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August 26, 2015, 12:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey... -September 2015


   “Move-In Day” at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee just happened recently. I daresay not many campuses in this country welcome incoming Freshman students with such fervor and “style!” For six years, I taught Sunday School in the College Dept. of the church where I am a member. An annual highlight each of those years was to be on campus on that day, helping welcome incoming Freshmen women—women who were considered as girls fresh out of high school just before they stepped out of their cars. As they are swarmed by welcoming upperclassmen/women to help unload and move them into their new dorm rooms, it’s amazing how that one step out of the car signifies a whole new era in life!

   I will never forget those years. I would spend the day going to every room in the Freshman women’s dorm.  I met as many of the new students as I could but I also met their parents. Sometimes dads and moms. Sometimes just moms. Occasionally just dads. All working hard to get their daughters settled. Dads using power tools to put furniture together, moms pressing wrinkles out of comforters on bunk beds over and over with loving hands…long after the wrinkles were gone. All releasing their “little girls” in their own way.

   As “Move-In Day” turned into night this year, I found myself thinking about those students who had spent all day moving in, just a few blocks away from my home. The busy traffic across town had quieted down. Students were in…most parents were gone. I remembered my own first night as a Freshman—49 years ago—and wondered what thoughts were going through their young minds! I was struck once again with the responsibility and opportunity our local churches have to help care for and nurture the students who have been lovingly deposited by their parents in our midst, for at least four years of their precious lives. Many of them will spread out across the world in the future, carrying the Gospel with them wherever they go. Let us do our part in hospitality and in preparing them well for Life!!!

Marsha Cook

 




June 23, 2015, 12:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey...July 2015


   As a college student in the ‘60’s I noticed with alarm new trends on many state or private campuses. Marchers carried protest posters and cars displayed bumper stickers that tried to declare “God Is Dead.” Others claimed, “The Devil Made Me Do It” or “If It Feels Good, Do It.” Joseph Fletcher’s book on situation ethics (do whatever the situation calls for, with no absolutes) was favored by many students, likely raised by parents using Dr. Benjamin Spock’s ultra-permissive child-rearing books.

   I highly suspect we are reaping the fruit of those days of rebellion. Bible reading, prayer and copies of the Ten Commandments were essentially removed from schools and abortion became “legalized.” Marriage and divorce experienced great shifts in acceptability. Now, when random college students are interviewed by TV journalists on streets, campuses and beaches, it is evident their answers to even the simplest historical and political questions are unbelievably devoid of knowledge and their moral compasses seem non-existent. Life, from the womb to the tomb, seemingly has little value in the minds of many.

   I have long felt that if people could convince themselves that “God Is Dead,” then they are handily unaccountable to anyone for any actions they choose to take, any decisions they choose to make. After all, if there is no God, then what can He expect of you or do to you??? Sin is real and freedom is not a license to sin.

   It is high time that humans—ALL created by the one holy God—understand that a cardstock poster board with a marker message, a plastic bumper sticker or a manmade law, will not, absolutely cannot, do away with God! The God Who made us all and Who gave us this majestically beautiful Earth to live on, precisely placed among the heavenly bodies of endless universes, is not threatened by, nor destroyed by such pitifully, futile attempts.

   How sad to resist so fully the greatest and most sacrificial love ever displayed, when He already GAVE the life of His Son for us so that we could live with Him in eternal peace and forgiveness. There is only one (evil) source who has tried repeatedly through the ages to silence the message of that great love gift. He has already lost that “war” eons ago. However, he will battle his fate to the end and we often find ourselves caught in the crossfires.

“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.

   That, dear friends, is where we find true liberation/freedom in life…whether we reside in this traditionally great nation of America or anywhere else on planet Earth!

Marsha Cook

 




May 27, 2015, 12:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey-June 2015


   JUNE...the month of many weddings and Father's Day...is upon us. What better time to think about families and the heritages that result from each of them! Today, the definition of a family is being stretched and tried in many arenas. Personally, I have been blessed with a largely traditional heritage.

   Recently, someone inquired about my heritage "in the ministry." As I replied, I was reminded of how exposure to those with a strong faith can affect generations yet to come. My paternal grandfather (PaPa) worked in oil fields and then at a hospital. At some point, he was ordained to the Gospel ministry. He served as a supply preacher many times and possibly as a bi-vocational Pastor briefly. He and Grandmother were very strong Christian influences in my life, although he only lived to be 62. Just the day before he died, he and I, at age 15, took a long walk across our farm, where they were visiting us on vacation. The two of us visited like never before. I have long since forgotten what we said but I will never forget that walk. God brought them from New Mexico to Arkansas that week, giving him a final chance to pour his life and love into his oldest grandchild on his last day. He was buried on Father's Day, with a glorious, worshipful service, including music provided by their church’s beautifully robed choir! His name was Bryan.

   My father was also named Bryan. He served the Lord faithfully--for many years as an ordained, beloved Deacon. Years later, our own son, Bryan, surrendered his life to God’s call to become a Pastor while attending a college retreat, at Glorieta, in New Mexico. My grandparents had gone there many times, starting the year it opened, and Russell and I had taught there already and have since. The legacy continued!

