I Love Living in the USA


I love living in the USA; and amidst all the political and ideological clashes we face in this nation, I am still thankful that I live in a country where people are clambering to get in, not out.

While I don’t claim to be a world traveler, I have visited several other countries for both ministry opportunities and pleasure. With each foray beyond the borders of the United States, I have been glad to come back “home”. I realize that some of my discomfort in other countries has sometimes been due to not knowing the local language – having to work through an interpreter – but it’s more than that.

Each culture, even those countries where English is the primary language, has necessitated adjustments for me; for instance using different English words for the same item – a sweater is a “jumper” in Aussie land, for instance.

But there are many other challenges, such as:

  • Differences in monetary units, dollar exchange, and sales taxes that required constant mental calculations as to what a meal, service, or item actually costs
  • Different expectations as to what is polite, or humorous, or taboo
  • Hot weather with no air-conditioning
  • Hard beds – no, make that very hard beds – on one of our trips we slept on a thin mattress on a bed made of cement – it was actually more comfortable sleeping on the floor.
  • Strange food – I once ordered a “regular hamburger” at a MacDonald’s in Australia and it was served with sliced beets on it; also once had tropical fruit pizza (I was expecting cheese and tomato sauce).
  • Dangerous roadways and unusual public conveyances – once on a trip in Haiti I rode with a missionary friend in a “tap-tap” (a truck with bench seats in the back) which wound up the mountain on a major “highway” that offered a scenic view, accompanied by a drop-off ledge with no guard-rails and a very narrow shoulder.
  • A lack of driving laws – or a lack of enforcement; in our travels we often don’t know which – more than once we felt our lives endangered from what we considered reckless driving on roads in much need of repair or safety features.

In any event, whether the differences made a visit to foreign soil either challenging or enjoyable, I have always been glad to get back to the USA.

We have so much here in the United States to be thankful for: adequate food supplies, cheap gasoline (compared to other advanced nations – though the prices have crept up a lot in the past couple years), clean water, the best health care system anywhere, freedom of religion (so far), freedom of speech (so far – though there are many instances where this right is being challenged by the thought/speech control fanatics), the rule of law without military enforcement, the lowest jobless rate anywhere in the world (even with our present high unemployment rate); a volunteer military; and the most affable, generous people in the world.

There is something about the way Americans care about others who are facing disaster – both natural and man-made – and how they seek to alleviate suffering wherever they find it, that I admire. My fellow citizens are extremely generous and give more of themselves and their substance to others in need than do those from most other countries around the world. Americans are rescuers, often even to their own harm.

I love being able to travel from state to state, town to town, on highways and back-roads and to encounter folks who speak the same language, share the same feelings about living free, follow the same sports teams, root for the underdog, are quick to stop and help a stranded highway traveler with a flat tire, advise you on the best restaurant in town, or suggest the motel with the cleanest rooms.

I love football games, homecomings, 4th of July fireworks, parades with marching bands, summers at the beach, pizza, backyard barbecues, and baseball games.

I love the political process and the freedom to run for an office if you want to help change things in our nation. I love the debates – (however, I do wish that each side would take a minute to listen to the other viewpoint before jumping in with negatives). Though we need to learn to compromise on minor points in order to find common ground on the major ones, still we are free to disagree without fearing reprisal or imprisonment for holding a minority view in government.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. I just want to say that I love living in America. I think it is very important to protect the freedoms we have of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

I do not live in a war-torn nation.. I’ve never had my life threatened in any of the places I’ve visited, or feared for my life in any travel situation. I have not faced famine. I’ve not been persecution for my faith. I’ve not been imprisoned for having a “variant faith” or of seeking to win others to Christ. I am so thankful for every freedom we have.

I thank God for those individuals who have given and are now giving their very lives to preserve the freedoms we so often take for granted.

There is a slow erosion of many of the values we have held, which are woven into the fabric of our society – too much pulling on those threads and society as we know it will come unraveled.

So I continually lift our nation in prayer to God. I pray not just for God’s blessing, but also for His mercy and grace to allow us to continue in the religious and personal freedoms we have come to enjoy and often take for granted.

Happy 4th of July to you!!

©2012, Marcy Alves (edited, 2014)

My 4 Fathers


How many fathers have you had? Were they good ones? I’ve had 3 dads in my life +1 – all of whom brought something special into my life that have contributed to who I am and what I am becoming.

