4 Ways to Feed Your Faith

Carnivore. Vegetarian. Vegan. Gluten free. Dairy free. Organic. Eating for our blood type. So many “eating” options are before us, at least in the land where I live. We give great attention to our food intake, knowing it affects our physical health. 

I’ve often asked myself: What would my physical health be like if I ate physical food in same way I ate spiritual food?

Would I be healthy and energetic? Malnourished? Would I have so little nourishment that my appetite would be gone? Would I be getting by, but with needed changes? Or, would I be dead?

These are important questions to ponder—because spiritually, like physically, we are what we eat.

It’s easy to eat food on the fly, while running out the door. Or, to just grab something someone hands to us in a drive-through. However, these aren’t the meals that do us the most good, or the ones which we remember.

Do you feed your faith “on the fly,” or mostly when someone hands something to you in a “spiritual drive-through?” Do you pay careful attention to your intake, or lack thereof? It’s crucial to take time to eat at the spiritual dinner table.

How healthy is your faith? Is it well fed and growing, or is it waning? Thankfully, we can build ourselves up in faith. While we can become physically healthier through our eating habits, surely eternal life is of greater importance than physical life.

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.
Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
(Jude 1:20-21)

Maybe you have been disappointed, or have been struggling to see God at work in your life—wanting to see victories that don’t seem to happen. Perhaps you feel as if life is going in the opposite direction from your desires. As a result, faith can suffer– tempting us to lose our appetite for the spiritual nourishment we need. Consequently, we are more apt to consume “junk food” that’s neither satisfying, nor good for us. It can come in the form of mind consuming social media and entertainment, or people or things that confuse our spiritual focus.

So how do we feed our faith?  Here are some simple reminders.

  1. We’ve got to eat the meat—or at least protein. There’s no substitute for opening the Bible and taking in the words of God. When we read, we can remember the power of God, his kindness, his love, and his truths…for faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)

And, let the word digest. Take time to really listen. Take time to see God. See him at creation. See him with Moses, David, and Mary. See him raise the dead and see Jesus raised from death. Be amazed at the magnitude and minutia of his creation. Take time to read the word. Take time to hear the word spoken. Sometimes, hearing the word of God spoken out loud speaks to me even more keenly, while at other times silent meditation moves my heart and mind.

  1. Invite others to “eat with you.” We need each other. Sometimes I need to “do my own cooking” spiritually, while at other times my faith is fed through others. When friends are hurting, or going through trials or life changes we often encourage them by sending physical meals. Often, food prepared for others is arranged through an internet tool called “the meal train.” Perhaps we could also encourage each other with “spiritual meal trains,” as together we encourage one another’s faith.  When I feel weak or hurting, nothing encourages me more than receiving a meaningful Scripture that speaks to my particular needs.

We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them.
In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know…Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.  
(1 Thess. 3:2-4,10)

 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong– that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.  (Romans 1:1-12)

It’s a special treat to “go out to eat.” Likewise, it’s a privilege and special time to “go out to eat spiritual food” as we meet together as a church, worship together, and  hear the word preached.  Neglecting this privilege and responsibility will weaken our faith.

  1. Sharing our personal faith feeds our faith. Yes, inviting people to church can be helpful…as friends may come and open their hearts to seeking God. But there is so much more involved in sharing our faith. Sharing our faith reminds us of what God has done in our lives. As you read the book of Acts, the disciples went everywhere sharing what God had done in their lives. It’s crucial, as the Scriptures state, to be active in sharing our faith. This feeds our faith.

  I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers,
because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.
  I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.
(Philemon 1:4-6)

As we hear encouraging news of how God is working in others’ lives, it strengthens our faith. We can’t hear these workings of God if we aren’t actively sharing them. Sometimes, without this focus, we can forget the mighty ways God has and is continuing to work on our behalf.
 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. (Romans 1:8)

  1. Take supplements to strengthen your faith.

Often, in addition to reading the Bible, gaining encouragement from others and being encouraged, and sharing my faith I’m strengthened by spiritual books and spiritual songs. I try to always be reading spiritual books, and I’ve gained so much from them. At times, music strengthens my faith like nothing else can do at the time. 

 
  When you come, be sure to bring the coat I left with Carpus at Troas. Also bring my books, and especially my papers.
(2 Timothy 4:14 NLT)


Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God!
(Colossians 3:16 MSG)

You may feel you have little faith, but it can grow if you feed it. Fortunately, our faith does not rest on man’s wisdom, but on God’s power. Even a little faith, with God’s huge power, can move mountains.
 I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate—I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it— and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway. God’s Spirit and God’s power did it,
  which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God’s power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else.
(1 Corinthians 2:3-5 MSG, emphasis added)

 

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom with Wyndham

Often we meet individuals who have particular and obvious gifts from God. Such is the case with Wyndham Shaw. When people encounter, watch, and interact with him, his wisdom quickly becomes obvious. I believe God has given him a generous portion of wisdom, which has been oft and well used to help change many lives. His desire is always to please God, from the inside out.

