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Christianity/Religion Devotionals Lake Havasu Photography

God, Believers, Unbelievers and Arizona Skies

Good-bye July 2010, originally uploaded by Shirley Buxton.

To one who reads widely, and who ventures beyond the thought and commentary of those with whom that person closely relates, and who chances the amble on the far side of those whose philosophical and spiritual leanings are the much the same as his, will inevitably bump up against strident controversy. As have I. As have I, recently.

A writer I read rather regularly wrote a piece in which he
posited the concept that sometimes a person who calls himself a
Christian, in reality cannot be so called, because of that person’s lack of accepting the basic tenets of Christianity. I agreed, and engaged in the conversation, and in so doing found the following statement from one of his visitors who was objecting to his thoughts: “Frankly, I think Jesus is secretly a Radical Agnostic who has not spoken with his dad for quite a few years.”

I made the observation, by which I yet stand, that a person who would make such a statement is just unable to understand those certain writings of that particular blogger. I got lots of flack for saying that, many scriptures presented to me, the latest of which involved the appellation of the term hypocrite.

I’m thankful I’m a believer in God. I’m grateful for my parents who taught me His ways. It is precious to me that His Word is my base, my foundation, and my comfort. I’m glad I have this knowledge without considering myself better than anyone else in the world. I’m grateful. I’m thankful I know I don’t have all the answers, yet have had the greatest resource in the world placed in my reach. I’m glad I have faith, glad I’m not an agnostic, nor an atheist. I’m glad I have pity for those who don’t have faith in God, glad I’m not trying to be their judge, glad that in my very soul, I feel compassion for them. Glad that when scripture is presented to me, I have the capacity to honestly read it and try to the best of my ability to understand it, and to apply it to my life.

Gentle cooling winds came with a slight decrease in temperature here in Lake Havasu on Saturday, and in the early evening Jerry and I drove to the church to open up all the doors in order to let that welcome breeze cool the sanctuary. Before we left we turned on the coolers to run through the night so that on Sunday morning the church would be comfortable as the worshippers entered His place.

The sky was indescribably splendid. Every direction, 380, any way we looked, held such beauty as to leave one speechless. I am in awe to this moment when I see these pictures. God did that. With His Word, He spoke this majestic world into existence. With a thought, He created it all, with a wave of His hand, declared it to be. I’m glad I believe that. Glad I understand how illogical it is to consider that these exceptional Arizona skies just happened. Glad I’m a Christian, one who follows Jesus, one who accepts His precepts…and treasures His love for me…and for you, whether we believe it or not.

I love to hear your responses. Please leave them here and not on Facebook. 🙂

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Christianity/Religion Devotionals

…best place ever

Two little girls. Their mom in our Christian Intervention Program last night. Giggling, they handed me this little sign they had made in the room where they waited for their mom. Together we taped it to the front door of our church.

“I was glad when they said to me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.” Psalm 122:1



Darby Bible Translation
{A Song of degrees. Of David.} I rejoiced when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of Jehovah.


Young’s Literal Translation
A Song of the Ascents, by David. I have rejoiced in those saying to me, ‘To the house of Jehovah we go.’

תהילים 122:1 Hebrew OT: Westminster Leningrad Codex
שִׁ֥יר הַֽמַּעֲלֹ֗ות לְדָ֫וִ֥ד מַחְתִּי בְּאֹמְרִ֣ים לִ֑י בֵּ֖ית יְהוָ֣ה

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Christianity/Religion Death Devotionals Family Integrity Life Religion

As I Lie Dying

Because of daily word of her tenuous grip on life, and the hearing of warm remarks from around the world concerning our dear Nona Freeman, I have spent a fair amount of time in the last few days considering my own death bed. I have deliberated long, and such reflection has given me a tighter grip on reality. Oh, not the reality of this steel and mortar which surrounds me, nor the dirt on which I stand, nor the constant scroll of  sky which shields my troubled head. No, I muse these long moments on authentic reality–that of the soul, of eternity–incomprehensible eternity–, and of God..of whom I live in awe, and before whom I stand in abysmal unworthiness when I even utter His name, or acknowledge His existence.

