Cosmic Eloquence

I’ve been absent from this post for many weeks for several reasons. Sometimes depression gets in the way and I continue to work on a book about my journey of grief. I find it difficult to write a blog AND write a book.

nI am also teaching a Sunday class on Hebrews which has me in deep study and preparation. I hope to write some short blogs on some of the insights I’ve learned in this study. What an amazing book! Deep, rich, and full of promise.

Yesterday’s lesson on Hebrews 1 set the stage that reveals God’s plan beginning with the Creation of the cosmos: God’s Eloquence in the Cosmos. 

 Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. Hebrews 1:1

Psalm 19: The Works and the Word of God.

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And the expanse [of heaven] is declaring the work of His hands.
Day after day pours forth speech,
And night after night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there [spoken] words [from the stars];
Their voice is not heard.
Yet their voice [in quiet evidence] has gone out through all the earth,
Their words to the end of the world.
In them and in the heavens He has made a tent for the sun,

These Scriptures provide us evidence of his work, but I think visuals of his handiwork are even more impressive.  I found this video that uses a song from Hillsong, “So Will I”.

I am thankful for Scripture and discovering new layers of understanding.

JoyMartell

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Again, Lord: A 911 Prayer

Holy Father, Healer of all broken hearts,

I come to You again as another senseless tragedy in our country.

O, Yahweh, these traumas come too soon. New York City victims — just last week!

This time, believers in Sutherland Springs, Texas, were worshiping You yesterday. Sunday morning worship, where we expect to feel safe as we lift our hearts and souls to You.

Prayer for victims

Today, I lay before You the pain and anguish of a community in shock and deep mourning for family and friends who were killed by one gunman. Even one day later we don’t know how many are in the hospital recovering from gunshot wounds. Give them physical and emotional healing of this trauma.

Holy Spirit, You dwell within believers and understand our groanings when we have no words. The trauma experienced by all the victims and survivers as well as the first responders will surely remain in their souls. They need help with stress when they relive the moments of panic on Sunday morning. You are our Counselor, our Guide; give them just what they need.

Prayer for families and friends of victims

Father, we grieve for this small community. Lives are connected through lifetime experiences and each soul who was killed is grieved by family members and close friends. Hold them close in the days and months ahead as they struggle with shock, emptiness, broken hearts, and anger.

Their hearts are broken; this will change their lives forever. Give them courage and strength to endure the coming days and months.

Prayer for first responders

Thank You Father for law enforcement, EMTs, fire personnel, doctors, and nurses who came to the aid of the victims in this tragedy. Many put themselves in harms way for the sake of others. Thank You for their training and preparation for such emergencies. Their skills, dedication, and determination save many lives. Protect them and guide them in their work. Be their stronghold when they face danger and disaster.

Prayer for the shooter’s family

They will need You in the coming days as they grieve and search for answers. Hold them and strengthen them as only You can.

Prayer for Nation’s Healing and Strength

Father, Son, and Spirit,  You are the source of ultimate strength and we need You more than ever. Sustain us through these troublesome times; increase our faith. Forgive our nation of all our sins against You and heal this land.

In the name of Jesus I ask You to bind up Satan and his evil spirits. All authority in heaven and earth has been given to You, Jesus, and You are worthy to receive all glory and honor and power and dominion now and forever more.

We need You more,

more than yesterday,

more than words can say,

more than ever before,

more than anything,

we need You Lord,

JoyMartell

 

911 Prayer

Holy Father, Healer of all broken hearts,

I lift an urgent plea to You of yet another tragedy in our country.

O, Yahweh, these urgent prayers seem to come every week:

  • victims in the path of three hurricanes
  • victims in Burnettes Chapel Church of Christ, just a few miles from here.

Prayer for victims

Today, I lay before You the pain and anguish of thousands of your children in the path of bullets in Las Vegas last night during a concert. I ask you to heal the hundreds who were injured last night – injured from deadly bullets and injured in the panic of trying to escape the danger. Give them physical and emotional healing of this trauma.

Holy Spirit, You dwell within believers and understand our groanings when we have no words. The trauma experienced by all the victims as well as the first responders will surely remain in their souls. They need help with stress when they relive the moments of panic on Sunday night. You are our Counselor, our Guide; give them just what they need.

