Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Inner Views of Doyle Lawson

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast."
Ephesians 2:8-9
Doyle's favorite Bible verse

  I don't ever remember a moment when bluegrass music was not an integral part of my life.  Some of my earliest childhood memories include moments sitting by my Daddy listening to him play his five-string banjo and learning to sing high tenor, honing that high lonesome sound with him and Mom.
 While every, single interview I have conducted for Inner Views has been distinctive and personally memorable to me, I must tell you that the Inner Views I am sharing with you today will forever hold an extraordinarily special place in my heart.  This humble man of God is a legendary giant in the world of bluegrass music and is one of my biggest musical heroes, hands down.  Whether you are a long-time fan or being introduced to him for the first time today, you will be abundantly blessed by reading his Inner Views.  I am deeply humbled and beyond grateful to have met him and for his kindness in taking the time to grant us this interview.  My only regret is that Dad isn't here to cherish this experience with me.


Doyle Lawson

Cheryl:  Could you share with us about your childhood?  What are some of your favorite memories to recall from your time growing up?

Doyle:  As far back as I can remember I have loved the sound of music. Radio was the vehicle of entertainment in those days and there was an abundance of local, regional and national programs to listen to. The ones I remember vividly are of course The Grand Ole Opry on WSM in Nashville and The Farm and Fun Time show heard daily on WCYB in Bristol, TN/VA. In the early 1950's my dad and mother along with one of his nephews started singing in churches locally and I loved to watch them work out the harmony parts and I absorbed everything I heard them do.

After hearing Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys on the Opry I was knocked out by Bill's voice and mandolin playing and decided that I was gonna be a picker and singer. In 1948 we moved to Leatherwood, KY when dad went to work for the Blue Diamond Coal Company. I saw my first country music show there when I was 5 years old. Mom had taken us to see a Roy Rogers movie at the Commissary (Company Store) Theater and Jimmie Skinner and his band performed after the movie. I was captivated by the whole thing and the fact that he had a mandolin player (Ray "Curly" Lunsford) was icing on the cake. When I was 11 years old, we were living in Hancock County, TN and dad was singing lead with the Clinch River Quartet and I discovered that one of the men in the quartet (Willis Byrd) had a mandolin and I asked dad to ask Willis if I could borrow it to learn to play. In 1958 I got to meet the man who became my first professional boss in music. Jimmy Martin was from Hancock County and had gone to work for Bill Monroe in 1949 and went on to front his own band The Sunny Mountain Boys in 1954, first teaming up with The Osborne Brothers. On the 3rd day of Feb. 1963 I went to Nashville and auditioned for him to pick the banjo and that started my 55 years and counting music career. I could go on and on with childhood memories, but time and space will not allow it. I suppose at some point in time I'll probably write my book.

Cheryl:  Were you raised in a Christian home?  What are your first recollections about Jesus?  How old were you when you became a Christian?

Doyle:  Yes, I was brought up in a Christian home after my dad rededicated his life in 1950. He and mom along with one of his nephews started singing in church as a trio and later added a bass singer. At the age of 8 during a revival service, I realized that I was lost, and I went to the altar and accepted Jesus as my Savior.

Cheryl:  Who has most influenced you in your walk with the Lord?  Is there a particular person who prayed for you most and whom you credit with being your strongest Christian mentor?

Doyle:  I would venture to say that the many prayers of my parents that went up on my behalf especially after I left home to chase my music dream.  Dad would tell me that many times he had no idea where I was, but he prayed for my safety.

Cheryl:  How has becoming a Christian impacted your music and career?

Doyle:  The music business can be full of worldly trappings and it can be easy to lose your way. And I did for a good while. But on the 1st Sunday of May in 1985 I humbled myself and asked God to take control of my life because I had made a mess of it. On the outside things looked and were going great but inside me I was miserable. I didn't have the one thing I needed most of all and that was God. He never ever left me, I left Him, but He was there when I truly asked for forgiveness. That was the best decision I have ever made as an adult.

Cheryl:  Who has most influenced you, musically?  Who are your musical heroes?

Doyle:  Bill Monroe was my first musical hero and then came the 1st generation of what was to become known as Bluegrass music. Flatt & Scruggs, Mac Wiseman, Jimmy Martin, The Stanley Brothers, Reno and Smiley, and The Osborne Brothers and more.

Gospel music would be The Chuck Wagon Gang, The Statesmen Quartet, The Blackwood Brothers, The Masters Family, The Browns Ferry Four, and local and regional groups.

Cheryl:  How did you become involved with Bluegrass?  What most draws you to this genre of music?

Doyle:  I covered this earlier but will elaborate on what drew me to it. The vocal emotion they sang with as well as the driving tempo used in many of the songs. Of course, Bill's commanding voice and dominant playing along with Earl Scruggs's banjo prowess. It was different than the mainstream country of that time and it was when every one group was trying to present their music in their own way.

