That Perfect Married Couple

By Kathy Pollard

Do you know that perfect married couple?  They look happy together.  They’re always holding hands and seem to have it all figured out.  People look to them for advice.  They’re the hashtag-relationship-goals of social media.  I could name some couples that fall into this category for me.  I’m grateful for their example of marital bliss, and their PDA posts make me smile.

Neal and I are not that perfect married couple.  A superficial glimpse might make it appear that we are.  We do hold hands.  We do say nice things to and about each other on social media.  We’ve been asked to teach the occasional marriage seminar.  And so every now and then someone will remark on our relationship as being “exemplary” or some other thoughtful description.  I thank them because I appreciate their kindness but inwardly I cringe and think, “Far from it.”  We agree to teach about marriage because we can study what God’s Word has to say about it.  After nearly 27 years together, we can share some lessons we’ve learned from experience (some of them the hard way).  But we have had our own struggles and are still learning and growing, one year at a time.  We’ve hurt each other and let each other down.  As a wife, I’ve been guilty of lying, betraying, sulking, and manipulating.  Some of those hurtful things I knew I was doing in the moment.  Some of them I only realized later when I looked back over my behavior.  Our marriage has had rocky times because of the pressures of trials.  And our marriage has had rough patches because of the consequences of our own choices.  We’ve had to practice forgiveness, patience, and grace.  No, we are not that perfect married couple.

But we are a married couple and our God is perfect.

I’ve been reminded of this truth a couple of times this week.  Take a look at these “perfect” couples.

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I met this couple last night.  They got married at ages 15 and 17, and have been married for 55 years.  I asked them separately what has held them together for over half a century, especially since they started out so young.  Without hesitating, each of them said, “God.”  For them, it was as simple as that.  When they were standing together again, I pointed out that they each gave the same one-word answer.  She laughed and said, “Without God, I would’ve kicked him out a long time ago!”  They went on to add other advice, like the importance of giving 100% instead of 50/50 (and making that determination each new day).

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I met this couple two nights ago.  They’ve been married for 67 years!  It didn’t take long to figure out what has held them together.  She told me their first date was at Mammoth Cave.  He nodded and said, “I should’ve left her down there.”  He shared their secret to commitment:  “Divorce never crossed our minds.  Murder did, once or twice, but divorce was never an option.”  We all laughed and they looked at each other with a twinkle in their eyes that gave me a glimpse of the young couple they once were.  I loved their sense of humor and strong faith (made obvious by supporting a gospel meeting on a weeknight).  I imagine 67 years has given them a few stories of hardships and struggles but they are still together, still sharing some laughs, and still holding hands.

These are the real, perfect married couples.  I don’t know them well enough to see beyond the superficial.  But I do know that they’ve entrusted their marriages to their perfect God.  How blessed we are to enjoy life together, find reasons to smile, and keep holding hands despite our imperfections!

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us (Eph. 3:20).

Wait for the Lord–a Bible-marking topic

By Kathy Pollard

Waiting is hard.  When you’re diligently praying for something and hoping for a quick answer, a delay can be a difficult and trying time.

-Waiting for test results

-Waiting for a Christian mate

-Waiting for a job change

-Waiting for wrongs to be made right

-Waiting for clarification/ answers/ knowing what to do

-Waiting for a heavy burden to be lifted

The advice given is usually something like:  Be patient.  Don’t run ahead of God.  You can trust Him.  He knows what’s best.  But when it’s been a long wait, you just sigh and say, “I know.”  And tap your foot.

This Bible-marking topic is for those times when you’re tired of waiting, and perhaps beginning to wonder if God even hears your prayers.  Be encouraged, friend.  God anticipated those moments and He has words for your heart.  

As you soak in the following Scriptures, keep in mind what the word “wait” means.  It does mean to be patient.  But it also includes an anticipation, a looking forward to something arriving or occurring.  It means to wait in place with expectation.  So the advice you’ve been given is biblical.  Don’t run ahead of God.  But also, don’t give up hope while you’re waiting.  In the front of your Bible, write:

Wait for the Lord- Psa. 25

None of those who wait for You will be ashamed

Read through the entire psalm.  Circle all three occurrences of “wait for You/ wait” (v. 3,5,21).  Notice what David is asking for while he waits (v. 4-7) and what he is doing while he waits (v. 15).  Now go through and underline the qualities of God.  At the end of the psalm, write 27:14.

Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.