Prayer for families and friends of victims

Father, we grieve for the families of those who were killed, shot down only because of where they were. Hold them close as they may be waiting to hear if their loved one was killed or injured.  Give them what they need as they wait.

Father, we know you understand grief because Your Son was killed. Messiah, we read of your grief for Lazarus when he died. Pull those who grieve into your loving arms and hold these families close: those who have lost a son or daughter or a wife or husband, a grandson or granddaughter, a sister or brother, an aunt or uncle. Their hearts are broken; this will change their lives forever. Give them courage and strength to endure the coming days and months.

Prayer for first responders

Thank You Father for law enforcement, EMTs, fire personnel, doctors, and nurses who came to the aid of the victims in this tragedy. Many put themselves in harms way for the sake of others. Thank You for their training and preparation for such emergencies. Their skills, dedication, and determination save many lives. Protect them and guide them in their work. Be their stronghold when they face danger and disaster.

Prayer for the shooter’s family

They will need You in the coming days as they grieve and search for answers. Hold them and strengthen them as only You can.

Prayer for Nation’s Healing and Strength

Father, Son, and Spirit,  You are the source of ultimate strength and we need You more than ever. Sustain us through these troublesome times; increase our faith. Forgive our nation of all our sins against You and heal this land.

In the name of Jesus I ask You to bind up Satan and his evil spirits. All authority in heaven and earth has been given to You, Jesus, and You are worthy to receive all glory and honor and power and dominion now and forever more.

We need You more,

more than yesterday,

more than words can say,

more than ever before,

more than anything,

we need You Lord,

A Dark and Stormy Night

Thursday was a dark and stormy night.

The remnants of Harvey finally showed up in middle Tennessee. Predictions on all the weather forecasts warned us for a week.

But when did it show up? At rush hour, on a Thursday night when the interstates surrounding and intersecting Nashville are crowded with people who just want to get home.

Neither Larry nor I, thankfully, were sitting in a car trying to find a shortcut home.

Weather completely dominated the news at five. Bright green, red, and yellow radar screens told the story. Torrential rain and gusting winds whipped through our neighborhood.

National news at 5:30 was preempted on our local channels. Tornado watches and warnings crawled across our screen.

Our local sirens blasted, and TV news told us to get to our safe places.

Our safe place is the hall closet under the stairs, packed with storage tubs and winter coats. I quickly sort out a space, put a stool in the closet, grab my phone and Ipad. Larry puts his shoes on, checks on several things and then . . .

the warning is cancelled.

Our house sits on a hill. The house behind AND above us catches rainfall that flows down to our backyard. Water then flows down our front yard into the sewer drain (if it is not filling up). The excess flows across the street to our neighbors’ front yard, and down their backyard.

The flood of 2010 filled our backyard, and we spent quite sometime one afternoon in the pouring rain digging out the ditch that leads to the sewer drain. We knew we needed to keep close watch this dark and stormy night on our backyard.

By 7:00 P.M. it was time to get to work. We dressed in raincoats and boots, grabbed a big flashlight and a hoe. Larry dug while I provided light. Water had filled the ditch and was not flowing out. He dug, cleared, and waited to see if it flowed. Repeat that process numerous times.

Standing in the rain, getting soaked and cold from the wind, I thought of Houston and all the people who had no time to do anything about their homes.

It’s much harder to dig out a ditch in the dark. The weather conditions are already a hindrance. When we come in the back door, soaking raincoats, boots, hats, wet shirts and pants are piled on the floor or kitchen chairs.

Why does everything seem worse in the dark?

Larry goes out a second time in the evening to dig some more.

We watch the 10:00 news, keep looking out our windows, and then . . .

a tornado warning comes for another part of town.

I eventually prepare for bed. Before I turn out my light at midnight, that jarring warning goes off on our phones. A tornado warning in our neighborhood. I alert Larry who is in his office – he didn’t hear it.

Again, we prepare the closet, and he decides it’s time to put on clothes instead of pjs. Finally I sit on the stool, sleepy, irritated and then . . .

the warning is removed!

