The Eye  

   “Look, Beth,” called out Hattie, “it’s an eye.”          

                        “What are you seeing, an “I” like the letter for me, or an “eye” that we see out of.”  Beth looked out through the windshield of the car.  Hattie had driven them to the post office.  (Yes, Hattie went to the post office more often that she would go to Publix.)       Beth continued, “Oh, I want to be grammatically correct, eye out of which we see.”

                         Hattie felt lucky that by that time the clouds had not shifted and blown into a different pattern.        “How about an “oculus?  I read about that; it’s a hole in the ceiling of the Pantheon in Rome.”  She pointed straight ahead to a blue oval surrounded by white clouds.  “Beth, the blue is the eye, not the clouds.”

                        “Got ya.  I see it now.  So, time to think about Bible verses with ‘eye’.”

                        Hattie started with, “I keep thinking of ‘His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.’, but that’s a song.  I think that was sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford; our older readers will remember him.”

                        “Let’s get home, read the mail over lunch, and then look up verses we can use to praise.”

      *          *          *

                        “Job says that God’s eye ‘sees every precious thing.’ And, later Job says that he has heard about God but now his ‘eye sees Thee, and….I….repent.’  Imagine, seeing God!”

 

                        Beth said, “I recall, ‘…no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him.’ In I Corinthians 2, Paul quotes Isaiah”.

                       “ I think he is talking about Heaven,” Hattie said. 

                        “And there’s the ‘speck in your brother’s eye,’ and the ‘log in your own eye.’ There is so much to think about here, Hattie.  Wow!  We really need to take time to ponder and praise God.  God sees us.  We cannot even comprehend what God has for us in the future.”

                        “And, that part about finding someone’s else’s faults and not even considering our own.  That’s heavy.”

                        Beth concluded with, “We’re going to have to look up these other verses later; there

            are more than 70 just listed in this concordance.”

                        Beth headed on home, and Hattie went out on the front porch and sat in a rocker.  She thought,

 

                                                Lord I need forgiveness.  I praise You. 

 

#3 Praising Though Clouds,  French Cloud

Our daughter’s family is vacationing in Europe.  She sent a photo to David’s phone, a picture of puffy white clouds in a bright blue sky over the Loire valley in France.  That’s where so many of the 16th century chateaux are located.  The text said, “Clouds for Ellen.”  If I write about those clouds, I’ll have to write as Ellen and NOT as Hattie and Beth.  French clouds reminded me of years ago when I was in Normandy.  That area is so close to the ocean, that the clouds change every moment with the winds blowing inland from the sea.  God doesn’t change.     

Seasons change.  My roommate and I were foreign students, and we would walk to the university by way of either side of the chateau built by William of Normandy before 1066.  We watched for the last rose of summer in a neighbor’s garden.  The rose bloomed until the first week of December.  Darker skies, flying snowflakes.  God doesn’t change.

                                                                                                                                                                          Scripture tells us in James 1:17, “Every good and…perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shadow due to change.”  (…due to a shadow of turning.)  KJV and RSV     God doesn’t change.     

Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”    God doesn’t change.

                                                                                                                                                                              But, some would say, God changes His mind.  Yes, but that is not the same as changing His character.  God, Himself, does not change.   God may change His mind.  In Exodus 32:9-14, God sees the children of Israel in the desert as a “stiff-necked” people and desires His wrath to be against them, but Moses speaks to God and reminds Him of his promises to Abraham and Isaac, and “the Lord repented of the evil which (H)e thought to do to (H)is people.”  32:14. God doesn’t change.

At the end of I Samuel chapter 15, God said to Samuel that He regretted making Saul king of Israel.  Saul had disobeyed God, and God wished to give the kingdom to Saul’s neighbor, but in the end, He did not.  God doesn’t change.

In the book of Jonah, the wicked people of the city of Nineveh repented and turned to God.  The city was not destroyed (though Jonah wished God had destroyed it.)  God doesn’t change. 

And in Micah, God is so displeased with Samaria and the northern kingdom of Israel that He gives a whole list of misfortunes He will bestow upon them, but a remnant is saved, and the promise of a Messiah is given.  God doesn’t change.

So, God can change His mind, but He never changes Himself, His character.  Years ago, I heard about choosing one of the characteristics of God and making that word somewhat of a symbol for worship.  Of course, He is all-present, all-knowing, all-powerful; He is eternal, He is love, light, forgiving, merciful, a promise keeper; He is truth; God is holy, good, infinite, righteous, and sovereign; He is jealous.  Pick an attribute of God, and as you focus on that characteristic, praise Him.  I suppose, because my name means “light,” I chose Light as my special praise word.  Christ Jesus stepped out of Light of Heaven to come down to the darkness of the world, to save us and show us how to live and love.  Praise His Holy Name. 

#2  Praising Through Clouds, The Letter ‘E.’

 

            Hattie and Beth were sitting on the front porch looking at the puffy clouds in the bright blue sky.

            “Look,” said Hattie, “there’s a letter “E.”

            Beth looked and looked.