This is another beautiful psalm written by David.  It shows his utter dependence upon God and his refusal to give up (v. 13).  Circle both occurrences of “wait for the Lord.”  Underline “be strong” and “take courage.”  Strengthen your soul with prayer, Bible study, and Christian fellowship.  God doesn’t want you to be discouraged.  He wants your heart to be filled with courage.  In the margin, write “(see also 31:24).” At the end of the verse, write 33:13-22.

Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.  For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name.

Circle “waits for the Lord” (v.20).  Draw a square around “hope” (v. 18, 22).  “Hope” in these verses means “to wait, to hope for.”  In the margin next to “hope,” write “to wait.” Underline the phrases that show God still sees and cares:  “the Lord looks” (v. 13), “He sees” (v. 13), “He looks” (v. 14), “He who understands” (v. 15), and “the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him” (v. 18).  Squiggly underline “our heart rejoices…because we trust” (v. 21).  At the end of the psalm, write 40:1-3.

I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.

Circle “waited patiently for the Lord” (v. 1).  Underline what God did for David (“He inclined,” “heard my cry,” “brought me up,” etc.).  Squiggly underline “many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.”  In the margin next to that, write “Others are watching.”  When we wait patiently for the Lord, we are living out our faith and teaching others to trust in God!  At the end of the verse three, write 62:5-8.

My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him.

Circle “wait in silence for God.”  Why do we wait for God only?  Draw squares around what He is:  “my hope” (v. 5), “my rock,” “my salvation,” “my stronghold” (v. 6), “my salvation,” “my glory,” “my strength,” “my refuge” (v 7).  Underline all of verse eight.  At the end of the verse, write 130:5.

I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in His Word do I hope.

Circle “wait for the Lord” and “wait.”  Underline “in His Word do I hope.”  What better way to spend waiting time than in drawing hope from the Word?  At the end of the verse, write Prov. 20:22.

Do not say, “I will repay evil;” wait for the Lord, and He will save you.

Circle “wait for the Lord.”  Underline “He will save you.”  Remember, He sees everything and knows all the details.  Don’t take matters into your own hands.  Wait for God to make it all right in the end.  At the end of the verse, write Isa. 40:31.

Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.

Circle “wait for the Lord.”  Underline all the beautiful promises for those who wait:  “gain new strength,” “mount up with wings,” “run and not get tired,” and “walk and not become weary.”  At the end of the verse, write Lam. 3:25.

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.

Circle “wait for Him.”  Underline “the Lord is good.”  Notice what God wants us to do while we are waiting for Him.  At the end of the verse, write Micah 7:7.

But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation.  My God will hear me.

Circle “wait for the God.”  Underline “my God will hear me.”  Blessed assurance! At the end of the verse, write Isa. 30:18.

Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.  For the Lord is a God of justice; how blessed are all those who long for Him.

I know we’re backtracking but I wanted to end on this wonderful thought:  God waits for you, too!  Circle “He waits.”  Draw a square around “longs” and “long” and in the margin next to it write, “literally means ‘waits’.”  God waits for His people to trust in Him so He can bless them.  Remember His grace and compassion.  Remember His desire to take care of you.  

While you’re praying, “Please, God,” keep acting in ways that please God.  May the Lord bless you as you wait for Him. 

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Lessons Learned in the ICU

Disclaimer:  I certainly recognize that many others have gone through more serious, long-term stays in hospitals.  These are just a few thoughts from my own personal experiences this week.  

Our oldest son, Gary, went to the ER with respiratory distress early Monday morning.  He was admitted to the ICU, sedated and paralyzed, and put on a ventilator.  My husband and I hopped on a plane and have been with him ever since.  While I wish Gary and his sweet wife, Chelsea, didn’t have to go through this, there are several reasons I feel blessed to have been here this week:

