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Archive for the ‘Pondering Biblical Truth’ Category

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Two immense maple trees in the front yard sheltered the house I lived in until I was fourteen years old. They were my special friends.

When my mother threatened to call the police to come and take me away because I was a “naughty little girl,” I’d run outside and lean against one of my trees. Its branches seemed to embrace me with a love that I never knew from either of my parents.

My father was constantly in and out of the hospital. He seldom talked to me. When he did, his words were like hammer blows to my already fragile self-esteem. The beatings from his large fists often sent me flying. Even more painful than the welts his hand left on my face, was the way Mother (she didn’t like me to call her Mom) never intervened. “It’s all your fault,” she’d say. “If you’d be good, this wouldn’t have to happen.”  But it kept happening, again and again.

When my father got a blood clot in his leg, I remember Mother’s warning: “You’d better be good!  If you’re not, if you get your father upset, the blood clot can go to his heart and kill him.”

For weeks I tried to be very good, but I was gripped by the fear that I wasn’t good enough. I often mounted my bicycle, hoping to ride to the far end of the world. Instead, I’d end up at the forest preserve nearby where I’d walk deep into the woods. I never worried about getting lost. The trees of the forest were also my friends. When I heard that girls had been raped and murdered not far from my woods, I was frightened. But Mother knew where I was going and never stopped me. Doesn’t she care if something happens to me? I wondered.

My father died of a heart attack when I was ten. “You can be glad you were a good girl the last few days, so you don’t have to feel guilty,” Mother said. But I knew I hadn’t been a good girl, and now it was too late. Perhaps she sensed my remorse.

“Give him a kiss and tell him you loved him,” she urged me as we stood before the open coffin.

I was terrified. “I can’t.”

“You can’t!  What’s the matter with you?”  Her eyes were accusing. “People will think you weren’t much of a daughter.”

“Mother, please. Please don’t make me,” I pleaded.

For the next year I had horrible nightmares. I begged Mother to let me sleep with her. Sometimes she gave in, but it didn’t help. I needed her to hold me and comfort me, but she always turned her back to me. I laid beside her wide awake, listening to her breathing and worrying every time its rhythm changed. Suppose she died too!

Mother remarried when I was fourteen. But life with my stepfather, Harry, was even worse. Why didn’t Mother tell him to leave me alone? But she didn’t, blaming me for the beatings and other abuse. I remember sitting under one of my trees all night, afraid to be alone on the streets and afraid to stay in the house.

On my wedding I had no regrets about moving a thousand miles away. When I became pregnant, I missed Mother. I was sure she’d come when my baby was born, but she didn’t.

A year later Mother was diagnosed with a mental illness, but I continued to be hurt by the things she did.

When my thirteen-year-old half-sister came to live with us because Harry was sexually abusing her, Mother was angry at me for taking her “baby” away from her. She continued to turn her back on me.

When Harry died, on the verge of another breakdown, Mother needed someone to take care of her. I tried to help, but much of what I did only made her angry. Finally, I convinced Mother to come east and enter a mental hospital. Tests revealed an illness similar to Alzheimer’s. Doctors urged me to put her in a personal care home. But I knew Mother could still function, with support, in an apartment. A geriatric counselor agreed and helped me to see what tasks could be done by others so I wouldn’t become consumed by Mother’s care.

Now the roles were reversed. I had to give Mother the things she failed to give me—attention, affection, love.

Mother, who signed my birthday card, “From Mabel,” complained about me to anyone who would listen. Unappreciative, mistrustful, she continued to reject me. Some days I wondered why I didn’t take the “easy” way out and put her in a home. Was I being a martyr? No, I concluded, I’m doing what I must do for my mother.

On Mother’s Day I didn’t want to be with her, but I couldn’t leave her alone in her apartment, so I took her out to dinner. Mother complained about her potatoes. They were too cold. Her chicken was too done. She didn’t like the salad dressing. Nothing pleased her!

I remembered how Mother’s psychiatrist had recommended that I think of her simply as an old woman who needed my help. “Don’t think of her as your mother; call her Mabel.” His words didn’t make me feel better.

Once I visited a friend whose mother has Alzheimer’s. I watched Jennifer comb her mother’s hair and give her a hug. Her mother smiled and kissed her cheek. Why can’t it be that way between me and my mother? I wondered.

