Living Water

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But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” – John 4:14  

When the Samaritan woman needed water, she went to the well to draw it.  There she met a Jewish Man whom she didn’t know was Jesus.  As she was drawing the water, He asked her for a drink.  She was taken aback asking, “How can you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” because Jews didn’t have anything to do with Samaritans.  Racism existed between them.  The Samaritans were a mixed race resulting from intermarriages between the Israelites and the Assyrians after Samaria fell to Assyria.  For the Samaritans worshipped at Mount Gerizim while the Jews believed that the rightful place of worship was in Jerusalem.  Jesus explained to her that it isn’t where we worship God that’s important but how we worship Him.  God wants us to worship Him in spirit and truth.  Our worship must be genuine.

When Jesus asked her for a drink of water, He was thirsty.  It was her response to His request which led Him to said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who is saying to you, ‘Please give me a drink,’ you would have been the one to ask him, and he would have given you living water.”

She thought He was speaking about the physical water but He wasn’t.  She doesn’t realize that her need isn’t physical but spiritual.  Her life is in moral decay.  She had been married five times and was living with a man who wasn’t her husband.  She needed what only Jesus could give her and was freely offering her.  The water in the well could not satisfy her.  It would temporarily quench her thirst but the water Jesus wanted to give her would satisfy her forever.

The woman asked Him,  “Where are you going to get this living water?”  His answer was the water when given to those who receive it, it will become a well, springing up to eternal life.  It was life-giving water.  Jesus is the Source of the living water which He wants to give to all who thirst.  “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink” (John 7:37).  He is offering the gift of God, which is eternal life. 

What is the living water that Jesus gives to those who thirst?  “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.  Ephesians 1:13 states, When you believed in the Messiah, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” 

Jesus knew this woman and what her life was like.  He wanted her to know that despite her past and her present, He wanted to give her a future of hope.  When He made her aware that He knew about her previous marriages and her current living arrangement, He wasn’t condemnatory.  He came to save, not to condemn.  He commended her for being honest when she admitted that the man she lived with wasn’t her husband.  She realized that He was  prophet to be able to know such things and then she changed the subject.  She spoke to Him about worship.

When He told her that God wanted people to worship Him in spirit and in truth, He was basically telling her that worship isn’t just about going to a particular place or church but we worship God by the way we live.  Many of us go to church every week but there are things, relationships, people in our lives that have no business being there or there are things in our lives that we need to sort out, clean up.  Until we do that, we are not giving God the proper worship He desires.  This woman worshipped God but her life was in conflict with His Word and His commandments.  Jesus wanted her to see that true worship was a life that was pleasing to God.

She was looking for the Messiah to come and explain everything.  After Jesus revealed that He was the Messiah, she dropped her water pot and ran off to tell her community.  She said to them, “Come, see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done! Could he possibly be the Messiah?”  As a result of her testimony, that “He told me everything I’ve ever done,” many of the Samaritans of that town believed in Jesus.  The Messiah, the Savior of the world had come into that town and reached out to a woman whom many shunned and ostracized her immorality.  Jesus saw someone who needed Him and what He could give her even if she didn’t realize it.  He had a dialogue with her and opened her eyes to the fact that God loves her and wants to give her the gift of salvation which leads to eternal life.

Today, Jesus is offering you what He offered her–living water which springs up to eternal life.  All you have to do is drink.

Sources:  Wikipedia; Bible Gateway; Zondervan Handbook to the Bible, pp. 626, 808; Got Questions; Christianity;

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Parenting

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye – Psalm 32:8

From the time we are born, our parents are there to care for us.  We don’t have to worry about anything.  They provide for our basic needs.  As we get older, they offer us guidance and instructions.  We listen to them most of the time because we know that they want what is best for us.  There are times when we want to do things our way and soon learn that our way is not best and can lead us into trouble.

Our parents God’s stewards.  He entrusted them with the awesome responsibility of raising us to be godly examples to others.  It is no different from the parents we read of in the Bible like Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jesse and his wife, Zechariah and Elizabeth and Joseph and Mary.  Some of them made mistakes but they trusted in God to help them to raise their children.

