August 27, 2020

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

This morning I was reading from a book, my friend Fred Hollis recommended to me, by Amy Carmichael entitled, “Gold by Moonlight” subtitled, “Sensitive lessons from a walk with pain”. In it she describes a metaphor similar to the Rose of Sharon (that describes the times when life is good and everything is going well), and the Lily of the Valley (when we enter into the dark valley and experience the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ.) Her metaphor is one of standing on a mountain and looking over a valley to the distant mountain on the other side, which is your destination in life; you’re destiny so to speak. 

In our youth, we venture forth with fearlessness of reaching the high mountain in the distance. As we begin our journey, we leave the sunlit mountain meadows and descend into the valley and enter the dark forest. We eventually encounter storms of varying intensity, some of which tend to make us lose our confidence. These storms are required that we go through on our way to distant mountain. We continue our journey, and though it is dark and we cannot see the mountain in the distance any longer, and sometimes we lose our way, she reminds us that if we look up we can see sunlight and we can remember the sunlit meadows from whence we came and where we are going. There is always light if we would only look up.

It reminds me when I was a canoe guide in the BWCA and towards the end of one day, I decided to take my group on a shortcut to the next lake, which would make for a much shorter portage and we’d find a campsite much earlier. Double checking the map, I concluded that we could save half the time if we cut our own portage and make a bee-line  to the next lake from the spot I saw on the map. I was confident and rather impressed with my foresight that I saw a better way. We’d probably end up making a new portage that others could follow! I was so impressed with myself.

We picked up our packs and canoes and off we went, fearlessly, into the dense forest. After about ten minutes I figured that we should be close to the next lake and looked about for any signs of an opening in the trees where I could see glistening water. Nothing. It must be just beyond the next little ridge I thought. We pressed on and when we got to the ridge, still nothing. After doing this for over an hour, my confidence began to wane and eventually I had to admit that we were hopelessly lost and I had no sense of direction. The dimming light revealed that the sun was now lowering towards the horizon, which we couldn’t see. Here I thought we get to a campsite earlier, but now we’re exhausted and the campers were complaining that we might have to set up camp in this misquote infested forest!

I was desperate and I went to the top of the highest ridge and climbed the tallest tree I could find. I needed ropes to get up to the first branch but when I got to the top I could see the sun hovering on the horizon. And from there I could see our lake in a totally different direction than where I thought it was.

We eventually made it to a campsite and put up our tents in the dark and ate our meal in exhausted silence. I was so certain, and so sincere, and so wrong. 

There are times when we are in the valley and the forest is so thick we can easily get lost if we lean to our own understanding. It is moments like this we need to look up and see there is still sunlight in the tops of the trees. Then we can climb that tall tree whose roots grow down to the rivers of water beneath  (PS 1:3) and, using Amy Carmichael’s metaphor, there we can regain the vision of the mountain in the distance and reset our bearings. 

Even in the dark forest the light is always above us. Matthew 28:20 says, “lo, I am with you always, even to the ends of the world“. Using the grammar of the Greek in which this was written, it is actually saying, “lo, I am with you all the days, and all day long.”

That is worth reciting throughout this day. He is with us and we can pray that we will be conscious of that today. But what happens if we find ourselves caught in a storm and fears and sorrow rain down on us? Look up and find a tree to climb. 

And which tree will we climb? If we have entered back into the Garden through the veil of Christ’s death, then why don’t we climb the tallest, most beautiful tree in the Garden? – the Tree of Life! Think about that illustration: Climbing up into the Tree of Life and on the way up tasting Its delicious refreshing fruits. Climb to the top and you’ll be able to see clearly the mountain of your destiny – which just so happens to be right where you are; in the Tree of Life, clinging to the BRANCH of that Tree.

“Behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH” (Zech 3:8), who on His death on the cross, was cut off of the Tree and separated from His Father, “And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off” (Dan 12:3). Then, after He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, He returned to the Tree of Life where He abides again with the Father and the Holy Spirit, all branches of the ONE Tree of Life. “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” (1Jn 5:7) 

Then as we are looking for the way to our life’s destiny, we discover that the ONE to whom we are clinging to is the Way. “Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6)

As I sit here at Bethany’s gravesite, this illustration reminds me of her. For when I first met Bethany in Italy, she was going by the name of, “Bethany Treechild”. No fooling. It’s a long story, (which perhaps I’ll tell later), but she loved to climb trees as a child, and she chose that name for herself at the school we both worked at. She loved to climb trees and she even climbed one to get to the zip line she rode on, the day she died. (Oh, how I miss her.)

