Sowing Seeds

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

I’ve had sowing seeds on my mind since the blog two week’s ago when Jesus talked of sowing and reaping. (4 – A Teachable Moment.)

I ran into an old friend at a funeral home the other day. He asked me about my writing and my books which then prompted him to tell me about a writers’ group he had started. He wondered if I could speak to his group sometime.

He shared something of the nature of the group and their goals. I told him I’d be glad to speak to the group.

He said one reason for starting this group was to find people who would have a common interest and enjoy being together. But the underlying goal was to develop enough trust in the members that he could begin sharing his faith. I thought, “Wow!”

Then he said he had another group of men who like to fish and he had formed a fishing group of sorts—with the same goal in mind—to sow seeds and reap believers. Double Wow!

Then this week, we were at a 50th wedding celebration and sat with a bubbly woman we knew and her quiet husband. She mentioned, in passing, that he had had two heart attacks. When she had to leave for a phone call, I tried to engage this quiet man in conversation.

I asked how his health was now and he said he was back to playing senior men’s baseball since his surgery five years ago.

That opened up a flow of stories from this quiet retired preacher. He’s in two or three leagues that play several times a week. Many don’t know the Lord. He feels like this is his new ministry in retirement. He plays with them, gets to know them, and they trust him. This leads the way for witnessing opportunities and several have come to the Lord through this man’s care.

These are unique ways of engaging people in things they love and sharing the love of God with them. It occurred to me that, while starting these marvelous ministry groups is wonderful, some people can’t add one more thing to their plate. But wouldn’t it be great to have that same ministry outlook with the groups of people in which we’re already engaged?

As Jesus told the disciples in our thoughts about sowing and reaping…

“I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” John 4:35

As we have just celebrated Easter, what pleasing goals these would be to the Christ of the cross who paid it all for us.

~ Joyce ~

Worn-Out Lady

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Do you ever feel worn to a frazzle? Coming and going with way too much activity. Or responsibilities reaching mountainous heights?

I think back to when I was younger. I would grab my little girl by the hand and hoist my eighteen-month old on my hip and out the door we’d go to some activity at church.

I taught the youth on Sunday night and directed the children’s choir on Wednesday night, while supporting my Minister of Music husband in a myriad of other activities. Of course, there’s groceries, meals, cleaning, and the list goes on.

Maybe you’re into raising older children, working outside the home, plus community, church and home responsibilities.

Or you may be where I am now—old! Dealing with health issues for myself and for an aging mother and still, after all these years, trying to reduce added activities—all worthy—but asking, Lord, what’s the ones YOU want me to do?

Maybe you’re caring for a loved one and having caregiver fatigue.

This week, our unnamed woman, is probably a young. I’m guessing 24-ish. She’s likely single and definitely suffering from the fatigue of caring for her own physical needs. Her disease causes non-stop bleeding.

One week a month is do-able, but ongoing for years is quite another thing. Even worse is the fact that she would be considered religiously unclean. According to the Mosaic law, others could not lie on a bed where she has been or sit where she sat or touch anything she has touched. She is unclean. Almost like a leper!

She’s spent what money she has on seeing many doctors through the years, but instead of improving, she’s getting worse.

Without a name, we call her “the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment.” Let’s name her Martha. Martha means lady. This woman was more “lady” than she wanted to be.

…[she] had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. Mark 5:25

Therefore, no one wanted to be around her. It seems she’s been abandoned by her own family. Perhaps the only reason she can manage to move through this crowd is because they don’t know her.

She’s obviously heard of Jesus and the miraculous way he has healed many people. “Martha” figures…

“If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Mark 5:28

Jesus can heal us in many ways. It may not be a bleeding disease, but if we suffer from fatigue of any kind, we can seek our Lord’s healing power. We must pursue Him with diligence as Martha did. Reaching out, seeking His will, touching His presence. May it be so for us all.

Next week—the results.

~ Joyce ~

Points of View – Healing the Paralytic

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

A family attends a wedding. The teenage daughter sees a fairy tale wedding with a handsome groom and beautiful bride in a Cinderella gown. The middle school brother eyes the snacks and cake. The mother notices all the special touches and the well organized work in putting it all together.

