By Doug Bell : “Elvis Banners” my childhood, & how I learned to pray the names of God

doug in sunday schoolI can remember many things about the church I grew up in as a boy. The smell of old books, the sound of the older people talking, learning from a felt board about Bible stories and so on. Of course there were many times, as a young child, I didn’t get what all was going on around me; so I remember laying over in my Moma’s lap where she would rub my arms while the preacher preached. She didn’t realize it but I was busy, very busy. For example one Sunday I might count the lights, or the stained pine planks that made up our sanctuary’s ceiling. Very busy, very important things were going on there as I fought sleep.

Something else that remains crisp in my memory were the banners that hung around the sanctuary that listed the names of God. They were white fabric with big blue letters outlined in shiny blue sequins. This could have caught my eye due to me being a HUGE Elvis fan. Who can forget the Vegas years and the jump suits? Nevertheless, I learned the names of God and what those names meant by counting and staring at these banners. Now, hear me out. There is but ONE God. He has many names and those names describe His character.

Many years later I learned to include these names in my prayer life, much like Jesus did. “Hallowed be thy name” Jesus taught the disciples to pray in this manner. I want to share this with you, so that you too might include worshiping the names of God in your prayer lives. Below is a list of 8 names of God, there meaning and there benefit.

For example: When you pray you might take the first name “Jehovah Tsidkenu” and say something like this… “Lord, thank you for being my righteousness, it is because of you that I am forgiven of all sin and that sin does not keep me from loving and being loved by you.” Amen.

Try this out as you open up your prayer life to becoming an exciting time rather than a responsibility of discipline. The Bible suggests this, “The name of the Lord is like a strong tower, the righteous run to it and are safe.” Proverbs 18:10. Give it a try now and make this a part of your everyday prayer life. Enjoy!

OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME

Worship the name of God, corresponding with the benefits in the new covenant, and make your faith declarations:

Jehovah Tsidkenu – Meaning: Our Righteousness – Benefit: I am forgiven of all sin.
Jehovah M’Kaddesh – Meaning: Our Sanctifier – Benefit: I am set apart for ministry.
Jehovah Rapha – Meaning: Our Healer – Benefit: I have health and healing.
Jehovah Nissi – Meaning: Our Banner of Victory – Benefit: I am secure and victorious.
Jehovah Raah – Meaning: Our Shepherd – Benefit: I am led by the Holy Spirit
Jehovah Shalom – Meaning: Our Peace – Benefit: I have peace and sanctuary.
Jehovah Shammah – Meaning: The Lord is There – Benefit: I have God’s presence and power.
Jehovah Jireh – Meaning: Our Provider – Benefit: I have success and provision

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“PRAY” part I, scriptures

I Thessalonians 5:16-18
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

2 Chronicles 7:13-14
13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Matt 6:9-13
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 
Give us today our daily bread.
12 
And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 
And lead us not into temptation,[a]
    but deliver us from the evil one.[b

Romans 8:15 NLT
15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.[a] Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”
Proverbs 18:10 The Message
God’s name is a place of protection— the righteous can run there and be safe.

Luke 12:31Living Bible (TLB)
31 He will always give you all you need from day to day if you will make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.

Psalm 121:1-2Living Bible (TLB)
121 Shall I look to the mountain gods for help? 2 No! My help is from Jehovah who made the mountains! And the heavens too!

1 John 1:9New International Version (NIV)
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Ephesians 6:12New International Version (NIV)
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Jeremiah 32:17
17 “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.

Rev 5:13
13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
    be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”

Matchbox Cars and Rollie-Pollies (being happy with who you are) by Doug Bell

carwashHappiness. Webster’s dictionary defines happiness as contentment, or a pleasurable or satisfying experience. We all want it, we all look for it, yet at times it seems to be as elusive as Big Foot sun bathing in a pot of gold near the end of a rainbow. The promise of happiness can be found everywhere. Look no further than the latest gadget that will change you life forever. Who can deny ‘the clapper’ was what we’d all been waiting for? How else could we go on, night after night getting in the bed forgetting to cut the lamp off next to us, without the ability to clap and turn it off or on again?

We are promised that happiness comes with a new phone, a new car or a new marriage only to find the new always wears off and with it seems to go little pieces of happiness. I want to share with you a happy time in my life, before I thought you had to seek happiness and I was convinced happiness sought me. A time, so it seemed, happiness was waiting on my waking every morning.

