Author Archives: roushwm

On the second day of Christmas.

heart-81207_960_720“On the second day of Christmas my true love gave me two turtle doves.”

From what I’ve read, the term turtle dove refers to a group of old world doves that includes ringed doves and mourning doves.  In literature they are associated with innocence, purity and enduring love.  The bird utters a sweet, mournful call, arriving on the scene in the early spring and staying until late in the summer. They are dedicated to their mate and offspring.

I see the gift of a pair of turtle doves given to me by my true love as a gesture of commitment, love and faithfulness to me.  It is an enduring and desirable gift in an age littered with disposable relationships.

My lover said to me, “Rise up, my darling! Come away with me, my fair one!  Look, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone.  The flowers are springing up, the season of singing birds has come, and the cooing of turtledoves fills the air.”  Song of Solomon 2:10-12 NLT

 

On the first day of Christmas

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More than likely you are familiar with the song, “The twelve days of Christmas.”  This Christmas season I search for a deeper, more personal meaning to the lyrics of this song.tree.”

The first gift my true love gave to me was a partridge in a pear tree.  Today, such gifts would seem quaint.  Before you start yawning, consider the first gift of a partridge.  In the land of Palestine partridges are wilderness fowl that are known for their distinct call.  Additionally, partridges have beautifully marked plumage.

Here’s the symbolism I found in the gift of a partridge.  A partridge thrives in a wilderness environment.

pear-3570890__340What a prize it would be to find this beautiful creature in such an inhospitable region. I am reminded of the times I found myself wandering in a proverbial wilderness only to hear the sound of a familiar voice, which breathed life into my parched soul.

The partridge is presented perched in the second gift, a pear tree.  An Asbury College student, Scott Cozart, told this parable in a chapel service.  

“A father wanted to teach his four sons the lesson of not judging something or someone too quickly, and so he called his four sons together and said “I have a task for you. I want you, my eldest son to go out into our fields and take a look at the pear tree and come back and tell me what your evaluation is of its condition.””

“So the eldest went out and saw the pear tree. But it was winter, and the son saw the tree on a harsh winter day and reported back and said to his father. “I see nothing of promise about the tree. It appears old, and gnarled and has no blooms on it at all. I doubt it will survive the winter.””

“Three months later the father sent the next eldest son out in the spring to evaluate the pear tree. The son came back saying “The tree is very beautiful, with white blooms, but it seems purely ornamental, it has no fruit, nor any sign of ever bearing any. I doubt it will be of much practical use to us.””

“Three months later the father sent the third from the eldest son out in the summer. The son went out to see the tree and came back reporting: “the tree seems to be growing and doing well, and it is full of leaves, and I could see some fruit, so I picked one and tasted it, but it was bitter, not fit for human consumption. I doubt it will prove of much use to us.”’

“Finally three months later the father sent his youngest son out to see the tree once more. This time the tree was full of ripe beautiful golden and red pears. The son tried one and came back with the glowing report “Father we must come quickly for the harvest is upon the tree, and it is heavy laden and needs us to pick the pears for they are ripe and delicious now.””

“The father called his four sons back together, and said, “You see each of you have observed well the condition of a the tree at a particular season of the year, but your judgment of the tree was only partial, and made too quickly based on what you saw on only the one occasion. See to it that you never judge human beings this way. Never evaluate them too quickly or on the basis of one encounter, for it is unfair and unwise. Indeed all living things should only be evaluated over the course of time and after repeated careful inspection, for who knows but the ugliest and most unproductive of living things might some day turn into the most beautiful and fruitful.””

From the parable of the pear tree, I was able to see the beauty found in a relationship with my true love.  One that withstands the test of time.

Partridges are not known to roost in trees.  So when the partridge is presented perched in a pear tree, it stands as a monument observable from a great distance.  The partridge’s distinct call is capable of spanning a vast wilderness.  A partridge in a pear tree is a beautiful, fruit-bearing gift, which stands out in a world crowded with distractions vying for our attention.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruitfruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. John 15:16

Growing faith

“Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing. We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering.”  2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 NLT

Growing faith leads to abounding love. How does faith grow? One way is through persecution or trials, when we are forced to fully rely on God. How can we as followers of Christ, abounding in love, help those who are embroiled in such a predicament? Several years ago I began the practice of praying for someone who seemed to be wandering in a proverbial “desert wilderness.” I reasoned, if Jesus’ wilderness experience lasted forty days, then hat should be the measure of my commitment.  My forty day commitment to praying for someone is often done without telling them.  It builds up my faith to see God answering prayer in the life of another person.

praying-1319101_960_720Dear God, strengthen my faith by your mighty power. Remind me my strength comes from every word that comes out of your mouth. Guide my words and deeds to bring glory to your name. Show me someone who may be suffering, whether they’re facing a trial or struggling with doubts about their faith.  