My birth dad’s name was James Robert Devers. He was one of 10 children and fathered a family of 7 children, of which I am smack dab in the middle, #4 child (1 sister – the eldest, and 5 brothers). Dad was a handsome, strong, viral, 6’ 2” tall man, with sandy brown hair, bright blue eyes and a pleasant demeanor. He and my mom married when he was 22 and she was 16.

Though we lived on our own land, financially we would have been considered a lower income family; living without such amenities as indoor plumbing, a furnace, or electricity. We heated with wood and coal and lighted our home with kerosene lamps.

My dad was raised on a farm in north-eastern Virginia – you won’t find many farms in that area now because it’s mostly a bedroom community for Washington DC.  He did not graduate from high school – having quit school to work on his dad’s farm after the eighth grade. At age 17 he went to work for the railroad, doing manual labor on the “yards”, where train cars came in for repairs.

James Devers was a man of integrity – if he gave his word, he kept it. He was a hard worker, an outdoorsman. My dad taught us by his life to not be lazy. He was self-sufficient and industrious.

As he continued to work for the railroad, Dad also did odd jobs for friends, extended family and neighbors. Plus he had a large garden in the summer to help feed his family. Any garden overage was taken to the farmers’ market or given away. He was a very outgoing man, friendly to strangers – there were not many people in our town that he did not know. Dad felt that to have friends, you had to be friendly. He was optimistic, confident, and generous, especially to his girls. He was also proud and prejudiced.

He came from a stock of people who accepted bad news as a part of life. When he was diagnosed with cancer at age 64, he accepted death as inevitable – which didn’t quite gel with his optimistic nature. He lived for only two more years.

Cancer brought him to faith in Christ – as he said to me from his hospital bed – “I know who I have to trust for heaven, and it’s not me.”  And the person who led him to Christ was one that, due to Dad’s racial prejudices, would not have been allowed into his inner personal space a few years before. But God’s love does that – it takes down barriers and redefines us and our long-held beliefs.

At the time my dad became ill, I was single, living in NJ and attending a church there. My pastor and his wife had no children of their own and “adopted” me. I remember when my dad was diagnosed they said to me, “You will always have a home with us.”

So, when my birth dad passed away, I had another dad. His name was Phil and he was basically a “city boy”. He was raised as an only child in a middle income family. Phil was very different from my father, though about the same age. He was college and seminary educated, not of many words, and had a deep faith that had sustained him since youth. He was thoughtful and a good listener. He had a good sense of humor, but was not loud like my father. He also was a man of his word and chose his words carefully. He was a careful planner, financial saver, and wise investor. He was a “suit and tie man”, where my birth dad was a work pants, work boots guy, except for occasions like weddings. Phil wasn’t expressive with his affection, but he, along with my adopted mom, parented me as a young adult – shared their lives, even vacations with me and later with my husband.

My third dad was my father-in-law, Dave Alves. I think when he died I cried more than my husband did. He was upper-middle class, college-educated, and had served in the US Navy. He had risen from immigrant Portuguese status to a management position with an insurance firm. Dad Alves was a fun person. He filled a room when he entered. He was the entertainer at family parties. Outgoing, stubborn, but never quite sure of himself. He was warm and accepting and interested in kids – my husband’s childhood friends loved being around his dad.

I also loved Dad Alves because he and his wife, Betty, had adopted my husband, David, from an orphanage when he was about age 4 or 5 years old. They took a chance on a kid who had been in 10 or so foster homes in the first couple years after being removed from his birth parents by the state of Massachusetts. Dave and Betty did a good job with him.

Dad  Alves not only accepted me, but was proud of my vocal abilities and encouraged David and me in our Christian concert ministry – though not a follower of Christ at the time. He came to a commitment to Christ on his hospital bed after a heart attack. He died several months later.

All three of my “dads” contributed to what I have been and am becoming, by loving me, encouraging me in my particular ministry pursuits, validating my abilities, and modeling character traits such as:  generosity, kindness, friendliness, integrity, hard work, honesty, truthfulness, and courage to face what comes your way. They also taught me the need for listening to others, taking time for fun, and applying yourself to your goals.

But my 4th dad is the best of all – and that’s my Heavenly Father. Though I’m sure He was active in my life long before I recognized Him as “Father”, He proves over and over how very precious I am as a daughter of His. He has provided me with tools not only for this life, but for the life beyond this one. Unlike my other dads, He has promised never to leave me or forsake me. He has promised to complete the work He has begun in me, to give me wisdom for each situation, to answer my prayers, to heal me, to save me from disaster, to be with me in trouble, to cause “all things to work for good” in my life.