God is our Father and like our earthly parents, He takes care of us.  He provides for us, teaches and disciplines us.  Moses told the children of Israel, “You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you” (Deuteronomy 8:5).  When God does this, it isn’t pleasant, of course just like when our parents spank us or punish us, it feels terrible.  It’s painful but they do it because it’s necessary.  They want to do away with a behavior or habit that is problematic.  According to King Solomon, “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Proverbs 13:24).  Although it may be painful for us, God’s chastisement is motivated by love.  “For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6).

Parents raise their children as best as they can.  They train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).   Some children turn out well while others don’t.  Don’t be discouraged when you’re having problems with your child.  Continue doing your best and pray.  I’ve been having issues with my son lately and this morning when I was worshipping, the Lord put it in my heart to sing, What a Friend We Have in Jesus.  These words spoke to me, giving me comfort and encouragement:

Have we trials and temptations?  Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged, Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Discipline is also an expression of love, although, the child might not think so at the time but in retrospect, he or she will see that their parents acted out of love and for their best interest.  As parents, we are guides, teachers, disciplinarians, stewards and role models.  We have to reflect God’s character if we want our children to be like Him.  Parenting is a huge responsibility but it is also a blessing and a privilege.

Sources:  Blue Letter Bible; Hymnal Net

The Queen of Soul

“When God loves you, what can be better than that?” ~ Aretha Franklin

There is so much I could write about Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul but I decided to concentrate on the highlights of her music career and her “social and civic contributions”.

Aretha Louise Franklin was  born on March 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee.  Her father, Clarence LaVaughn “C. L.” Franklin was a Baptist minister and a circuit preacher while her mother, Barbara was an accomplished piano player and vocalist.  Theirs was a troubled marriage because of her father’s philandering.  The couple separated in 1948.  Before her tenth birthday, Aretha’s mother died from a heart attack.  Several women, including her grandmother and Mahalia Jackson alternated helping the children at the Franklin home and it was during this time that Aretha learned to play the piano by ear.

Following her mother’s death, Aretha began singing solos at New Bethel, debuting with the hymn, “Jesus, Be a Fence Around Me.”  When she was twelve, her father became her manager, bringing her on the road with him during his “gospel caravan” tours for her to perform in various churches.

Her music career found Aretha signing on with big recording giants such as Columbia, Atlantic, Arista and RCA.  She belted out many hits such as You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman, I Say A Little Prayer, Hold On, I’m Comin’.  And she thrilled the younger generation with Who’s Zoomin’ Who and Freeway of Love.  Hearing Freeway of Love transported me back to the ’80s which were a great time for me when I was living in New York.  And who could forget I Knew You Were Waiting For Me, her number one duet with George Michael?

In 1980, she gave a command performance before the Queen at Prince Albert’s Hall, in 2009 she sang at the 2009 inauguration of President Barak Obama.  In the following year, she received an honorary degree from Yale University.  In 2014, she received honorary degrees from Harvard University and New York University as well as honorary doctorates in music from Princeton, Yale, Brown, Pennsylvania, Berkeley, New England Conservatory of Music and University of Michigan.  She was the recipient of other honors such as Doctor of Humane Letters and Doctor of Law degree.

Aretha was dubbed “one of the giants of soul music, and indeed of American pop as a whole.  More than any other performer, she epitomized soul at its most gospel-charged.”  Her voice was described as being a “powerful mezzo-soprano voice” and she was praised for her arrangements and interpretations of other artists’ hit songs.  At the age of 14 when she recorded her first album, Songs of Faith, Jerry Wexler declared that her voice “was not that of a child but rather of an ecstatic hierophant.”  A hierophant is a person who brings religious congregants into the presence of that which is deemed holy.  Aretha’s explanation for that would have likely been, “Being a singer is a natural gift. It means I’m using to the highest degree possible the gift that God gave me to use. I’m happy with that.”

