Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 111

Wisdom Cares in Many Dimensions

As I glanced down at the pen I was using today I was struck by the two words imprinted on the pen. Care Dimensions. Care Dimensions is the name (and a good description) of Wyndham’s hospice company, but the two words struck me as full of meaning. Caring takes on many dimensions. Wisdom knows this.

I  can clearly see three-dimensional objects, even in movies if I wear special glasses, but God is beyond the third dimension; a dimension far beyond my understanding. When I think and read about God’s “other-dimensional” character it is humbling and amazing to hear that he cares for me.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
  what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
(Ps 8:3-4 emphasis added)

God really does care for us, His beloved creation. He cares for all His creation, including the earth (Ps 65:8-9) and the animals (Ps 36:6-7). When we are like Him, we will strive to care like Him. God cares for more than my existence. I’m comforted that God cares about my situations and emotions.

I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul. (Ps 31:7 NLT, emphasis added)

I’m also grateful, as Isaiah describes God’s care through His feelings about Israel, that God never stops caring for me.

  “Listen to me, descendants of Jacob, all you who remain in Israel. I have cared for you since you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born.
  I will be your God throughout your lifetime— until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you
(Is 46:3-4 NLT, emphasis added).

I learn it’s also okay to specifically ask for God’s care when I feel I am sinking. At times I ask God to help me to truly feel His care.

  Answer my prayers, O LORD, for your unfailing love is wonderful. Take care of me, for your mercy is so plentiful.
  Don’t hide from your servant; answer me quickly, for I am in deep trouble!
(Ps 69:15-17 NLT, emphasis added)

God’s care includes speaking the truth and confronting sin. I also learn that God takes it seriously when we don’t believe He cares for us, as it leads to grumbling and disobedience, as told by the Psalmist about Israel (Ps 106:23-27). Sometimes, when things don’t look the way we think they should, we don’t recognize that God is still taking care of us (Is 1:3; Hosea 11:3-4 NLT). On the contrary, when we believe that God cares for us it leads to confidence, fearlessness, and generosity.

Those who are righteous will be long remembered.
  They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the LORD to care for them.
  They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly.
  They share freely and give generously to those in need. Their good deeds will be remembered forever. They will have influence and honor.
(Ps 112:6-9, emphasis added)

I never expected to be so encouraged by a pen. As I hold this pen and think of the many dimensions of God’s care that hold me, I also remember the many ways I have seen Wyndham showing God’s care. For when we truly believe God’s care for us, we can pass His care on to others, because we are secure. We can care in the multi-dimensional ways needed. Wyndham believes God cares for him, thus his care for others has filled many dimensions.

I have seen him strive to care for all Jesus’ disciples, just as God cares for all who are His (Jn 21:15-16). I have seen him treat those who are troubled and whose souls are anguished with great care. I have watched him show extra and tender care to those who are weak or less dignified, while being patient with everyone (1 Cor 12:24-25; 1 Thess 5:14). I have watched him be an example of strength and tenderness caring for and shepherding God’s church (1 Peter 5:2-4), and I have had the privilege of watching him take care of orphans and those in distress (James 1:27). I’m eternally grateful for his imitation of God’s “care dimensions.”

Caring for others isn’t flat. It is nuanced, according to their needs. Our ability to administer care stems from our belief that He truly does care for us according to our needs. We love because He first loved us. We care because He cares for us.

As I hold this pen, I remember that I am held by God’s “care dimensions” for me, and I am forever grateful for Wyndham’s care that touches many dimensions, including strength, tenderness, and patience. May we all expand the borders of our “care dimensions.”

 

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 110

Wisdom Knows a Thing is Just a Thing

A ring is just a thing. So are many other “things.” My close acquaintance with long term, terminal illness helps me distinguish between the value of physical things and spiritual things of the heart. I placed this wedding ring on Wyndham’s finger nearly 45 years ago. Amazingly, he never lost it through all his fishing, hunting, and sports adventures; however, recently he needed to lose it. His nurse was concerned because it was embedded in a swollen finger which she feared would become quite painful.