So, as I lie dying, I hope those who huddle about my bed will speak of God, and that I loved Him, and that I loved people, and that as pitiful and inconsequential were my efforts, I did expend my life in loving God and in sharing the Word of His Being. As I lie dying, I hope someone mutters that once I thrust a crumb of bread into her waiting hand, that one evening I mouthed a heartening word, that one hot afternoon I placed my hand on a weary shoulder and that one dark day I pressed a coin into an empty pocket. As I lie dying, I hope those who shiver by my bed will be secure when thinking of my destination, and that the Almighty Presence of God fills the room; that Scripture is spoken, and that hymns of the church are sung.

As I lie dying may there be little joy in those few trinkets I will leave behind; rather triumphant rapture at the thought of the Joy that I will soon, then, apprehend.

(Please. This post is not intended to gather positive comments concerning me. Rather I hope it will serve as a touchstone, urging each of us to examine our true reality. And I do want to hear from you in this vein, any thoughts you are willing to share.)

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Christianity/Religion Church Devotionals God Grief My Family My Home Pentecostal

A Scrap of Wisdom

The following was actually written sometime ago and given to a person who had requested me to write such a piece, and who had planned to include it in a book, that, as far as I know, was never published. I came across it a few minutes ago as I was cleaning out old email files, and feel it might benefit someone today.

A Scrap of Wisdom

by

Shirley Buxton

My mom was a quiet, unassuming, very intelligent woman, who accomplished second and  third grade work in the same year, then when she was older, also passed through the seventh and eighth grade in one school year. She was a godly person and a pastor’s wife for as long as I can remember. Of a retired, unassuming nature, she was a behind the scenes person, so much so that I don’t recall her ever teaching or actually doing anything on the platform of our church. She was a great cook, whose pies were in wide demand at the elementary school I attended and at the dinners “on-the-grounds” at church fellowship meetings. My parents frequently kept ministers in our very modest home, and I recall her doing the personal laundry of evangelists who stayed with us.

I was the eldest of three, and when I was twelve years old, she died.

It was a frigid February night in Springfield, Mo. when my Aunt Bertie rousted us out of bed and took us to St. John’s hospital to see our mother. But she had died before we could get there, and on the cold, wide steps of that hospital in the pit of night, my dad said to his three shivering children, “Your mother is not here anymore, Kids. She has gone to be with Jesus.” Donna stamped her feet and yelled and we all cried, and throughout that desolate night Aunt Bertie and my dad did their best, despite their own heavy grief, to comfort us.

Mother had died in childbirth–actually a few hours after the baby was born–from a pulmonary embolism. Baby Terry was still living and the kind hospital staff came to our ragged huddle and asked if we would like to see our brother. Sure, we would, and so the nurses shuttled our icy speechless group into the neonatal ICU and let us look at our tiny brother who was even then clawing at life. A few hours later he also died.

It’s an awful thing for a child to lose a mother; somehow it just doesn’t  compute, and were the world perfect, there’s no question but what all mothers would live to rear their young. But it’s far from a perfect place we inhabit, and so, helpless, having no vote, I endured that cutting blow.

I believe I adjusted alright, and a year later my dad married a fine woman who was good to my siblings and to me. And although I don’t dwell on the subject, or even mention it often, a hole dug into me that February night, and when I think closely of my mother, I discern that tender spot to be yet there.

One December night Steve, my eldest, was born; I was now a mother, myself, and as I held that fine child, I wished desperately to show him to my mother. I think it was at this point that I missed  her  more than I ever had. Look at his ears, Mom, his hair, his tiny fingers. Look, he’s perfect, I wanted to say, but that was not to be and I sorrowed for my loss.

Fast forward to today. Fast forward to this moment, the middle of the year 2008 as I grapple with the writing of a bit or two that could by some generous stretch be called wisdom.