“So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.”  Thessalonians 1:11 NLT

 

Couch to 5k: The benefits of walking

walk-2635038_960_720About 30 days ago I sat in a doctor’s waiting room waiting for my six month check up. A year earlier I had been prescribed a small dose of blood pressure medicine to manage my blood pressure.  From periodic pressure readings, I knew my blood pressure had been rising recently.  A nurse confirmed my bp was high.  I knew what was coming, they were going to prescribe a higher dose of BP medicine.  Would they need to increase my meds again next year, and what about the year after that?

I had given up on cardiovascular exercise earlier in the summer.  I didn’t want to subject my knees and hips to jogging anymore.  I didn’t plan to run anymore 5ks so why keep jogging?  I questioned whether or not walking would give me any cardio benefit.  Besides, I considered myself active.  On work days I averaged 10,000 steps on my Fitbit.

However, In the last 90 days (minus any cardio) my resting pulse had risen significantly as had my BP.  To make matters worse, I was coping with a stressful family medical situation.  I am grateful my doctor didn’t overreact.  He calmly recommended the D.A.S.H. diet, some cardio, and said losing a handful of pounds would make a big difference.

It was time to draw a line in the sand.  The next day I started walking for at least 20 minutes a day.  I focused on trying to keep my pulse in the cardio range, 110 to 130 beats per minute as defined by my Fitbit.  I also started making better choices on the food I ate to lower my salt intake.

The results have been noticeable.  In just a little over 30 days my resting pulse has fallen almost to what it was when I was jogging almost 90 days. ago  My BP has fallen below my doctor’s suggested ideal range (that’s with taking my BP meds).  I have also shed a couple of pounds in the process. My Fitbit now declares I have excellent cardio vascular health!  Cardio walking for 30 minutes or more a day 4 or more times a week does make a huge difference!

The First Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-2903166_960_720When I mention Thanksgiving, what thoughts come to mind? Are there memories of a family gathering, or a big turkey dinner with all the trimmings? At my parent’s house we watched football games on TV (before and after our meal).

According to my smart phone, the word Thanksgiving is defined as an “expression of gratitude, especially to God.” When I looked up the definition of gratitude, my phone said, it is a quality of being thankful. Notice how the words “thanksgiving” and “gratitude” describe each other. Thanksgiving is showing gratitude and gratitude is being thankful.

When was the first thanksgiving? Most people would say it happened several hundred years ago in Plymouth, Mass. when the first pilgrims came to America and gathered around a table with their Indian guests. Was that really the first thanksgiving, or did one occur much earlier in history?

According to David Mathis in his article, “The True Story of Thanksgiving,” the first thanksgiving began thousands of years earlier. Genesis 1:27 us that God created man and woman in his own image. God created us to show Him gratitude, to give Him thanks and to worship Him. The first thanksgiving occurred in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve thanking and praising their Creator.

“Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.” Psalm 148:13

We all know the story of Adam and Eve. They were created perfect. Death had yet to come into existence. They had everything they could ever want provided for them in the Garden of Eden. That is, until the tempter, began spreading his venom around Eden. Satan, being full of pride and love of self, showed ingratitude towards God. Ingratitude is a form of rebellion. It is through ingratitude towards God that sin abounds. The Apostle Paul in Romans 1:21 puts it this way, “Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Ingratitude would lead Adam and Eve into sin.  Satan brought to their attention one thing they did not have.  They began to believe his lie that God was holding something back from them. God must not care about them. They began to covet the one thing they couldn’t have, to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They stopped being thankful for God’s provision and gave in to rebellion. When they ate the fruit, God’s judgment fell on them. Sin separated them from God and death followed sin.

From that day forward, humankind has been self-centered and materialistic creatures believing they can do a better job than God at providing for their needs. We want to determine what is right and wrong in our own minds. People are concerned more with their deprived physical needs than about their spiritual, eternal well-being. What people fail to realize is that God knows us better than we know ourselves.

Isn’t it reassuring to know God didn’t abandon us to our foolish darkened hearts? God sent his son Jesus into a thankless, ungrateful world. Here on earth he lived a flawless life, showering God with gratitude, thanksgiving and praise. Jesus exemplifies the word “thanksgiving.” The Gospels are filled of examples of Jesus giving thanks to God:

When Jesus fed the 4,000, “he took the seven loaves and the fish and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples. (Mark 8:6)

Before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he lifted up his eyes toward heaven and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.” (John 11:41).

The “Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said this is my body which is for you; do this in remembrance of me. In the same way after supper he took the cup, saying this the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-24)

Communion is sometimes referred to as the Eucharist. Eucharist comes from the Greek word Eukaistos, which actually means “Thanksgiving.”

Jesus didn’t just model thanksgiving for us. He died on the cross for our ingratitude, for our failing to exalt God, to praise him and worship Him as Lord. When we place our faith in Jesus, he redeems us from a life of ingratitude and restores us to fulfill the purpose for which we were created: to be thankful and grateful to God.