So, Melissa and I gathered butter, oil, dental floss, and various other YouTube “tricks of the trade” to try to slide it off. It would not budge, and the attempt to remove it was painful. Unwilling to be conquered by the stuck ring, she called a jewelry store that was located half a mile away to ask if they could help us. The owner was gracious and said he and his daughter would come to the house after he closed his shop. Around dinnertime, this man and his daughter came to the rescue with a ring cutter. At first, he did not think it would be possible but worked mightily while using his instrument to successfully cut the ring. Using pliers, he pulled it apart and slid it off Wyndham’s finger. I thought I might be sad, but instead, I was moved by this man’s graciousness. When I asked him what I owed him his reply was, “I did not come here to do business, I came because someone needed help.” I cried and gave him a big hug.

I was reminded of the beauty and grace in simple acts of kindness and determined to pay it forward. I didn’t feel sad, because the removal of the ring didn’t change anything—except the possibility of a soon-to-be-damaged finger. I remember words that Wyndham often said when something broke or was lost…” It’s just a thing.” Or, when we were met with an unexpected expense that we felt we couldn’t afford…” It’s just money.” And he meant it. A thing is just a thing. A thing has no lasting value.

Wisdom knows that physical things don’t last. Wisdom stores treasures in heaven.

 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt 6:19-21)

This past week several golden treasures came to visit— Two Sams and two Iiames. Friendships like these are not things, but true treasures. I often lay in bed at night and think of the treasures I possess. They are all relational.  Spiritual relationships, with God and each other, are what will last. What “thing” will last other than our relationship with God and with His sons and daughters (our brothers and sisters)? Nothing can take these away. Even when our physical bodies leave, for Christians, love, and relationships are eternal. And one day, we will also have new bodies. Now, that’s something to smile about. Of course, I grieve and cry many tears for aspects of the relationship I temporarily miss, but I find when I set my heart on things eternal my mood changes.

And, Wyndham’s wedding ring has a new home on our mantel that seems a fitting place. Every time I see it I think about what lasts, as well as the kind store owner who came because someone needed help.

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 109

Wisdom Never Walks Alone

I thought it would be a simple Nana/grandson fishing adventure. (That sentence, in itself, was amazing to write because I do not like fishing, so any fishing trip for me is not simple.) However, since Caleb was staying with us overnight while his parents were out of town and his sisters were elsewhere, I thought it would be fun to go to the nearby reservoir with him so he could fish. A wooded, scenic path leads to this reservoir—a sparkling lake where fish are known to live. We walked the path to a place that looked “fishy” to us, but they weren’t biting. He offered to let me throw some casts. I did, and promptly lost his lure when it hooked something big in the water which was not a fish. Line snapped. Fishing trip over.

It was a fun time with Caleb, though I was not prepared for a flood of emotions that filled me as we first entered the entrance to the path leading to the reservoir. As I first set foot on the path my eyes instinctively filled with tears. The emotions surprised me until it hit me that the last time I walked this path was when I was walking hand in hand with Wyndham. This was an oft-walked path for us; one where we would walk and pray. We would climb out on the rocks, often bringing our dogs, first Jordan and then Denver, after Jordan was gone. We would offer them endless fun retrieving tennis balls we would throw into the water. Many prayers were said, and memories made. Thus, the welling of emotions makes sense. Caleb was kind and understanding as I explained my sadness.

Since that day last week, I have spent some time meditating on the presence of God in my life. I am, in fact, never walking alone. God is so completely relational that somehow, he is one God who is also one with Jesus and the Spirit. I have spent hours contemplating the Trinity and have come away with two concrete thoughts: The nature of God is a dimension beyond human understanding, so I might as well just accept that I will never “figure it out,” but the Trinity shows us perfect relational love and unity. Since God is relational, and I am created in his image–I am relational, and his Spirit really does live in me, as it does every Christian. I am never alone. For real. God’s Spirit was always walking with us when we did walk together, and the Spirit never left. God’s Spirit is still with Wyndham and is still with me. Though I can’t walk and talk hand-in-hand with Wyndham anymore I will never walk alone, and neither will he.

Today, I felt the need to retrace my steps to walk and pray, and I felt a certain sense of peace that passes human understanding. Though I’d give anything to walk the path with him again, the solo adventures I am now more accustomed to consistently reassure me that the presence of God’s Spirit continually envelops me, walking with me because of its residence in my soul. Because of this, love always accompanies me. This is an amazing reality. I can sing this song by Austris A. Whithol:

My God and I go in the field together; We walk and talk as good friends should and do;

We clasp our hands, our voices ring with laughter; My God and I walk through the meadow’s hue…

My God and I will go for aye together; We’ll walk and talk just as good friends should and do; This earth will pass, and with it common trifles, But God and I will go unendingly.

