"The most important of life's battles is the one we fight daily in the silent chambers of the soul."

Monday, December 05, 2016

Rib

Why did God make the woman from man's rib? Not from the heelbone to trounce her down nor the head. The rib like Christ's side was pierced to create the church. Woman always next to the man's side and with his loving arm around her. Under the arm to be protected and next to the heart to be loved.


Genesis Chp 2:

18 The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23 The man said,

"This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man."

24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

The word rib....means in Hebrew means side. It is a feminine noun.
 
 
It also translates into: boards, chambers, hillside, leaves, one...another, rib, ribs, side, side chamber, side chambers, sides, walls

The Hebrew word is Tsalah.

Rib also means curved. As a woman's body has significantly more curves than a man. God made her to be curvy. This is just one of the many perfections of His creation.

1 Kings Chp 6: vs.5 and 6 refers to enclosing God's holy temple like ribs. Showing a woman's strength standing together with other women for God. They stand side by side enclosing and protecting God's Holy Temple. Just as a rib, woman, brought forth the Messiah...carrying him in her womb. Protected Him as He developed. Mary now carried God's Holy Temple inside her.

1 Kings Chp 6: vs 15 refers to ribs of cedar or fir in the Temple Walls. Cedar and Fir is the very best building material they can find back then and still is. It's know for its sturdiness and durabilty. Just as ribs are know to be tough and hard to break. You can break a rib, but they heal up fairly well compared to other bones and will be tougher next time. Just the same as a rib, or Godly woman is. The cedar was used for the wall and the fir for the floor with planks. Cedar ribs were used for the walls because cedar is highly rot resistant since it contains natural preservatives and resistant to pest. Cedar will resist shrinkage more than other lumber varieties. Cedar is also resistant to warping and twisting and responds well to high humidity. Cedar has a pleasant aroma and attractive appearance.

So God's temple walls were made of cedar. A Godly woman, rib, has all those characteristics....of being resistant to age and wear if she lives a proper lifestyle, and this comes naturally to her. It's in  her true nature. Her nature helps her resist the pest of this world that try to steal her joy. She resists warping and twisting when the elements of this life blow against her. Lastly, this toughness doesn't make her less pleasant to be around or less attractive. Just like cedar ribs she has an air about her, of kindness and gentleness that people want to be around. And she like cedar is beautiful to behold, especially to man. He's amazed that something so stunning can stand so tall and not move by the things of this world. A Godly man is in awe at the help mate God has brought to him.

The curves and flexibility of a woman are more than a man. God made rib, woman, this way to bend and dodge the darts of this world. To help protect her help mate.

Just like ribs protect the internal organs. The ribs help protect the most important one, the man's heart. But its not just one rib but several. A man has several Godly women that protect his heart. Grandmothers, sisters, daughters, mother and the wife...God made them to work together to make up the ribcage. One by themselves does little good. But together the ribcage, the Godly women network as I like to call it, does so much more. It provides vital support as part of the skeleton and, simply put, breathing wouldn’t be possible without it. All this means is that the ribcage has to be flexible to allow for the miracle of breathing.

So, without you, rib, man could not breathe. Gives new meaning to a woman taking a man's breath away. Cause breathing, the very act, wouldn't be possible without her. A woman's love supports this network.

Her act of prayers strengthens the man. And the prayers are like calcium to the ribcage, strengthening it.  Allowing him to grow stronger while protecting him.

Fir ribs were used for the Temple floors cause of its stiffness and strength. Used alot for bridges and railroad ties. It can withstand high winds or earthquakes. The stiffness quality makes it good for flooring. Wow! God sure knows what He's doing. A Godly woman is a foundation that can be stepped on, stomped on, and ran on, but will not break. These women are the ones all newer Godly women stand on cause they came first and the rest were built upon them. These fir rib women can hold up the heaviest weight like childbearing or caring for an elderly parent or a sick child. And the high winds and earthquakes of this world will not and cannot shake their faith. But they must stand together to protect the man's heart they all love....son, father, brother,...husband. Without them he can not accomplish God's purpose...they must work together.

Lastly,...1 Kings 6:34...She is used as the columns of the door and the hinges of the door. The ribs of cedar held up the door space to enter in. Just as the rib, woman, is the passage through which we all pass through into this life

1 Corithians Chp 11

vs 9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.

vs 11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.

vs 12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.

She, the rib, is how we come here. But all this is God's doing. He made it this way to teach us about true Godly love for each other.

The woman, rib, is also referred to as the leaf...the part of the door, the hinges...that controls who enters and who doesn't. Or the ease at which one enters a room or space. A Godly woman protects the man's heart and who enters into it. She is the gatekeeper. She only allows those who truly love him, like her, to come near the vital heart lest they stop it from beating. So being a rib, at his side, under his arm, she has special access to his heart and his lungs. She can keep it beating and breathing, being his air and beat, or she can choose to be un Godly with her words and actions. Thus, shaking his faith and killing the heart and smothering the lungs like a broken rib that didn't do its job and pierced the heart or lung causing its collapse or dysfunction. Killing him, whom trusted her.

But if she holds up. He will protect her with his muscular girdle of his torso. The muscles he builds will protect her. He will use his powerful arms to fight the enemy and still use them to caress her when she's hurt. Cause she is now bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh.

Ephesian 5

25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:

30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

He will protect the ribs, that protect his heart. He will all his muscles, strength, and agility to protect her. And she protect who enters his heart....cause....ribs also means chamber or cells.

Chambers, means a private room, where we go to sleep, pray, or make love. It's a private space away from everyone and everything. Not just anyone can enter in. Just like the temple had a private chamber. Only certain priest, who were totally trustworthy, who loved and obeyed God above everything were allowed to enter in. They had to be cleansed and proved to God this, otherwise the chamber could become defiled, just as the heart can become and thus die. So it was to be protected cause of the importance of this. A woman, a rib, enter into the man's private chamber, his heart, with hopefully good intentions...to be alone with him as his wife to share love together and rest in each others arms as protectors of each other. A love relationship is born and nourished here. And from this love children are born. Walking, talking embodiments of the love that came from that chamber. Love in the flesh of both. One flesh coming from two. And they enter the chamber they share to mulitply the love neverending. God dwells in this inner chamber as they pray together.

But if the rib allows a stranger in...the love dies and so does it all.

Proverbs 4 NIV

23 Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.

And what leaves out of that chamber of the heart, the rib protects is the blood that flows to every vital part of the body. The children flow out into the community and either magnify the love expressed in that inner chamber or the hate and anger that stops a heart.

So ribs must guard the heart....for the children that flow out from it are the result of this.

So be fruitful and multiply not just children but love. Be fruitful and multiply love. God's love that flows thru their little beating hearts. For everytime a child sings Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World. A rib, a woman, taught them that. Love put to music, flowing out from a heart, protected by ribs, that started it all beating.

The area in the center of the ribs is made up of bone marrow, which produces new red blood cells. Just as the woman, the rib, produces children that flow out into the world. Making life sustaining blood. Making life, itself, sustainable. God is the sternum, the center of the ribs, upon which the ribcage is built. Each Godly woman, connected to the Source, to create the structure upon which the protection and lifegiver is built. The love of the heart and rib form the body but God, the giver of life, the creater of the blood, give the baby Life. Otherwise, its just stillborn.

During exhalation ribs downward motion aids in expelling air from the lungs. Thus, getting rid of the bad air. So ribs together help remove the bad stuff. Women, ribs, who love their family remove the bad stuff. The stuff that can hurt the heart. Breathing in the smoke of this world so suffocate you. So the ribs help you cough to remove the smoke before it harms you. It may seem painful and unpleasant to you, but its for your own good. How many mother ribs have said that to a child before spanking them? But its true. The rib is trying to protect it before it gets in the bloodstream, the child's heart. For the more smoke breathed, even over time, it wears the ribs down. So, children, be kind to your mother rib. And it will be kind to you.