I first met Wyndham at the University of Florida when he was a Resident Advisor on my “then-boyfriend’s” dormitory floor. Even then, as a 19 year old, I respected him as a man of wisdom and integrity. As he studied the Scriptures and learned more accurately and adequately how to follow them, he humbly responded, was baptized in 1972, and has been changing lives ever since.

The “then-boyfriend” and I felt badly for Wyndham on the weekends, as his “then girlfriend” lived out of state. So, we often invited him to join us on our Saturday night dates. The rest is history. We became best friends, fell in love, and were married in 1974. 

Forty-three ministry years, many houses, four children, eight grandchildren, countless adventures, and eight dogs later we have experienced life to the full, as promised by Jesus in John 10:10. There have been many dips and thrills on this roller coaster of life, but we are blessed and grateful. I would heartily recommend this life and marriage to anyone, and we bow in gratitude to God for making this possible. Without his love and mercy, and his living and active words…we would not have anything resembling this “life to the full.” 

For a long while I have wanted to express some of the wisdom gleaned from Wyndham’s life in writing, so that as many as possible can gain from the life I have observed, shared in, and loved for over four decades. After seeking input from several friends, I decided to gather and share pieces of Wyndham’s wisdom each Wednesday.

Wyndham’s physical voice is now soft and weak, but his life and example is loud and strong. He suffers from a rare neuro-degenerative disease called Multiple System Atrophy. To be honest, it’s a horrible disease we would wish on no one. Over the past two years, my agile, athletic, and active husband has become wheelchair bound, unable to carry out normal activities of daily life on his own. God faithfully hears our many prayers, and we are confident of several things: He loves us, he hears us, he is all powerful, and he does not make mistakes. He will give us exactly what we need, and this world is not our home.  Every day is a gift. We begin our prayer together in the mornings with Lamentations 3:21-24.
  Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
  Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
  I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

Wyndham’s prayer and resolve as he lives with this disease is to be grateful, courageous, and cheerful each day—which he does amazingly well. I told you he was a wise man.

The first piece of wisdom I will share has exuded from his soul since his earliest days as a Christian. It comes from his all-time favorite Bible verse,  1 Timothy 1:5:

The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

This is the wisdom he lives by: Living a life for God begins from the inside out. It begins and ends with integrity. Living daily with sincerity of faith, purity of heart, and a clear conscience results in a life of love. Such is the wisdom I have watched him live… day after day.

I could fill a daily blog for years with wisdom I have learned from Wyndham. However, I’ll stick with one day a week. Each Wednesday I will share wisdom gleaned, not just from me, but from our family who saw him day and night and from friends near and far whose lives he has touched.

Many of you have already told me you wish to share wisdom you learned from Wyndham. If you wish to contribute to this collection please email me at shaw.jeanie@gmail.com with the subject line—Wednesday Wisdom. If you wish to receive these blogs in your inbox, feel free to sign up to follow the blog.

I’ll look forward to meeting you here on Wednesdays. And if you would, please remember us in your prayers. It’s a privilege to have you in our lives.

Trusting Through the Stink

Every so often you receive an email that resonates in a particularly meaningful way. The following is from one of our friends who wages a daily battle with her oldest daughter’s health challenges. Her daughter suffers from a brain tumor that was diagnosed in her second year of life and which can’t be removed. She suffers daily and intense seizures. Now twelve years old, she has been through numerous surgeries, chemo, and myriad treatments. Daily life is a challenge.

Angela sent the following note to my husband. Her perspective is valuable, and I asked her permission to share these words of encouragement—as I believe this message needs to be shared:  

“I can’t know what life is like for you right now. I am sure it is disappointing and ever so distressing to have your life end up like this. It is not fair. It flat out stinks. So many have depended on you for so much. You are an amazing minister and elder. Our family has benefited from your kindness and spiritual gifts many times. I hope that this email will in a small way return the favor.

When Alexa first got sick I thought sooner or later our lives would go back to “normal.” I would return to being a lawyer, Alexa would return to being a healthy kid, our finances would be restored, and my marriage would no longer be stressed. It is now 10 years later—none of those things are true.

However, what I once saw as the complete ruining of my life, I now realize has led me to a true and deep relationship with God. As a result, there is a closeness in my family that can only be born from the struggles between life and death. From experiencing high hopes to spirit crushing defeats, God has held my family and our faith together. He will do the same for you.

I will not sugar coat words or say that everything will be fine if you just pray or think happy thoughts. In these type of situations there will be disappointments and heartbreaks. There are times you may feel you can’t go on, times when you think, “Where is God?” But he is there.

