Balm in Gilead

I saw her walking up the sidewalk toward me. I was out with my dog, and I hoped we would move before she ran into us. I didn’t recognize her, at first. She looked sad. There was no smile of greeting or warmth on her face. But I didn’t know her, so I didn’t expect her to be enthusiastic about someone being on the sidewalk with her.

Then I heard a vehicle approaching, so I turned to look. It was a minivan. The driver waved, and I waved in response. Then I noticed the dog in the window. Oh. It was the neighbor a few doors down. And this was their teenage daughter. The family had come looking for her.

She crossed the street and the van’s side door opened. Before she entered the van, I heard the dad’s voice speaking loud and stern. Unsure of what was being said, and being more sure that I didn’t want to overhear the conversation, I turned my back and tried to hurry my dog along. This wasn’t a conversation I needed to hear.

But the van sat there for a few minutes. Hopefully, they were able to work through their differences enough to have a good evening. I guess I’ll never know. But I hope to see the family’s smiling faces as they walk through the neighborhood soon. They seem to be a pleasant family.

Doesn’t every family have their ups and downs every now and then? Your family life may look perfect on social media and to strangers. But what they don’t know may be what’s killing you. 

Just two days later, another teenage girl in my city ran into her house and grabbed a knife. She ran outside and saw one girl knocked to the ground and then began lunging the knife at second girl. Four shots rang out. The attacker’s life was ended by a police officer attempting to save another girl from being stabbed.

Trouble is running rampant in every city and town. Family members are at odds with each other. Neighbors harbor anger and bitterness against each other for no good reason. 

We are living in troubled times.


The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.
Psalm 24:1


The first brothers in the Bible were not alike. They both offered sacrifices to God. One was pleasing. One was not acceptable. So the brother with the unacceptable gift acted out. He was jealous. In his anger, he killed his brother. Cain killed Abel. Imagine being their parents. The first parents on earth suddenly had their family torn apart by an unnecessary act. Suddenly this family that was created by God was torn apart by evil.

Oh. We could say they had it coming, because Adam and Eve ate the fruit in the middle of the garden. The forbidden fruit. And that introduced sin and evil into the world. So we could blame them. Yes, we could. Ever since that day, evil has not stopped. It’s been running rampant throughout history since the moment they took that bite. So we could say Adam and Eve are to blame. And why shouldn’t evil touch their family in a terrible way after what they did to the rest of mankind. That’s what we could say.

But today, there is evil still running rampant all over the place. It’s swirling around us. Amongst us every day. Sometimes we can see the evil happen. Other times, we’re protected from it.

I think of the story of another family in the Bible. Another family with two sons. The younger son wanted his inheritance while his father was still alive. He wanted his inheritance now. So his loving father gave it to him. The son left home and spent all his money in evil ways. And just when he was out of money and hungry, having to eat food he was feeding to the pigs, he remembered his father. He went home. His older brother, in anger and jealousy, asked why they were celebrating his return. Two brothers who were different had different ways of showing loyalty and love to their father. They were both celebrated by their father in spite of their differences. One thought dead was alive. One who had been faithful was angry and confused.

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. Genesis 6:5

Today in this world there is so much evil. It seems that it can’t be overcome, and it seems to be increasing. Words are said in anger. Attitudes go unchecked. Poor decisions are made. Evil intentions are stored in our hearts. It doesn’t have to be that way. But it is, because this world is full of evil and sin. Yes. It’s because Adam and Eve ate that forbidden piece of fruit. That was the start of the downfall of mankind.

Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people? Jeremiah 8:22

But there is hope. There is a Savior. There is a way to live above the evil. There is a balm in Gilead who sets the spirit free.

I know the Bible says we are only evil all the time. And yes, we are. But we have choices. We can choose to step around. To step over the evil. We can avoid evil. We can say no. Families are in trouble these days. This world is not safe. This world is unsteady. Even though this world keeps spinning around as was commanded by God in his creation. This earth and everything in it is the Lord’s. All of the people on this earth are the Lord’s. God’s intent was for us to be his and live for him. But because of that first bite from the piece of fruit, things changed. There is no going back to a pure world. But we can strive for purity in our hearts.

The answer is seeking God. Seeking God with all our hearts. Asking for forgiveness for our sins. Living a pure life. Reading and studying the Bible. Praying. Spending time with fellow believers, those who are as hungry to be in a relationship with God as we are. We can’t do it alone. We need each other. We really do need each other. But we need words of encouragement. Words of love. Words of correction. We need to change our attitudes and our intentions. We don’t have to be evil. We can fight the devil. We can say no to his ways and his schemes. We can end relationships with people who are out to hurt us.

We don’t have to buy into the negativity and destruction that’s happening in this world. We can look for truth. We can know truth and stand for truth. But the truth comes from God’s word. We will always find the truth in God’s word. God’s word never changes. God’s love never changes. He wants all of us to be with him in eternity. Let’s make that choice to live pure lives. To live above the fray of evil. We don’t have to get caught up in that web of deceit and lies and anger and hurt and confusion and fear. Yes, I know that life is uncertain. But God isn’t. God is always certain. God is always sure. God never changes. His love for us is eternal. Let’s give our lives to him so we can live with him in eternity. We are his. Let’s live like it.

Reason for Hope

I am by nature a pessimist.  Oh.  The glass is half empty.  Always.  There’s no pretty way around it.  I see the half of the glass that’s already been drunk.  It’s empty.  Gone.  That cold drink of water that I had craved.  Oh.  How it satisfied.  My thirst was quenched.  For a moment.  But it’s now gone.  Never to return.  It’s only a memory.  The rest of the water in the glass is inconsequential.  Doesn’t matter.  What mattered is what I no longer have.