A rib is also referred to as a curved arch. Arches are uniquiely shaped for support. Without arches, ribs, the catherdrals of Europe could not have been built.The Aorta, arches, like a rib, and is the largest artery in the body. It's unique structure allows it to give off branches that go to the head and neck, the arms, the major organs in the chest and abdomen, and the legs. It serves to supply them all with oxygenated blood. The aorta is the central conduit from the heart to the body. Thus, relieving the heart of some of the gravity loads of moving blood. The rib, arch design, relieves the heart of the a burden by its shape, just as a woman compliments a man by her shape. They entwine perfectly when joined together. My hand fits perfectly in yours quote so to speak. Reliefing his heart of the stress of the day when he sees her, his rib, his help mate.

So, the rib, the woman, the women, are protectors of the man's heart. Life sustainers...givers of life flowing out from God. And he in return protects the one with his muscular frame and shape. In a relationship, that only God could design, right down to the minute characteristics of the wonderful woman....the rib of man and the complementary completion of man to be made whole.

Proverbs 31

10 A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.

 

 

 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Teardrops of the Summer Rain

Some people feel the rain, others just get wet.

The summer rays heat my skin causing a feeling of just dry. The dust blows at me as I try to finish the last of the fields mowing.
The tractor's pto bogs down under the weight of the thick grass. I push on feeling the wind picking up cooling my face. I lick the
sweat off my lips....muscles ache as I try to hold on over ridges and gullies. "Oof!" She drops down a sharp drop off shaking my teeth.
Summer rain is coming. I hear the rumble in the distance drawing closer. My hair stands on end from the static electricity.
Gray clouds darken the sky.....taking almost macabe shapes. Going from grey to black...lightening flashes in its arcaic way
across the sky...touching cloud to cloud. I push on. How many times have I been? Trying to outrun the summer rain.
I stop. Getting off the tractor the downpour begins. Drops of cool water rivulets run down my skin. Refreshing me of the heat. I raise
my face to feel it washing the dust from my eyes. I stick out my toungue to taste fresh taste of rainwater God has provided.
I turn my hands palms up to feel the droplets massage the pain of work from my hands.
But mostly I sense the water run down my cheeks. Can't tell if its rain or my tears. Noone can see u crying they say when its
raining. I try to remember who I once was as a carefree youth and who I have become as jaded adult. So jaded that I feel
all who come into contact with me, I cut. What I become? I've cried these tears in moments of joy and in moments of great pain.
I cried them at my birth, and will cry them at my death. But now they are enveloped in a collage of teardrops. These rainwaters
at one time were part of the oceans but, also teardrops of someone who once lived. Someone who felt the same emotions I feel
right now. So it would seem the tears of the ages fall with this summer rain. But it does little to silence thunderings of
my hurting heart. Love they say heals this pain. The love of a woman, the love of a child, the love of a parent...but ultimately
they all go away in the end. Leaving you standing alone searching the skies for answers.
I remove my soaked t-shirt to wipe my face. The smell of the summer rain leaves a fresh odor to the air.

 Then I hear it...the birds calling. Calling out sounds of happiness. For they are
receiving what they need.And I remember the verse from Matthew 10:31...."So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."
I know I needed to be reminded of that.
But I am afraid. Afraid that I can't love. That I've forgotten how. I pick a pink flower from the bush. Each bulb has opened
to take in the life the summer rain brings. The white center is surrounded by a darker pink giving it a kalidescope look. Turning
the blossom I just picked, I notice the colors moving in and out as I spin it. How beautiful! No man could ever make something
this exquisite and unique. One of a kind in its loveliness. How I wish that I could love and unclench my fist. To let the blossom
bulb of my heart be opened. The summer rain opened the pedals but alas, the tears of my jaded heart fall to the ground of
bitterness and stay.
"God, my prayer is that one day you will let loose all the tears I have for the one I will love. So it becomes a downpour so strong
that the blooms of love can once again be seen by all. Until that day, Father, save them in your bottles of rememberance. Amen."
by

Lance Gargus

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Summer Is Now Past, Autumn Has Begun

thou hast made summer and winter.
Psalm 74:17

"Trees have their seasons at certain times of the year when they bring forth fruit; but a Christian is for all seasons."
Ralph Brownrig

                                                   Summer is now past, Autumn has begun,



And our thoughts switch to winter,



with its joy of winter fun.







But as Autumn has fallen, so have many of the leaves,



Their myriad colors gorging the ground,



dressing the landscape, protecting the trees.







The frost in the air, the crisp nip in the breeze,



even tho' the golden rod may cause an occasional sneeze!







We soon forget Summer, with Autumn's promise it brings;



It promises winter, hints of Summer flowers and Spring.







The nut trees are full laden with their fruit, the brown quail utters her call.



The tree squirrel chases his mate, all of nature in unison proclaim,"it's fall."







Thanksgiving is nigh,



the Harvest moon is high.







The horn 'o' plenty is full of earth store,



The pure joy of living,



to celebrate a day of Thanksgiving.



Twould be selfish to ask anything more.



by



James Gargus, My Father

Thursday, September 15, 2016

God Save Me From Myself

Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul.
Psalm 69:1

God,
Save me from myself. My life is filled with big mistakes and big regrets. I'm shaking inside like an Autumn leaf. So scared I'm about to fall.
My choices, my decisions, and my consequences. I seek the pathways of Earthly wisdom ahead of you. Seeking truth in all places but your Word.
A hypocrit I am. That is putting it mildly. That doesn't even scratch the surface of who I have become.

I become so angry and take delight in seeing someone who has hurt me fall. That one that fell is hurting. I just can't see it with my eyes.

Help me, I'm only human.

It's so hard to love those who hurt me.

Why is it when I try to help, I make things worse?

This cross is weighing on me. It's breaking me underneath its load. Lord, even You needed someone to help You carry yours. How much weaker than I, than you? I'm just flesh and blood. Frail in my nature and my being. You are divine and strong in Your nature.

You send minstering angels at times with encouraging words like you did for Your Son. Oh, God, help my unbelief. Help me in doubting their words. Strengthen my weak faith.

Strenthen me to endure all suffering and give me the ability to praise You in it. Your Son did your will, I know but He felt our pain. He begged to let this cup to pass if you would, but He would drink of it, if it was Your will. Sweet heaven, give me that willingness.

I don't know if I can face these hardships. They are of my own making. I have to make amends of where I failed.

Lord, lift this burden from my heart. My enemies take delight in my suffering. Don't make my heart be calloused to take delight in theirs. But let it break for them.

If all this must come to pass, God hold me and calm me as the storm and the winds howl. Give me peace in the midst and hold me close. Most of all, save me from myself.

In Your Son's name, who sacrificed all he had for someone such as me,

Amen.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Man Who Points The Finger

4 “Don’t point your finger at someone else and try to pass the blame! My complaint is with you.                                    
Hosea 4:4

The man who points the finger

must be considered dumb,

while he's pointing with his finger

its back-firing through his thumb.


Would you kick your fallen brother

while he is lying there?

judgement is passed upon you,

while your foot is in the air.


Dare we to judge another simply

by the color of their skin?

Dare we wage war of prejudice

in a battle which no one wins?


Was there ever a man so mentally and physically strong,

who will not forgive and forget a real or imagined wrong?

Who will not from this position move nor budge,

when no one shoulders or heart can endure a prolonged grudge?


I have met so many people,

but I have yet to see,

any of those people

that are better off than me.


Before you wrongly judge me,

that I'm enlarged with pride,

I'm happy to inform you

that I have Jesus on my side.


A cold cup of water,

a piece of cold bread

offered in Jesus blessed name,

is very little to give

but do this and live,

much better than in luxury, wealth, and fame.


As we go passing by with our head held high

Do we consider the beggar on the street?

