Can you and I ‘give thanks for all things’?

Let My Praises Be Heard!


CAN YOU AND I ‘GIVE THANKS FOR ALL THINGS’?

I want increasingly to be a more thankful and grateful person – a person who practices praising God for who He is and for what He is doing, for His ability to make all things work into a pattern for my good and for God’s ultimate glory! A little chorus that I learned when I was a college student: “Anyone can sing when the sun is shining, but it takes a song in the night.”

The Bible does not command us (believers) to give thanks to God ‘For’ everything, but rather ‘In’ everything. I certainly am not to praise God ‘for’ sin and for sinful actions by wicked persons. But I am to praise God that He will ‘use’ evil events ultimately (perhaps mysteriously) for His glory and for the good of ‘righteous sufferers.’

John the Baptist was not thankful for the evil works of his time, and he, indeed, even blasted the evil ways of evil men! John the Baptist called these evil persons to repent of their evil ways, and also to make proper ‘restitution’ (‘right their wrongs’).

Jesus too blasted the evil ways of evil persons. Just read the many ‘woe unto you’ passages! Jesus loved the religious leaders, but Jesus, nevertheless, hated the hypocritical and legalistic ways of these religious leaders!

However, while John the Baptist and Jesus Himself confronted evil ways, neither of these men hated the souls of evil men! Believers, following their example, must never cross the line from properly hating the evil deeds, to hating the evildoer!


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I praise God for a faithful, hard working, and creative wife!

Let My Praises Be Heard!


I PRAISE GOD FOR A FAITHFUL, HARD WORKING, AND CREATIVE WIFE!

One time, recently, ‘out of the blue’, my wife said something to me that rather surprised me! Not in anger, but, nevertheless, very emphatically, she declared: “You don’t really know me! There is so much about me that you don’t know! In fact, there is a lot about myself that I don’t know! I don’t think I even know myself!”

I sometimes think that, after my marriage to her so long ago (47 years, as of this writing), I should know her quite well, but I know that there are many things about her that are still a ‘mystery’ to me. I have said to her, at times, that I realize (rightly so) that there is an inner citadel in her soul that is reserved only for her God. God alone knows the inner thoughts and hidden motivations and undisclosed ‘hurts’ that are inside of a human life.

No person, including a husband, dare attempt to invade that inner ‘holy of holies’ where God alone resides! A wife ‘belongs’ first and foremost to her Creator and to her Redeemer, and only secondarily to her husband. ‘Belong’ to her husband only in the sense of her deep communion and her loving partnership with her husband, not in the lower (evil) sense of possessiveness and servility to her husband!

I praise God for the wonderful woman that my wife is! She is a ‘fascinating’ (though, admittedly, somewhat complex) person- full of life and full of love and full of faith and full of kindness! She is smart, experienced, versatile in abilities, creative in everything she touches, a talented artist (painter and sketcher), an excellent cook, a home decorator, a remarkable mother, an understanding and faithful wife through the changes and the chances of our long life together, most importantly she is a devoted follower of Christ, a rational thinker, a good debater, and a consistent ‘problem-solver’!

It is true that others (around us) know only a ‘fraction’ of what ‘fully defines and describes’ us! And it is, likewise, true that none of us truly knows even ourselves in any ‘complete’ sense of the term! Even though I believe that I know my wife quite well, I humbly acknowledge that it is only the One who created her who knows her perfectly.

I have ‘lived’ with my wife for nearly a half century, and I think I ‘know’ her, but, the truth of the matter is, I only ‘know’ her ‘in part’. There is a ‘profundity’ (profoundness and mystery) about every one of us human beings. God made each of us in His ‘own image’, and, therefore, because God is ‘beyond comprehension’, human beings who are made in God’s ‘image’ are, obviously, (in some ways) ‘beyond comprehension’!

Yes, I think I know a ‘lot about’ my wife her mannerisms, her tastes and preferences, her personality, her strengths and weaknesses, her hopes and dreams, her accomplishments, her relationships, a small portion of her inner spiritual life, her frustrations, her dashed hopes, her spiritual gifting (administration and wisdom), her parenting style, her communication style with all and particularly with her grandchildren!

Indeed, after living with Venita for nearly 50 years, I have a pretty good idea of the kind of person she is! I am aware of her friendships, her rural background, her artistic and creative nature, her homemaking skills, her artistic abilities, her domestic skills of cooking and home decorating, her business skills and personal budgeting skills, her compassionate involvements with children at one time in her life (daycare business) and with elderly ones at another time in her life (elderly care business), her unique communication style with me (advice, correction, insight, teasing). And other mannerisms and characteristics not here named!

A truly insightful and mature and godly woman is she! She is a high quality lady, the greatest ‘gift’ of my life whom God granted to me as His great ‘grace gift’ (‘grace’ means the ‘unmerited favor’ of God to me). Outside of God’s gift to me of Jesus Christ (in a totally different and unique ‘category’), Venita is the greatest ‘gift’ God gave to me!

Even though (according to scripture) I will not be given the privilege of enjoying her in heaven as my ‘wife’ (for there is no marriage in heaven), I look forward to continued ‘growth’ in spiritual matters with her in heaven. Surely, if not my wife, she will (if God wills) be a very close friend (hopefully my best friend) in heaven!

After I listed many of the obvious (well-known) ‘aspects’ (characteristics) of my wife, I have not ‘told the half’! She is God’s child, created in God’s image. God has willed for me to live with this delightful and godly lady, for a few decades. But she came from God (at her birth) and she will return to God (at her death).

I am most privileged to cherish her as my beloved wife (companion and fellow worker in God’s kingdom) for a few sacred years. As is true of all of us earthly creatures, from the hand of God we have ‘come’, and unto God we will ‘return’. The Lord gave, and the Lord will take away.

We are on this earth to be God’s stewards (to be stewards of everything God gives to us- our body, our relationships (especially our marriage), our children and grandchildren, our talents and gifts, our material properties, our relationships (friends and strangers), our job (employer and fellow employees), our church, our world (ecology), our government (authorities), our poor and needy associates (call for compassion and generosity)!

