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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

 




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

 


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