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Happy Birthday, Dad

Today, November 26, is my dad’s 89th birthday.  His life is a testimony of strengthening grace.

John W. Rayhill was born under difficult circumstances, raised during the depression on a farm where he had to work hard and take care of what he had.  He was a step-son and the oldest of ten children.

He attended a small country church in the Fairdale, Kentucky, area.  The pastor’s wife took an interest in him when he was just a lad and invited him to play his simple instruments on Wednesday’s youth services.   She loved him and encouraged him in a way he desperately needed.

Dad invited Jesus to be his Savior at 10 years old and served Him for the next 79 years.  He taught a class of young boys in the 1950’s – 60’s that no one else could manage.  He took them camping, made a simple movie of the prodigal son with them, invited them into his home, and saw the majority of them become fine Christian men.  He served on church building committees and was the chief contractor for a large church in Louisville, taking a minimal salary during the process.  He pastored a small church for a few years and has taken the pastoral role for people of other churches by loving, counseling, and praying for them through the years.

Dad married my mother in 1942 and thought he was the most blessed man alive, even until her death in 1983.  He treated her like queen all those 41 years.

During World War II, he joined the Army as a conscientious objector, willing to serve his country but not wanting to carry a weapon.  The Army didn’t quite know what to do with him, so they transferred him from base to base making it difficult for Dad to settle in and make any friends.   He finally found a place as a medic and a cook, baking turkey dinners on Thanksgiving and cherry pies under battle conditions, for which he received an award.

My husband calls him“Pop.”  Dad found a place in his heart for Bill long before we ever dated.  My son, Travis, calls him “Gramps,” and he has been a role model of a strong yet gentle, godly man.

After mother’s death, dad married my step-mother, Esther, and has loved and taken care of her, prayed for her children and made her a part of our family. 

He has been the best dad a little girl could have wanted, modeling a Christ-like character and making me feel like a princess.  He still calls me his little girl and thinks I am wonderful.  He is my cheerleader and president of my fan club.

Today he celebrates 89 years – a man after God’s heart, a servant who has ministered to a multitude, a teacher of the Word, a herald of the Lord’s second coming, a prayer warrior whose prayer lists are worn and tattered from his daily prayers and tears.

Dad will never see this on-line unless I show it to him.  He is not computer savvy or a techie by any means.  He is just a simple man who has loved abundantly and walked his journey thus far strengthened by grace.  His is a life well-lived, and I am blessed to be his daughter.  

Happy Birthday, Dad.  May your life be fruitful for years to come.  I love you!

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Oh look, it’s Jesus!

Jeff Flowers plays a mean drum at Little Flock Baptist Church.  I had the privilege of being part of the band with Jeff, Gabriel Hoskins, and Randall Skaggs for the singing portion of Wednesday evening services for a while this year.  It was a good time and good worship, playing with a talented group of musicians.

Jeff has been the main media man during many of Little Flock’s Academy of Arts spring and fall recitals since I came to Little Flock in 2007.  Jeff does what he does well, and I have depended on him to keep me on rhythm in the band and to make recitals run smoothly.

I consider it a privilege to call Jeff my friend.  He has a heart for ministry and strives for excellence whether it’s on the drum set or in the balcony running sound and light.

Jeff has a mop of curly reddish-blond hair that hangs way down his back.  Mostly he keeps it pulled back from his face.  But one morning during Sunday worship time, the camera focused on the drum cage, and there was Jeff with his hair flowing around his shoulders while he flailed the drums.  I leaned over to my Sweet William and said, “Look, Jesus is playing the drums this morning.”

Jeff told me he gets that comment often.  He definitely has the hair style of our expectation of Jesus, like the old pictures that used to hang in my childhood Sunday school classes.

The thought swirled around in my brain, “Jesus is playing the drums.”  Shouldn’t something similar be said of all of us who call ourselves “Christian?”