Wisdom never walks alone. Wisdom was “walking with God” at the creation of the world. Wisdom can be an intimate friend.

  The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; (Prov 3:19 ESV)

  Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and call insight your intimate friend,… (Prov 7:4 ESV)

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 108

Wisdom Owns It

I remember as a child taking a job feeding my neighbors dogs for a few weeks while the neighbors were out of town. I probably remember this because they had me feed them bologna sandwiches for treats. I dutifully did the job, but it was a job. They were not my dogs. And they slobbered. A lot.  Then, when I was nine years old I got my own dog. I was thrilled to be the owner of a dog. This was different than feeding my neighbor’s dog. I named my dog. I played with my dog. I talked to my dog. He slept on the foot of my bed. I even wrote a poem about my dog. He was mine. I owned him

So it is with our spiritual life. If we don’t truly own it, it will feel more like a joyless job, often feeling like a mere routine? We certainly won’t thrill in it, write a poem about it, or delight in talking to God.

So what might keep us from owning our spiritual life? Routine? Neglect? Following rules rather than personal convictions? Pleasing people more than pleasing God? Having a “back door” for a possible exit? Perhaps these reasons point to our need to “work out our own salvation…” Sunday, Wyndham relayed a message about owning one’s spiritual life.

Sunday was a glorious day. Our teenage grandson made the decision to follow Jesus and was baptized into Christ. We now have a granddaughter/sister and a grandson/brother. Caleb wanted to be baptized in our hot tub in the back yard so that his Papa could be part of the wonderful occasion. We realized the day before that Sunday was also Wyndham’s 47th spiritual birthday. He was baptized on June 2, 1972. It felt like a kiss from God to share this date.

Since Wyndham cannot speak clearly or loudly enough to share, he carefully expressed to me what he wished for me to share with Caleb on his behalf. Not surprisingly, the first scripture he wanted to share was one that has stayed close to his heart and guided his character since that day in June, 47 years ago.

The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5)

He asked Caleb to strive for this love and to keep a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith.

He then asked me to read 2 Timothy 4:6-8

 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near.
  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

It was hard to read this scripture through my tears because it feels so real and relevant. Wyndham has fought the good fight and is still fighting, perhaps in the most difficult way yet. Time for departure is nearer than we wish. He is, as described in a previous post, running “heartbreak hill.” Heartbreak hill is a long, hard stretch up a hill near the end of the Boston Marathon route. However, eternal life with God…. beyond description is waiting at the finish line. Now that’s someone and something to run to!

Wyndham asked me to tell Caleb, “It’s your race now!”

True words.

We must all own the race marked out for us. No one can run it for us. If we don’t own it, we won’t run it. At least not for long. And if we don’t own it, we will have no joy attempting the run.

Sometimes it takes times of reflection and prayer to internalize the true ownership of our race. Then, and only then can we keep running despite injury, fatigue, or course detours. The beautiful thing is that when we take ownership of our race we are carried along by loving arms of support and the breath of refreshment from he who runs alongside us, gives us refreshment, and picks us up when we fall. It’s my race. It’s your race. May we own it and run it wholeheartedly, never taking our eyes of the one who runs with us.

  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
(Hebrews 12:1-2)

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 107

Wisdom Transfers

Our son, Sam, just entered the smartphone world. He resisted for a long time, much to his entire family’s displeasure. He could not receive our family “group texts” or pictures. It was time to switch. Meanwhile, Wyndham’s phone sat on the windowsill. For part of Sam’s birthday gift, I suggested that he take Wyndham’s phone, keep it on our plan and pay the accompanying monthly charges. This seemed like a good idea, and it was. However, Sam would need a new number, which meant Wyndham’s number would disappear. Forever.  All I needed to do to make this change was to go online to my carrier and change the number. It would take less than five minutes to complete the task, but it actually took me three weeks to accomplish. The physical process was simple. The emotional one, I came to realize, was not so simple.