The dad wonders, “How much did all this cost?”

We all have our points of view about things—this includes the synoptic Gospel writers: Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

For instance, let’s look at the healing of the paralytic man. The man can’t walk, so four friends carry him to Jesus for healing. The problem is they can’t get in the crowded house where Jesus is teaching. The friends are so determined that they carry his pallet up the side steps to the roof and let him down through the roof right to Jesus. 

Jesus notices the faith of the friends to go to all this trouble and says,

“Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:5

Listen to the thoughts of the teachers of the law as they watch this startling scene unfold.

“Why does he [Jesus] talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Mark 5:7

Knowing these thoughts, Jesus says, 

“Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘You sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But that  you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” He said to the paralytic, I tell you get up, take your mat and go home.” Mark 2:8-12

When the paralytic does exactly that, the crowd is totally amazed, and we hear no further comment from the teachers of the law. 

Now here’s the point of view from each of the writers: Mark is from Galilee where this event takes place. Flat roofs are made with mats of branches spread across wood crossbeams. On top of the mats is a thick layer of clay packed down with a stone roller. Hence,

…they made an opening above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat… Mark 2:4 

Luke, on the other hand, is from Greek territory and is primarily writing to Gentiles. Their roofs are generally made of tiles. In order to make sense to his readers, Luke describes the scene this way;

…they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd… Luke 5:19

As for Matthew, the lowering of the mat from the roof was not of particular interest to him. He is more concerned with the other parts of the story, so he doesn’t even mention the roof!

This is one of many incidents where it is helpful for us to read each account because we might learn fresh perspectives from each one. I will relate a few more in coming weeks. I hope you enjoy.

~ Joyce ~


Nehemiah – Obstacles

 Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Nehemiah rallied the wall-building troops with persuasive voice and authoritative demeanor. They divided up the work load and rebuilt side by side, neighbor next to neighbor. Even some from near-by towns came to join the project. 

As always, Satan reached out to overtake the good like a prowling lion. The obstacles began through three antagonists, one north of Judah, a second east of Judah, and a third trouble maker south of Judah, all who came to mock and ridicule.

But Nehemiah stood up to them.

“The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.” Nehemiah 2:20

The work began, priests and merchants, goldsmiths and commoners all reconstructing together. Once again, the antagonists complained and ridiculed vowing to join together in war against Jerusalem.

Nehemiah got word of their plan. Not to be undone, he posted guards day and night around the workmen. Each workman kept sword, spear, or bow with him at all times. Nehemiah prayed with them and stood by them. He reminded the workers—

“Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and daughters, your wives and your homes.” Nehemiah 4:14

The workers stayed alert and continued their work, but later, instead of trouble from without, trouble started brewing from within. A famine, due to lack of grain, had set up a series of challenges. 

“We are mortgaging our fields, vineyards, and homes to buy grain.” Nehemiah 5:3

“We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields.” Nehemiah 5:4

They complained that their fellow Jews had caused them to—

“…subject our sons and daughters to slavery.” Nehemiah 5:5

Nehemiah again met the obstacle directly. He called together the nobles and officials who had caused this situation and pointed out their lack of integrity. Their guilt was obvious.

They kept quiet for they could find nothing to say. Nehemiah 5:8

Nehemiah followed through by committing them to better practices.

These were only some of Nehemiah’s obstacles, but each time he dealt with them head on.

What a great lesson for us. We all deal with obstacles, things that set us back in some way. A wayward child who is plunging head long into dangerous territory; a health issue that is dragging us down, an aggravating kink in a major project, a gnawing flaw in a relationship. Name your issue.

Have you prayed about it? Have you grabbed the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God? Have you dealt with it head on? That would be Nehemiah’s strategy—not a bad idea!

~ Joyce ~  





Spartan Race

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

My crazy kids (son, daughter-in-law, and two grandsons) entered the Spartan Race at Fort Knox last weekend. This kind of race, held in several locations across the country and in other countries, is more than a running race; it involves a number of obstacles.

