Thursday, August 25, 2016

Parable of the Teacup

While visiting my 94-year-old father, a retired pastor, this summer, I was sorting through some piles of magazines he'd finished reading and came across interesting items. Neither the author nor source of this story was given, but the message, which I have taken the liberty of editing, struck home.

Parable of the Teacup

A couple traveled to England to celebrate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. They discovered a special antique store that specialized in pottery, especially teacups. Spotting an exceptional one, they asked to see it. "We've never seen a cup so beautiful."

As the lady handed it to them, the teacup spoke. "I have not always been a teacup. I was just a shapeless lump of red clay at one time. When my master rolled and pounded and patted me again and again, I yelled out, "Don't do that. I don't like it. Leave me alone." But he only smiled and said gently, "Not yet."

Then he placed me on a spinning wheel where I was spun around and around. "Stop it!" I screamed. "I'm getting dizzy! I'm going to be sick." But the master only nodded and said softly, "Not yet."

He spun me and poked me and prodded me until I was bent out of shape to suit his desires then stuck me in the oven. I'd never felt such heat. I yelled and knocked and pounded on the door. "Help! Get me out of here!" I could see him through the opening and could read his lips as he shook his head from side to side. "Not yet."

When I thought I couldn't bear the heat another minute, the door opened. He carefully lifted me out and set me on the shelf to cool. Oh, that felt good. This is much better, I thought.

After I cooled off, though, he picked me up and brushed paint all over me. The fumes were horrible. I thought I would gag. "Please stop it, stop it!" I cried. He only shook his head. "Not yet."

Then before I knew what was happening, he stuck me back in the oven. Only this one was twice as hot. I knew I was going to suffocate. I begged and pleaded, screamed and cried. I was convinced I would never make it. I was ready to give up when the door opened, and he took me out and placed me on the shelf again.

I cooled then waited and waited, wondering what he was going to do to me next. An hour later, he handed me a mirror and said, "Look at yourself."

As I stared into the mirror, I felt confused. "That's not me," I said. It couldn't be me. I was beautiful.

Quietly, he spoke. "I want you to remember this. I know it hurt you to be rolled and pounded and patted, but had I left you alone, you'd have dried up into a useless glob.

"I know it made you dizzy to spin around on the wheel, but if I had stopped, you would have crumbled.

"I know the oven was disagreeable, and it hurt, but you would have cracked if I had pulled you out sooner.

"I know the fumes were suffocating when I brushed paint all over you, but if I hadn't done that, you would have had no color in your life.

"If I hadn't put you back in the oven, you wouldn't have hardened, and you'd never survive life's hardships.

"Now you are a finished product. What you thought was intended to destroy you, I meant for your good. Now you are what I had in mind when I first began molding you."

God is the Master Potter. We are His clay. He wants to mold us and make us into beautiful vessels for His use. He knows what He's doing. He will expose us to just enough pressure of just the right kind so that we may be made into a flawless masterpiece to fulfill His pleasing and perfect will.

So, when life seems hard, and you are being pounded and patted and pushed almost beyond endurance; when your world seems to be spinning out of control; when you feel like you are in a fiery furnace of trials; when life stinks, try this:

Brew a cup of your favorite tea in your prettiest teacup. Sit down and think about this story. Then, have a little talk with the Potter. Let Him show you His perspective.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

DK--a Short Story

A how-it-might-have-been short story.

Hi, folks! My name is Eutychus--after my great-grandfather on my mother's side, but my friends all call me Ty. I was a DK--deacon's kid, that is. Most of the time, being a DK wasn't too bad, but there were times when it was a real drag. My dad always said I had to set a good example.

Other than that, I guess I was a typical church-going teenager. I cut my teeth on the back of the pew, took my first steps down the aisle of my church, and memorized the Ten Commandments in Sunday school in the junior department. I grew up on stories about Moses, David, and Daniel instead of Sponge Bob or Harry Potter that were so popular with my friends.

I always kind of took church for granted--until the week that changed my life, that is. But I'm getting ahead of my story.

