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April 20, 2016, 12:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey...May 2016

   As I cared for my elderly parents with Alzheimer’s 24/7, there seemed to not be enough hours in the day or energy in my body. I had friends and medical personnel here who helped, but it was still a challenge. My only sister lives 1500 miles away and flew down periodically to help. One day as we talked on the phone long distance about that day’s challenges, she said, “We need to pray about…” Without thinking, I said, “You pray. I’ll go do.” Her quiet response over the phone was, “Why do you suppose God put us both in the same family?”

   Stunned and a bit embarrassed, I knew in my heart she was doing all she could do from a distance, which happens to be what she does best. She is the consummate prayer warrior but she couldn’t be here often to do the daily tasks. I was praying “on the go,” as I tried to learn how to meet one physical and emotional need after another. She was right. God had put together the perfect family team to meet this nearly overwhelming need long before any of us knew of the need. But He knew.

   That is how the Body of Christ works, whether in marriages, families or in churches. God places a combination of uniquely gifted members of the Body together. When they function correctly, each person’s giftedness dovetails with the other. There are no Lone Rangers ™. We shouldn’t be jealous of one another, wishing for gifts we don’t have or work ourselves to death trying to cover too many bases. Instead, we should a) discover our spiritual gifts and talents, b) develop them, and c) work carefully, cheerfully and willingly with each other to fit them together in the Body of Christ so that “it” functions well!

   Our family has had several broken bones or surgeries or illnesses. These times have shown us plainly how each part of the physical body depends upon the other and how each is necessary. The parts have individual functions, but none function correctly alone. When marriages, families, or churches are not functioning well, we need to learn to ask why not…and be willing to let God show us His plan…as we work together in the same Body.   

Marsha Cook

 




March 24, 2016, 12:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey...April 2016

   How many of us truly “get it” when it comes to understanding…defining…sharing…experiencing…true LOVE?

   Hollywood is famous for throwing at us various examples of so-called love, but it is usually a cheapened version, coming nowhere near matching true love. Currently there is a highly visible political candidate who throws the word “love” around in his speeches to fill in the vacuous blanks with prolific abandon. We profess to love things as simple as hot dogs or as majestic as a snow-capped mountain. We exclaim how much we love a beautiful wedding gown or a newborn baby. The English language does not give us much help in fine-tuning the definition of love. So, where do we go to find out the meaning of true love?

   We go to the Source. We go to the One who not only gave us the capacity to love but Who IS love:  “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God IS love” (1 John 4:8). He not only defines love for us, He is the very essence of love. Think of it with an equal sign…God=love. If we do not truly know Him, we will never know how to truly love. In the Greek, God’s love is called AGAPE’…the kind of love that doesn’t say, “I love you because of you,” but which says, “I love you in spite of you!” I may not love what you do or say but I will sacrificially love you, in spite of that.

   Is LOVE just some abstract feeling or is there tangible substance to loving, to being loved? I just watched a video clip of the Christian songwriter, Rory Feek, beautifully speaking at the memorial service for his wife, Joey, who recently died after a long bout with cancer. The testimony of their journey has blessed many. If you watch this video, it will bless you, too. Go to SouthernGospelVideos.com and look up the March 13 video. Rory quotes from 1 Corinthians 13, where God gives us all very specific instruction on what LOVE looks like in real life. Just about every day of my life, I personally come under conviction of how I am doing in letting God love others that way through me. I have a long ways to go...how about you?  

Marsha Cook

 




February 22, 2016, 12:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey...March 2016

Many reminders have come my way lately of how great and infinitely loving, caring and dependable God is!

…Through a new look at long-familiar Scripture passages:

In a new Bible study, SEAMLESS, by Angie Smith (which I highly recommend) we are reminded of how God established the nation of Israel and the lineage and redemptive life of Christ. We see a God of details, dependable promise-keeping character, absolute holiness, and infinite and consistent love (which sometimes requires, yes, judgment). 

…Through, believe it or not, posts on social media:

Oddly, the absolute beauty and precision of Creation show up daily on social media posts. Astounding photos from the plant and animal kingdoms and from the vast variety of topography across the planet are mind-boggling. The mathematical beauty and explosion of creativity shown are in-your-face reminders of the matchless awesomeness of the Creator and of His infinite care in sustaining every single molecule of it! Just today, even a post about a mathematical chart made my mind immediately race to the amazing precision of God!

…Through the world around me:

I can’t look out the window or walk out the door without seeing the God of all of Creation. I am thankful for parents who taught me to do that. The beautiful Oklahoma sunsets we have…the constant changes in weather…the differences we see as we travel…all “yell” God!