I’m too tired to put the closet back together and just leave everything cluttering up the bedroom.

It’s hard to get to sleep after these warnings, but we did. The dark and stormy night ended with no more warnings. We wake to light rain, a water-soaked backyard, but no damage.

A few people in Nashville had to evacuate their homes in the night. Some minor damage from those tornadoes, but nothing like the 2010 flood or the deadly 1998 tornado.

We thank God for our safety during the dark and stormy night, but continue to pray for the thousands in south Texas.

JoyMartell

Play or Entertain: 5MinuteFriday

Today’s word: PLAY

My nephew, Eric, and his family are living in Waco, TX. Their lives were turned upside down this week when their son, Ever, was diagnosed with leukemia at the children’s hospital in Temple, TX.

Here’s what I want you to know: these parents PLAY with their children. They visited us in 2014 when there were only two children, Ezri and Ever. They had not been here long when my husband looked at our living room and said, “They’ve taken over!” It was a playground of their toys, some of mine, and just stuff that Ezri figured out how to enjoy.

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Stefanie, Eric, Ever, and Ezri Johnsoni at our house in 2014

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Ever was just pulling up that summer. Ezri was the creative one.

This family was in the middle of a transition that eventually led them to Texas. But they impressed me so much with their patience and firm values that children do not need to be entertained. We trekked through Opry Mills mall avoiding the Disney Store and Build-a-Bear store.

Eric and Stefanie provide all kinds of play opportunities, and sometimes the kids are in front of screens. But usually a parent is right there, engaged in the process. I’ve seen pictures of them watching the first Star Wars movie and Dad is watching with them. They see Disney movies on Netflix or DVD and Stefanie may include a comment , “I tear up every time.”

It is so easy to use movies or the IPad or phone to keep children entertained, busy, out of your hair! I’ve done it with Grace and great nieces and nephews, but I hope we remember that a child’s primary job is to play. Learning comes from their play. 

Okay that’s my soapbox rant for now, but I want to share an update on Ever’s situation.

Here is the family today. Elinor is now the youngest, Ever is almost four, and Ezri is six.

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Eric and Ever, Stefanie, Elinor, and Ezri

Ever had a bone marrow biopsy on Wednesday, and we learned he has Pre-B cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. this is the “best” type of leukemia for treatment. On Thursday he had a port put in, and they checked his spinal fluid and brain to be sure there no cells there. 

Such good news on late last night, no cells in the other places. He had his first chemo treatment yesterday. His treatment will be outpatient in a few days: 35 days of treatment, then another bone marrow biopsy.  Best outcome is that he will be on a maintenance drug after the first treatment.

This little guy just pulls at my heart strings. He loves dinosaurs, and last summer we all were in Washington D.C. for his granddaddy’s retirement ceremony.  Ever got to see the dinosaurs at the Smithsonian!

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Finally, a meal after the procedure!

Celebration meal in D.C. Eric and family are on the right. Don’t know where Ezri is.

We are asking for prayers for a successful treatment, support for his parents, and comfort for his sisters as they live with this new “normal” life for the whole family.

Thanks be to God today for

  • an oncologist who came from St. Jude’s in Memphis
  • confident and caring staff at the hospital
  • friends from around the world who send their love and prayers 
  • social media doing a wonderful thing – spreading the word to help

JoyMartell

Legacies and Homecoming

Mama and Daddy (Willie and Martin Johnson)

Father’s Day found me in a bit of depression – I never know when this “uninvited guest will show up. I wanted to write this post to remember Daddy, but it has taken me days to complete it.

Earlier in June I went to church with my brother’s family in West Tennessee. We drove a few miles out in the country to a small building near Gleason, TN.countingjoyblog.wordpress.com

It was Homecoming Sunday; I had not been back to this church since the spring of 1985. You can find the story of that Sunday here.

This is the church where Daddy preached the last few years of his life. His picture in a hallway identifies Willie Johnson as the first preacher for this church from 1980 to 1985.

I remember attending small churches in Michigan, Kentucky, Alabama, and North Carolina where Daddy served as a full-time preacher all my life. Sometimes he served as a part-time preacher when he worked as a deputy sheriff. We also lived in Texas, but I don’t remember it.

