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Necessary Oxygen

“Breathing is highly underrated,” said my friend Paul when once he had difficulty breathing – and while he was touring Jerusalem. I learned a lot about oxygen deprivation in 2010 when my husband was hospitalized for 24 days with Legionnaire’s Disease. Oxygen feeds every cell in our bodies. We think of the major organs – lungs, heart, brain – but our skin, eyes, muscles – every cell – need oxygen to grow and be healthy. Without this necessary oxygen, cells in our body get weak and over time lose their vitality.

While a neurologist may not agree, I believe that the onset of memory loss, dementia attributed to hardening of arteries, started with Bill’s oxygen deprivation. And while its downward progression is evident, the cause doesn’t matter in the scheme of things, the treatment and future prognosis. It’s a matter of fact. It gives me more appreciation for oxygen.

“Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:15, NIV 2011).

Can you hear the little children in church choir singing, “This little light of mine. Put it under a bushel? No.” We know that the use of a lamp is to shed light, to shine the way in darkness.

Lamps in Jesus’ day used oil for its fuel source. Putting a lamp under a bushel basket or a bowl would snuff it out. The lamp needed oxygen in order to be effective, to burn brightly.

So if oxygen is needed for those ancient lamps to burn, and Jesus was teaching His disciples about burning brightly in a dark world, and oxygen is needed for every cell in our physical bodies, what would oxygen feed in the spiritual realm? Let’s examine a few.

As humans, our living can be divided into such areas as financial, physical, emotional, relational, familial, and spiritual. What is the oxygen in these areas? As Christians, the Holy Spirit’s indwelling affects every cell of our being. In finances, we need discernment about saving, giving, and buying. It’s not to be done by the world’s standards. Physically, we should be attentive to good health practices, taking care of ourselves for our own sake and others. How we expend our emotions is important, for we can harm ourselves or hurt others with the wrong attitude and reaction. Self-control is one fruit of the Spirit. We relate to people around us; we are not isolationists. We develop in community and the most important is family. Here we are our true selves, connect to our roots, and influence the future generation. In the spiritual realm the light of our witness will shine brightly if fueled by the Holy Spirit working in and through us.

So breathe deeply. Allow the Holy Spirit to fuel every cell of your being, giving praise for God’s abundant supply, how He designed our body and our whole being.

Glass Stories

I’m not sure what sparked this train, but a while ago I was thinking about drinking glasses. When I had the mumps as a child, my mother pampered me and let me use the blue Depression Glass set – small pitcher and glass on a tray. Somehow I broke the glass and have not been able to find a replacement. Many years later I found out all the Depression Glass I now have inherited is not what I thought. It’s actually the original glass that Depression Glass was designed after and placed in large laundry soap boxes. Not disappointed though, for I love the blue, green, and pink glass items I have.

Our second UMC appointment was in Lucedale, MS. We enjoyed visiting our members, learning their country ways. One summer afternoon Bill and I visited Joyce and sat outside while she went for a pitcher of cold water. She handed me a glass and filled it. I took my time drinking but noticed she was standing nearby and had not served Bill. She was waiting for me to finish so she could pour his drink into the same glass. Perhaps knowing that I grew up in the city will help you understand my surprise at this style of hospitality. Joyce became a dear friend, and even after we left that circuit, she would write a note in her Christmas card and include one or two dollars.

My mother’s father worked at the Crichton Ice and Fuel Company in Mobile, AL. Their slogan: “Keep cool in summer; warm in winter.” For advertisement the company distributed small drinking glasses etched with “Ice – Coal – Wood,” and we liked to read it thus: “ice cold wood.” These days we buy ice in bags for ice-chests; but in my grandfather’s day they sold blocks of ice for the ice box, the forerunner of the refrigerator (for you young readers). For perhaps ten years after my parents married, they owned an ice box and had ice delivered to the house. My mother must have thought having an electric refrigerator would dishonor her dad, even though he had died when she was a teenager. Anyway, those in our family who have one of those small glasses consider them a treasure.

Pastoral Prayer

“We dare to ask, O Lord, that Your Spirit fall afresh upon us with all His quickening powers; that He shed abroad our Savior’s love and kindle a flame of love in our cold hearts. Save us from offering to You only a form of worship without any real joy; deliver us from those secret sins and petty vices which keep us from knowing the peace that passes understanding and the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge; redeem us from those habits of body and mind which make it difficult for the fruits of the Spirit to grow in us; rescue us from the bondage of past sins and bad experiences which keeps us from living victoriously in present circumstances.” (William B. Coker, Sr., World Gospel Church, 4-18-1993)

Something to Chew On

Having been a teacher and professor, I had the privilege of challenging my students to think, even though some of them had little interest to do so. In my years as a pastor, the sermons I presented to our parishioners were intended to make them think. The Scriptures challenge us to use our minds, because faith rests on knowing and understanding what we believe.

