Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Soft Answer

There's a reason why God says, "A soft answer turns away wrath." (Prov. 15:1)

Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! (James 3:5)

Anyone who has spent more than five minutes on Facebook would agree that anger is rampant. For two years I hardly ever logged in, not even to see what's going on with family members. What passes for communication now days has gone far beyond letting our voices be heard or speaking against what we consider wrong.

Years ago I stopped watching the news, choosing to pick and choose what I want to see from different news sources on the internet. News based talk shows are unwatchable. There's little civil dialogue that will enable any kind of open-minded communication. So many have degenerated to the level of an unhealthy rage, frustrated people screaming insults at anyone they believe disagrees. Someone's pushed their hot-button. The problem is that no one is listening except those who agree with the speaker. Everyone who doesn't and might be receptive has been alienated by the condescension and contempt that drip from every syllable.

It's a downward cycle. A person feels disrespected and flings an insult at a group of people who presumably hold a position that offends them. One of that group responds with an equal insult about that person's intelligence. And thus it continues. Soon, more and more people are offended. Innocent bystanders are hit with outrageous rhetoric. Emotions heighten and open minds close. Now, everyone is offended.

There's a place for the full and open expression of opinions. My social studies, government, English, speech and debate classes--back in the dinosaur ages--were full of opinions, even unpopular ones. We were assigned or chose positions. We learned how to see both sides of an issue, how to recognize and understand how people come to their conclusions, and yes, how to counter.  Back then, not so much now days, basic courtesy was essential. During a discussion of a miners' strike, accusations of, "You don't care if your workers die and their families starve!" weren't allowed.

Civility and respect are missing in action. We rage at one another in slanderous words that dare to judge the thoughts, motivations and contents of the heart of anyone who disagrees and then consigns them to a fiery hereafter that the speaker sometimes doesn't even believe in.

Is that really how to win friends or influence people? It certainly won't get our views a fair hearing. So when we're about to post a rant  we need to ask ourselves, (1) what is the desired or expected response and (2) will the post give it to me?

Beyond the practicalities of getting the response we want, words have power. Words can comfort or crush the spirit, even when spoken to ourselves. They can poison the mind and the emotions, both in the ones who speak and in the ones who hear.

There's a place for passionate words and plain spoken truth. In Ephesians 4:15, the apostle Paul instructs us to, "speak the truth in love." It's impossible to make no moral judgments. All of our laws are based on someone's idea of what is right and wrong. The scriptures are full of judgments. Paul rebukes the Corinthians for not removing a believer who was involved in continual, flagrant sin. Where we're going seriously wrong is in our attitudes. The wrong kind of judgment is finger-pointing condemnation not of an behavior, opinion or policy, but of a person.

How we treat people matters.

Matthew 5:44  love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?

Monday, June 04, 2018

The Greatest Love of All

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay one’s life down for his friends.  - John 15:13
Not long ago a friend of mine said that he works so that he will be worthy to be saved by God’s grace. Immediately, something rose in my spirit, and I said to him that no one is worthy to be saved, to which he immediately agreed. None of us are worthy. That’s the entire point of the cross and the shedding of His blood for our sin. We don’t deserve it. It isn’t that many of us haven’t done good things and even tried to follow the golden rule. But those good works cannot make us acceptable to God because His standard is absolute perfect purity.
But why when He loves us so much? The answer lies in the nature of God.  No sinful person could stand in the presence of the power and holiness of God without being consumed. The manifestation of that power and holiness would destroy us. God is that holy. We’re fragile.

It’s not that He’s expecting us to meet a standard beyond our capability.  God wasn’t surprised that Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. In Revelation 13:8, Jesus is referred to as the Lamb (who) was slain from the foundation of the world. He knew before He said, “Let there be light,” exactly what would be required of Him.
Stop and consider the enormity of sacrifice. He, equal with God in His majesty and authority, lowered himself and became like one of His own creation.  He came to people He created in order to complete a new covenant with mankind, knowing that some would reject Him. He didn’t just die for our sin, but He became sin, the total and complete antithesis of His nature. All for those He loved.
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! Luke 13:34 (NKJV)


Saturday, May 12, 2018

--Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Matthew 5:6

It seemed too good to be true.  Me, acceptable to God, just as I am? He knew my heart's desperate desire for acceptance. I couldn't earn His extravagant love or unconditional acceptance by good grades or perfect obedience. Receiving it from the magnificent God who created the universe with a single word created a deep hunger and thirst for Him.