Perhaps because of shabby, ragged clothes

walk on by looking down our nose,

never seeing the poor beggar has no feet.

by
James Gargus

Take that finger you point at others....and simply raise it up. Point to the sky. Point to the One who gives all us imperfect creatures Hope. Don't point at others to condemn...point to the only Hope we have. Point to Life...instead of Death. The life you might save...maybe your own.

"The fingers of your thoughts are molding your face ceaselessly."
Charles Reznikoff


Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking
Isaiah 58:9

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Music Plays


The music plays as I watch them dance. My three year old son enjoys dancing round and round, and side to side with his mother. He giggles and laughs as she spins him. His world in that time and moment is her. Nothing can touch him, nothing can break the bond. Something inside me knows why he's so fascinated with her. It's a little thing that you can't quite put your finger on.
I run to the next room to capture the small moment on film. Unknowingly capturing it with my heart, until I reflect upon the day's events.
Why is it that God has to send the storms into my life before I notice the important things?
I fight against His will like a horse that refuses to be broken. Only when I'm lying face down looking up do I truly see Him. I truly see my blessings through the looking glass of God. Moments that become memories. Small reflections of God's tender love in a often unforgiving world.
My ambitions, my dreams of who I wanted to be could have turned out a thousand different ways. The sad thing is, I wanted it to be my goals not His. I thought true happiness meant finding what I wanted. Little do I understand that true happiness is finding out what He wants. His plans and my plans don't always come together.
Learning to let go of what I want and seek what He wants is ongoing project in my life. It's lead me to some interesting and not always pleasant places. In fact, its lead me to the point where I try to run. He refuses to let me go.
"God, why have You put me in this valley?" comes the questions in my thoughts, "Wasn't I meant for something more? Others seems to walk on air, with no hint of turbulence. Why not me?"
I'm looking at my surroundings and not looking at Him.
God sends the Comforter. He says," The music has started." I say,"I'm scared." He extends His hand for me to take it. I look at the world swirling around me. Voices flood my mind with promises and hopes of a better life, if I just take their hand. Their way seems so easy. He says again,"The song will end soon. And we won't get to dance." I take their hand. As long as the tempo is high, they hold me close. Giving me everything that I want and desire. But like all songs the tempo eventually slows. I find myself with noone to hold my hand. I spin out of control across the dance floor with noone to take the lead. Oh, what a fool I have been. Noone will want me now. A hand reaches for me. A hand as gentle as my mother's was back then. It grasps mine and pulls me near. "I saved this song for you," comes the Voice. Just like my mother saved a special song for her and I to dance to when I was little, as my wife does now with my son, the Holy Spirit takes my hand to draw me back into a dance with Him.
That boy of mine looks at his mother with all the adoration in the world. He refuses to take his eyes off her. Matching and mimicking every step she takes with all his might. It's not work to him or drudgery. It's joy unspeakable to him. I was that way once, at his age, with my mother.
Great Guardian of all who trust in You. Help me to find that trusting little boy buried deep inside. The child who longs to hear that special song meant for him.
Amen.

by
Lance Gargus

Monday, July 18, 2016

Shy Girl

For thou art my hope, O Lord GOD: thou art my trust from my youth.


Psalm 71:5


The shell must break before the bird can fly. - Tennyson





She stands where I once stood,


Doing the very best she could.


At times it seems like she doesn't stand a chance,


Never given a second glance.





Always chosen last when game time arrives,


Never sure if she will be let to thrive.


Alone she stands on the playground,


No friends to play with can be found.





Each time I look at her I remember long ago,


There was this boy I use to know.


Something about her reminds me of him,


Could it be all the little things I did back then?





As she chews on fingers, standing to the side,


So afraid to be noticed she runs and hides.


Into her shell shy girl retreats,


Terrified of others that she meets.





So much wanting to help her overcome all,


I continuously beat my head against the wall.


My stomach in knots when she stands up to play,


She ignores the ball and looks the other way.





Oh, how I wish I could help her become outgoing like me,


But God I've forgotten the boy I used to be.


Those frightening moments I didn't know what to do,


As my coach would yell,"Wake up, you!"





The old pain stirs and beats against the scar,


Have I really come that far?


The girl out there standing on the basketball court was once me,


Dear God, why do you make me see?





With a lump in my throat and tears swelling in my eyes,


I cringe each time that she tries.


My heart pounding as my nerves jump,


God let this be just for her a temporary bump.





For each parent sees a part of them in each child,


Even the weaknesses we've all compiled.


But sweet Father this is my curse,


Don't let my faults make her life worse.





She loves you so much and her heart is so pure,


God help me, to help her, not feel so insecure.


Help me with the feeble words that I speak,


Christ build in her the confidence for which I seek.


by


Lance Gargus

Thursday, July 07, 2016

For You, Son, I'm Praying




Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.
Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.
And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border.

Jeremiah 31:16, 17

I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me.
Abraham Lincoln

"For you, son, I'm praying." I didn't have time for those words. At the age of 17, I was wild and wanted to do my own thing. So I hit the bottle and did my own thing. "I'll do what I dang well please," I thought to myself. I had a car, and I had a job. My senior year in high school had come and the weekend was mine. Driving fast and being wreckless with my car and my life. Burning down life's highway at full throttle with everything zooming by me. The more she tried to get through to me, the more I resisted. So Mama spent her nights burning a candle on her knees for her wayward son.

One night I came in half sober. Trying to sneak in and hide it from her. Stumbling in as quietly as I could I saw her light on. Mama was softly talking, kneeling beside her bed. Tears fell from her face to her folded hands. As I listened, she and Jesus talked it over. I knew right at that moment my restless days were coming to an end.

Mama prayed so many countless nights for God to watch over me throughout the years. Her bed left with the imprint of her elbows on it.

Even though she's just barely over 5 foot tall, her prayers carried the weight of a giant. When she prayed good things happened and life's were changed. Always in the back of my mind was her voice praying. Whereever I traveled, whatever I did, God carried that prayer to pull at or reassure my heart. As I stepped on her heart strings with grief, she played back the melody of a Mother's prayer.

It seems the fervent prayers of a Mama can crumble mountains big and small. God has a special fondness for Mama's tender prayers of love, I believe. You see, He had a Mama, too.
by
Lance Gargus

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Little Girl And Her Father Were Crossing A Bridge



Little girl and her father were crossing a bridge.





The father was kind of scared so he asked his little daughter,"Sweetheart, please hold my hand so that you don't fall into the river.





"The little girl said, "No, Dad. You hold my hand."





"What's the difference?" Asked the puzzled father.





"There's a big difference," replied the little girl."





If I hold your hand and something happens to me,chances are that I may let your hand go.





But if you hold my hand, I know for sure that no matter what happens,you will never let my hand go."





In any relationship, the essence of trust is not in its bind, but in its bond.





So hold the hand of the person who loves you rather than expecting them to hold yours... This message is too short......but carries a lot of feelings.


How many times have I held my little girls hands? From the moment I first held her, to the times we cross the street, to moments when she is afraid or sad.

In this small moments in time, I realize the importance and responsiblity that God has placed on me.

Yet, I wouldn't trade it all for nothing.

I find myself wanting to hold her a little longer the older she gets.

As if I can hold back time, in my small way I try to make the memory last.

I just want to feel her small hand in mine a little while longer.

So much love is transferred in that hand.

The look of reassurance on her face is so nice.

All too soon a beautiful young lady will be standing in front of me.

Thank you God for memories.

In my heart, I will always be holding her hand.

by

Lance Gargus

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Axe

Ecclesiastes 10:10       
         
If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success.

