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Israel – What Can We Do?

July 21, 2014

I was reading Psalm 89 this morning. It mentions God’s faithfulness to His covenant with David. This Psalm is a powerful description of how God holds His covenant with King David.

My heart breaks for all that is going on between Israel and Hamas. Israel is fighting for survival – it is not invading just protecting itself from this evil aggression that threatens all of civilization. Our media makes Israel out as the aggressor – it is not.

As Christians we are grafted into the Jewish family – we are deeply connected to the soul & soil of Israel. We need to be in earnest prayer for them. (See my last post.) Israel is at the very heart of God and His people.

My friend, Lydia, has suggested we read the book of Deuteronomy. A marvelous, reassuring book for these days and made me aware of some excellent organizations that are working to aid those suffering in this tragic conflict in Gaza -

a) CMJ – has begun”Operation Respite” at all their guest houses in Israel to offer shelter and relief to families (Arab and Jewish) who are being bombarded by Hamas rockets. Pray for these efforts and funds to support the loss of income at the guest houses.

b) Fellowship of Christians & Jews – This group provides relief of every kind from bomb shelters, food, medical care, humanitarian & spiritual assistance.

c) Christians United for Israel – Is having their annual Conference in Washington, DC, to promote relations between Israel and America as well as between Christians and Jews. A Night to Honor Israel will held tonight, July 21. They will contact our senators, representatives and political leaders.

We can too…call write…your representatives. They need to hear from us. Our voice can be heard. And will be in heaven!

Refugees

July 9, 2014

I have written about my oldest daughter and her family – I called them “my refugees” – living with me while their house was being repaired last year (3 weeks) and then again as the house they bought this year was/is being remodeled (8 weeks). I know they weren’t really refugees. They had a safe, dry, clean (that’s a relative term), cool (until the AC gave out of freon) place to stay. They didn’t have beds but we made do with soft pallets on the floor. They had a bathroom and a small yard of grass and beds of mulch to play in with very tolerant, pleasant neighbors. They had their family together.

However, it was a very difficult time for them – so much upheaval and uncertainty. The children were so good but the effects of the commotion and changes began to show. (I am so proud that they didn’t break one thing!) They needed their own beds and own space – as did my daughter and son-in-law. They moved out about 10 days ago. The windows no longer have finger smudges or lip prints, the rugs are clean, sheets and towels laundered, the furniture dusted…it’s quiet and orderly once again.

I am glad they had my place to come to – I hope they will remember these weeks with fun memories! With or without fun memories I am sure they will remember the chaos and dislocation.

As we went though all of that I have to think of the refugee children on our borders. The chaos, upheaval, fear, uncertainty – it must be overwhelming to a child. I wrote about some of this in my other blog at BeliefNet: http://blog.beliefnet.com/safeplacewithruthgraham/

I don’t want to get into the politics of it here…that’s not my purpose. I do appreciate my friend Glenn Beck’s going to the border with food and toys. “We’re going to fill some tractor-trailers with food, with water,” Beck said. “The churches have asked us if we could bring teddy bears and soccer balls, so we’ve loaded up a whole tractor-trailer of nothing but teddy bears and soccer balls. And then I’m going to go serve breakfast and lunch, and I’m going to help unload these trucks, hot meals for 3,000. That’s what we’re doing.” Read Matthew 25:35-40.

In my opinion that’s the right thing to do. Many also need medical screening and attention. This is a humanitarian crisis. However, we must act with discernment and wisdom. The politicians will do what they do…they are a mess. We must do what we can do – see these innocents, the true innocents, protected and helped to be reunited with their families.

If Jesus were on earth where do you think He’d be?

The Unrelateableness of God

June 30, 2014

Recently I was thinking about my relationship with God. (And I am thinking out loud here…) I confess I sometimes treat Him too casually. I find Him easier to related to than Jesus – perhaps because I have such a loving earthly father.

But anyway, I was thinking about it in contrast to what the scripture says about His awesomeness. He is awesome in His terrible power. I cannot treat Him casually. God is not my “buddy”. He does not fit into my back pocket.