I can not begin to count the number of hours of conversations that took place between Wyndham and me on that phone. It served as a connector,  advisor, timing adjuster, grocery list reminder, expression of love and affection sender, as well as a picture sender to show each other a grandchild’s milestone or a big fish. As we often traveled in the car together, Wyndham and I would be on our phones in order to keep up with many responsibilities. I often reminded him that the physical phenomenon of sounds waves, cell towers, and various wondrous laws of physics would carry his voice—the loud volume of his voice was not needed to reach the person on the receiving end. I found it futile to attempt long conversations on my phone while he was on the line. His voice was too loud. However, I overheard so much encouragement given, so much counsel given…replete with inquiries to the tackle shop in Gloucester to find out if the stripers were biting. His phone made many calls to our kids, grandkids, and friends… sharing victories and defeats, joys and sorrows.

Wyndham hasn’t been able to use his phone for many months. His hands can’t hold it, and his voice is no longer strong enough to make conversation. It makes no sense for us to pay a monthly fee for a windowsill trinket. So, tonight I made the quick switch to change the phone number and officially transferred the phone from Wyndham to Sam. It seems such a simple and reasonable process, but somehow the reality didn’t feel that way. While his family was over for dinner celebrating Emery’s birthday. I handed Sam the phone, got up to put away the dishes from the dishwasher, and then unexpectedly felt the tears flow. Sam hugged me, understanding.

Funny thing though. Because of all the conversations, all the encouragement, all the instructions, all the love, all the laughter….I am confident the same sort of conversations will continue to happen on that phone. Conversations of encouragement, of love, of concern, of counsel, of laughter. I am quite sure, however, there will be no calls to the tackle shop, though perhaps there may be one or two to a golf course to set a tee time.

It’s actually okay—no, it’s more than okay—because this is what is supposed to happen.  Wisdom transfers. In fact, wisdom isn’t really wisdom if it is just stored in our heads. It’s simply knowledge then. Wisdom transfers knowledge into a heart of faith and applies it to and with another person. Wisdom must be transferred. Person to person. Generation to generation.

  And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Tim. 2:2)


  You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone.
  You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
(2 Cor. 3:2-3)


  Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.
  Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the highest heavens. You have done such wonderful things. Who can compare with you, O God?
  You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth.
(Psalm 71:18-20 NLT)
 

I will sing of the LORD’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. (Psalm 89:1)

So, never forget that all you do and say transfers to someone watching and listening. May the love of God in our hearts transfer to all we have the opportunity to encounter. God has, in a sense, transferred his number to us to extend to the world. We must simply make the calls.

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 106

Wisdom for Today

So, I found out from several of you looking for Wednesday’s blog that Wednesday (today) is not actually Tuesday, as I originally thought it was. My, how life can get off track. Since our church met in the pouring rain in a park an hour away on Sunday, I knew I could not be away from Wyndham for such a long time—so did not make it to church. I have been to church on every Sunday of my life that I can remember unless I, or a family member was sick. We even went to church in a little town in Tifton, Georgia, the morning after we married! Thus, when I missed church Sunday my whole calendar went down the tubes. I should not be surprised. I thought Monday was Friday, so don’t quite know how I thought that today was Tuesday. Go figure. The year I turned 57 (too many years ago) I had thought I was 57 for the entire previous year. For real. I was encouraged that I did not have to grow older when I actually did turn 57. At my age, I usually only remember the birthdays by 5’s. Since I turned 65 this year, I’m good, though don’t ask me how old I will be next year; however, since it will be the same number twice I should be okay.  At this point in today’s self-deception, I will certainly avoid stepping on the scales.

The wisdom I glean from all of this is perhaps one of the most valuable pieces of wisdom I am currently learning from Wyndham and from his illness. No matter what day the calendar says, today is the day I have. That’s it. So, what I do with today is most important. For Wyndham, there is not much the day brings for excitement other than loving and being loved. But really, what else matters? That, dear friends, is a full and rich day!  (Oh, and he does like his chocolate croissant in the morning.)

Really, nothing is more important than loving God and loving others today.

  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
  This is the first and greatest commandment.
  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
(Matthew 22:36-40)

In light of these thoughts, I ask myself these questions. Today.

