They Pour into the Streets Wearing Black

When I started my devotions, I thought, “I wish it were after Pentecost Sunday. We would be reading Acts, not Isaiah.” Then I picked up a newsletter Mom dropped off yesterday and read this:

“Bible scholars have said that even if we didn’t have Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we would still have the Gospel in Isaiah, written five centuries before Christ: ‘He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. …He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by His stripes we are healed. …The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. …For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken.’ (Isaiah 53:3-8).” Gordon Robertson, “Frontlines” – April 2018

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Tonight is Bill’s visitation. I expect a line of people around 2 blocks waiting to get in. Isaiah 15 showed me God understands grief. He knows what we are feeling.

Isaiah 15:3-5, 8, “They pour into the streets wearing black. …everyone in tears, everyone in grief. (4) …sobs, shaking in grief. …trembles…” (5) …they weep…they cry their loss. (8) …Gut-wrenching sobs…heart-rending sobs…” The Message

After reading my chapters, I decided to bake the cookies for the funeral dinner. I measured the sugar and noticed it was lumpy. I sifted it to break up the lumps and saw bugs in the sugar!

I checked the canister – no bugs. They had to have come from the double sifter. I put the sifter in a pan with water and boiled it for 15 minutes.

I tossed that sugar and started over. You don’t have to sift flour for chocolate chip cookies. I decided to make them. But the chocolate chips were frozen! I put them in a bowl of warm water to thaw.

I washed dishes while I waited for all the ingredients to come to room temperature. Starting over with fresh sugar, I mixed up the cookies. Some of the chocolate chips had melted! They will be chocolate chip, streaked cookies.

I got out my new, cookie dough scoop to drop the cookies on the cookie sheet. 3 scoops later, the dough wouldn’t release.

I washed the cookie scoop, dried it and slathered it with butter. 3 scoops later, the dough wouldn’t release.

I washed it again, dried it and poured a tablespoon of oil in it. I rolled the oil around to coat all the surfaces of the scoop and dumped the extra.

6 scoops later, the dough wouldn’t release! I just kept scooping and flicked my wrist to release the dough. (Can you get carpal tunnel from making cookies?)

I put the first sheet in the preheated oven and said, “I hope you’re watching, Bill, because this is freaking hilarious! I love you, man.” (See Hebrews 12:1.)

The first batch was darker than I wanted. I set the timer back 3 minutes. When I checked the second sheet, it was doughy. I added 2 minutes to the timer. The third sheet was fine.

I was putting in the fourth sheet when I heard someone at the door. I hit “stop” instead of “start” on the timer accidentally. The numbers were moving so I answered the door.

When I got back, there were 3 minutes on the timer. I started washing the baking dishes. The next time I checked, there were 6 minutes, 37 seconds on the timer. It took me about 30 seconds to realize my timer must have a “stopwatch” feature because it was gaining time!

I rescued the cookies. As I put in the last batch, I thought, “Bill, I am finished baking the cookies. The show’s over.”

I swear I heard him laughing.

Then I started laughing – the deep, belly laugh that works like medicine. Yes, there will be tears at Bill’s visitation tonight, but there will be more laughter. Deep, belly, laugh-until-you-cry laughter. Healing laughter. (See Proverbs 17:22.)

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Hezekiah Prayed

The last thing Bill, the bass player, said to me was, “We need to find another guitar player.” Now we need to find two! I’m glad it’s not my responsibility!

We don’t need another great guitar player. We need people who love Jesus, first. We need people who are not looking for the spotlight. Bill would take his guitar to play at Bible Study.

We need skilled musicians. Ones who can learn a song and then play it in any key. We need musicians grounded in the Bible. Ones who know the difference between a worship service and a concert.

I’m glad it’s not my job! It’s overwhelming. It seems impossible – if we are only looking around.