“It hurts so much,” I told God one evening as I sat on my porch. I looked up at the tree in my backyard and wished I could draw comfort and strength from it as I did when I was a child. I remembered a fragment of a poem I memorized in school—something about only God being able to make a tree.

I thought of Jesus—how His hands and feet were nailed to a tree in order that my sins might be forgiven. He kept reaching for me when I kept rejecting Him, loving me when I was unlovable.

Suddenly I knew that because He first loved me, I could love Mother no matter how she treated me. “Love,” He reminded me “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (l Corinthians 13:7, RSV).

A gentle breeze stirred the beginnings of forgiveness within my spirit. “I want to forgive you, Mother,” I whispered. “I still love you.”


Eight and a half years ago the Lord moved us to a new home in Lansdale. At first sight of the seven oak trees that lined the sidewalk, I knew this was the home He had chosen for us. The fact that our three grandkids live in walking distance caused us to immediately put in a bid.

Today, five of our oak trees are battling bacterial leaf scorch. I’m heartsick for as you now understand, trees mean a lot to me. They are due for their second $1,600 treatment that will not cure them but will hopefully give them the strength to survive. One of the five trees is not leafing out as the others.

Don’t worry about anything;
instead, pray about everything;
tell God your needs,
and don’t forget to thank him for his answers.

Philippians 4:6 (TLB)

Will you join me in praying for my trees?

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Let’s be real. Have the pressures of life ever made you feel like running away?

Maybe non-stop problems have worn you to a frazzle. And the thing with problems is that they are groupies. Seriously, have you ever had to cope with just one problem at a time?

My writing mentor used to tell me that problems were great grist for my writing  mill. Right! Maybe if I’d get a break long enough to see the Lord in them so I could write about them and give hope to my readers; it certainly won’t help them or me to whine!

I confess this has been one of those weeks when I would have liked to run away. It’s hard enough to be on deadlines for both the Colorado and Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference when my laptop is working. But when I’m forced to spend hours on the phone with technicians who don’t speak clear English and who end up making things worse rather than better, running away is a tempting option. But . . .

He who believes need never run away again.
Isaiah 28:16 TLB

Father knows I do believe and that I desperately need him to help my unbelief.

Despite seemingly impossible obstacles, I am making progress on the July 26-28 Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference.

Lest I get knocked off the Internet again, here’s the link for the 35 workshops I’ve packed into Friday and Saturday – http://philadelphia.writehisanswer.com/workshops2018. The page has not yet been proofread and is, therefore, not accessible from the menu. Trusting that somehow I’ll be able to open online registration May 1, I’m eager for you to see some of what we’re offering.

We also have an exciting line-up of 3 Learning Labs on Thursday afternoon along with early bird workshops, 7 continuing sessions, keynotes, panels, and an outstanding faculty of 38 agents, editors, and authors.

So . . . the bottom line is I’m NOT going to run away. Instead, will you commit along with me to:

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.
When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through.
That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
Hebrews 12:2-3 MSG

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Always be joyful.
Never stop praying.
Be thankful in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT

Although the snow has finally melted, it still feels like winter here in Pennsylvania. The good thing is the ground (mud) in the backyard is frozen – at least in the morning. But it doesn’t take long for the mud to thaw and to end up on our labradoodle’s paws and from there onto our rugs.

I have 100 strawberry plants that arrived the day we got 6″ of snow. I need to get them planted but it’s still too cold and too wet and muddy.

Important papers in my office again are in the land of the missing. Seriously, how can the bills that I need to pay this morning, and that were on the top of my desk last night, have disappeared? I know they weren’t paid by a bill fairy.

Somehow my email address got hacked. I’ve received and deleted over 7,000 “thank you for subscribing” emails from around the world. Finally, after a  four day battle, I’m only getting a couple every hour. I’m grateful most of them ended up in my spam, but legit emails I need to answer also turn up in my spam folder. I hope I haven’t deleted anything important.

To add to all this and more, I’m in the conference crunch zone and need to finalize the faculty and program for the July 26-28 Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference, redesign the brochure, and update the website. Meanwhile, countless details for the May 16-19 Colorado Christian Writers Conference need my attention – now!