Is that how it feels to live without hope?  Thinking the best of life is over.  Thinking that there are no more mountains to climb.  No more foes to conquer.  Thinking that you are the foe to be conquered.  Oh.  You may be standing now.  But not for long.  If there is no hope.

I don’t know what it’s like to live without hope.  That may sound strange for a pessimist.  But I’ve always had the thought that my best life was still to come.  Oh.  I know the day will come when that will no longer be the case.  But for today.  A girl can dream.  And I still dream.

So you may ask.  What is my hope?

Hope is the dream of something new

An old friendship renewed

Morning sun peeping through the windows

The win of a ballgame

A new love or a stronger love

The first glance at crooked teeth made straight

The first step once thought impossible

Fresh picked corn on the cob

A sight for sore eyes

Strength to pick up loose ends

The breath of forgiveness

A kiss on the lips

A warm chocolate chip cookie

A drop of rain on parched soil

The scent of wild honeysuckle on an evening drive through the country

The sighting of a rainbow in the clouds

Freedom to wave the American flag


If someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.

1 Peter 3:15


But there is more.

My hope is in a Creator who knew me before I was born.

My hope is in the baby born to a virgin and laid in a manger.

My hope is in a boy of twelve wise beyond his years.

My hope is in the Light of the World  who leads me out of darkness.

My hope is in a Provider who meets all my needs.

My hope is in a Redeemer who died on the cross for me.

My hope is in a Savior who forgave my sins.

My hope is in Jesus Christ who will return to this earth someday to usher all believers into heaven.

My hope is in a Heavenly Father who is preparing an eternal home for me in heaven.

If I lose everything, I still have my God.

So yes.  I do have hope.

 

Happy Birthday

Her third pregnancy.  She was bigger than she should have been a month before her due date.  An x-ray was suggested.  There were no ultrasounds in her day.   Two weeks before Christmas, the news was shared.  Twins.  They were having twins.

Early Christmas morning.  A month to go when her water breaks.  Twin girls.  Womb mates.  Born too soon.

There were already two children at home.  A 4-year old and a 2-year old.  Oh. They were wanted.  They were loved.  They were welcome.  Perhaps not by their older brother.  After all.  His Christmas had been ruined.  It was the worst Christmas ever.  That’s what he said.

I can understand.  What kid wants to be dragged out of bed in the middle of the night and go to Grandma’s house.  Especially when he knew the next morning was Christmas.  No time to open the presents under the tree.  No 4-year old would be happy about that.

Identical twins born on Christmas Day was unusual.  The births were announced on the radio.  Celebrations were in order.

So the family celebrated.  Gifts were given.  Double gifts.  Matching clothes.  Two of everything.

They were small babies.  Premature.  They were kept at home for 4 months while they grew.  Oh.  They had visitors.  Curious onlookers.  Friends and family anxious to see twins.  Twin births in the family weren’t unusual.  Twin births seem to be hereditary on both sides of the family.  It was meant to be.

The parents took them home to a small house.  Four kids.  An outdoor bathroom.  It was winter.  Some nights the babies would sleep between their parents, so they could be kept warm.

Two years later, the family had moved.  Farm country.  Again, it was winter.  All day, they smelled smoke but saw nothing.  Until it was too late.   The home engulfed in flames was burned to the ground. Everything they owned was gone.  Fire in the attic, they were told.  The oldest, now six, arrived home from school to find his family homeless.

The father built the family home.  Three more sons were added.  The twins grew.  They left home.  Married men of God.  They faithfully serve where God has planted them.


For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.  The government will rest on his shoulders.  And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  His government and its peace will never end.  He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity.  Isaiah 9:6-7

His birth had been predicted. The teenage mother was caught unaware. Oh.  She had heard the prophecies.  Never did she imagine she would be chosen to carry this child.  Virgin birth.   She was engaged.  This pregnancy could end her life.  If she was found guilty of adultery.  How did the man know she was telling the truth?  He thought to divorce her.  Privately.  But God spoke to him.  In a dream.  Marry her.  He said.  She has been faithful to you.  She is mine.  The baby is mine.  Name him Jesus.

It was tax season.  Time to be counted.  Joseph and Mary, heavy with child, arrived in Bethlehem.  Alone and lonely.  Tired and tried.  The stable was empty, save for the animals. Nowhere else to stay.  They sat to rest.  And sleep.  Just the two of them.  The baby arrived.  What had been a quiet night, a night to catch their breath, suddenly became eventful.

If they had dared to question the child’s sovereignty before his birth, they now knew who he was.  He truly was God’s son.  What other explanation could there be for all the strange happenings?

Angels announced his birth.  Shepherds came to worship.  Wise men later brought gifts.  Another dream.  Move the child.  It isn’t safe.  Oh.  They knew he was the savior of the world.  They had heard prophesies about their son.  What he would accomplish.  What he would suffer.  But who knew where they were?  Who was hunting for them?  They must protect their child.  God’s child.  At all costs.

Those in authority felt threatened.  How could a newborn baby be a ruler?  How could a 2-year old overthrow their government?  He must be found and removed.  Along with many boys age 2 and under.  None were exempt.

He became wiser every year.  He grew into a man.  He grew closer to God.  He was well respected.  Until he wasn’t.

He was born to die.  He died for all.