Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 101

Wisdom Takes Risks

Wyndham called from Bucharest saying he had met three abandoned siblings. They were alone, living in a shed with a dirt floor. He told me we needed to take them into our soon-to-open group home. For years we had worked toward the opening of this home in Romania, staffed by Christians. We would bring seventeen orphans, ages four to eight, from a state orphanage to live in the home. We knew we could not take more children than the ones that were already coming, and we knew that we could not take older children. There were just too many risks to an already risky undertaking.

So, when he called to tell me about these three children, ages ten to thirteen, I was not persuaded. I did not know how we could handle it, and besides, we didn’t really know them. When he responded, “We need to do this; you are going to have to trust me on this one,” I reluctantly agreed. After spending time with them, he saw through to their hearts and felt their needs. The oldest sibling had made sure they all took the very long route to get to school each day. Life in the shed was difficult, to say the least.

Wyndham convinced me that this was a risk we must take. So we did. They came to live in the home before the others came. Two girls and a boy. We celebrated Alex’s tenth birthday shortly after his arrival. He had never celebrated a birthday.

The day arrived when the seventeen kids came. The intensity of that first week is difficult to describe. I don’t think I slept more than a few hours the whole week. On a level of difficulty between one and ten, it was near twenty. The oldest sibling from the shed (who had moved in with her brother and sister) was an outstanding “big sister” for all. All three of them were (are) wonderful. The oldest sibling, Ionela, was moved by the love she saw from the Christians. There were times when I would see her outside, off by herself reading the Bible. Over time, she fell in love with God. One of the great joys of my life was helping to baptize her in the home in Romania. After a couple of years, all three were adopted by good friends, the Rushtons, who gave them a wonderful home. Today, all three are married with children.

Ionela and her husband, Anthony, have four boys and both serve in the ministry in the Chicago area. She is truly an amazing woman. This past week we received a letter which she graciously said I could share–so I will include excerpts:

…You have blessed my life. Thank you for saying “YES” to bringing my siblings and me to the group home. Because of your faith, sacrifice, love, and hard work my life has been changed for eternity. The group home is where I came to know God through the disciples and studying the Bible.

This past year I celebrated eighteen years as a disciple, more than half my life. That decision has changed everything. I got to marry a godly man who also had a dream to go into the full-time ministry, and together we have been serving in the ministry for ten years. We have been blessed with four amazing boys and we have the blessing to raise them to know and love God. My life and the blessings I enjoy every day are a result of your faith and sacrifice. Thank you for loving God first and letting Him use you to change lives for eternity….

Wyndham, you are truly a man after God’s own heart! Thank you for the incredible example of faith, courage, endurance, love, and sacrifice you have set for those around you and far away. As you have been suffering with your health you have become a stronger warrior. You both are warriors and your legacy is deep faith that has impacted many. I look forward to celebrating the reward of our faith with our God in our eternal home.

“I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers.” Philemon 1:4

I love you both very much, Ionela (Testa)

Okay, now my eyes are leaking. We never know what will happen when we listen to the Spirit’s guidance and take a risk, even when that risk disturbs our plans. If we listen to all that could go wrong, we would never move forward. Wisdom takes risks.

I’m so glad Wyndham listened to the Spirit’s guidance and took this risk. God certainly took a risk on me, and I am eternally grateful. He gave up everything in hopes that you and I would respond to his love. I want him to see my life and be happy that he took that risk.

  Out of that terrible travail of soul, he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it. Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant, will make many “righteous ones,” as he himself carries the burden of their sins. (Isaiah 53:11) MSG

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 100

Wisdom and Presence

Today marks my 100th  Post for “Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham.” This post is special to me because it represents a hundred weeks (of writing) that I have been blessed with Wyndham’s presence since his diagnosis of MSA. Each week is a blessing. Every day is a gift.

Over these past hundred weeks, God has been transforming my heart. The decline of Wyndham’s health to the point he can do nothing for himself, and my caring for him has transformed us both. This week I’ve been reflecting on lessons learned as a caregiver. I was not looking to learn so many lessons, as neither of us willingly signed up for this class. From my early teen days as a candy striper (volunteer nurses’ helper) at the hospital, I was confident caregiving was not my thing. My very first assignment was to fill the patients’ water pitchers with ice. Instead, I filled all their urinals. I had no idea until a man laughed and said to me, “This gives peeing on the rocks an entirely different meaning.” I was so embarrassed.

I don’t like to lean into pain and suffering. I prefer to run the other way—but caregiving forces me to “be there.” Really there. It’s a constant reminder that Wyndham and I are temporarily here, though permanently homed with God. To live life in the fear of death is suffocating. I’ve felt that; however, the resurrection allows us to overcome this fear, though it’s not easy. I’m not there yet, but making good progress.