God is holy. Majestic. Magnificent. In Heaven, all in His presence fall down and worship. That is some Presence! The heavenly hosts cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.” He is eternal – He is not affected or bound by time. He created all things. He has dominion over all things. Glory and honor, and power are His.

When Moses was at the burning bush God told him to take off his sandals because the very ground was holy. When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God said, “I, Myself will make My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show compassion on whom I will show compassion. But He said, you cannot see my face, for no man can see Me and live.” God told Moses that he could not see His face. God put Moses in the cleft of a rock, covered Moses with His hand as His glory passed by. Once it passed, He removed His hand and Moses could see God’s back, not His face. God was being gracious and compassionate to Moses.

We are told that God and Moses spoke “face to face” as friends. Is that a contradiction? I think not. It is referring to relationship not exhibition.

How do I relate God? There is no way I can relate. It is only through Jesus that I can have a relationship with God.

But I am intrigued that in response to Moses wanting to see God’s glory, God talks about His goodness. Jesus told the rich young ruler, “There is only One who is good…” Goodness is central to God’s character. He, indeed, would be terrifying in His power and dominion (cruel and capricious) if He were not good. The apex of His goodness is Jesus. God also told Moses that He would proclaim the name of the Lord. How important is that name! It is a name not to be trifled with or used casually. We hear so much “OMG!” today. We have no idea what we are saying…He is the King and Lord of Heaven and earth…

I was at a church meeting last year when one of the denominational leaders said “Allah ” is just another name for God. That is absolutely not true. God’s name is above all names. As is His character.

Our love for God as “father” is only possible through Christ.

This may seem a bit rambling…I am developing my thoughts…but I know God only through Jesus. I am deeply humbled that God has chosen me in His Son and grateful to Jesus for dying on the Cross for my sins. How wonderfully good is all that!

Visit with Paula Deen

June 26, 2014

Many of you may remember my blog about Paula Deen’s fall from favor last summer. I thought the attacks were highly vicious and unfair. Political correctness gone amuck. If we are all held publicly accountable for things we said 30 years ago, we’d be in sad shape. I knew at the time Paula Deen was no racist but the media decided she was and blew it all out of proportion. I was sad for her. My heart ached.

I didn’t know her and didn’t really know how to get hold of her. So, you may remember, I wrote an “open letter” to her last year. In March I went to Hilton Head and so wrote to her, presumptuously, that I’d love to drive to Savannah to meet her. No agenda, just show support and try to be an encouragement. It wasn’t possible at the time.

Last week I drove to Nashville with my daughter and her four children to visit dear friends who have moved there. It’s a long drive but the kids were so very good. My daughter was like a woman possessed! She was determined to get to Nashville in eight hours. And we did!

It was a fun trip. This is a 3 generational friendship…I have know these folks for 40+ years. I met them when I was living in Pennsylvania and expecting my oldest. The Lembrights are special to us – and well worth the 8 hour drive. Their daughter and 3 kids were visiting from California. We kept the kids busy and exhausted. One day we took all 7 kids to Franklin to eat at Maridee’s – it will never be the same! Fortunately my friend spent 30+ years as a first grade teacher so knew all about “crowd control”.

While waiting for lunch in Maridee’s I got a text from my business partner’s granddaughter who said, “Exciting news. Call me”. I planned to call after lunch. She then rang me on my phone so I took it. She told me Paula Deen was going to be in Pigeon Forge, TN to do a cooking show and she had contacted Paula Deen’s people. She mentioned my name and they said they’d love to have us come to the show on Sunday night and meet her.

Not a celebrity hound, I was a bit reluctant. But made arrangements to drive to Pigeon Forge – had to rent a car since my daughter had to drive on back to Virginia with the four children for a Monday event. (Did you know one-way rentals are outrageous. Hertz wanted $1000!! I used Enterprise for considerably less.) I was not happy with her driving alone but she is more than independent and capable. As they left, I “threatened” the kids to be good on the drive home!