            “Well, it’s not the clouds that are the “E,” it’s the blue, and the clouds are all around the edges.  The “E” can be for you.  Isn’t your real name Elizabeth?”

            “It is.  It comes from the Hebrew for pledged to God.”

            “Hattie is Old German, and it means home leader, or ruler of the hearth.  Strange.”

            When Beth spoke again, she said, “Do you remember that song about Jesus knowing our names?  It starts, ‘I have a Maker, He formed my heart before even time began.’”

            “I know that song,” said Hattie.  “The words are by Tommy Walker.  I think it was in a promotional video for Samaritan’s Purse.  The little boy wanted Franklin Graham to remember his name.  John.  But, I’m not sure about the ‘before time began’ part.”  But, Luke 10:20 gives us reason to rejoice because our ‘names are written in Heaven.’”

            Beth grabbed her Bible and opened to Revelation.  “Look, here are four references about people’s names NOT being written in the Book of Life; they will be cast out.  So, I think that would imply that believers have their names written in the Lamb’s Book.  Revelation: 3.5; 13.8; 17.8; 20.15.  It’s the Revelation 13:8 that includes the words, ‘written before the foundation of the world….’”

            “That’s a lot to think about.  I like the part in Psalm 139 (RSV, KJV) ‘For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.’” 

            “Back to the song.  ‘He knows my name; He knows my every thought; He sees each tear that falls, And He hears me when I call.’” 

            Hattie concluded, “I believe God made me, and He knew I would believe, and He had my name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life before He created the World.” 

            “Wow!” Beth replied.

            They sat quietly for a few moments, overwhelmed. Then, Hattie spoke, “Lord, we praise you.”

           

 

Do You Know  &  Praising Through Clouds        Spring 2018,  #1 Just Desserts

 If you have been following these blogs, you know that I started last year with both.  During the winter, I wrote only the in-depth Bible questions.  Now that spring and summer are nearby, I’d like to go back and write Praising Through Clouds, again.

            If you are new to these blogs on the Central Park website, you might want to scroll down to the beginning; all of the blogs seem to be saved.  If you read the first three or so, you’ll understand how this all got started, and who Hattie and Beth are in the stories. 

            If you want to just start now, these two young ladies are Christian friends; Hattie is a bit eccentric; she’s the one who seeks pictures in the clouds. Beth is more well-grounded and keeps her on tract.  Enjoy!

*    *     *    

If you live out in the country, you go to town often.  There are a lot of clouds between here and there.  Hattie looked:  pancakes topped with meringue-tipped cream puffs a dozen of them all in a group.  Oh boy, she thought.  I know there are no Bible verses about pancakes and cream puffs.  Her first choice of help was to stop by Beth’s house on the way home.

Her best girlfriend, Beth, opened the door with one hand; in the other she held a half- eaten cupcake, some of its frosting on her lips.  “Hattie, hi.  I didn’t expect you today.  Is something wrong?”

“No.” answered Hattie, noticing Beth’s face, then entering without invitation.  “I just found some clouds with no verses.”

Beth laughed.  “No such thing, girlfriend. We’ll find some verses.”  With a worried look on her face, she sat down at the table, and Hattie joined her.

After Hattie explained the pancake and cream puffs clouds, Beth said, “You need to decide if you want this “Praising Through Clouds” to be about food or something else.  There are lots of examples of food in the Bible:  manna in the desert, and David with the shewbread, and wedding wine in Cana, there’s Ruth gathering grain, and the boy’s two little fish.”

“Have you heard the expression, a person ‘getting their just desserts’?”  Hattie looked eager to begin the Bible research.  “Let’s find Biblical people who got what they deserved.”

“OK,” said Beth, but remember YOU have to PRAISE through this.”

On the Internet, they found that a hundred years ago “just deserts,” (No, not the sandy kind.) was changed to “just desserts” to less confuse pronunciation; it does mean to get what one deserves.

The girls decided to think of Bible stories where this was true.  Beth jumped right in with her first thought.  “What about Samson and Delila?  We are told Samson’s stories in Judges    13-16.  He lost his hair, his strength, and finally his life because he went “harloting” in Gaza, and then he went to Sorek and loved the Philistine Delilah, and he lied to save himself.  When he lost his strength, he prayed, ‘Oh Lord God… strengthen me only this once, that I may be avenged.’  Then, he was given the strength to make the house fall on his enemies, but he was also killed.”

“I suppose he got what he deserved, though I think that is a bit harsh,” said Hattie.

Beth tried again. “Well then, Cain; he killed his brother.  God banished him and said in Genesis 4:11-13, that Cain was then cursed.  ‘You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.’”

Hattie spoke up, “Wait a minute.  We’re looking at this all wrong.  What about the thief on the cross.  He even said that he got what he deserved, but that Jesus had done nothing wrong.  Look here in Luke 23:41, ‘And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’”

Beth quipped, “That was unjust desserts.  Oops, sorry.”  After she stopped blushing, Beth added, “We need to worship through what Christ did for us.”

Hattie stood. She and Beth held hands, and Hattie prayed.  “We love you Lord Jesus.  Innocent.  Thank you so much for your sacrifice.  For dying for us, for taking our just desserts.  For setting us free.”