I don’t have to travel to visit Him, but I can have an audience with Him any time of the day or night. He listens to my yearnings, my pleadings, my supplications, my confessions, my complaints, my discouragements, my questions, my theorizing and my expressions of gratitude. His presence fills the room, especially the room inside me, more than either of my other dads. He points out my faults and weaknesses only to show me a better way and to lead me to learn to trust Him completely with my life.

Thank you, God for my three earthly fathers, and for being the ultimate Father for whatever “orphans” are out there, who want to be in a loving family with a loving Dad.

©2011, Marcy Alves

 

Your Death on the Cross


Who was it that hung on the cross? It was a liar, an adulterer, a murderer, a thief, a fornicator, a greedy person, a hardened criminal, a selfish person, an abuser, an addict, and the list goes on and on. But how can I say this? Am I a blasphemer against our Lord Jesus?

Gal. 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” NRSV

Jesus hung on the cross for us, in our place. He died for all kinds of sin, for all kinds of sinners. Think you’re not a sinner? I once thought I wasn’t. Keep reading.

Gal. 5:19-22 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  NRSV

I was a young teenager when God spoke to me about my personal sins by leading a speaker at a youth meeting to use the Scripture quoted above. I had not done really bad things, but I saw myself in the list of sins in the verses above. We were very poor and I had jealousy and envy and sometimes anger about not being able to have things I wanted to have or live in the kind of house where I could comfortably invite friends over. I also had a lot of pride, which is probably why I was ashamed about our house and our poverty.

We were all in big trouble before the crucifixion of Jesus. But thank God:

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2: 24

I remember responding to an invitation the night of the youth meeting, to be cleansed from my sin. I told the Lord that I was wrong – I did have sin in my life – and that I was sorry. I asked for His forgiveness and He told me that because of Jesus death on the cross, I was already forgiven.  It felt like a warm blanket of love had been placed round my shoulders that night. I have never doubted from that night that God loves me and that I have access to the God of the universe now through Jesus. I was re-born that night.

According to the Scriptures, all who have been re-born by the Holy Spirit of God were “crucified with Christ” on that cross.

Gal. 2:19-20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

You and I spiritually hung on the cross with Jesus – He felt our sin, our shame, our guilt. He took our punishment, our pain, our wounds into himself.  We have been set free.

Rom. 6:5-6 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.

Because Jesus was raised from the dead, resurrected, we who are born again by His Spirit also participate in that resurrection, both now and in the future when Jesus returns. The power that was unleashed in the resurrection of Christ is available to us to live the life we have been called to live – one of victory over sin in this earthly life and over death itself when the physical body “dies”. All this is through the gift of eternal life that was revealed in the resurrection of Christ and promised to all those who put their faith in Christ.  Halleluiah!

Forget the Easter bunnies and  colored eggs and chocolate candy. Praise the Lord that Jesus conquered death!

Happy Resurrection Day!!

 

©2012, Marcy Alves (edited 4/19/2014)

The Ultimate Lover


Love ImaageValentine’s Day has arrived again, as it does every February 14th. There are exchanges of presents, cards and sentiments expressing someone’s desire to be your valentine, or for you to be theirs. Or if you are already someone’s “special person” the cards or gifts will reflect that relationship and the other person’s appreciation of what you mean to him/her. In most cases words of love will flow, both genuine and often not so genuine.

We all have a desire to be loved, it’s built into our psyche. It’s a need we all have, whether or not we recognize or acknowledge it. Not necessarily romantic love – but that sense that your existence in this world matters to someone. That it matters enough that your not being here in time-space any longer would cause a deep sadness to someone other than your dog or your cat.

We also have a need to love. I believe that is also part of our human nature. Our need to love is so deep a need that if there is no likely human prospect in our sights, we will often transfer our affection to our pets. Not that it’s wrong to care about our pets – but you could hardly call our connection with a pet a real “relationship”, where interchange of feelings, and ideals, and dreams can be mutually shared.

Perhaps I should reveal what I believe our two most basic human needs, to love and to be loved, really are. I believe that those two yearnings, along with our “conscience” are the few things that remain in humankind of the image of God from before the fall of man in the Garden of Eden.

You see, God is love. As such, He loves and desires to have that love returned. Our God is the God of relationship, as we see illustrated in Genesis when He walked in the Garden in the cool of the day to communicate with Adam and Eve. After their fall and the betrayal of His love, He had such a desire to return to that love relationship with His highest creation, humankind, that He came seeking the objects of His affection, by entering into the human experience in the person of His Son, Jesus.