Isaiah 37:10-11, “…he [the king of Assyria] sent messengers to Hezekiah… ‘Use your head! (11) Look around’…” The Message

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Isaiah 37:14-15, “Hezekiah took the letter…and read it. Then he went into the sanctuary of God and spread the letter out before God. (15) Then Hezekiah prayed to God…” The Message

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“Because the Lord is near, we can be anxious for nothing….The disciples see a valley full of hungry people….Did any of the disciples pause long enough to think, ‘Jesus healed the sick people, raised the dead girl, and calmed the angry waves. I wonder, might he have a solution we have not seen?’…This time, instead of starting with what you have, start with Jesus. Start with his wealth, his resources, and his strength. Before you open the ledger, open your heart….Present the challenge to your Father and ask for help.” “Anxious for Nothing” by Max Lucado

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Isaiah 37:7, “I [God] personally will take care of him. I’ll arrange it…” The Message

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Isaiah 37:36, “Then the Angel of God arrived and struck the Assyrian camp…By the time the sun came up, they were all dead.” The Message

Hezekiah faced an army of 185,000. God, personally, wiped them all out. He will have no trouble finding 2 guitar players. I can’t wait!

Psalms 33:1-3, “Good people, cheer God! Right-living people sound best when praising. Use guitars to reinforce your Hallelujahs! Play his praise on a grand piano! Invent your own new song to him; give him a trumpet fanfare.” The Message

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God Has a Plan

When my dad died, my friend, Jill gave me the best advice. “Plan on missing him for the rest of your life – because you will.” I planned on grieving and I’m not surprised when I suddenly miss Dad. Grief is a tunnel.

“The comfort we have from Christ’s revealed truth is not that it teaches us freedom from sorrow but that it teaches us freedom through sorrow….I am merely traveling through a tunnel….someday it will be all right.” George Matheson, “Streams in the Desert” May 8

Even when the worst happens, God still has a plan.

2 Kings 19:25, “Did it ever occur to you that I’m behind all this? Long, long ago I drew up the plans, and now I’ve gone into action….” The Message

* * * * * * *

“The prophet Isaiah had declared that Assyria was (unwittingly) serving God’s purposes in punishing Israel. When that punishment was complete, however, Isaiah had a new message: a message of judgment for Assyria and of possible hope for the remnant of Israel and to Judah….” Chronological Study Bible Notes

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Discover Cool Springs

Yesterday, before reading my Bible, I turned on a worship station. The first song was, “Oceans” by Hillsong United.

Grief is like an ocean. It’s vast and overwhelming at times. It comes in waves. Some waves knock you over. Some take your breath away. But, eventually, each wave recedes. If we keep looking up, we won’t drown.

God reminded me of my life’s work, (playing for worship services), yesterday. I smiled when I looked at today’s assigned chapters. Psalms 84 is my “life chapter.”

When I was fourteen, I asked God to show me what was in my future. I opened my Bible to Psalms 84. My first job was the janitor at my church. After I married, I worked in the church office for a few decades. That chapter has been an accurate guide.

But in the middle are the verses about passing through the Valley of Baca.

“Baca…the ‘valley of weeping’…the last stage of the pilgrimage from northern Palestine to Jerusalem.” biblegateway.com

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“Traversing joyfully the road to the great assembly, the happy pilgrims found refreshment even in the dreariest part of the road….God gives to his people the supplies they need while traversing the roads which he points out for them.” biblestudytools.com

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Psalms 84:5-6, “And how blessed all those in whom you live, whose lives become roads you travel; (6) they wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks, discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain!” The Message

Today “Spirit Fall” by Chris Tomlin was the first song I heard. Grief has left me listless and tired. I just want to sleep. But after reading those chapters, I was ready to practice for Wednesday night’s service. God’s Spirit lit the fire again.

“…Like a mighty wind; light the fire again; come and breathe your breath on me….” “Spirit Fall” by Chris Tomlin

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This is Your Life’s Work

Bill, our bass player, died suddenly yesterday. I got up at 4:41 a.m. and cried some more. I’m crushed. I looked at today’s chapters and wondered,

“Is there any comfort in Chronicles?”

Bill is the reason I’m on the worship team. The first time he asked me, I told him I was housebound. Then the doctor released me to go to church.

The second time, I told him I did not have a keyboard. The keys on pianos are standard. Keyboard keys can be much smaller or a bit larger and they are touchy!

The third time he brought the regular keyboard player and they both asked me to sub once a month. I agreed to sub and the worship leader loaned me a keyboard.

The regular keyboard player’s job changed and that “once a week” turned into a month, then two, and eventually she moved away for work.

After a few weeks, Bill learned the size of the keyboard I was using for practice and he called his brother. John is a professional piano player and he left a professional keyboard at Bill’s house. When he was in town they played together. John gave Bill permission to loan it to me.