 

 

Clouds #20  The Zenith 

           This will be the last “Praising Through Clouds” for a while, (Please read, “Do You Know?”) but I wanted to write this one because the night sky was so beautiful.  As for “zenith,” I’m not even sure that is the correct word.  Maybe apex or point, or even intersection.  I didn’t even know the word “zenith” until, in high school, I read Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.   In Chapter Twelve, “The Minister’s Vigil,” paragraph two, the author describes the cloudy sky at night, as seen from the minister’s view standing on the platform of the scaffold.  “An unvaried pall of cloud muffled the whole expanse of sky from zenith to horizon.”

            A few nights ago, on one of those fringed, clear nights with the moon just a slice from full, and Orion bright and findable, (Orion is the only constellation I can find; my Dad taught me how to recognize it.) I saw two long, thin stripes of white intersecting and making a long skinny “V.” I thought of an arrow.  Even at first, I didn’t think those lines could be clouds.  My thoughts went to the Redstone Arsenal.  The next morning, I again saw several long, thin lines trailing planes in the clear blue sky, and I knew my previous evening’s thoughts were correct.  Even though not clouds, I wanted to find something in Scripture that spoke of arrows, or highest of all points. 

            Arrows wasn’t hard; first thoughts went to David and Jonathan’s signal in 1 Samuel 20:20ff.   Then, a favorite, Psalm, 127:3-5, “Children are a gift from God; blessed is the man who has his quiver full.”  Thank you, Lord, for my precious three children and four grandchildren.

            But, “zenith,” the highest point; to exalt on high.  Let’s praise through these words from the Psalms.

18:46  …exalted be the God of my salvation.

46:10  Be still and know that I am God.  I am exalted among the nations.  I am exalted in the earth.

57:5  Be exalted, O God above the heavens! Let Thy glory be over all the earth.

138:2  …Thou hast exalted above everything Thy name and Thy word.

148:13  Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.

Praise the Lord!

Clouds #19 The Reason

           “Yes, Hattie,” said Beth on the phone; she held half of her lunch sandwich in her left hand.  “But, this is Christmas time, you know, the 12 days up to January 6th.  Why are you thinking about the resurrection?”

            “This is the first rain we’ve had in weeks.  It poured all the way to church this morning.  But, when I came out from the service, there was some blue sky near the river.  There was a cloudy gray all around the edges, but in front of me it was blue, with wispy white clouds.  It made me think of the sunshine after the storm.  That made me think of the resurrection of Jesus, after His crucifixion.”

            “OK, friend, for you, that makes sense.  You have a good imagination with these praises you find in clouds. What verses did you pick from the gospels?”

            “I haven’t gotten that far, Beth,” Hattie said somewhat sadly.  “Maybe we can look up scripture verses together.”

            Beth took one more bite from her sandwich, then set it on her plate on the table.  Her Bible was at the end of the table, so she and Hattie talked on the phone and looked up verses.

            “Let’s find verses that tell us why Jesus came to earth.  I like John 10:10 b, ‘I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly’.”  KJV

            Hattie added, “Probably the most famous one is, John 14:6, ‘I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father, but by me’.  Jesus came to show us the way to the Father.”

            “In Matthew, Jesus 9:12-3, Jesus talked about coming for those who are sick, the sinners; the righteous are made righteous through His shed blood.”

            The girls decided to conclude, additionally, with Jesus as the servant.  “The son of man came...to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45.  “Worthy art Thou…who (didst) ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”  Rev. 5:9

 

Clouds #18 The Star

 

           
            “Stars aren’t clouds,” Beth said to Hattie; they sat on the front porch still chilly even though there was a nice fire in the fireplace. 

            “I know, stars aren’t clouds.  But, The Star, after all, it is Christmas time.  I want us to think about The Star of Bethlehem.”

            Beth, the more intellectual of the two girlfriends, added, “You know, Hattie, there are a lot of theories about that Star, what it was, where, when.  Some professors believe it was the alignment of Jupiter and Saturn which happens every 805 years, like in 7 B.C.  And, some think Mars conjoined in 6 B.C.”

            “It could have been a nova.  Doesn’t that mean “new?”  Hattie asked.  “Maybe God just made a new star for the occasion.” 

            “Or,” Beth added, “Zodical light which is the sun’s reflection on meteoric particles near the point of the sunset.”

            “You’re getting too scientific for me.  Where are you getting all these ideas?”* Besides,  I have my own idea, and it is a more miraculous idea than any of these.  Galatians 4:4 says, ‘But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them ….’ so I think God created THE Star ‘in the beginning’.  Father, Son and Holy Spirit created all things.” (John 1:2-3 and Col. 1:16).

            “Well, back to The Star; I’d like to think God created it when all else was created, and that He set it in such a wide orbit, that it only reached Earth’s sky “in the fullness of time,” just at the right time for the Magi to see it and follow it.”

            Beth came back in to the conversation. “Well that’s a nice idea, but I suppose we’ll never really know.  The important thing to remember and to ponder is that God is a God of miracles.”