We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can take nothing with us when we finally die! Nothing except our ‘naked soul’, nothing but our ‘bare character’, nothing but our ‘relationship with our God’!

When we depart this earthly life, we shall (at some future time in God’s eternal scheme of things) give an account before God regarding the ‘quality and the quantity’ of our personal earthly ‘stewardship’.

God will evaluate the life that we have lived – what we did with what we were given by God during our earthly pilgrimage! To what extent did we use our talents and gifts and abilities, in the service of our fellow human beings? Did we live a God-centered life, or, instead, a self-centered life? Was our life motivated by God’s love, or was our life motivated by ‘love of self?

Even though there is much that I do know about my wife, I am not qualified to be her ‘evaluator’ in eternity! Only God, who knows her perfectly, can give a ‘perfect evaluation’ of her life! But, if God would ever ‘need’ a witness to come forth in eternity to witness in behalf of Venita Ann (White) Christian, I would gladly step forth as the ‘first witness’ in her behalf. lt would be very easy for me to give my God a long litany (long list) of godly qualities that I observed when she lived with me for so very long on planet earth!

l, of course, am engaging in ‘total speculation’ (imagination) when I suggest that God might ‘need’ a witness to stand up in ‘defense’ of the godly life that Venita lived on earth. We all know that God- the all knowing God- certainly will not ‘need’ any help (from humans) when the ‘Day Of Evaluation’ (Judgment of Works) arrives in heaven!

God knows each human being perfectly, and God will (mercifully) take everything ‘into consideration’, when He makes his ‘final evaluation’ of each person, in eternity. This ‘judgment’ is the ‘judgment of works’ (only for believers), not the terrifying ‘judgment’ of damnation (only for the cursed wicked human beings). Believers will never be condemned (judged) for their sins, for (through confession of sins and faith in Jesus) the sins of believers have already (on earth) been ‘cast into the sea of God’s forgetfulness’! In eternity, those sins will never be recalled by the ‘Lord of Heaven’!

He (the Creator) who knows my wife intimately is the One who loves her perfectly (unconditionally). Venita is ‘not her own’- she is created by God and is redeemed (on the cross) by Christ! ‘By right of creation’ and ‘by right of redemption’, Venita belongs to God!

My wife is ‘loaned’ to me (for a few decades) by God, but, of course, my wife is owned by the Creator/Redeemer forever! Before I met her on earth, and after I no longer will be able to enjoy her as my earthly companion, God possesses her ‘as His very own’! She belonged to God before she was born, she belongs to God during her earthly pilgrimage, and, after she physically dies, she will continue to belong to God!

For time and for eternity, this woman, whom I have called my wife for nearly a half century, belongs alone to her Creator/Redeemer! I enjoy her on this earth for a relatively short period of ‘time’, but she belongs to God forever.

It is only because of God’s grace, I have been allowed to enjoy her as my wife (on earth), and, by God’s grace, I anticipate enjoying her in the relationship of a heavenly citizen (not as my wife, for there is no such thing as ‘marriage’ in heaven)!

If this reality was more vividly and daily impressed on my brain, I would manifest a greater ‘cherishing’ in my relationship with my wife. I would not ‘take her for granted’, and I would be more tender towards her, and I would learn better to ‘number my days with her’.

If I reminded myself daily of the special relationship that she has with her ‘Creator/Redeemer’, I would do a better job of ‘serving’ her- ‘serving’ her, not only because of her unique relationship with me, but ‘serving’ her better because of my recognition that she is a special chosen and holy ‘vessel of the living God’!

I know that my wife loves God supremely- with all her heart and soul and mind! Jesus- first and foremost in her life! She calls Jesus ‘Lord’, not casually, but most seriously! Christ is ‘Lord’ of her life, and Christ will be ‘Lord’ when she takes her ‘last breath’!

I have often told my wife that if I had ‘searched all over the world for a wife’, I could not have found a ‘better wife’. Oh, of course, my wife is definitely ‘human’. She may be, at times, ‘angelic’ in her appearance, but, the truth of the matter is, my wife is definitely not an ‘angel’. As is ‘true’ of all of us, she has her faults – but not very many of them! She is so mature, because she is so Christian in her attitudes and in her actions and in her motives!

Like everyone else, she is a member of a fallen race, and she needs, daily (like everyone else) the application of the precious blood of Jesus to her heart and mind and spirit. She, like everyone else, has her weaknesses and her faults and her failures, but, nevertheless, she is a quality woman, and, most importantly, she is a very godly woman!

My two daughters greatly admire their mother for many reasons, but mostly because they know that she has consistently lived a godly life before them! They have observed their mother in many different situations of life, and they know that their mother has always sought to live a life that is worthy of the reputation of the living Lord whom she deeply loves.

They know that their mother is a very talented and intelligent woman, highly gifted as a problem- solver (administrator), and, as a follower of Christ, a woman who also is endowed with the ‘gift of wisdom’. They highly value her insights which she lovingly offers when they, as daughters, are facing serious challenges in their own lives.

They know that their mother is a source of wisdom and of comfort and of encouragement during the times of their own trials of life. Both of these daughters have, for many years, felt very ‘close’ to their mother, and they feel ‘free’ to confide in their mother during the different episodes of their own growing life.

When my oldest daughter recently (in my presence) told her mother that she was ‘amazing’ and that’ she could do anything’, I ‘chimed in’ and I said that I agreed. I said that anything I could do, her mother could do better! And then I jokingly said, “Well, there is one thing that I can do better than your mother can do I am a better runner!” (l have run consistently – almost daily – since I was young, and Venita has hardly ever run! Ha!)

As I mentioned several previous times in this book, Venita is good ‘problem-solver’. She likes to face and to solve many different and difficult kinds of ‘challenges’ (including many business challenges). Venita’s ability to resolve problems is amazing, and her ability to ‘talk to business persons’ on the phone is remarkable. She has told me that she ‘loves’ to talk to various persons on the phone, concerning business matters. Because of this desire, obviously, Venita has made my own life ‘much easier’! Frankly, I don’t personally care to talk on the phone, except to my family members.