Proverbs 3:5-6 helped me immensely “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit your ways to him, and he will make your ways straight.”

This Scripture helped me come to the realization that I could never understand why all this disappointment and heartache was present in our lives. God’s understanding surpasses mine by miles. Once I truly surrendered to the desire to know and understand why all of this was happening I was freed. It was no longer up to me to return our lives to the way they once were.

You have an incredible spirit Wyndham—one that has helped so many through so much. Your spirit will help you through this. It is so easy to think down about yourself during these times. Once I was no longer able to practice law due to our daughter’s needs, I felt useless for years.  I thought there was no way for me to help the Kingdom and that my God given talents would be wasted. I was so wrong. When you are dealing with a chronic and debilitating illness you have the opportunity to truly show the depth of Christ’s love for us. Psalm 34:18 was my mantra for ages. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

I have felt closer to God in the past few years, honestly more so then when I first became a disciple—because I am brokenhearted. You may be too. There will be so many opportunities for you to show doctors and other patients the completely healing love of Christ through your faith and belief.”

Thank you for sharing your heart, Angela. I believe it will minister not just to us, but to many others.  I close with an excerpt from a song by Lauren Daigle entitled, “Trust in You.”

“…Mighty warrior, king of the fight
No matter what I face you’re by my side

When you don’t move the mountains
I’m needing you to move
When you don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When you don’t give the answers
As I cry out to you
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in you

Truth is you know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead you have not seen
So let all things be my life and breath
I want what you want Lord and nothing less

You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation
The rock on which I stand
Your ways are always higher
You plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go
You’ve not already stood

When you don’t move the mountains
I’m needing you to move
When you don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When you don’t give the answers
As I cry out to you
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in you.”

A Powerful Lesson from the Walmart Clerk

A few months ago I spoke on a panel for caregivers in downtown Boston. Invited by a wonderful woman who is involved in community affairs, I had no idea what to expect. Frankly, I didn’t quite know how I got the invitation. I don’t think I had grasped that I had become, in fact, a caregiver. The sponsoring group was looking for “clergy” for the panel, and I was asked to speak on the role of faith in the life of a caregiver. I was thrilled for the opportunity to share with this audience the importance of my faith.

I did not know the keynote speaker, however she contacted me a few days before the event in order to go through the details of the morning program. As we tried to find a time to talk that would work for both of us, she mentioned that she could not talk at a particular time because that was during her shift at Walmart. I was confused. She would be speaking to many influential men and women—so I must confess that her occupation surprised me. I felt a bit guilty for that thought, as I know a job does not define a person’s contribution to society—or to other’s lives. She offered no explanation, but sought to find a mutually agreeable time to talk.

This woman’s message at the event was quite impressive. Her speech was informative and inspiring. It was evident that the challenges facing caregivers were on her heart as she sought ways to encourage them, advocate for them, and educate them on available services. Her passion was contagious.

In a follow up conversation I asked her more about her job, as I was quite curious. I learned that she is an astute businesswoman who owns her own company. However, as a spokesperson for the care-giving community, she felt she was not fully in touch with their needs–though she powerfully spoke about them. Thus, she decided to take a shift at Walmart in order to have conversations with caregivers who come through her checkout line. She can spot them by their purchases—unique to caregivers. Her goal is to chat with them, learn from them, and to offer words of gratitude and encouragement. Wow. I left the conversation challenged and inspired. 20170121_135916

Years ago I watched a movie I will never forget entitled “The Doctor.” In this movie a seemingly “entitled” doctor becomes the patient—and his life’s perspective is forever changed. Likewise, a book, “Nickle and Dimed,” by Barbara Ehrenreich moved my heart in similar ways. In this book, the author becomes an undercover journalist who chronicles her attempts to support her family on a waitress’ salary in order better understand and communicate the plight of many women. Though I have often tried to listen to and understand people’s life circumstances and difficulties different from my own… I am free to go back to live in my own skin and surroundings. This recent conversation with the Walmart clerk caused me to rethink needed ways to take my empathy and understanding deeper.

It’s hard, actually impossible, to comprehend the love that caused Jesus to willingly leave heaven for earth to be the human—to feel what we feel, to be tempted the ways we are tempted, to cry the same tears we cry, to feel pain and sorrow, to feel human love and friendship, and to experience death. Yet it’s real. He did it and left us an example.
  Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.
  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
(Hebrews 4:14-16)
  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
  but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!
  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:3-11)

While the Walmart clerk, the movie, and the book inspire me to be more aware and considerate, only Jesus can truly change and empower me to live a life of “love with skin on it” that begins inside the attitudes of my heart. I am dependent on his grace and mercy, and long to to learn more keenly to reflect his grace and mercy each day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Know Exactly Who I Am!