  • God’s Family has no geographical borders.  Our home is in Colorado.  Our son’s home is in Alabama.  We have been welcomed and helped by Christians here just as if we were one of their own.
  • Christians are second-milers.  Oh man, I don’t have enough word-count to share every kindness that’s been extended to us.  We’ve had visits and messages of encouragement.  We’ve been brought snacks, homemade bread, blankets, parking tokens, meals, a gift certificate to a restaurant that delivers to the hospital, a vehicle to borrow, and magazines.  We’ve only slept in the waiting room one night because of the generosity and thoughtfulness of friends and local churches.  The kindnesses just keep coming!
  • Every prayer matters.  Within a couple of hours of our first morning here, we had four different area preachers come by and pray with us in the ICU.  Through the years Neal and I have circled up with folks for a prayer around a patient’s bed.  I never really knew how courage-bolstering that could be.  So many others have let us know they are praying.  Every single time, we feel comforted and grateful.
  • Things get put into perspective.  The world goes on outside these hospital walls but in here it feels like time stands still.  We are mostly focused on life, faith, and family.    Questions rise to the surface:  Does Gary know how much I love him and how proud  he makes me?  Do our Christian friends know how acutely we feel their concern and how much it means to us?  Through it all, we’ve been praying and contemplating.
  • Love is greater than fear.  It seems like every time my heart begins to worry, some kind gesture or word comes our way.  We are really seeing the Light this week.  Its warmth covers our cares.
  • Inside beauty is invaluable.  Oh, our sweet Chelsea.  She has helped Gary through things that weak stomachs won’t want to read about.  She works long hours and sleeps short nights in a hospital room but has yet to complain about a single thing.  Just now Gary asked her, “How are you holding up?”  She answered, “I’m fine, Hon.  You don’t have to worry about me!”  She is a cutie pie but more than that, her inner beauty has been a blessing to us all.  She is a worthy woman and we thank God for her.
  • Progress is worth celebrating.  Every little step on the road recovery causes rejoicing.  From big things (like coming off the ventilator) to little things (like sitting up for the first time), we smile and hug each other as we witness evidence of improvement.  I was never so excited to walk in and see someone eating applesauce.  When we share these good bits with others and they rejoice with us, it makes us smile all over again.  Consider how much more important spiritual progress is for new babes in Christ or for those making their way back from waywardness.  Every small step is a victory.  If we celebrate with them it can only encourage them to keep trying.
  • God is so good!

I was going to include a point about vanity.  It doesn’t matter that I only had five minutes to pack and left behind hair products and other beauty essentials (um, like tweezers).  Our first visitor was an old college friend we haven’t seen in over 26 years.  We’ve been meeting people for the first time and reuniting with family members this week.  I’m wearing sweats and have my hair pulled back in a ponytail.  I was going to include that point about vanity, but I do care.  I wish I looked better.  Ah well, I haven’t learned everything in the ICU.

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The Romans 12 “Do’s & Don’ts” List for Social Media

Social media is pretty great.  Apparently a lot of people think so since literally billions of people use it.  I love staying connected with long-distance friends and family, seeing what God is doing the world over, and laughing out loud over a hilarious meme.  It’s wonderful being able to post a prayer request or read an encouraging status.

But social media can also be misused.  Wasting time, ranting, sowing discord, getting involved in an ungodly relationship, or promoting self are a few examples of being a poor influence through our activities on social media.  Chris Pirillo said, “Twitter is a great place to tell the world what you’re thinking before you’ve had a chance to think about it.” Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36-37).  Which category will our posts and messages fall into?  Justified or condemned?

The following list is from Romans 12.  It seems perfect for making sure our social media activity stays good and Christlike!

  • Don’t be conformed to this world- v. 2
  • Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought- v. 3
  • Show mercy with cheerfulness- v. 8
  • Be loving- v. 9
  • Avoid all evil and promote good- v. 9
  • Be devoted to one another in brotherly love- v. 10
  • Give preference to one another in honor- v. 10
  • Contribute to the needs of the saints- v. 13
  • Bless those who persecute you- v. 14
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep- v. 15
  • Don’t be haughty- v. 16
  • Associate with the lowly- v. 16
  • Don’t be wise in your own estimation- v. 16
  • Never pay back evil for evil- v. 17
  • Respect what is right in the sight of all men- v. 17
  • As much as possible, live at peace with all men- v. 18
  • Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good- v. 21

“Don’t use social media to impress people; use it to impact people” (Dave Willis).

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Image credit: WordStream

 

God Will Be by Your Side, and I’ll Be on Your Other Side

Every now and then I get caught up in the what-if’s.  This afternoon was just such an occasion.  I was worrying about something to the point that Neal asked me what was wrong.  I unloaded my fears.  “What if this happens….what if this doesn’t happen…?” Neal listened and reminded me that God is in control.  I said, “I know but what if…..?”  And I proceeded to try to get him to understand all my reasons for being concerned.  He finally said,

“Even if the very worst scenario happens, God will be by your side and I’ll be on your other side.”

Okay, that was powerful.  How comforting to know that, no matter what, God will never leave me and neither will my husband.  That truth helped me take a deep breath and let go of the useless worrying.  I thank God for His promise to always be with me (Heb. 13:5).  I thank God for Neal’s wisdom and his commitment to caring for me.  I know that next time my “anxieties multiply within me” (Psa. 94:19), I will recall the peace-giving image of God and Neal flanking either side of me.

