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October 21, 2014, 12:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey-November 2014


I have often seen the meaning of my name, MARSHA, defined as something like “brave hearted one.” I didn’t start out in life feeling very brave, though. There probably weren’t too many little girls any more shy than I was until I was about 16 or 17. But, I had parents who encouraged me repeatedly beyond my shyness, one experience after another, one year after another. With lots of prayer and encouragement and just plain working on it, I began to learn how to live life more bravely.

In retrospect, I realize now my parents were shining examples to follow. Daddy served three years overseas in the Air Force during WWII, while Mother bravely left her Kansas farm home for business college and then lived as a single woman in Kansas City and Washington, D.C. She returned home to help run the family farm when her dad had cancer. After they married and had two young girls, they bravely moved our little family from oil field to oil field for five years, until they settled down to farm in Arkansas. There they bravely tackled the constant hardships of farming, eventually losing a home in a fire and then a farm to bankruptcy.

Their final acts of bravery are the most poignant of all to me, as I watched them live out the ends of their lives in my home and in a nursing home, both succumbing to the ravages of Alzheimer’s. Daddy bravely accepted the inevitable that they could no longer live alone, hard as that was for him. One day, as I watched Mother attempt to walk down the hallway of the nursing home following hip surgery, her head held high as her gown flapped around her thin little legs, I came to tears. The nursing staff was clapping, saying, “Come on, Bonnie, you can do it! You can do it!” Somehow that message penetrated her challenged brain and she held her head even higher, as she triumphantly made it to the end of the hallway. I stood there watching, thinking, “I have a very brave mother…” Until that moment, I had never attached that adjective to her, but I suddenly realized she had spent most of her life teaching me to be braver than I thought I was. By precept and by example. At that shining moment in her life, one of her final times to walk, I loved her more than I think I ever had before…

Thank you, Mother and Daddy, for letting your love lights of bravery shine for me…

Marsha Cook

 




August 28, 2014, 12:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey October 2014


   It is like finding a sparkling jewel when you have the chance to look back on your life or on the life of someone dear to you and see how God was working…something you couldn’t see at the time! You know, that spiritual AHA! moment when something unfolds in front of your eyes? God is never inactive but just chooses His own times and ways to show us His activity. It is certain that He always has a plan and purpose, and is always present! Whether rejoicing with what God is visibly doing in our lives or sorrowing over today’s world full of unbelievable pain and suffering, we must not lose sight of the fact that God has not lost sight of His people along the way, for His love for us is never ending: “…I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me”  Isaiah 49:15b-16.

Marsha Cook

 




July 16, 2014, 12:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey... September 2014


As the immigration debacle unfolds at our southwestern borders, we all have mixed emotions as American Christians. We understand that a society must have laws and must have ways to enforce them. Yet, in the midst of this scenario, we find ourselves faced with a sudden influx of numerous homeless persons of all ages from other nations, most notably thousands of children.

My heart has been so saddened to think of parents far away who somehow think they are doing the best for their children, whether very young or teens, by sending them alone on a treacherous and bewildering journey to our land, where they can’t even speak our language. My heart breaks to think there are parents who do not yet know, and who may never know, that their children have already died or suffered untold trauma on this strangely steady migration across many lands. I cannot begin to imagine the terror and loneliness in the hearts of these weary children. I cannot grasp how those who do work at our borders must have broken hearts as they try to deal with this phenomenon, which they never expected to face. The question you and I must try to answer as believers is, “What would Jesus do?

I have no magical answer in terms of all the ins and outs of the practical solutions to this unprecedented event, which continues to unfold daily in our nation. What I do know is that we must ask Jesus, “How do we love our neighbors as ourselves every day, Lord?” Perhaps we start with this from Matthew 25 (HCSB):

35For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;

36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me.'

37 "Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You…?”

40 "And the King will answer them, 'I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.'

Lord, give us Your wisdom and compassion. Show us, Lord, how to balance justice and love. Protect those children, Lord…the “least of these”…who are literally caught in the middle between the evil or greed of some and the despair of others. Help us know how to love children and others who are always here…always in need…right in our own neighborhoods. Perhaps You are opening our eyes to needs we often ignore at home every day…

Marsha Cook




July 15, 2014, 12:00 AM

A Nugget From My Spiritual Journey August 2014


4 Love is patient; love is kind. Love does not envy; is not boastful; is not conceited; 5 does not act improperly; is not selfish; is not provoked; does not keep a record of wrongs; 6 finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 HCSB)

   Yes, God is still working on me on this one. It seems like God wants to really help ME personally to get this! Does He ever do that to you…with you…in you…for you? Do you ever find Him pounding things into your head and your heart to make sure you get it?

   If it weren’t enough for God to assign me to write on this for a whole year, He gave me a Sunday School lesson to teach recently on His AGAPE’ (love that says, “I love you in spite of you”). Yes…a whole lesson, where I couldn’t avoid it. I was excited to learn more, but alarmed that I might see some hypocrite in myself. 

   Teach it, Marsha. Teach about AGAPE’ love for a whole hour. Oh…and by the way…I’m going to give you plenty of time to try it out yourself. We will work on it together, Marsha. You know—that ‘hypocrite’ part.

   Really, God? Really?

   No, couples “in the ministry” and individuals who teach the Bible have not yet all reached perfection. We have to let God work in our lives, just like anyone else. Our lives are not perfect, our marriages are not perfect, even if they were “made in heaven” like ours! Yes, God most definitely orchestrated our marriage 42+ years ago, but that does not mean that we live in perfect harmony 24/7.

   So, God decided to help us out a bit more lately. Nothing big. Nothing earth-shattering. Just maintenance work on a faithfully committed marriage. Marriage requires that, you know. There are no deep, dark secrets to reveal here. Just the fact that sometimes our marriages become the prime proving ground for learning how to truly love. When those moments come seemingly out of nowhere, how do we [AGAPE’] love our mates? What do we do when we share a less-than-perfect day? How do we treat each other with the truest of true loves?

   Out of that long list of seemingly impossible character and behavior traits in 1 Corinthians 13, we cannot pick and choose. They are unmistakably intertwined, with just no room for self-centeredness. Period. Record keeping turns behavior into mutual score keeping. Marriage is not 50/50. It is 100/100. If we are each giving 100%, then we are also each receiving 100%, which makes for a sure win/win. It is virtually impossible to be patient without being kind or to act improperly and yet rejoice in the truth. Every single characteristic in those verses is dependent upon ALL of the others! We cannot be selective. To have it all, we must each “be” it all, which is only possible through the AGAPE’ Presence of Christ in us!                  

Marsha Cook


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