True enough, the one who gets to the best time is the winner, but it is more a test of endurance and strength. Just to make it to the end is a massive achievement. Thus, those who manage to cross the fire at the end receive a heavy medal piece to hang around their necks.

Historically speaking, the Spartans were an elite group of Greek fighting soldiers from Sparta who were renown for their prowess and ability to fight off large numbers of enemies – the real “he-men” of old.

The obstacles along the way in this race might include climbing a wire-type wall, scooting up a heavy rope and back down, swinging on movable monkey bars of sorts, carrying a heavy ball a distance (30 pounds for women, 50 pounds for men), or crawling under a barbed-wire fence. Well, you get the idea. I’m already worn out just thinking about it!

Combine this with the fact that the temperature last Friday was nearing 97 degrees with a heat index well over 100. Can you say perseverance? It reminds me of the words of the writer of Hebrews;

… let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1

Of course you are beginning to see the comparisons to our own lives. Sometimes we feel like we’re in a race of endurance.

A young mother feels overloaded keeping her household duties going with her children, meals, school preparations, while working at a demanding job. A husband has a demeaning boss who expects the impossible and then he goes home to rebellious teenagers. A wife spends hours taking her husband back and forth for medical treatments, wondering all the while how much longer he will have to live. A daughter deals with the endless tasks of dealing with an aging parent. Parents are at their wits end with what to do about their drug-addicted son.

If you can’t complete an obstacle in the Spartan Race, you have to do 30 “Burpees” (a series of arms up, squat, push feet back, do a push-up, squat, stand.) 

Periods of our lives may feel like this at times. Obstacles beyond what we can bear followed by something equally challenging.

Once again the Hebrew writer gives us advice;

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross. Hebrews 12:2

When we are overwhelmed with the troubles of life, may we hear Jesus words;

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Did my kids make it over the finish line? Stay tuned next week!

~ Joyce ~


50th Wedding Anniversary

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

A personal narrative this week. This Saturday will mark fifty years of marriage for my husband and me. I always thought that just happened to old people! But here we are at this special milestone.

They say opposites attract, but that can cause some problems. In our case, we had many similarities—both coming from Christian families, believers ourselves, both music majors, outgoing, organized—perfectly compatible, right? Well, simalarities can cause problems, too.

While Jim worked on his Masters in Church Music at the seminary, I taught music in elementary school. We moved on to serve in music ministry at a church in Somerset, KY where I served as Children’s Choir Coordinator and he as the Minister of Music.

As long as we remained in our own boxes (he with the overall music program and me with children), everything went smoothly, but there were times I had ideas that reached into his domain or he dictated things in my domain. The protection of turf began.

At first we offered subtle suggestions. When one didn’t embrace the suggestion, the other became defensive. As we looked back after a few years, we realized that we were getting in each other’s box. As children came along, the territory lines continued. 

How easy it is to fall into destructive habits; finding faults, being critical, etc.

Every couple has their “thing.” We became aware of our challenge and worked to correct it, hoping to follow Paul’s encouragement.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. I Corinthians 13:4-5

Ouch, that last one gets too close to home. I rather imagine keeping records, whether on paper or in minds, is a sticking point in many marriages.

We tend to number the offensives without putting enough love deposits in each other’s love bank to compensate. I remember the shame I felt when I started to practice holding my tongue in certain settings. After about the fifth time, I realized how critical I had become. Words that hurt or demean were just about to roll out automatically. It does indeed take patience and kindness to retrain ourselves. 

Over the years, we have worked very hard on our marriage, because any relationship requires careful, continual balance. I often write a note on wedding cards encouraging the new couple to give heed to communication and to work toward caring for their spouse’s needs more than their own needs. Finally, I urge them to plan on simply working hard on their marriage.

Paul also declared that;

[Love] always protects, always hopes, always perseveres. I Corinthians 13:7

I used to wonder when we would ever get to that place where I saw older couples who seemed settled and more in love than ever. I believe we’re there.