           

Clouds #17 Christmas, Heavenly Hosts

 

            Dozens; scores!  Little, white, puffy, fluffy cloud:  cumulus, covered the sky in front of Hattie as she drove home.  It was the Christmas season.  Hattie thought she’d just have to phone her best friend Beth and tell her about the angels, the heavenly hosts, praising God and saying “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14 KJV

            Inside her house, she reached for her Bible because she wanted to be sure she got the words absolutely right.  The angels said, they did not sing.  “Hi, Beth.” Hattie sang into the phone. “You should have seen the heavenly hosts all crowded and clouded in the sky.  I’m sure that’s what they looked like to the shepherds.”

            Beth added, “And the glory of the Lord shown round about them….”’

            Hattie continued, “And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not…’.”

            “You know, Hattie,” Beth said, “I heard someone say that there are 365 “Fear nots” in the Bible, one for each day of the year.  But, at first there was just one angel, then all of a sudden, ‘there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God’.”

            When the angel came, the glory of the Lord shown in the presence of the angel and shepherds; it had to be bright,” Hattie said.  “I think the glory of the Lord is His brightness, encompassing all of his characteristics.”

            “Well, anyway, Hattie, I’m glad you thought of the heavenly hosts in the midst of all those cumulus clouds.  This is kind of a fun way to praise God.”

            “I’ll see you tomorrow,”  Hattie said, “and, Merry Christmas;” she hung up the phone.  Christmas, a time to praise.  I wonder if any of our readers are praising though clouds?

Praising Through Clouds, #16 Darkness

 

            Isaiah wrote, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great Light.”  Isa. 9:2.  

            Hattie described the dark clouds to Beth, but you’ll find that now it is really Ellen sharing.  In each of the cardinal directions the clouds layered themselves in various gloomy shades of gray.  Rectangular, flat but overlapping. Now matter which way I looked it was gray and dark and foreboding.  The world is in darkness without the Light of the World, Jesus.  There is no hope.  No matter in which direction I looked there was not even a speck of brightness.

            Lord, I’m praying for the salvation of friends and relatives, especially this Christmas season.  It would be such a gift, if they could truly believe in You.  There is a favorite painting in Keble College Chapel, Oxford.  I like it, “The Light of the World,” because I remember it as a stained glass window in the church where I grew up; I saw the likeness every Sunday.  Jesus standing at the door, knocking.  He has a lantern in His hand, but the rest of the image is shades of darkness.  He waits for someone to open the door, because there is no handle on the outside. 

            When the Holy Spirit touched me, and saved me, years ago, I felt like the inside of my being had gone from darkness to light.  No wonder I like the aspect of God as Light.  And, my name means “light.” 

            There are so many verses about Light. God created light, Gen.1:3; He lights my path,    Psalm 119: 105; nations shall come to the Light, Isa. 60:1&3; the Lord IS my Light, Mic. 7:8; Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World.”  John 8:12.

            Though the skies be foreboding, we need not fear.  Christ is our Light and our salvation. 

            “A light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.” John 1:5.  KJV

            If I may share with you just one Christmas event that remains so special to me.  We used to ask Jesus what He wanted each of us to give Him for a birthday present.  One year He impressed upon me, “Be quiet.”  Oh, good grief, I thought, I’ll have to stop talking.  I had no idea what this meant.  Late on Christmas Eve night, when everyone else had gone to bed, I went out on the porch to turn off the lights.  The decorative, white lights were shining up into the underside of the tree leaves, a beautiful sight from that angle.  It was absolutely quiet.  This is the gift, I thought.  I stood there, and I worshipped.  That was the miraculous gift.

Creation

 

            “You know that painting in the chapel where God is creating man?”  Hattie asked Beth over the phone.

            “Oh, you mean the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican?  That’s Michelangelo’s work.  It’s God and man, but their fingertips don’t quite touch.”

            “I wonder why the painter didn’t have their fingertips touch?”  Hattie knew she was getting off track.  “Well anyway, the clouds sort of looked like that.”

            Beth answered with sort of an artistic criticism.  “Hattie, that is one of the greatest works of art ever, so you should probably say ‘artist’ and not ‘painter’.”

            Hattie sobered.  “It says Genesis, ‘In the beginning God created…’  and then, later in verse 26, Moses writes, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness….’.”

            Both girls were quiet for a few seconds, then Beth added, “Hattie, this is a good time to continue with the fact that the Trinity was present at Creation.  Most people don’t even think of it.  That ‘our’ indicates at least two, but there are three.  If you look back in verse 2, the Bible says, ‘and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.’”

            Hattie cut in, to let her friend know she wasn’t all that unaware of the Trinity in Creation, “Beth, I’ll read to you from John Chapter 1 starting at verse one, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.  In him was life…..’.

            “To me,” Beth replied, “that pretty much proves that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were present and involved in Creation.”

            “It’s an awesome thought.  I hope our readers with consider this and be in awe, also.”

            “Me, too.  I’ll see you tomorrow, Hattie.  Find some more great cloud images.  Bye.”

“I don’t think you can write that word in a devotional?”

(All cloud formations used in these devotionals have actually been seen by the author.)