It’s all just a little word picture to have fun. I can picture you climbing up and clinging to the BRANCH of the Tree of Life today. May God richly bless you!

In Christ,

– Bob

August 21, 2020

To my dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

Good morning, and what a beautiful morning it is! The sun is rising a bit later each day, which brings a tinge of sadness to my heart. These beautiful summer mornings will coming to an end, as our northern hemisphere drifts towards the coming winter season. That thought should motivate us to make the most of these gloriously beautiful summer days while we have them, for they will soon be ending. With that thought in mind, here’s a verse I read today…

“The Lord is my strength and my song Ex 15:2

One of my favorite times during these graveside devotions is when I sing. Singing is a form of prayer. One of the advantages of the cemetery being so far out in the country, with no houses or people around, is that no one can hear me sing. I don’t have to be self-conscious like when people turn around in church, and politely look to see who is singing so off key. When I lost my hearing over a year ago I also lost my ability to hear music, which is heart breaking. That means that I don’t know if I am singing in key or not. Bethany would always nudge me when I wasn’t. Now that she’s not here, I’ve discovered the hard way that I’m usually not. So in the cemetery, I get to sing my favorite hymns at the top of my lungs! The birds seem to like it for they chime in with me! (or maybe they’re squawking at me to shut up, I don’t know) But most often, I just make up songs. I just pour my heart out. He knows what I am singing even if I don’t sometimes.

I read today Exodus 15:2, the song that Moses and the children of Israel sang after they crossed the Red Sea and were delivered from Egypt’s bondage. There are different Hebrew words used for the different types of songs.  In this verse the word for “song” is “zamar” and it means “a pruning hook or the pruning of a tree”. This is a song of victory where God has “pruned” the Egyptian enemies from the children of Israel. It is a song of deliverance. 

We used to sing a song that used this verse as its refrain. When I sung it I understood that God was my strength and my deliverer, but I wondered, how can God be my song? What’s that supposed to mean? 

Chaim Bentorah explains that in ancient times people throughout the world sang songs that told stories of the accomplishments of their gods. Our old hymns and Gospel songs used to tell stories of the wonderous works of God. Today modern Christian worship music tends to shorten lyrics and do not tell stories any more. Therefore, so many of our younger generation don’t understand how God can be our song. 

Maybe someday we will return to telling stories and testimonies about our wonderful God, for He is our song and His song is our song. His song; the song of our deliverance is our story. Let’s sing our song daily.

How has God delivered you, protected you, provided for you? What battles has He won for you? Don’t be drawn into the fears of Covid-19 and the concerns of the day with all the misinformation we are being constantly deluged with. Look to the Lord for your salvation from your daily troubles and write the lyrics to your song daily, like David did in the Psalms.

Do you see the song of the Lord running through your life? Look back and rehearse those times where God has intervened in your life and given you unexpected blessings, provision or deliverance. Ponder them, for this is the Lord’s song. Write them down in your journal. It will be precious to your children when you’re gone. 

This reminds me of an interview I saw of my favorite comedian when I was a child; Red Skelton. Red was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever seen, and he was genuine, wholesome and so funny. After I watched the only interview he ever did, and heard how he redeemed his time, I appreciated him even more. I won’t go into all the things he did during the day, for it would take too long but this is what stood out to me. He had a regiment in his life where every day he would write down 5 of the most humorous things that happened to him that day and 5 new things that he learned which he didn’t know before. This was his song and became material for his routines. But he had to discipline himself to look for those things throughout the day. If you have the time and want to watch this sweet interview, it will bless your heart, I guarantee it.

I see now that the Lord has been my song throughout all of my life. Even when I didn’t know Him, He was singing to me, drawing me to Himself.. He has fought my battles. He has been my friend in my time of need. He has been so faithful and He has become my all in all. He is all I need. He is my song! 