I've loved the Lord ever since I can remember. Deep down, I really wanted to serve Him. But sometimes I wished I could go fishing or play ball with some of my school friends on Sunday mornings instead of going to church. Only, my dad said that would be setting a bad example.

But speaking of setting an example, my folks were no slouches. They took me to services every time the doors were open.

If you'd asked me if I believed in miracles, of course I'd have said I did. That's one of the fundamental doctrines of our church I learned in the Junior Indoctrination Course. And I'd learned all about Peter's miracles in the Book of Acts--how the lame man walked, and how Dorcas was raised from the dead. But I'd never actually seen any miracles myself.

Then one Sunday morning, the pastor announced a week of special services. We were all pretty excited.

The evangelist was going to stay with us and have my room. I felt pretty important. Being a DK had some advantages, I thought.

Brother Paul arrived late Sunday afternoon. His first sermon was that night.

What a disappointment! I expected real fiery preaching with lots of fascinating stories. He was just the opposite--long-winded and dull. I could't follow all that theology. And he preached until nearly midnight. Everyone kept encouraging him with "Amen, Brother." It was all I could do just to stay awake.

And that's the way it went all week.

By Sunday evening, I was really dragging. I missed my Sunday afternoon nap because people popped in and out all afternoon to visit with Brother Paul. I thought maybe I wouldn't be missed if  I stayed home. After all, I'd been to church every night for a week.

But Mom never missed a thing. "Eutychus, where are you?" I heard her call.

Uh-oh, I thought. She only called me Eutychus when she was mad at me or determined to make a point.

She found me slumped down in a lawn chair out back. "Eutychus, it's time to leave for church."

"Aw, Mom, do I have to go? I'm beat!"

"What do you mean, 'Do I have to go'? I should think you'd hate to miss it. After all, tonight is Brother Paul's last service with us, and we'll be having Communion. What kind of an example would it be for you to stay home?"

Well, I knew I was licked. No sense protesting further.

When we got to church, I knew I was in for a long night. We were in a building program, so services were held in the third story of a rented hall. The day had been a scorcher, and the building wasn't air-conditioned.

The room had been closed up all afternoon, so it was as hot and stuffy as a steam bath. Even though we arrived plenty early, so many people were streaming in, there were traffic jams in the aisles. Dad asked me to open all the windows. By the time I'd done that, empty chairs were as scarce as fried chicken after a church picnic.

Well, being an optimist basically, I decided maybe that wasn't so bad after all. I'd just sit on the windowsill--the coolest place in the house.

The song service was long. Everyone got really excited. Then several people gave long testimonies about how the Lord had met their needs the night before. By the time they took an offering, made the announcements, and a lady sang a special song, it was 9 o'clock before Brother Paul got up to preach.

I fought sleep, But about midnight, I must have dozed off. I never knew what hit me.

The next thing I knew, Brother Paul was bending over me. I was lying out on the sidewalk three stories down. Mom and Dad and all the church folks were gathered around me. Mom was crying, and Dad was holding her.

When I opened my eyes, someone shouted, "Hallelujah!" Then Mom was kneeling beside me, crying all over me and kissing me and hugging me.

"What happened?" I asked, embarrassed by all this attention.

"You fell out of the window. You were dead, but God healed you!" Mom started crying again.

I got the rest of the story from Dad.

Out of the corner of her eye, Mom had seen me start to fall. She cried out then jumped up and raced out sobbing, "Oh, God! Help us, please!"

When she found me, she grabbed my wrist but couldn't find a pulse. "He's dead!" she wailed.

Dad felt my neck but he couldn't feel a pulse there either. By that time, the whole congregation had gathered around. Brother Paul got there last, but he pushed his way through the crowd. "Let's pray!"

And I came back to life. What a Communion service we had after that!

Ever since that night, if anyone asked me if I believed in the supernatural, I would tell them about my miracle. Wow! It changed my life. I knew God cared about me personally and had a plan for my life that only I could fulfill. Why else would He have raised me from the dead? I was never the same again.