After many years of talking to business persons on the phone, Venita has developed considerable ‘skills’ -skills in ‘getting to the heart’ of a problem by asking the right questions and by equipping herself to understand the nature of a particular business problem – sometimes a rather complex, business issue. It may take her considerable time to find a solution to a particular problem, but usually the solution will finally be forthcoming!

Another (similar) manifestation of her gift of administration is her enjoyment (passion?) to ‘tackle projects’ of many different kinds. She has told me (more than once) that, even when she was a child she had to be involved in the pursuit of some kind of specific ‘project’.

As evidenced by the fact that she has a melancholic temperament- an ‘artistic temperament- she sometimes finds herself dealing with ’emotional low feelings’. She told me that, when she experienced rather ‘low feelings’, she (as a child) would pursue some ‘project’- rearranging her bedroom or mowing her large lawn or trimming the scrubs. She said that when she would ‘lose herself in some kind of concrete ‘project’, that she would experience a new surge of enthusiasm in place of her ‘low emotional feelings’. Venita said that throughout her adult life she knows that she ‘needs’ to be involved (at all times) in one or more ‘projects’.

It is through this creative involvement in some type of project (small or large project) that she finds herself maintaining a ‘good feeling’ inside of herself. She enjoys (to some extent) leisure and recreation and socializing with friends, but these activities do not ‘sustain’ her over a long period of time!

What brings meaning to Venita is the facing of significant ‘challenges’- ‘challenges’ which give her the opportunity (through the use of her God-given talents) to find meaningful solutions to dilemmas and to difficulties!

This dominant characteristic of my wife is rather easy to identify in concrete situations in which she is involved. During the many years that Venita served as a pastor’s wife, she involved herself in countless projects- all of which contributed directly or indirectly to the edification of many persons. As the children’s director in our local church, it seemed like she was always rearranging class rooms, or recruiting scores of volunteers to teach classes, or ordering curriculum, or making curtains to divide rooms, or a hundred other projects.

Recruitment of students and teachers, not only for Sunday school classes, and ‘Children’s Classes’, and ‘Nursery Classes’, and ‘Vacation Bible School’ programs, – not only for these ‘regular programs’ – but also for special programs, like midweek children’s programs and ‘summer Camps’. Venita had that ‘magic touch’ when it came to recruitment of scores of adults to teach classes in many different contexts.

She was ‘persuasive’, but not coercive, in her recruitment of volunteers in the local church. Scores of adults (with a variety of talents and experience) readily answered her ‘call’ to commitment! There were hardly any adults who ‘refused’ Venita’s challenge to be involved in the total children’s program at the church! Venita ‘juggled the balls’ for many years- that is, she coordinated multiple children’s programs in our local church.

Venita worked as hard as anyone that I knew. She had a clear vision for growth (numerically and spiritually), and it seemed that nothing could stop her in her pursuits for excellence in the labors of love and Christian service! Venita’s many adult recruits (volunteers for the children’s programs) greatly respected Venita and they loved to work with her.

Venita had high expectations for the volunteers, but the volunteers knew that Venita cherished each of them and that Venita would do everything she could to make their job (in teaching) successful and meaningful. They knew (instinctively, if not consciously) that they, as volunteers, were primarily working for the ‘Lord of the Church’, and only secondarily for the ‘Children’s Director’ (Venita)!

It is no wonder that God blessed the intensive efforts of Venita (and the labors of the many volunteers)! So many children grew in every way, in their lives! The Lord Jesus Christ, when He traveled the dusty roads of Galilee, loved to take children upon his lap, to teach the children, and to laugh with the children! Jesus said that anyone who accepts the ‘little ones’ (children), accepts Him!

During the several years (l think seven years) that Venita looked after pre-school children, in her ‘Home Day Care’, she, again, was doing the work that Jesus strongly commends! She lovingly cared for these ‘little ones’, in her well-organized, artistically-appealing, creatively-run ‘day care’. Again, Venita’s desire to be involved in the challenge of ‘recruitment’ (of persuaded parents with their challenging children) was fulfilled during those several years. Not an easy job, but, nevertheless, a rewarding job.

Each succeeding job that Venita received (from her Lord) seemed to be more ‘challenging’ and more ‘difficult’ than any previous jobs that she had! When Venita accepted the job as administrator of the new Christian Day School, this challenge was, indeed, rather difficult, even overwhelming, in terms of responsibilities and requirements! But Venita arose to the occasion, to the challenge, and to the ‘opportunity’ (as she perceived it)!

She did not have a degree in school administration, and her learning curve was ‘sharp’. She learned fast, and she soon realized that, in spite of many obstacles that she faced because of a ‘new beginning’, she greatly loved her job -the job or recruiting literally hundreds of students for the school.

Within the first five years of the existence of the school, the enrollment grew from 11 students (kindergarten only) to 225 students (all 13 grades). This was a miracle, but a miracle that God produced as a result of intense effort (outreach) by Venita.

Almost single-handedly, Venita recruited the hundreds of students who became proud enrollees of Choice City Christian School! During those 8 years (the foundational years of the school), Venita ‘wore several hats’ – even involving herself in the task of personally purchasing school desks at an auction.

When Venita accepted the position as administrator of the Christian School, she accepted a ‘challenge’ that taxed her skills and her energy and her personal resources to their very’ limits’! In spite of (or was it ‘because of?) all the ‘challenges’ that Venita faced during those eight years that she was ‘head’ of the School, Venita grew in her faith in the Lord, and in her love for many people, and in her knowledge of administration and leadership.

God enabled her (in spite of her lack of formal training) to be an outstanding administrator of the School. She was widely respected, and she was well liked by students and by teachers and by parents and by school board members.

Her creative instincts served her well during those years, for she had often to be innovative in addressing multiple problems (curriculum development, recruitment of hundreds of students, facility availability, financing, discipline of students on occasion, extracurricular activities (like location of facilities for sports programs).