I would much rather fix Wyndham’s suffering than enter it to stay; however, I can’t cure, but can certainly care. Through all the associated ups and downs, God has stayed with us. He has been present in our pain and participated in our joys. He hasn’t left us alone and promises He never will.  I am humbled that Jesus came here to lean into my pain and suffering in every way—to give me hope. To be with me. To hurt with me. To rejoice with me. To be present with me during my short time on this stage, as life truly is a mist. A good mist, however…full of inexpressible joys and unimaginable sorrows. Full of the warmth of love and the beauty of a creation only God could imagine.

Wyndham, in complete weakness, is still strong. Of course, he doesn’t like being in his situation, but he graciously accepts it. He finds fullness in the presence of God and in the presence of those he dearly loves. This time has flushed out any pretense of identity. God’s love and acceptance must always be enough. Suddenly, things I once felt important take an appropriate place. What we do is nothing compared to who we are—God’s beloved. The important thing is to experience and to give that love.

As one who likes to stay busy, I can, at times, feel impatient with the slowness, repetitiveness, and tediousness of caregiving. Our home is our hospital, our restaurant, our theater, our vacation place, his church, my office, my schoolroom…but most importantly a place to give and receive love. It’s a haven, yet I can at times feel guilty when I miss the freedom to be outside of its borders.

In so many ways this chapter of life is a gift. It seems strange to say this, as it’s a gift I don’t really want, but find precious—sort of sacred. Above all, I am learning the importance of presence. I know how important my presence is to Wyndham, because he can’t do anything without me (or someone who is here caring for him). What a stark illustration this is to me of Jesus’ words in John 15:5: I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. I am completely helpless without the presence of Jesus in my life. Completely. But fortunately, I don’t have to be apart from him.

One of Wyndham’s favorite passages has been Exodus 33:14-15, when Moses is hesitant to do the job God called him to do:
  The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
  Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.

What a great comfort. Often, I would hear Wyndham pray, “God, I don’t want to go unless your presence is with me.” His presence with us means everything. This is the biggest lesson I am learning. Nothing is better than to be in His presence. It really is enough.

I have sweet memories of my mother (before she became deaf) singing in our home. One of her most oft-sung songs contained the words: Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go, anywhere he leads me in this world below. Anywhere without him dearest joys would fade, anywhere with Jesus I am not afraid. Anywhere, anywhere, fear I will not know. Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go.

What a beautiful message of Jesus’ presence. His presence is everything. His presence is enough. Thank you, Jesus, for never leaving me alone.

 LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.
  The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.
  I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.
  I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
  Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure,
  because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
  You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
(Psalm 16:5-11, emphasis added)

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 99

Wisdom and Courage

I’ve been reading through the gospel of John, reading aloud to Wyndham. In John 21:18 Jesus tells Peter that in contrast to when Peter was young, dressed himself, and went wherever he wanted to go—this would not be the case in his future. Jesus tells him (likely speaking of the death Peter would die) that when he is older someone else will dress him and lead him where he does not want to go. Peter, though at times failed in courage, would ultimately face incredible difficulties requiring his absolute courage–going where he did not want to go while standing up for Jesus.

While Wyndham’s situation is not like Peter’s, I pause as I think about my once athletic husband who every day must be dressed and have everything done for him, living in a way he would not choose. As I put his shirt on him, dressing him, I am reminded of the humility and courage it takes to live triumphantly while facing difficulties.

Courage is hard. It’s hard because it is only possible when we are fearful. When there is no fear there is no courage. I have long seen the wisdom in Wyndham’s choices to be courageous, yet perhaps I observe his greatest courage during these days. Courage to keep trusting when the future is unknown and scary. Courage to stand strong in spirit when he can’t stand in the body. Courage to accept. Courage to be humble. Courage to be completely vulnerable. Courage to love. Courage to hope.

For years I have seen Wyndham’s courage cause him to follow his faith despite opposition. To address things not popular to address. To stand up for righteousness even if it cost him his job, which it did twice.

This semester I am studying church history from the Reformation to the present. I am humbled by the men and women who had the courage to face formidable opposition because of their faith, and I’m challenged by their courage.

I have continually drawn so much courage and inspiration from Wyndham’s life and example. His courage stays with me and gives me courage. Courage to face the unknown. To do the hard. To keep trusting. To step forward in faith. Just last year, as I was writing on some areas new to me Wyndham was a great support. Though already quite weak and unable to talk well he questioned me about my courage–knowing that if I shared my thoughts I would receive opposition. He wanted to know if I had the needed courage, knowing he had no strength to help pave the way for me. This helps me be courageous. We all desperately need each other to remind us to be courageous.