Recent conversation between my daughter and granddaughter:

Gracie:  Mommy, can you take my trash? (Gracie holds out a chewed on apple core.)

Mommy:  Gracie, I’m driving. You can just put it in the paper bag you are holding.

Gracie: I need you to take it.

Mommy: No Gracie. You can put it in your bag.

(Gracie continues to argue her point. As mommy reaches back for a “friendly knee squeeze” Gracie quickly thrusts her apple core into Mommy’s hand.)

Mommy: (In a stern voice, maybe some steam coming from ears) Gracie, just who do you think you are?

Gracie: I KNOW EXACTLY WHO I AM . img_0740

And there you have it. An interaction between a mom and a perfectly precious yet sometimes precocious 5-year-old. Yes, she was disciplined and was penitent. She tests her borders for sure, but truly is a sweetheart…who knows exactly who she is…Just sometimes has to add a dose of humility.

I love this confident quality which exudes from Gracie. She is secure in her own skin and is not afraid to step out with surety. My mother-in-law had a description for this quality in children that surely fits her—“a real ringed-tailed-peeler.”  I have no idea what that is, but it sounds about right.

Or, as Shakespeare penned, “Though she be but little, she is fierce.”

The truth is, when we know who we are (as Christians) our confidence can be rock solid. We can know exactly who we are. Perhaps we shouldn’t shove our trash in people’s fists…but we can be secure and confident from deep inside our souls.

When we aren’t exactly sure who we are, insecurity reigns. This insecurity can present itself in myriad ways, most which are not helpful in building loving relationships. We might withdraw, or attempt to “prove ourselves,” or perhaps look for confidence in a drink. When insecure, we may be easily angered when someone points out a weakness, thinking our “felt worthlessness” is accentuated. Often, insecurity breeds people-pleasing.

Certainly the ways we were raised and treated contribute to our confidence, or lack thereof. Our background, ethnicity, education, appearance, and finances can add to or subtract from the value we place on ourselves.

I have been struck by the millions of women around the world who marched this past weekend. As a woman, I am deeply inspired and humbled by the many heroic women who have gone before me, and even sacrificed their lives so that I can work, vote, have a voice, and much more. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. But there is more.These, alone, are not enough to give me the identity which brings confidence and inner peace.

One thing is abundantly clear.  We all long to feel valued, considered, and respected. We want to matter.

I firmly believe no one lifted the society imposed barriers like the radical man, Jesus. No one serves as a better example or inspires me more to learn “exactly who I am.”

Jesus knew who he came from and where he was going (John 8:14). Because of his sure identity and confidence he:

Was not a people pleaser (Mark 12:13-14).

Had inner certitude, which made him impervious to criticism.

Did not feel servile even when serving others. He simply focused on serving God.
  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;
  so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.
  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
(John 13:3-5)

Did not retaliate, but entrusted himself to God who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23).

The truth is, only through holding to the convictions that I was created by God, belong to him, and am living for something greater than and beyond this world can I begin to live like this…with this same kind of assurance and confidence.

Nothing else can provide me this inner confidence and peace—No man, no family, no job, no political scene, no money, no circumstance.

Though I am deeply grateful for my husband and family, my job, and so many blessings…only with God can I say the words of my granddaughter, “I know exactly who I am.” Who am I?

I am planned (Psalm 139:13-14, 71:6)

I am God’s child, with his love lavished on me (1 John 4:16, 3:1)

I am his treasured possession (Jeremiah 32:40; Exodus 19:5)

I am thought about (Psalm 139:17-18)

I am a song in his heart (Zephaniah 3:17)

I am carried (Isaiah 40:11)

I am engraved on his palm (Isaiah 49:16)

I am not separated from his love (Romans 8:38-39)

When I know who I am, then, and only then, can I strive to imitate those qualities of Jesus. Only when I am sure of myself, can I be free from myself to serve, to not retaliate, and to not care what others think. I have a purpose. I can go to sleep each night with peace, awaking with hope and God’s mercies…new every morning.img_0494

Do you know exactly who you are?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Mean You Don’t See That Mountain?

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. day, I edited this recent post. Would love your feedback:

 

Do you see a colorful, spiraled mountain in this ocean view? 20150323_133750

I don’t either.

 

 

 

But he does.

20170112_142752

 

 

 

 

 

“Uke” (the unicorn) pastures by the ocean. Day after day he sees this multi-colored, spiraling mountain as he looks out toward the sea.

 

20170112_131546

Hmmm. I wonder why. Could it be that he can’t see past his own forehead?

Actually, he is not so unusual. I certainly have my view of the scenery around me, and I suspect that you have your view as well. I think it is fair to say that our views are often altered by our unique “unicorn horns.”