If you still doubt my story, let me refer you to my doctor, Luke the Physician. He was there too, and my story is well-documented in his bestseller, The Acts of the Apostles (Acts 20:7-12).

* * *

I'm taking a vacation from blogging for a few weeks, but I will be back soon. In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy this short story I revised from one I wrote some years ago and had published in a now out-of-print magazine. See you soon!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Running Away!

When I was a teenager, I had a tendency to want to run away from my problems instead of facing them.

Many times my mother warned me, "You can't run away from yourself."

That is probably one of the wisest things she ever told me. Even now, when I feel like running away from something, her words still ring in my ears.

I know now that if I try to run away, I will find myself facing the same problems again, sooner or later, until I face myself and resolve them.

A corollary to "you can't run away from yourself" is, "You can run, but you can't hide."

You may try. You may even hide from yourself. But you can't hide from God!

In one of my favorite psalms, Psalm 139, David describes it this way:


Why don't you read the entire psalm. In beautiful word pictures, David says that God knows our routines (vv. 2-3); our thoughts (vv.2, 4); in fact, He knows everything about us (v. 5).

Did you know that God loves us so much He can't take His eyes off of us?

Many people find it disconcerting to think that God knows them so well, but David found it comforting. Instead of running away from God, David ran to God. That's what we need to do too--run to God.

Socrates said, "Know thyself."

Psalm 139 goes even further. David writes that God knows us even better than we know ourselves. 

The psalmist's response is:


David invites God to search his heart, identify anything in him that offends God, and guide him in the way that leads to everlasting life.

Jeremiah also realized that "the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked" (17:9). "Who can know it?" he asks. Like David, he invites God to search his heart and test his mind.

Have you invited God to search your heart today? 

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Taming the Tongue

Once again, reports of terrible heat- and wind-driven fires in the Southwest have filled the news. The devastation is far-reaching.

Have you ever built a fire? What happens when you blow on the tiny spark? It quickly grows and ignites the kindling.

Imagine the hot breath of the Santa Ana winds catching a spark in that hot, arid landscape and fanning it into a raging inferno. That is the picture the Apostle James paints in words:

"And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals....but no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison....Blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth....That is not right!" James 3:6-10, NLT).

James also compares the tongue to a horse's bridle and to the rudder of a ship. He writes that we can use a bridle to make a horse obey us, and with a small rudder, the pilot of a large ship can control its movements. But the tongue, even though it is a tiny member of the body, is uncontrollable, like the tiny spark that can cause a raging forest fire.

What, then, can we do to resolve such a fearsome dilemma?

We must allow the Holy Spirit to take control of our tongue. Only He can tame it and bring it under control. Only then can we fulfill the advice of the wise one who penned the Proverbs:

Courtesy Google

Like water that quenches fire, when the Holy Spirit controls our tongue, we can answer with a gentle response that puts out the anger that can so easily erupt into temper,

While growing up, my godly grandmother suffered harsh treatment at the hands of her father. When she left home to become a missionary, he disowned and disinherited her. For many years, she was not allowed to visit her family home. Yet, she never talked about any of the details. When I was writing the story of her life in my book, Frontiers of Faith, I asked her why. She said,

"What you talk about gets into your spirit." 

She had learned to allow the Holy Spirit to control her tongue.

I love this quote I found on the Internet:

"Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out." 

Sounds like good advice.

Who controls your tongue?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Shifting Sands of Feelings

This past Saturday, my husband and I attended the wedding of our eldest grandson. What a memorable occasion as they exchanged their vows in one of the sweetest ceremonies I've ever witnessed.

Of course, a lot was said about love. And the minister, the bride's father, read aloud the greatest discourse on love ever written, 1 Corinthians 13, which clearly states, contrary to popular belief, that love is NOT a feeling.

Many couples head to the divorce court because they don't feel "in love" anymore. If love is not a feeling, what is it?

Love is an act of the will. 

Love's presence is shown by our loving actions, not by our feelings of infatuation. 