Click. Click. Darkness comes. I make my way down the long hallway that I have walked a million times as a child. Making sure all the
lights are off and everyone is safe. It's a routine I seen my dad do alot growing up in this house. Everywhere I look I see
him. When I look in the mirror, I see him. Now. .I am him.
Ghost and shadows peek out at me from every crevice and crack. No where that I turn, do I not see a memory. And as I dig through
and try to put the house in order. I busily hang up my work uniforms from the dryer. And I tear up. So much loss, so much
pain, so much emptiness lies between these walls. I've come home. But not exactly in the way I would have liked. My ex and I try to
reconcile the hurt and bitterness. But we do it from a distance. Me in my camp, and she in hers. No shortage of advice from
friends and coworkers. Ready and willing to advise. Kind of like coming to a person's aid when the house has already burned
down with a bucket of water. Kind of pointless.
We talk.. we disagree...we remember...we search for that old feeling. We walk and look at the moon. "Pretty night." I agree.
We kiss, exchange pleasantries. We say I love you. And then she goes back to her camp.
I stay up, going outside by moonlight. I hear the sounds of whippoorwills calling to each other traveling over the hills. And I look at the old tree in the front yard. It is a nice night. The moonbeams show the
part of the tree that's alive and the part that is dead.
"Lightning struck part of the tree and killed it," Mom said from earlier. I had kissed everyone good night after checking
around the house. So they were all asleep. I had went outside and stood there looking at the massive pen oak. "Dad, had
planted that tree 40 years ago," Mom had chimed in. "No saving it. It's lived its usefulness."
I glance up at the tall structure with its branches spread out covering the night sky. One half was covered in leaves. The
other side was lifeless, not a single sprout of green on it. Yet, it stood like this. What a odd looking form this was.
You know my life had been like this tree. Starting out as a tiny point...and sprouting in so many different directions.
Reaching for the warmth of the life giving sun. And growing deep roots to absorb the water from the rains. My roots run deep
in this same soil. And I reached for the Son in the many different directions of my life. And I left a track record by the
twists and turns of my own branches.
But like this tree...I wasn't gonna get out of here unscarred. My hands were scarred from years of work and worry. And my arms
and legs from so many fights with working the soil around the old home place here. But my heart was the one thing that had been
struck by lightning and was burned to the center. No longer experiencing the joys I felt as a carefree youth. No I came back
home to find myself...to find my heart. I no longer recognize myself in the smiling pictures anymore. I only feel a sense of loss.
I look upon the fleeting childhood of my children in the pictures arranged on the wall. And I watch my mother sleeping...
the lady who once carried me...so strong...was now feeble and frail. I look to the one I've always loved drive away and wonder...how
do we find our way back home? back to us...
...  we try to, "work this out" as its come to
be called.
I take my axe and give my emotions a physical manifestation. "God.. I will not loose one more living thing here. I will save
this tree. So...I swing it with all my might. Not letting the detriment of a lousy old chainsaw  stop me. No if it won't
work...I'll do this the hard way...the only way I know how. Bit by bit. Whack! The axe head chops out a piece. Its like being
stopped suddenly it in a car. The abruptness of a sudden stop to something really shakes the body. But it felt good. Good to
see progress. Whack. Whack. Whack. Making my way around the dead trunk. She had split into three trunks. Eyeballing to the side
I see the burn of the lightning mark. My hands hurt...cut after cut...I made my way around. I push my hair out of my eyes as
the sweat burns them.
Crack! Almost there...oof oof...goes thru my mind as I take my long arms back to strike it a few more times. My muscles burn
from exhaustion.
Whack! Crackkkkkkk.....Thump. Its down. I feel my heart stop for a minute. In that moment..my heart dropped...a dead a piece of
it. How many more vines and dead tree parts must I eliminate to save this place? And how much more hurt and bitterness
must I overcome to get my heart to beat again?...only time will tell.
But I know this. I can't fail. As I recall  my dream from many years ago....I recount the vast number of countless faces that would come from my
lineage. I take a deep breath and let loose a deep sigh. I say to myself," Not tonight. Not tonight. Tonight...I will push back the darkness. I will cut the veil. I will see
what is on the other side. And as I had looked into my children's eyes...I saw the generations yet to come.
And they will know that I suffered like they will, I lost like they will, I hurt like they will, I experienced pain like they will,
I wept like they will...and I got lost in the dark like they will. But that I took the darkness and pierced it with an instrument shaped...
shaped like a cross. And though I missed the mark alot. The One who went before me had already pierced the darkness and the tree with
just his hands and feet, too. Amen."
by
Lance Gargus
"A dull axe never loves grindstones, but a keen workman does; and he puts his tool on them in order that it may be sharp. And men do not like grinding; but they are dull for the purposes which God designs to work out with them, and therefore He is grinding them."

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Living Golden Rule




My father taught me many things, but at the top of the list he taught me to treat people with respect...to live the Golden Rule. "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise," as in Luke 6:31. Sometimes the best examples are lived.




I remember one particular instance of him teaching this "life lesson" as if it were yesterday. Dad was always involved in politics and knew many influential people in town. He never ran for office but he was very active in civic affairs. They would stop him if they saw him out and talk for what seemed hours on end as I stood there.




This particular day we stopped at the store, and this fellow came up dressed in tattered clothes. His hair was unkempt, not to mention the scraggly beard on his face. I thought,"What a character this guy must be!" Strangely my father recognized him. "Surely, this must be somebody Dad knows from ministering," was my conclusion, since he was after all an elder in the church. Dad greeted him as if he were the most important person he ever met. He gave a firm handshake and proceeded to talk to him about his son who had been in a car accident the month before. He empathized, he asked questions, he listened, and he listened some more. I kept looking at the clock, and when the man finally left, I asked,"Dad, why did you spend so much time with him? He's nobody important." Dad then looked me, then shook his head,"Son, let's talk."




He said,"If you don't remember anything else I tell you, remember this. Treat others the way you would want to be treated." He said,"I know this isn't the first time you have heard it, but I want you to truly understand it, because if you had understood, you never would have said what you said." We sat there on that bench in front of the store and talked about the deeper meaning of the Golden Rule. To me, I shall never find in my lifetime, a truer example of the Living Golden Rule than he in my life.




I recently heard someone say, "If you teach your child the Golden Rule, you will have left them an estate of incalculable value." Truer words were never spoken.


by


Lance Gargus

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Orchard of Love


But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
Galatians 5:22

Dark clouds roll in from the north, darkening the orchard. Winds start picking up, cooling my face. I've spent several weeks getting the fruit trees back in good health. The last one sits at the edge of the orchard by itself. This one is the most neglected. The vines have completely overtaken it and choked it off. Branches are broken from the weight of the invader vines, preventing very little leaves from growing. What once was an abundant, fruit bearing tree has now become a mass of twisted vines...the poor tree has a deep root system that had grown way before it was taken over, allowing it to hold on awhile longer.

I remember the days of Springs past, when Dad and I would gather buckets of fruit, pears to be exact. That old tree would bear two or three times a year. The tops of the buckets would be overflowing. Buckets so heavy, that I had to drag them alot of times to the kitchen door. Where Mom would be waiting, waiting to make them into my favorite treat, pear preserves. Many a cold, winter I was glad to have done the hard work so I could enjoy, the fruits of my labor, snicker....as I would chuckle to myself.

But time had taken away from me tending to the fruit trees. Neglect and forgetting had caused them to be overtaken. Since my divorce I had moved back to the old home place to take care of my mother. Between the fix this and repair that, I made my way to the orchard. Saving what I could, and discarding the others. This one was going to be the most difficult to save. And time was running short.

I took the pruners and the saw, starting to work on the lower branches and working my way up. Ripping and tearing at vines. Grabbing big handfuls of vines wrapped around tree branches. Taking branch and all down sometimes. The sky had darkened alot...but gave a cool relief from the hot sun. Still early spring I had hoped there was still time to save it. The breeze whipped the branches around as I tried to get a hold of each one.

