Sometimes life takes us down roads we do not wish to travel.
Because of our limited knowledge, we assume some roads are better than others.
We think that we can control our destiny by the roads that we choose, but we cannot know what lies ahead or what awaits us at the end of the journey.
We assume concrete is better than pavement or that gravel is better than dirt.
Concrete may lead us to major cities with skyscraper views, suspension bridges, and fancy restaurants.
Pavement may lead us to more rural areas, smaller towns, and private businesses.
Gravel slows our pace and lets us pay more attention to the various ways people live. We see more of the detail in housing, outdoor life, and personal preference.
But dirt. It’s the road most people are afraid to take. Where will we end up? What if we can’t turn around? What if there’s danger ahead?
The Advantage of the Dirt Road
But the dirt road narrows our vision to one place at a time. We become less distracted by all the busyness. We notice things we never do on other roads: the farmer milking the cow, the children playing on a swing-set, the mother hoeing the garden.
Suddenly we notice how the buildings are arranged, the particular plantings in the yard, the curtains swaying in the open windows, and the creative ways in which people erect their mailboxes.
We stop and discover new friends, partake of fresh fruits and vegetables, and learn about the history of the area.
That is, some do. Others stop and turn around in private driveways, never to return to discover what lies ahead. They are afraid to discover something new. They do not wish to travel down the unknown road.
Traveling Down the Unknown Roads
My father loved traveling down the unknown roads.
This is how my father discovered where to buy the best molasses, where to pick the best peaches, and where to return for sourwood honey. We loved riding with him ‘just to find out where it leads. You never know where it might come out.’
I still like riding the backroads. People are always friendly, yet understandably less so today.
You never know where a road will lead you. Sometimes you find a valuable shortcut. Sometimes the road is long and winding and never seems to end, but you always see new places and meet new faces.
People still return a wave and a smile, but you would never have known unless you had ridden down the dirt road.
It may seem like you are in a dark place now. It may not look like what God called you to do. But God in His wisdom knew you would need this experience to toughen you for the ministry ahead.
“But I trusted in thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my God.
My times are in thy hand.” Psalm 31:14-15a
Elijah’s calling was to preach to the leadership of his nation (1 Kings 17-18). He was even able to speak directly to the king.
I’m sure Elijah didn’t expect his next stop to be in the wilderness with no one with which to fellowship. When his water supply began to dwindle, he probably wondered what God was doing in his life.
Elijah’s ministry then grew from zero to two, a widow and her son. At least he had someone to talk to, that is, until tragedy struck.
The widow woman’s son died, and Elijah’s ministry was questioned. Yet, in the midst of tragedy, Elijah went to God in prayer and a miracle happened. The son was brought back to life.
From there Elijah would face the false prophets and false priests who deceived the nation. One man stood alone against so many.
Yet he knew he was not alone. He was on a mission from God.
Your mission may not seem as important as Elijah’s, but the soul of the widow woman was just as important to God as the nation’s repentance from the false religion that plagued the masses.
Your mission is just as important as Elijah’s. God knows where you are and He knows where you are headed.
This trial is preparing you. Meanwhile, God is preparing the soil to be receptive to the message He has given you.
God’s timing is perfect. Wait on Him to perform His plan through you.
We may not always understand what God is doing at any moment, but we know that God can always be trusted to do what is right. When you don’t see His hand at work, trust His heart.
“Let him know that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” James 5:20
May your wilderness experience soon turn into pools of living water (See Isaiah 41:18).
A Prayer for the Missionary
Dear Father God in Heaven,
Sometimes we fail to understand Your plan. Even Moses could not understand why he and the Hebrew children were led to the Red Sea. Yet, You opened the way which seemed impossible. You led them through on dry land.
When your people prayed, they failed to believe that You would answer their prayers and release Peter from prison.
When Paul and Silas prayed, the prison was shaken so that a jailer and his family could be saved.
When your enemies set John on the Isle of Patmos, they did not realize You would use John to write the words of Revelation.
You are Almighty God. Show your wonders and power to the discouraged missionary and grant him or her the strength to carry on Your mighty work until Your plan for their lives is accomplished.
Someone is waiting to hear Your gospel message. May the gospel find them through this missionary.
It’s early November and already social media is filled with brag shots of Christmas trees decorated to the hilt.