Jesus, in a human body, experienced our humanness to relate it to the Father. And He came to relate the Father to us. He said, “When you have seen me, you have seen the Father”.

Jesus came for more than just to reveal what the Father is like.  He actually came to make a way back to the Father. He came to quell the rebellion and to alter the results of the original rebellion against the Creator. He reconnected us to God.

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Romans 5:10 NIV

God is the ultimate lover, who desires a return of affection from those He loves.

We all have known at some time the sadness of unrequited love – of unreturned affection – if not from a romantic enthrallment, then from an unreturned affection from a family member, a friend, or an acquaintance who caught our fancy. Is it hard to imagine that perhaps the God who is Himself “Love”, would also have a strong desire for a heart communion with His created beings?

This relational, loving God is revealed in the Bible from Genesis through Malachi in the Old Testament to Matthew through Revelation in the New Testament. He is a longing Deity, desiring relationship with His earthly family of humankind. It’s really an amazing love.

I remember seeing an ad in the newsletter of a Christian humanitarian organization which depicted a young sad-faced orphan girl in tattered clothing with the caption “Who will tell her that her Father loves her and is looking for her?”

If you are one of God’s “orphans” who has lost connection with your Heaven Father through some disappointment of choice of your own, I want to remind you that your Father is looking for you and desires to reconnect in a deeper more meaningful way than you have yet experienced.

If you have never realized that you can enter a “relationship” with Creator God, please consider and believe that He desires a heart connection with you. He wants to enter into that kind of love relationship with you through the gift of His Holy Spirit; for according to Romans 5:8:

” . . . hope will never disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.”

You and I will never find anyone who can love us as God loves us. His love is the kind of love that produces change in those with whom He is in relationship – and it’s always a change for the best of those He loves.

Don’t settle for a lesser love as the main love of your life than the love of the ultimate lover. And allow that love to work in you the kind of love you need to shape your love of others in your life.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

Christmas: Is Something Missing?


empty mangerA young girl who helped me decorate for Christmas this year told me her dad doesn’t allow Christmas decorating at their house. He says that Americans get all involved in the show, but don’t think about what Christmas is really all about. All too often, I see his point of view.

Although I am acquainted with some Scrooge-like personalities, I personally love the season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day – Christmas being my absolute favorite holiday of the year. I love to decorate house and tree with things that carry memories of people and places of my life. I could write a history based on my collection of decoration items – antique ornaments from my parents’ Christmas collection, gift ornaments from friends and children I’ve worked with in youth groups over the years; home-made and store-bought – many with personal meaning.

My husband and I enjoy a night-time drive during Christmas time to enjoy the creative light displays. I enjoy the warmth of the season, sharing smiles with other shoppers, Christmas music in stores and on street corners. But often I come home with a feeling of “something is missing”.

There is a home-owner on our street who every year does a 1/4 acre Christmas light display, which was featured on our local NH network TV news show. The display is complete with Santas and sled, a minature helicopter, a ferris wheel, candy canes, carolers, and other entertaining light displays – you can even tune into music on the radio dial that the various displays are synchronized to – but amidst all the dazzling, flashing light images, not one image relates to the birth of Christ.

I have attended Christmas shows,  tree lighting events, school concerts, etc. over the years – both indoor and outdoor events -but often in recent years I have gone away feeling that something was missing.

Often the children sang or played “Christmas songs”, however, not one song even hinted at the real meaning of Christmas – no old standards such as “Silent Night”, “Away in a Manger”, “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful” or “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” – nothing except Santa songs or the old standards like “White Christmas”, “Jingle Bells” or “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”. Most often kids today don’t even know the lyrics or melodies to traditional Christmas caroles.

I can’t listen to “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” without thinking of how misplaced Christmas awe and worship is in the secular culture today. It’s Santa who is reverenced during the Christmas season, not Christ.

Young children very often don’t realize that Santa is really dad, or mom, or granddad. They see Santa as a magical, mystical figure who watches them daily, or has an army of elves who spy for him, or an “elf on the shelf”  . . . sort of like . . . God and His angels – only not. Which results in being good not to please and be obedient to parents, but to get things they want from Santa.

Many, if not most of todays kids don’t know that there is someone else, someone very real, who is watching them – or should I say watching over them; someone who knows they can’t be good enough to deserve the gifts He has for them, yet He keeps on giving.