Singing and music weren’t her only passions.  Aretha was a civil rights activist.  Throughout her life, she was involved in the struggle for civil rights and women’s rights.  When Angela Davis was jailed in 1970, Aretha told Jet Magazine that, “Angela Davis must go free… Black people will be free. I’ve been locked up (for disturbing the peace in Detroit) and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace. Jail is hell to be in. I’m going to see her free if there is any justice in our courts, not because I believe in communism, but because she’s a Black woman and she wants freedom for Black people.”  Not surprisingly, her songs “Respect” and “Natural Woman” became anthems of these movements for social change.  She was also a staunch supporter of Native American rights, supporting their struggles worldwide and movements which fostered their cultural rights.

“We all require and want respect, man or woman, black or white. It’s our basic human right” ~ Aretha Franklin

It was a sad day when it was announced that the great Aretha Franklin passed away after losing her battle with pancreatic cancer.  She leaves behind a world touched by her music, her incomparable voice and her effortless work in championing human, civil and women’s rights.  She was the first woman to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.  In 2013, she was again ranked first in Rolling Stone magazine’s “100 Greatest Singers” list.

“American history wells up when Aretha sings.  Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R&B, rock and roll—the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope” – President Obama in response to her performance of “A Natural Woman” at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors.

Notes to Women salutes the woman with “the voice of the civil rights movement, the voice of black America” and a “symbol of black equality”  She was an inspiration not only for those in the music world but for all of us.  Although she is no longer with us, her music, her legacy will live on.

“It really is an honor if I can be inspirational to a younger singer or person. It means I’ve done my job” ~ Aretha Franklin

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Sources:  Wikipedia; Brainy Quote

Only God Can Restore Us

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Hosea 14

The people are exhorted to return to the Lord, ask Him to take away their iniquity, to receive them and in return they will offer the sacrifices of their lips such as praise, thanksgiving and confession.  They will acknowledge and confess that no nation can save them and that no longer will they say that their idols, the works of their hands, are their gods.

They will acknowledge and confess that the Lord is their God and that only He could save them.  And in response to this, God will heal their backsliding and love them freely.  He will turn His anger away.  They will no longer have anything to do with idols.

Verse 8:  I am like a green cypress tree; Your fruit is found in Me is similar to what Jesus said in John 15:4:  Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.  Our fruit is found in God.  Unless we abide in Him and He in us, we can do nothing and any effort to do our own will, not seeking Him, trusting in ourselves or in others, our efforts will be in vain and fruitless.

God is the only One who can restore us when we go astray.  Nothing or no one can save us.  Only in God, can we find mercy and deliverance.

On Top of the World

She stood there next to the doorway, debating whether

or not to spend at least half-hour sitting outside on the

café’s patio having her Latte.  It was such lovely

spring day with a light breeze.   She looked around at

the different people sitting there, enjoying the weather

and it was then that she spotted Antoine.  She stared at him

in surprise.  What was he doing here?  He was alone and having

what looked like a cup of cappuccino.

 

Heart pounding, she went over to his table and stood beside

the chair opposite his.  “Hello, Antoine.”  He looked very attractive

in the charcoal grey suit and black silk shirt.  She felt under-

dressed in her thin white blouse and denim skirt.

 

He glanced up and a smile spread slowly across his face.  “Hello,”

he greeted her softly.  “Join me.”  He stood up and walked round

the table to pull out the chair for her to sit.  She caught a whiff of

his aftershave.    After a slight hesitation, she sat down.  “I didn’t

think I would see you here,” she remarked.

 

His eyebrows rose quizzically.  “Why not?” he asked as he resumed

his seat.

 

“This isn’t the kind of establishment a man of your pedigree

would normally come to.”

 

He pursed his lips.  “I may be rich but I’m not a snob,” he

replied.  “I happen to like this café and have been here on

more than one occasion.

 

His gentle rebuke made her feel bad.  “I’m sorry,” she apologized.

 

“Do you have something against all rich men or just me in

particular?”

 

She lowered her eyes under his intent scrutiny.  “No, I don’t have

anything against you.  And you’re the only rich man I know.”

 

“I don’t want my wealth to be the cause any problems between us.”

 

“It-it isn’t.”

 

“Good.  How have you been, Cécile?  It has been a while since we

last saw each other.”