Though I was raised in a Christian home, we didn't always attend church. One gift my parents gave me was the absolute certainty that the Bible is God's absolute truth written to reveal Himself to us. And so I studied.  Looking back at those years when I was a teenager and a very young adult, I marvel at how little I really understood.

The promise, above, is that we'll be filled.  Filled with what? His righteousness.  Not our own, which is as filthy rags. (Isa 64:6) His, Christ's righteousness. The same righteousness that was accounted to Abraham in Genesis 15:6. He believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

In The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, John Stott said it best:

There is perhaps no greater secret of progress in Christian living than a healthy, hearty spiritual appetite. Scripture addresses its promises to the hungry. God 'satisfies him who is thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things'. (Psalms 107:9) If we are conscious of slow growth, is the reason that we have a jaded appetite? It is not enough to mourn over past sin; we must also hunger for future righteousness.

Yet in this life our hunger will never be fully satisfied, nor our thirst fully quenched. True, we receive the satisfaction which the beatitude promises. But our hunger is satisfied only to break out again. Even the promise of Jesus that whoever drinks of the water he gives 'will never thirst' is fulfilled only if we keep drinking.  (John 4:13-14; 7:37)

For me, one of the greatest joys of following Christ is simply sitting in His presence.  It was through that hunger and thirst that I,  a redeemed sinner, moved beyond head knowledge into a relationship with God. It was only by satisfying that hunger and thirst for Him by devouring His Word, spending time with Him in prayer and yielding to the Holy Spirit did my life begin to change. Obedience to the Word of God is essential. This is where the healing of my mind, my will and my emotions began. It was a process.

And I pray, today, give me a greater hunger for You. That's a prayer I know pleases Him. God is faithful. 

    For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness.  Psalm 107:9  

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Memories in the Strangest Places

Now days with a good camera in every cell phone, snapping a photo to capture a memory that will become precious and knowing the light is just right is common. But when my children were growing up there were twelve, twenty-four or thirty-six shots to a roll of film and each roll had to be sent away to be developed. It's no wonder that a lot of years the photographs were of Christmas around the tree, a birthday, graduation, Now, we can be more spontaneous.

I realized yesterday that I do have something tangible that triggers memories.Through so many moves, I've culled my collection of sewing patterns to a fraction of what it was when I was sewing for the entire family. This little girl's dress was my daughter's flower girl dress when I re-married. She was certain that our wedding--hers, mine and Greg's--would be the first day of our happily ever-after. I still have the blue dress.

The next pattern was one I made a few times for her, but the most vivid  memory was of a bold blue floral fabric on a black background and eyelet lace petticoat, also with a ruffle. The idea was to leave the bottom buttons of the skirt unbuttoned showing the petticoat ruffle. She was in high school at the time and what I didn't realize was that such a frock--much as she loved it--drew jeers and criticism from her peers. Not knowing this at first, I was deeply hurt that she'd loved the fabric and pattern and asked me to make it for her, but rarely wore it. Communication wasn't always our strong point back then. When she realized this, she wore it to church and around the house in the evenings. But until that bit of communication, I suffered unnecessary pain.

It's natural to want to remember the good times and to want to leave reminders for ourselves to remember lessons learned years later. That's why I underline passages in my Bible. It's good to look back and remember. When the Lord brought the Israelites across the Red Sea, God told them to have each of the leaders of each of the twelve tribes to bring a large stone and pile them up so that when their sons asked the meaning, they'd remember the story of their deliverance. That's what this final pattern, here, is for me. I made for myself back in 1982, to wear during a Women's Aglow ladies conference. It was a joyous time. After years of struggle, I'd come to a place where I was happy with myself and my life. The Lord had healed many of my emotional scars and I was excited to move forward. Now I look back and marvel that I survived, as many if not most, of my problems were self-inflicted through either ignorance or self-delusion.

I have few photographs of that time, but I still have mementos that evoke memories. Memories that remind me of the greatness and mercy of God.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Every Good Gift

Every good gift and perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variation or shadow of turning.