Even with all her intense labors and her untiring devotion to the school, Venita knew that (as the Bible notes) “unless the Lord builds the house, they that labor, labor in vain!” She knew, in other words, that, unless the Lord supported and promoted the Christian School, her own labors and her own attempts at recruitments and fund raising- these would all be purposeless and fruitless!

She prayed often for the School, and many others prayed for the success of the School. God wonderfully answered the prayers of those who cared for the welfare of the School. The School did proper, and so many (both teachers and students) did experience great growth in their lives!

The growth of the School was ‘God’s doing’, first and foremost, and only, secondarily, because of the prayers and the gifts and the teaching of many committed persons, and because of the aggressive outreach by Venita in recruitment of students! It was God who motivated Venita to work so hard and to sacrifice so freely (sacrifice of her time and talents and money)!

God enabled Venita to embrace the many different challenges which were integral to the operating of a new School. Venita had to learn to ‘reach out’ in many different directions and to many different persons (whose interests in the School were varied in kind and in intensity).

Venita loved the financial challenges, she loved the personnel challenges, she loved the student recruitment challenges, she loved the challenges of maximizing the limited spaces for classrooms, she loved the school board challenges, she loved the challenges involved in the locating of adequate spaces and facilities to ‘house’ the many different sports, she loved the challenges of communications with school parents!

She loved the challenge connected with student disciplinarian problems, she loved the challenge of ‘tapping’ financial sources for student tuition grants, she loved the challenge of maintaining good relations with other Christian Day Schools (both in her community and in other communities outside of her city), she loved the challenge of keeping in ‘good graces’ with the community leadership and with the ‘legal’ entities of the city and the State.

Her ‘hands were full’ when she was the leader (head master) of the Christian School. She ‘made do’ with rather ‘limited resources’ (money and facilities, etc.)! God blessed Venita’s efforts and God answered the prayers of many who regularly ‘committed the school to God’s enablement!’ God prospered ‘Choice City Christian Schoo!’ in amazing ways! Among a multitude of ‘praise notes’, this is another ‘praise note’! “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!”

Venita has faced challenge after challenge during the many years of her life’s journey all starting when she was quite young. As mentioned earlier, Venita has always enjoyed ‘tackling projects’! Whether it was the ‘project’ of Venita rearranging her bedroom (when she was a child), or whether it was the challenge of ‘starting’ and ‘growing’ and ‘developing’ a Christian School, Venita ‘thrives on solving problems’, she ‘loves to makes things happen’, she loves to put the many ‘pieces of the puzzle’ together when it comes to solving mind-stretching problems (administratively or ecclesiastically or financially or spiritually).

God is the ‘God of all wisdom’. If any man (or woman) lacks wisdom, let him/her ask of God, and it shall be given to him/her- if he or she asks in faith! (James L) Countless times, in prayer and in meditation, when problems seemed tough to handle, Venita turned in humility to the God whom she deeply loves. The result? Sometimes miracles happen – and all to the glory of God!

Her ‘spiritual gifting’ of wisdom (along with her gift of administration) easily (naturally) led her, throughout her long lifetime, to share insights, to gently give advice, to give ‘direction’, to solve problems, and even to make ‘corrections’ in delicate situations.

Of course, as my wife, Venita has (for many years) exercised all of these ‘manifestations’ of her ‘spiritual gifting’ (of wisdom and of administration), in her daily relationships with me (her husband), and she has done so very freely and very openly and (most of the time) most productively!

Another important illustration as to how Venita has used her ‘gift of administration’ is seen in her competent ‘running’ of a home elderly care business. Of course, each time there is a family who contacts Venita regarding the possibility of placing their elderly mother in her home, Venita must honestly and humbly, yet very confidently, ‘sell’ these family members (sons and daughters of an elderly person) on the ‘quality’ of her home – on the quality of the various ‘offerings’ which she has for the care of an older person. Venita has a near perfect record, in terms of the effectiveness of her ‘sales presentation’ (of the quality of care presented) to the relatives of the elderly one.

Almost everyone who inquires, quite quickly enrolls to come to her home! To put it humorously, almost all who ‘look’ end up ‘leaping’ into our home! Of course, even though many of the elderly ones are not mentally able to make rational decisions (regarding their moving to our house to live), Venita, nevertheless, has always treated every elderly one with dignity and with respect.

Before these loved ones (who are seeking a place for their elderly mother) make a decision to make our home the home for their mother, it is vitally important that they have objective facts as a basis for their decision.

Venita is most skilled (as an administrator and as a problem-solver) to communicate with the relatives (of the elderly one), and, with an honest appeal (not an appeal involving ‘pressure’) Venita ‘sells’ our place as a comfortable and nurturing place to live!

Almost without exception, the loved ones (of the elderly ones) choose Venita’s elderly care home as the place where they wish for their dear mother to live. Venita’s skill, as an excellent administrator, has been demonstrated, time and time again. Of course, this God-given skill (administration) has been used countless times, during the last nearly 20 years, in the problem-solving needs of the daily operation of her elderly care business. Each of the residents has different kinds of aging needs, and, thus, Venita has to apply great wisdom in the personalized care of each of the several elderly folks.

Venita has applied great discernment and patience and compassion, as she has awaited the death of most of these ladies, and as she has tenderly cared for various older ones as they have breathed their last breath! Of course, the mental and the physical (mobility) capabilities of the various residents are unique to each lady (there have been no men), and, again, Venita soon learned, in doing this type of unique work, to be very adaptable and flexible to each lady.

Venita, as driven and as goal-oriented as she is, had to ‘get into low gear’ as she worked with most of these ladies. In order for Venita to be able to minister to these precious ladies (several demented), Venita was required to develop considerable patience. They were slow with almost everything in their life (and, of course, they could not help this).

Understandably, Venita had considerable ‘adjustments’ to be made, when she first started to ‘relate’ to these ladies (ancient ladies), many in their 90’s! Each lady, obviously, had a different ‘temperament’. Some ladies were ‘quiet’ (hardly talking). Some ladies were rather ‘bright’ and alert mentally (definitely in the ‘minority’, however).