But what about Thanksgiving?
Have we forgotten the season of gratitude?
Have we forgotten to be thankful for the blessings that we have received throughout the previous year?
Here’s one idea for putting up the tree that keeps the ‘Gratitude Attitude’ going for just a wee bit longer before the Christmas hustle and bustle arrives.
Why not have a Thanksgiving Tree?
Yes, you can put the tree up early.
But instead of decorating it like a Christmas tree, why not use the items found in the horn of plenty or cornucopia.
Get the Children Involved
Let the children get involved by cutting out shapes of pumpkins, grapes, acorns, or another fall harvest fruitage. Use a hole punch to cut a hole in the top of the shapes through which to attach a string or ribbon for hanging.
Allow every family member to write something for which they are thankful on the shapes. Place the extra shapes in a basket near the tree for visitors to participate.
Hang the blessings on the tree along with strands of popcorn, orange ribbons, appropriately colored bobbles, etc. Tuck artificial pumpkins, gourds, pine cones, ears of corn, etc., between the branches.
You might also enjoy letting the children make small cornhusk dolls to place on the tree. Cornhusks can also be used to make ribbons for tying.
Use your creativity to think of other items you might use. The main idea is to get our hearts in a thankful mood before Christmas so that we can truly be thankful for the greatest blessing of all, Jesus Christ. And, yes, share your tree photos on social media.
After the Thanksgiving holiday, just replace the Thanksgiving decorations with Christmas ones. The tree will already be up, and the children will love getting to decorate the tree twice.
And maybe, just maybe, everyone will remember what Thanksgiving is truly about and have a thankful heart for the bounty they will soon receive.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving Tree!
From our house to yours, have a blessed Thanks Giving season.
It has been said that those four words attract the most attention from email subscribers.
You are not alone…
What is it about those words that gets people’s attention? that compels people to open their email and read the enclosed words?
In the busyness of this modern world, you would think that it would be impossible to be lonely. Yet, many people are.
Reasons People Are Lonely
Some are lonely because they have lost their spouse. Some are lonely because they have never married. Some are lonely because they have never found a friend whom they consider trustworthy.
Whatever the reason, people can feel lonely even in the midst of a roomful of people. It isn’t the presence of human bodies that keeps one from feeling lonely. It is the lack of connection.
Lack of Connection
People just aren’t connected as they once were.
In the past, women connected by joining in quilting groups or by get-togethers to cook for mourning or suffering community members.
It wasn’t the quilting or the cooking that connected them. Although that was what brought them together. It was the communication between attendees that joined their hearts together. Women looked forward to such times with great eagerness.
Words of Comfort
You are not alone…
Those words bring comfort to anyone who senses separation.
But how does one keep from feeling alone even if no person is present?
In Christ, we are never alone. He has said in His word that He will never leave us or forsake us. It is our relationship with Christ that keeps us from being alone at any given time.
Having a personal relationship with Christ means that we can communicate with Him at any given moment. We can allow Him to speak to us through His Word (Scripture).
We can trust that He is present in our circumstances whether we feel His presence or not.
How to Never Be Alone
Being “in Christ” will keep us from being alone because “In Christ” you truly are not alone.
“[F]or he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Hebrews 13:5
“And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest…for I will not leave thee.” Genesis 28:15
“[A]nd, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:20
You can be physically alone, and yet, not be lonely.
Join in the conversation:
Have you ever felt ‘alone’ even though you were in a room full of people?
What suggestions do you have to help someone who feels lonely?
Pearls endure as an essential beauty accessory because they integrate well with any fashion or style preference.
From runway models adorned with draped ropes to royalty bedecked with single and multiple strands to fashion gurus flaunting their latest designs, even fashion magazine authors and Hollywood movie stars alike realize that pearls make an impression.
“Pearls are always appropriate,” so said former first lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
Known for the three-strand pearl necklace she so often wore, Mrs. Jackie Onassis’s jewelry wardrobe consisted of a variety of pearl beauties. Her lovely pearl-drop earrings would catch anyone’s attention. She wore single and double-strand pearl necklaces and bracelets as well.
Being the classy lady that she was, her wearing of pearls certainly made an impression. Mrs. Onassis didn’t flaunt her pearls though. Instead, she wore them to enhance herself.