What do you see? It may or may not look the same as what I see.

Our perspective changes everything. We view life through the eyes of our beliefs and experiences (our personal unicorn horns). It’s quite hard, at times, to see another’s view, because it doesn’t match our reality. We see that colorful, spiraled mountain in the middle of the sea and wonder why others are so blind! Can’t they see it?!!

Often, even after we have become Christians, we can be tempted to view life, circumstances, and even others through our “default” perspectives—a human and worldly perspective compiled from our past experiences and viewpoints. We can miss the fact that reality might actually be somewhat different.

(You mean a unicorn horn is not really on the horizon?!!)

Perhaps you come from a background of broken trust and/or abuse that affects your sight lines. Other views might be observed through the “horns” of poor health, suffering, or financial difficulties. Certainly, our ethnic backgrounds can affect the ways we see and process the views on our horizons.

I have learned so much from my youngest son who grew up (until his teen years) in poverty and without parents. His ethnicity has exposed prejudices and profiling–the likes of which I have never had to experience. I have never been stopped by eight patrol cars with rifles raised because I fit the description of a crime someone in a town nearby had committed. (Yes, years ago he experienced a “My Cousin Vinny” situation on the way back from teen camp.) I’ve never been “watched” while shopping. He has.

While his responses to numerous situations can frustrate me and cause me to (smh…shake my head), they make sense to him. The most loving thing I can do is to try to understand him, and learn to respect him. I know I still have much to learn.

We have grown closer and closer as I have tried to understand his views. I learn so much when I ask him what he sees and understands–and when I try my best to wrap my head around his perspectives. Our pasts, training, and experiences are far apart from each other. I have needed to learn to respect him, and he has had to learn to respect me. And thanks to God, we do love and respect each other.

How do you view family members when they don’t think the same ways you think? Your extended families? Your work associates, your neighbors, friends, or even the sharers of highways you travel? What’s your perspective as you face challenges they bring to you, or as they share their own challenges? Are you annoyed and resentful when they don’t think just like you…or do you push prejudices aside and strive to love as Jesus loves. Do you pray and work to see through Jesus’ eyes? I certainly have been (and continue to be) challenged by these questions.

Try asking someone unlike you (and who you don’t really understand) to share with you about their life…and really listen. Instead of trying to point them to your way of thinking…look to Jesus and his words. He is the only one that can bring real unity through shared convictions based on his truth, forgiveness, and will-directed, sacrificial love.

I am convicted and called higher by Jesus’ example…and the Scriptures’ call:

14  For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
15  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16  So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.
17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  (2 Corinthians 5:14-17, emphasis added)

What an encouraging, challenging, and hopeful scripture! I am a new creation through Christ…with a new way of thinking.

I must also ask another question…along with the question of how I view others.

How do I view Jesus?

Really.

From the ways I have “pictured” him, or by who HE says he really is?  When our perspective of Jesus stems from what he says about himself, rather than who we think he is or should be..our life and perspective changes.

When we view life through “truth” as the Scriptures teach, rather than through our own backgrounds and thoughts, we can become more and more like Jesus. Only then can we see life, our circumstances, and others through the eyes of Jesus.

We all have our “unicorn horns,” but Jesus can show us his true and beautiful view.

The view from that vantage point is heavenly…in the truest sense.

 

 

At Least It’s Not Lice!

The questions kept coming as Micah and Gracie were eager to know more about their Papa’s neurological disease. It’s a tough one. He has lost all mobility and is wheelchair (or scooter) bound. His speech is somewhat affected and he experiences intense fatigue every day. Life as we have known it has changed. As my daughter sought to answer their questions her daughter, Gracie, was thoughtful. Then, with her eyes widened and hands gestured outward Gracie triumphantly proclaimed, “Well—at least it’s not LICE!” gracies-expression

I love children. I need them in my life. Their points of reference are limited to their few years of experiences. Their perspectives are innocent, simple, and pure. You never know what crazy wisdom might come from their mouths.

For Gracie, her perspective was likely shaped from a family vacation at a lake, fondly known as “the one with lice.” The entire week was spent searching heads for nits (aka nitpicking), lathering with special expensive shampoos, and laundering loads of linens and clothes for 16 people—several times a day. img_1210We can laugh about this time now (2 years later), but it obviously had a profound impact on Gracie (whose head, fortunately, never housed a nit to be picked). img_1250

 

 

Currently, when Wyndham and I feel the very real and difficult realities of this current challenge, we often look at each other and say…”Well, at least it’s not lice!”  (I believe a sense of humor is not only helpful, but necessary.)

How do you view your current circumstances? Do you see them through a spiritual, Christ-like perspective…or from a self-focused,  world-focused, and hopeless point of view?

