sometimes even on other continents!—but with whom there is the precious bond of sibling kinship through our common faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and God as our heavenly father! In April I shared several poems by Carol Floyd, who is a newly found sister and soulmate from Kentucky. Today I want to share with you another such friend, this time from France: Jérôme Framery. Jérôme approached me initially about helping him find photographs to illustrate some of his work on the Song of Solomon. I was more than delighted to be a tiny part of his project, and we have quickly become friends. Today I’d like to introduce you to Jérôme and encourage you to see his lovely YouTube video on the Song of Solomon.



Combronde (France), May 3rd 2020.


Dear Kathi,


In your last message you told me that you would be honored to feature me on a blog post on your website. I’m honored indeed to get a small place here!

We met as per e-mail in March (it was just the beginning of the quarantine in the USA but the quarantine had already begun two weeks previously in France).

I was looking for information and photographs about the Song of Solomon in order to make and broadcast on my channel a video telling this passage of the Bible. Searching on the global Internet, not only in French, I found your website and the huge work you did. I wrote you and you immediately gave me a very friendly and optimistic answer.

For the past few months I’ve been producing short and funny videos on YouTube to teach the Christian religion to children. I teach religion to a group of 6 children (10-year-olds) in my village, but because of the quarantine the children stay at home so I decided to make more videos to help children of my group and all other children to continue to learn the Gospel “online”.

It is easier to find virtual material (pictures, clip art, coloring, …) in English than in French. For example I translated in French the “Pumpkin Prayer” which seems to be popular in the USA, and I used it with my group last Halloween.

A few words about me: I’m married and I have three teenagers. I’m a mechanical engineer and my wife (whose name is Catherine or Cathy!) is pharmacist, but she stays at home since we had our third child.

In France the government decided in 2013 to authorize “marriage” (I put the word in quotation marks) for homosexual people. There was no vote, no debate. My wife and I have been very shocked and disturbed. I tried to have a political commitment during 4 or 5 years, but it wasn’t going anywhere. So, I decided to teach religion to children to help them to be strong in their faith and get a critical mind so they can be confident in the Lord. Children are our future and THEY will change the society, not “aged” people like me. Maybe the children will make a better society because of the good example of the Lord. I don’t know if I’m a good catechist but I try.

I subscribed to you daily newsletter, and now I feel very close to you because your messages are so friendly. With you we feel like a member of the family.

Thank you, Kathi, for your help to make this video. For the first time but probably not the last, I made it in French and also in English. The English version of the video is dedicated to all your subscribers.

Blessings, from France.

Your Jérôme.
 

O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together” (Psalm 34:3).

A Spring Carol

REST

O wrath of God…you’re quiet now and
God has rest…sweet rest
His only Son…our sacrifice
God gave his best…his best

O wretched death…Christ felt your sting and
Now he lives…he lives!
Inside of us and sings his songs
And we are his…we’re his!

O Sacred Love…forgiveness pours and
We are blessed…we’re blessed
Our sin is gone…our soul is saved and
We have rest…sweet rest

©—Carol Simpkins Floyd, May 10, 2016

Zephaniah 3:17- “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty. He will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy He will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.”

Hebrews 4:10…”For he that is entered into God’s rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

This striking poem (and verses) were shared with me by Carol—a newly discovered sister in Christ! She authored the poem I posted a couple of days ago (“I Do”), and I will share two more of her poetic gems on Sunday. One of the special joys of blogging is discovering new friends and family in Christ from around the world! I asked if I could share a little bit about her, and this is what she offers us—

April 20, 2020

Kathi and I came to know each other through e-mail correspondence. I was on line searching for hidden treasure in the Song of Solomon when I noticed Kathi’s blog. I thought her comments might have a softer heart touch than the other listed references. I opened her blog and began to read. I was amazed at the beautiful artistry and the clarity she paints with her words and photographs. So beautifully transparent! I saw a celebration not only of our Creator but I saw too, a celebration of the life He’s given us. I sent this correspondence to her, including the footnote.

Hi Kathi,

My name is Carol Simpkins Floyd. I found your posts on the Song of Solomon and I am blessed to see the revelation that God has given you. The Song has been and still is the rejoicing of my heart. I’ve memorized the 8 chapters. Here’s a little bit about me—

I married at 16 . . . which had its own set of problems. I was unable to finish high school. I earned my GED and worked at a lot of different jobs before I settled into the medical field. I became a Christian in 1975 at the age of 29. My husband Jack became a Christian 8 months later on Easter. He walked with the Lord for 2 years and we were so happy. But the storms and the trials and the cares of this life were too much for him and he slowly chose to go back into the world.  