We have generations of children who are growing up celebrating Christmas year after year, never being taught that the origin of Christmas is the birth of God’s Son, come to earth in the body of a baby – Immanuel “God with us” – fulfilling more than 300 Old Testament prophecies, made hundreds of years before his birth. They don’t know that this baby, who was named Jesus, came to let us know what God is like; or that this baby grew up to die on a cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Some of these inadequately informed children are being raised in “Christian” homes – so called.

I’ve written a 4-part series of blog posts entitled “Christmas Traditions that Teach Our Children”, which you can access from the link above. I would like to encourage you to check out these posts for suggestions to help you teach your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews or other children in your life the real meaning of Christmas.

If you also feel something is missing in your own celebration of Christmas, I trust that these posts will remind you of where you and your family should focus during Christmas season, and give you a plan of action for future Christmases.

May God bless you as you seek to enter the real spirit of Christmas during this holy season.

©2013, Marcy Alves edited 2015

Thanksgiving: A Time of Reflection


Thanksgiving Day is fast approaching.  All too soon, if not already, you will begin your preparations for whomever, whatever, and however you will be spending the day.

A friend of mine said recently, “I’m not interested in Thanksgiving or Christmas. I’m just not looking forward to the holidays.”

I can understand the lonely feeling that is often experienced by singles during the holiday season; I was single once myself and away from home during several Thanksgivings and Christmases. It’s nice to be with family or a special someone to celebrate these holidays. Neither Thanksgiving nor Christmas began as a celebration of “me”, but rather as recognition of “us” and “Him”.

How did Thanksgiving begin?

There are several different scenarios regarding the original celebration of “Thanksgiving” on American soil. It is thought that the Spanish were first to celebrate a day of thanks in 1565 in St. Augustine, FLA. Later, in 1619 the Virginia Colony held a Thanksgiving feast in celebration of the one-year settlement of that colony. The Pilgrims in Plymouth, MA celebrated a good crop year with a feast of Thanksgiving in 1621.

Thanksgiving was established as an annual national event in the midst of the Civil War in 1863, by a presidential proclamation from President Abraham Lincoln, as an offering of thanks to God for His provision and preservation of the United States. It was thought that establishing a national day to observe the giving of thanks would help to foster a sense of American unity between the southern and northern states.

So you can see, Thanksgiving as a celebration was about “us” (a group of people) and “God” and our gratitude to Him.

This also demonstrated that during earlier times in our country there was a belief in “Someone” to thank, besides the federal government.

Thanksgiving Day is a time to reflect. There are many things for which I am thankful; some of which are the following:

  • my relationship with my heavenly Father through His Son, Jesus, who came not only to die for me on the cross, but also to show me what God the Father is like
  • a Christian husband who loves me and treasures our relationship above all other human relationships
  • family members – parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews
  • our “heart adoptions”

Though I was pregnant a couple of times, I was unable to maintain pregnancy; so God brought children into our lives, first as youth group leaders and in a youth pastorate. Then a “daughter” came to us in a more permanent relationship; she is like a birth daughter to us.  There are two other young women, foreign students, whom God brought into our lives who lived with us for several years – one as a teen and the other as a young adult – who are family to us. All three of our “daughters” now have husbands and families of their own. There are quite a few more loosely connected “daughters” in our lives.

In this we follow the pattern set for us in our own lives: my husband was legally adopted by a wonderful couple as a child of five years of age.  And after my parents died, a pastor and his wife took me as one of their three adopted daughters.

We also have a few “sons”, “nephews”, and “nieces” whom we have taken into our hearts along the way. There are others as well who have adopted us as their parents. I sometimes feel like the barren woman mentioned in Gal. 4:7 & Ps. 113:9:

“Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.”

  • Friends

We have many dear friends that we have made over the years, scattered across the country and around the world; people whose absence of years fades away immediately each time we are reunited with them. Plus there are many friends from our two pastorates. Some of these people are closer than birth family in our on-going relationships with them.

  • Opportunities

God has given me many personal opportunities over the years to develop and use my gifts of music, writing, public speaking, and spiritual ministry to bring others to Him and to encourage the body of Christ, across denominational lines. I’ve traveled up and down the east coast, in the mid-west, in Canada and in several other countries to share my faith in Christ with others. It has given me a broader picture of the body of Christ. There have also been opportunities for television work in my early ministry and for co-hosting a radio program with my husband for a couple years. I’m thankful for the ability to express faith in God through my current writing venues.

  •  Challenges

I am thankful for the many challenges in my life that have tested, tempered, and firmed my faith in a loving God who is worthy to be entrusted with my life. Losses, health issues, lack of regular income, disappointments, and some temporary discouragements have been a few of those challenges. They have served to secure my faith-walk and deepen my peace.