Then, she came, walking up. Coming by to see the children as she does after work, until her time to take them comes. She yelled, "Need any help." "Be nice." So she proceeded to rip and tear at the vines, unraveling them from the branches they were smothering. I said,"You know, this tree is like a person's heart. Left alone to be neglected and forgotten the vines of this world take root. Blend into the tree so it doesn't notice it. Making it jaded and grotestique looking till its no longer recognizable." And I grabbed a vine, pulling the roots out. Throwing each one out into the field, as the wind blowed my hair around, I seen her listening, not speaking, just listening. "So, we have to take out the roots to make sure the vines don't come back. Just, as the heart, has to take out the vines that were choking it off of its supply of love."

Seeing our efforts weren't solving the problem...I started pruning limbs back. Dead limbs that were killing the tree, and some limbs that were so weighed down with so many vines, there was no way to save them. Snip. Snap. Crack. Branches fell. Hitting me sometimes. Cutting me other times. "You do this for someting you love. The tree doesn't mean to hurt me, but in the process of saving it, things I do hurt me deeply to save it. Just like saving a heart. The person your loving, who may not feel the same, doesn't mean to hurt you. The bad things your pulling away sometimes smacks you in the face. It cuts and wounds your own heart with the words they say. But you don't stop cause the season is changing and the storm is coming in. You only have a limited time to save it. So, you endure the pain, and press on. There's time for healing later."

We press on. Her listening silently, no comment. The wind is blowing stronger. I have to cut all the branches off. There remains one last branch at the top. It has some green leaves in it. But there is a mass of vines globbed on top of it. So, I have to decide what to do. "Don't cut it. It's the only bit of green left on the tree. Without it, it will die," she cries over the howling wind. "Bring me a chair. Quickly. I'll see what I can do." Reaching up, I notice all I can do is cut it. " I'll have to cut it. It's the only way to save it. Maybe the season is early enough to grow more green once the last of the vines are gone,"I yell. Its getting so dark I can hardly see the top and where to cut. My muscles ache as I stretch to reach it. I know this is my last chance, the storms were to last several days, and I won't be getting another opportunity again. Thump! The last branch falls as the downpour starts.

We run underneath the carport as the bottom falls out. The rain runs off the roof down the gutters gurgling all the way from all the flooding water. We stand there looking at each others eyes. "You didn't have to cut it off." "I had to save it. Sometimes, God saves our hearts by cutting off that one last thing that is holding our hearts back from love. The gardner who loves his orchard will do what is necessary to save his trees. Even, if it means something drastic cause he doesn't want them to suffer needlessly, cause they can't bear fruit. We can't bare fruits of the Spirit, the heart can't bear love. Just like the pear tree appeared old and gnarled...with no blossoms at all. Though it appears to look like a post now...hopefully with the water from this rain in the ground and the help of the sun, and the little bees. We will see the tree growing and doing well, full of leaves, and see some fruit. Like the heart will be ready to bear some fruit if its loved and taken care of. Now the fruit early in the season will taste bitter cause its not ready yet. Just as the human heart will still display some bitterness cause its now quite ready yet. The next time you come to the tree after this it should be heavy laden with ripe, beautiful golden and red pears. It should be full of these ripe and delicious pears ready to pick. Just as the heart should now be ready to be approached then; being filled with love, kindness, humbleness, and mercy. Being sweet to all who approach it. All because the gardner remembered how it use to be with the tree. And hopefully, his love, with God's help can restore what once was."

She just looked, no response. She nodded. We kissed. We had been seeing other for awhile. Trying to rebuild what once was. I can no more blame her than I can blame the tree. I had asked her to marry me, she accepted. Just like the tree accepted to be planted. And years of neglect and focus on other things caused it to be in the condition I found it. I just chose to look the other way. To focus elsewhere. And her heart was overrun by others, who like the vine pretend to be your friend climbing up you but ultimately, their just vines. Choking my heart and her heart to death. Until our orchard no longer bares the sweet fruits of love. Just barren or rotton fruit. Not worth consuming by anyone. Making us bitter and unpleasant to be around.

But in my soul searching it has lead me to this place. For me to learn that the world's half truths are nothing but vines, fit for ripping up and throwing on the fire before they consume another fruit tree (heart).
My prayer is : Great Gardner, You once put a man and woman in a garden to tend to the most beautiful of Your creation. Only to fail You. I have failed you in my garden. My orchard. You created a help mate...for You said that its not good for man to be alone. Yet, I feel so alone. Even though I see her now. My heart's love has still not broke through the vines. Only Your love can untangle the mess my years of neglect and taking for granite have caused, only Your love living through me can save her heart. I pray I'm not too late. Help me to wait upon You, to show Your love through me. I can only love so deeply, only through Your love can I learn to love deeper, cause my roots don't go as deep as Your does. Plant our hearts near the river of Your Living Water. But this time....plant us side by side so we have to grow together and protect each other from the things of the day. And when your cool breeze blows through the branches of our hearts....remind us that we love each other and You loved us first and always. Amen.

by
Lance Gargus

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Sleeping Underneath The Christmas Tree


Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

Psalm 127:3

Like I always do, I wait until everyone is asleep to do my writing. Reflecting on the days events as they unfolded. The quietness of the late night hours is when I get the most done. Always been accused by my parents of being a night owl. The noises of the day seems to drown out everything, including God speaking to me. Most of my insight in my walk with Him is revealed when I finally shut up and listen. I have to silence myself spiritually. At that moment, the hidden things come out He wants to show me.
This night of Christmas Eve is cool in the house. Yet, my daughter insisted on sleeping underneath the Christmas tree. Well, her little brother had to do the same. My wife and I made them a little bed. So we covered them up and gave them a hug and kiss.
Both loved the soft, warm light from it. Her face is so sweet even with both her front teeth missing. She had listened to the song, All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth, previously. Maybe she's dreaming of front teeth, as the thought made me chuckle. My boy snuggled up to Tigger, holding on to him for dear life. Like there's a Tigger thief out there, this thought tickled me even more. Those two just couldn't wait for Christmas morning.
I finally have a free moment to admire the lights. Each one radiated its own illumination of colors. So beautiful to gaze at the splendor of the colors God made. Kissing the little ones I headed for some shut eye. The glow of the lights was all the light I could see to make it to bed. A silhouette stood in the bedroom doorway.
"Are they asleep?" came the question.
"I sang Christmas carols till my voice was gone."
"Good," came the reply as she took my hand and lead me to bed.
One look and I could read what she had in mind.
Waking up to her beside me, and the sounds of children's laughter on Christmas morning is the only gift I need.




by




Lance Gargus

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Unconditional Love Story of Hosea