Cheryl:  Can you share with us about a special highlight in your career?

Doyle:  Oh my, there are many to draw from, but I suppose the first-time appearance at the Opry with Jimmy Martin was one of the standouts. I had always wanted to go see the Grand Ole Opry and as it turned out the first time I saw it was from the stage.  I was so nervous you could literally see my pants legs shaking. The National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship award is another treasured memory as well as being inducted into the IBMA Hall of Fame in 2012.

Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver
From left to right:  Eli Johnston, Dustin Pyrtle, Stephen Burwell, Doyle Lawson, Josh Swift, & Joe Dean

Cheryl:  One of the songs of yours that has impacted my family and me the most is “Closer I Must Be."  To this day, I cry each time I hear it, and I would love to know the story behind the song.  How did you come across this song, and what persuaded you to record it?

Doyle:  Dee Gaskin wrote that song and I had the demo for quite a while and finally got it recorded on the Winding Through Life CD. When recording I like for songs to compliment each other and that one certainly had something to say about our desired walk with the Lord.

Cheryl:  Another of our personal favorites is one you co-wrote with Jamie Dailey, “Just Over In Heaven.”  As a songwriter, how do you find inspiration?  Is there a particular place you like to go to write?

Doyle:  While I have written a number of songs and co-wrote, even more, I have never thought of myself as a writer. I think I am a better song doctor because there are times when I think a song should maybe be more in-depth or take a different approach to the storyline. I think Jamie Dailey and I wrote well as a team. Much of the time he would have a melody and maybe a verse or so and we would start from there. Just Over In Heaven is written and performed much in the style of the Quartet music I listened to as a youngster. I want to be clear in the fact that I never change a writer's song without getting their permission.

Cheryl:  If you could go back and change one thing about your life, so far, what would it be?

Doyle:  I wouldn't want to go back and change anything because it could be that I would make it worse the second time. My belief is that when you humble yourself and pray for forgiveness of your transgressions, it's done and one should not beat themselves up and be remorseful of their past mistakes. God forgives and forgets and we should be joyfully accepting of that. And I thank Him for loving His children.

Cheryl:  Of all of the songs you have recorded, is there one that stands out as meaning the most to you?

Doyle:  When I record, be it Gospel or secular, every song on the cd earns its place. I don't record anything just to fill up space. So it's really hard for me to pick a favorite. The people that listen and buy my recordings determine the favorites most of the time. Probably the two most requested Gospel songs are "On The Sea Of Life" and "Help Is On The Way." But there are far more than these two in both Gospel and secular. "Blue Train (of the heartbreak railroad line") is probably the most requested secular and we usually close the show with it.

Cheryl:  What advice would you give to the person who dreams of becoming a bluegrass musician/singer?

Doyle:  It's not an easy thing to accomplish and one must have what I call the three P's. Practice, Patience, and Perseverance. That applies to any genre of music one undertakes. And remember the first reason to play music is for the love of the music. Money is a necessity but it should be the second reason for what one is doing. In my early days of music, I and most everyone else had day jobs to supplement our income. But the music was first.

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you at this season of life?

Doyle:  My Hope and Prayer is that the way I carry myself in the public eye is pleasing to God and the folks who see me. I appreciate your prayers as well.  Thanks for taking time for me.  Blessings on you and yours.

Words are incapable of expressing my deep appreciation and gratitude to Doyle for taking time from his busy schedule to bless us with his presence here.  If you would like to learn more about Doyle Lawson and his band, Quicksilver, or purchase his music, you can find him at www.doylelawson.com and on Facebook

From left to right:  Dustin Pyrtle, Stephen Burwell, Eli Johnston, Doyle Lawson, Josh Swift, & Joe Dean

To read previous
click the links below.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Coffee Giveaway WINNER and One Other Exciting Announcement!

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."
James 1:17

Well, today is the day!
The time has arrived!!!
 Zach just spun this handy dandy wheel to find out who won the 

And the winner is....

can I get a drum roll, please??

DOLLY from Soul Stops!!!!!

A BIG Congratulations to Dolly!
If you haven't read her blog, I strongly encourage you to stop by and visit her.
Her posts are deep and insightful and always challenge me to draw closer to Jesus.
I love Dolly and her blog!
You can find her by clicking HERE.

Dolly, please email me with your mailing information, so Matthew can get your free bag of coffee in the mail to you!

And, for the rest of you dear readers, THANK YOU for entering the giveaway.
If you didn't win, don't despair!
You can order this amazing coffee anytime by clicking HERE.

A huge THANKS to Matthew and Preslee Gooch for providing this giveaway to our readers.
God bless you both!