I trust that as you see Thanksgiving Day approaching you will get your eyes off of the minor disturbances of your life, and train your eyes to see the good things that often are obscured by petty irritations and worthless drains of spiritual and emotional energy – things that tend to empty your life of peace and joy, rather than to fill it with awareness of the good gifts of a loving God.

Ask God today to show you how you can add to someone’s experience of Thanksgiving Day – a call, a note or email, a visit, or an invitation to share Thanksgiving dinner at your house. Be sure also to share with someone else the things for which you are thankful.

©2011, Marcy Alves

Honoring Our Veterans: Appreciating Our History


Have you taken time on in the past few days to think about our nation’s veterans? About their past and present service to protect not only our nation, but many people around the world from tyranny and despotism. Have you thanked a military person for watching your back, standing in the gap for you?

Veterans Day honors all who have served or are currently serving in the various branches of our military – Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and National Guard. Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who serve – not only those who have died – have sacrificed and done their duty.

While studying a chapter in the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians, I did some research on the history of the city of Corinth. It was at one time a very important Greek City. When Greece was taken over by the Romans in 146 BC, the residents of Corinth were killed or deported. About 100 years later Corinth was colonized by Roman “freedmen”.  Later Greece came under the power of the Ottoman Empire and finally became independent again in 1832. Greece and the city of Corinth have survived, but not without a turbulent history.

As I read this brief history of Corinth and of Greece, I wondered how many contemporary Greeks are aware of their country’s history.

Then I wondered: ”How many Americans are aware of the history of the United States of America and its on-going fight for freedom?  First, its fight for independence from Great Britain, culminating in the Declaration of Independence, signed in 1776? How about the war between the North and the South (the Union and the Confederacy), which established the “United States” of America?

What do current generations know of our stand against the spread of Nazism across Europe, to stop Hitler’s dream of dominating the world, including the USA? Or the role of the U. S. in stopping the Japanese from attaining their goal of international rule as the imperial power of the world? Not many of the veterans who fought in those wars are around to remind us that our freedom has not been free.

How many of our uneducated and under-educated youth, who have never taken a U.S. history course, are aware of the historic development of our great nation? How many of the aliens and immigrants (legal and illegal) -many who don’t even speak English – have knowledge of the history of the USA? Yet many of them have exercised the right to vote in our national elections.

As I read the Old Testament books, I am again aware of how repeatedly the prophets in Israel recalled to the people their history; reminding them that God had set them apart for Himself.  And how in the New Testament, Christians are reminded of the history of ancient Judaism, out of which came our Savior, the Lord Jesus.

When we have no sense of our nation’s past, personal values can become irrationally selfish, as in the expectation of entitlements in exchange for support of a political candidate. This was demonstrated in the chants by the college students gathered outside the White House on our last presidential election night – as they shouted such remarks as “Karl Marx! Karl Marx!”, “abortion rights”, “ birth control”, “cell phones”, and “socialism”.

When our wounded and disabled vets, who have fought for the continuation of freedoms for U. S. citizens and others around the world, cannot even find jobs to support their families, I find such immature expectations of entitlements mentioned in the preceeding paragraph, reprehensible.

The expectation to get for free what past generations paid for with their hard-earned money makes me very nervous for the future of our nation. The guarantee of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is not a guarantee for free birth control, free abortions, free cell phones, or even free education.

Without a sense of personal identity with our national history, our young people can easily be manipulated and misdirected by whoever offers to meet their “felt needs”. They don’t yet understand that you don’t get something for nothing.

I can’t help but wonder if there will be young adults willing to join the U. S. military in the near future, or to pursue public service jobs, or to become teachers and doctors (I feel sure there will be those who become lawyers).

Will there be any U. S. military veterans in years to come? Or will we be absorbed by another nation, diabolically guided by another Hitler, Stalin or Marx who promises a loaf of bread and a chicken in every pot, for free? A sharing of everything, by all, for the common good?

For now, we still have an Army, a Navy, the Air Force, the Marines, and the Coast Guard policing hot spots around the world where individual freedom is swallowed up by top-down mandates; ideologies and cultures in which domination by “the few” dictates to the masses such things as, who will receive an education and who will not (ie. women in strict Islamic cultures), what religion can be followed and which cannot, and which personal opinions can be freely expressed without threat of imprisonment or death.

I pray there will be men and women in the USA whose innate sense of service, out of grateful hearts and concern for preserving personal freedoms, will overcome self-preservtion and give their lives for people who may not understand the preciousness of such a gift.