 

“I’m fine.  I got a promotion last week.”

 

“Congratulations.”

 

“Thank you.  What about you?  What have you been up to?”

 

“Aside from going on business trips,  I threw a bachelor party for

my brother, Sergei, attended my sister, Natasha’s wedding and

helped my parents to move to Saint-Chinian after their retired.”

 

She stared at him.  “You’ve been very busy.”

 

“Yes, I have been,” he agreed.  But during all that time I couldn’t

stop thinking about you and hoping that I would see you again.

“It’s nice to be sitting here and enjoying a cup of cappuccino.”

 

“Yes, I can imagine.”  You were too busy to think about me but I

have been thinking about you every day and wondering when I

would see you again.

 

“Is there a man in your life?” he asked suddenly, startling her.

 

She shook her head at once.  “No,” she answered, her mouth

going dry when she saw the expression on his face.

 

“That’s good to know,” he said quietly, “because I want to

be the man in your life.”  He reached over and covered

her hand with his, making her heart race and butterflies

flutter in her stomach.

 

She was at a loss for words.  She couldn’t believe this was

happening.  He was holding her hand and telling her that

he wanted to be her man.

 

“You’re speechless,” he observed.  “Have I shocked you?”

 

She nodded. “Yes,” she managed to say.

 

“Does it shock you to know that I want to be with you?”

 

“Yes.  You—you never indicated that you were interested in

me.”

 

“I guess I was better at hiding my feelings than I thought.  I’ve

wanted to be with you since we met but wasn’t sure that you

would feel the same way.  I got the impression that my wealth

posed a problem for you.  I hope I never made you feel that you

weren’t good enough for me.”

 

“You never did but I didn’t think you would want to date me

when—when there were plenty of other women, more

beautiful and sophisticated to choose from.”

 

His eyes darkened.  “Yes, I have dated beautiful women but none

of them could hold a candle to you.  You’re the most beautiful and

desirable woman I have ever met.  When I first saw you I thought of

the story Jesus told about the Merchant who found a pearl that was of

such great value to him that he went and sold everything he had so

he could buy it.  One look at you and I was willing to give up

everything I have just to be with you.  I still am.”

 

She blinked the tears that sprang to her eyes.  She had read that

story so many times but never did she ever imagine that a man

would think that she was as precious as that pearl which Jesus

likened to the kingdom of heaven.  “You don’t have to give up

anything to be with me,” she told him huskily.  “I want to be with

you too.”

 

He gently squeezed her hand.  “Good. What do you say to leaving

here and going for a walk along the Seine and then go to the top

of the Eiffel Tower just before the sun sets?”

 

She smiled.  “I say yes.”

 

They both got up and he reached for her hand as they left

the patio.  It felt wonderful holding hands and she couldn’t

stop smiling.

 

As they strolled along the Seine, stopping to soak up the

atmosphere and admire the surrounding architecture,

they made plans for the future.   When they were at the

top of the Eiffel Tower, gazing down at the city of love as

it was bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun, he pulled

her against him and whispered in her ear,  “I know that we’re

on top of the Eiffel Tower but right now, I’m on top of the

world because I’m with you.”

 

She leaned back against him and smiled.

 

 

Source:  Trip Advisor

Keeping Them Safe

Childhood is the most beautiful of all life’s seasons – Author Unknown

Remember when you were a child how you used to blow bubbles and your face lit up with excitement when you got really big ones?  Oh, the simple things in life that children enjoy.  If only they could remain in their little world of wonder, exploration, discovery and innocence.

As a parent, I wish I could keep my son in a bubble where evil people didn’t exist.  I wish he didn’t have to be told not to talk to or go anywhere with strangers.  Growing up in Guyana, children could play in safety.  When their parents weren’t around, neighbors would watch out for them.  I lived in a bubble. There were so many things I didn’t know about or was exposed to.  I never knew that sexual predators existed or ever heard about pedophilia until I moved to North America.  Maybe those things existed but I wasn’t privy to them and I’m thankful for that because I don’t know how the knowledge would have affected my childish brain.