            Beth was shocked. Of course, she knew her best friend Hattie was a little peculiar.  “I don’t think you can write that word in a devotional,” she said to Hattie.

            “Why not?  It’s in the Bible.  At least it’s in the King James version.  And, besides, that cloud looks to me like a horizontal bowel.”

            “I’m pretty sure,” Beth replied, “that the word is not used in the sense you’re thinking about.  It means more like a “gut feeling.”

            They looked up the word on the Internet. (The Internet certainly does provide us with a lot of information.)   They were surprised to find how very many times the word was used in the Bible, but they concentrated on Philippians 2:1, which in the King James says, “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, …verse 2….fulfill my joy, that ye may be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” 

            Beth tried to solve the problem of the meaning. “The RSV translates the ‘bowels’ as  ‘affection and sympathy.’  I think,” Beth continued, “the dictionary defines bowels, as the inner most part of something.  Paul is trying to exhort believers to dig deep down inside of themselves, to find their true affections for each other.  Or, as some commentaries say, ‘seek the inward love,’ or ‘pathetic directness,’ or ‘tender emotion’.”

            “I think I’m beginning to understand,” Hattie replied.  “Some people today say what they think you want to hear, they don’t tell the truth about what they are really feeling, deep down inside.” 

            Beth continued, “Paul wanted unity.  Can you imagine what a congregation would be like if each individual truly expressed affection for each other, compassion, and love, and if they trusted Christ for everything through the leading of the Holy Spirit.  The group would really be ‘of one accord’.”

            “That would insure peace and cooperation, and would bless the church.  It would make evangelism effective.”

            “So,” Beth summarized, “we need to search deep down inside of ourselves and find our true thoughts.  And, really work at being of one accord.  That way, we can share the blessed truths of the faith with believers and others. That’s the picture Christ wants to see for His church.”

Food Facts

      Hattie and her Dad were traveling west on 565.  Hattie always enjoyed travel a bit more when her father drove, that way she could have a better look at the clouds.  She watched for a minute or so and the cloud pattern didn’t change much.

            “It’s a lobster,” she said.

            By now, her Dad was used to this hobby, so he didn’t have much to say.  She continued, “It has two claws at the top, a body, and then the big lobster tail at the bottom.  It really does look like a lobster.”  She sat quietly for a moment.  Seeing this great configuration, she wondered  where in the Bible it talked about a lobster.  She’d have to get on the Internet when she got home. 

            As soon as she got home, Hattie dialed Beth. “Come on over; bring your Bible and dictionary and thesaurus.  I have a really good cloud this time.”

            Beth joined Hattie at the desk in the den, and they studied what the Bible said about shell fish and other foods.  Hattie remembered her Dad talking about how God protected His people from eating pork which might be infested with worms, or scallops that could cause food poisoning.  And, just the other day she had read where the Pilgrim’s first meal of seafood in Plymouth* made several very sick from eating mussels. 

            Here’s what they found in their own research.   Leviticus 11:12, and Deut. 14:10 - The Bible forbade  ‘…everything in the waters that has NOT fins and scales…’  The Internet** added, lobsters are ‘the vultures of the ocean,’ the clean-up crew; they eat from the bottom.  So, don’t eat lobster. 

            But, then in Acts 10, they read of the vision that Peter had of the sheet filled with all kinds of “animals and reptiles and birds…” A voice said, “Kill and eat.”  Peter had a difficult time with that message because some of these foods were considered unclean.  Then, the voice said, “What God has cleansed, you must not call common.”  

            Beth added, “Science and farming and modern food processing have provided us with cleaner foods nowadays.  I think this illustration was to prepare Peter to witness to the Gentiles.”

            Hattie turned to Mark 7:15, where Jesus said, “There is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; ...since it enters not his heart, but his stomach and so passes on.”  (Thus, He declared all foods clean.)  But, “out of the heart of man come evil thoughts…and they defile a man.” vv.21-23.

            Hattie sat back in her chair “We’re getting away from the lobster cloud.  Do you even like lobster, Beth?” she asked. 

            “I love it …yum, with melted butter and lemon.  Doesn’t sound very healthy, though, after reading about shellfish.  I guess I’ll have to think about this ‘cloud’ of yours, Hattie.”

            “But, the point of the whole law is that God protects us.” said Hattie.

            “You’re right, Hattie.  We should be thanking God for all kinds of His protection.  In so many ways He takes care of us.  That is worthy of praise.” 

            Hattie concluded, “How about steak for tonight?  And, a big turkey dinner is coming up soon.”
 

*The Honorable Imposter by Gilbert Morris, Bethany House, Minneapolis, 1986, p. 213.                                                       **(offthegridnews.com)            

The Fields

 

            Driving around the countryside, it was intriguing for Hattie and Beth to see the cotton maturing and each day showing more and more white puffs in the fields.  Beth commented that, a couple of Christmases ago she had taken a picture of the fully ripe cotton fields and used it at the top of her Christmas letter to friends with the verse, “the fields are white for harvest.”

            Look at the sky, Beth,” said Hattie.  “It’s the cotton fields.”