God has guided us through many challenges. Challenges will still come, but I can say that I love and enjoy Jim Cordell with all my heart and look forward to many more years to call him my husband.

~ Joyce ~

David – Persistence, Patience, Hope

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart


So what does one do when one is waiting for a replaced knee to heal? Exercise, rest, prop up with ice packs, eat, sleep, pile up ice packs, exercise, take pain pills—did I mention ice packs? Then, of course, spend time in the last thirteen chapters of I Samuel with David on the run from Saul.

Doesn’t everybody do that?

In my ample time for pondering, I’ve wondered if David might have thought about the time when Samuel came to anoint him as the next king of Israel. It was a a quiet little ceremony with family and a few friends. Did it seem like a far away dream to David now?

Here he was—conqueror of the Philistine giant, a leading soldier in Saul’s army, slayer of ten thousands, talented harpist in the kingdom, faithful follower. Why then, why did Saul pursue him? That’s his constant question for Saul.

In last week’s blog, David could certainly have taken Saul’s life, but he didn’t. Another time, David slipped into Saul’s nighttime camp and could have easily killed Saul with the king’s own spear, but once again, David spared Saul’s life. When Saul realized that it was David’s voice he heard across the valley and that David had proof (Saul’s own spear) that he had been within inches of Saul’s head, Saul called out with a sugar-dipped voice,

“Is that your voice, David my son?” I Samuel 26:17, 18

Saul realizes that once again David could have killed him. Somehow David continues to honor the position of the anointed one. David has more honor than the king himself. Saul appears convicted, but David doesn’t buy it. 

David must ask the questions we we all do at times. How did it come to this? What have I done to deserve this? Where are those wonderful dreams of what could be, what should be? Pity-party time.

Yet David perseveres in the midst of it all. He has not forgotten that he is a son of Israel, a child of the one-God. He has gathered together a small band of 600 soldiers, mostly riffraff like himself who have ended up in a runaway status for one reason or another. David manages to find refuge with a Philistine official, persuading the official that he is trustworthy. David and his men are given the land of Ziglag. 

When trouble brews with his own men, he still endures the challenge with patience and verses like these are tucked in the narrative every now and then.

But David found strength in the Lord his God. I Samuel 30:6

David didn’t live to hear Paul speak the following words, but David lived these words.

We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but also we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4

I’m learning with David that great victories don’t come quickly. Hope comes in baby steps. I struggle to lift a foot or the leg even an inch in exercises. It seems I get nowhere and one day, I can move two inches. Then after hundreds of attempts that knee pops right up where it should be. Victory in struggle! 

How many times must we learn these lessons? As many times as it takes!

~ Joyce ~


Joseph – ‘Will I ever get out of here?”


Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Unfortunately, Joseph is still in prison where we left him last week. He had interpreted both the dream of the baker, who ended up being hanged, as predicted, and the dream of the cupbearer who was restored to his position, as predicted.

The last verse of this episode says:

The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him. Gen. 40:23

What a bummer. Here Joseph predicted such hope for the cupbearer, then he gleefully goes right back to life as usual, leaving Joseph to continue languishing in the prison.

Worse yet, the very next verse in the next chapter says, “When two full years had passed…” You remember how these gaps always bring me to an absolute halt to ask, “What happened during those two years?”

I guess we can assume that Joseph continues to be the leader, so-to-speak, while the prison warden sits on his laurels. Day in and day out, same routine. But I ask myself, “What is Joseph thinking? Does he hold on to hope for a few days after the cupbearer leaves? When that doesn’t pan out, does he reason that it would take a little time to resume the routine in the palace and then the cupbearer will mention this amazing dream interpreter to the Pharaoh?

Does Joseph think. “Okay, maybe next month?” After six months go by, does he give up all hope? Does he feel abandoned? After a year, does he completely forget about it himself? Does it seem like it never happened?

Does Joseph interpret other dreams? Does he talk to other prisoners about his One-God. Does he maintain God-like attitudes? Does he pray?