Life is at once incomprehensibly glorious and insanely cruel. It is the mundane and the magnificent, the superb and the sorrowful, the divine and the sinful, the miserable and the marvelous, the ascendant and the dank of grave. Life is a daily presentation arriving naked and raw demanding our dress-up, our cloak, our face.

Within me and describing my complete being is the driving force that calls me to serve Jesus Christ. I have come to understand that He, with no hesitation and with no error, directs my way, orders my steps, charts my course. Thinking of that sterling truth eclipses my pitiful thoughts, smacks down any questions that might lunge my way, and whisks aside doubts that worry my head.

So God knew about my mother and about my early loss. Now whether He implicitly directed her death, or whether it was merely the result of mortality on a flawed planet (that’s my own opinion concerning the matter) God allowed her death. But because He orders my life and directs my steps I have been incredibly enriched through the years by people with whom I have come in contact.

I’ve sat–literally at times–at the feet of the most godly men on this planet. I’ve heard preaching that probably causes angels to swoon. Music of such lyrical perfection it must have originated in Heaven (I mean that and believe that) has anointed my ears and my brain and my heart. I’ve listened in private conversation to pointed instruction and such profound wisdom as should trace the ages. Around innumerable supper tables and breakfast bars, I’ve taken in penetrating and canny ideals and ideas. At conferences across our land–from fruited plains and oceans both–I’ve listened, mouth agape as brilliant and rare direction was charted.

So, my shred of wisdom is this: Relax in Jesus Christ. Understand that He knows the way you take, He fully comprehends you, sees absolutely every thing that is going on around you…and with no error, with no lapse, He directs your path.

You may be as successful as you have written in your most detailed plans; likely you will not be. You probably anticipate health and vigor into a rare old age; instead you may suffer sickness and disability. You may plan beautiful, godly, well-behaved children; perhaps one may stray, and the church may stay small, money is scarce, and sometimes…truth be known…you are afraid.

Relax. Jesus Christ knows you and has plotted your path.

Several years ago here in southern California in the autumn season came raging fires which burned through our  splendid forests and our beautiful villages. The town in which I live was evacuated for eight days. Finally the fires were out, and I recall driving sadly through the denuded areas. Blackened ruins lay about; embers still smoldered.

And then it was spring, and I noticed what seemed to be unusually lush growth and spectacular wild flowers. It was as though thick carpets of flowers had somehow been spread over the land. As one drove over the mountain roads as far as could be seen, from deep canyons to the highest peaks, was a stunning show of vibrant flowers, vines and buds.

Why? An article in a local paper gave the answer. Deep within the ground are rare seeds that in ordinary seasons never sprout. Lacking favorable conditions they languish in the cool earth. They are buried so deeply and there is so much surface growth,  they cannot emerge. But when forest fires rage, the mundane weed and common flower are burned and swept away. Finally, then, the scene is set; the stage is ready, the curtain is pulled, and the rare flower, feeling the urge of something which he in no way understands, yet obeys, pushes upward, twisting and turning, past the rock, the sand, the embers, until finally there emerges the bloom of a rare and beautiful flower.

God knows where we are. He knows the way we take, understands our history, our drives, dreams and ambition. He sees our battles, our losses, our hits and unfair breaks. But He is the planner, the map-maker, the navigator…He knows the way we take.

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Christianity/Religion Church Conferences/Seminars Devotionals Life love My Family Pentecostal

Magnificent Obsession

I have proved it to be so; I am obsessed with serving Jesus Christ, and with working in His Church.  I was born into an Apostolic home–to a fiery, caring preacher– spent my childhood around the godly people in the churches he pastored, married a preacher, produced children of similar mindset, and for these 53 years have been constantly involved in ministry. Never have I lived through one moment of wishing I were up to something else, nor of casting about for superior way, nor of sporting a jealous eye fixed on life in the easy, the mundane, the carnal. No,  I am obsessed with Jesus Christ, His Plan, His Church: It is a magnificent obsession.