And the ants are back . . .  Yep! Every  spring, even though it doesn’t feel like spring, they know it’s spring and they invade my office. At least they are tiny little black ants and not giant size. Still, it’s distracting to have an ant run across my computer screen. But what if those ants are a reminder to turn my attention to the Lord? What if I choose to

Give thanks to him and bless his name.
For the Lord is always good.
He is always loving and kind,
and his faithfulness goes on and on . . .
Psalm 100:4-5 TLB

 

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Don’t worry about anything;
instead, pray about everything;
tell God your needs, and don’t forget
to thank him for his answers.

Philippians 4:6 TLB

It’s been one of those all-too-familiar frustrating and unproductive days.  Maybe you can identify? Father, please increase my prayers and decrease my worries.

I had planned to get a number of invites out to prospective faculty for the July 26-28 Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference and tackle the never-ending to-do list for the May 16-19 Colorado Christian Writers Conference. But Emmy . . .

Erin & Emmie 2
Our adorable Labradoodle puppy is now 8 months old, 47.3 pounds, and a much bigger handful than we ever anticipated. Her favorite game, when we catch her with something in her mouth that she shouldn’t have, is “Catch Me If You Can.”

This morning, it was a AAA battery! I don’t have a clue where she found it or  left it. I just know it wasn’t in her mouth when we finally caught her, and it wasn’t anywhere to be found in the house. And I searched, everywhere, down on my hands and knees and tummy.

Convinced that Emmy must have swallowed the battery, I did a quick Internet “what to do if” search and then a quicker call to the vet who said to bring her right over.

Three x-rays later revealed no battery inside Emmy.  Now what, besides paying the $270 bill? Since she found it once, certainly she’d find it again. And this time she might not be as lucky.

We put Emmy in quarantine in my office and continued the search with no success. Finally, around dinnertime I fluffed the blankets on our bed – again. I was tempted to crawl in and pull the covers over my head when . . .  You guessed it! There was the battery. There were some tooth marks, but thank the Lord no leaking battery acid.

We’ve raised three children, three Golden Retrievers, and babysat three grandchildren. None have been as much of a challenge as this Doodle puppy.

I prayed and did lots of research before we got her. Now I can’t help but wonder, and worry, that she’s more than two seniors in their 70s can handle. But surely Father is not surprised, and surely He can use this strong-willed, difficult puppy to teach me some new tricks. I do love her. So, thank You, Father, that Emmy didn’t swallow the battery and need surgery. And thank You for yet another lesson in trusting You.
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If you’ve had a puppy (or have one now), what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced and overcome?

 

 

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Empty tomb

Darkness Shattered

They had believed he was the Messiah.
Leaving everything behind,
they followed him.
The Kingdom of God
had seemed so real, so near.
He healed the sick,
fed the hungry,
calmed the storm at sea –
and in their hearts.
His words had given them life
and hope and purpose.
But now he was dead.
How could they have been
so mistaken, so misled?

Hiding in the room
where he had broken the bread
and passed the cup,
hopelessness and despair
closed in around them.
They laughed –
a cold, hard, bitter laugh –
when Mary said she had seen him.
People didn’t come back to life
after dying on a cross.

Suddenly the darkness shattered
at the sound of the familiar voice.
“Peace be with you.”
Jesus stood before them
not dead – but alive!
Light filled the room
and the darkness in their hearts.

Everything he had taught them was true.
He was and is and shall be
alive – forevermore!
Christ is risen.
He is risen, indeed!

Marlene Bagnull

 

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Only Love

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Only Love

Despised and rejected.
Forsaken – it seemed,
even by His Father
who turned His face away –
Jesus writhed in agony,
His hands and His feet
nailed to a tree.

“They’re not worth it,”
Satan must have taunted.
“Come down from the cross.
Give them what they deserve.
Death – now
and for eternity!”

All of heaven’s armies
stood on alert – ready
to obey the Son’s command.
Would Jesus choose
to save Himself – or men?
Would He endure to the end?

Only love kept Jesus on the cross
knowing only His blood
could set men free.
“It is finished!” He shouted.
Sin and death no longer reign.
Christ has won the victory!

Marlene Bagnull

 

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EPSON MFP image

Abide in Me.
Be grafted into Me,
for on the Cross
I allowed My body to be broken
in order that I might receive you,
in order that I might draw you into Me.
I have exposed to you My inner self,
and I have opened a way for you
to become one with Me.

Place your life into Mine.
I will surround you with My love.
I will cover you with My protection
that you may stand steady
despite the gales of life.
I will nourish you
with My unlimited resources.
I will quench your thirst
with My life-giving water.

