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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

 




January 21, 2015, 12:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey-February 2015


   Usually news or social media reports today are anything but encouraging. Broken marriages, murders of family members, kidnappings, beheadings, terrorist attacks, enumerable prejudices, weather-related tragedies, political messes, rampant diseases—it’s enough to make us want to cry out, “Enough, already!” Dwindling numbers in church attendance make us say, “Enough, already!” Our own lives are filled with personal heartache or seemingly insurmountable challenges and we weep, “Enough, already, Lord…I’ve had enough!

   Has God left us sitting on a shelf to fend for ourselves? 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Mt. 28:19-20 HCSB.

   Are we powerless to make changes in our own lives and our world? 13 I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. Phil. 4:13 HCSB …and… 9 But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may reside in me.                        2 Cor. 12:9 HCSB.

   Is Christianity disappearing off the face of the earth? I have just completed an opportunity to help judge middle-high school age students at a Christian speech and debate tournament held at OBU—an indicator there is a new remnant rising up, of young people committed to the Lord, able to articulate well their beliefs and back them up with God’s Word! There IS hope for the Church of tomorrow!

   Is all this stuff new and the world is just going wack-o? 9 What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Can one say about anything, "Look, this is new"? It has already existed in the ages before us. Ecc 1:9 HCSB.  Things may look or sound different, but human nature—and evil—are still the same! Thankfully, Heb. 13:8 HCSB tells us, “8 Jesus Christ is (forever and always) the same yesterday, today, and forever,” as well!

   Should I just throw up my hands and say “ENOUGH, LORD?!?” Don’t run away! Run TO…your refuge and strength!!! Go to Psalm 18:2, Psalm 46:1, Psalm 91:2…and many, many more for reassurance! 4 He will cover you with His feathers; you will take refuge under His wings. His faithfulness will be a protective shield. Psa. 91:4 HCSB.     

Marsha Cook

 




December 18, 2014, 12:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey-January 2015


Happy New Year! I truly mean that…from me to you.

   However, do you think we often say that rather glibly? What does it mean to wish someone “happiness?” Does it mean silly-happy…life without pain or sorrow on any day of the year…Pollyanna-happy? What does it mean?

   In the Beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed [happy] are those who…are the poor in spirit, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs…mourn, because they will be comforted…are the gentle, because they will inherit the earth…hunger and thirst for righteousness, because they will be filled…are the merciful, because they will be shown mercy…are the pure in heart, because they will see God…are the peacemakers, because they will be called sons of God…are persecuted for righteousness, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Taken from Matthew 5, HCSB)

   In today’s world, we can hardly listen to the news or read social media without being faced with discouraging, painful, or even fearful news. How should we face this New Year, with so many uncertainties surely to come? Frankly, I have honestly been asking myself that question. It is comforting to know that if we continue to read beyond the Beatitudes in Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount,” He very kindly gives us the answer:

 

12 Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

13 "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It's no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men.

14 "You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden.

15 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house.

16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

HAVE A BLESSED NEW YEAR!

Marsha Cook

 




November 20, 2014, 12:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey- December 2014


And, so, we come to the year’s end…a year during which I committed to writing the entire year about some aspect of LOVE each month in this column. I admit that some months I had to really think a bit about how to best share what God was teaching me that month about LOVE. Walking into December, however, is a great time for me to think about LOVE.

Yes, it is the month of our wedding anniversary, and this month we will celebrate our 43rd year of marriage. Our LOVE is much deeper than it was when we stood there as a bride and groom, just about 3 months after we first met! We were IN LOVE but had no idea, really, how TRUE LOVE plays out over the years of a committed marriage. With 43 years of retrospect now, I think Russell would agree with me that learning to LOVE selflessly goes beyond the romance portrayed in movies and books and poems. Learning to LOVE selflessly requires commitment, work, determination, patience, forgiveness, and, well…selflessness. How do you do that???

By always, always depending upon and referencing the example set before us in the greatest LOVE gift of all…Who arrived as a tiny baby in a manger long ago, on a night we now call Christmas! Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords selflessly left Heaven to come and live among us, exchanging the glories of Heaven for a smelly, cold stable. He left the presence of the praising angelic hosts, exchanging their adoration for growing up as a boy in a town surely full of gossipy neighbors—enduring their finger-pointing and stares and whispers as He went with His mother to the well and the marketplace. He, Who had the riches of the universe at His fingertips, cared for the needs of His widowed mother and earthly siblings and later traveled as an itinerant preacher/teacher, with no place to lay His head. He, who had created the trees, the thorn trees, the iron ore, and the soldiers themselves, hung nailed to a cross, blood streaming from the crown of thorns and iron spikes hammered into His hands by the very men into whom He had breathed life. He died for them, just as He died for you and me. For all who would believe in the greatest LOVE gift of all.

That, my friends, is LOVE at its finest. Selflessness at its best. Submission to the nth degree. May we all LOVE as He first LOVED us! May we each experience a very BLESSED CHRISTMAS, as we learn more than ever to let Him LOVE like that through us every day of the years to come.

P.S.  Russell, I LOVE you! Truly…I DO!

Marsha Cook

 


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