You can read more of his story here.

Coming back to Liberty brought so many memories. It reminded me of the legacy that he built, actually a legacy we all participated in. In the very smallest of churches my brothers learned to lead the worship – song leading, praying, speaking, serving the Lord’s Supper. I learned to teach Bible classes to children.

Since Daddy was only 56 when he died, he did not see the fruits of his labor – his legacy. But he is still remembered in Liberty today. In 1980 when he was asked to preach for a brand new church called Liberty, he already had a full-time job as juvenile officer in Henry County. Preaching would be a part-time job.

Twice on Sunday morning I heard this quote repeated. When the brand new church leaders asked Daddy to become the preacher at Liberty, he replied, “I’ll be your preacher on Sundays, but I won’t do your visiting, your Bible teaching, etc.” 

The legacy I observed on this Sunday morning in June came from those beginnings. As we sang hymns I looked around the audience. Nearly every man was singing bass! They have many who rotate as song leaders, and on Sunday nights the full-time preacher doesn’t preach; a rotation of men speak. Such participation amazes me.

Outside the church building at Liberty in the ’80s, Mama is on the right.

The building has been modernized, expanded, and improved, but it is still simple and functional, reflecting the values of its members. This church is precious to all of Willie Johnson’s children because they walked with him and Mama through his darkest days of illness and finally death. 

The second-best thing I found that Sunday was a “dinner on the ground”. For those who don’t know, years ago these dinners were actually spread out on crude tables and sawhorses and then eaten while sitting on quilts. Our potluck dinner was spread in the “building down the hill”.

I had to take a picture of my plate. If you have followed this blog, you know my story with food allergies. This was my first potluck since I’m eating whatever I want now.  This plate includes macaroni and cheese, lasagna, rolls, and sourdough bread – foods I have not eaten for 10 or more years. My dessert plate was full also!

The legacy of a father extends beyond what he did. He lives on in the children and grandchildren he knew and the great-grandchildren he never met. 

Four children,

eight grandchildren,

sixteen great grandchildren

are scattered around the South, carrying that legacy into small and large communities and churches, teaching Bible to children and adults, leading in worship, serving in leadership roles. I don’t think this legacy would surprise him, but I think he would have loved watching us. He always spoke of his kids and grand-kids with pride.

I’m thankful today for the opportunity to revisit this church and hear the emotion in the voices whose lives were blessed and influenced by this righteous man.

JoyMartell 

Future: Five Minute Friday topic

Future – scary or exciting?

Are you scared for the future of the world? Do you see “doom and gloom” for the direction of our country?

OR

Does the future feel like an adventure? Do you believe good things are waiting?

We have plenty to be concerned about as we consider the future of the state of our country or of the world.

But consider this. The Bible tells us Satan is active in our world and is looking for every weakness as an opportunity to gain a foothold into our soul’s armor.

John Eldredge says there is a lie we believe based on the following assumptions:

Because we believe in God  +  because He is love = God will give us a happy life.

An extension of this lie looks like another A + B = C. We assume that:

 A. if we believe in God +

B. if we are a good person =

C. God will deliver the rest

The problem with these assumptions is the New Testament makes it clear in numerous places that we will have troubles in our lives, especially if we are Believers.

The early Christians had reason to fear their future; their lives were often in physical danger. Paul writes to those Christians in several of his letters, encouraging and giving them hope. He reminded them to fix their eyes on Jesus.

Walking With God, Eldredge’s book, addresses these issues in detail, and this question: What does God want from us?

But I find myself too deep into this subject for a 5 minute writing exercise. And I’ve already exceeded my 5 minutes.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans he remind his readers AND us that the world’s pattern of living is not for Believers.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Romans 12:2

My joys this week are all about food I haven’t eaten in YEARS! I’m thankful for:

  • caramel pecan ice cream
  • crackers (that don’t cost twice as much as regular crackers), crisp and buttery
  • biscuits made from Bisquick with crushed strawberries and blueberries
  • Greek yogurt for breakfast
  • corn muffins and Campfire Roast Beef DinnerCracker Barrel Campfire S
  • and S’mores

Here’s my story about the changes in my diet.

JoyMartell