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September 22, 2016, 11:05 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey...October 2016

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey…

  With the upcoming election, including the election of a new President of the United States, most Christians are asking many questions regarding the condition of our nation and our responsibility as citizens who are believers in Christ. With all of the talk about change, what does that really mean in the life of a nation? As Christians, we should know better than anyone else what it means to be changed or transformed. It should also be clear that a “nation” is not really an entity unto itself, but it is made up of individuals who live within its borders. So, it would stand to reason that a transformed nation will come about only if the individuals who make up that nation personally experience transformed lives. That brings it right down to where you and I live every day.

   In Romans 12:1-2, Paul wrote:

1Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. (HCSB) 

   Christianity is a lifestyle, 24/7, NOT a man-made religion. It is not a matter of trying to “do better” Mondays-Saturdays, and showing up for a couple of hours at a church building on Sundays. As Christians, we have a personal relationship with the One and only Holy God, through the gift of salvation purchased for us by His Son, Jesus Christ! He permanently indwells us, with His full and holy character, through the residence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

   How does that transform my life? I stop living life the way I would design it. I stop making choices that don’t match up with the holiness of God. I present my life as a “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.” That is how I worship Him 24/7, not just on Sundays. In my own strength? Can’t be done! Using His power and character, residing in me around the clock? That’s the only way. It takes a lifetime of choosing/learning, but there is no better day than today to start!  

         Marsha Cook, Director

 




August 25, 2016, 12:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey...September 2016

   The RIO OLYMPICS captured our time and attention around the world for two weeks. We saw the best of the best of athletes. We saw great sportsmanship and sometimes, not so great. We watched mostly young people stand, tears in their eyes, medals around their necks, as they listened to their national anthems while proudly facing/saluting their flags. It was refreshing to see young people who truly are patriotic—proud to represent their countries—and who display an ethic of discipline and hard work not normally seen on daily newscasts. They were “unofficial” ambassadors, representing their country’s best!

   Watching the huge variety of athletic disciplines being performed almost to perfection, it occurred to me how we, as ambassadors for Christ, should be even more disciplined, striving faithfully to represent Him well to the world. But, do we??? Undoubtedly all of the Olympic athletes experience not only disappointments in their lives or performances, but sometimes also great setbacks caused by injuries or even politics outside their control. But they seldom quit training or trying, and they always keep their eyes on the goal, no matter how demanding or expensive it gets! Otherwise, they would not be Olympians.

   How often do Christians give up or complain (even to God) or think life is not “fair” when things happen that are painful, sad, seemingly unjust, challenging, disappointing, or imperfect? Yet, we have every reason to react otherwise. Each believer is permanently indwelled by the power of the Holy Spirit, so we are not powerless. But, we often take our eyes off the goal and let life trip us up, much like a runner kicking over a hurdle. We need to get back up and stay in the race, as Paul so aptly described for us in Philippians 3:10-15 (HCSB):

10 My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…12 Not that I have already reached the goal…but I make every effort to take hold of it…13 …one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, 14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. 15…all who are mature should think this way…

Marsha Cook

 




July 28, 2016, 12:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey...August 2016

   This year I helped rock babies in the nursery at Vacation Bible School, allowing their mommies to work in other areas! As a child I anticipated VBS with great excitement. We had no “thematic” curriculum and décor. But, there was great excitement in the air as we all lined up outside daily in age groups, ready to march in when the pianist began to play. Leading the march were the fortunate children who were chosen to carry the American flag, the Christian flag, and a big, black Holy Bible. After filing into our pews, we reverently pledged our allegiances to each flag and the Bible, with our hands over our hearts.  We sang special patriotic songs and songs of commitment. Daily there was other music to learn and a filmstrip story of a “real live missionary” serving somewhere around the world. The Pastor shared the Gospel and children were saved. Heartfelt offerings to missions were given, with no “competition” even considered. Bible stories in our classes, crafts and Kool-Aid™ with homemade cookies rounded out the day. A favorite craft for one age group was elbow macaroni glued onto cigar boxes and spray painted gold to make treasure boxes. I often wondered where our Baptist church got all of those cigar boxes every year. Family Night, always Friday night, was almost a community event!