   Mother's mother (Nannie) was a godly lady. Grandaddy provided a home in Kansas for his family, but apparently not always a happy one. When Mother first met PaPa, as her potential father-in-law, it was only then that she felt it would be okay to marry Daddy, because she saw how differently my PaPa treated Grandmother than in the marriage she had grown up observing at home. She knew then she could trust her love for PaPa’s son, who would become my Daddy. What an important legacy. Years later, she went home to join all of them in Heaven--on Father's Day of 2011.

   That is how Father's Day and weddings blend in my mind. That...and watching my own dear husband be a loving husband, Dad, and PaPa through my own marriage. Happy Father's Day, Honey! May your legacy be everlasting, as well...

Marsha Cook

 




April 21, 2015, 12:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey-May 2015


With MOTHER’S DAY approaching, I couldn’t help but think again about how Mother had so much to do with shaping my life. Memories began to flow. Here are a few to share with you…

MOTHER taught me as a tiny child to love God’s Word. Waiting for the birth of my sister, Gail, she spent much time confined to bed. Trying to control/entertain 2-3-year-old me, she kept me close and taught me to memorize scripture…maybe 100??? Gail is sure she must have heard them in Mother’s womb, too! Mother never stopped being my most ardent, yet gentle, spiritual mentor—at home and at church!

MOTHER never had huge clothing budgets. But she knew how to wisely spend what she had! She taught us the fun art of bargain-shopping the best stores with the least amount of money! We often put clothes in layaway at the best store in town for a whole year. She also encouraged my desire to learn to sew and I loved doing that for many years.

MOTHER knew how to dispense “tough love,” saying the hard things so that I would grow up, be independent and realize my potential. For instance, she gently but firmly explained to me, as a teen struggling with shyness, that shyness is actually a form of selfishness, because it shows you are only concerned with what other people think about oneself. What a life-changer that was for me!

MOTHER extended hospitality to all she could with generosity and graciousness. More often than not our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner tables were shared with international university students. She and Daddy were careful to share the love of Christ during those celebrations. They often found creative ways to practice hospitality by “coloring outside the lines” of the normal ways of doing that.

MOTHER was the epitome of the so-called submissive wife, yet she also exhibited how to graciously express her own opinion. She and Daddy worked as a team, no matter what. Sacrificial love was a very real picture in our home.

MOTHER taught us to find beauty in the small things. Noticing wildflowers in a field. Taking pictures of spectacular Fall trees in the Ozarks. Enjoying the fragrance of making endless jars of strawberry jam and spreading the “foam” on freshly buttered bread to enjoy as we worked. Noticing cloud formations in the blue sky or the promise of a rainbow. Listening to classical music on 33rpm records while we dusted and polished our beautiful, antique upright piano—and insisting that beautiful music would eventually come from hours of practicing there for our own piano lessons!

Thank you, MOTHER, for being my “Proverbs 31 Lady!”

Marsha Cook

 




February 19, 2015, 12:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey-March 2015


It was on a Friday—Russell’s day off. He took a late morning nap. I decided to surprise him with a fun, brunch-type meal on a pretty plate. I planned to gently wake him where he sat in his favorite chair by placing a yummy meal under his nose.

   At the last moment I decided to get one final thing out of the refrigerator. As I opened the door…CRASH!!!  A pint jar of homemade jam hit our stone floor and shattered into a gooey mess that failed to catch all of the shards of glass flying everywhere. Our miniature Yorkie (4# worth) barely escaped getting hit in the head as she jumped and ran to safety. I stood in horror as glass flew by me, my feet shod only in fuzzy socks. “Russselllll….help!”

   My startled husband, thankfully wearing tennis shoes, stumbled into the kitchen to rescue me. After sleepily grasping the situation, he patiently began to clean up that hopeless mess…while I stared in dismay at our quickly cooling nice, hot brunch, with which I had hoped to surprise him. He was surprised alright, but not in the way I had planned! Once he cleared a glass-free path for me, I left the room to get some shoes.

   In our bedroom, I found myself muttering (complaining) out loud. “Okay, Lord, help me understand THIS one! Why in this world would my nice surprise turn into such a mess??? There’s bound to be a lesson in this one but, for the life of me, I don’t know what it could be.”

   Suddenly I knew. I had made a very bad decision. I was the culprit who had decided to set that jar of jam in the door’s shelf, stacked in a rather precarious position, telling myself it would be okay. I had consciously made a poor choice.

   We all make decisions…large and small, many made in the spur of the moment. Even if we have a fleeting thought that maybe we shouldn’t, we do it anyway. Then there are those times we say, “Yes,” and make good decisions. Every decision counts, one way or the other. I quickly thought of many people in the Bible whose life stories carry examples of decisions that have rippled down through the ages.

   People decide every day to do things that ultimately either hurt or help. Even if it is as small as putting a jar of jam where…it could break…cut someone’s feet…kill their tiny dog…or wake up a resting husband.

   My startled husband also had a decision to make: to yell in anger or to help clean up the mess and keep things safe. I’m so glad he loves me and takes care of me, without yelling—even when I do dumb things.

Marsha Cook

 


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