The brightest lady whom we enjoyed for only one year before she died this lady wanted me to take her on walks regularly in the out-of-doors, and she once recited Shakespeare at our table, and she regularly shared recipes with Venita that she would like prepared as meals!

Most ladies, on the other end of the scale, were so demented that Venita and I could hardly understand their attempted verbalizing! One lady was with us for 11 years, before she died at nearly 104! Both of our mothers passed away in our upper bedroom, just a few feet apart, and almost exactly one year apart!

I have shared these few details about the elderly care business, to demonstrate that God used Venita’s ‘gift of administration’ in the ministry of caring for elderly folks. God also used this wonderful ‘gift’ in the ministry to pre-school children and in the ministry to children in our local church, and in the ministry to both children and teenagers at the Christian School. Obviously, Venita used her ‘gift’ to minister to many adults as well, through her involvement in multiple, adult-related programs in the local church.

It is true that a spiritual gift will likely be ‘established’ and be ‘fixed’ in the life of a believer, but it is also true that a spiritual gift may find expression in its application in many different ministries, and in many various contexts, and with several different ‘age groups’. Everything I just stated is true of Venita.

Many different ministries, many different contexts, several different ‘age groups’ (infants, children, teens, adults, elderly citizens). During Venita’s long life and by means of her varied ministries, God has allowed Venita to exercise her ‘spiritual gifts’ (administration and wisdom) in a manner such that lives were ‘touched’ and were ‘blessed’ in many different places, through many different situations, to all the various age groups!

What a fulfilling way for Venita to use her ‘spiritual gifts!’ Venita will only know the extent of the effectiveness of her administrative ministries, when she hears the words of her Loving Master: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant! Enter the joys of thy Lord! Thank you, dear servant of mine, for loving my people, for using your ‘gift’ to minister to my people so faithfully! Come, now, into the kingdom which I have prepared for you, and now help me to administer the affairs of my vast kingdom! You can use your ‘gift of administration’ forever in my kingdom!”

I asked an older lady, when I was a teenager, if she would pray that someday God would lead me to a quality woman, to be my wife. God answered the prayer of that godly ‘saint’, when I met and when I dated and when I finally married Venita! I sincerely believe that God ‘hand-picked’ the lady that I was to cherish as my life-time companion.

She has been the best woman as a wife for me that I could ever have imagined! Admittedly, the ‘road’ that we have traveled together for nearly five decades, has not always been a ‘smooth’ road. We have experienced some rough dips, even some ‘pot holes’, along our joint pathway. There have been far too many times that (impulsive as I am) I have needed to ‘humble myself’ before her to ‘plead her forgiveness’. I have not always been the easiest person to live with.

I don’t think she has ever questioned my deep love for her, but, nevertheless, my humanity (faults and failings) have brought great challenges to her. There are countless virtues that make Venita a truly ‘great lady’, but among the greatest virtues is her willingness and her ability to quickly grant me ‘total forgiveness’ when I have miserably failed!

Thank God, Venita has not held ‘grudges’ against me, as a result of my ‘infliction of wounds’, and as a result of my insensitive words and inexcusable expressions of anger. She has quickly forgiven me (of my faults and failures- which have been many), and she has always quickly restored our offended relationship!

She has always been determined that we as a couple ‘move forward’, to ‘forget any of our past offenses.’ Why can she do this? Because she long ago made a commitment that our marriage would be ‘solid’ and ‘lasting’ and ‘God-honoring’!

I have been totally faithful (morally-speaking) to my wife (thank God!), so I am not referring to ‘moral breakdowns’ in our marriage. Venita is totally trustworthy! I trust her at any time, and at any place, and with any person! She is a woman of absolute moral integrity and inner and outer purity!

She and I were both ‘virgins’ when we took the marriage vows, and (by God’s grace) we intend to maintain moral purity and integrity till our marriage shall cease through death.

I am ‘proud’ that there have been a few (godly) men in our local church who have found it ‘natural’ to give her a ‘hug’. Venita, for some reason, was able, particularly, to ‘relate’ to men in our church (men who are like ‘Christian brothers’ to her).

By way of contrast, the following is a list of virtues that I think concisely describes the character of my wife. Incomplete, admittedly, but the following list of her virtues serves as my attempt to offer a ‘tribute’ to the person who means everything to me, to the person who has left an indelible mark on my life (during a half century).

Venita is realistic, not idealistic; practical, not theoretical; personal, not impersonal; active, not passive; optimistic, not pessimistic; good actions, not good intentions; concrete, not abstract; direct, not complex; transparent, not scheming; open, not hidden; approachable, not distant; good-humored, not somber; honest, not deceptive; present-oriented, not future-oriented; moderate, not extreme; balanced, not fanatical!

Venita is rational, not simplistic; affirms basic beliefs, not abstract theology; discerning, not naive; serious-minded, not shallow-minded; artistic, not mundane; forgiving, not grudge-bearing; industrious, not lazy; thoughtful, not impulsive; confident, not self-effacing; patient, not restless; humble, not arrogant!

Venita is others-oriented, not self-preoccupied; Christ-centered, not self centered; diligent, not slothful; wise, not foolish; generous in giving, not stingy in giving; prayerful, not careless; reverent, not profane; resilient, not defeated; inclusive of people, not exclusive of people; confrontational, not cowardly!

Venita is trusting, not suspicious; insightful of mind, not dense of mind; hospitable, not impolite; attentive to God, not close-minded to God; loyal in church attendance, not sporadic in church attendance; peace-loving, not argumentative; conciliatory, not adversarial; humorous, not frivolous.

These many ‘traits’ describe the noble woman whom I married so long ago! During the last several decades, my wife has ‘grown in grace and in the knowledge of her Lord Jesus Christ’! Slow growth, at times, but, nevertheless, steady growth in the ways of her dear Lord! She, like every other believer, is simply a ‘Christian in the making’, a ‘Christian under construction’, and a person who is reflecting, more and more, the ‘image’ of Christ!