   At about age 12 or 13, I became the Church Pianist—thereby, the one playing the music in the opening exercise. I continued that as an adult in many churches, but also began to teach classes or direct the VBS. I have taught other teachers in VBS Clinics. I have spent my life ministering in many ways that were partially inspired by my childhood years in VBS—hearing and memorizing God’s Word, learning about missions, and having the principle of Christian patriotism ingrained into my heart and mind. Now rocking babies brings the joy of cuddling them and getting acquainted with other workers of various ages. One day I was struck with the “community of women” there in that nursery room, doing the age-old ministries of gently assisting babies and mentoring one another, woman-to-woman. May it continue on for generations to come! Deuteronomy 6:4-7

      Marsha Cook

 




June 23, 2016, 12:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey…July 2016

   I am in the middle of a literal journey—a trip to the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, plus vacation time. Traveling for 17 days is a time for packing lots of stuff and packing lots of things to do into the calendar. But, it can also be a time for God to pack new experiences, lessons, and insights into your life!

   God provided us a lovely and relaxing place to stay in Branson for a couple of days. DINO (the pianist) literally moved me to tears by Intermission time—not only because of his beautiful piano music but because he was performing his heart out under less than ideal circumstances [playing for an audience of only about 20 although he is accustomed to hundreds or thousands, plus his deep concern for his wife, who normally sings but was unable to be there]. My heart really went out to him, a seasoned performer, now nearly 74, obediently using the talent God gave him. I was reminded we are all to be faithful, no matter the size of our audience, because God is our true audience! The musical MOSES was outstanding. It brought such dramatic reality to the story we all know and love. I found myself being reminded of a time in my own life when God once said to me, as a little Arkansas college student, “Marsha, I AM God!”

   Due to Russell not feeling well and me having to walk a distance to meetings further than I have walked in over two years, the time spent at the Convention events has been a bit challenging.

   However, we have experienced…

…God helping us to attend, despite the physical challenges;

…being a part of a Convention determined to focus on spiritual unity and on Christ, even when division was a real possibility—a significant spiritual change from years gone by when dissension was so thick in the air you could cut it with a knife;

…being a part of watching racial healing unfold, beginning within the body of Christ;

…even feeling there is hope, not despair, for our nation, in the midst of turmoil in our land.

Thank You, Lord, for showing me YOU, all along the way!

You promised never to leave us nor forsake us…and You don’t!

 

      Marsha Cook

 




May 26, 2016, 12:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey...June 2016

   Nearly every year of our marriage, both Russell and our dads have sorta gotten the “short end of the stick” because Father’s Day seems to always be on  the dates we are gone somewhere to attend the Southern Baptist Convention! I’m not sure we ever got to be with either of our dads on Father’s Day and, more often than not, our adult children and grandchildren have not been with Russell, either, because we are nearly always gone!

   My cell phone wallpaper photo will likely never change, because it is an all-time favorite. We were attending the Convention in New Orleans just a few years ago. On Father’s Day afternoon, one of our sons, Phillip, called to wish his dad “Happy Father’s Day” while we were sitting in a big open room at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, relaxing for a few moments. I snapped the photo on my cell phone of Russell on his cell phone talking to Phillip, who had called his dad from his own cell phone! THAT was truly a modern day snapshot moment on Father’s Day for us.

   Oddly, my most special Father’s Day memory is from five years ago, between about 5:00-5:30 pm, as Russell and I spent our final moments on Earth with Mother before she slipped away to heaven to join her Heavenly Father, (hopefully her own daddy), and…my wonderful daddy, her dear, dear sweetheart! After I wiped tears from under her eyes (twice), as she gently labored to take her last breaths from an oxygen tube, I was able to say, “It’s okay, Mother…it’s okay. I’m going to wipe your tears away now. You know you are about to go where there are no more tears, no more sorrow…don’t you, Mother?” That must have been the “release” she needed. Suddenly there were no more tears to wipe from her closed eyes, even while still here on Earth. They ended just like that. And in just a few more breaths she left us with a forever poignant memory of a, yes, Happy Father’s Day!

 

“Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. And we are! …”

1 John 3:1

Marsha Cook

 


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