As you allow Me to shape and prune your life
through your obedience to My teachings,
I will help you to grow
and become so much a part of Me
that your life will produce
the fruit of Christlikeness –
the fruit of love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,
and self-control.

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And through this fruit
that I will produce in your life,
others will see Me in you;
and they, too,
will be led to become grafted into Me.

Based on John 15:1-8; Galatians 5:22-23
Marlene Bagnull

 

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Tomorrow we remember how Jesus rode into Jerusalem as the crowds cheered, “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Yet less than a week later they shouted “Crucify him!”

Jesus entering Jerusalem

None of this caught Jesus by surprise. Indeed, we’re told in Hebrews 12:2 (TLB) that “He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterwards.”

Have you stopped to consider that you are the reason for His joy?

Years ago my pastor’s wife told me that if I was the only person on this earth, Jesus still would have come and died just for me.

We know that He is coming again but that He tarries because He does not want even one to be lost. And so He is calling you, He is calling me, to “Get His Word Out.”

An outline of this message – really a Bible study that I’ve given several times as a keynote – is available online. I hope you’ll download it and make time to prayerfully consider the passages.

This week as you focus on Jesus’ passion, ask Him how He wants to use you to share His love with those who do not yet know He loved them enough to go to the cross.

blessed

“Blessed is He
who comes in the name of the Lord!”
The crowd cheered and sang praises.
They waved palm branches
and threw their cloaks before Him.
But Jesus was solemn as He traveled that road –
that road to the cross.

As God incarnate He knew all that was to come.
He saw not just His own death on the cross,
but the persecution of His followers
and the destruction of Jerusalem.
He saw nation rising against nation –
the madness of yet-to-be-born rulers.
And Jesus wept.

He would be wounded and bruised for our sins,
chastised that we might have peace,
lashed that we might be healed;
yet few would accept His gift of life.
The darkness of evil would continue to reign,
but the light of His love
would not be extinguished.

Entrusted to us,
His light will grow brighter.
A cloud of witnesses are cheering us on,
to daily take up our own cross
and follow Him closely.
Blessed is He who is coming – again!

Marlene Bagnull

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Matt mountain.png

What is the biggest obstacle you face in accomplishing what God has called you to do?

For me, it’s faith – or rather, to be honest, lack of faith.

Despite all the amazing things I have seen Him do, when faced with a new challenge, I still struggle to trust Him. Some mountains seem too big, too steep, too treacherous. It’s easier to question His call, to explain why I’m not the best person for the assignment, to suggest He choose someone else who is more qualified.

But then, I remember,

 You can never please God without faith, without depending on him.
Hebrews 11:6 (TLB)

I think of the exciting adventures I would have missed if I’d said no. More than that, I would have missed the lessons learned through needing to depend on Him. Most of all, I would have grieved the One who has been and is so faithful.

What mountain are you facing? How can I pray for you?

~ *~ *~ * ~

To encourage you as you climb your mountain:

Written by the women who are part of Linda Evans Shepherd’s Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA). Click here for a free subscription.
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I’ve been a member since Linda founded AWSA seventeen years ago.  It’s an incredible group of over 450 women. Click here to view a message from Linda and receive a free gift.

 

 

 

 

Between the Lamp Posts front cover

 

 

 

 

I was blessed to edit this book last fall and was so impressed with it that I purchased copies for fifteen of my friends for Christmas. I encourage you to visit Becky’s website and watch her video where she talks about why she wrote this devotional book. There is also a link to order it from Amazon or Kindle.

 

 

 

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The Gift

The Gift

Many memories come to mind
as I reflect on the years that have flown by
and on Christmases past.

I remember the little artificial tree
that sat on the buffet next to my bed in the dining room.
I’d fight to stay awake at night to gaze at that tree
and pretend what it would be like
if Daddy believed in Jesus and celebrated Christmas with us.
Maybe then he would let me have a real tree.

I stopped believing in Santa Claus
the year my stocking was filled with coal.
Later that day Daddy gave me two walking dolls.
“You don’t deserve them,” he said
“but I worked hard to get them.”
I hated those dolls.

Memories are powerful.
They can cause us to live in the past and miss the present.
They can even destroy our hope for the future.
But the One whose birth we celebrate on Christmas
came to save us from bondage to a painful past.
He has set me free!

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