Now, for that other exciting announcement!
Several months ago, I was contacted by the editor of the magazine, SGNScoops, and asked to write an article for them.  That writing assignment led into being asked to write for them on a regular, more permanent basis, and I am just thrilled to now be a member of their team!
In case you'd like to read about it, HERE is the link to the announcement on their site.

Stay tuned, as I will soon be posting my latest Inner Views interview.
Without giving away the secret as to who will be featured, let me just tell you that I am over the moon excited about this one!!!
Though I treasure every interview I have ever conducted, this one holds and will forever hold a very special place in my heart. 
You will NOT want to miss it!
I am waiting for it to be published on SGNScoops first, then I will be sharing it with you here!
I can hardly wait!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Missing Those Who Are Missing This Christmas, GIVEAWAY Reminder, & A Special Recipe

"The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit."
Psalm 34:18

I’ve been missing Mom and Dad an awful lot lately. Thinking of years gone by and the many loved ones who would regularly gather in our home and around our table. Experiencing a sense of nostalgia-induced melancholy. Sensing my age and all the ramifications those feelings bring to the surface. While Christmas has always been and will always be my favorite time of the year, it can also be one of the most reflective, and those reflections can create a deep sense of sadness as they vividly remind us of dear ones who are no longer here and just how much life has changed. This year, in particular, our lives and world are turned completely upside down, we find ourselves out of our element and comfort zone, and I am finding it especially difficult to find the deep sense of joy I always feel during this special time of year. Please don’t misunderstand my heart—I am deeply grateful for every, single blessing, and oh, my, I am abundantly blessed far beyond what I will ever deserve. I will never be able to thank God enough for what makes up “normal life” for my precious little family of three. Truly, the moments of sadness have nothing in the world to do with my gratitude to God for life as we know it, nor do I ever, for one second, take one blessing for granted. I’ve lived long enough to know that life can change in an instant—the way it has for so many this year.

I have several friends who have lost mothers in 2018 and are facing their first Christmas without them. Those “firsts” are the hardest. The first birthday not baking their favorite cake. The first Mother’s Day not shopping for just the perfect card. The first Christmas not seated at their table or smelling the familiar aromas of their signature home cooking wafting from an old familiar stove. Walking into their home for the first time without being greeted by the tenderness of their voice or feeling the embrace of loving arms. Seeing the table and old, familiar stove missing from their usual spot and knowing she will never stand there again to cook another meal or ask, “Are you sure had enough to eat?” Not that the “seconds” and “thirds” and all subsequent times of facing special occasions will be much easier but those “firsts” are the absolute worst.

This is Dad’s 18th Christmas in Heaven, and I still long to hear him pick up his five-string banjo, turn to me, call me by his favorite nickname of me, and say, “You feel like doin’ a little pickin’?” Oh, what I would give to hear those words coming from his voice and do that one more time! I lost my dear Mom in 2012, and I still long to pick up the phone and hear her sweet voice say, “Cheryl, the Lord gave me a Scripture for you.” I miss praying with them, singing together, having family gatherings, and enjoying the things we used to do. Those memories are made, and there will never be any more this side of Heaven. The starkness of that reality is never more pronounced than during the Christmas season each year. 

I think often of all of the military men and women who are deployed, sacrificing their lives and time with their loved ones just so you and I can stay safe.  It breaks my heart to think of how lonely they must feel at this time of year and how difficult it is for their families here at home.

If we have lived for very long at all, there’s a good chance each one of us is missing someone this Christmas, and life is full of many other reasons that can cause sadness at this joyful time of year. Marital unrest, divorce, longing for what might have been, hoping for wayward children to see the light and come home—not only to yours but to the fold of God, heartbreak, illness, the weight of the care and looming demise of elderly parents, financial distress, failure, wishing to be home and/or with faraway loved ones, hurt, betrayal, abuse, and a plethora of other causes for distress.

Christmas can be downright sad and depressing and that is just a fact of life. The fact that you are a Christian does not negate the fact that you are human. Yes, Christians do struggle with depression—just like everyone else in the world. To say we don’t or that we are exempt from the human condition is to refuse to face reality.

But, how blessed the thought to know that we do not face our battles alone. The Captain of our army is none other than Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, the One who died to give us abundant life. Jesus experienced and understands depression. He knows sadness better than any of us ever will. The Bible describes Him as a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Turning to Him in our moments of despair is one of the wisest things we could ever do, for only in Him can we find the deep solace we all need.

Whatever you may be going through this Christmas, I hope you will find the strength to lift your head and look to the One from whom comes all help. He loves you so dearly. He cares about the tiniest thing that touches your life. He sees your tears, hears the times your heart silently breaks, and is aware of every moment of anguish. When no one else cares, He does. When your feelings are disregarded, you are despitefully used, and you are beyond weary in well-doing, He will rise up in your defense. He is your Champion, your Rescuer, and your Prince of Peace. He will never stop loving you, no matter what. I have to remind myself of these truths often, as my family and I face unusual challenges and new levels of required trust.