  • Am I loved by God and am I loving him back, today? And, am I loving others, today?
  • I am learning the value of meditative prayer and the stillness needed to come into God’s presence, to truly commune and to listen to the Spirit’s prompts, today?
  • I am learning that today’s troubles are enough on their own? I don’t need to borrow yesterday’s or tomorrow’s troubles. With God, I can handle whatever troubles come, today.
  • I am learning that focusing on the things I am grateful for shapes my attitude, today?
  • I am learning that perfect love truly does cast out fear, today?
  • I am learning that true honesty, vulnerability, and speaking the truth in love brings freedom to my soul and depth in relationships? And that my thoughts and feelings do have value, today?
  • I am learning to drink in the beauty, sounds, and smells of nature, today?
  • I am learning to be more generous, today?

This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)

Well yes, I think I shall choose to rejoice and be glad in today.

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 105

Wisdom and Vulnerability

Memories fill my head and heart as I look across my room and smile, as we enjoy the pleasure of the company of a dear friend. It’s a friendship built over many years of fighting battles together, talking about everything, praying much, sharing joys and laughter, and sharing sorrows and tears. This friend knows pretty much everything about each of us, as do we know him. I reminisce about other dear friends who visited today. Friends who are deeply embedded in our lives. Our kids grew up together and remain steadfast friends, as do we. What a privilege to be deeply involved in one anothers’ lives.

As I attempt to gather my thoughts for a blog, I am struck by the wisdom which comes from vulnerability in relationships. Jesus called his disciples his friends because he held nothing back from them (John 15:15).  God has always intended us to grow through relationships. We cannot practice our relationship with God without true relationships with others. The very nature of God is relational, as revealed by the unity of the three-in-one Father, Son, and Spirit.

Gordon helped both Wyndham and me learn vulnerability about 30 years ago when he and Theresa became our dear friends. Wyndham learned quickly, while I didn’t even understand what vulnerability looked like. You see, I had tried so hard to “do the right thing” throughout my life that I didn’t even know what I felt. What did feelings have to do with anything, anyway? I thought to focus on or express my feelings would be selfish. Also, I didn’t want to mess up, as I didn’t feel that was okay. This way of thinking made me unrelatable, always trying to measure up to earn my worth from God or others. While doing the right thing is a good thing, it’s incomplete and can become the wrong thing when vulnerability is absent. God wants our hearts, no matter how messy. He desires mercy over sacrifice. We can only learn this in the context of relationships.

As I prayed to understand what it meant to be vulnerable, I realized there were specific times in my life when I actually had shared my thoughts and feelings…and it did not go well. I vividly remember as a preteen telling my dad, when I was asked to clean my plate, that the inside gooey part of the tomatoes (that part was left on my plate) made me feel sick to eat. I was very strongly punished for “talking back.” I decided from that day on I would never “talk back,” and that it would be better to gag over the gooey inside of tomatoes or anything else and “stuff” whatever I felt rather than be honest and face consequences. (Everyone has bad days, even wonderful, godly parents.) As an adult, a few significant times when I was honest also did not turn out well, coming back down on my head with a bang. Though these may be small things, they were enough to cause me to zip my heart and my lips. While some people would “fight,” I would shut down. This was not good.

Gordon (and Theresa) were deeply vulnerable in our friendship with them. He showed me how to be vulnerable by doing so. Wyndham made it safe for me to be vulnerable, and God kept putting me in situations where I could either speak up and “swim” or “be silent” and drown. The progress did not come easily. Vulnerability, to me, was like learning a foreign language. I often felt I would rather go throw up than say what I felt, especially if I perceived a person as an authority figure. Often, I had stuffed feelings so deeply I would only come to know what I felt when I prayed, pouring out my heart to God. If I felt something with Wyndham I would often not know how to express what it was, but as soon as we would pray together it would come gushing out, accompanied with tears. I believe this came easiest in prayer because of finally trusting that God wants to know me—in all my ugliness, fears, and uncertainty. I would also tell everyone I talked to that I was trying to learn to be vulnerable, and after conversations asked them how I was doing. I begged God to make this weakness a strength–to be honest and courageous and not leave “elephants in the living room,” but speak the truth in love.