‘Cultivating Christ-like character’ is what life on this earth is all about! To develop that kind of character takes a believer plenty of time and plenty of effort and discipline but, of all things that are ‘worthwhile’, this is definitely the most ‘worthwhile’ goal of life!

What else can any of us take out of this world when we die- but our character? Everything else is ‘left behind’! Who we serve in our life determines where we go after our earthly life is spent! We only take our ‘character’ with us- a righteous character or an unrighteous character!

Venita is becoming more and more like the One whom she deeply loves! Therefore, the beauty of her personality is more and more revealed to those around her! The many ‘traits’ (listed above) are some of the ‘traits’ that reveal a Christ like character! I thank God very much that He gave to me a Christ like wife – a wife who has blessed my own life more than she will ever know!


Praise God for the wonder of God’s creation!

Let My Praises Be Heard!


PRAISE GOD FOR THE WONDER OF GOD’S CREATION!

Even though the Fall of Man has ‘marred’, in some ways perhaps not quickly discerned, the original beauty of God’s magnificent world, nevertheless, the world, even after that tragic historic ‘Fall of Man’, is filled with the splendor of God’s beauty. The breath-taking beauty of this creation witnesses to the fact that the Creator of beauty is Himself beautiful beyond description!

When one beholds the order of our world, and of the universe, it is easy to conclude that the God who is behind this orderly world is Himself an orderly God. Scientists, more than anyone else, can speak about – witness to – the astounding precision in the movement of the planets around our sun, in the Milky Way Galaxy, ‘as a starter’, before talking about the order in the vastness of the incomprehensibly big universe which God ‘spoke into existence.’

Future ‘events’ in the movements of planets, hundreds of years from now, can be ‘calculated’ accurately, all because the Creator is a ‘God of Order’, not a God of carelessness and chaos.

As shown by the manifest forces (power) of Nature, we can conclude that our God is a God of unlimited power! For instance, one example (among countless other examples), think about the power of electricity.

The electrical power (electricity) in one large flash of lightning, not only frightens humankind, but this degree of electrical power (electricity) is so great that it could light an entire city (if that electrical power could be harnessed).

Think of the vastness and the magnitude of Nature. Our world’s tall mountains, and our giant trees, and our vast prairies, and our expansive oceans, and our huge canyons like the Grand Canyon – these features of our created world are wonderful and they are awesome! The vastness of the world and, especially the vastness of the universe, are faint reminders of the ‘vastness’ of our majestic God!

Next, when considering the majesty of Nature, think about the amazing variety in Nature. Even the casual observer of Nature, and certainly the serious student of Nature, will readily testify to the fact that everywhere he looks, he is overwhelmed with the vast number of species in the animal world, the plant world, the world of trees and grasses and vegetation of all kinds! Go to a “Botanical Gardens’ and witness the vast variety of flowers.

Go to a ‘Tropical Forest’ and walk through it (if you can) and notice the different kinds of trees- both small and large trees. You will also doubtless see a large variety of bugs and reptiles and primates and other lower forms of animals. lf God created our world, and if this world is full of variety in plants, animals, trees, prairies, fish, then God must be a Creator who obviously values and who likes variety.

For the wonder of each hour Of the day and of the night, Hill and vale and tree and flower, Sun and moon and stars of light: Christ our God, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise. (For The Beauty of the Earth, by Folliott S. Pierpoint)

Unlike my dear brother, who has walked thousands of miles on many mountain trails (especially in Rocky Mountain National Park), I have not been a ‘lover of nature’. Nevertheless, as I have jogged many miles, on a limited number of city trails, I have observed the little squirrels in the trees, and the scampering bunnies darting across my paths, and I have been entertained by the sweet (heavenly) sounds of the various flying birds above my head!

I have been fascinated by the hundreds of willows that stick up their fuzzy heads along my jogging paths. Occasionally I have been awed when I have caught a glimpse of the beautiful deer that find their home among the thick trees, not far from where I regularly take my early morning jogs.

There have been numerous mornings when, after I have started jogging in the near dark, I am taken aback when I suddenly view the entire eastern horizon lite up with bright colors, as the sun peeks up on the eastern horizon.

I am so grateful that our loving and beautiful God created colors for His creatures to enjoy. Black and white are meaningful colors, of course, but there is something about multi-colors that causes me to be prostrate before my great Creator. If color is wonderful here on earth, how much more wonderful will color be in that glorious Home above!

It is true that this earth is not our home, and that we (believers) are only ‘pilgrims passing through’ this temporary dwelling, but, nevertheless, God has promised to give us (His followers) all things (on this earth) ‘richly to enjoy’. And the splendor of His creation is one of those ‘things’ that is intended to give us (believers) ‘great pleasure and great delight’. Of course, we do not ‘worship nature’, but we are permitted (even encouraged) to enjoy the ‘works of God’s hands’ (Nature)!

The Scriptures often exalt the works of God, as seen in Nature! “The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvelous display of his craftsmanship. Day and night they keep on telling about God. Without a sound or word, silent in the skies, their message reaches out to all the world. The sun lives in the heavens where God placed it and moves out across the skies as radiant as a bridegroom going to his wedding or as joyous as an athlete looking forward to a race! The sun crosses the heaven from end to end, and nothing can hide from its heat.” (Psalms 19:1-6 Living Bible)

One day I was with an elderly (godly) woman, while she was taking a short wheelchair ride around a couple blocks, near our home. This woman lived in our home, and nearly every morning (if the weather permitted) this dear woman wanted to get outside and to breathe in the fresh air and to enjoy some of the delights of Nature.

On this particular morning, as she was ‘drinking in the beauty of nature’, she suddenly said to me, “Just think, Ron, all of this, and heaven too!” To her, the beauty of nature on that special morning was simply a foretaste of the beauty of heaven.

This woman was a ‘double winner’, for she (as a believer) was well aware of the One who created the beauty of that particular morning, and she was also well aware (by faith) of the beauty of heaven that someday she would enjoy in God’s presence! She was confident that the One who was giving her the ‘gift’ of physical beauty, on that particular morning, would someday grant her the greater ‘gift’ of heavenly beauty, when God called her to her mansion above!