What if it was not just our outward facade people noticed?  What if Jesus shined so brightly during our everyday activities that people would notice and respond, “Oh look, Jesus is stocking shelves today.”  “Jesus is answering phones today.”  “Jesus is teaching school today”  “Jesus is constructing a house today.”  You get the picture, don’t you?

Someone recently sent me an email with this thought:  “Those who walk with Christ bring the presence of God to everyone around them.”

What a challenge that is to me, to reflect Jesus in my daily activity at work, at home, and every other place I find myself.  How about when I’m driving or waiting in the long grocery line, or when I’m in a hurry and no one else seems to be?  Yes, that is the challenge.

Thanks, Jeff, for demonstrating to me that our purpose in this life is to show Jesus to the world, whether that’s playing music for worship or fixing breakfast for my family or giving my best at the work place.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels,” Paul tells us, “that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”                  (2 Corinthians 4:7)

The earthen vessel that I am is the sanctuary of the presence of the Almighty God.  Show Yourself glorious in me, Lord, show Yourself glorious!

Love story

In the upper room this week we came near the end of Ruth’s story. 

We relished in the first few verses of the final chapter of Ruth.  Boaz redeemed Naomi’s property, and got Ruth in the deal.  In this intriguing saga, Ruth finally became Boaz’s wife.  No longer would she be called Mahlon’s widow, or that foreigner, or the Moabitess.  She was now wife to the one in Bethlehem who was known and respected in his community.  Along with her title came all the privileges, benefits, and standing that were his.  She found the rest that Naomi sought for her.  She took off her widow’s garb and exchanged it for a wedding gown.  A song flutters through my mind: 

I’m trading my sorrows.  I’m trading my pain.  I’m laying it down for the joy of the Lord.   I’m trading my sickness.  I’m trading my shame.  I’m laying it down for the joy of the Lord.

Ah, Ruth, you have drawn us a picture of a Proverbs 31 woman, a woman of nobel character, a woman who fears the Lord.  And just as promised, “she shall be praised.”  By laying down at Boaz’s feet, Ruth demonstrated a sweet surrender, a willingness to wait for a faithful man to stand true to his word. 

Can you see yourself laying your life down, surrendering absolutely everything to the Lord Jesus Christ, and waiting with hopeful endurance for Him to fulfill His word in you and through you?  It is that kind of sweet surrender that brings rest and the promise of every spiritual blessing He offers.

Ruth’s story was not what I am accustomed to seeing on TV or on a movie.  The beauty of these characters was revealed from the inside out.  Their ordinary lives provided a backdrop as we watched God’s providential hand move until Ruth and Boaz were face to face.  Their meeting, their marriage was part of a greater plan.

Perhaps now we’d like to hear, “And they lived happily ever after.”  But we know better.  Just being a wife and mother will bring Ruth untold challenges.  I believe she was in it for the long haul, a “long obedience” Kelly Minter described it.  It is an obedience that does the right thing even when it is hard, even when it looks like a long, dark road to travel before daylight.  Even when we weep while we still press forward.

In the pages of Scripture we discover real people experiencing real life with real problems.  The enduring theme from Genesis to Revelations is God’s involvement in their lives and His unrelenting love for them.  His love reaches the world and each of us individually, as amazing as that is to try to comprehend.  It is the greatest love story ever written.

And I just love a good love story!                                   

Do the right thing

Throughout the study of Ruth I have marveled at the words and actions of both Ruth and Boaz.  Here’s what I have observed about Ruth:

  • She not only confessed her loyalty to Naomi back in Moab, she put feet to her promise and followed her to Bethlehem
  • She took the initiative to find a field where she could glean to provide food for the two of them.
  • She worked diligently through two harvest seasons.
  • She built a reputation in Bethlehem of being a woman of noble character, not an easy thing for a Moabitess in Israel.
  • She trusted and took Naomi’s advice to go to the threshing floor and ask Boaz for his redemption, not just for her sake but for her dead husband and the family name.