Think it not strange, this obsession of mine, for my trafficking in this, the greatest organism on the earth, has fashioned for me a life of exceptional peace and joy, of social fulfillment, and of such spiritual underpinnings and faith as to still my soul at any rare moment of stagger. This obsession with Jesus Christ has steadied my too-anxious hand, has carved a warm path for my steep and rocky tramps, has squared my judgment, and tempered my faulty positions. My obsession with Jesus Christ has infused me with anticipation of the highest degree: I anticipate meetings, where, with those of like mind and passion we worship Jesus Christ, where preachers, while fully human, are remarkably transformed into conduits through which the Holy Ghost unquestionably speaks. I anticipate Heaven and its unspeakable glories, planning to arrive there in a victorious and sweeping way, having been caught away by the power of God, either bursting from my dusty grave or being taken alive from this earth and meeting Jesus and the saints in the air!

I’m obsessed with the thought. I’ve whispered the story to many–to my children and to their’s and to their’s. We sing together of the glory that is ours,  and of the greater that yet is to come. We cry at the promise, at the anointing, at the beauty of the revelation. I’m obsessed with Jesus Christ and His Church…and with His love.

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Christianity/Religion Conferences/Seminars Courage Devotionals God Grief Pentecostal

The Price Tag of Discipleship

At the conference Jerry and I attended in Tucson last week, I was reminded again of the pain and suffering that is often always required of those who sincerely and fully commit their lives to God and to His work. The price exacted from ministers and their families prostrate_in_worship_sm6674053_stdis extensive and if truth be known, there has not been a church staked, but what a woeful, sometimes frightening charge has been levied. Blood streaks the foundation stones. The salt of tears muddles on altars, and to the discerning who walks about in the now beautiful, filled to capacity, auditorium (or the frankly faltering, half-empty shell of a church) may be seen shifting shadows of death and may be heard the faint din of despair.

A heavy price must be paid to follow Jesus. Unfair of me, though, to suggest that only ministry pays such price, for did not Jesus say in Mark 8:34:

Article continues on my devotional blog here.

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America Christianity/Religion Culture Devotionals God Goodness of man Honor Integrity Life love Patriotism Political insight Religion Social Uncategorized video

Beautiful, Wise, Prayerful America

Yes!

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The state Senate has approved a bill that would allow prayers before public meetings.

The legislation says public bodies can adopt policies to let members take turns giving an invocation, elect a chaplain or create a pool of speakers from faith groups to offer the prayer.

The bill also calls for the state attorney general to defend public bodies if they face constitutional challenges.

The town of Great Falls lost a lawsuit filed in 2001 claiming it violated the separation between church and state when it used the name Jesus Christ in prayers. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the town’s appeal in 2005.

The public prayer bill now heads to the House.

From Fox News

Never forget it. There is a deep-rooted core in America that longs for God to be visible and acknowledged in every sector of our society. Never forget it! There is a wide, steely swath of America’s people that understands this country was wisely founded on Judeo/Christian values, and that we will persevere and strive for their continued steady foundational inclusion. Never forget it! Despite those who attempt twisting words into contrary meaning, America’s framers built us a place for religious freedom–not a place from religion. Never forget it! The phrase separation of church and state is not in the constitution.

The supreme court handed down a wise decision when they refused to hear the appeal of Great Falls who claimed that using the name of Jesus Christ in public meetings violated the separation between church and state. Never forget that Jesus Christ was God, and that when He spent 33 years walking this earth, He made such an impact as has never been duplicated, nor ever will be. He changed the world, spoke mysteries and understandings, and prophesied, and taught sterling life-lessons, and healed the sick and raised the dead, and brought hope…and effected redemption.

Rather a wise move, that in the name of such Deity, we speak. Kudos to South Carolina…Kudos to America…and God bless us everyone.