In one of the greatest books in the Old Testament, Deuteronomy, the author challenges his readers to think in order to believe, a necessity for living out their faith in God. An example is in chapter 10, verses 12-13: And now, Israel, what does the Lord our God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good.

In the New Testament the Apostle Paul likewise challenged the Corinthians in his second letter to examine themselves to see whether they were in the faith: Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you – unless indeed you fail to meet the test? (3:5).

We too need to test ourselves as these scriptures suggested centuries ago. Consider my questions:

  1. When did you make a personal decision about Jesus Christ?
  2. Do you have a rational and personal conviction about your commitment to Christ?
  3. Do you have faith in God, a certainty & confidence in all circumstances?
  4. What do you think your commitment to Christ means?
  5. What are your strongest spiritual desires?
  6. What is your participation in the body of Christ?
  7. What is your level of concern for others?
  8. What about the acid test – “Thy will be done”?                   W.B. Coker, Sr.

Connectors

I read verses in my Bible and connect them with other verses. Something in Sunday’s sermon sparked my interest — that Satan sent Jesus to the cross. Yes, but there are connectors. John 13:2 & 27 confirm that “the devil had already prompted Judas… to betray Jesus” and “Satan entered into Judas.” But coupled with that is Jesus willingly giving Himself to the cross: “I lay down my life…I lay it down on My own” (John 10:15, 18). Jesus made His own decision to go to the cross. Satan could not make Jesus go to the cross without His permission. We know that Jesus holds all authority. It was proven during the temptation in the wilderness and in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Not My will, but Thine” was His prayer to the Father (Mark 14:36). Jesus allowed Satan to have his/His way. These ways are connected in the Father’s divine plan.

Having a Plan

Written June 1998, revised March 2017 — “You are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10).

“Even as the architect’s model is planned, prepared and completed in his office, so the perfect pattern of the life of holy service, for which Jesus has redeemed and called us, is now in Him in heaven. But now it must be formed in us and transferred to our earthly lives, and this is the work of the Holy Spirit.” — A.B. Simpson, Days of Heaven on Earth

Our architect completed the plans for our home. Working with these plans, even the measurements of distance between a pipe and a drain, the contractors relayed the plan to each member of the work teams. As the basement crew worked, they had to follow the plan — the depth of the exterior drainage as well as the height of the walls and placement values between them.

Without a completed plan, any and all the work would be off-scale and affect the whole. One miscalculation, one ‘doing it my way,’ second-guessing the architect, would make for a lop-sided house in the end. Yet while there are specifics, certain choices are interrelated within the whole. Even where a light fixture goes affects the laying of insulation.

So much of this is a metaphor for life. God has the blueprint and it’s His way that completes the finished product. The Holy Spirit works according to the divine plan and each decision we make affects the progress and the whole work. All choices are interrelated, even those minor, non-eternal ones, for we are whole persons and God has designed us so.

May I continually and faithfully look to Him and seek the Master design, making the right choices for a life that pleases God — “complete in Him.” ~ALC

Furnishings

Parsonages are different in various states. In Mississippi they were furnished, even though not the best offerings, usually from parishioners who were getting newer items in their own homes or perhaps from sales at local department stores. But we had no complaints; we had nothing of our own to bring to these parsonages.

Newly married, I moved to our first home in North Biloxi, Mississippi. Bill had already lived there for about three months. The living room had a green Naugahyde sofa, coffee table and a few occasional chairs. An upright piano stood against the wall opposite the sofa. A dining room table, seating six, situated at the far end of the living room near the door to the kitchen, always held a flower arrangement. Two bedrooms, one bathroom, and kitchen finished out the house, except for a small room Bill used for a study with a desk and only one bookcase.

The small back yard had room for a couple of rabbit hutches. We raised them to eat. One we gave to a young girl at church and told her it was a pet bunny, not one of the eating rabbits. Bill’s Aunt Roberta gave me some flowers and ferns, my introduction to gardening.

The parsonage was located not far behind the church, so we walked to the services. We married on a Saturday, spent our wedding night at the parsonage, went to church that Sunday morning and had quarterly conference with the district superintendent that evening. No regrets about not having a “proper honeymoon.” As Bill and I walked over to the church that morning some of the older men greeted us outside. One said to Bill, “At least you got a wife who is shorter than you.”

We found out later that the women of the church had a difference of opinion. The older women wanted to invite us to a home for Sunday dinner; the younger ladies thought we should want time alone at the parsonage. We would have preferred to go to someone’s home, but we returned to our own. I fried chicken and Bill taught me how to make gravy.

Kentucky and Indiana parsonages are not furnished. Before I arrived at our first parsonage in Kentucky (waiting in Alabama for our second son to arrive), Bill purchased a house full of furniture, expanding monthly payments in our budget. Now I look around our present home and there are only a few items of furniture from that purchase. We have an abundant supply, and soon to make the decision to downsize. Now with built-in book shelves in three rooms, where will all our books lodge? What furniture will we give away or store? We want a smaller house, but furnished adequately for our needs. ~ALC