The trees grew tall on the west side of the long, almost shot gun house,  I grew up in. This kept the grass from ever growing and the dirt was prime. Prime real-estate for a little boy with matchbox cars, and I was that little boy. I had the general lee, the A-Team van and a matchbox car wash to clean them at the end of every ‘epic’ day. I had dirt roads and farmed rollie-pollies much like you would cattle. Hours on end from the aggravation of the morning dew till the warm buzzing of the street light at night. If you needed me that’s where you’d find me, playing in the dirt.

I was also blessed to have a wooded ‘forrest’ across the road from my house, though I lived close enough to the town square to read the courthouse clock, when it worked. One day as I blazed trails through this great wilderness I found myself a grocery cart! To you that may seem like a small thing, to me it seemed like I had struck Sutter’s gold! Oh the possibilities and boy did I come up with one. A neighborhood friend and I, sprayed that baby black, put a cardboard box on top, cut out windows with red curtains, making this former grocery hauler into a LIMOUSINE.

Taking turns, one of us would push while the other pretended to be some one important, and completely feeling the part. Both pushing and riding made me happy. On one hand I was serving a very important person and helping them get to where they needed to be, and from the inside I’m sure I was that important person, probably President Ronald Reagan. While I was really neither of those, the happiness wasn’t found in being them, the happiness I found was in being me. No person alive was any happier riding in their stretch Cadillac than I was riding in a cardboard box sitting on top of a grocery cart.

See happiness isn’t the result of getting something you want, happiness comes from making the most of what you already have. I think Webster called it ‘contentment.” It brought me great pleasure to be the one who served the important people as well as my turn to pretend I was the important one. We all need to experience both serving and feeling important in this life.  In reality, you are important, even if you don’t feel that way.  Look, happiness is not that elusive if you know where to look.  Happiness doesn’t come from the outside, it comes from within.

Today think of the times you have been really happy, rediscover the satisfaction of simplicity, serving others and imagination. Really life is about perspective, yes it could always be better, but more than likely it could also always be worse. I’ll never forget a truth I learned about perspective from a book called The Noticer : If in your sack lunch you discover a can of sardines and a can of potted meat, you can either look at it like your eating sardines and potted meat from a can, or like you’re feasting on a surf and turf at a picnic.

By the way, if you are ever in Holly Springs MS, drive through the brick and iron gates down a little road called Johnson Park to street number 244, there you will find the house I grew up in, and if you ask I bet the new home owners will show you.. “LIMO ROAD” the sign I painted in yellow, on the house, thirty something years ago.

“Clapping off” till next time. Have a great day!

Grey Hair, Dark Hair and No Hair, by Doug Bell

final pic hairI am a bald male.  This has been true for many years, but until this morning I didn’t realize what all that entailed. As I walked into a local establishment, a purveyor of fine coffee, I saw many distinguished looking men and women scattered about.  All were nicely dressed, seemed to be talking about important things and looked intelligent.  Ok, what does this have to do with my bald head?  Well, they all had one distinguishing trait, not only did they have hair, it was ‘salt and peppered’ hair.

What occurred to me next was, I’ll never have ‘salt and peppered’ hair.  No one will ever look at me and think, “he’s nicely dressed, seems to be talking about important things, and looks intelligent based on his hair.”  That, in and of itself, is no big deal and I won’t lose any sleep over this tonight, but what it did was caused me to think… Why do we assume someone is intelligent and has wisdom based on their ‘look’?

I’m glad you asked, ok I asked, but i’ll answer us just the same.  It’s the salt, in the peppered hair, that causes us to take notice.  You know the ‘grey’ that so many spend their life trying to avoid and life makes every effort to give it to you anyways. Grey hair is a sign, an indicator of many things. To the ‘greying’ its a sign of aging and departure from youth.  To those with discerning eyes, it’s an indicator that this person has been through some things and has learned the right or maybe the wrong ways to approach life.

Here’s where it all gets messy.  Aging people carry something that youth need, it’s called wisdom.  Wisdom that only comes from experiences in life, and can’t be found in a book or bestowed by a university. Young people also carry something the aging envy, and that is youth.  Rather than combining our efforts and cohabiting we often see the ‘bitter’ aging against the ‘rebellious’ youth and vice versa.  It’s a cycle that visits each generation, look at your own lives and you will find this to be true to some extent.