            Sure enough; closely knit rows of small puffy clouds.  “It certainly does look like the cotton fields,” said Beth, leaning forward to get a good view out the windshield.  “You now, if those clouds were twice the size it would be a ‘Johnny Appleseed’ sky.”

            “What’s that?” asked Hattie.

            “It’s like a birds’ eye view of the tops of apple trees in full bloom.  Sometimes the clouds are even pinkish.  Pioneer/preacher, John Chapman walked across the mid-west planting apple seeds.  My little cousin dressed up like him for one Halloween with a pot on her head and a black Bible in her hands, and of course the burlap bag of apple seeds slung over her shoulder.  Really cute.”

            “But,” continued Beth, “let me see if I can quote the ‘white fields’ verse.  I taught it to the Mission Kids a few years ago.  “‘Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’?  I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest’.” John 4:35 ff.    

*          *          *

            Many of the Samaritans had just believed that this Jesus was the Messiah because of His conversation with the woman at the well.  She had been so excited about Christ’s revelation to her that she left her water pot and ran to tell her neighbors.  Perhaps Jesus was hoping His disciples would see that many more Samaritans, and others, were ready to hear the good news.  He goes on to say that some of His followers tell, some encourage, and some are present when the person believes.  All of those share in the joy of the person’s salvation. 

            Think back to times in your own life when you have shared, or encouraged, or discipled, or actually been the one to pray with the new believer.  Each of us has Spiritual gifts.  All are important:  evangelism, discipling, teaching, faith.  There are fields all around us in Morgan and Lawrence counties; imagine all the crops as people who have never heard the gospel message.  (And, we’ve heard it twice.)  Look around, pray for guidance, be open for opportunities, then share the good news and be blessed. 

Praising Through Clouds #9  The Race

 

            Hattie was driving home from Publix.  (You must think, by now, that Hattie goes to the grocery store much too often.)  The blue sky ahead of her was filed with small puffs of white, spaced apart from each other, almost in lines.  She wondered why they were not blopped together in to a few larger white clouds.   But, they were lined up, and in rows, like runners on a race track. 

            Running the race; little clouds blowing to the east; several verses came to Hattie’s mind. 

….lay aside the weight of sin, run the race that is set before you with perseverance, look to Jesus who has already run and pioneered and perfected the faith, who endured the cross for the joy that came afterwards. (Hattie’s paraphrase Hebrews 12:1-2.) 

….in a race all runners compete, but only one receives the prize.  So, run, in such a way, that you may obtain it.  (I Cor. 9:24) 

….forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ.  (Phil. 3:13-14)

            Before she realized it, Hattie was turning her CRV on to the dirt driveway; she felt strangely solemn.  She mindlessly unloaded the groceries because she knew, that as soon as cold items were in the refrigerator, she’d sit on the porch, and pray, and try to discover if she had been running the way God wanted her to run, or how she might need to change her course, or why was she even running at all; what was the prize?

Small

            “It’s just a wisp,” said Hattie as she and Beth headed home from town.  With blue all around it, a tiny length of almost see-through ribbon flipped itself in one curl and struggled with the wind to stay available for Hattie’s thoughts.

            Beth, who by this time knew her role in Hattie’s game of cloud Scriptures said, “What does a ribbon have to do with a Bible verse?”  Then she added, “Maybe Rahab?”

            “Well,” answered Hattie, “I wasn’t thinking of ribbon, but of small.  It’s so small compared to the other clouds, it’s wide, but thin.”  Then, she laughed, “O.K. Miss Elizabeth, can you guess what verse I’m thinking of with ‘small’?”

            “It has to be the ‘still, small voice’.”

            “Yes, of course.  Let’s find it again in First Kings 19.”  She pointed to her Bible on the seat next to Beth. 

             Beth found the page and read to herself at first.  “It says that Elijah was very discouraged and depressed, but God provided rest and food for him in the wilderness.  God told him to go to Mount Horeb.”

            Beth started again, “Here’s what Chapter 19 says, starting with verse 11, ‘And, he (God) said go forth and stand upon the mount before the Lord.  And, behold the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, …”

            Hattie interrupted, “Sounds like the weather our country’s been having recently.  I wonder if….oh well, read on.”

            Beth continued, “‘…but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.  And Elijah heard it, and wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.  And behold, there came a voice to him and …’”

            It seemed like both girls were interrupting each other because then Hattie broke in again, “You know what I hadn’t realized?  God and Elijah were having a conversation.  It continues for several verses, doesn’t it?”  Hattie paused and was quiet for a moment.  “Beth, have you ever had a conversation with God?”

            “No, not like Elijah was having with God,” Beth answered, “but some people do, I’m sure.  I think my friend Katie does.  She said, the other day, that she was laughing with God.” 

            “Whoa, we’re getting way far away from this ribbon of a cloud wisp.  But, I think we’re finding that small things count. We just have to stop our talking all the time and listen.”

            Beth was the one who concluded the conversation, “Not only be quiet and listen, but this Scripture passage tells us a lot of other important things, too, like even the most prominent people of faith get discouraged and depressed.  But, God provides; God controls the elements; God protects; and God has a plan.”