“I will sing unto the Lord for He has triumphed gloriously, the horse and rider thrown into the sea! The Lord, my God, my strength, my song, has now become my victory!”

Let’s gloriously sing His song for the “rest of our lives”. (Heb 4: 3,5,11)

In Christ,

– Bob

Day 115 – August 20, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Lately people have been asking me how I’m doing. I tell them that it’s peculiar because I feel such sorrow and yet at the same time such joy. I’m perplexed by it all. Then I read in Bethany’s personal devotional, “Streams in the Desert” this morning. It reminded me the Rose of Sharon (Joy) and the Lily of the Valley (Sorrow) of SOS 2:2. The following is a beautiful little story about how Sorrow and Joy can dwell together…

As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor 6:10) Sorrow was beautiful, but her beauty was the beauty of the moonlight shining through the leafy branches of the trees in the wood, and making little pools of silver here and there on the soft green moss below. When Sorrow sang, her notes were like the low sweet call of the nightingale, and in her eyes was the unexpectant gaze of one who has ceased to look for coming gladness. She could weep in tender sympathy with those who weep, but to rejoice with those who rejoice was unknown to her. Joy was beautiful, too, but his was the radiant beauty of the summer morning. His eyes still held the glad laughter of childhood, and his hair had the glint of the sunshine’s kiss. When Joy sang his voice soared upward as the lark’s, and his step was the step of a conqueror who has never known defeat. He could rejoice with all who rejoice, but to weep with those who weep was unknown to him. “But we can never be united,” said Sorrow wistfully. “No, never.” And Joy’s eyes shadowed as he spoke. “My path lies through the sunlit meadows, the sweetest roses bloom for my gathering, and the blackbirds and thrushes await my coming to pour forth their most joyous lays.” “My path,” said Sorrow, turning slowly away, “leads through the darkening woods, with moon-flowers only shall my hands be filled. Yet the sweetest of all earth-songs–the love song of the night–shall be mine; farewell, Joy, farewell.” Even as she spoke they became conscious of a form standing beside them; dimly seen, but of a Kingly Presence, and a great and holy awe stole over them as they sank on their knees before Him. “I see Him as the King of Joy,” whispered Sorrow, “for on His Head are many crowns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of a great victory. Before Him all my sorrow is melting away into deathless love and gladness, and I give myself to Him forever.” “Nay, Sorrow,” said Joy softly, “but I see Him as the King of Sorrow, and the crown on His head is a crown of thorns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of a great agony. I, too, give myself to Him forever, for sorrow with Him must be sweeter than any joy that I have known.”

“Then we are one in Him,” they cried in gladness, “for none but He could unite Joy and Sorrow.” Hand in hand they passed out into the world to follow Him through storm and sunshine, in the bleakness of winter cold and the warmth of summer gladness, “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”
I sure appreciate you, my friends.

In Christ,- Bob 

Day 112 – August 17, 2020

“… and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” (Is 58:12)

The day after Bethany died I bought a plant to set next to her gravesite. We would always buy hanging plants in the beginning of May to try to make the entrance to our house beautiful and inviting. I bought an extra nice one to hang next to her gravesite to make it inviting for those to come. It would be her grave marker until we had one made. I didn’t know then, that I would be coming out to visit every morning to have my devotions. I bought a really nice, beautiful, full plant. It seemed expensive but that didn’t matter now. Perhaps, you saw pictures of it on my Facebook page. The flowers were white and lovely.

Now, I’m not a natural plant person. I don’t know how to take care of them and in the past, the plants around our house didn’t always flourish. Because of the busyness of life, we’d sometimes end up neglecting them and they’d dry out and we’d do our best to try to revive them. Eventually in late August we’d just give up the struggle.

So I determined that was not going to happen with this plant! I bought Miracle Grow and this plant was going to flourish! I watered that plant every morning with Miracle Grow. It was flourishing and lovely! I finally found my green thumb!

Two weeks later it died! I was heart broken. I spent so much time watering and nourishing that plant, and it still died- just like all the others. I must have gotten a defective box of Miracle Grow that was missing the Miracle stuff in it. So I was going to return it to the store and get a fresh box and as I picked up the box to put it in the bag to return it, I noticed the words, “Use very two weeks“. I reasoned, well if a little is good wouldn’t a lot be better? I called the “Help line” and asked them. They told me, “You overwatered your plant and burned it by using too much Miracle grow. Next time read the directions”. Why didn’t I think of that?