We had 3 beautiful children (1 daughter and 2 sons ) and 17 years of marriage when he walked away.  I was devastated! I couldn’t believe it was happening! We’d been so happy serving the Lord together. 

But in my brokenness and confusion Jesus became more real to me than ever…His Holy Spirit drove me into his Word for my comfort. He began to give me songs out of His Song of Songs and poems from his heart.

After Jack left, I found a job working as a unit clerk and 2 years later at age 39, I went to school and received my certification for Respiratory Therapy. I transferred to Sleep Medicine the last 8 years that I worked. I received my Registry in Sleep 2 years before I retired. God is amazing to help us when we step out in faith!

I was single for 24 years before I remarried. Jim and I happily serve the Lord together and we’ve been married for 16 yrs. He is a wonderful man. He preached 14 years before he was filled with the Holy Spirit in 1972.  He traveled as an evangelist for 2 years and in 1974 the Lord directed him to build the church he still pastors (Christian Fellowship Church at Bowling Green KY).

Together we have 6 kids, 11 grandchildren and soon to be 20 great-grands. All the sons and daughters in law that we’ve been blessed with are as precious to us as our own children.  If the Lord allows, we may be able to see our 4th generation. Looking forward to that!

I will celebrate my 74th birthday next month and the journey so far has been real. I say that on this side of mountain-top joys and darkest-valley sorrows. Amazing how tears seem to accompany both walks. Through happy tears and sad tears, we keep breathing and life happens. But we’re never alone and we’re never unloved! Jesus leads the way. We breathe in his love with each breath we take.

I look back now at how things happened and I see God’s hand in my life. So precious! I love that he shares life with me! The ups and the downs! He’s my best friend! And he has an amazing sense of humor! I had only written one poem in my life and it was about a witch! When he began to move me to write, I knew the words that flowed from my pen were anointed with his Spirit. I treasure that…my words would have no life if not for Him. I pray these poems will be a blessing!  God Bless You!  Jesus Loves You!

Thank you Kathi for the opportunity to share,

Carol

Footnote: Thirty-two years after our divorce, Jack returned to Jesus. He served the Lord 4 years before the Lord took him home. He was a changed man….wild horses couldn’t have dragged him away from his Savior.

Prescription for Health by Martin Luther

Perhaps you’ve already seen this wise, practical approach to dealing with a plague. It was written half a millennium ago by Martin Luther to his friend, Reverend Dr. John Hess, while Europe was still trying to recover from the Black Plague that swept Eurasia during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, killing an estimated 75-200 million people. Luther’s letter is entitled “Whether one my flee from a Deadly Plague.” I think the advice is still as useful for COVID-19 as it was 500 years ago:

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1529 (Public Domain)

For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth . . . that my name may be declared throughout all the earth” (Exodus 9:14,16).

Adjusting our Attitudes: A Testimony by Charles Spurgeon

Although this Covid crisis is the greatest global challenge of my lifetime, I think it helps to remember that our world has suffered more deeply—and recovered. It’s just that we weren’t around during the Spanish Flu of 1917-18. We didn’t personally survive World War 1—or the Great Depression at the end of the 30’s, nor did we live through the horrors of World War 2. Now we are facing the possibility of our world—as we’ve known it for our lifetime—coming to an end.

Not long ago, I memorized Psalm 91, and in the process, I came across this reassuring story by Charles Spurgeon (known as “The Prince of Preachers” among western European Protestants):

“In the year 1854, when I had scarcely been in London twelve months, the neighbourhood in which I laboured was visited by Asiatic cholera, and my congregation suffered from its inroads. Family after family summoned me to the bedside of the smitten, and almost every day I was called to visit the grave. I gave myself up with youthful ardour to the visitation of the sick and was sent for from all corners of the district by persons of all ranks and religions. I became weary in body and sick at heart. My friends seemed falling one by one, and I felt or fancied that I was sickening like those around me. A little more work and weeping would have laid me low among the rest; I felt that my burden was heavier than I could bear, and I was ready to sink under it. As God would have it, I was returning mournfully home from a funeral, when my curiosity led me to read a paper which was wafered up in a shoemaker’s window in the Dover Road. It did not look like a trade announcement, nor was it, for it bore in a good bold handwriting these words: ‘Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.’ The effect upon my heart was immediate. Faith appropriated the passages as her own. I felt secure, refreshed, girt with immortality. I went on with my visitation of the dying in a calm and peaceful spirit; I felt no fear of evil, and I suffered no harm. The providence which moved the tradesman to place those verses in his window I gratefully acknowledge, and in the remembrance of its marvelous power I adore the Lord my God.” (The Treasury of David by C.H. Spurgeon, commenting on Psalm 91:9-10.)

Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling” (Psalm 91:9-10.)

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (72): Finding the Strait Gate

I cannot read Jesus’ admonition to enter the “strait gate” without thinking of “every man” from Pilgrim’s Progress.

This man was so burdened by what he’d read in the Book that he left his hometown in search of the Celestial City.

However, he quickly discovered that he had to enter through a special gate before he could find the narrow path that would actually lead him to the great city.

In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus explained it this way, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Have you found and entered the Strait Gate that leads to heaven?

In Pilgrim’s Progress, a man named Evangelist points “every man” to the gate where he can be relieved from his burden.

But, it’s a difficult climb to get to the gate, and along the way, he meets a man named Obstinate, who refuses to make the climb, choosing rather to attempt reaching the Celestial City by traveling one of the many easier, wider, less restrictive paths.

This part of the story is very sad, of course, because no one can actually get to the Celestial City unless they are willing to pass through the Strait Gate first. It’s not that the gate is hard to find, or that people won’t be allowed in after they find it. All they have to do is knock, and the gate door will be opened, but most people are too proud to ask, and so they wander off trying to find some other way across the chasm of death to everlasting life.

My father became a believer shortly before he died, but for most of his life, he preferred quoting this poem:

Invictus
—William Ernest Henley, 1875

“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

“In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

“Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

“It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”

It is with great relief and joy I can share with you that just a few years before he died, my father decided to enter in through the Strait Gate, drop his burden of sin at the foot of the cross, and begin his journey to the Celestial City. As his youngest daughter, and the one who had the privilege of pilgriming beside him during those last years, I observed that he was a much more peaceful, pleasant companion after he gave up trying to be the captain of his own soul.

Is your head still “bloody, but unbowed”? If so, will you bow your head today and let Jesus forgive your sins and heal your heart? Will you join with the millions of us who are pilgrims on the narrow road that leads to life everlasting? Don’t be angry with God! He loves us. He provided a way for us to be reconciled to him through the blood of Christ. He offers eternal life for “whosoever will” believe. Will you take him at his word and begin your journey through the Strait Gate to the Celestial City?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

Text for today’s meditation: Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Speaking of loving your neighbor as yourself, the 2019 A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is so much more than simply a true life recounting of the friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod!

It’s a story about learning to love and forgive.

Of love lost and love found.

Of reconciliation after injury.

Of Hope.

The real journalist, Tom Junod, with the real Fred Rogers

It’s a wonderful example of how a modern-day saint (Fred Rogers) loved a cynical stranger (magazine journalist) and turned him into a lifelong friend.

Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers in It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

This beautiful day in the movie world is G-rated and perfectly appropriate for young kids.

But, like the true classic it is, It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood has a deeply personal message for adults on emotional wholeness and healing.

I was also blown away by Fred’s genuine love for people (all people—great and small) and his gentle wisdom in living out what it looks like to be a good neighbor.

Matthew Rhys as “Larry Vogel” (script name for Tom Junod)

At one point “Larry Vogel” asked Fred’s wife what he did to keep being such a genuinely good person. Among other healthy habits, she mentioned that he read the scriptures every day and prayed for people by name. In an interview that I read after watching the movie, I found this quote by Tom Junod: “He clearly wanted me to pray. He clearly believed in prayer as a way of life. He prayed every day of his life. He woke up in the morning and prayed, and wrote, and prayed for people. And so I wrote that. The answer to: What did Fred want? He wanted us to pray. I have actually tried, since that moment, I’ve tried to pray.”

A generation of children (and adults) singing to Mr. Rogers on the subway

What a legacy to leave: A life of living like Jesus, loving your neighbors, meditating on the scriptures daily, praying constantly, and encouraging others to pray!

Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood ran for thirty-three years, beginning in 1968—the year I graduated from high school. His lifetime commitment to helping children earned him more than 40 honorary degrees and international fame, but he remained steady, kind, and humble throughout . . . using his life to serve others in love. What a beautiful legacy! I am sorry that I was “just the wrong age” to profit from his gentle teaching, but I am very thankful to Lion’s Gate for producing this inspiring story for all of us to enjoy!

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13, ESV).

(For more information on Fred Roger’s life and legacy, I reviewed the 2018 documentary about him, with some additional quotes, which can be found here:

https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2018/10/11/wont-you-be-my-neighbor-would-you-have-liked-mr-rogers-for-your-neighbor/

Also, I’ve noticed that you can get dozens (hundreds?) of half-hour episodes from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood for free on Amazon Prime and can probably see most of his programs for free on Netflix or YouTube. My guess is that these gentle shows about life, our world, and learning how to deal with our emotions would still be helpful for small children today.