It is impossible for me, as a human, to understand the workings of God (Isaiah 55:8-9). My life doesn’t always follow the script I would write. I do know that I can completely trust his love and rely on his power (Psalm 62:11-12). I am keenly aware that my joy level springs from my ability to choose an eternal perspective. I am trying hard to hold to God’s view as I enter this new year…praying not to be fearful or discouraged. Praying to view life through Jesus’ eyes.

This past week Micah spoke with us about some of the questions he mused, and of a talk he recently had with his dad. His dad had explained to him that life on this earth can be hard, but we live for a home with God that lasts forever. That changes things. God has a bigger view than we do. Micah then shared that the Bible is what makes this clear to him. He told us that he will remember that talk with his dad for the rest of his life. Smart kid, right?

After the apostle Paul endured many great hardships he wrote from his “God-perspective:”

13  It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak,
14  because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.
15  All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
16  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
17  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
18  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:13-18)

This is my goal for 2017. To fix my eyes on Jesus…to see what is unseen and eternal.

I’m not gonna lie….it’s hard sometimes. But it is true and right, so I’ll hold on to that.

And after all…

“At least it’s not lice!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grateful, Courageous, and Cheerful

I see through new lenses these days. No, I didn’t get new glasses.

I have a new way of life. One that still consists of the family I treasure and work that I love—ministering to people. But one which now includes numerous therapies, doctors’ appointments, calculated outings, and even trips to be measured for the “electric chair.” Sounds scary—but I am referring to a motorized wheelchair, complete with accompanying accessible van. Bars and ramps have already been installed in our home as we live out our “new normal.”

I must choose how I view this change in life. An assortment of viewpoints and attitudes hover around my head and are readily accessible. Which lens shall I choose?20161121_150413

My husband no longer has mobility, and suffers from a progressive neurological disease. Yes. It’s hard and sobering.

However (for a completely none other than God-given reason) we have peace. And we have so much we are thankful for. I find myself surprised to feel this reality so keenly and deeply—but I’ve never felt closer to God, my husband, or my family. And, I’m extremely thankful as I approach my country’s Thanksgiving holiday.

This really doesn’t make sense. I am quite aware this contentment is only because of many prayers being prayed—and a commitment and prayer from my husband to live each day…grateful, courageous, and cheerful.

How do you do that when you lose your physical capabilities and/or when life radically changes?

By choice.  Choosing to be grateful this time of year. This day. This moment. Tomorrow.

And choosing to be courageous and cheerful.

Each day.

The alternative choice is to become bitter, fearful, and depressed…and that, dear friends, is not an encouraging choice.

My husband chooses the former, and it spurs me on to choose the same. The Bible calls me to this. It’s a vital way to think—and it’s possible. This way of thinking doesn’t mean I hide my head in the sand to all that is hard in life while whistling “Pollyanna.”  In fact, Jesus’ tells us we will have troubles in this world. Expect them. There are all kinds of troubles here in this “short minute” of life on earth. Yet, it’s the perfect and trouble free eternal years for which I live. Aaaahhhh.

If we are waiting for life on earth to be “fair” and to always make sense to us we are in for a long and impossible wait.

Despite our troubles, we can know we know and hold to someone who is all powerful and completely loving.

I can’t see what he sees. I also can’t deny the truth of the following scripture. God’s peace exceeds anything and everything I can understand.
4  Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!
5  Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
6  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
7  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
8  And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
9  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:4-9 NLT)

Today, I feel grateful. The ability to stand, to walk, to climb, and to run feels very pertinent to me. To quickly “fetch” a drink of water when I’m thirsty is a privilege, and to take steps into a friend’s home is a blessing.  I may not always have these abilities, but while I do I’m thankful for them. My once fast and agile husband can no longer do these things, but he is a grateful man. He knows and lives love; receives and offers forgiveness; experiences peace in heart and mind; has the love of an amazing family; holds to a purpose and hope that nothing can destroy; and joyfully functions within a diverse church family that loves deeply and from the heart.

His attitude is contagious to me. And it’s a good contagiousness—no need for covering the mouth with a tissue here. This attitude shows in the big stuff and in the mundane. For instance: While pumping gas, I now stop to be thankful for the fact I have a car, and money to power it.  Each time I’m at the grocery store and slip that debit card chip into the proper slot I’m reminded of the amazing food I am able to buy, and I feel thankful.  I realize this is a luxury for many. I’ve seen, met, and spoken to many who would long for such an opportunity. I am truly blessed. Before this recent struggle, I felt less gratitude for such “mundane” things.

And who could have courage if they didn’t face fears?  Fearfulness has dogged me throughout my life, yet God has not let me down. Ever. This doesn’t mean I haven’t faced hard or even life threatening situations and felt fear. Yet, it was in those times of deepest fears God empowered me to feel the most courage.