I arrived in time at Pigeon Forge along with half the population of the East Coast! We were met by her delightful assistant who took us to a back room to wait for Paula – she was doing a “meet and greet” plus she is having difficulty with her eyes and needed some rest. Her Aunt Peggy came as did her good friend “Bubbles” and two very nice business associates who handle her food products. Such nice people! Sometimes the people around a celebrity can be really obnoxious. They couldn’t have been warmer or more delightful.

Paula eventually came we we had a good visit. She loves my aprons!! She is adorable and exceedingly gracious – as is her husband, Michael! She is as cute in person as she is on TV. We all fell in love with each one we met.

The show was great fun – we had a blast. And were able to meet with her after the show. Not sure where she gets her energy!

Please pray that she be able to get the rest she needs and her eyes heal – completely.

As I have said so many times, God loves to restore. And He is restoring Paula after a terrible episode in her life. With her new venture, I pray she will enjoy every success!

Paula Deen & Michael

Learn from our Mistakes

June 16, 2014

This is by a “contributing editor”, Noelle D., my daughter.
In sharing her story and mistakes she wants to help others avoid the pitfalls. She has been remarkable through this and a testament of grace.

So You Want to Remodel….
(read this first)

I was awakened at 5:15 on a Friday morning by my son saying, “Mom, there is water coming in my room.” He was right, it was raining outside and water was coming in through the window but not only in his room, but every window in the rear of the house. Before long, water was pouring through the master bedroom ceiling fan. By then, I had a bucket and was dumping it every five minutes as the water continued to pour in. By the time the rain stopped outside, all but three rooms in the house had water seeping in them. Water even trickled down the basement walls.

A week earlier, my husband, Maury, and I had hired our next-door neighbor (whom I will call John and his wife Sue) to do repairs. They told us they had a licensed and insured construction company and could replace our roof and gutters. We took him at his word and did not verify his business license or insurance. His estimate for replacing our roof was less than the other estimates. He justified this by stating he was giving us a break since we were neighbors. His estimate was $7500 (keep this number in mind).

Our neighbor began replacing our roof on a Monday. By Thursday, John and his crew were still taking the shingles off, and the forecast now called for rain late Thursday night into Friday morning. He tarped the front roof of the house but failed to tarp the back roof of the house which was exposed – no shingles or tar paper, just roof decking. The rain came. Water poured in everywhere – attic, master bath and bedroom, boys room, upstairs hallway, HVAC ductwork, kitchen, downstairs bath, living room, study, sun porch, even trickling down to the basement’s back wall.

John came over first thing that Friday morning. He apologized profusely and stated he and his insurance company would take care of the damage and make our house better than it was before. At this point my husband and I were dumbfounded and overwhelmed. We had four kids, ages 9, 6, 4, and 2 at the time and homeschooling one of them. Also, our house was on the market – one reason we decided to re-roff in the first place. What were we going to do?

Later that morning as I was downstairs, there was a loud “BOOM!” I rushed upstairs and attempted to get into the master bedroom. As pushed the door open, I realized the master bedroom ceiling had fallen (the ceiling was made of plaster), thankfully missing my husband and our four-poster bed by 3 feet, but damaging other furniture.

In the afternoon, John’s insurance came to assess the damage. The agent informed me that the insurance would accept this claim and our living expenses would be covered. However, I was not informed of my options: Could we use another contractor to make repairs? How long would this take? Should I call my homeowners insurance? It was my understanding after meeting with the insurance agent that my only option for a contractor was John. Therefore, the contractor that was negligent and caused the original damage was now the same contractor repairing the house. (Fox guarding the henhouse comes to mind.)

John said Maury and I needed to pack up the house. The rear of the house needed to be gutted due to the water damage – the attic, master bedroom and bath, boys’ room, back wall of the first floor which included a bathroom, living room and kitchen.

He stated it would take two weeks to put the house back together as he was pulling crews from other jobs, making our house his priority. We made living arrangements accordingly.