Though Christmas may be different for many of us this year, each one of our hearts can find comfort in the universal, unchanging, timeless message of what this season really means. Our Savior left Heaven to come down to this sin-defiled world because He knew that was the only way any of us would ever have hope of redemption. He was willing to pay the price for our salvation, even though it cost Him absolutely everything. Despite all, this precious, beautiful season, I find that I have never loved Him more.

This isn’t a Christmas song, but it is my favorite song by Third Day and has been such a blessing to me as I prove again and again that all I have to do is call His name, and He is there. I hope you have time to listen, and after you do, please keep reading to find an amazing recipe and special reminder about our giveaway that is soon coming to an end!  There’s still time to enter, so please, please do! I will tell you how below.

Call My Name by Third Day

Apple Dumplings

4 apples, peeled and diced
 2 sticks butter, melted
1 ½ cup sugar 
2 cans crescent rolls
1 Tbsp. cinnamon 
12 ounces of apple juice

Mix sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle some over the apples. Toss to coat the apples. Melt butter and mix in the remaining sugar and cinnamon. Roll diced apples in the triangle dough, and place in a 9x13 inch baking pan. Pour butter, cinnamon, and sugar mixture over rolls. Pour apple juice over all the rolls and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Makes 12.

These are AMAZING and would go great with a hot cup of coffee!!
Speaking of coffee...

Here's that COFFEE GIVEAWAY reminder!!

Matthew and Preslee Gooch of Solid Ground Coffee are giving away a bag of their new Ethiopian coffee beans! This is a $21.00 value! To enter, all you need to do is click HERE and leave a comment. We will do the drawing sometime after church this coming Sunday, 12/16/2018!! You don’t want to miss entering this. Seriously, it is my absolute favorite coffee!! Click HERE, then leave a comment for a chance to win!!!

God bless you, dear readers!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Solid Ground Coffee ~ A GIVEAWAY!

"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits...who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's."
Psalm 103:2,5

Do you love coffee?
How would you like a chance to win a free bag?

It is no secret that I dearly love the taste and smell of coffee.  As we travel and visit new places, I always love to try new-to-us brands, and if we like it, we usually try to buy a bag to bring home.  You may remember that earlier this year, I mentioned in this post that we had been introduced to a new kind of coffee called Solid Ground.  I loved it immediately, and it has quickly become my favorite coffee!!  Seriously, folks, this coffee is SO good!  I wasn't asked to write this post and have no motivation in writing it other than to let you in on how wonderful it is and to give you a chance to win a bag of your own!

In addition to their original coffee, they have added a second coffee choice.  I asked the owner, Matthew Gooch, to describe both coffees in his own words.

"My flagship coffee is from Guatemala. It has taste notes of Cinnamon, butter, and toasted nuts. It’s a very smooth all day coffee that falls into the category of a strong standard coffee.

The new addition in the Solid Ground Coffee family is a new bean from Ethiopia. I chose this coffee because it’s very bright and tasty and is really different than what a lot of people have probably ever tried before. It’s tastes notes are lime, mandarin orange, and jasmine. It’s really a tasty coffee that differs from the normal coffee we see every day!"

Both types of this delicious coffee are available for $15.00 + $6.00 shipping per bag, and you can order them HERE!

By the way, for those who don't know, Matthew Gooch is the guitarist for the Southern Gospel group, Karen Peck & New River.  Matthew is Karen's son.  This is one of our favorite songs by them, and you can enjoy Matthew's amazing guitar skills while watching.  Then scroll down to learn how you can enter a giveaway for a 12-ounce bag of Solid Ground Ethiopian coffee!

Now, for that giveaway!
For a chance to win, just leave a comment below, and we will automatically enter your name!
If you choose to comment anonymously, please leave your contact information.  Otherwise, we will have no way to reach you if you should win.
The giveaway will be open until the afternoon of Sunday, December 16th, when the winner's name will be drawn.  That is exactly three weeks from today, so you have lots of time to enter!
Our apologies to our out of country readers, but the giveaway is available only in the United States.

God bless each one of you dear readers and meet any needs you have at this time.
He is ever faithful!
"In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us."  Romans 8:37

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Beyond Thankful & So, So Blessed

"But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
I Corinthians 15:57

Dear friends,
Today, I am 
As I look back over this year and all of the years before, I can clearly trace His guiding, protecting, gentle hand upon my life.  I am so, so grateful to Him for all of the many blessings He has bestowed upon me, my life, and my precious family.  I truly have no words to praise Him enough, and I can only hope that my life will be a continual outpouring of worship and thankfulness to Him—not only through the words I say, but more importantly, through the life I live.  A person's whole life can be lived as an offering to the Lord, and that is what I most want my life to be—it is what I owe the One who gave His life for me.  This is my reasonable service and a debt I will never be able to amply repay.
"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