Courage is oft mentioned in the Scriptures. Most often God, and then God incarnate, Jesus, tells his people to take courage because he is with them. As God was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fire, he will be with us as we walk in faith (Daniel 3:25). Isn’t it amazing that there was a fourth “person” in the fire? The beloved Psalm 23 tells us that God is with us while walking through the valley of the shadow of death. He walks with us. We will have fires, we will have valleys of shadows of death, and we will have stormy seas. But we have God with us. In the fire. Through the valley. On the seas. God in us. This is enough.

When we lack courage it is usually because we focus on ourselves, our fears, and difficult situations rather than the mighty hand of God. Note the following scriptures on courage tell us that God is with his people. Just reading them helps fill me with courage. May we all take courage, knowing that our Mighty God paves our way and walks with us. Actually, it’s better than that. He lives in us. How much courage that should give.

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be in dread of them: for it is the LORD your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.” Deut. 31:6 (RSV)

 And the LORD commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, “Be strong and of good courage; for you shall bring the children of Israel into the land which I swore to give them: I will be with you.” Deuteronomy 31:23 (RSV)

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (RSV)

“Be strong and of good courage. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him; for there is one greater with us than with him. 2 Chronicles 32:7 (NRSV)

They saw the works of the LORD, his wonderful deeds in the deep.
For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves.
They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away.
They reeled and staggered like drunkards; they were at their wits’ end.
Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.
Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
Psalm 107:24-31 (NIV2011)

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD; Be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.
 Psalm 27:13-14 (NASB77)

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.
When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
  But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
  “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
  “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
Matthew 14:25-29 (NIV)

  I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” John 16:33 (NRSV)

Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—
for we walk by faith, not by sight—
we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.
Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 
2 Corinthians 5:6-9 (NASB)

So that with good courage we say, The Lord is my helper; I will not fear: What shall man do unto me?   Hebrews 13:6 (ASV)

 

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 98

Wisdom and Time

Time – How do you view it?

When I was a child I measured time by Christmases. The span from one year to the next felt eternal. Yet now, I at times wonder why I should even bother to take down the tree. It seems a blink before it’s time to put it up again. Has it already been three months since Christmas?

It seems such a short time ago when our first grandchild was born. So how is it that she just DROVE over here to visit her papa tonight?

This week I turned 65 and joined the world of Medicare. How can this be? As my friend Gordon once bemoaned. Time is funny. At first it goes slow, but once you hit 60 it’s a freefall. Truth.

Time is precious. Each one of these grains of sand in this glass is valuable, not to be wasted or taken for granted. Each grain should represent a day lived to the full, according to God’s purposes.

I often wonder how God views time—since it is measured for us, but not for him. Really, what is two seconds or a hundred years compared to eternity? If I could understand God’s thinking, or how he viewed such things, then I suppose he would not be God. For his understanding is in another dimension altogether. And honestly, that’s comforting for me. Whether it may be the days of creation, or a day when the sun stood still—God does not measure time as we do. He is timeless.

We are all given a portion of measured time here on earth, yet we never know how many grains of sand are in our glass. Wyndham’s illness has driven this point home for me. I envisioned these years to be full of living out dreams together for God—yet, the dreams are not as I pictured. And oh-so- much harder. While none of us know our times, the visible grains of sand in some glasses are fewer than others.

I believe if I could but for a moment see time through God’s eyes I would only fall down and worship—because his plans are perfect. I just can’t see them in this physical dimension. God does not forget us. He is not deaf to our prayers. He is not blind to what is going on. He hears our sobs and is attentive to our prayers. Even our sighs are not lost to him. (And, he heard a lot of those this week.) Thus I know there is something more going on than I can’t now know or understand.

Last weekend we thought we lost Wyndham. Friday night he seemed fine, with a little sore throat. I was not concerned, as Jacob stayed here while I went to my women’s brunch Saturday morning. I came back home to find him burning up to the touch, unresponsive, with labored breathing. He could not communicate, and breathing was difficult. Oxygen was low. The rest of the day all seventeen of us surrounded him with love, prayers, songs, and many tears. Sunday was not much different and Monday morning breathing was so difficult he initiated our tearful goodbyes (or rather, “see you laters”), him wanting me to reassure him I would be okay. I can’t describe the intense sorrow I felt, combined with hope, knowing I truly would see him later. He would now be the “lucky” one.