James 1:17 NKJV

We were in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, two and a half hours away from our destination of Anacordes, Washington. There was no convenient rescue, no place to rent a vehicle and no nearby auto repair. We were grateful for the tow truck USAA sent and determined to treat the episode as an adventure.

The only road to the only mechanic’s place of business was deeply rutted, packed dirt and in some places not quite wide enough for two cars to pass. As I rode higher up the mountain, squished between my husband and the tow truck driver with a nervous poodle perched on my lap, the sun began to set and the lane began to feel more like a dark tunnel. The tow-truck driver couldn’t have been more helpful, but the fumes from the diesel engine made my stomach churn, and the adventure began to wear a little thin. As darkness fell, our surroundings began to feel more than a little creepy.

Finally, after a twenty minute  bone-jarring ride that I knew would take a couple visits to my chiropractor to fix, we turned off and the driveway dipped down into one of the most beautiful hollows I’ve ever seen. With a large automobile shop on one side and a home, fenced garden and a playground for a toddler on the other, the place was lovely.

We had barely enough time for the tow-truck driver to drop us off at the U-Haul rental so we could rent a van to get our luggage. By the fourth time we drove over that bone-jarring road, I was longing for my chiropractor and a heating pad.

Sitting right on Interstate 90 in the Cascade Mountains and close to Snoqualamie Falls, North Bend is a friendly little town. We found a sandwich shop that would accept our little poodle and afterward settled into our rented U-haul to wait for our friend to make the two and a half hour trip to pick us up. I was quietly appalled at the trouble we were causing our friend. There would be, of course, a return trip to get the car.

Early Tuesday morning driving from small town to small town, we were all amazed at the beauty. It wasn’t quite the full glory of fall, but still the dew sparkled on the trees and made even the fallen leaves shine as the sun filtered through the trees. At least twice we came around a quick curve to see a little hollow with a smooth, thin layer of morning fog still hanging just inches above the meadow grass.  But, it seemed that around every bend something beautiful awaited us.

Soon, it was almost embarrassing that a couple of writers could only point and say, “Look! It’s so beautiful. Everything is just gorgeous!” Even the shape of a dead tree stump in the midst of the its hardier fellows drew my attention. Though the carpet of leaves littering the side of the road were crushed, still they shined.
As I leaned back in the seat, I felt the Lord’s smile and heard His voice in my head. “I’m glad you like it.” I got the sense that He added, “I did it for you to enjoy.”

Funny, the trip over that dirt road wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable on the return trip. Possibly it was the suspension in my friend’s van. Perhaps it was that the sense of adventure had returned.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

No Greater Gift Review by Romantic Times

I am thrilled at the wonderful reviews my new book is getting. The latest is by Romantic Times, one of THE voices of what's new and great in Romantic fiction. They gave No Greater Gift four stars out of a possible four and a half.

Remember, the release date is May 1. It's now available to pre-order as an e-book on Amazon. On May 1, you'll be able to order it, there, in paperback. 

When you search for it on Amazon, make sure you search for Teresa H. Morgan. The H is important. Here's a link: 

 Here's the review and summary:

No Greater Gift  - Four Stars, Romantic Times.

"A fast-paced family saga, this book transports readers between the current era and World War II. Characters are well-rounded, each with their strengths and weaknesses, which is refreshing. Morgan did her research on World War II, but it doesn't overwhelm the plot." -- Romantic Times
Grace Ryan has returned to her hometown expecting to help her grandmother turn her journals and her memories of WWII into memoirs, but instead finds herself at the hospital bedside of her grandmother, who begs Grace to dig into a decades-old crime of treason that could rip her family apart. Physicist Erik Petersson has suffered through a nasty divorce and the loss of his children and their love, and he agrees to help Grace decipher her grandfather’s scientific papers while on sabbatical. When Grace’s life is threatened by someone they both know, they realize they are very close to uncovering the truth.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Are Christians Really So Intolerant?

There's a lot of anger out there against Christianity and Christians. I expect it'll get worse during this political season. One of the first accusations we usually hear--and one of the mildest, lately--is that we're intolerant of other religions.