Bill came over after church, in heavy snow, to bring me the keyboard, amp, and all its paraphernalia. They let me use that keyboard for almost 2 years. Then I finally bought one like the one I play at church.

Bill understood playing for worship was important work – his life work. You had to practice to do it well.

2 Chronicles 29:11, “God has chosen you to take your place before him to serve in conducting and leading worship – this is your life work; make sure you do it and do it well.” The Message

Each week we were part of the orchestra. Bill sang harmony while playing bass. We loved hearing the congregation worship.

2 Chronicles 29:27-28, “…the sacred choir began singing, backed up by the trumpets and the David orchestra (28) while the entire congregation worshiped.” The Message

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” ‘I have finished the work you have given me to do,’ John 17:4 NKJ. The ant literally dies working….the Bible doesn’t promote a workaholic lifestyle that endangers your health and causes you to neglect your family….That being said, the contemporary concept of retirement can’t be found in the Bible….As long as you’re alive, there’s always work God wants you to do….And in doing it you’ll not only find joy and fulfillment, you’ll bless those around you too.” The Word for You Today, May 6, 2018

* * * * * * * *

2 Chronicles 31:20, “…He was the very best – good, right, and true before God.” The Message

I have 2 hours to prepare my heart before leaving for church. I hope you are there when the doors open.

2 Chronicles 29:3, “In the first month of the first year of his reign, Hezekiah, having first repaired the doors of The Temple of God, threw them open to the public.” The Message

* * * * * * *

2 Chronicles 30:8, “…Clasp God’s outstretched hand….” The Message

Today will be difficult, to say the least. It will take 4 people to fill Bill’s shoes:

  1. A bass player.
  2. One who can sing harmony.
  3. A skilled, knowledgeable musician.
  4. A comedian to keep us laughing.

Goodbye, Mr. Bill – Mr. Funk. Until we play together again…

2 Chronicles 29:35, “…The worship in the Temple of God was on a firm footing again.” The Message

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They Went Along with Whatever Their King Did

I may have had more protein in my breakfast today – unintentionally. I guess I will have to stop dining “al a desk.”

There were 2 ants on my glass of water. I didn’t think water attracted sugar ants! There were five on my cell phone. (I must be sweet!)

The leader ant smelled something and brought them to my office. The rest blindly followed their leader to their deaths – 31 and counting.

I checked the kitchen cabinet where I keep the sugar. No ants. I could feel the sugar granules that spilled there. The ants could have carted them off.

But, no, the leader told them to follow him to my office. He must have smelled the peppermint essential oil in here. It smells sweet but cannot be carried back to the nest!

Be careful following your leaders. They have been wrong before.

2 Kings 17:7-9, “The exile came about because of sin…They took up with other gods, [8] fell in with the ways of life of the pagan nations God had chased off, and went along with whatever their kings did. [9] They did all kinds of things on the sly, things offensive to their God,…then openly and shamelessly….” The Message

The leader came in “on the sly.” I finished publishing yesterday’s post at 4:15 a.m. There were no ants then. Now they are coming in openly and shamelessly. #32.

“A leaf-cutting ant may:

  1. Carry up to 50 times its own weight more than a hundred yards.
  2. Excavate 30-40 thousand pounds of earth to make a nest.
  3. Carry 5000 lbs. of material back to the nest.
  4. Make as many as 4 round trips a day to food sources that may be more than 400 feet from the nest.”

“The Word for You Today” May 5, 2018

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You Won’t Have a Leg to Stand On

We watched a rerun of “The Carol Burnett Show” the other night. It was a popular variety show in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

On this episode, they demonstrated how they developed a comedy sketch. They were careful not to offend anyone. As they rehearsed the scene they changed lines deemed offensive. In the end, the sketch was –

“Hello, Mrs. Smith.”

“Goodbye, Mrs. Johnson”

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Thursday, we read King Ahaz removed everything offensive from The Temple. He was trying to placate the king of Assyria. Did it work? No. It angered God.

2 Chronicles 28:5, “God, fed up, handed him over to the king of Aram, who beat him badly and took many prisoners to Damascus.” The Message

King Ahaz sent bribes to the king of Assyria twice. What did the Assyrians do? They kept the riches and attacked him anyway.