Funny thing— this is what God’s promises have always told us. Just re-read Psalm 23. Maybe a more unfamiliar wording of this psalm will feed your soul:
4  Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.
5  You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing.
6  Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of GOD for the rest of my life.
(Psalm 23:4-6 MSG)

And cheerfulness?

Deep down in the heart joy supersedes circumstances.

17  Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
18  yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19  The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.
(Habakkuk 3:17-19)

18  When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your love, O LORD, supported me.
19  When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.  
               (Psalm 94:18-19)

And that is something to smile about. Cheerfulness begets cheerfulness.  It feels good, too.


22  A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
(Pr. 17:22)

Join us in a commitment to leave each day with gratitude, courage, and cheerfulness.

…And have a wonderful Thanksgiving day—and life!


12  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
(Romans 12:12)

 

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“Every Day is a New Chance”

He’s an “old soul” at six years old. I’m often taken aback by conversations with my grandson. On the playground, he might be found playing ball with his friends,or asking his teacher how her day is going and if teaching makes her happy. That’s just the way he rolls.

So, I was not too surprised with our conversation last week as I was transporting him to his cousin’s house. As we were on the way he turned to my husband, who is suffering with health challenges and can no longer walk, and reminded him that he prays for him every day. We spoke of how God has not said “yes” to our desires for reasons still unknown to us–but we trust him. After a pause Micah continued, “You know Papa, every day is a new chance.” every-day-is-a-new-chance

I stored this nugget of child wisdom in my heart and ruminated on it throughout the week. Indeed, Micah, every day is a new chance. Every day brings a new possibility, a new chance.

In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. (Psalm 5:3-4)

Every day is new chance to:

Count the many blessings I have been given.

Serve others.

Notice new ways that God is at work in my life.

Choose gratitude.

Hope.

Encourage someone.

Remember what Jesus did for me.

Accept God’s love and power even if I don’t understand my circumstances.

Overcome a harmful habit or sin and replace it with good.

Share this love which can make an eternal  difference in someone’s life.

Today we have this chance.

A couple of nights ago I woke up for a few hours and took the opportunity to pray. I thought about this “random chance” to pray and began to thank God for a vast variety of people, scenes, creatures, and emotions I enjoy and that he created. I was filled with wonder at how music “works” and how humorous and adorable are so many creatures. I stood (or rather lay) dumbfounded  at laughter, joy, excitement, sorrow, and the many varied emotions we are able to experience. I thought of the intense power of love and how it is something we can only know because of God. It was a fun prayer time as I remembered this “chance” to choose God. I read a familiar passage in a less familiar version and was uplifted so much I’m eager to share it with you…as we hold to the fact that every day is a new chance.What will you make of your chance today?

 
  This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?”
  God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.
  And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!
  That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times.
  The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next.
  Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in
  until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.
  All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs.
  These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance.
  That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us.
  But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.
  Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.
  He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God.
  That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.  Romans 8:15-28 (MSG)

 

 

Out of Eggs: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Menopause

As I opened the refrigerator it hit me. My epiphany came as the waft of cold air came spilling from the stainless steel rectangular box. I was out of eggs. This eggless dilemma was deceiving, as the cardboard egg container still looked the same from the outside.20160805_131350

However, upon opening the carton I saw it was true. The last egg had been used. I was not prepared for the drama that was now thrust upon me. You see, my pumpkin muffins were waiting. The oil and water had already been added to the mix (that’s right—they weren’t homemade). All that was needed to complete this delectable snack was one stinkin’ egg. I didn’t need a jumbo egg, a large egg, or a brown egg. I didn’t even care at that point if it was organic and cage free. Any egg would do. My muffins would not turn out well without an egg. The egg was needed to hold it all together and to bring moisture.  But I was in a hurry. No time to find a neighbor with an egg, or make a quick trip to the store. I’d have to do this thing eggless. The pumpkin muffins went into the oven. Thirty minutes later, voilà. I was left with muffins that were falling apart, dry and crumbly. Muffin tops rolled over the edge of the crinkled paper muffin holders.

And this, my friends, is what happens in menopause. When that last egg leaves, women often feel they are thrust into an oven, and then things start to fall apart. All moisture leaves the body. The whole body. And the muffin tops hang over the edge.

For me, during menopause I lived with my own personal summer—like a summer at the equator while wearing a fur coat. I often couldn’t sleep until it was time to wake up, and that greatly increased my fatigue level. Dryness of all kinds was a problem, as were heart palpitations (which turned out to be tachycardia resulting in a heart ablation, rather than menopausal palpitations—surprise). My doctor assured me that palpitations causing one to pass out were not normal menopausal symptoms. So, don’t attribute everything to menopause. Now, years later, the night sweats are gone, with the exception of one that arrives each and every morning at 6:00 a.m.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Fortunately, I didn’t feel much change emotionally, except a bit of sadness about the end of an era. Adding to the fun symptoms, menopause often hits when children are leaving home and parents are aging and passing from this life. I experienced all of that and felt it keenly. During that time, emotions could run high. And aging is part of God’s grace?