I wonder how many others need those words said to them?  I can think of individuals I know who are hurting and could probably use the reminder that they’re not alone.  May I never get so caught up in my own little world that I neglect to comfort those around me.        That’s part of the purpose of the church, right (Heb. 10:24-25)?  I love knowing that I could go to another Christian with my fears or failures and be reminded of God’s faithfulness and their love.  May I ever strive to be that Christian for others, too.  I may not be able to solve problems or make the pain go away, but I can certainly hug more, pray more, and remind more that “God will be by your side and I’ll be on your other side.”

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another…1 Pet. 4:8.

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You Can Always Come Home

HOME SWEET HOME.  Those three simple words engage the senses.  They conjure up images of loved ones, the home place, your childhood tree swing.  Perhaps you associate it with the smell of apple pie, your favorite birthday meal, or your mother’s perfume.  Or maybe you can close your eyes and hear your father whistling while he’s working on the car.  We want to fill our own homes with that same sense of belonging and rightness, so we intentionally create good memories for our own families:  laughter around the dinner table, nightly devotionals, loving touches, and sweet traditions.  Home is synonymous with comfort and security.  When we’re away from it, we long for it.  Not every earthly home is ideal, but many would agree that “there’s no place like home.”

Thank God for the home He provides for His family!  He must want us to enjoy that same sense of love and security because He gives us a home to enjoy now and one to look forward to in eternity.  When I close my eyes and think of my church family, I can’t help but recall warm hugs, precious memories, dear songs, and loving support.  No matter where we live, we have a home made up of Christian family.  What a blessing!  I can’t imagine trying to get through this life without it.  Jesus promises a heavenly home with our Father (John 14:1-3).  This one will be big enough to accommodate all of our loved ones.  There will be no goodbyes or sad memories (Rev. 21:3-4).  It will be the ultimate Home Sweet Home.

As dear as home is, some choose to walk away from it.  Whatever the reason for it (indifference, rebellion, sin), the absence is keenly felt by the Father and family.  I ran across a song recently called, “You Can Always Come Home.”  It is based on the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15.  In that passage, Jesus tells a parable of a young man who chose to leave home to experience the world.  He lived wildly and recklessly.  He cared not for his reputation or his family name.  But his new lifestyle brought no satisfaction.  The thrill was short-lived as he found himself broken and alone.  That’s when he thought of home and his wayward heart longed to return.   This passage never gets old for me.  My breath catches every time I read of his father running to meet him.  His father didn’t say, “You made your bed; now you have to lie in it.”  He didn’t say, “What do you have to say for yourself?!”  He most certainly didn’t say, “I don’t know you,” or “You’re no son of mine.”  Instead, every action on his part said, “Welcome home, my son.

I have loved ones who have wandered away.   I pray they will long for home and make the journey back, regardless of time or distance.  As the song pleads, “Remember, you can always come home.”

My own heart has struggled with seasons of waywardness.  May I always be drawn to the real love and security offered by my Father.  May HOME remain my favorite place to be.

 

 

 

 

 

Heard the Latest about Higher Ground?

For those of you who don’t know, Higher Ground Encampment is a free Bible camp for teen girls in Sedalia, CO.  It began in 2009 and is sponsored by the Bear Valley church of Christ.

For those of you who are already familiar with Higher Ground, I wanted to share a couple of things that are new:

  1.  Higher Ground is under new directorship.  Beginning last year, Christy Swackhamer, mother of three girls and a diligent student of the Word, took over as director.  She did a great job and will continue to do so.  This year, Melody Sawyers, mother of three boys and the most hospitable woman you’ll ever meet, will begin serving as a co-director.  Teri Autrey and I will still be involved.  We are both serving as counselors this year and I will continue to teach Bible-marking.
  2. Higher Ground will be held earlier in the year.  Typically we’ve had camp in late July/ early August.  The dates for this year are June 24th-30th.  We are already accepting applications and Christy tells me they are rolling in!
  3. Higher Ground is at a different location.  A couple of years ago, the facility we’d been using was put on the market.  We had to find other accommodations, which was no easy task since we had to find something reasonable enough for us to continue to offer this camp for free.  We now meet at the Roundup Ranch (located right next to our original location).  Because it is a much smaller facility, Christy said we can only accept a maximum of 50 girls.

For more information about Higher Ground, and for a link to the online application, click here.

Please join me in praying for this effort, for the staff, and for all the girls who will be a part of it this year.  It will be a special week of spiritual growth, fun, and building or renewing friendships.

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