Her life was lived with a sense of gratitude for the present gifts of God, but she also lived with a constant anticipation of the wonderful beauty of God that she would enjoy some day in God’s nearer presence in heaven! “Just think, all of this, and heaven too!”

This precious woman knew that soon she would enjoy the beauty of heaven in a much more full and wonderful way! She loved the beauty of this earth, but she knew there would be much greater beauty when she entered the portals of heaven!

God’s gift of beauty on this earth was very wonderful to her, but soon she would experience God’s expanded and perfected beauty over there (in heaven)! Indeed, she was a double winner! Abundant life on earth and eventually eternal life in heaven! (It was only a few weeks, after that exciting morning, when she departed this earthly life, to become enraptured with the beauty of her heavenly home)!


Is yours a ‘portrait’ of gratitude?

Let My Praises Be Heard!


IS YOURS A ‘PORTRAIT’ OF GRATITUDE?

I have a personal friend (presently 62 years old, an African-American friend). His name is Bill Johnson. I have regular contact with him, in more than one setting. I have known him for several years, probably nearly 10 years- Once a month, he and I partner to go to two different small nursing homes, where we conduct a short praise service. The ‘heart’ of these monthly services (where a handful of beautiful elderly ones meet) is music.

Bill is an accomplished musician- a musician who plays several musical instruments. His ‘specialty’ in musical expertise is the violin. I have never heard more beautiful music than the music of Bill’s violin. He makes his musical talent available to a large number of persons, in a variety of contexts. He plays in formal settings, and he also plays in very informal settings (such as when he plays gladly and joyously for the few elderly ones, each month).

I exalt in his musical skills every time I hear him play, but, more important than his musical expertise is his loving and humble and joyous and, yes, grateful spirit. Every time Bill plays, he plays for the glory of God, and for the edification of those around him. As you can imagine, there are scores of persons who speak highly of his playing (his skill and his talent).

Time after time, instead of even thanking his praising ‘fans’, Bill will immediately respond by saying, “Praise God. Give God all the glory, Without Him, I could not do anything!” Bill is a man who is full of Gratitude – a man who ascribes all the praise to his wonderful Lord! He never takes credit to himself, for his amazing accomplishments!

It is often said that “God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform! “It was through a great adversity that God opened the door of opportunity for Bill, to become an accomplished musician! When Bill was a rather small (grade school) child, a growth on his arm proved to be a cancerous growth!

This was shock enough to his parents, but that shock was multiplied when Bill’s doctor declared that, to keep the cancer from spreading, the arm would have to be amputated! A shock of all shocks, for a person of any age, but especially for a child!

Bill’s father refused to follow the prescription of the doctor. Instead, several believers in the child’s church, laid hands on the young Bill and they asked, obviously, for physical healing. Instead of removing the arm, the doctor made a large indentation in the arm, as a result of the less-severe surgery. Of course, the young child’s arm was greatly weakened as a result of the surgery.

Bill”s father and Bill’s physician agreed that something needed to be done, to strengthen the arm of Bill. Bill’s large family (siblings and other relatives) were quite musical. Perhaps it was this obvious reality that caused Bill’s father and Bill’s physician to come up with an idea!

They both believed that, if young Bill would take violin lessons, that the movement of the arms, involved in playing this delicate instrument, just might strengthen the muscles that were left very weak as a result of the cancer surgery.

The rest is history! Young Bill Johnson practiced diligently, not only to become proficient with the violin, but with several other instruments. Bill Johnson became a professor of music, and Bill Johnson, for decades, has played his violin before hundreds of persons (in many churches and in secular settings- and also before a handful of elderly folks). Bill Johnson cares not if he is playing before a large group or a tiny group – all he wants to do is to let his light shine for his Lord, whom he dearly loves and whom he serves.

He wants to be in ‘the shadow of the cross’! He is very careful not to draw attention to himself. He wants all the ‘focuses of his audience to be on Christ alone! Hidden from the applause of men, in order that he may exalt the name and the cause of Jesus Christ! That describes the life of Bill Johnson!

I know this to be true, for I have often seen him, and I have known Bill Johnson in various settings. He not only makes beautiful music with his instrument, but, more importantly, he makes beautiful music with his humble and generous and loving and prayerful and, yes, grateful life! As a grateful man, I know him to be a man who entrusts his entire life with the Spirit.

I have seen him during his ‘down times’ (adversity), and I have seen him during his ‘exuberant times’ joy and satisfaction). Amidst all these changes and chances of his life, I have seen Bill Johnson to be a man who remains steadfast in his faith, and who remains grateful to God for all God’s good gifts to him!

He has some health issues, he never had the joy of being married, he often ‘pinches pennies’ financially, he sometimes is misunderstood because of a few of his eccentric mannerisms, his pool of friends has sometimes become somewhat drained because of the relocation of his friends or because of the death of his friends, he sometimes has difficulty sleeping, as a minority person he has a few barriers to get over!

Yes, these are some of the ‘challenges’ that Bill Johnson has faced, and that, by God’s grace, he has had to learn to overcome. But, amidst his unique adversities, Bill Johnson remains steadfast in his loyalty to his God, and he continues to remain loving and joyous in his fellowship with his fellow believers!

In addition to his faithfulness to his Lord, and in addition to his maintained fellowship with his fellow men, Bill has been involved in intentional witnessing to non-believers (including his weekly witness to inmates in the county jail).

God has graciously given Bill Johnson the gift of music (violin), and wherever he goes, often the violin goes with him! Heavenly music that honors God and that blesses fellow human beings! Bill Johnson’s entire lifestyle is definitely the lifestyle of ‘Gratitude’!

He is grateful that God spared his arm from amputation. He is grateful that God providentially worked through his father and his doctor, to encourage him (require him?) to start playing the violin!

He is grateful for the talent that God gave to him. He is grateful for the countless opportunities that God has given to him, to bless the ears and the hearts and the souls of persons (far and wide), for many years! Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude- these are among the ‘vivid colors’ that would be used to ‘paint the portrait’ of Bill Johnson! When I am around him, he influences me to be a more ‘grateful person’ (the kind of person that God is glad to bless!).


