Escape From Past Island

A Guest Post by Ms. April Yarber

Of all my friends who are being so generous with their time during these few weeks, donating a guest post, April is my newest fan. We are Facebook friends and have never actually met face to face. We met, as much as you can meet on Facebook because we are both Christian authors so we were in the same place. I thought a page she had was a page for promoting books. She generously has allowed me not only to post my book on her page but I now regularly post my blog on her page. She us a very supportive person and I am pleased to call her friend. I think you will like what you read this morning from April.

17 And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” 18 And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords. 19 Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. 20 Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved!” 21 He said to him, “Behold, I grant you this favor also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. 22 Escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.

23 The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. 24 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. 26 But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. (Genesis 19:17-26, English Standard Version)

“Escape from Past Island,” I have been thinking about using this title for some time. It seems to fit because of the experience we have in our human condition. At some point in our lives we have had this universal experience. I chose the above picture of Alcatraz Island because it is difficult to think of a past one might desire ti escape from more.

People experience the all-consuming past pulling us in multiple various points throughout our lives. We can almost hear ourselves thinking, “Oh, those thoughts from the past.” We all have tried to or would at least like to, escape from certain situations and memories from our past. 

As we get older; the more regret can creep in. Sometimes negative thoughts and memories from days behind us flood in  if we aren’t grounded and rooted on and in the foundations of the Lord, they may start to sweep us away.

 Memories of things we’ve done, and things we haven’t done, things we should have done, things we could have done, and memories of the dreams and opportunities lost. These are the things we wish we had done. They can all come rush in with powerful intensity. This unseen but  gripping force can become so intense, it can govern our thoughts and days.

Our recall of the past is tricky. The timing, if not just right, can cause us to linger, The result can be an unknowing gift of opportunity to the enemy, who loves reminding us of past failures. We remember times when things were really good but that devolves all too quickly. Suddenly, bam in a flash, all the negative memories rush in. 

We can think about the past, but not to stay there. If we let the negative past of hurt, pain, and regret rule in our minds, it can then enter our hearts and it can consume us. Making us possibly bitter, angry, or regretful and sad. It is the place where Lot’s wife seems to be when she looks back, only to become a pillar of salt. And when the past rules our hearts the present can slip away. And then what do we miss? We miss the absolutely beautiful gift of life that present moments bring. 

Isaiah’s words remind us that God isn’t living in the past. “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV).

God didn’t make us with our heads turned backward, always looking at the past. If that were God’s plan, we would have eyes’ in the back of our heads. God doesn’t want us to recall only our troubles and hardships but to learn from them, even if the only lesson to learn is surrender. 

Our Lord Jesus wants us to keep moving forward and this is evident in His words. In Scripture, God  wants us to grow in grace, and flourish in faith. Forgive yourself, turn your head around to the front and, with God’s help, move beyond your past. Remember we are only human. 

Paul writes to the Ephesians, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32, ESV)

Proverbs 4:25 (ESV) reminds us, “Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.” 

There is an old saying that still rings true as a reminder to find enjoyment in the moment, saying simply, we should., ” Stop and smell the roses.” That’s good advice. 

Thank God for flowers. When you are faced with powerful negative thoughts, remember within the deep recesses of your mind, Jesus loves you, you are forgiven by our Savior. It is past time to forgive yourself. When those powerful negative thoughts come your way, remember too that, powerful as they may be, our God is more powerful still. That is my prayer for you. 

Shine with love and beauty. You are a child of God. And you, my faithful friend are altogether beautiful. 

God Bless you always… 

The Lord is My Sheperd… That’s All I Know

A Guest Post by Rev. W.C. Hall Jr

The LORD is my  shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake
 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
(Psalm 23:1-6, English Standard Version).

There is always plenty to do when a pastor moves from one church to another. Things have to be packed, movers have to be called, things have to be packed, oh, did I mention things have to be packed? I am also trying to take a little vacation time before the move, so its a lot. And, things have to be packed. Anyway, yesterday was my last Sunday in Huntington and my first Sunday at Perritte Memorial is July 5th. I didn’t want to take off the blog two full weeks so I asked some friends to contribute guest posts. So, you get to hear some other voices. As of now I will be posting Saturdays and Sundays.

The Rev. W.C. Hall Jr. has been a good friend for many years. W.C. was my pastor when I became United Methodist. He was still my pastor when I entered candidacy for ministry. When one is ordained an Elder two other elders can lay hands on the ordinand. W.C. was one of my two. I don’t remember where all he has served during his ministry but I do know he served Crystal Beach/Bolivar, Texas A&M Wesley Foundation, First UMC Canton, Asbury UMC, Pasadena (this is my home church), First UMC Dayton, First UMC Bellville and Holy Trinity UMC (Houston). W.C. is currently retired and living in Beaumont. He still loves to preach, when he has the opportunity.

I have long enjoyed the story of the young boy who as a Sunday School student was assigned the task of memorizing the 23rd Psalm.  He had many gifts and graces, but memorizing was not one of them!  He worked on it at home with his parents; wrote it one hundred times on his Big Chief tablet;  listened intently as his grandmother read it for him; but nothing seemed to work.  The Sunday morning finally arrived when he was to stand before his Sunday School class and recite Psalm 23. He was a nervous wreck.  His teacher called on him and slowly he walked to the front of the class.  His little knees were knocking and he was sweating in spite of the air conditioning.  After what seemed like a long time,the little fellow cleared his throat and in a soft voice said,  “The Lord is my shepherd . . . and that’s all I know.”  There was nervous laughter from the other students as he returned to his seat, but you know on a very real sense, that’s all you need to know.  The rest of Psalm 23 is commentary on that opening line, “The Lord is my shepherd…”

The image of sheep and shepherd is commonly found in both Old and New Testaments of the Bible.  That is a problem for most of us who live in Texas where sheep have long ago been replaced by cattle.  Most of us have never seen a sheep except in a petting zoo.  If the psalmist had talked about cows and cowboys who take care of them, we would feel more at home.  However, even today in Israel, you would need to look long and hard to find a cow, while sheep can be seen in abundance.  The psalmist wrote and found inspiration in the familiar knowledge of sheep and shepherd.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus talked about himself as being “the good shepherd” (John 10:1 – 15).  In the Gospel, Jesus says there are two kinds of shepherds.  Some shepherds are hired to take care of the sheep that belong to others, while “the good shepherd” owned the sheep in their care.  Jesus taught us that we are the sheep of his pasture, that we belong to him.  We can trust him as the good shepherd knowing that He will take care of us.  That care is extended through the good days (green pastures and still waters) and the bad days (valley of the shadow of death).

I share this with you because it is important to me that you know that I have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, myelodysplasia.  It took me a week to learn how to pronounce that!  It is a disease in which my body has stopped making blood and I am dependent on transfusions to live.  In a very real sense, I am living on borrowed time.  I am not pleased about that, but I am at peace with that.  The Good Shepherd has walked with me for eighty years and has taught me to trust the words of Psalm 23, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”  It is wonderful that the Lord of life, is also the Lord of death.  I have learned through all I have experienced to trust the One who has given me life.  As I approach the last years of my life, it is wonderful to know the reality of which St. Paul spoke to the Romans, “ Whether I live or whether I die, I am the Lord’s (Romans 8:14).  Thanks be to God!