On The Journey, Judy Bowman

Soaring free

There’s a red-tailed hawk that lives in my neighborhood. I don’t know if it’s a male or a female, but I’ve imagined her to be a lady. I’ve even named her. Bella. She’s big and fierce-looking and every time I see her, which is at least a couple of times a week, I smile. She’s usually perched on a fence post or power line, her intense eyes scanning the ground for her next quick bite. She’s been around here for several years now and I like to think of her as “my” hawk. I look for her every day and it’s reassuring to see her there. I admire her for being out there, in all kinds of weather, just doing what she was created for. When I see her, I think of the complexity and beauty of God’s creation. And that all of us have a place in His garden.

So many of us struggle to find our place in the world. Families suffer through divorce and estrangement. Relationships get broken and sometimes are never healed. Siblings drift apart from one another. Parents struggle when their children are victims of illness or drug use. Church families can fracture and grow cold when gossip and distrust take root and are allowed to grow. Being human means living in a broken world. Lots of folks try to make their own sense of things and find their own way through their problems. We see them chasing wealth and possessions, trying to fill the void in their hearts with acquiring things. Maybe they do okay, on some level. But that never worked for me. Giving my life to Christ allowed me to find my own place and to have peace in knowing that He is in control of everything. But unlike Bella the hawk, sometimes I don’t cooperate with God as fully and flawlessly as she does. Bella can’t sin. Her hawk’s will is perfectly conformed to her life and the part she plays in God’s creation. Whether she’s soaring over the hayfield looking for mice or plucking at her feathers as she rests on the fence post, everything she does perfectly lives out her role in the world. Bella can’t be anything less than the perfect Bella. Whereas, I can stumble and sin and mess things up, again and again.

Thankfully, God knows my wounded heart very well. He knows how weak and sinful I am. And He loves me. He gave me free will so that I can make choices on my own. This is one of the things that makes me (and all of us) different from the hawks and other animals. Free will allows us to freely love and freely serve Him, but it also allows us to make wrong decisions and wrong choices–choices that go against the will of God, and therefore go against what is good for us. These selfish choices are sinful. God will forgive us our sins and welcome us back to Him in the Sacrament of Confession. He saved us; He is saving us; He will save us. Thanks be to God!

Whenever I see Bella, I thank God for His love and grace. He created a beautiful world, full of extraordinary and gifted creatures. When Bella soars high against the clear blue of a September day, she proclaims the goodness of the Lord. She has a particular and special role to play in creation and she does it perfectly. She reminds me that I too was created for God’s purpose and pleasure and the only way I can truly live out that purpose is to let Christ have His way in my heart. I have to remember and embrace the beautiful words of St. John the Baptist: “He must increase; but I must decrease”(John 3:30). Allowing Christ to increase means putting Him first in all things — in every relationship, in every decision, in every moment of every day. It means picking up the cross that God made just for me and following Him with joy, wherever He takes me. It means embracing whatever pains or sufferings in my life as Jesus embraced Calvary and offering my pain up to Him, for His purpose. The more I decrease the more Christ lives in me and through me. I become a child of my Father and in His joy, He lifts me up. Like Bella, I rise above everything that binds and shackles me and drags me down. He gives me a perspective I could never have on my own — an eternal perspective. Like Bella, I can rise up and see things in a new light, in the light of Christ. I have the freedom that only Christ can give. Bella reminds me that God’s blessings are never-ending and He has great things in store for me, and for you.

“If I take the wings of the morning

And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

Even there Your hand shall lead me.”

Psalm 139:9-10

Glenda Smiley, Pleasant Valley Baptist Church

Pleasant Valley Baptist extends a warm, special invitation for you to worship with us each and every week.

Pleasant Valley Baptist will only have in-person Sunday morning worship until further notice. Sunday night and Wednesday Bible study will only be available on Facebook or YouTube. With the spread of the Delta variant, we want to help minimize the possibility of spread.

We must learn God’s Word can be trusted. Pastor’s message from God focused on the story recorded in Matthew 17:14-20, the man who had an out-of-control son needing healing. The disciples ask why because they failed to heal the young man. Verse 16 tells us “they could do nothing”. They could not heal because of their unbelief, not the amount of available power. When you have Jesus, you have all power. The power of God working through us is hinder by our unbelief. We need to be able to access the power of God in our lives to overcome lust of the flesh, the eyes, and the pride of life. Overcome Satan, the world, and influences from others. Hebrews 12:1, the faith chapter, speaks of “because of sin”, singular. Hebrews 11 tells us the sin is the “sin of unbelief”. Strength of self is weakness, unbelief. Often, we will do all we can and when all else fails, we look to God. Strength lies in God, not in our flesh. 2 Corinthians 12:9 tells us when we come to the end of ourselves, then are we strengthened of God in our flesh wherein God is praised and glorified. God shares His glory with no one. God uses the foolish things, the weak things, the simple things, the despised things, and the worthless things to accomplish His purpose of bringing glory to Himself. We need to stop seeking what we already have when we have Jesus, His power. Pray, trust in God and leave it with Him. God doesn’t need our help. Stop trying to fix ourselves and let God work through us for His honor and glory. When we trust, believe, and have faith, God will demonstrate Himself. This is true for our personal lives and our nation. Our nation will only see the move of God through it’s people. When we, as a person and a nation, grow closer to God, His objectives become ours.

Whosoever will repent and receive Christ will be saved. Pray confess your sin, by faith accept Jesus finished work of grace on the cross as payment for your sin. Whosoever will, will be saved to the uttermost. No almost saved. Completely saved or completely lost. Substitute your name in the place of whosoever, today!

Pray for our country, the situation in Afghanistan and around the world. Pray for God’s mercy, wisdom, and help. Pray for our President. America, our country, we are seeing the results of choosing to turn away from God, the principle of reaping what has been sown. America must pray and turn from our sin in order for God to hear from heaven and bless our land. Our hope is God and as a nation we must repent. America, indeed the world, needs for God to send revival.

Continue to pray for members Mike Cross, Denise Pitts, Betty Pitts, Larry Armstrong, Pastor and his family, Smiley’s, Mr. McClure, Beth, those who are Covid positive, and all who need our prayers. Pray for Dot McAllister, and our shut-in Lula Petty, health needs. Pray for those who have lost loved ones. Pray for souls to be saved. Pray for our churches, missionaries, and evangelist.

Join us Sunday mornings at 11 am for in-person services. All services are available on Facebook and YouTube.

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