The freedoms we still enjoy here in the USA have a price tag.

Thank you, veterans of every age, color, rank, sex, and duration of service, for your part in paying the price in the battle to maintain our national freedoms, and to secure those freedoms for others around the world. We salute you.

©2012, Marcy Alves (edited 2015)

Pastor Appreciation Month – October


thank you pic 2014

October has been designated for many years as Pastor Appreciation Month. I can verify that a little sincere appreciation goes a long way with these men and women who are serving the body of Christ by following God’s call on their lives. I have written several posts on the need for such a service to your pastors, and on how to best express such appreciation: links to those blog posts are listed below.

Also, I would like to add to my suggestions in those articles for a possible gift for your pastor; it’s a book written by my husband specifically geared to pastors. It is entitled “A Sabbatical Primer for Pastors“, and encourages your pastors to take needed breaks from ministry for personal refreshment and spiritual rejuvenation. It is available in both print and e-book versions. A sequel to that book is also available “A Sabbatical Primer for Churches” – this book will help guide local churches in exactly how to provide such times of spiritual refreshment and nourishment for their pastors and other full-time church workers.

It’s very important to honor those who serve us in their service to the Lord Jesus. I pray a special blessing on those who take the time to encourage their pastors and church leaders.

 

©2014, Marcy Alves

Pastor Appreciation: Saying “Thanks”

Pastor’s Wife: Called or Drafted?

How to Say “Thank You” to Your Pastor: Part 1

How to Say “Thank You” to Your Pastor: Part 2

Pastor’s Wife: Called or Drafted

Labor Day: Honoring the Working Class


One of my favorite national holidays is Labor Day – a special day off to honor the working class and extend a weekend to give people time to catch their breath. It closes the curtain on summer and welcomes autumn to end the summer heat.  It means town parades, backyard barbecues with family and friends, and the last hurrah before school gets into full swing.

For me Labor Day creates a lot of nostalgia, going back into childhood. As a child growing up in Virginia, the day marked the end of summer freedom and the beginning of the school year. It was also the end of fun times with my dad, taking us to the swimming place (a freshwater mountain pool) and playing softball with me and my 5 brothers in our backyard. It meant mornings began earlier and nights got dark sooner.

My nostalgic memories of Labor Day also include adult years. My husband and I enjoyed Labor Day weekends for about 30 years with my spiritual parents at their lake cottage in the Poconos Mountains of PA. The cottage had to be sold about 4 years ago. I often feel the longing to return to the quiet of that cottage, with the sun shining off the lake, the sound of motor boats, the wind in the sails of our sailboat, and the sun shining on the floating dock as it rose and fell with the moving water caused by the wake of motor boats entering the cove. I miss our annual lobster dinner shared with close friends and family.

According to the history of Labor Day in Wikipedia, this day to honor the American workforce was proposed by either Matthew Maguire, a machinist, who served as secretary of the Central Labor Union of New York and/or by Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor, in May 1882, influenced by the annual labor festival held in Toronto, Canada.

Oregon had the first official state Labor Day, followed by 30 other states. Then in 1894, Congress, under President Grover Cleveland, proclaimed the first Monday of September as the official national Labor Day.

I think that God would approve of the original intent of Labor Day, because He approves of labor. When He created the world and placed Adam and Eve in the garden, He gave them work to do:

Gen.1:28  “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

That’s a pretty big job! And it was assigned to Adam and Eve and their offspring. He first told them to be fruitful (i.e., have lots of children), then to have dominion over everything that moves on the earth. Taking care of the earth involves a community effort, as it does today.

It really bothers me when David and I go for a walk on one of our local community streets and find trash that someone has left behind along the road or in the nearby creek or river. God’s creation deserves our care.

Gen. 2:8-9 “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

Gen. 2:15 “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

God instituted the work ethic. He approves of the labor force. There are many verses in Scripture that deal with the benefits of honest labor, in contrast to the fruit that comes from laziness or putting your labor into the wrong things.

  •  Labor That Honors God

Psalm 128:2  Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.

Isaiah 3:10 “Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.”

  •  Fruitless Labor

Psalm 127:1 “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”

Isaiah 55:2 “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”

  •  Abusive Force on Laborers

Habakkuk 2:12-13  “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice! Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?

  •  Results of Laziness

2 Thess. 3:10 “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’ ”

Prov. 12:24 “Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor.”