Is gratitude the chief characteristic of your words and actions?

Let My Praises Be Heard!


IS GRATITUDE THE CHIEF CHARACTERISTIC OF YOUR WORDS AND ACTIONS?

The grateful person is the person who serves God whether he is experiencing the sorrow that accompanies great loss and grief, or whether he is experiencing the joy and pleasure and satisfaction that accompany great financial growth and intellectual growth and social recognition and personal power! The spirit of gratitude is the stabilizing power in the life of a true believer. Amidst the changes and the chances of one’s life, gratitude is the balancing, stabilizing power!

My wife said that she was permanently and positively affected when she (as a young person) witnessed the positive reaction of her rancher father, when he (materially-speaking) lost several of his cattle (including expensive ‘bulls’) – as a result of an electric storm!

This God-loving rancher, obviously, was saddened and he was shocked when he discovered several of his dead herd animals, but, my wife (his daughter) said this humble and godly rancher never became angry. He (like Job) simply said, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away! “It is only a ‘grateful’ man (a man who trusts the Lord fully with his life) who can declare, amidst great loss, that God is in charge, and, therefore, ‘all is well’!

The grateful man (believer) does not deny either the losses of his life nor the successes of his life. The grateful man is not an unfeeling person- a person who has no stirring of his feelings, no sorrow during his grief or, on the other hand, no elation during his successes. However, through the Spirit’s enabling, the grateful man does not succumb to either bitterness during losses or to pride and smugness and presumption during achievements and successes!

The Spirit-enabled believer remains humble and grateful, amidst all the changing circumstances of his life whether his circumstances are ‘stormy’ or whether they are ‘sunny’!

Gratitude defines the character of the life of a godly man, regardless of the changing happenings of his life. A God-loving man knows that, in all the changing circumstances of his life, God works for his good and for his growth.

The indwelling Spirit provides stability and balance and equilibrium to his life. Whether it is smooth sailing or rough sailing, the Spirit who is aboard with the believer is strongly and reliably guiding the ‘little boat of his life’.

The Spirit is the unseen Guide on the ‘little boat of his life’. Of course, the Spirit does not ‘take over’, but the Spirit, nevertheless, is wonderfully present to give wisdom and direction to the believer, amidst the storms of life and also amidst the times of smooth sailing!

The Spirit nurtures and cultivates the spirit of gratitude in the heart of the believer- during both the stormy sailing and during the smooth sailing – enabling the believer to avoid both the spirit of bitterness and the spirit of pride (presumption)!

Gratitude (praise and thanksgiving) is the only worthy attitude in the life of the believer, and the Spirit is constantly enabling the sincere believer to have and to maintain that God-given characteristic!


Do not turn legitimate pursuits into illegitimate obsessions!

Let My Praises Be Heard!


DO NOT TURN LEGITIMATE PURSUITS INTO ILLEGITIMATE OBSESSIONS!

His successes (riches, popularity, power, position) have become his ‘ladder to destruction’. Of course, God never condemned the four above-listed aspects of human living (as such or inherently).

What God condemns is the turning of legitimate ‘things’ into illegitimate pursuits (pursuits that become ‘gods’). What constitutes sin (against God and against one’s fellow man) is the turning of some legitimate pursuits into illegitimate ‘patterns’ of life- to turn God-allowed pursuits into godless ‘obsessions’!

A person (i.e., an honest person/believer) can readily discern when his legitimate pursuit has become a ‘wrong’ (sinful) pursuit- when he has become obsessed with the ‘things of this world’ to the exclusion of a ‘taste for holy matters’!

How can a person determine what is his priorities in his life? By his checking of the nature of the passions that consume his time and energy and attention and resources. Do the investment of these various ‘elements’ of life, bring respect to one’s fellow men, and praise and honor to the ‘Lord of Life’?

Anything to which we give our primary allegiance (or even our sole allegiance), becomes our god! Jesus said that we cannot serve two gods at the same time – we cannot serve the true God and, at the same time, serve mammon (money)! “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve; as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” This was Joshua’s challenge to ancient Israel!


You can have loss without bitterness, and gain without pride!

Let My Praises Be Heard!


YOU CAN HAVE LOSS WITHOUT BITTERNESS, AND GAIN WITHOUT PRIDE!

There can be (as in her ‘case’) the coexistence of grief and gratitude. It is ‘natural’ (human) to experience grief, but it is not human (or godly) to succumb to bitterness and vindictiveness and resentment and carnal anger. The former emotion can lead you closer to God, while the latter emotion will certainly drive you away from God!

We must avoid bitterness (the opposite of gratitude) at all costs, for bitterness (according to Hebrews 12) not only ‘defiles’ the spirit of the one who is bitter, but bitterness will defile everyone who surrounds the person who is bitter!

On the other end of the scale (opposite to despair) is the spirit of pride (self-sufficiency). This is an equally harmful attitude. If bitterness defiles the human spirit, so it is also true to say that pride equally defiles the human spirit. Both are equally harmful (and sinful)! If grief can lead to bitterness, so success can lead to pride!

If one person is bitter against God because of life’s losses, another person – a successful person may be proud because of his achievements. The one who is self-sufficient (that is, the one who believes that his successes are due to his own inherent abilities), this person’s successes can result in driving him further away from God.

The successful person (in terms of money, fame, power) can become a man who feels he does not need God in his life – that he does not need to pray for guidance, that he does not need to read the Bible for nurture, that he does not need the insights which the preached word can give, that he does not need to reach out to the poor whom (he thinks) have only themselves to blame for their plight (poverty).

The self-reliant (highly gifted) man may not sense his need for divine enablement or for divine guidance. He is ‘on his own’ and he is proud to be a ‘self-made man’. God resists the ‘proud man’, but the proud man does not know about this divine indictment! The proud man is on very ‘shaky ground’! God’s judgment of this self-sufficient ‘fool’ is impending, but he is oblivious (spiritually blind) to his eventual and terrible fate!