The story of the Prophet Hosea and his troubled marriage are a powerful testimony to us of our own tendency to be unfaithful to God but also of God’s passionate love for us. The precise details of Hosea’s troubled marriage are sketchy and we are left to fill in some of the details with our imagination. But here are the basic facts along with some of the “fill in” required:
  1. Hosea receives an unusual instruction from God: Go, take a harlot wife  and harlot’s children, for the land gives itself to harlotry, turning away from the LORD.  So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim (Hosea 1:2)
  2. Together they have three children each with symbolic names: Jezreel (for God is about to humble Israel in the Jezreel valley), Lo-Ruhama (not pitied), and Lo-Ammi (not my people). It is also possible that these children were not of Hosea but rather of Gomer’s various lovers for, although they are born during the marriage, God later calls them children of harlotry.
  3. At some point, though the text does not specify when or under what circumstances, Hosea’s wife Gomer, leaves him for a lover and enters into an adulterous relationship with him. We can only imagine Hosea’s pain and likely anger at this rejection. The text remains silent as to Hosea, but as we shall see, God’s reaction is well attested.
  4. After some unspecified period of time God instructs Hosea: Give your love to a woman beloved of a paramour, an adulteress; Even as the LORD loves the people of Israel, though they turn to other gods and are fond of raisin cakes (Hosea 3:1) Now, while the quoted text is not clear to specify that this is the same woman he is to love, the overall context of chapters 1-3 of Hosea  demand that this is the same unfaithful wife, Gomer. God tells Hosea to redeem, to buy back Gomer and re-establish his marital bonds with her.
  5. Hosea has to pay a rather hefty price indeed to purchase her back from her paramour: So I bought her for fifteen pieces of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. (Hosea 3:2) The willingness of her paramour to “sell her back” indicates quite poetically that the apparent love of the world and all false lovers, is not a real love at all. It is for sale to the highest bidder.
  6. Prior to restoring her to any intimacy a period of purification and testing will be necessary: Then I said to her: “Many days you shall wait for me; you shall not play the harlot Or belong to any man; I in turn will wait for you.” (Hosea 3:3)
This story is both difficult and beautiful. It’s purpose,  as you likely know,  is not merely to tell us of the troubled and painful marriage of Hosea. It’s truer purpose is to show forth the troubled marriage of  the Lord who has a bride, a people, who are unfaithful to him. We, both collectively and individually, have entered into a (marital) covenant with God. Our vows were pronounced at our baptism and renewed by us on many other occasions. But all too often we casually sleep with other gods and worldly paramours. Perhaps it is money, popularity, possessions, or power. Perhaps we have forsaken God for our careers, politics, philosophies or arts and sciences. Some have outright left God, others keep two or beds, still speaking of their love for God but involved with many other dalliances as well. Yes, this is a troubled marriage, not on God’s part, but surely on ours.
And through it all, what does God decide to do? In the end, as Hosea’s story illustrates, God chooses to redeem, to buy back, his bride and a quite a cost too: For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect (1 Peter 3:19-20). Yes, God paid highly to draw us back to him. Even still we stray and often show little appreciation of his love. An old Gospel song says, “Oh Lord I’ve sinned but you’re still calling my name.”
A deeper look at Hosea also reveals a look into the grieved heart of God. Reading these Old Testament passages requires a bit of sophistication. The text we are about to look at describes God as  grieved, angry, and weighing out his options; also as loving and almost romantic. At one level we must remember that these attributes are applied to God in an analogical and metaphorical sense. God is said to be like this. But God is not angry like we are angry. He is not grieved like we are grieved not romantic like we are. Yet though we see these texts in terms of analogy and metaphor we cannot wholly set them aside as having no meaning. In some sense, God is grieved, angry, loving and even “romantic” in response to our wanderings. Exactly how he experiences these is mysterious to us but He does choose to use these metaphors to describe himself to us.
With this balanced caution. Let’s take a look at excerpts from the second Chapter of Hosea wherein God describes his grieved heart to us and also his plan of action to win his lover and Bride back. All of these texts are from the Second Chapter of Hosea.
  1. Thoughts of Divorce!  – Protest against your mother, protest! for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband.  The text here suggests a God who is weighing his options. But perhaps the better explanation is that this line is for us who read so that we will consider that God could rightfully divorce us. But he will not. For though we break covenant He will not. Though we are unfaithful God will not be unfaithful. If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself. (2 Tim 2:13)
  2. The bitter charge against her Let her remove her harlotry from before her, her adultery from between her breasts….., “I will go after my lovers,” she said, “who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.” Since she has not known that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, And her abundance of silver, and of gold, which they used for Baal. God’s charge here is not merely that we are unfaithful but also that we are ungrateful. God is the giver of every good thing. But so often we do not thank him. We run after the world, and after the powerful,  thinking it is they who provide our wealth. No. It is God. But instead we love the world and forget about God. We sleep with the world. We give credit to medicine, science and human ingenuity, but do not acknowledge or thank God. Our ingratitude contributes to our harlotry for we are enamored of secondary causes and not God who is the cause of all. So we get into bed with the world and its agenda and adulterously unite ourselves with it. God is grieved at our ingratitude and adultery and is presented here as a wounded and jealous lover.  Is God this? Remember these things are said by way of analogy and metaphor. God is not grieved or angered in the way were are. And yet, we cannot wholly dismiss these words as having no meaning. God has inspired this text and wants us to understand that, though he is not passionate as we are, neither are we to regard him as indifferent to our infidelity.
  3. Grief-stricken but issuing purifying punishmentI will strip her naked, leaving her as on the day of her birth; I will make her like the desert, reduce her to an arid land, and slay her with thirst. I will have no pity on her children, for they are the children of harlotry. Yes, their mother has played the harlot; she that conceived them has acted shamefully……., I will lay bare her shame before the eyes of her lovers……I will bring an end to all her joy, her feasts, her new moons, her sabbaths, and all her solemnities……I will punish her for the days of the Baals, for whom she burnt incense…..If she runs after her lovers, she shall not overtake them; if she looks for them she shall not find them.  This text could be seen as descriptive of God in a jealous rage. But as we shall see, God has a result in mind. He does not punish as some uncontrolled despot cruelly exacting revenge. He punishes as medicine. He punishes as one who loves and seeks to restore. We are not merely sinners in the hands of an angry God we are sinners in the hands of a loving God who seeks reunion.
  4. The hoped for result: Then she shall say, “I will go back to my first husband, for it was better with me then than now.”  God’s intent was to bring his bride back to sanity. To bring her to a place where she is ready to seek union once again. For without this union she will perish, but with it she will be united with the only one who ever did love her and can save her.
  5. Passionate loverSo I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart. From there I will give her the vineyards she had, and the valley of Achor as a door of hope. She shall respond there as in the days of her youth, when she came up from the land of Egypt. On that day, says the LORD, She shall call me “My husband,” and never again “My baal.” Then will I remove from her mouth the names of the Baals, so that they shall no longer be invokedSee how God wants to get alone with his bride and woo her once again! God will speak lovingly to her heart and declare again his love for her in a kind of marriage encounter weekend. She,  now repentant and devoted,  will renew her love  as well. There is also an image of purgatory or purgation here. It is likely that, when we die, we will still have some attachments to “former lovers” in this world, lovers known as creature comforts, power, pride, poor priorities and the like. So as we die, God lures us into the desert of purgatory, speaks to our heart and cleanses us of our final attachments. After this he restores to us the vineyards of paradise that once were ours.  
  6. Renewed CovenantI will make a covenant for them on that day……I  will espouse you to me forever: I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and in mercy; I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the LORD. ….and I will have pity on Lo-ruhama. I will say to Lo-ammi, “You are my people,” and he shall say, “My God!”  God renews the marriage bond with us, both corporately in the Church and individually!
Here then is the astonishing,  undying and pursuant love of God for his bride the Church and for all of us. After all our whoring and infidelity we do not deserve it. But God is a passionate lover. As he said to Hosea to buy back his adulterous wife, so too did God buy us back at a high price. Now to be sure, he did not pay Satan. Rather, the payment he rendered was an indication of high sacrifice he had to make to win back our hearts. We had wandered far and he had to journey far and carry us back.
Afterword: Some will say, given a portrait like this, how can there be Hell? I do not have time to develop that fully. However, note this, God is a lover and a husband. He is not a rapist, he will not force his love. He will woo, draw by attraction, but not force. He wants our love. And love requires freedom. There is a mystery about Hell in the sense that God teaches us that there will come a time for us when our yes or no is permanent . For now we can and do experience the ability to change. In the end there are some, many according to scripture,  who give a final “No”  to God and the values of his Kingdom. God respects this choice. He does not snuff out their existence. He still provides for the souls in Hell and extends to them existence and some degree of care, but Hell results from freedom and respect for that freedom, not from a lack of love on God’s part.
 
This song says: How many times do I go against your will? And you forgive me. And yet I still turn around and do the things, the things I shouldn’t do, ’cause I belong to you and I know you will come through. Lord I know I take advantage of your grace, here in this Christian race, but yet I still hear you calling my name…..You’re calling my name, to come into your arms, to be safe from fear and harm. Knowing this I still choose to go my way. And yet you still say, you say that I am He, He who supplies your every need. Oh Lord I’ve sinned but your still calling my name.  Listen to it, it will bless you as it builds to its great conclusion.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

A Living Sacrifice

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.