Timing was such that earlier that week we had decided to use a hospice team, though I wasn’t really sure it was needed. As God’s providence would have it, the very first visit for the actual signing of papers with a nurse was as I arrived home Saturday morning when he was in such decline. Within hours we had oxygen, a hospital bed, and a nurse Saturday and Sunday. They did our thinking and procuring of things we didn’t even know we needed or have any idea how to get. On Monday we met his official (wonderful) nurse, who came and saw him in this tough state—on oxygen, with a high fever, and unable to talk. Thinking it may be an infection, she contacted his doctor asking to put him on an antibiotic immediately. Over the next few days his progress has been steady. Yesterday, when she arrived, he was in his wheelchair, smiling. (And I thought he might never sit in his chair again.) We knew, and she confirmed, that had he not responded to the penicillin he would not be here today. God gave us more time, for which I’m incredibly, deeply thankful…but it’s not easy time. Wyndham is weak, and life is hard. We know he will not always pull out of such a downturn, perhaps even the next time. But, I’m grateful to have him longer. There are still more grains of sand in his glass.

Wyndham has always treasured the verse in Acts 13:36 and trusted this.
  “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep (Acts 13:36a).

We trust that God allows us to serve his purpose in our generation, whatever unseen purposes this may involve. It always involves trust.

One of my favorite (but hard) scriptures is Psalm 31:3-5, 9, 15-16, and 24 (emphasis added):

3  Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
4  Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.
5  Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, LORD, my faithful God…
9  Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief.
15  My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me.
16  Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.

24  Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.

Our times are in his hands. His hand are big enough, strong enough, and tender enough. He doesn’t accidentally drop the hourglass. Whoops. Didn’t mean that. Our times are in his steady, mighty, never-failing hands.

I long to reach the point where I don’t fear death…for there is no fear in love (1 John 4:19)….I long to think as my granddaughter, Emery, stated after the difficult weekend…Why would we be so sad with what you have told me about heaven? Shouldn’t we be so happy for him? Oh to possess the wisdom of children.

Treasure the time you have today. Live in a way that will truly matter a hundred years from now, long after your sands have emptied. I love the vivid illustration I heard James Lloyd give decades ago. I’ll share what I remember, though I’m embellishing it to add my thoughts. He shared that…

If a baby in the womb could recount its thoughts, it would likely want to stay in the womb rather than enter some unknown world. Everything that it needs is in the womb. All feels good, even if it feels a bit cramped at times.

But then there is a time to be born. If the unborn baby were told…Proceed through this tiny dark and uncomfortable passageway into something you have no idea about…the response would likely be a kind “no thank you” or a loudly screamed…”not in a million years.”  

Unknown to this unborn child is what lies on the other side—A loving father’s arms longing to receive his child…saying “you are so loved and you have no idea what’s on this side. There’s pizza, ice cream…and so much more. And arms that love and hold you…because you are mine.”  

The following powerful words are excerpts from a sermon on Psalm 31 by Charles Spurgeon in May 17, 1881.

Having thus taken to the best resource by trusting in Jehovah, and having made the grandest claim possible by saying, “Thou art my God”, the Psalmist now stays himself upon a grand old doctrine, one of the most wonderful that was ever revealed to men. He sings, “My times are in thy hand.” This to him was a most cheering fact: he had no fear as to his circumstances, since all things were in the divine hand. He was not shut up unto the hand of the enemy; but his feet stood in a large room, for he was in a space large enough for the ocean, seeing the Lord had placed him in the hollow of his hand. To be entirely at the disposal of God is life and liberty for us.

The great truth is this-all that concerns the believer is in the hands of the Almighty God. “My times”, these change and shift; but they change only in accordance with unchanging love, and they shift only according to the purpose of One with whom is no variableness nor shadow of a turning. “My times”, that is to say, my ups and my downs, my health and my sickness, my poverty and my wealth-all those are in the hand of the Lord, who arranges and appoints according to his holy will the length of my days, and the darkness of my nights. Storms and calms vary the seasons at the divine appointment. Whether times are reviving or depressing remains with him who is Lord both of time and of eternity; and we are glad it is so.

We are not in our own hands, nor in the hands of earthly teachers; but we are under the skillful operation of hands which make nothing in vain. The close of life is not decided by the sharp knife of the fates; but by the hand of love. We shall not die before our time, neither shall we be forgotten and left upon the stage too long.

Not only are we ourselves in the hand of the Lord, but all that surrounds us. Our times make up a kind of atmosphere of existence; and all this is under divine arrangement. We dwell within the palm of God’s hand. We are absolutely at his disposal, and all our circumstances are arranged by him in all their details. We are comforted to have it so.