2 Chronicles 28:20, 21, “But the king of Assyria, Tiglath-Pileser, wouldn’t help – he came instead and humiliated Ahaz even more by attacking and bullying him….[21] and got nothing in return, not a bit of help.” The Message

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Isaiah 7:9, “…If you don’t take your stand in faith, you won’t have a leg to stand on.” The Message

God is our only hope. He gave us instructions to survive our time on earth in the Bible. Our answers are found when we study it. Nothing else works.

Isaiah 8:10, “…Because when all is said and done, the last word is Immanuel – God-With-Us.” The Message

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Isaiah 8:20, “Tell them, ‘No, we’re going to study the Scriptures.’ People who try the other ways get nowhere – a dead-end!” The Message

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He Removed Offensive Features

King Ahaz was in a pickle. The king of Aram and the king of Israel held a siege around Jerusalem. Ahaz robbed the treasuries of the palace and The Temple to bribe the king of Assyria. All he wanted was peace.

2 Kings 16:18, “Finally, he removed any distinctive features from within The Temple that were offensive to the king of Assyria.” The Message

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[Isaiah’s] message…was that no human power could stand in the way of Assyria….Judah’s only hope was faith in God’s power to protect Zion,…” Chronological Study Bible Introduction to Isaiah

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2 Corinthians 10:4-6, “The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. [5] We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barricades erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. [6] Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.” The Message

What is our God-tool?

PRAYER!

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Reassure the Righteous

The verses God showed me did not make sense – until I went to church. We had an old-fashioned prayer meeting, just like the ones of my youth. I could picture my Grandma W. kneeling at the chair beside me. I remember her pouring her heart out to God.

We prayed verses right out of the Bible. First for “Nations and Continents” – 1 Timothy 2:1-2; Proverbs 2:10-15; Psalms 68:11; Luke 10-12.

Isaiah 3:4, “He says, ‘I’ll put little kids in charge of the city. Schoolboys and schoolgirls will order everyone around.’ ” The Message

Second, we prayed for “Unity and Harmony” – 1 John 5:14-15; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Matthew 6:10; 18:19; Ephesians 4:2-3; 1 Peter 3:8-9; John 17:22-23.

Isaiah 3:12, “Skinny kids terrorize my people. Silly girls bully them around. My dear people! Your leaders are taking you down a blind alley. They’re sending you off on a wild-goose chase.” The Message

Finally, we prayed for “The People of Our Land” – Luke 21:11, 25-26; Matthew 5:5; 16:3; 26:41; James 4:10; 5:16; 1 Peter 3:4; Psalms 139:23; Isaiah 6:6-7; 1 Timothy 2:1; John 7:38; Revelations 22:1-2.

Isaiah 3:10, “Reassure the righteous that their good living will pay off.” The Message

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Keep God’s Salvation Stories Fresh

Sunday, I made my every-other-month trip to the library. I only checked out the number of books I could carry. 😉

Monday afternoon, I had a half an hour free. I started reading, “The Masterpiece” by Francine Rivers, (Tyndale House, $25.99).

I don’t know how she does it? I could relate to the character that was the polar opposite of myself. He was an orphaned, streetwise, gang member in a big city.

Tuesday, I finished the book. All 484 pages! I washed bedding and read for an hour. I read in between tasks and loads of laundry. I cleaned the house and made Pork Stir Fry.

After supper, I climbed into bed and read until 10 p.m. I woke up at 1:45 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep. I got up at 2:00 a.m. and finished the book.

It was the story of salvation and redemption. God making a new creature out of a broken life. And of a Christian who failed. Yet, faced the consequences and responsibilities that resulted.

Micah 6:5, “…Keep all God’s salvation stories fresh and present.” The Message

Today I started another book with an unfamiliar publisher. The first page was a prayer. That looked good. I didn’t get halfway through the introduction before I set it aside. It is going back to the library unread.

It’s probably a “good” book. It’s a “spiritual” book. But there is a huge difference between “spiritualism” and a life of faith in Jesus Christ.

“Faith is not conjuring up, through an act of your will, a sense of certainty that something is going to happen. No, it is recognizing God’s promise as an actual fact, believing it’s true, rejoicing in the knowledge of that truth, and then simply resting because God said it.” “Days of Heaven on Earth” (Streams in the Desert, May 1)

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