Apparently this was an important lesson for me to learn so God gave me another illustration. We have a pond out back. It used to be a gravel pit and they dug too deep and hit a spring and the pit filled up with water. Instant lakeshore! The pond has become an old fashioned swimming hole for us and it’s become a great place to invite people to if they want to experience what it’s like to be in a Norman Rockwell painting. Old fashioned fun!

Due to all the rain we’ve had, the aquifer that feeds the pond has overflowed causing the water to rise high. The water level has not only flooded onto the grass we planted next to the shore, but it’s risen up to the birch and fir trees we planted 15 years ago that were just beginning to reach maturity. And guess what happened? They all died from too much water! Too much of a good thing.

In the same way, I wonder if there could be such a thing as listening to too much of the preaching of God’s Word? Could we become so reliant on being fed by others preaching the Word of God to us that it could hamper our personal interaction and relationship with Jesus? 

When Bethany and I came back to the USA from living in Europe and South America for 6 years, we were amazed at the abundance of the preaching and teaching of God’s Word in this country. It was delightfully overwhelming! Anytime of the day or night we could hear Christian sermons and teachings on the radio and TV stations. 

We were being fed with rich truths from the Bible all day long. This was fantastic! Then we would go to seminars and conferences and listen to speaker after speaker feed us with delicious Truths from God’s Word. Soon we became accustomed and dependent on these outlets to feed our souls with Spiritual Truth. The problem was that our spiritual roots weren’t going down deep into the earth and personally drinking the Living Water directly from God.

It took awhile for us to discover that we were actually being overwatered with a spiritual Miracle Grow. We didn’t have to sink our roots deeply into God’s Word and have Jesus instruct us personally. We had become dependent on other people instructing us instead. We reasoned that we just didn’t have time in our busy lives, of raising children and going to work, to dig into God’s Word ourselves. “That’s way too much work and takes way too much time! Let someone else who is paid to do that sort of thing just tell us what they discovered, after all that’s their job.”

So, we were content with having someone else feed us like Dr. James Dobson, Chuck Swindol and Bill Gothard, to name a few. All we had to do was just lay back and drink the milk of the Word that others had discovered. Little did we know, that were dying on the vine just like the hanging plants I had overwatered. That was revealed to us when the big storms of life came.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with going to seminars or listening to sermons on the radio. But these are to be likened to when the river overflows its bank. In a dry season, the overflowing river is a blessing and is reviving for the trees, but if the waters do not recede in due time, the trees will die of too much of a good thing.

Like trees, it is critically important that we set down our own roots deeply into the soil of God’s Word and find our own water deep in the earth. This comes by meditating on God’s Word and letting God speak His rhema Word to us personally. It makes our roots strong, and when the storms of life blow, they will not be moved for their roots run deep. 

When I have my morning devotions, I have certain devotional books I read. I start out with the Daily Light because that is strictly segments of God’s Word on the same topic. There is no commentary. Then I’ll read commentaries by Charles Spurgeon, Chaim Bentorah or others. It is so easy to slip into the habit of depending on these commentaries for my daily feeding. But it’s not until I begin to meditate on God’s Word in these themes  does He begin to personally speak to me. These tools and commentaries are not my daily bread, but are sources of inspiration that direct me to God’s Word which I meditate on, and then God speaks to me. My goal is to hear God speaking directly to me.

James 1:22 says, “Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” The Greek word for “doers” is “poietace” and it means “an author, producer, maker”. 

Are you the author of the book that Christ is writing in your life, or are you just reading the novels of the lives of other people? Even though, it is wonderful to read inspiring stories of what God has other people, we must take care that these are not our only source of feeding. Listening to the wonderful testimonies of others are to be an inspiration for us to write our own life story of what God is doing and showing us.Then, we will become a conduit for Living Water to flow out of us so we can nourish others,  “and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” (Is 58:12) 

In Christ,- Bob 

Day 108 – August 13, 2020

“Who touched me?” (Luke 8:45)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I didn’t realize this until right now, as I’m about to send this devotional out, that it could be linked to yesterday’s devotional on tattoos. 