What a blessing it is to see by the eye of faith all things that concern you grasped in the hand of God! What peace as to every matter which could cause anxiety flows into the soul when we see all our hopes built upon so stable a foundation, and preserved by such supreme power! “My times are in thy hand!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 97

Wisdom Weaves a Tapestry

Thank you, Julia, for sharing such meaningful words about Wyndham’s life. Today, after a very difficult weekend with a sudden downward turn of health (though thankfully he’s significantly better today), I am particularly grateful for those whose threads run through my life…most especially Wyndham’s. Here are Julia’s beautiful words:

I think of a person’s life as a tapestry – people woven together over time and through experiences to create something beautiful and unique. When I consider the tapestry of my life I can see the threads of my parents, husband, children, and siblings. I see tragic relationships and heroic ones, too. There are best friends and enemies, some short threads, some very long.

Wyndham Shaw is a golden thread in the fabric of my life.  Sometimes he is prominent in the pattern and sometimes just a single hint of gold, but he is woven into the story of my life. Wyndham was the first minister I ever heard bring the Bible to life; I never heard anything like it. Once he got to know me better, Wyndham played ‘matchmaker’ to me and Gary Hannon.  When it looked like this relationship just might work, he married us.  He was my boss at HOPE worldwide New England and I saw him pretty frequently back then, leading with his heart and his convictions. He sat next to me as we flew to Romania and prayed for God to protect us and give us victory in bringing hope to the orphans of Bucharest.

The other passenger in the row (a stranger) was also grateful for the prayer.

Wyndham came to the hospital to pray over my newly born son. He supported me when I mentored his middle daughter – helping me to help her. These are the times in my fabric that the threads are more densely woven together, and you can see the pattern – glinting and strong.

Wyndham has always been an amazing example to me of a man who puts the most important things first; God and family and friends. He studied the Bible with my father over time and across much distance, and when my father’s health was failing (and he finally surrendered his will to God’s) Wyndham baptized my frail father in a trough in my living room. A few weeks later, Wyndham traveled across states (into Yankee territory no less) to help me bury my father.

While I do not consider myself among his closest circle, I count myself as so very blessed to be a witness to his strength and wisdom, and his living faith, ‘of greater worth than gold’ for these many years (27 as I count them).  Up close or from a distance, he is someone who has been a consistent example of living for Jesus; a friend, a big brother, a mentor, a boss, comforter, sufferer, a hero–and ultimately, I believe, a champion.  Julia Hannon

May God weave his love throughout our being, so that we can weave his love into the lives of others.

 I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God’s great mystery.
 All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else. And we’ve been shown the mystery!  (Colossians 2:2-3 MSG)

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 96

Wisdom “One-Anothers”

Breaking all rules of grammar, today “one-another” becomes a verb. We receive so much encouragement from you as we are continually “one-anothered.” And today, we pause to thank God for you, and for the powerful “one-anothering” you provide for us.

No words can properly express our gratitude for: the smiles you put on our faces; the refreshment you place in our souls; the extra burst of energy you place in our cells; and the perseverance you pour into our attitudes. These come from your daily prayers (which humble us), your words of encouragement (through calls, texts, and cards) that lift our spirits, your thoughtfulness (through acts of service) that help meet our needs, your faith that inspires our hearts, and your sharing of Scriptures that helps us persevere.

Wyndham’s disease stinks. A quick Google search of “Multiple System Atrophy” is daunting. It’s described as a combo of ALS and Parkinsons, as if one is not enough. The disease is hard, and continual. Caretaking is hard, and continual. Yet somehow, by the grace of God, the encouragement of our family, the prayers and encouragement from dear brothers and sisters in Christ—near and far…we feel indescribable joy, closeness to God, peace that passes understanding…for real. And all while this cloud of grief and suffering looms over our heads. It just doesn’t make sense, except for God.

Today we want to say thank you. You have no idea how much your prayers, words, cards, texts, calls, (short) visits, acts of service, comments on Facebook and this blog encourage us. To know we are prayed for around the world is extremely humbling, and every time I think of this I cry, with gratitude. Prayer makes a difference. I feel it.

Our amazing immediate family—they are all in, with all heart. Our extended family continually shows care and concern. Our spiritual family, golden friends, friends from afar, and new friends are sources of great strength and encouragement. Some are constant card-writers or texters, somehow always spot-on with the need of the day.

Our family group is truly a “family” group. Most of us are needy. Several of us are caretakers. Within the past few months, two in our group have passed from this life to Paradise (and what stories of faith they take with them). We have among us disabled children, aging parents, aging selves :-), Parkinsons, MS, MSA, congestive heart failure, raising of grandchildren, and various other situations. But a more giving, vibrant, faithful group can’t be found. Whether it’s praying, serving, providing meals, studying the Bible, baptisms, singing, Christmas caroling, serving the poor, taking the family group service dog to Children’s and Veteran’s hospital, and just inventing ways to encourage and do good…this describes the group. What a beautiful plan of God to give us a physical and spiritual family.