Romans 12:1
Like children do, they sometimes need correction. On one such day, my four year old son showed me the true meaning of living sacrifice. Taking them both aside I gave both children an ultimatum. "Only one will punished. Which one will it be?" I asked. Through tears and crying he reponded,"Me." "Are you certain? It may involve a spanking?" "Yes," he firmly said through sobbing. I picked him up and embraced him. I hugged them both. "You love sissy that much," I inquired. "Uh-Huh," came back my answer.



In John chapter six, Jesus uses a little boy to demonstrate not only sacrifice, but also His power. Jesus had been preaching to five thousand people. When it was time to eat, Jesus asked the disciples how they were going to feed all of the people. The disciples already knew that Jesus was at work. Andrew told Jesus that he had found a young boy who had five barley loaves and two fish. This may have been all the food the boy had to eat. It might have had to last him for a long time. But he gave all taking the chance of going hungry. Jesus told the crowd to sit down. He took the bread and fish and thanked God for the food that He had blessed them with. Suddenly, the people were amazed to see that there was enough food for every one of those five thousand people. The boy's living sacrifice fed many.




That day, Jesus was able to use that little boy as an example of sacrifice. The boy did not know Jesus, but he was more than willing to give up all of his food for Him. The boy gave of his food. Even at his own risk. My son was willing to give of his well being and the potential for punishment to let his sister slide.




They did it for love. Sacrifice is about love for our brothers and sisters. And my how God has put me to shame, revealing to me that little boys are smarter than grown men when it comes to sacrificial love. What I'm willing to give up is nothing in comparison to them. Their bodies literally became a living sacrifice. Mine is nothing more than a sacrifice of convience.




God,


In my soul searching journey, may I be willing to ask myself what I'm willing to give up for Your use?


Amen.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Story of St. Patrick Loving His Enemies

Before all the festivities focused on shamrocks and leprechauns and good luck wishes, there was truly something to celebrate: a man willing to stand in the gap for Jesus Christ. Reporter David Kithcart reveals the inspiring true story behind this courageous and fervent Irishman we all know as Saint Patrick.
It was an act of defiance that changed the course of a nation. Patrick lit a fire in pagan 5th century Ireland, ushering Christianity into the country. Who was this man who became the patron saint of Ireland?
Ireland was a beautiful island shrouded in terrible darkness. Warlords and druids ruled the land. But across the sea in Britain, a teen-ager was poised to bring this nation to God.
"Patrick was born into a Christian family," says Philip Freeman, author of St. Patrick of Ireland. "His father was a deacon; his grandfather a priest. But Patrick says that from a n early age, he didn't have any serious interest in religion and that he was pratically an atheist when he was a teenager."
Around 400 A.D., Patrick was abducted from his village and thrown onto a slave ship headed for Ireland.
"He saw that as God chastising him, first of all," says Rev. Sean Brady. "That was the first view. He says we deserved what we got. We're carried at 16 years of age over to this foreign land."
Patrick was sold to a chieftain named Milchu. He spent six years tending his master's flocks on the slopes of the Slemish Mountain. Patrick recounts his time as a slave in his memoir entitled The Confession.
"He says, 'I prayed a hundred times in the day and almost as many at night,' " says Rev. Brady, the Roman Catholic Archbiship of Armagh and Primate of All of Ireland. "Through that experience of prayer and trial, he came to know another God -- God the Father, who was his protector. He came to know Jesus Christ in those sufferings, and he came to be united with Christ and he came to identify with Christ, and then of course, also the Holy Spirit."
One night during a time of prayer and fasting, Patrick wrote: "I heard in my sleep a voice saying to me: 'It is well that you fast. Soon you will go to your own country.' And again, after a short while, I heard a voice saying to me: 'See, your ship is ready.' "
St. PatrickPatrick escaped and traveled 200 miles cross country to the west coast. He found a ship ready to sail, but was refused passage. After a desperate prayer, he was allowed aboard.
Patrick eventually returned to his home and family. His experience of God's grace and provision solidified his faith. He began to study for the ministry.
Freeman says, "One night, he had a dream. Thee was a man who came from Ireland with a whole bunch of letters. And he opened up one of the letters and it said 'The Voice of the Irish.' And then he heard a voice coming out of this letter that said, 'Holy boy, please return to us. We need you.'"
Patrick struggled in his soul. Could he return to Ireland and minister to the same people who had enslaved him? Once again, he turned to God in prayer. He received the answer in a dream.
"He talks about how he, in this dream, is trying to pray and yet he can't," says Freeman. "So he hears a voice coming from inside of him which he realizes is the voice of God praying for him."
Patrick knew he had to go and convince his church that he was called to be a missionary to Ireland. He set sail in a small ship.
Patrick landed at the mouth of the Slaney River. When Patrick set foot on this shore, a new era dawned on this island.
"The Ireland of his day really wasn't much different from the Ireland of a few years ago here where we are sitting here at this moment," notes Most Reverend Dr. Robert Eames, Church of England Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland. "It was an Ireland of tribalism, an Ireland of war, an Ireland of suspicion, an Ireland of violence and death. Here he came as a virtual stranger to this country of warring factions."
"They worshipped multiple gods of the sky and the earth and the water," says Freeman. "And so that was his first challenge: to convince the Irish that there was only one God and that his God really did love them."
Patrick came face to face with the chieftains and their druid priests. The showdown came on the morning of his first Easter in Ireland.
Monsignor Raymond Murray, parish priest of Cookstown in Northern Ireland explains further: "Part of the pagan worship of fall to spring, from the beginning of the summer, was that a fire was lit, and first of all, the fire on the hill of Tara and no other lights at all in Ireland."
St. PatrickThis monastery on the hill of Slane is where Patrick -- in direct defiance of the high king of Tara -- lit a forbidden fire.
Notes Rev. Brady, "He was summoned before the king, and he explained that he wasn't a threat, because he was bringing the new light, the light of Christ, the Savior of the world, the Light of the world."
"The first light of Easter day was dawning. Patrick brought the hope of Easter day to Ireland," says Rev. Eames.
The weather can be absolutely brutal here in Ireland. But just imagine how it must've been for Patrick in the 5th century as he trekked across the countryside bringing the Gospel to the pagan Celts.
"People sometimes made fun of him because he said that God often gave him a message there was danger ahead," says Freeman. "But, he said, 'Laugh at me if you will. This is something that has protected me in Ireland.'"
Listen to Patrick's poem of faith and trust in God, "The Breastplate":
"Christ be within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ inquired, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger."
Myths and legends have grown up around this hero of Ireland.
As Monsignor Murray explains, it is sometimes difficult to describe the triune aspect of God. So, according to the story, to better illustrate the central teaching of the trinity, Patrick took a shamrock and pointed out the three leaves on it. Interestingly, it is only in Ireland that you find this shamrock. Therefore, the people believed.
"One of the famous legends, of course, is that Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland," says Irish historian Harold Calvert.
In fact, any snakes in Ireland had disappeared during the Ice Age.
"The legend about the driving of the snakes may, in fact, really symbolize the driving out of evil," says Calvert.
In 432 A.D., Patrick built a church on the site of the present day St. Patrick's Memorial Church in Saul -- the first ever Christian church in all of Ireland. It's considered the cradle of Irish Christianity.
"Preaching the Gospel, of course, baptizing converts, confirming them, appointing clergy," continues Calvert.
Patrick's ministry lasted 29 years. He baptized over 120,000 Irishmen and planted 300 churches.
"What Patrick did was really lay the groundwork for Christianity," says Freeman.
To this day, no one knows where Patrick is buried, but many believe that it is somewhere beneath the church on the hill at Down Cathedral.
Rev. Sean Brady concludes, "He was a man who came to face and help his former enemies who had enslaved him. He came back to help them and to do them a great favor -- the greatest favor he possibly could."
Rev. Earnes concurs, "I honestly feel that what Patrick taught Ireland was that there is a cost to discipleship, but it's a cost worth paying. And I believe, to bring this right up to date, the church of St. Patrick must be constantly saying to people, 'Discipleship demands of you, but it's a cost that Christ will help you to pay.'"