I went to the doctor last week. About 6 months ago my new doctor noticed on my chart that I had a small bit of skin cancer removed from my forehead awhile back and he thought it would be a good idea that, since I was a full-blooded Norwegian with fairly light skin tones, that I should have a full body scan to see if there were any other pre-cancer spots hidden somewhere. Without Bethany here to schedule things I’m amazed that I was actually able to make it to the appointment.

So I was directed to the examination room and as I’m waiting, in comes his PA; a young gal. I asked her how long it would be before the doctor comes in. She told me she was the one who is going to do the full body scan. Here I am, sitting on a really cold bench in that robe that opens from the back. I said to her, “Oh! I thought my doctor was going to it.” She notices my apprehension and assures me not to worry because “she’s seen it all before” and so I could relax. It wasn’t very reassuring to me. I began to murmur under my breath, “But you haven’t seen…”   And then she says, “Up on the table!”

So as I sat down on the examination table I thought, “Oh well, here we go” and she proceeded with way more confidence than I thought she should have!

She starts at my head. As she is gently combing through my scalp with her fingers, feeling for any lumps, I told her she could do that for as long as she liked. It felt very nice. She checked my back and the all I can say is that the touch of a human hand felt absolutely wonderful. I can’t quite explain it. She continued with her very thorough check up and was very thorough. Good news was that she found nothing. The other good news was, it was a lovely experience! 🙂 I felt nourished.

All this to simply say, I didn’t know how much I have missed human touch since Bethany died. We were always hugging one another, falling asleep in one another’s arms, warming my cold feet on her warm back. There is something quite powerful about touch. It reminds me of when the woman with the issue of blood touched the robe of Jesus. He stops and asks, “Who touched me?” The disciples were perplexed because the crowd was thronging him with everyone reaching out to him. But Jesus continued, “I perceive that virtue has gone out of me.” And in that statement is a window to look into the heart of God. The Greek word for “virtue” is “dunamous” and it is the word from which we get the word, “dynamite!”  Jesus said that he perceived power coming out of him because this woman touched him by faith, even if it was just the hem of His garment. She was able to still touch something in Him that released power into her.

I believe that the touch of another human being has more power in it than we think. I’ve heard stories of neglected babies who have not had any human touch. They wither. Many become sick and in some cases have died, simply because of the lack of human touch.

With this crazy epidemic going on, social distancing has become the norm. I’ve had people recoil and walk backwards from me as I walked towards them. You’d think I had the plague! Whatever you may think about the science of this virus, I know it is demonically inspired to keep people away from touching and interacting with one another on a deep level. It attacks the very heart of God’s design for human interaction.

The Bible also shows the power of human touch. It is called the “laying on of hands”. Something happens when people touch. There is a transfer of something powerful from one person to another and sometimes we are not even conscious of it. 

The word for hand in Hebrew is “Yad”. The ancient Jews believe that the heart of man was in their right hand. When you shook hands with someone you were taking that person’s heart in your hand and into your heart and were holding it. It was a sign of trust and the assurance you were going to do what you said you were going to do. With dear friends, it was a warm greeting, affirming that you hold one another’s heart safely in your hand and in you heart. 

If you add an “a” at the end of the word “yad” you get “yada” which means “to know someone personally and intimately”. It’s used when  “Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain” (Gen 4:1) 

And the word “yadiyad” means, “hand in hand”. When you walk hand-in-hand with your wife, you are affirming to her that you are holding her heart in your heart, where it is safe. You are walking, “yadiyad”! Bethany and I would be on a walk and I’d grab her hand and look at her, smile and whisper, “Yadiyad.” She’d whisper back, “Yadiyad.” Sweet.

We’ve all been hurt one way or another. We’ve all smelled the lovely fragrance of the Rose of Sharon when life was going good, and we have experienced the sweet fragrance of the Lily of the Valley when we fellowship in His sufferings. So, with Bethany gone, I write this to tell you to feel free, the next time we meet, to give me a big warm hug or hold my heart in your hand and give me yours and we can touch one another and receive strength and comfort. I need it! Perhaps more than you imagine. Perhaps we all need it, even more than we think.

And may God bless you for doing it! 🙂

In Christ,

– Bob