The next eight weeks (not two) were nothing but manipulation and deception, which included the police being called on two separate occasions because of fierce arguments between John and his crew. Crews were not pulled from other job sites, as there were no other job sites. Each day there were different workers at the house, who were not allowed to talk to Maury or me.

Replacing our roof took three additional weeks. What was supposed to cost us $7500 cost another $3500 due to “damaged roof decking.”

John stated that he had spent $20K on replacing our kitchen cabinets. A disagreement between he and the cabinet company ensued with the cabinet company threatening to put a lien on our home. Maury talked to the cabinet company directly and found out that the cabinets were builder grade cabinets and that he only spent $9000 on them. When John found out that Maury was going directly to the cabinet company himself to deal with this dispute, his wife Sue texted the cabinet company and told them to not tell Maury how much they spent on the cabinets.

Maury and I questioned whether permits needed to be pulled for the construction. John stated that he was working with the insurance company to get permits. The insurance company stated John should have been pulling them all along!

John pitted the insurance agent against Maury and me, often telling the agent one story about us and bemoaning the actions of the agent to us.

The final straw was when John stated he needed the final payment from the insurance company. He claimed his brother was sick in Florida and that he was going to be traveling for a week. Maury and I had grave concerns and stated we would not sign any release forms until the house was finished. John got his final payment directly from the insurance company.

He did not go to Florida to see his “sick brother.”

Finishing our house became a low priority as two weeks had passed after receiving the final payment and the repairs on our house were still not completed.

Finally, we had enough and fired John.

At this point Maury and I contacted the insurance agent, he shut us down and quit communicating. We asked if we could have documentation of John’s license. The insurance company said we could walk next door and get documentation directly from John. We never got documentation of John’s license from him or the insurance company. John was not a licensed contractor!

The next six months became an arduous process of seeking legal counsel, going to the Better Business Bureau and State Insurance Commission, documenting all the damage and repairs that had yet to be done and then getting the repairs done correctly by another contractor. Almost everything John had repaired had to be re-done — permits had to be pulled, a structural engineer had to be called, hardwood floors had to be refinished, gutters had to be replaced, kitchen cabinets reset, electrical outlets that were once grounded were no longer, kitchen plumbing that had been to code was no longer and was leaking, and the list continued on and on. It was not until the beginning of January 2014 that we finished repairs on the house.

Where were we living during all of this? Since we were told repairing the house would take two weeks, we made temporary living arrangements. Since the process was prolonged, we ended up jumping from place to place. One week at my mother’s, two and a half weeks in North Carolina (while Maury stayed behind for work), ten days in a cabin at a campground, and then another three weeks at my mother’s house. This past fall we lived in the house while the repairs were going on.

There was a period of 10 days in which we did not have a working kitchen.

Then we had to move all our furniture in the rooms that did not have wood floors so we could refinish the ones that did. We were out of the house for another week. It was not until the beginning of January 2014, almost nine months from the original water damage that the repairs to the house were completed.

In this process, Maury and I tried to keep a sense of normalcy for the children.

They did not feel secure, were anxious, and had nightmares (which just recently stopped). It did not help that during all this upheaval that our cat died. She was an older cat and the stress of the construction process proved too much!

We had to seek professional counseling for one of our sons due to his anxiety.

Others losses we incurred: We lost the Spring season for the Real Estate market as the house had to be taken off. Maury lost work days in order to help deal with the mess. Homeschooling was interrupted. We had huge financial losses – thousands of dollars in legal fees not to mention getting the house to repaired correctly.