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My devotional blog is here

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Bible Christianity/Religion Church Courage Devotionals Goodness of man Life love Pentecostal Social

Belief–Principle 2

“Remember that what you believe will depend very much on what you are.” Noah Porter

Principle 2

We must study, listen, search, then carefully hone our core beliefs. Our beliefs will dictate our actions.

It was the middle of a church service and Debbie was playing the organ when the young woman entered the auditorium. Immediately Debbie was attracted to her. There was just something about her…her demeanor…her expression. The service continued, then God spoke to Debbie. You need to go tell that young woman you love her.

Whoa there! “Now, God,” Debbie rationalized, “that would be silly.” Probably not even God, anyway she thought. Probably just me.

You need to go tell that woman you love her. Again, Debbie felt impressed of God, and again she argued. “It would totally disrupt this service if I stopped playing the organ, walked off the platform, and went to that woman and told her I loved her. Anyway, she probably would think that was a bit weird. Never before saw her in my life.”

For the next several minutes, Debbie argued with herself and with God. Her husband was in the middle of giving the altar call, when suddenly before she even knew what she was doing, she had stopped playing the organ and was walking down the aisle, heading to the young lady. At the same time, the young lady left her pew and started for the exit.

“See,” Debbie said to herself. “This probably wasn’t God or she wouldn’t be leaving now.”

Nevertheless she continued and followed the girl to the parking lot. “Hi, my name’s Debbie…” and she went on with a few introductory words…then stammered around a bit and added, “God wanted me to come tell you that I love you.”

Unsmiling, the young woman spoke, “How can you love me? You don’t even know me.”

“Because we’re sisters in Christ. We both belong to Jesus. And besides me loving you, Jesus loves you.” The young lady didn’t seem very receptive, so Debbie concluded the conversation with, “If you ever need anything, I’m here for you. Glad you came to our service today.”

I won’t go into all the details that followed, but a while after this incident Debbie received a phone call from another pastor thanking her for being sensitive to God and for talking with the young woman. The young woman became a part of Debbie’s church and they became close friends.

On the Sunday in question, the young woman, having suffered severe abuse in her childhood, and desperately lonely, had concluded that nobody in the world loved her and that after the morning’s service she would kill herself. She had suffered unspeakable sexual abuse from her mother. Her mother had multilated her face–had broken her jaw and her teeth. Once when she was 17 years old, she came home from school to find a note saying, “We have moved. We don’t know where you will go, but you must be out of this house in two days.” It was to this person that Debbie’s attention was attracted that crucial Sunday morning. It was her belief principle that urged Debbie from her comfortable spot on the organ bench, down the aisle, into the parking lot, and to the ultimate saving of a human life…and an eternal soul.

Beliefs that we have developed by careful research and scrupulous refining will dictate our actions, for what we truly believe is what we are. I’m not referring to the speaking of a memorized creed or some esoteric flimflam. I’m discussing a person’s core and prevailing philosophy. An honest commitment to these thoughts may call for actions that challenge us, and that make us uncomfortable.

My core principles are founded on the Word of God. I have listened to godly men as they expounded those sacred truths, I have read and studied for myself, I have considered and observed, compared and dissected. I camp on Paul’s words to the Philippian Church:

“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is god which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” 2:12-13

I cherish the day that I was pointed toward scripture to carve out my beliefs, my principles, my life philosophy. I do not cast about searching for truth, flailing helplessly at the air, nor reaching helter-skelter for some bit of hope or design. The Bible and its precepts are not strange to me, nor is living for God, nor is following the pattern of the early Church. There come moments when full commitment may cause uncomfortable moments as had Debbie on that Sunday morning, but the undergirding strength of such belief and assurance is priceless…and it extends beyond this world.

Neither do I arrogantly ascribe to myself any such monikers as knowing everything, of “having arrived,” of being the fount of truth. No, with much fear and trembling, I continue to work out my own salvation. For I understand that my beliefs will invariably determine my actions.

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My devotional blog is here.

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Chef Hats and Friends in the Kitchen

Chef Allen, originally uploaded by Shirley Buxton.