The ‘rock’n & roller’ of the 70’s listening to Starland Vocal Band’s “afternoon delight’ is now the grandparent of the teen bumping Miley’s “wrecking ball.”  Ok, here’s my point, lets sum this up.  To some extent, this will always be the case, and I’m not sure we could or should try to change this.  I am proposing however that we learn from one another and rather than being bitter or rebellious, appreciate each other.  Fact is, all of us were young, and if we are lucky all of us will age.  This being the case, let’s help one another and in doing so we both might learn something.

Oh yeah.. and what makes me the authority on this subject?  Well, I’m bald, so i’m the obvious neutral party between the dark and the grey.

“So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.”        Psalm 71:18

“Enjoy Your Time” a life thought, by Doug Bell

Image

I recently walked out of the home I grew up in for what could be the last time. After a lifetime of, up until now, walking out that door without hesitation.  Taking for granted the “open door policy” I had always enjoyed in my home, now I realized there would be new keys to new locks, new families, new memories and none would be mine.  I found myself whirling around as if to steal a glimpse of the “me” who used to live there with the “those” who made it my home.  For a frozen moment I could sense the fear and wonder of the pressure cooker on our stove.  I could smell the cedar tree my dad and I had hurriedly taken from the side of some country back road.  My ears were tuned in for that split second, to hear the voice of my Moma calling “Doug.”

These are all gone now.  The pressure cooker is packed away, the cedar tree has long since been removed and the voice that calmed storms in my young life is recorded, but no longer producing new material.  What remains?  The memories. They come to mind at the most inconvenient times for tears but also come when a smile has too long been absent.

We are born thinking in terms of forever, only our “forevers” are much to narrow.  We see life as having always been a certain way and therefore it will continue to always be such a way.  Forever is an eternal state, meaning there was and there will be an immeasurable time span on each side of our little lives.  There is nothing new under the sun and everyone goes through the ups and downs of existing.  Often in our small-mindedness we consider our “good times” to be the best ever and our “bad times” to be the worst ever, and no one else can understand either or both.

Let me put it this way.  You are not alone.  I hope that statement is as comforting to you who read this as it was to me when I wrote it.  We are people.  We experience life, both good and bad. While I can never feel your reaction to it, I have had many of the same circumstances that force me to have reactionary feelings also.  Let’s share togetherness and laugh with those who laugh and weep with those who weep.  Let’s comfort them who mourn and celebrate with those who are excited.  Let’s remember the past, yes, but let’s heal and learn toward our future.

The memories of my wonderful life, I will always have, and I now make new ones daily.  The roles are the same, just with new characters playing the parts.  The little “booger bear” as my Daddy used to call me, is now the Daddy and I have two little “booger bears” of my own.  And one day if God blesses me, I’ll be the “Papa” my grandkids will remember as the greatest ever, complete with a “world’s greatest papa” shirt or tie.  It’s true also that one day, they will lay this Daddy and Papa down to rest and I’ll want my family to continue the line of life.  But today is NOT that day, at least not as of 11:05am, “ha” “ha.”

So I will remember, but I will not live in the past.  I will heal.  Yes I still hurt, I’m two years removed from losing my Daddy and five months removed from losing my Moma.  I find healing though, as I become for others what I once had, in them.  Understand?  Life is not a circle, it’s a straight line.  We won’t come back around but we can move forward.  We must move forward. Moving forward is not a choice we are given, but how we move forward is.

Ya see… there is a pressure cooker on my stove. There’s a beautiful tree my boys stare at with wonder. When Paxton and Cooper come in the door, they are not wondering if the locks or the family inside will change.  They hear their Moma’s and my voice, it calms the storms of their lives.  And one day, yes it won’t be long really, they will whirl around to catch a glimpse of us, “tune in” t0 hear our voice, and likely tears will be spilled… But because of Jesus, because of God’s Son, they will smile and raise their families much like they were raised, knowing their mom and dad are waiting for them, hoping for them and speaking to God on their behalf’s.

I wrote this for you who are in ‘our stage’ of this life, where holidays can be tough, shoot just ordinary Thursdays can be tough.  I want you to know there is power in prayer. There is power in His Word.  There is power in together.  I am proof of all of this.  My pain is very minimal my healing has been swift.  No, I will not apologize for this, I know it has been the hand of God.  I also know since He did this for me He can and He will do this for you.