  •  Working for God Pays Off

1 Cor. 15:8 “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

I was raised with a “hard work pays off” ethic: that if I want something badly enough, I had to be willing to do the work it takes to get it; that I should not expect something for nothing; that if I take care of what I have it will last longer; that work is honorable; and that I should share with those who are willing to work, but are less fortunate with skills or have less opportunity than I have.

I have learned that in both temporal and spiritual labor, anything done to bring glory to my Heavenly Father is not done in vain, but I will see the rewards either in this life or in the life to come.

Happy Labor Day! May the Lord reward you as you seek to honor Him with the work of your hands.

©2012, Marcy Alves

A Longing Heart


LongingHave you ever had a strong longing for someone or something? An unrest that says an essential element is missing? That things are not quite right in the space/time in which you live?

For the past week my husband has been baby-sitting a cat named Norma – at her house, not ours. Norma’s family is away for the week.

This cat-sitting interlude is rather miraculous, as David really does not like cats – at all. But, Norma is a rather shy cat and only comes to him for a little head-rub affection once a day or so. She is not a lap-sitter, let-me-sharpen-my claws-on-your-pant-leg and sleep-on-your-pillow kind of cat. She’s low-maintenance – fill her cat-food dish and change her litter box twice a day and she’s all set.

Which gives David time to work on his new book; so I opted to stay home and work on some of my own projects.

The house feels empty and rather lonely when David isn’t here, especially at night. He has come home several times to take care of some business and to check on me.

He left again this morning, and even though I know he will return in two days, I really miss him. He’s the kind of man whose presence fills whatever room he’s in. And since his office is in our home, I’m used to the sense of his being in easy reach.

I sat watching the birds at our feeders shortly after David left, and suddenly felt a surge of longing for his return. So, I began my morning personal quiet time, partly to distract myself.

After reading a portion of Scripture, I began to pray for the needs of family and friends, for our country and its leaders, and for Christian brothers and sisters around the world. As so often happens while praying for persecuted Christians living in global hotspots, a groan came to my lips, “How long, Lord Jesus? How long before you return to make things right on the earth?”

As I prayed that prayer, the thought struck me, do I long for Jesus’ return as much as I long for my husband’s return? While praying for Christ’s return, is there a yearning inside me that says “things in this world don’t feel right and won’t be right until you’re back?”

In contrast to the political strategies of the UN and various coalitions of nations around the world, I believe that only Christ can end the crises in the Middle East – and in Africa, Asia, Russia, the Ukraine, North Korea, Southeast Asia, Europe, South America and North America.

It seems that the world is in an uproar as the enemy of the cross and of God’s people causes humans to clash and fight and destroy one-another. I believe this spiritual enemy is behind the militant factions in the Middle East and elsewhere, no matter what “religious” cause they fight under.

As Jesus said:

John 8:44 You belong to your father, the devil. You want to obey your father’s wishes. From the beginning, the devil was a murderer . . .”

ISIS is not the only crisis. The real crises come from the clamber in the hearts of men, the darkness in their minds, the in-bred hatred for opposing ideologies – these inner “devils” create world crises. Nations won’t change, ideologies won’t change, people won’t change until men’s hearts change.

Matt. 15:19 “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”

Ps. 140:1-2 “Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men; preserve me from violent men, who plan evil things in their heart and stir up wars continually.”

There is only One who can bring light into dark, war torn places and push out hatred with an overwhelming love.

John 1:4-5 “In him [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

No other religion and no other “god” has ever even offered to do the things that our Heavenly Father, the God above all gods, has done for us through His Son, Jesus. And only Jesus’ return to this earth will make things right.

We long for changes in our circumstances, in our health, in our relationships, but do we long for His return? We want world peace – to get along, to live next to people of other nationalities, languages and cultures, without fear. But this will never happen through the United Nations, international unions, peace treaties, or political promises. It will never happen through a one-world government. Because none of those things can change human hearts.

Only total defeat of the real enemy will do the job, and that enemy is a spirit-being, competing with God for world rulership. As the Scriptures tell us, a day of deliverance is coming when all darkness will be driven to the pit of hell, to be destroyed in a lake of fire. This will happen when Christ returns. Meanwhile:

Psalm 42:1 “As the deer longs (pants) for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, oh God.”

Do you have a passionate longing for the return of the Son of God? Or are your passions dissipated with lesser longings: marriage, a family, a successful career, a recognized name, an overflowing bank account?

As for me, I will continue to cry from the deepest passion of my heart, “How long, Lord Jesus, how long must we wait for your return?”

 

©2015, Marcy Alves

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