I have learned so much about the value of encouragement and the wisdom of God in creating relationships. The demonstration, by the triune God, of love and relationship is beyond understanding. My greatest regret presently, is that I can’t do more for others who face difficult times. I can pray, and can learn to be a better card writer and encourager as I go.

It’s beautiful and challenging to reflect on some of the Scriptures about our relationships in the body of Christ. Here are a few of God’s instructions on “one-anothering.”

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. (Romans 12:16)

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8)

I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another. (Romans 15:14)

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.(Ephesians 4:2)

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. (Colossians 3:16)

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.(1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Thank you for the ways you “one-another” us. Your words and prayers are deeply valued. May we all keep “one-anothering” each other in these ways. We love you.

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham- 95

Wisdom is an Apprentice and a Mentor

Today I taught, shared, and reminisced with a wonderful group of young women in the New England School of Missions about various experiences, life lessons, and favorite scriptures on discipleship. We talked about the importance of being lifelong learners who long to be transformed into the image of Christ. We talked of the importance of prayer, Scripture, honesty, humility, vulnerability, and perseverance as we learn and as we mentor. We can’t “fix” anyone, but we can take them to Jesus who can. We can with them as together we follow Jesus.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18)

This evening I read a note from Jack Frederick describing apprenticeship and mentoring. Wyndham, because of the way he has lived (and lives) his life has remained both an apprentice and a mentor. In other words, always learning and always mentoring. Mentors who always keep learning and growing, no matter the situation, make the best mentors. Humility is key. Without humility, we won’t have an eagerness to learn. I so appreciate this attitude in Wyndham, who in his physical weakness trusts his strong God and continues to learn—thus still mentors. And, I appreciate the following words from Jack.

I’ve learned more from walking with experienced leaders than from all the books I’ve read and speeches I’ve heard. I learned how to effectively lead Bible studies from sitting in on so many studies led by my friend Wyndham Shaw. We were both young, but Wyndham was an experienced ministry leader who had successfully led campus ministries and large churches. Later, he and Gordon Ferguson taught and trained me and others in the role of being an elder/shepherd/overseer in churches. And we learned not just from lessons; we walked with them to see how they cared for people and wrestled through difficult situations in people’s lives. They shared their successes and failures—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

An apprentice is defined as a person who is learning a trade from a skilled employer. It’s a great way to learn, the best. When we achieve university degrees and take a job in our field, we realize we still have a lot to learn. We have textbook knowledge, but we find in applying knowledge it’s much more effective to learn from those who have gone before and figured out pitfalls we didn’t see in the textbook and classroom.

I generally find that people who are accomplished and successful tend to be quick to seek and listen to wisdom from others. Often, when we are younger we can  think and say such things as, “I want to do it myself” or “I’ve got this, I don’t need help.” When I asked the CEO of Raytheon if he would like to study the Bible and to be my discipleship partner he responded, “thank you for asking me this, no one ever asked me something so important before.” He also said he had 80,000 people who told him things he wanted to hear, but no one told him what he needed to hear.

When I say “study the Bible” this means using the Bible to teach a friend to know God and what it means to become a follower or disciple of Jesus. That friend might be an atheist or agnostic, but it could also be a person who is very religious but has never really sought to understand the Bible and its teachings. I studied with a friend who had been a minister in a well-known church group for fifty-three years, yet he told me he only knew four or five Bible verses which he used over and over as he traveled around the nation preaching. This might be where you are…it’s okay to be there, it’s not okay to be satisfied to remain there; so get some determination and get someone to help you.

And for those of us who know the Bible, have read lots, and even taught Bible studies to many others…have you done so recently? If we go a few months (or years) without applying our knowledge, our abilities atrophy—just as muscles we don’t use regularly.

I’m grateful for men like Wyndham & Gordon who diligently learned to be effective in applying their faith and teaching others. I’m grateful to them and their wives, these and so many others who taught me not just from the textbook, but from their lives as they allowed us to walk with them.

I teach classes on rocket science. The thing that students and teachers like most is that I teach them the theory from the textbooks, but then I show them how we apply that math & science to actually design, build, and fly rockets. Both are vital, but academics and theories are no good unless you can prove that these work in real life situations.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

 Of all the important things we do in life, learning and applying the teachings of Jesus are most important. Are you an apprentice and a mentor? Who is training you, and who are you training?

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 94

Wisdom and a Rock

We had crazy wind yesterday. My rocking chairs frolicked around the porch from side to side. My door wreath landed at the neighbor’s fence, and everything hanging went flying. The birdhouse crashed. Our house, surrounded by open playing fields on both sides, always receives an intensified dose of wind. It was loud. Whistling. Banging things around. Denver, our golden retriever, took refuge under our bed.