Now consider Boaz.  His character shines from the moment we met him.

  • He was a man of power and position in his community, yet he exercised it with kindness and care to those working in his field.
  • He showed unusual kindness to a foreign outcast and to a bitter widow.
  • He provided for Ruth from their first encounter.
  • He accepted his responsibility as kindsman redeemer.
  • He followed through on his word.

What I see in both Ruth and Boaz are integrity, industry, kindness, truthfulness, commitment, loyalty. 

It causes me to ponder:  Virtues.  Character.  Who I am when no one is looking.

Character-training.com describes it like this, “the stable and distinctive qualities built into an individual’s life which determine his or her response regardless of circumstances.”

Ruth and Boaz did the right thing simply because it was right to do the right thing.

No wonder their story is recorded for us and preserved in the Holy Bible.  Their lives are examples for all of us (1 Corinthians 10:11) . 

Whether we realize it or not, we make lots of decisions throughout each day, each of them guided by our character. 

Look in the mirror of your soul as I look at mine.  Who are we when no one is looking?  As we stand at our points of daily decisions, perhaps we will move forward more easily by just deciding to do the right thing. 

Enough said.

Who are you . . . really?

Who are you?  Really.  When the make-up comes off, when the hair gel and spray are all washed out, when the designer clothes, the three-inch heels , and the big bold handbag are no longer the first things people see, who are you?  I’ve been asking myself that question.  Am I real beyond the nice appearance I try to present?

Last night our sweet group of women gathered in the upper room once again to share what we are learning about Ruth, Naomi, and the man in their lives, Boaz.  He has made an appearance in chapter 2 as one who showed great kindness to Ruth, allowing her to glean in his fields, providing her with parched corn and water, and offering her protection.

We talked about what caught Boaz’s attention when he saw Ruth gleaning in his fields.  Was it her foreign features, her widow’s garb?  She was different, no doubt.  And she was definitely a Moabite, one of the despised enemies from Israel’s past.  Scripture does not mention her physical appearance as the deciding factor in Boaz choosing to show Ruth favor.  What he did notice was Ruth’s character traits.  Along with being a hard worker,  loyal, humble, and diligent, Ruth’s kindness to Naomi was an outstanding attribute that was the talk of Bethlehem.  And Boaz took note of it.

The Hebrew word “hesed” is used frequently throughout the book of Ruth, as Kelly Minter tells us in her study guide.  It means a “cluster of concepts, all the positive attributes of God –love, mercy, grace, kindness, goodness, benevolence, loyalty, covenant faithfulness .  . . ” (The New American Commentary by Daniel Block).  It is a very strong word for kindness.  It is what Ruth showed to Naomi and what Boaz showed to Ruth.

In our present world when people are noticed for their wealth, education, achievement, and of course, beauty, simple kindness is rated high on the heavenly scale. 

As I consider my appearance and putting my best face forward to the world, I cannot forget the Bible’s instructions and advice on what to wear.   It tells me to put on compassion, kindness, humility, and patience (Colossians 3:13, 1 Peter 5:5).  Sounds a bit like hesed to me.

As we delve into session three of our study of Ruth, I am compelled to offer kindness to my fellow travelers.  Some things seem to be the order of business for the week ahead:  an unexpected offer of help, a word of encouragement, a small surprise, a cup of coffee, a smile or warm hug. 

Showing hesed to others is pleasing to God, a way I can bring Him glory.  Someone needs to know the hesed of God and of the Christ who offered the most amazing kindness ever by being the bridge between God and man.   I’d really like that someone to be me.  

As I prepare for this day, putting on Christ and His character will be an extreme make-over.  It will take the power of the Holy Spirit living in me to accomplish such a monumental task.  I’d like kindness to be what people notice about me.  And I very much long to be real.

I’ve got a few things in mind already, ways to show some extra kindness.  Will you join me this week?  I’d like to hear from you.  Is your hesed showing?