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Stray Dog

The purity of a person's heart can be quickly measured by how they regard animals.
--Unknown


It's a wet, soggy night as the weather turns from bad to worse.
Glancing through my window I see a shape off in the distance.
My neighbors at the house up the street scream at this figure.
This mysterious creature is a dog, it turns out, a stray to be exact.
His poor body must be racked with pain.
Despair is only friend.
He appears to be soaked and shaking from the cold downpour.
He looks tired and hungry.
The poor things has been to every house and been run off from everyone.
Probably been chased with sticks and hit with stones.
So skinny and malnourished, he limps his way to our house.
My brother and I try to get him to come to us, but no such luck.
Standing on the front porch, we try to give him some food.
The stray dog won't come no where near us.
We pitch the food to him, and he gobbles it up.
Into the night, he returns and each night he comes back.
Always tossing him food, he edges closer to us each time.
The day comes when he takes the food from our hands.
We notice the wound on his back leg.
Doctoring his wound with some medicine, he seems to feel some relief.
Eventually, we convince our parents to take up with him.
He is now heavier and stronger.
As we once protected him, now he protects us.
No intruder enters his new found territory unless we tell him it's okay.
He now has a family to be loyal to.
A place to feel safe and a place to keep safe.
A home.

May I, Heavenly Father, extend that same mercy to the lost, confused, and hurt ones of this world that others have turned away. The stray dog in me longs for the home of the One I love. Come soon, sweet Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

God Reveals All Things In Due Time




Mississippi summers are not only hot, but muggy. Days like today make me glad that we have air conditioning. Unlike the days when my mother's folks sharecropped other's land. Now they owned their own. Little good the air conditioning was doing this youth outside.




I finally understood why we were called rednecks. My neck was burning. It must be scalded by now, I thought.




Row after row we planted. What a way for a 10 year old to spend his summer. Other kids were out doing their own thing and here I was in the middle of this field. The only fun I was having was stomping dirt clods as I went along.




Dad had done shaved my head for the summer. Easier to find ticks on me and my brother, he said. Playing in the woods was a good way to become covered in them little blood suckers. Eww, I hate ticks. Only way to get the little boogers off you is to stab 'em with a hot needle.
Dad's almost finished and I'm still a long way from being done.




"Finish planting that bag of sweet corn and we'll head out fishing," my dad announced, hoping to inspire me to complete the row.




At least thirty more feet of sun-baked earth and a sound of seeds remained between my hot, sweaty body and the cool of the shade trees surrounding the fishing hole.




He just said, "Finish planting that bag of sweet corn," I thought. He didn't say anything about finishing the row.




Quickly, I hoed a large hole and, turning to see that Dad wasn't looking, emptied the bag of seed into the newly-dug grave.




And off I went with new rod and reel in hand, smug in my belief that no one was the wiser.
A few weeks later, long rows of tiny thin leaves began to push through the earth. I double-checked to make sure I had buried the extra seeds deep enough. Sure, enough, there was no sign of the secret seeds. Until about two weeks later!




"Lance Lee Gargus! What do you know about this?"




"Um!" I replied. What could I say. There, between the corn rows, a dense patch of tiny, thin leaves betrayed me.




Part of my summer's allowance went to buy replacement seed, and a whole afternoon went to re-planting the rest of the row of corn. But most of my summer was spent listening to my dad quote, "God reveals all things in due time."
By
Lance Gargus





for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.


Matthew 10:26

Monday, February 15, 2016

Hidden Sins


Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

Hebrews 4:13

Oh, Dear Lord,
When I am all alone and noone can see me, You still can. You see my hidden sins that noone else does. Your all seeing eyes reveal what others are unaware of. The contents of my heart are lain before You on Your table. The vileness of these secret things sicken me. Your light forces me to behold these things buried within. I do these when I think noone else is looking. Whether I'm holding hatred in my heart for another who has wronged me, lusting after the things of others instead of being content with what You have given me, saying to myself that I'm too busy for someone cause I have all these other things to do, and making excuses to myself for all these things.
Though others may not know about the darkest recesses of my heart, You do. Drag them out into Your light. Help me to let go of these things. May I do some Spring cleaning of my soul. Your sunlight is the best disinfectant for stuff that is hidden in the dark. Well, pull the shades back on the windows of my heart and disinfect me.
So when that demon of hidden sins comes back to try to set up house again, it'll be so bright in here he'll have to find residence elsewhere.
May Your Book be the broom I need to keep my house in order.
Amen.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Home of Memories

 
 
   Home is the starting place of love, hope, and dreams..


 It's dark as I drive past the dimly lit street. The street where my home use to be. But not anymore. I get off the nightshift, and the moon is still illuminating the house with moonbeams radiating through the clouds. It's a cool night as the breeze blows against my skin. I stand there looking at the front steps. I kill the motor to my truck as I'm frozen in the driveway. My mind drifting back to a memory when we first brought our children home from the hospital. We were so excited to be parents. The child we held in our arms each time was our flesh. Our love for each other formed that life.
   My heart drifts to another memory of holding her after we lost two children to miscarriages. To come home from work and to find her sitting in the living room with the lights out. She had the curtains drawn and wanted the world to go away. Our love made these two children but no life came to them. And we sat in sorrow, crying, sobbing, holding each other. Shielding each other from a world that seemed to not understand.
  I close my eyes and now I see us carving our names into the concrete walkway that had just been poured. We write each one's name...mine, my wife's, my daughter's and my son's. We go and play in the backyard on the trampoline while it dries. Jumping and screaming like fools to the delight of the children. Tossing and rolling around in the air. Living in a moment that never should have ended.
  Now I get the news to jump up. Startled from my sleep I stumble to get my pants and shirt on to get out the door. Come quick....and go with us is all I can focus on. "It's your brother...he's at the hospital."
" What's wrong? What happened?" I cry as we drive as fast as we can go. Noone answers me. Just an uneasy silence. I burst into the emergency room and make my way to the back past everyone before they can stop me. I push the doors open to the operating room as the doctor and nurses are just walking out. In that moment, I see him. My only true friend in this life, the one who stood by me, frozen. His mouth open and his eyes set. He was gone...my brother left me without saying goodbye. I went home to my room and shut the door. Falling to the floor of my home, my tears rolled from my cheek to the floor. In that moment, I pushed everyone away.
   Drifting back as the wind blows my hair, as if to try to relax from that memory...it reminds me of the time of joy. The day we stepped foot into a house that now became a home again with newlyweds to greet it. We were so poor and broke. But it was our place. Our place to make memories. A place for love to grow.
  Now reality sets in. My eyes flashed to the moment where I tossed the picture of our family over the fence and it shattered in a hundred pieces. Coldness had come to our home and now it was just a house once again. No longer was it our home but was now sold and no one dwelt there now. No family, no love, no one. The only thing that dwelt there now was memories, memories of a life once lived there together that had now become shattered just like that picture frame. Shattered like broken promises and broken hearts.

And....as my soul searching leads me here...searching ...searching through what? Searching through painful memories?

I look toward the sky for an answer. My heart feels like its dying. And in that moment I want too. I drop to my knees one last time there. And water that ground with my tears that mixed there with former tears of joy and sorrow. As I weep so hard I feel like I can barely breathe, the wind picks up. And brushes my tears from my eyes and blows them away as if wiping them.

And a voice comes back as it always does with an answer. "Your searching through memories of home..for what all men want...your searching for Hope."

by
Lance Gargus

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

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