May God richly bless each one of you faithful readers on this beautiful Thanksgiving Day!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

When The Gospel Looks Like A Tent & A Sleeping Bag

"For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."
James 2:26
Emphasis added

It was cold, dark, and raining and the parking lot was crowded as Zach and I drove closer to the front door of Walmart.  Kevin had gone inside to get a quick head start on shopping for Zach's Christmas and birthday, and I wanted to save him from having to walk back to the car in the rain.  There were a few other cars in front of us, and as we waited I noticed an African American gentleman around 60 to 65 years old approach the car directly in front of us.  After exchanging a few words with the driver, he returned to where he had been standing against the wall next to the door.  Soon Kevin appeared, and as he was on his way to our car, I noticed the gentleman approach him, too. When Kevin got in the car, he told us the man had asked for money, and he had given him the only cash he had—$1.00.  Kevin said he overheard another customer asking the man how much he needed.  The man replied that he was trying to get $14.00 to buy a tent, As Kevin listened, the manager came outside and told the man he needed to stop asking customers for money. 

As we started to pull away, Kevin said something that caused me to apply the brakes and reconsider our decision to shrug off the encounter as yet another random scam attempt.  "He told me he's a Vietnam vet."  Kevin's voice was full of compassion.  He rarely prays a prayer without asking God to bless and look out for our veterans and those who currently serve in the military, who are on the police force, and also the firefighters.  We have a soft spot in our hearts for all of them.  Dad was a veteran who served in the Army in Korea, Kevin's Dad was a WWII Navy vet, and in our opinion, no one deserves kind treatment and support more than our veterans.

I turned to look back at the man one more time, and something about his dejected stance as he hovered under the narrow overhang, unsuccessfully trying to find shelter from the cold, stinging rain melted every excuse I could muster to drive away and leave him standing there like that.  I just couldn't do it.  "So all he needs is a tent?" I asked, then quickly followed with, "Do they only cost $14.00?"  "I don't know, but I don't think you can buy one for that,"  Kevin replied.  My eyes were fixed on the man's reflection in the side mirror of my door, and I felt tears coming to the surface.  The three of us kept discussing his situation, weighing it against our own, and ultimately, compassion won.  $14.00 or whatever the cost, soon, Kevin and Zach were out of the car making their way inside Walmart.  On their way, the man told them he needed a tent, then he said, "No, a sleeping bag would be better.  Just a real cheap sleeping bag—the cheapest they've got."

As I waited, I watched the man closely.  At one point, I saw him reach into both of his pockets at once.  It looked like he was trying to locate a cigarette and a lighter, and I muttered, "Don't tell me he is going to smoke."  Self-righteous frustration came to the surface at the thought of the possibility that he would waste money on cigarettes when his basic needs were so sorely lacking.  As soon as I mumbled those words of judgment, God spoke words of reminder, and I was deeply convicted.  "Don't you know how it feels to be bound?  People become addicted and can't help doing some of the things they do.  It's not for you to judge."  I was put in my place real quick and realized with fresh understanding that it doesn't matter how a person gets into the predicament they're in—the reality is that they are in it, they need help, and it isn't up to us to fix them or force them to do the right thing.  Our job is to extend unconditional love, human kindness, and compassion, just like Jesus would.  I sat there feeling like we should do something to "get the Gospel" to that needy man, and again, the dear Lord spoke.  "The best way you could ever get the Gospel message to that man is to reach out and meet his need." 

I am reminded of the quote, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

It wasn't long until I saw Kevin and Zach emerge and hand the grateful man the best quality sleeping bag they could find in Walmart—one that promised to keep a person warm in up to as extreme cold as 10 degrees—and a three-person sized tent.  The man was overwhelmed.  "Are you sure?" he asked.  Kevin and Zach profusely assured him and let him know how glad they were to help him out.  Zach said, "I'll be praying for you.  What's your name?"  The man answered, "Don.  Please, when you pray tonight, please pray for Don."  

Heart-wrenched, Kevin and Zach returned to our car, and for just one, brief second I made eye contact with that weathered veteran standing against the Walmart wall.  I don't suppose I will ever forget the way he looked at me.  I can't really explain the look—the only way I know to put it into words is it was somewhere between astonishment and disbelief and a need to defend what little dignity he had left.  I smiled a smile that I hope conveyed what I most wanted to say—I care, you are important, you are special, you matter, and don't you ever forget it, as we pulled away.

Some would say we were scammed.  Some would argue that the man probably walked the merchandise back into Walmart to exchange for a gift card.  Maybe he did, but I have to say, I don't think so.  I have a feeling his needs were as legitimate and dire as he conveyed they were, and I'll tell you what, regardless what happened afterward, we drove away with one of the best feelings in the world.  That feeling you get when you know deep inside that you just did something for Jesus.  Didn't He say that is the way it works?  Kevin reminded me of His words as we drove along.

"Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  for I was hungry, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in:  naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me.  Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee hungry, and fed Thee? Or thirsty, and gave Thee drink?  When saw we Thee a stranger, and took Thee in? or naked, and clothed Thee?  Or when saw we Thee sick, or in prison, and came unto Thee?  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me."  Matthew 25:34-40

Granted and sadly, there are a lot of wrong-intentioned people in our world who truly do not have our best interests at heart, and a person has to be more guarded and careful than we used to need to be.  Scammers are real, and it is only wisdom to stay close enough to God to hear His still, small voice offering Divine guidance and discernment and then to follow His lead with open hands. 

I don't tell this story to flaunt anything the three of us did last night.  I write it with a heavy heart because this world we live in right now is SO filled with hate, vitriol, and a seemingly ununifiable divide.  I have never, in all my years of life, seen such a spirit of blatant evil unleashed with such unprecedented anger.  As followers of Jesus Christ, it is up to us to make the positive difference our world sorely needs.  Jesus said, "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples if ye have love one to another."  John 13:34-35

We are the salt and light, and if we don't bring that to our world, who will?
"You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world."  Matthew 5:13,14

Did you ever notice the significance of the correlation between John 3:16 and I John 3:16?  There are no coincidences in God's Word.  Just look at the two verses in consecutive order.  

"For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  John 3:16

"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."  I John 3:16

See how that works?  Jesus laid down His life for us.  In like manner, we are to lay down our lives for each other.  Let's look a bit farther to the very next verse.

"But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?"  I John 3:17

How can we say we love God if we don't love our neighbor?

"We love Him because He first loved us.  If a man says, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.  Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth Him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of Him.  By this, we know that we love the children of God when we love God and keep His commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous."
I John 4:19-I John 5:3

If we really love our brother, can we overlook and ignore his need?

No matter what our lot or station in life, we all have something to give.  Sometimes, it has nothing to do with monetary giving.  Sometimes, it is our time that someone needs the most.  Sometimes, it is a smile or a kind touch.  Sometimes, it just means being there.

"Dear Lord, help us to be Your hands and feet.  Help us to really see the needs around us.  Help our hearts to be so concerned that it is impossible for us to turn away.  Fill us to the brim with Your love.  Help us to follow Your example and lay down our lives in service to You and the people around us.  In Jesus' name.  Amen."

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Jesus, If It's You, Bid Me Come

"For we walk by faith, not by sight."
2 Corinthians 5:7

I will never forget an epiphany I had one evening while mowing grass on our riding lawnmower.  Out of the blue, I heard that still, small voice of Jesus ask, "Child, would you be willing to leave here?"  I looked around, and my eyes immediately went to the tan house with the green shutters situated on the front left side of our property.  My heart ached at even the thought of leaving there.  Zach was not even one year old when we had moved into that house all those years ago.  He had grown up running across those two acres with his "pack" of seven dogs.  We had started homeschooling there, spent many a happy hour behind those walls, made beyond precious memories with loved ones, including my dear Mom who had recently gone to be with Jesus, and grown together as a family in countless ways.  How could I even consider the thought of saying yes to the question Jesus had ever so gently whispered?  Yet, it was Him.  I knew it.  And, the realization that I would have to eventually answer Him was not lost to me.

All at once words that were written in red letters in my Bible came rushing into my mind, "And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My sake, and the gospel's, but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life."  Mark 10:29,30

The three words that spoke loudest to me in those moments were "For My sake" or in another similar passage in Matthew 19:29, it is worded "for My name's sake."  As I mowed, I looked up to the sky and said, "Lord, I would be willing to leave here only if it's for Your name's sake.  How do I know if it is for Your name's sake?"  I kept asking Him over and over.  I knew deep in my heart that nothing short of doing this for HIM would be able to convince me to let go and leave the beloved place we had called home for so long and launch out into the great unknown.  Somehow, if I knew with 100% certainty that HE wanted us to do this and that it would be for HIS name's sake, then I would be able to bear leaving the place I had lived longer than I had lived anywhere in my whole life.  Only that could overpower my fear of letting go of all that was familiar and what felt safe to me.

As the question swirled for a long time, I asked God over and over if I made that sacrifice and came to a place of willingness, would it really be for His name's sake?  