Let me go for now with this…… “ENJOY YOUR TIME” she said, as I sat there at Starbucks.  Three simple words, this person had no idea, they changed my life.

Merry Christmas 2013,

Doug

“Born Into Privilege” a healthy dose of perspective, By Doug Bell

ImageIt’s just an exit ramp to most people.  There’s few things there that are noticed outside of it’s city limits.  Fox News’ Shepherd Smith might well be the most recognizable face in it’s storied history, so far.  For many years the food choices ranged from SONIC drive-in to… well come to think of it, initially there was only the SONIC drive-in.  A place where you were easily recognized by the shape of your head lights as you cruised the route around the square to the south end gas station.  This place I speak of is Holly Springs MS, my hometown.

I grew up there in the 1980’s and early 1990’s before cell phones or the internet.  We, at least at my house, didn’t have cable television, a microwave nor an ice maker. Who remembers ice trays?  Some reading this might remember not even having electricity… well this is the new reality of “the good old days.”  I promise not to try and compare mine to yours.  There were many a times I found myself on the porch holding the front door open with my foot while turning the TV antenna with one hand and balancing myself on the banister with my other.  Even now I can hear my PAPA saying.. “whoaaaa stop right there, I can see Jerry Lawler clearly.”  And everyone in town had the ‘old’ cabinet TV, now doubling as a piece of furniture, holding up the old ‘new’ tv.

All of us have our own stories and our own home towns that hold special places in our hearts.  We all complain about what each of them lack and how corrupt they are but truth be told it’s home and home is where our heart is.  After high school, I moved off to Dallas Texas for college.  Excited as I was for the big city and all it had to offer, after arriving there all I could think about was the ache in my heart for a town that had just recently opened it’s first McDonald’s.  On that note, the day McDonald’s opened in our town, it shut down the highway both directions including the exit ramp of HWY 78.

You can change where you end up in life but you can not change where you come from.  And this location alone has a great deal to do with the make up of who you are, physically, socially and religiously.  All of these present different opportunities and challenges.  You’ve heard some people’s lives defined as misfortunate and others as privileged.  I guess that is a matter of perspective.  I could type a story that would make most grown men cry at the hardships I was born into.  There were times of great difficulty, but couldn’t we all say that?  Andy Andrews wrote, “you can sit down to a paper bag lunch and eat sardines and vienna sausage in the sand or you can sit down with the same paper bag lunch and eat surf and turf on the beach.”  It truly is a matter of perspective.

My family didn’t have much money.  Our roof leaked every time it rained until our church replaced it.  My family many times depended on government assisted food programs to eat.  I was educated in what some call, even those reading this blog, a substandard public school they would have never let their own children go to.  I remember the looks I got and still do to this day, when I tell them where I come from.  I was born to two good hearted people who struggled with alcohol and drug abuse.  They could not care for me and at three months old they did the best they could by giving me up.  There are other things I could type to paint a picture of hardship, but most are inappropriate and irrelevant.

See what none of that story tells is this, my family was privileged.  I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth.  My Papa worked hard at the local Wurlitzer piano plant to care for a new child he had not counted on.  He bought me chocolate milk and sausage biscuits EVERYDAY.  My Moma made our home beautiful with her smile, her song, her gorgeous flowers and her ability to make the world right when everything seemed so wrong.  I had the latest Nike’s, game stations, bikes and everything I could want because I was born in a nation that makes a privileged life within reach of anyone who will reach.  I am embarrassed by the wealth my family has amassed. I was born into a predominately Christian society and raised on the truth of God’s Word and many would say, well if you were born in India maybe you would think differently about the deity you call God.  Maybe.  But I wasn’t, like I said, I was born privileged.  I didn’t have to search through religiosity to discover that there is only one God and I don’t have to measure up or work up a ladder… He, Jesus brought himself low to reach me.  See my God reached for me not the other way around.  Again I was born with a silver spoon, I have no excuses.

I have so much more to write on my blessed life and I will certainly do so later.  Today I want you to focus on the things around you.  Sure you can paint a sad picture of a life lived as a victim of your surroundings, that’s easy.  Ordinary people paint that picture everyday looking for pity and hand outs.  Maybe you are not ordinary, maybe you are extraordinary.   Is it possible to paint with the very same brush, you’ve been dealt, on the familiar canvas of your circumstances a beautiful picture of a life that is flourishing?  Not in spite of but due in part to, where you came from.