Instead of detracting from her beauty, pearls actually complimented her in a striking way. Just do an online search of her photos and you will see for yourself.
Queen Elizabeth of England frequently wears pearls. They reflect her desire to be modest yet fashionable. They are so important to her that she chose to wear a special two-strand necklace on her wedding day in 1947.
A pearl may also be found in now-deceased Princess Diana’s tiara which has since been presented to Kate Middleton.
Pearls are desired by the lowly, the modest, the well-to-do, and certainly the well-dressed.
It is not surprising that they be found on the latest wish list.
What is it that makes pearls so desirable? Is it their beauty, their costliness, their ability to impress or to enhance?
Pearls can be found naturally or can be cultured, farmed, or synthetic.
Looking through the glass cases at your favorite jewelry store, you may find it hard to discern real pearls from those that are cultured, farmed, or synthetic.
Real or natural pearls are formed by oysters or sea mussels (bi-valves) that are irritated by a foreign object that lodges inside their shells. The bi-valves then secretes a liquid that covers the foreign object in order to reduce the irritation. This process is continued causing a pearl to be formed in each.
For centuries, divers have risked their own lives diving for oysters with hopes of finding a rare pearl.
Pearls can be man-made instead of formed naturally.
Pearl farms have been created to culture pearls. Foreign substances are forcibly introduced into bi-valves. The bi-valves are fed and nurtured in order to harvest the pearls that are formed. The production of pearls in this manner has affected the market price of pearls.
Then there are the synthetic ones made of plastic, glass, or waxed glass. These can be distinguished from real pearls by how they feel when rubbed or bit with the teeth.
Natural pearls remain the most desired.
Natural pearls remain the most desired albeit costly. But due to pearl farming, anyone at any economic level can afford to purchase a set of pearls for their very own. Their value, however, is determined by their size and shape, as well as, several other factors. The price of cultured pearls can range in the hundreds, but natural pearls can range in the tens of thousands.
Pearls are mentioned in the Bible.
Pearls are also mentioned in the Bible. Their value is highlighted in the following verse:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. Matthew 13:45-46
Another Scriptural reference is in Matthew 7:6:
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
Why would anyone want to cast a precious string of pearls into the hog pen?
Why would anyone want to take what man had risked his life to find just to throw it to swine?
Pearls evolve from a painful insertion of a foreign object. For a bi-valve, this may be a grain of sand or grit that somehow finds its way inside the bi-valve’s shell.
Small bits of matter can create great pain.
We realize that small matters can sometimes create the most pain. That pain causes oysters to create pearls.
It is these painful moments in our own lives that also somehow become pearls. Man-made hurts inflicted upon us cause suffering that we find hard to endure. Self-inflicted wounds are the hardest to bear.
However, when we take those pains to our Lord and Saviour, He covers them with His balm of Gilead. As our Great Physician, he has a way of turning our sorrows into pearls.
This doesn’t happen overnight. It is a process that takes time. God’s grace continues to cover us as we go through the healing process.
In fact, it is actually the struggles of life that form Christ in us.
Pearls are our memorial stones.
As Joshua took up 12 stones out of the midst of Jordan for a memorial, so our pearls are a memorial unto us. They remind us of the victories that came as we allowed Christ to help us face each obstacle, fight each battle, and choose to love in spite of any circumstance.
Then why would anyone take the pearls that have been formed through such pain and cast them before those that do not understand their value?
Why take our pains and sufferings and present them to those who would only turn and use them against us?
Christ’s instructed His hearers not to cast their pearls before swine.
Swine were considered unclean. God’s chosen people were not to partake of these animals. However, Jesus is not talking about animals but uses these words as descriptive of those who ridicule the Word and ridicule those who follow the Word.
The unclean are those who do not understand or appreciate the value of our pearls.
It is those who do not care to learn the lessons we have been taught and who will not grasp the hope that we have found.
We have to be careful with whom we share our “pearls.” There are those who we can enlighten with our pearl formations, but there are those who will only use those formations to turn and destroy us.
Our pearls are precious. They are our gifts of victory from our Saviour.
True pearls glow from within. The more they are worn, the more they glow.
Our pearls glow from within with the glory of God.
They are a reflection of His faithfulness to us.
Cling to your pearls. As Jackie Kennedy Onassis said, “Pearls are always appropriate.”