The charge of intolerance comes because we believe faith in Jesus is the only way to God. We’re perceived as arrogantly stating: if you don’t believe what I believe, you’ll spend eternity in hell. When a Christian shares their faith, it shouldn't be out of the self-righteous superiority that says that I’m right and you’re wrong, but out of brotherly love. Something along the lines of:

I’ve made a friend who brings me unspeakable joy. His compassion is endless because in his time on earth, he knew physical pain and emotional brokenness. One of his best friends betrayed Him. He experienced the rejection and scorn of his own family. Many of my relationships, my emotions and my body have been healed. I despaired of living a life of meaning, but now I have hope again. I've experienced something life-changing and I want to share it with you.

In 2009 magician Penn Jillette, an avowed atheist, spoke of his conversation with a Christian businessman. "And he was truly complimentary. It didn't seem like empty flattery. He was really kind and nice and sane and looked me in the eyes and talked to me and then gave me this Bible."

Then Mr. Jillette made a surprising statement:

"How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? If I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you and you didn't believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there's a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that...Now I know there's no God, and one polite person living his life right doesn't change that. But I'll tell you, he was a very, very, very good man, and that's really important. And with that kind of goodness, it's OK to have that deep of a disagreement."

The "problem" with the Christian worldview is that it deals in absolutes. But, don't most religions? Certainly Muslim faith does. Few people would say, in effect, “The law of gravity may work for you, but it puts limitations on me that I don't like. It doesn't work for me, so I'll ignore it.” Whether or not we choose to acknowledge gravity’s authority over us, we’re still subject to it. Sounds silly, right? The principle is the same.

Reality doesn't change because we cannot see Jesus sitting on His throne at the right hand of the Father. Some say that Jesus was a good teacher, but not the Son of God, the Creator of all. But Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except by Me.” If He is not the Son of God and, as He claims, the only way to the Father, then He was either insane, deluded or a liar.

Reincarnation and Christianity cannot both be true. After our physical deaths we are either reborn into another human body on earth, or we enter the spiritual realm--into the presence of God.

Society today seems believe that if we do good things, refrain from any gross sin, we'll go to heaven. God is love, after all. Scripture says so. Could a God of love send people to hell? Or so goes the argument.

Ah, but He must. God isn’t only love. He is also absolute holiness. When Adam and Eve sinned, God had to banish them from the garden. God certainly took no pleasure in it, but it was a necessary, and temporary, separation. God cannot have fellowship with anyone or thing less than holy. His heart is also one of deep abiding love, and He would not abandon mankind. That’s why Jesus came to die. To pay the legal price for our sin.

I have many friends who aren't Christians, and when the time is right I've shared the gospel with them. Because I love and respect them, the differences in our beliefs doesn't affect our friendship. While I don't compromise what I believe, I'm not their judge or their conscience. But, because I try to walk the walk that I talk, they know I'm a Christian. Hopefully, when they want to hear more, they'll feel so secure in our friendship they'll know they can come to me.

1 Cor 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Why, God? Part 1

For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light. -- Mark 4:22

We all wonder why innocent people die in terrorists' attacks, why children get sick or suffer despicable abuse. We see images of war and famine. We shake our fists at God and declare that a loving God wouldn't allow such things to happen. If He was good, He'd intervene and dispense justice.

Why? At the question's root is our need to understand with our minds when the very heart of faith is trusting God when we have unanswered questions. 
I try to remind myself of what I know, what I've exerienced. God is good. He never changes, and I can trust Him. I know this not only because the scriptures tell me this, but through my own relationship with Him. He has shared my sorrow, dried my tears, consoled me after my failures and given me great joy. He understands me and has  assured me I am loved.

When I demand to understand why, I forfeit the peace of God and entrance into the sabbath rest that is our right. That's having peace without understanding why. What is the alternative? Turmoil. Pain. Aloneness. Denying that God exists, or that He cares doesn't make the pain go away. It merely ensures that we walk through the inevitable suffering without the comforting presence of God.

Certainly, this isn't going to make sense to anyone who doesn't know God or have a relationship with Him. To some, the very mention of the name of God to someone in difficulty or seeing injustice often triggers the release of intense rage and bitterness.

In No Greater Gift, Grace Ryan's faith in God and in His love for her falters. She's tried to serve and obey Him her entire life, and now it appears she's lost everything. She can't help but ask why.
Though the answers aren't simple, they do exist.