Love is a commitment.

Love desires the best for another and is willing to sacrifice self for the well being of the one loved.

Many people believe that just because they feel a certain way about something, it must be true. But the truth is, feelings are not facts. Feelings are just feelings. In fact, feelings are are as changeable as the weather and just as hard to predict. They can often result from unrealistic thinking.

Unfortunately, many Americans are governed largely by their feelings. How many times do we hear, "If it feels good, do it"? Or, "Will it make me happy." That is the message of every advertisement and many movies.

Using feelings as the criteria for decision-making is usually disastrous. For example, when your alarm goes off in the morning, do you feel like getting up? If you depended solely on your feelings, you would soon lose your job. Decisions must be based on facts.

We don't always feel like loving, but when we act in loving ways, the feelings will follow.

When it comes to our relationship with God, how often do we focus entirely on feelings? We say,
"I don't feel forgiven." Or, "I don't feel God's presence."

Because we don't feel a certain way, we fail to recognize God's presence or His forgiveness.

According to 2 Corinthians 5:7,
Our faith is based not on what we see with our eyes or feel in our hearts, but on the facts we read in God's Word. God has promised to be with us always (Matthew 28:20). God says if we confess our sins, he will forgive us (1 John 1:9). We can depend on those facts.

The writer of Hebrews points out that "without faith, it is impossible to please God" (11:6). What is faith? It is taking God at His word that He exists and believing that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. It is not based on our feelings but on God's statements of facts.

Feelings add richness to our lives. They certainly should be considered in decision-making, but they should not be the sole basis for our choices.

Don't build your life on the shifting sands of your feelings but on the solid facts of God's unchanging Word!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Come Wind and High Water

In the 1930s, while my grandparents, Charles and Florence Personeus, were pastoring the Assemblies of God church they'd pioneered in Juneau, Alaska, a young mother who was dying of an incurable kidney disease, began attending. Helen Johnson had already had one diseased kidney removed, and the other was infected too. The doctors gave her six month to live.

Helen loved children but had only been able to have one little girl of her own. Seeing all the dirty, neglected children on the streets of Juneau, she complained to God, "I wanted my child, and You are going to take me from her. It's not fair!"

The Lord spoke to her heart, "Open your home to those neglected children."

"All right, Lord. You know I'm dying, but if that's what You want me to do, I'll do it."

Her husband, Lyle, not yet a believer, agreed to help her.

Helen Johnson is shown at right front holding little girl on her lap.

At church, Helen learned about the Lord, our Healer. In answer to prayer according to James 5:14, 15, she was completely healed. The home she opened and operated for many years became known as the Juneau Children's Home. When she died 40 years later, her one kidney was still functioning perfectly. (The rest of the story is in my book, Frontiers of Faith.)

The first girl the Johnsons took into their home was Lillian Lorraine Lehtosaari. Her mother had died, and Lillian, though young, had been a dancer and performer with her father. When he tried to commit suicide, she went to live with the Johnsons.

Lillian remained with them until she left for Bible school, where she met and married Alvin E. Capener. For many years, they ministered among the Eskimos and Aleuts in Alaska, building churches in Nome, Barrow, and on Saint Paul Island, one of the Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea. The Capeners were longtime friends of my family.

In 1975, the Capeners visited me when I was working as an editorial assistant for youth magazines at the Headquarters of the Assemblies of God in Springfield, Missouri. They shared this testimony, which I wrote up for publication in Youth Alive:

Off the western coast of Alaska, Saint Paul Island is the summer home and mating grounds for the fur seal. At that time, the U.S. government operated the multi-million dollar seal industry. Since the government owned the land, the Capeners were not allowed to purchase land for the mission. Instead, the government assigned them a lot on a use permit. This lot was in a low-lying area of the barren, treeless island that had been formed by several "extinct" volcanoes.

On Christmas Day, 1966, 90-mile-an-hour winds pumped unusually high tides into low-lying areas above the beach line on Saint Paul Island, flooding the Capeners' mission station and their 1960 Rambler that had been provided to them by Speed-the Light, a funding raising effort of youth across the United States, to be used for carrying people to and from church. Upon delivery, the Capeners had dedicated it to the Lord.