This is why it is important for us to be constantly striving to be more like Jesus, the only person who lived a perfect life of gratitude, honoring his father, God.

When we pray we need to remember to be thankful.

“Don’t be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Philippians 4:6  

When we worship God we need to be thankful. The book of Psalms is full of thankful worship verses.

“Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” Psalm 95:2

“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” Psalm 69:30

When we walk with God we need to remember to be thankful.

“As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Colossians 2:6-7

But we’re human aren’t we. There are times we fail miserably at being thankful, like when things aren’t going well for us. We can easily be overcome by hurt and tragedy. When we face trials we have a tendency to blame God.

When we face those trials we need to remain especially thankful.

But how do we do that? First, we can remain thankful by standing on the promises of God. Second, we should remember past and current blessings God has bestowed on us. Yes, count your blessings name them one by one!

My wife visited her family in North Carolina recently. When it came time to fly home, I prayed God would give her an uneventful and safe return. Her fight home, which should normally take about 3 hours turned into quite an ordeal, lasting well over 9 hours. I thought I had covered all my bases with my prayers and found myself having a tough time coping with her having to change planes, miss a connecting flight, and endure hour after hour of delays all caused by bad weather.

The ordeal continued to spin out of control at a time I needed God most. It became increasingly difficult for me to believe God was listening to my prayers. Thoughts like, “Does he really care about my wife and me” crept into my head. It wasn’t until she and I were safely together again that I learned just how involved God was guiding her every step. I felt ashamed when I considered my feelings of ingratitude. My heart turned to repentance and thanksgiving.

From now on I will always think of this incident in my life when I come across the verse:

“And we know (there’s a promise in those three words). And we know that in all things God works for good to those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

My wife will likely remember the promise I texted her in the midst of her ordeal :

“Be still and know (the word “know” is a promise) that I am God.” Psalm 46:10.

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May this Thanksgiving be a special time of blessing for you. Remember to give thanks to the God who created you, to the One who sustains you, and to Him who will never leave you or forsake you.

Joshua 13-15: Live by faith

Joshua chapters 13-15 begin an account detailing of how the land of Canaan was to be divided among the 13 tribes of Israel (Joseph received a double portion). Each of his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh are counted as a tribe. Though this material may seem dull to the modern reader it chronicles the fulfillment of Israelite inheritance.

Inheritance – biblical inheritance in the literal sense is a possession or piece of property that is linked to the promises of God (i.e. Promised Land). It’s transcendent meaning holds that God himself is our inheritance.

Levites – the tribe of priests didn’t receive a swath of territory like the other tribes. Instead they received cities, which included the surrounding pasture lands. The Levites received the sacrifice offerings brought by the other tribes to the Lord. God was to be their inheritance. The twelve cities they received were scattered throughout the new land of Israel (see Joshua 21).

While Joshua chapters 1-12 chronicle God’s great victories fighting for Israel, much of the land still needed to be taken.  God himself would continue to fight for Israel if they remained faithful and followed his instructions. The areas yet to be secured included some of the coastland occupied by the Philistines, and areas to the north and south of the lands already conquered.

When the Israelites began to enjoy the Promised Land, they made compromises to speed the process along, permitting people who served other gods to live among them as slaves.  Ironically this would lead to the Israel’s undoing.  They would become slaves to idolatry and eventually to the Canaanites.  The book of Judges chronicles this.

Like the Israelites, how many of us have proved faithful to God in times of great crisis (during the storms of life) only to lose our resolve to remain faithful in the little everyday things?  Faith prizes the gifts god God gives us. Great faith sees beyond the gift and remains faithful to God who gave it.

saint-2356564_960_720Caleb stands out as an example of how Israel’s tribes ought to be living out their conquest of Canaan. He remained faithful to God.  He wanted the complete portion God promised. His faith wouldn’t let him make compromises.  At age 85, he set out to claim the land promised to him.  The same land his feet trod 45 years earlier when he and 11 other Israelites first spied out the land of Canaan under Moses’ leadership (See Numbers 13).  He approached Joshua and said, “Give me the land God promised through Moses.” It didn’t matter to him that the land was occupied by giants.  Caleb’s faith in God allowed him to conquer the land.

Our faith in God can sustain us.  Great faith remembers what God has done and is grateful.  Even today, Jesus is preparing an inheritance for those who are his faithful followers.

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.  John 14:1-3 NLT

Please tell me you love me

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Please tell me you love me.  I’m lost without your love.
Reassure me that I linger in your thoughts and prayers.

Tell me you love me again.  I long to hear those words.
The hours separating us are like a hill too steep to climb.

When I say, “I love you,” my words carry the weight of complete devotion.
I have but one desire, to spend the rest of my days with you.

When we say, “I love you,” we understand that it’s food for our soul.
Apart we are two people but together we make each other complete.