Is it foolish or naive to want to protect your children from what is out there?  Are we helping them when we put off telling them about the dangers that exist?  There are things I wish I never knew about but would I be any better off living in ignorance?  Is ignorance really bliss?  Not in this age when lack of knowledge and little or no awareness can make the difference between our safety and harm.  Our children need to know that there are dangerous people out there who wouldn’t think twice about harming them or worse…

How do you tell them?  You can do it in such a way that they don’t get scared or anxious.  My ten year old suggests that the parent tell the child a story because a child would rather listen to a story than hear the message spoken plainly.  This reminds me of Jesus who spoke to people in parables when He wanted to teach them valuable lessons.

Other ways to keep our kids safe when they are away from home, school, in the street, the park or playground are colouring pictures, quizzes, activities or stories.  Having your child practice ‘Just say NO to strangers’ rule particularly through supervised role play gives him or her the confidence to deal if a stranger approaches and tries to trick them into getting into a car or pretends to have a lost dog or gift for the child.

To find websites that may help parents, teachers or caretakers to teach children about stranger danger and child protection, please click on this link.  In the News clip featuring Safety Now – Stranger Danger, parents were disturbed to see how a friendly stranger was able to lure some children away to help him to find his lost dog.  At the end of the video, the following tips are given:

  • Don’t take you eyes off the child
  • The child should back away
  • The child should yell and run to a parent

Dr. Phil said that there are steps we can take to protect our kids without scaring them.  Here are the steps:

  • Talk to your kids early and often. Teach them to self-protect. Don’t be afraid that you’ll make them paranoid. Children actually feel empowered when they feel understand that they have the power to protect themselves.
  • Don’t ask children to deal with adult issues. Explain things in terms they can understand, such as good and evil. Don’t share the gory details with them.
  • Tell your kids to avoid strangers. Adults just don’t ask kids for directions.
  • While it’s important for children to respect adults and those in authority, give them permission to act impolite, rude, or scream and yell when they feel that something’s not right. It’s OK for them to make a scene or to yell for help, and let them know they will not get in trouble if they were mistaken.
  • Teach kids to yell with specificity: “This is not my Daddy!” or “Somebody help me!”

The safety of our children is our responsibility.   They have a right to grow up and feel safe.

Sources:  Free for Kids; YouTube; Quotey Quotes; Dr. Phil

Seeking the Lost

Don’t live in a bubble, live for God by seeking the lost and pointing them to Jesus.

Image is Liz Lemon Swindle’s painting of “The Lost Sheep”

When I saw this image it just struck me that Jesus didn’t live in a bubble.  He ate with tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:11).  Many of them followed Him and Jesus was called their Friend (Mark 2:15; Matthew 11:19).  Jesus explained why He spent so much time with them, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).  The lost in Jesus’ day were the tax collectors, the Samaritan woman who was married five times and living with  a man who wasn’t her husband, the woman caught in adultery.

Today, the lost could be the young woman who left the church she grew up in to experience life outside, hanging out with wrong crowd, experimenting with drugs and falling into other destruction behavior and habits until she reaches the point where she hits rock bottom.  She wants to turn her life around but doesn’t know how or thinks that it might be too late.  And Satan is there reminding her of her sins and making her believe that it’s hopeless but Jesus reaches down to where she is and draws her back to Him as seen in this beautiful picture.  He looks past the makeup, the nose ring, the scars of sin and sees a lost soul who needs His love and mercy.

The lost are those who wander away from the church, the faith like the young woman.  When she returns to the fold, is she going to be welcomed with open arms?  Will the members of the church rejoice with heaven because she who was lost is found?  Or will we be like the prodigal son’s brother who refused to be merry?

As the body of Christ, we are to reflect Him in every way.  When a lost soul returns, we ought to celebrate not condemn them for leaving the church.  Perhaps, we ought to ask ourselves why they left in the first place.

Let us come out of the bubble we are living in and go out into the world and let people know that Jesus came into the world to save them (1 Timothy 1:15).

Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ – Luke 15:6

Sources:  Seth Adam Smith; Bible Gateway; Blue Letter Bible; Seeking the Lost Hymn