Wear them proudly, but humbly. May others with impressed with Christ in us. May they be drawn to His beauty.
Copyright 2016 by Peggy Clark
Do you have a favorite strand of pearls or a favorite set of pearl earrings?
Have you ever thought of your troubles and trials as a process to making pearls?
What “pearls” or victories through Christ do you have as a memorial?
May your pearls be used to bring glory to Christ. Remember the pain that the oyster endured to bring forth a pearl. Remember,also, the pain that Christ endured so that we could be victorious over our troubles and trials.
Peggy Clark is the author of So, What's the Latest News? Messages from a Prisoner in Rome. Published by WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan.
It has taken its toll upon those who only see Christmas as an opportunity for person gain. Greedy for profits some merchants entice with promising advertisements that bring little to no satisfaction. The misled find themselves with lots of purchased merchandise but little joy.
How do shoppers find themselves depressed when they have striven so hard to please?
Was not that the doll that Susie wanted so desperately?
Didn’t Jack say he wanted that new red bicycle more than anything in the world?
Was Billy not pleased with the new shoes?
And why did Tammy just throw her game pieces across the room?
What happened to Christmas?
Did it come to steal and to take away?
Is it an imposter wrapped up in fancy wrapping and frivolous bows?
Why bother to celebrate it anyway?
What is Christmas?
Yes, people may argue about its meaning. Yes, people may refuse to celebrate it. Yes, people may use it for personal gain.
But, what is Christmas?
Christmas is not about getting what we want for Christmas.
It’s not about trying to please everyone with our fancy gifts.
It’s not about decorations, trimmings, light displays, or glitter.
It’s not even about the Christmas play.
Christmas is a memorial.
It is a day we set aside to remember the selfless action bestowed toward mankind by the Creator of the universe.
It is a remembrance of the day that the Almighty Creator God stepped out of Heaven and came to dwell with mankind. Placing Himself in the womb of a virgin woman, He became flesh and dwelt among us.
Christmas is a celebration of the very moment that God manifested Himself in the flesh.
Mary cradled Him. Joseph loved and cared for Him.
The shepherds told everyone about Him. Simeon lifted Him up and prophesied concerning Him.
The angels glorified Him. Anna thanked Him. The wise men provided for Him.
But Herod tried to kill Him.
Emanuel, God with us. That is what Christmas is all about. It is God with us.
Christmas is a remembrance of the day He came, wrapped in swaddling clothes, laid in a manger.
His presence in the flesh lasted such a short time, only 33 ½ years. But God was with us.
He chose to come.
He chose to come even though He knew the cross would be his pathway back to Heaven.
He chose to give Himself.
And that is Christmas.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11
Christmas morning finds children delighted with treasures found under the Christmas tree. Wrappings, bubble wrap, and ribbons sail through the air as package upon package gives way to the attack of fingers tearing at the carefully and thoughtfully placed endowments from family and friends.
Giggles and glees atone for parents’ hard and sometimes frustrating endeavors at making Christmas a time of excitement and adventure.
Spruce, fir, and cedar cuttings arrayed in reds, golds, silvers, and blues drape doorways and mantles. Manger scenes, postcard displays, and Advent calendars compete with snowmen, angels, and poinsettias nestled in every nook, corner, and shelf.
Smells permeate the air alerting all under their spell of the festivities just ahead.
Apples and cinnamon, oranges and tangerines, candy sticks and chocolate drops make one dizzy with desire.
Turkey and dressing, hams and sauces waft their tantalizing bouquets. Aromas of cookies oozing, pies bubbling, and puddings steaming send one rushing through the heavier affairs. Onward to the myriad of cakes decorated with flair.
Christmas Memories Made
With candle lights glowing and fireplaces flickering, filled tummies settle down for a well-deserved and long-awaited nap. Sweet dreams await those reminiscing of Christmases past.
Another Christmas has come and will soon depart. Memories made now become a part of one’s past that will never be forgotten.
May your festivities be celebrations that remain as praise-worthy memorials for you and your loved ones.
From the Clark house to yours,
Have a very Merry Christ-filled Christmas.
Copyright 2016 by Peggy Clark
What are some special memories you have of Christmases past?
Are you trying to incorporate those into your Christmas festivities this year?
What traditions are you trying to keep on a yearly basis?
Do you have a new idea that you are implementing this year?