            The rest of the ride home was very quiet.

           

Praising Through Clouds: Unchanging

For once, Hattie was sitting in the passenger seat while her father drove the two of them back from Chattanooga. As they crossed the bridge over the Tennessee River, heading toward home, Hattie had the unusual opportunity to look all around her at the clouds in the sky.

In front of her were white, puffy clouds with patches of blue here and there. To the left the sky was dismally gray, and to the right the sky looked ominous and almost black.

"No matter which way we look, Dad, the sky and clouds are different!" 

Knowing the game plan, her dad asked, "Any verses come to mind?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact, the theme verse of Teen Missions is Hebrews 13:8, 'Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.'" 

"Why that verse?" asked her dad. 

"Because the sky and clouds are always changing, but God NEVER changes."

Then, Dad added, "For, I the Lord do not change." (Malachi 3:6)

"Dad, I'm so glad God does not change. We can count on Him. What was , still is, and we don't have to worry about where we stand with Him. If He changed, we'd never know how to act of pray. In Mark it says, 'Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.'" 

"That reminds me of some of the stories some Veterans have told about being prisoners at war. They never forgot the Bible verses they learned as kids."

"With all the changes around us in this world, I'm glad we can count on God and His Word."

"And speaking of changes, " said Dad, 'I'm going to change our route and drive along the river. We'll be home soon." 

 

 

Praising Through Clouds #5 Prayer

Hattie and Beth walked out of Publix with reusable cloth grocery bags on each of their arms.

            “There must be a dozen,” said Hattie, glancing up at the sky.

            Beth turned toward her with a scrunched, confused look on her face.  “A dozen what, eggs, rolls, cookies?”

            “No, clouds.  And, over there, maybe there are two dozen in all; hummm, the elders.”

            “You’ll have to explain what you’re seeing; all I see is a bunch of fluff balls,” replied Beth.

            Hattie explained “They’re praying.  See, all the separate clouds are identical; all kneeling in a line and all with bowed heads.  Maybe they’re monks.”

            “Now I see them,” replied Beth.  “They do look like they are all kneeling and praying.  Maybe it’s a church congregation.”    After a bit, she added, “We’ll have to look up some verses about prayer.”          

            They set their bags in the back of Hattie’s CRV, and climbed into the front seat.  “There is always ‘The Lord’s Prayer’.”  Beth began the process of thinking about prayer verses.

            Hattie started the engine with a puff of hot A/C rushing out of the vent.  “But, I want to find some other verses about prayer.  I know there are a ton of them, and we can probably think of enough for Ellen’s article just while we’re driving home.”

            “OK,” said Beth,  “One important one is Philippians 4:6-7; we learned this in AWANA:  pray with thanksgiving.  ‘Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’  I think we often forget about thanking God; at least I often do.”

            “That’s a wonderful verse.  I must be more thankful,”  Hattie relied.  Then, she thought of an occasion in which she had shared. “I remember in my first church, the pastor had special prayer services.  He would anoint the forehead of the sick person, and the deacons would pray for that person.  We saw some miracles.  James 5 talks about that.  ‘Is any one among you sick?  Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick man….pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous man has great power in it effects.’  How can anyone not believe in miracles?”

            After a few minutes, Hattie added, “I’m thinking back to when Jesus cleansed the Temple.  I think it is in Mark 11.  He said, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer…’ and I don’t think we pray very much in church nowadays.”  There was silence.

 

            Hattie kept her eyes on the road while they headed toward the lake.  She glanced at the sky; the twelve kneeling monks, or the 24 puffy elders, had swooshed away.  “Beth, what if God doesn’t answer our prayers the way WE think He should?  I think we may be opening some issues that need a lot more research and discussion.”                

            As they turned down the road that led to the lake, Beth added, “We mustn’t take this lightly.  Prayer is vital.  Let’s look up more verses tonight.”

            “For now,” said Hattie, “let’s get these groceries in the house.  PICNIC time! 

            “I’d like to say an extra special grace this evening.” 

           

Puncturing the Cloud

 

 

            Still in her slippers and robe, Beth picked up the phone.  At this early hour, she figured it had to be her friend Hattie.

Hattie:  Hi, guess what?  I saw a new cloud thing—a phenomena!

Beth:  Good morning, Hattie.  What did you see?

Hattie:  I was sitting on the porch and al of a sudden this jet plane came streaking across the sky, and it punctured right threw a wispy cloud; then it came out the other side.  And, the first thing I thought about was the description in Revelation about the scorpion, and then I thought about the sky being a scroll and the ocean the ink, but I think that is from a hymn not in the Bible.  And…

Beth: Whoa!  I know you’re excited, but slow down.

Hattie: Oh.  OK.  But, it sure was neat to see.  Maybe the plane was from Red Stone, but it was very high up in the sky; it left a long white trail.  Anyway, what verse can we use to praise. 

Beth:  Well, you mentioned writing in the sky.  I’m thinking of the end of the Gospel of John.  Try looking up John 21:25, “But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”

Hattie:  Wow!  Yes, I can praise Jesus that He is always more than we expect.  He takes messes and turns them into something beautiful; something we never even would have thought of.