Psalm 61 is one of my (many) favorites. Verses 2-4 read:

From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.
I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

Friday was a hard day. I thought for a while that Wyndham was losing his battle with MSA. I was scared. Thankfully, he rebounded and was soon back to his normal (MSA) self. It was scary, but somehow—peace-filled beyond human understanding.

Because of the rock. The one higher than I.

We used to pass this granite rock on our favorite place for prayer walks, a vista with a panoramic ocean view. This rock has held firm through many a violent storm. It always reminded us of the rock we have as our foundation for life. One that can’t be shaken. One that does not fly away in the wind. One that is a refuge. Better than under the bed.

Last week a friend came to visit. He later told me he was inspired by his visit with Wyndham and wanted to share about it in his sermon on Sunday. He then asked me what Wyndham does to maintain his relationship with God in his current situation. I thought about it and answered this:

I would say that he has built such a deep foundation that it carries the way he thinks when times are hard. He is physically weak and immobile so that everything must be done for him—but he controls his mind, thoughts, and interaction with God. He relies on God’s love, the Spirit, and trusts that God is in control and can work through weakness.

I read to him and we pray, though he only adds “amen” because he can’t really talk. Many mornings he will watch and listen to a YouTube of worship music with scenery and scriptures. (I just asked my TV for “YouTube with worship music, scenery, and Scriptures” and voila. It exists.) But mostly, the relationship is maintained because it stems from the strong foundation that has been built over the years. God and he can just sit and be. Funny, Wyndham and I can do that as well. That’s what deep relationships can do. They can be. 

When Wyndham became disabled, he immediately re-read Job. Wyndham greatly values integrity.  He committed to be as Job (2:9-10) and never throw away his integrity. He would say, as Job did, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

And he remains grateful. And joyful. And laughs a lot. He/we focus on the good. On the things for which we are thankful. One day at a time.

This is what it means to him to hold on to the rock. The one higher than I. God has been our refuge and will continue to be. Wyndham built his life on a rock. Wisdom builds on the foundation of the rock.

The storm helps us better understand what is truly important…and the preciousness of hope. Our spiritual selves never have to die. How amazing is that?!  I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

So, if you think your daily walk with God doesn’t really matter and the little decisions you make every day don’t count—remember that you are building a foundation. That rock will hold you when the storms come. And they will come.

 I love you, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.
The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears…

He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me…

As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.

For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God?

(Psalm 18:1-6, 19 30-31)

 

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 93

Wisdom Throws a Pebble

Though we had to tromp through snow to get to the creek beside our house, I decided today would be a good day to introduce our youngest grandchild to the thrill of throwing pebbles off the bridge into the water. Through the years, all our grandchildren have enjoyed this little adventure. This afternoon little Colette held two pebbles in her tiny hand, I held one in my wrinkling hand—and on the count of three, we heaved them off the bridge and into the water, with a splat and a plunk. As the pebbles dropped to the bottom and out of sight, we could only see the ripples that they produced. Where those ripples traveled, I have no idea. The little creek next to our house ebbs and flows…sometimes swiftly and sometimes barely moving—but eventually meets a river (I think the Ipswich) which flows into the Atlantic. As we watched the ripples fade out of sight I thought of the scripture from the book on wisdom, Ecclesiastes 11:1, 5-6:

   Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again…
As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.
  Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.

 Colette (Coco) is a tiny, precious little two-year-old, and I’m a not-so-tiny almost 65-year-old. There was nothing strong or eventful about our throws, and our pebbles were small. But we threw them—and the ripples began. Like the small pebbles, we never know where our seemingly small actions will take the ensuing ripples as we strive to follow Jesus—through good deeds, prayer, words of encouragement, sharing our testimony, and sharing the Scriptures. The energy of the Spirit of God carries the ripples from our meager pebbles in ways and to places we cannot imagine.

This week I received an email from Don Lee, a dear friend we met while in our twenties and leading a campus ministry in Raleigh, North Caroline. We certainly lacked experience and expertise, but we had a whole lot of faith in our great God. Don was a student at Duke University who became a Christian during this time. Every year without fail, for the past forty-two years, he has called Wyndham on the anniversary of his baptism into Christ to thank him for sharing Jesus with him—for “throwing that pebble.” He gave me permission to share his note:

Wyndham, I’ve been mulling over for several days how to express my gratitude to you for studying the Bible with me 43 years ago. I’ll never forget that time. I was a shy, unconfident, fearful, and empty young man in my freshman year at Duke University. My sister Nancy, ‘set me up’ to meet you and study the Bible. Each week I’d make the drive from Durham to Raleigh and meet you at the Brooks Avenue church of Christ. Your piercing eyes would see right through me. I felt exposed, but, at the same time accepted by you. Your patience in walking each step of my new spiritual journey with me was essential.