“What are you guys doing for lunch?” Jerry asked into his cell phone as I drove the car heading for Phoenix on Wednesday.

The answer was such that a few minutes after noon we exited on 7th street in downtown Phoenix and met our friends the Hogans for lunch. We lingered over the meal for a couple of hours, then noting the time, I urged us on to our final destination for the day–Tucson. “We have to eat again at 5:30,” I reminded Jerry. The Hogans grinned, for despite the substantial lunch, they too would be eating an evening meal–a minister’s appreciation dinner at their church

Jerry was still grabbing luggage from the car when I knocked on the door of the Allen’s house, our friends who pastor a church in Tucson. Robert met us at the door, grinning, welcoming us, his head adorned as you see him pictured here.

We’ve been here now a couple of days, and we have been treated as royalty–as family royalty. “Make yourself at home, raid the fridge, here’s the coffee, here’s a key, do you need anything? what may we do for you? flowers in our room…

I don’t have time to elaborate and say everything I’m feeling, for I’m off to a conference in an hour. I do want to speak for friendship and for hospitality and for cooking meals to share and for opening your home to friends, and for a bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy and a slab of meat cooked on an outdoor grill and for cute chef hats…for friends…especially today for the Robert Allen family.

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My devotional blog is here.

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Yellow Chrysanthemums, Strawberry Pie, and a Pot Roast

Yellow Chrysanthemums, originally uploaded by Shirley Buxton.

The delivery truck stopped in front of the motor home and was stuck part way into the street when I saw him through the front window. Hmm, I thought. Nobody’s birthday, not Mother’s Day or Father’s Day or anything like that. I watched the driver go to the back of the truck, take out a magnificent plant and come up our walkway.

“Shirley Buxton?” he asked when I had opened the door.

“Yess..”

“Sign here, please.”

He handed in a gigantic, yellow Chrysanthemum plant, I thanked him, and as soon as he left I began poking around until I found the little plastic holder that would give me an idea who had sent these stunning flowers.

HAPPY FRIDAY. THANKS FOR TACO MONDAY read the card, which was signed MELINA.

No special occasion had caused my sweet daughter-in-law to think of me, to call her florist and to place this order. The previous Monday while Joel and his crew were still here, I had invited over all the family who live here in Lake Havasu, and we had cooked and eaten tacos outside, thus the Taco Monday reference. I called Mel and told her how sweet and thoughtful she was.

Later in the day, when I opened our RV door in response to a knock, I found the lady who lives in the next RV to ours. They’re “snowbirds,” from Montana, who leave their rig parked here year round, spend the summers at their home, then come to the RV here for the winter. We had moved into the spot next to them while they were gone to Montana, and since they have only been back a couple of weeks, I don’t know her well at all.

But here she stood before me, extending both her hands. “Made a strawberry pie this morning, and we surely don’t need to eat the whole thing. I want you and Jerry to have these.” Smiling, she handed in deep red pieces of fresh fruit pie.

The next day Janey called. “What are you and Jerry doing for dinner tonight?”

“Nothing special, Janey.”

“Well, I want to cook a meal for you. I have a new crockpot and a nice roast. Come down about 6:30.”

Within a 48 hour period, Jerry and I had unexpectedly seen the generous, giving side of humanity. For really no reason, three families had thought of us and decided to spend a chunk of their time to minister to us. Pretty nifty, huh?

It’s touching when I know someone has thought of me, has paused in their activities, made a call, stuck a card in an envelope, considered me when they baked a pie, or rolled a cookie or looked at a chunk of beef. For a few minutes I was there with them, inside their sweet head and in their memory bank. That, my friend, is precious to me.

And at this moment, I’m thinking of all you who are so generous to come frequently to my site, to read my little words, to think with me about life and its processes, to cry sometimes, and at others to laugh. With some of your names I connect faces; others are invisible, your forms unknown to me–yet in the human scheme of things, we speak and think and touch. Thank you. Truly you enrich my life.

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My devotional blog is here.

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