“The Daily Pageant of Life” by Doug Bell

old schoolToday has been a day of reflection, in addition to everything else on my normal daily agenda.  I don’t think most of us schedule these days, they just happen.  You’re moving  along quite nicely, with business as usual, and from out of no where comes emotion, reflection and memories to be entertained in your mind.  The longer I live the more I am convinced there is nothing new under the sun, just replays of yesterdays lives dressed in todays fashions.

For most in our community, today or within the last week or so, school has begun it’s fall session.  I’m a father of two boys, Paxton who is 7 and Cooper who is 5, both were excitedly anticipating the next step in becoming “big boys.”  This parade of pomp and circumstance has played out on every stage over countless generations.  In the first act we find young couples who formerly were child actors themselves now with children of their own.  The costumes may be different than the last, but are usually new and bought special for these first school days.  Everyone looks the part, now comes the big day.

The big day consists of numerous joyful fathers and mothers who’s prayers have been answered with school back in session.  Of course in this number of families are the perennial tear soaked parents, mourning the impending growth of their little kindergarteners.  If I saw 10 tear soaked, snot wiping parents, I bet I saw one hundred of them.  Ok, I had a moment, very briefly, where my eyes glistened.  This isn’t my first, first day and my boys made it easy.  Both walked confidently and proudly into the halls of education anticipating the path of learning that was spread before them. Like a banquet table of delicious dishes enticing them, their eyes were filled with delight. Ok, maybe I got carried away there…

Tonight as I cooked I caught myself doing what I had promised I’d never do.. that’s right I was asking all the same questions my Moma asked me EVERYDAY.  See I have been on the other end of this pageant as most of you have.  My Moma never drove a car, at least not in my lifetime, so we were blessed to be within ‘walking distance’ to everything.  Her definition of walking distance may not be the same as yours. Her’s stated, if you can get there before dark after leaving at a reasonable time the morning of, well, that’s walking distance.  So Everyday standing on the walk was my Moma, waiting, patiently, excitedly, reliably waiting.  I look back and those are some of the sweetest memories I’ll keep with me the rest of my life.

Back then though I just wanted to come home and relax.  You know from my ‘stressful’ 8am to 3pm ‘work’ day, with recess, snack, lunch, nap… thinking back on it, what was I so tired from?  Anyways, she and I would repeat the day’s events as if she had missed the first showing and was living for the reruns.  She hung on every word even as she pried it out of my mouth like pulling a sucker from the clutches of an angry toddler.  She had invested her life into me and now she wanted to make a withdrawal.  So there I was tonight asking, “what was for lunch, who’s your new friends, do you like your teacher, what did you do, who did you talk to, who did you sit with,” you know the same things I promised I wouldn’t ask.  Only now, I’m the parent that had waited all day just to see their faces, hear their voices and find out all about their day.  Maybe in some way it helps me to feel like I’m there and makes the separation easier.

I wonder if God feels that way?  I wonder if He waits through most of our days to hear what’s going on. I also wonder how often we go to bed with Him disappointed. It’s not like He doesn’t know.  But really it’s not like we don’t know what’s going on in the lives of our children, it’s basically the same thing as it was when we were their age.  It’s true you know, the more things change the more they stay the same.  My Moma knew my schedule, she knew what I ate, she packed it most days.  She knew who I talked to and if I liked my teacher.  What she was looking for was time to share with me and in part be there even when she could not.  God wants this from us.  Yes He knows everything you have been through today, but He wants to hear from you, share with you and be present where it may seem like He is absent.

This story could go on and on… I just wanted to share a little bit of what’s on my mind tonight.  So talk, ask the obvious questions that have the same ol’ answers, and be present in the lives of those around you.  Also remember to talk to your Father, your heavenly Father, He’s there now, just waiting, patiently, excitedly, reliably waiting. Tell Him about your day.  As we close the curtain on this moment in our lives, we will go take one more ride on the go kart, talk about the rabbit we are bound to see, look at each other and smile, come back home to their Moma who’s ready to talk, hug and instruct the nightly chores. We will give them their baths, have a ‘little snack’ as Coop calls it, send them off to their beds where we will pray over them as we have every night of their lives.  To some it may seem monotonous, boring even, but to us it’s a glimpse of heaven in the same world that many feel like they are living in hell.