Beth:  The Bible contains exactly what God wants us to know.  I suppose we’ll find out all the rest when we et to Heaven.

Hattie:  Thanks, girlfriend.  Today, I’m going to think about how Jesus is always bigger and better and more than we can ever imagine.  Hey, do you want to come over for coffee sit on the porch?

 

Praising Through Clouds #3 Serpents

Driving back home from town, Hattie glanced at the clouds in front of her, and with a gasp said to Beth,” Look at those two squiggly wisps of cloud.  They’re identical; they’re twin snakes.  

            Beth looked and said, “With the sun setting now, the orange is reflecting off of them.  They look fiery.  I think it’s pretty amazing to see to identical “S” shaped cloud swirls right next to each other.”  As they drove on, and as the clouds shifted in shape Beth added, “Now we have to think of Bible verses about snakes.”

            “I know, Beth, that you’re probably thinking of the Garden of Eden, but a favorite of mine is the bronze serpent which Moses held up to the people in the desert.  It’s a foreshadowing of Christ’s crucifixion and his healing power.”

            “Right.  Let me find the exact wording in Exodus,” Beth added as she grabbed her Bible from the back seat.  “No, it’s not Exodus, though the people were exiting.  It’s Numbers 21: 4-9.  It says that the people were complaining again, and God sent fiery serpents who bit the people and many died. Then, the people confessed their sin and came and asked Moses to pray that God would take the snakes away.  Moses prayed and God told him to make an image of a fiery serpent and set it up on a pole, and that everyone who was bitten, when he looked at the snake on the pole, he would live.  So, Moses did that.”

            “Look at the footnote,” Hattie added.  “That’s the best part.  John 3:14-15. The serpent on the pole was a ‘type of Christ.’ Christ was lifted up to bear the sins of many.  I know this verse by heart, ‘And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life’.”

            They drove on quietly for a while.  The orange snakes had floated away.  Dusk settled over the hills, and Hattie and Beth pondered these thoughts as the road home.

 

Author’s note:  All cloud formations presented in “Praising” have actually been seen by the author. 

 

Meet our fictional Hattie and Beth and A Triangle of Blue

 

            I want you to meet my fictional characters, Hattie and Beth, two Christian girlfriends.  Why I picked the names Hattie and Beth, I don’t know; maybe because those bring back a childhood memory.  My grandfather and my step-grandmother often stayed at our house for part of the summer.  They had two old lady friends, retired nurses, named, yes you guessed it, Hattie and Beth.  They were fun and funny.   One day Hatti gave me a quarter, a very generous gift at my young age; then Beth gave me a quarter.  Receiving a quarter became a habit with each of their visits.  Hattie was the more boisterously fun of the two friends, and Beth was the quieter one.  Other than being loud or quiet, there is absolutely nothing similar between those old ladies and these fictional Christian girls.   Now, as you read dialogues between this Hattie and this Beth, you’ll start to understand their individual personalities and how they find fun and blessing in the simplicity of looking at the clouds.

            Hattie and Beth were sitting on the back porch looking at the cloudy sky and wondering if rain would spoil their boating plans.  Gray filled most of the sky though edged with white.  “If you look over there,” Hattie directed Beth with a pointing finger, “there’s a little spot of blue.  It’s a triangle.”

            “I don’t think there are any verses in the Bible about triangles,” Beth doubted.  By this time, Beth was use to her friend’s “sightings” and enjoyed the challenge of thinking of Bible verses brought to mind by the cloud shapes.

            “No, not triangle, Trinity,” Hattie answered as she stood excitedly.

            “I hate to spoil the moment,” Beth said, “but I don’t even think there is a verse about the Trinity.”

            Hattie at back in the rocking chair, “Oh.” After a moment, her strong voice replied, there is the concept of the Trinity.  Let’s look up the verses.”

            Beth started with, “I like to show people that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all present at the creation of the universe.  If you look here in Genesis 1 verses 1 and 2 you find “God” creating, and the “Spirit” hovering.  Then, you have to go to John 1: 1-4 to find that Christ is the “Word” and the Word, Christ, was creating with God in the beginning.”

            “The concept of the Trinity, is amazing.  All working together, with different jobs to do, but unified in purpose and results.”

            “It is one of the marvelous mysteries of the faiths,” said Beth.  “We can never understand some things.”

            Hattie added.  “Remember that movie we saw last month?  The guy asked the Father and the Son and the Spirit, which one of them was really God.  And, they all answered at the same time, ‘I am’.  That was the best line in the whole story.” 

            The girls sat a few moments, quietly looking at the sky.  The blue triangle had glided into a streak was being overcome by darkness.  Then Hattie, piped up loudly, “Do you know why Trinity, Alabama is named Trinity?”

            “I suppose it is in honor of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” Beth answered.

            “Nope.”  Hattie grinned at her friend.  “It’s because the town only had three buildings at first:  a train station, a post office, and a grocery store.  So, three.  Trinity.”

They’d get together another day for boating and cloud watching….and praising.