No doubt, we learned a lot from this whole experience, and that’s what we wanted to share with you. So, if you’re thinking about remodeling your home or having any sort of major repairs done, ask yourself several questions and follow some simple rules:

1) Get 2-3 quotes for the work to be done.
2) Get references on all the contractors who gave you quotes, but pay special attention to and check those that make the ‘final cut’ and will be doing the work.
3) Ensure that your contractor is pulling the appropriate permits for any work being done on your home.
4) Ask for the contractor’s license and insurance documentation and then check on the State’s DPOR website to ensure that the license is still in force.
5) In the state of Virginia, if a dispute arises between entities in a contract, each one is responsible for their own legal fees. Therefore when writing a contract, specify that if dispute should arise, the losing party pays for the legal costs of both parties.
6) If you have damages, especially those caused by a contractor working for you, be sure to immediately contact your own insurance company and report the incident.

I hope this helps…

Should Evangelicals Condemn Homosexuals?

June 12, 2014

It seems that the issue of homosexuality has been front and center – of politics, healthcare, churches…almost everywhere.

I think it is a smokescreen meant to divide.

Especially in the Church. I saw it happen in my own local church. The issue thrown around which got everyone all riled up was “homosexuality” but that wasn’t the real issue. Since everyone was all stirred up, they couldn’t see the real issue. It was very sad but it is happening all over this country in many and varied ways.

I don’t believe the role of politics is to rewrite history or undermine traditional values. I don’t think government should be in my medical file or overrule my doctor’s educated wisdom of my care. The Churches’ main concern is for the Gospel – in all areas. The Gospel is good news for personal faith and salvation. It brings good news to politics as people are drawn together to solve problems honestly and with equity. It brings good news to health care as it leads the way in mercy.(There was no concern for the poor and infirmed before the Gospel.) But its business is not condemnation. The Gospel is good news for sinners of every stripe and shape.

“Run, John, run, the law commands

But gives me neither feet nor hands.

Far grander news the Gospel brings.

It bid me fly and gives me wings.”

John Erskine or John Bunyan

Above Our Means

June 2, 2014

I am writing at my desk as my oldest daughter is in the kitchen homeschooling 2 very reluctant children that would rather be playing outside. Their negative persistence is remarkable as is her positive patience! It illustrates for me this truth:

The world is in turmoil. (Just like my grandchildren!) That is not really new. The speed with which the world is changing is new – and can be frightening.

The US President just reversed the policy of not negotiating with terrorists, releasing 5 dangerous men; a US Marine languishes in jail in Mexico; little girls are deciding they want to be boys and parents post the story on Facebook; veterans are dying as they await medical treatment; an ambassador is brutalized and killed in the line of duty; we find it hard to believe what the government and the President say; energy and food costs are climbing, as is the jobless rate… Rather a grim picture.

But we have treasures. We have promises.

The Apostle Paul wrote in II Corinthians 1:20, “All the promises of God in him (Jesus) are yes and in him (Jesus) Amen, unto the glory of God by us…”

The Amplified Bible says it this way: “For as many as are the promises of God, they all find their Yes (answer) in Him (Christ). For this reason we also utter the Amen (so be it) to God through Him – that is His Person and by His agency – to the glory of God.”

Ponder that a bit. All the promises – as many as there are. How many is that?

All the promises are answered affirmatively in Jesus.

We have the opportunity to put those promises into operation in our lives to the glory of God and His purposes. As we cooperate with Christ and God’s promises a whole treasure trove opens to us!

Think of the many promises of grace, peace, mercy, rest, strength, encouragement, forgiveness, protection, supply…you name it. It is all found in Jesus affirmatively. Not for our pleasure or ease but for the glory of God – the whole reason we are here on earth.

As we claim and operate in those promises we enter into a realm of God’s glory. A purpose far greater than anything known here on earth. We have the opportunity to walk in the heavenlies with saints and angels even while living out our lives here on earth in the midst of the turmoil. (Just like my daughter.) Talk about living above your means!

We don’t have in ourselves the means for peace, joy, grace, forgiveness, rest, strength, mercy, protection, encouragement, protection, supply…we’re bankrupt. He isn’t. He gives all we need for free!

My daughter is able to teach with patience and good humor because she goes to the treasury of God’s promises in the Person of Jesus and claims liberally all that He offers for her for practical everyday living.

It’s all available for you, too.

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