Recently, about five years after that epiphany, the dear Lord reminded me of something that happened to His disciples and Peter, and as He dealt with my heart, I saw so many similarities to my night on the lawnmower.  "And straightway Jesus constrained His disciples to get into a ship and to go before Him unto the other side, while He sent the multitudes away.  And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, He was there alone.  But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.  And in the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.  And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit, and they cried out for fear.  But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, 'Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.'  And Peter answered Him and said, 'Lord if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water.'  And He said, 'Come.' And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, 'Lord, save me.'  And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, 'O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"  Matthew 14:22-31

Peter had a desperate need to know it was Jesus before he ever even considered the thought of leaving the "safety" of that boat.  Even though it wasn't the safest place to be, violently tossed by the contrary wind, it felt safer than the thoughts of being out on the open water where Jesus was.  As absurd as his question must have seemed to everyone else on the boat, Peter asked it anyway—"Lord, if it is really You, ask me to come to You on the water."  Only after Jesus answered with the affirmation Peter craved did he have the courage to step out and do something that was humanly impossible.  Jesus' invitation to "Come" was what Peter needed.

Somehow, knowing it is "for His name's sake"—knowing it is HIM out there on those tossing waves in that unknown place makes even the most absurd-appearing, human reasoning-defying, radical proposition seem completely rational.  

As time went by, the precious Holy Spirit gently and gradually brought me to a place of willingness and pliability to follow Him away from what was familiar, as He affirmed with complete certainty that any time He asks us to launch out into the deep unknown, it is always "for His name's sake."  Eventually, He brought each member of my little family to the same conclusion, and with total unanimity, we placed our house and land on the market and "stepped out of the boat" in response to Jesus' call.  

Since then, He has, through many circumstances and confirming pieces of evidence thoroughly convinced us that everything He asked us to do has been "for His name's sake."  Tonight, as Kevin, Zach, and I reminisced about all that has changed and taken place in our lives, we realized that the boat we were in—the place I felt "safe" and had unintentionally come to depend upon for my sense of security—-was taking on water, and had we stayed on board, we would have gone under.  Oh, the things we know now that we didn't know then!

Walking forward to follow Jesus into the great unknown is never easy.  It always requires a measure of faith but especially so when everything around you contradicts what He is asking you to do.  We can't go by what we see because our vision can be skewed by our sense of longing to stay in our comfort zone.  What we perceive as being familiar and safe may, in reality, be on the verge of collapse.  If Jesus is calling us out, He is doing so in our best interest.

So, what is He asking you to do, my friend?  What have you heard Him whisper to you lately?  What invitation from Him has caused your heart to pound?  Are you struggling with questions and wondering if it is really Him who is doing the asking?  

Just ask, "Jesus, if it's You, bid me come to You on the water."  When He speaks "Come" you can step out of your boat with a certainty that, regardless how deep or storm-tossed the waters, He is walking beside you, and everything is going to be okay.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Your Next Step

"What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee."
Psalm 56:3

When I was growing up, my family and I used to go inner tubing on the river.  I look back now and think of how adventurous I was back then.  To this day, I have never learned to swim, and to think of getting in such deep water and floating seven miles on an inner tube now isn’t even within radar-range of what I would consider doing.  Back then, I was young and much more openminded to risk-taking, and even though I remember being scared, at times, somehow the fun must have seemed worth it.  

One of the things I find most concerning about my memories of that river is the fact that you could take a step and think you were on level ground, then the very next step could be several feet deeper, creating a massive drop-off.  You just never knew what the depth would be even one small step in front of you, and you obviously couldn’t see anything when you looked in the water.  So much of it was unknown and mysterious.  Looking through eyes that are much older and more cautious, I find the thought of such far too foolish and daring.  I must truly be getting old, but I certainly prefer that over the alternative.  😊

(As a side note, I found it interesting to find out that there has been a ban on inner tubing in that area dating back to 1965, which is the year before I was born!  Reading that didn't do much to set my mind at ease concerning the dangers of my adventurous younger days, and it was surprising to find that we must have been breaking the law, to boot!) 

As I spent time in prayer this morning, I had a whole list of things I am feeling anxious about concerning our future.  Never has it been more unknown or unfamiliar.  My mind went back to that Miami River and how uncertain it always was to take one more step.  How the “bottom could fall out” at any minute, and just because the ground felt level the last step I took gave no indication whatsoever as to what that next step would feel like.  Where would my foot end up?  Would there be ground beneath it to even step on?  Or would the step plunge me into waters over my head?

Isn't this the way with life?  There isn't one among us who can predict what the next step of their life will look like.  Will it remain steady?  Will today be "business as usual?"  Will tomorrow be a blissfully ordinary day?  I have come to dearly cherish the beauty and steadiness of an ordinary day.  It is beyond precious to me when a day doesn't include any unexpected "drop-offs" and an overall sense of normalcy and "the same" pervades.  Back in 2013, I wrote a post called "An Ordinary Day."  You can read it by clicking here.)

Life never stands still, does it?  It is like a continually-flowing river that moves us onward, no matter how much we may want to stay firmly rooted in place.  We have no promise of what our next step will entail, but we do have a promise that we will never walk alone, and even if the step in front of us calls us into a place of overwhelm, there are three things we should never forget.