The 1960 Rambler was inundated with salt sea water to the dashboard. Everyone said, "It'll never run again. Better just leave it set."

Undaunted, Capener replied, "I dedicated it to the Lord. I'm going to try to start it anyway." He flushed out everything with fresh water: the motor, carburetor, crankcase, transmission, differential, and generator. It started!

After the flood, the government assigned them a new lot in a better location for the parsonage and a new church building. That Rambler was used to haul more than 200 tons of building materials for the church, carrying as much as 1,400 pounds of rock at one time. It carried "scoria" (volcanic ash used in place of gravel, which is not available on the island), sand, lumber, rock for the retaining wall for the parking lot and for the lower four feet of the exterior of the church, and material for manufacturing 30 cubic yards of cement.

The only problem was with the electrical connections, but that did not prevent the car from operating. Though the body rusted badly, and Capener had to weld the trunk lid on three times before it could no longer be welded and was discarded, that Rambler ran for eight more years.

In 1972, Speed-the-Light purchased a second used car for the Capeners, a 1970 Dodge Dart, for carrying passengers, but the Rambler was still used for hauling supplies and refuse until it was finally junked in 1974, eight years after the Christmas Day flood.

Reminds me of the Children of Israel in the Wilderness. For forty years, their clothes and sandals did not wear out. God still provides for His children.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Eddystone Light

I've always been fascinated by lighthouses, ships, and the sea, perhaps because much of my early life was spent on the waters of the Inside Passage of Alaska.

When I was in grade school, we used to sing a fun song about the Eddystone Light in music class.
The Eddystone Light Courtesy
While there are several versions, the lyrics I remember are these:

O my father was the keeper of the Eddystone Light
And he married a mermaid one fine night.
Out of this union there came three--
A porpoise and a porgy and the third was me.

Yo, ho, ho! The wind blows free!
O for the life on the rolling sea!

It was a sea shanty, a work song sung by sailors on ships during the age of sail. Shanties were used to keep rhythm during work and make it more enjoyable. The lyrics and melody were not very sophisticated, but they often told of a sailor's life. The song went on for many verses, usually chanted by a leader, and the rest of the sailors would join in on the chorus.

A few years ago, this true story about the Eddystone Light caught my attention because it reminded me of that grade school song.

The southwest coast of England is very rocky, and terrible storms often blow up. Several lighthouses mark the rocks so ships won't hit them and sink. One of these lighthouses is the Eddystone Light. It stands on a rock 14 miles out from land off the coast of Plymouth. At high tide water covers the rock completely, making it very hazardous to ships.

The first tower built on Eddystone Rock was beautiful to look at with its fancy tower. The builder was very proud of his work. He would call out from the balcony: 

"Blow, O winds! Rise, O ocean! Break forth, ye elements, and try my work!"

First Eddystone Tower
One night a terrible storm blew up. The wind whipped the tower. The waves beat against it. The fancy tower toppled over into the sea, killing its builder and all who were in it.

The builder had not anchored the foundation deep enough to stand the test of the storm.

Years later, another man build a new tower on Eddystone Rock. He carefully built a solid foundation in solid rock and anchored the lighthouse firmly to it. Instead of boastful words, he carved on it these words from Psalm 127:1:

Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.

That lighthouse still stands and has become a model for many lighthouse towers built later.

That reminds me of a story Jesus told about two men who decided to build houses. One man wisely dug down deep until he reached bedrock to build his foundation. The other foolishly built his house on a sandy lot. His house looked much like the first man's, but under his house, where no one could see, there was no rock foundation, only sand. When a fierce storm arose, the house built on the sand was destroyed.

Jesus told his followers, "Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who builds his house on the rock.... But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand" (Matthew 7:24, 26, NIV).

Are you building sand castles or anchoring your life to the solid Rock, Christ Jesus? I want to be like the wise man, don't you? 

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