So, as I reflect on these friendships, important relationships in my community, I am ever so grateful for the depth and freedom that comes from vulnerability. I am grateful  Gordon demonstrated this Christ-like quality, and that God helped me learn this foreign language. I am deeply thankful for Wyndham’s wisdom, encouragement, example, and providing me a safe place to be completely vulnerable. I am grateful he has always encouraged me to practice honesty and vulnerability all my relationships. It has made a huge difference in my spiritual growth. I am inspired by his vulnerability, as truly everything in his life now requires intense vulnerability. He has trained for this for years, through the security he knows in God.

It is never to late to learn the language of vulnerability or even to take refresher courses. However, we must be truly engaged in a spiritual community to grow in this area. Wisdom learns vulnerability.

9  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
10  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

(2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

 

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 104

Wisdom Looks for the Miracles

When we see tragedies and evils of life, we can look for the helpers. This message, from television personality and minister Fred Rogers helped many children (and adults) find some comfort after hearing of horrific acts of terrorism that set our country on edge. Mr. Rogers shared that when he, as a child, felts scared by news he heard on television his mother told him to look for the helpers. His message was simple: “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” This focus helped many a child find some good amidst the evil. I still try to practice his advice, though I might add that we should not just look for helpers, but become the helpers.

Even more important is to look for the miracles. Life is hard. It’s hard for Wyndham, it’s hard for me, and it’s hard for you—because we live in a fallen world. But, every day I see miracles from God. They are not necessarily ones I have most hoped and pray for, but I see buds blooming on the trees, I feel comfort and love poured into my heart. I see changed lives. I experience peace and have abundant joy. I hear the blending of bird’s voices into beautiful harmony and smell the fragrance of the flowers. I witness the brilliant colors of a sunset out my picture window… all miracles, the workings of God beyond human ability. Do you see miracles every day? Tonight it rained, and I am reminded that this simple drizzle is a miracle, a working of God. I’ll share a few paragraphs from a devotional thought by John Piper on “The Great Work of God: Rain,” using a scripture from Job. At first glance, we might wonder why Job sees rain as a great and unsearchable thing.

But as for me, I would seek God, and I would place my cause before him; who does great and unsearchable things, wonders without number. He gives rain on the earth and sends water on the fields (Job 5:8-10; ESV).

The author continues by asking readers to imagine being a farmer in the Middle East looking up at the sky and hoping for rain to water the crops. Yet, for this to happen:

Water will have to be carried in the sky from the Mediterranean Sea, over several hundred miles and then be poured out from the sky onto the fields. Carried? How much does it weigh? Well, if one inch of rain falls on one square mile of farmland during the night, that would be 27,878,400 cubic feet of water, which is 206,300,160 gallons, which is 1,650,501,280 pounds of water.

 That’s heavy. So how does it get up in the sky and stay up there if it’s so heavy? Well, it gets up there by evaporation. Really? That’s a nice word. What’s it mean? It means that the water sort of stops being water for a while, so it can go up and not down. I see. Then how does it get down? Well, condensation happens. What’s that? The water starts becoming water again by gathering around little dust particles between .00001 and .0001 centimeters wide. That’s small.

 What about the salt? Salt? Yes, the Mediterranean Sea is salt water. That would kill the crops. What about the salt? Well, the salt has to be taken out. Oh. So, the sky picks up a billion and a half pounds of water from the sea and takes out the salt and then carries it for three hundred miles and then dumps it on the farm?

 Well it doesn’t dump it. If it dumped a billion and a half pounds of water on the farm, the wheat would be crushed. So, the sky dribbles the billion and a half pounds water down in little drops. And they have to be big enough to fall for one mile or so without evaporating, and small enough to keep from crushing the wheat stalks.

 How do all these microscopic specks of water that weigh a billion pounds get heavy enough to fall (if that’s the way to ask the question)? Well, it’s called coalescence. What’s that? It means the specks of water start bumping into each other and join up and get bigger. And when they are big enough, they fall. Just like that? Well, not exactly, because they would just bounce off each other instead of joining up, if there were no electric field present. What? Never mind. Take my word for it…. I still don’t see why drops ever get to the ground, because if they start falling as soon as they are heavier than air, they would be too small not to evaporate on the way down, but if they wait to come down, what holds them up till they are big enough not to evaporate? Yes, I am sure there is a name for that too. But I am satisfied now that, by any name, this is a great and unsearchable thing that God has done.