At one point I said, “Let’s get me baptized.” Instead of being fired up about my decision, you dug deeper to make sure I had dealt with some issues with my family being Lord of my life before Jesus. I’m so thankful you risked our relationship to help me get over this obstacle. There’s no way I could have persevered for this long without being tested early on. Jeanie, thank you for your weekly WWW (Wednesday Wisdom with Wyndham) blog. Since the time Wyndham studied with me so many years ago, I’ve only gotten to follow Wyndham from afar. All that you’ve shared (as well as so many others’ contributions) make me wish that I could have been around you more!

One of the recent blogs (#88 Wisdom Overlooks) helped me so much. As many will testify, your legacy and impact reach far and wide. While most of the ministries you have been in are on the east coast (FL, NC, WV, MA), few people realize the worldwide impact. That small NC campus ministry included Douglas Arthur (London), Douglas Jacoby (global Teacher), and Gary Knutson (Johannesburg). Your legacy has reached to China as well. Other disciples from that NC ministry (Scott and Lynne Green and myself) went to China. God used the Greens to plant the Hong Kong church in 1997. There are now 27 churches with almost 4000 disciples in the China region. What more can I say? I think of you and Jeanie often. Your faith and courage to finish the fight inspire me. I love you. Thank you for sharing God’s word with me. Love, your Brother in Christ, Don 

God’s Word is powerful. We just have to throw the pebbles. The Spirit of God will take the ripples from there—in mysterious and unimaginable ways.

  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
  As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
  so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:8-11)

 Throw that pebble today, and by faith…wait for God to do more than you dare ask or imagine.

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 92

Wisdom Considers

Every once in a while, a kind note or message arrives as a pleasant surprise—like when you hear from someone who you haven’t seen or spoken with in decades. I have been learning the value of kind words, and words that express appreciation. Kind words mean a great deal. Many of you have expressed such kindness, for which Wyndham and I are eternally grateful.

As I write these Wednesday blogs, I have several goals in mind. One is to honor a man I love and respect deeply. Another is to share wisdom observed from his life, in hopes that it can spark practical spiritual growth, encouragement, or inspiration.

Another purpose for these blogs is personal. They help me to recount precious memories and things I have learned (and am learning) as I process what the aggressive and progressive nature of Wyndham’s illness brings—a deep current and anticipatory grief (and sometimes fear), yet somehow accompanied by inexpressible gratitude, intimacy with God, trust, and a peace that passes human understanding. (Thank you, God.)

Wyndham, until he was unable to continue the process, was working on a book (which I’ll finish) entitled, “Gleanings from a Shepherd.” This comes from his life, containing stories of lessons learned from God (through life) concerning qualities of an elder. I pray that the “gleanings” expressed from others in these blogs (and hopefully from me as well—as the one who has witnessed his life up close and personal for four and a half decades) are a helpful book of sorts. Prayerfully, many of these stories (blogs) along with others unpublished, will one day accompany his “Gleanings from a Shepherd” book.

Today’s nugget of Wyndham’s wisdom, from an old friend we have not seen for many decades, recounts yet another important quality of wisdom—consideration. All too often, it’s easy to keep conversations shallow and incomplete, leaving relationships at a standstill. The scriptures teach us to consider how to stir each other up to love and good deeds.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,… (Hebrews 10:24)

“Consider” means we think through, study, and meditate on something. Wyndham excels at learning (considering) and valuing people—often resulting in stirrings of love and kindness. Today Jerry Sprague, that “old” friend from our campus ministry days in Raleigh, North Carolina, sent the following note:

Wyndham was very instrumental in my spiritual growth when I was a young Christian. I grew up not knowing how to communicate negative feelings, so I would always stuff them inside. One time, Wyndham and I were supposed to meet somewhere, and he forgot. When he realized it, he approached me in fellowship and apologized. I gave him my typical response, “Oh, that’s okay; no big deal.” He looked me straight in the eyes and said, Brother, tell me how you really feel. That’s the only way I can ever get to know you. 

That moment had a tremendous impact on my spiritual development. I should have verbalized how disappointed I was and that it did hurt me; in scriptural terms, “speaking the truth in love.” That’s the first time I really understood what it meant to be open and to speak the truth in love. God used Wyndham to teach me this truth.

It was still a struggle to be that open, but that was the starting point! Wyndham was always so gentle with me, and we continued to have a warm and effective relationship. I remember shedding tears when he told me he was moving. He had been such an inspiration to me. Please give him my love and thank him for the love he showed me!

May we all use consideration in our conversations. We never know the effect our words can have.