…Through the current political scenarios that consume our TV airways every day:

There is much to remind us, in both the Old and New Testaments, that God allows and uses governments and rulers—even evil ones. But, the righteous are not without hope. Read Psalm 37 and find contrasts between the righteous and the wicked.

 …Through the “peace that passes all understanding,” by trusting the God of all, Who is in ME. The God of those Old Testament people is MY God. The God of the early believers in the New Testament is MY God. They were not super-saints with exclusive rights. They were sinners, saved by grace, just like ME. Believers in the Bible and ME…we are ALL redeemed by the same faithful, consistent, almighty, miraculous, loving God and He uses us all. (Hebrews 13:8) 

   Marsha Cook

 




January 28, 2016, 12:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey-February 2016

   We recently helped move our daughter’s family to Arizona. We travelled through many different terrains (plains, mesas, high altitude mountains—some covered with pines, some covered with cacti—and deserts). They live in a desert now, but it is actually more of a beautiful oasis. Oddly, it is very close to the same area where we once had an associational partnership for six years. So, we personally have gotten to watch some of the incredible growth and transformation of the area happen in recent years.

   There are many people, businesses, and homes in that “desert” area, but also much uniquely beautiful vegetation. We saw multiple varieties of palm trees, evergreens, sage, mesquite, cacti, beautiful flowering plants, and prolific citrus fruit trees! How is all of this possible in a desert? Because there may not be as much rain as the rest of us are used to getting, but there is apparently enough water underground to support all of that life—human, animal, and vegetation! Underground streams and springs covered by the sands of a desert are a local hidden treasure.

   How amazing is that??? What once appeared desolate and apparently devoid of life and beauty can actually sustain life because of a hidden source of hydration/nutrition! Beauty and vitality are springing forth out of the most unlikely of places.

   The same can be true in each of our lives. At times we feel like we are in desolation and dryness and lack of vitality—yes, even in our spiritual lives. Yet, as Christians, we have residing within us living water—the Lord—Who wants so much to share with us His power, His strength, His sustenance, His life, His vitality, His beauty. We must never lose hope.

   One of the most helpful books I read during the energy-draining and sad time of caring for my parents as they finished their lives in the seeming stronghold of Alzheimer’s was STREAMS IN THE DESERT by L.B. Cowman. It is a soothing, encouraging, strengthening book of 366 daily devotions. I encourage you to get a copy and let it take YOU through your own personal desert times.   

Marsha Cook

 




December 17, 2015, 12:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey-January 2016

Ahhhhhh...the infamous time for New Year's resolutions is fast upon us! How many of us kept the ones we made for this year? Better yet...how many of us even remember what they were???
   The longer I live the more I am able to look back and see that Life truly comes in "seasons." Yes, we live through individual days that collect themselves into weeks, months, and years. But, somewhere along the way, we are often called upon to accept the seasons of our lives.
   When we were children, time seemed to stretch out before us and we didn't believe it when the adults in our lives told us that Christmas would come around faster every year. When our own three children were all preschoolers, friends would say, "Enjoy them while they are young. They won't stay that way long!" It's hard to grasp that fact when Chicken Pox progressively runs through a young household for six (6) straight weeks! Then we all think the teen years won't fly by fast enough to get both parents and teens safely to the other side! As multiple graduations and weddings happen in a flurry...and then the grandchildren begin to arrive, we start thinking, "How did we ever get HERE so fast?"
   Often young mothers wonder if they are missing something by setting aside their college training in order to devote their time more fully to raising their children. This is a precious "season" of life. The college training received will benefit the whole family and community in creative, if unexpected, ways. It will not go to waste. Learn to embrace this God-given season joyfully.
   In caring for my elderly and ailing parents, I walked into a season I did not know would happen. Later, I came to understand that they, too, were walking into a new season of their own, even if they were unable to recognize it. Now, as I get ever closer to my next decade, I see new seasons coming. For instance, we just helped our daughter's family (including four of our seven grandchildren) move over 1000 miles away. We have just entered a brand new season of learning how to be a long-distance family, holidays included.
   Through it all, we must remember that we dare not miss the present, by regretting the past or always pushing toward the future. Today came from yesterday. Tomorrow

is today's future. We must not miss the "todays," living so in the regrets of yesterday or so anticipating tomorrow that we totally miss the presence of today. We should embrace seasons as they come. They are not the end-all moments in life. They are here...only for a season. If we commit to living each single day to pleasing God, He will add them all together to compose that ever-elusive future...a season at a time!

Marsha Cook

 


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