 So tonight, I didn’t just see rain; I observed a miracle from God.

Yesterday, I learned that another friend has a preliminary diagnosis of Multiple System Atrophy, the disease that has ravaged Wyndham’s body. Though I am so sad to hear this, I told my friends to expect to see miracles. Like helpers, we must look for them. They may be different from the miracles we want, but nonetheless, God is always at work in our lives transforming, comforting, saving, listening, refining, and much more. I am learning, in my relationship with God, that there is special sacredness in suffering and intimacy in infirmity. God’s presence brings these. God works in weakness, orchestrating beautiful harmony using broken instruments. Wisdom sees the miracles, hears the miracles, and feels the miracles. Look for them.

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 103

Wisdom and the Bunny

Every once in a while, communication goes awry. Okay, maybe more than occasionally. Through a recent communication hurdle, I was reminded that wisdom does not assume one understands what someone else is saying until one really understands what the other is saying.

Here is the background. Every night before Wyndham goes to sleep I place his CPAP machine mask on his face. It looks something like a gas mask and was prescribed several years ago for sleep apnea, which unfortunately accompanies his disease.

Thank heavens I got a newly designed mask today! No more of this.

For now, it keeps him breathing well and his oxygen at a good level through the night. I love that it helps him rest well, but I have a true love-hate relationship with the machine. It leaves pressure sores on his nose and air leaks often follow his facial movements. These leaks do not resemble the gentle sound of a soft wind, but rather the sound of a scared, angry duck caught in a trap. The leaks seem precisely timed for the moment when I fall asleep. Because of his speech difficulty, communication between us is hard without the mask, but with the mask communication often resembles a game of Guesstures and charades. He says something. I respond with “what?” at least a dozen times as I try to discern what he is saying. Sometimes it’s rather humorous.

Like me, Wyndham often thinks of things he wants to say at the end of the day. Inevitably, something comes to mind after his mask is in place. Almost always, his words (after the mask) have to do with some discomfort concerning the mask placement, the need for an adjustment of a pillow, placement of his hands, or a change from one sports channel to the next. So, this is the context from which I listen. I usually get it right pretty quickly. Usually.

So, a few weeks ago (the week before Easter) after his mask was already in place he tried to communicate something to me. Assuming I knew the context, I asked the usual questions. Do you need me to move the mask higher on your forehead? Does it hurt your nose? Is it blowing in your eyes? Do you want the channel changed? Does your pillow feel okay? Do you need more covers? Are you saying yes? Are you saying no? Don’t respond if it’s yes.

Obviously, I did not understand as he kept repeating the same thing over and over. I thought I had covered everything, but finally, I determined that it sounded like he was asking me to lend him some money. That made no sense, as our money is shared and he no longer handles money.  After another five minutes or so, completely out of the context of my thinking I finally got what he was saying. “Lindt bunnies.”

Of course! Now, why hadn’t I thought of that!? My response?

Lindt bunnies? Are you kidding me? How am I to guess this? For those unfamiliar with this rabbit species, Lindt bunnies are high-quality rabbit-shaped chocolates wrapped in gold foil, complete with a red ribbon around the neck.

In true fashion, Wyndham was thinking of something he wanted to do for someone(s). He wanted me to get eight chocolate Lindt bunnies for each of the grandkids for Easter. I still marvel that we finally got the message right, as Lindt bunnies were nowhere in my radar. Not even in the same universe.

How often we miss what someone says because we are busy listening from our preconceived notions or from our own context of what we think another says, or should be saying. It’s humorous with Lindt bunnies, but dangerous with emotion-filled conversations.

Context is crucial. What I think I am going to hear often presupposes my understanding of what is actually said. Wyndham has always had the uncanny ability and wisdom to hear someone without preconceived notions, prejudices, and the assumption that he has the correct facts. He lets conversations play out based on facts, not feelings. Principle over personality. I think that is why so many people have felt safe in his counsel.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
  Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
(James 3:17-18)

He has always taken great care to practice Proverbs 18:17 (RSV)
  He who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.

May we strive to step out of our assumptions and listen more to understand than to be understood. To discern facts over emotions and principle over personality. Peacemakers who sow in peace do reap a harvest of righteousness…and sometimes chocolate bunnies.