1.  Regardless how deep the waters, the arms of God are wide and all-encompassing and are always beneath the lowest point. 

“The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”  Deuteronomy 33:27

"He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young."  Isaiah 40:11 (ESV)

"Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear."  Isaiah 59:1 (Berean Study Bible)

"I will steady him with My hand; with My powerful arm I will make him strong."  Psalm 89:21  (NLT)

2.  Regardless how severely wind-tossed the waters, Jesus walks in the midst of the storm, and the waves are always underneath His feet.

"About three o'clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water."  Matthew 14:25 (NLT)

"The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:  and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church."  Ephesians 1:18-22

3.  Regardless how mysterious and cloudy the waters, God sees clear through and is fully aware of every drop-off and peril that lurks in the darkness, and even though we can't see our next step, He can.

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you."  Psalm 34:15  (ESV)

"And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, 'This is the way, walk ye in it,' when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left."  Isaiah 30:21

"The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD."  Psalm 37:23

"He will guard the feet of His faithful ones."  I Samuel 2:9  (ESV)

"The LORD will always guide you; He will satisfy you in a sun-scorched land and strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail."  Isaiah 58:11 (Berean Study Bible)

May God bless each one of you dear readers and guide your every step.  May you always have a strong sense of His guiding presence in your life, and may you rest in the knowledge that He is ever in control.  I am praying for every person who will ever read these words as I type.  May He meet your every need and draw you ever closer to His side!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Updates on Mom Smith and Barbara Smith

"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
James 5:16

I wanted to post an update for all of you prayer warriors who are so faithfully lifting Mom Smith and Barbara Smith to the throne of grace.
I am so thankful to report that God has intervened and done so much for both of them!
Mom Smith is continuing to improve, after her surgery to open the blood flow to her right leg/foot.
She has regressed some as far as the blood flowing as freely as it did right after surgery, but it is still much improved over what it was before.
Lord willing, we are bringing her home from rehab next week!!!!!
We serve an amazing and awesome GOD who absolutely hears and answers the prayers of His children!  He doesn't put an age limit on healing, and He never sees anyone as too far gone.  We realize Mom Smith's condition remains very fragile, and she is far advanced in years, and still, God is SO gracious to have touched her once again.  As we watch the time of her life on earth edge closer to the moment Jesus calls her home, we deeply cherish every moment we are granted with her. 

The last time I posted an update about Barbara, I mentioned that she was diagnosed with an inoperable glioblastoma brain tumor.  The doctors were planning to send her home without much hope at all.  Between that post and this, the family was able to find a surgeon who was willing to operate on Barbara, and she came through the surgery just fine!  They removed as much of the tumor as they could, and she is doing so much better!  She is out of the hospital and will be undergoing chemo and radiation treatments.  It is just amazing how God has intervened and answered prayer on her behalf.  The family is most grateful for every prayer prayed for her and would so appreciate your continued prayers.  The journey ahead for her is long but filled with hope, praise God!

Dear friend, I don't know what you may be facing today.
I don't know what you are praying for or what you may look ahead and see as hopeless.
I don't know the particulars of what a miracle looks like for you.
The wonderful thing is that I do not need to know.
There is an all-seeing Father in Heaven who already knows what you need, and He is the only One who needs to know because He is the only One who can perform your miracle.
May I encourage you to keep looking to Him, regardless?
No matter what you face, He is enough.

When doctors say there is nothing they can do, 
He is Yahweh-Rapha, the LORD that Healeth.

"And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in His sight, and wilt give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee."  Exodus 15:26

"Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by Whose stripes ye were healed."  I Peter 2:24

"Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:  and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him."
James 5:14,15

When life is dark and you feel alone and utterly forsaken, 
He is Yahweh-Shammah, the LORD is There.

"Whither shall I go from Thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy presence?  If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me.  If I say, 'Surely the darkness shall cover me;' even the night shall be light about me.  Yea, the darkness hideth not from Thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to Thee.  For Thou hast possessed my reins: Thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well."
Psalm 139:7-14

"Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off?  Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD." 
 Jeremiah 23:23-24

"And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."  John 14:16-17

When finances are depleted, there is no way to make ends meet, and you don't know how you will survive,
He is Yahweh-Yireh, the LORD will Provide.

"Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means "the LORD will provide"). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided."
Genesis 22:14 (NLT)

"But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:19 

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."  Matthew 6:33

Whatever you are going through today, remember this—
"And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men, it is impossible, but not with God: for with God, all things are possible."  Mark 10:27

No matter what,
because of who Jesus is, there is always, always hope!

"And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of Him through all the region round about.  And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.  And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.  And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written,The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised." Luke 4:14-18

Look back over your life, and recall His never-ending faithfulness.
Bring to mind every time He has answered your prayers in the past.
Remember all He has done, and know this—
you, my friend, will see Him do it again!