Truth is, we simply don’t know, but likely he is learning that hard task of perseverance that I mentioned last week. I just want us to pause long enough to remember that day after day, Joseph is in the monotonous confinement of prison life. No TV, no cell phone to entertain him, no books to read, no games to play, very little conversation, just routine with one day looking like the day before, until:

When two years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: Gen: 41:1

Ah, yes, a dream—Joseph’s specialty! Here’s the dream:

[Pharaoh] was standing by the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds. After them seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank. And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Gen. 41:2-4

That’s the first dream. With seven’s still on his mind, Pharaoh has a second dream.

Seven heads of grain, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other heads of grain sprouted—thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the healthy, full heads. Gen. 41:5-7

Hmm. Seems to be a theme here. Well, the troubled Pharaoh sends for all his wise men to interpret his dreams, but they fail miserably. At last, the light bulb goes off in the cupbearer’s head. The time has come! The cupbearer says:

“Today I am reminded of my shortcomings…” Gen>41:9

The cupbearer proceeds to tell the whole story of the time when he and the baker were in prison and how Joseph accurately interpreted their dreams. That’s just what Pharaoh needs to hear. 

So Pharaoh sent for Joseph. Gen. 41:14

Finally! Just what we have been waiting for.

Ever have that final breakthrough you’ve been hoping for? How you appreciate it after months or maybe years of praying and waiting. However, let us not forget the lessons Joseph learns in this waiting time—learning more leadership skills, dream interpretations, interaction with rough and tumble prisoner-types, and perseverance. Lessons for the next fourteen years.

Next week, to the palace! 

~ Joyce ~

Joseph – Organizing the Prison

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week, we left Joseph in prison, taken there unjustly by his master, Potiphar. Even there, Scripture tells us that…

…the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. Gen. 39:21

Like Potiphar, the prison guard sees a difference in this man. God empowers Joseph with a winsome way.

So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did. Gen. 39:22-23

Again, like Potiphar, the warden just lays back and turns things over to Joseph.

We can only conjecture on what his duties might include. Maybe organize the men into groups? Have more responsible prisoners serve food to the others? Assign duties like scrubbing floors or cleaning toilet areas? (Not like our toilets, of course.) Keep fights at bay? Organize brief walks? Whatever he does, it works well and the warden trusts Joseph completely. Even in the dark days of prison confinement, Joseph is learning leadership skills.

My motto is, “never waste a bad experience without learning and growing from it.” Indeed, Joseph takes lemons and makes lemonade.

We will see him grow in another area when two more men are brought to the prison—the king’s cupbearer and the king’s baker. The captain of the guard assigns them to Joseph.

After some time, the two new prisoners both have dreams on the same night.

When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So he asked, “Why are your faces so sad today?”

“We both had dreams,” they answered, “but there is no one to interpret them.” Gen. 40:6-8

Then, and still today, dreams are very important to those in mid-eastern cultures. Joseph is about to learn that the ability to interpret dreams is yet another gift the Lord has given him.

Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.” Gen. 40:8

The chief cupbearer goes first.

“In my dream, I saw a vine in front of me, and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup and put the cup in his hand.” Gen. 40:9-11

Joseph interprets the dream. 

“The three branches are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer.” Gen. 40:12-13

The cupbearer is so pleased that he stops listening at this point. He really doesn’t pay any attention to Joseph when he asks the cupbearer to put in a good word for him to Pharaoh.

Next comes the baker’s dream interpretation. Unfortunately, he didn’t fare so well when Joseph interprets his dream.

“Within three days Pharaoh will lift off  your head and hang you on a tree. and the birds will eat away your flesh. Gen. 40:19

Yikes, not such good news for the baker. Joseph calls it as God reveals it and both dreams accurately come true. 

This time in prison has not gone to waste. The Lord has been with Joseph, expanding his leadership skills and teaching him about dream interpretations. Hope is growing in Joseph, but he has another character lesson to learn first—perseverance.

…we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance: perseverance, character: and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4

May you find strength in the Lord today in whatever phase you find yourself. Character-building is hard work.

~ Joyce ~