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead— since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.   Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:18–22)

I share this verse for encouragement, even though we are probably not looking to have a child at this stage of life (though this was the situation with Abraham and Sarah). This scripture tells me that even when our wombs are dead God can still work powerfully through us. God’s power in our life can become more evident than ever if we hold to his promises and are strengthened in our faith. Menopause, like everything else, is more than just a physical issue. It brings with it an opportunity to grow in our faith.

Some women go through menopause without much effect. However, as that last egg prepares to leave, a woman’s hormones go through great transitions as the estrogen leaves the premises. Like my pumpkin muffins, we can tend to feel like things are “falling apart.” We may feel like we live in a hot oven. We wonder why our skin changes and why sexual intimacy can be painful. We may ask, “Where did my libido go?”  We may find it more difficult to stay svelte…or get svelte. That’s a kind way to say we feel fat and have difficulty losing weight. The subtitle “Opportunities to Grow” is not about our changing metabolism.  As you read this you may be viewing menopause as an event that will happen years from now, or perhaps it is current. Maybe you went through it years ago and you barely remember how it affected you. Or if you are a guy, you may be wondering what is happening to your wife during this time. Whatever your stage, use this information to prepare you, confirm that you are not crazy, or encourage someone else who is in this stage of life.

Most women go through menopause in their early fifties. Again—do you see God’s grace at work? Imagine enrolling your child in kindergarten as you enroll yourself in Medicare. God understands that when we are in the menopausal stage of life it would be difficult to manage a toddler.  Menopause is simply when a woman stops ovulating. This results in the cessation of menstruation (another little gift from God). Hormonal changes can result in a lovely variety of symptoms:

  • Hot flashes (A hot feeling—the kind where you want to bury yourself naked in the snow.)
  • Night sweats (Did I go swimming in my sleep without realizing it?)
  • Insomnia (The inability to sleep…Where was this when my kids were little?)
  • Decreased libido (Decreased sex drive, or as the phrase goes, “My get up and go, got up and went.”)
  • Mood swings (Feelings that shift, causing you to weep at commercials or become angry at houseflies.)
  • Forgetfulness (Why did I walk into this room? Why is my mail in the refrigerator? What is my youngest child’s name?)
  • Dry skin (Yes, this especially includes vaginal dryness.)
  • Recurrent yeast or bladder infections
  • Recurrent colds or flus
  • Loss of hair (But don’t worry…it will likely reappear on your chin.)
  • Weight gain (Oh, the joy.)
  • Fatigue (I’m tired just reading all of this.)

Some women have minimal symptoms of menopause, while others hit the jackpot and get all of them. Some women may experience heart palpitations, panic attacks, or headaches. For others who have had headaches previously, they may lessen. We all experience this special time in our own special way. Be sure to consult your physician about your specific medical conditions, especially if you are having irregular bleeding or pelvic pain.   Many women have perimenopausal symptoms for years before they reach menopause. During this time they may skip cycles or have shorter or longer periods. Do remember, until the last egg is gone you can still get pregnant.

What can you do about these symptoms? First and foremost, pray a lot. Seriously. Menopausal symptoms can take our focus away from Jesus and weaken our ability to fight sin. Menopause does not give us a ‘’free pass” to become angry or indulge in self-pity. With God’s grace, allow these things to cause you to depend more on God. When you struggle, let it draw you closer to God’s power and love.

Keep helpful scriptures close at hand and read them often. Talk to trusted friends about your struggles, and ask for prayers. Catch the temptations before they give way to sin. Many symptoms can be treated, or at least their severity decreased. For example, insomnia can be helped through regular exercise, natural remedies, relaxation techniques, or even medications. Try to avoid technology before you sleep. It can prevent your mind from relaxing. Vitamin E suppositories or very small doses of natural estrogen suppositories, along with good lubrication, can help vaginal dryness. Healthy eating (with minimal carbs and sugars), along with vitamin and mineral supplements, can help reduce fatigue. Vitamins B-12 and D-3 are often low in women. When low in vitamin D, women can tend toward brittle bones and osteoporosis.Drinking plenty of water helps prevent bladder infections and also helps the skin stay moister.

Married Men: Oh Please Pause…May I offer you suggestions from a woman who has been there, done that? Thankfully, my husband was very encouraging and supportive through this time, though we navigated through a few storms.Your wife is not possessed. She is going through a difficult transition emotionally and physically. She would rather not feel the symptoms she does. She will do better with your love and support than with your solutions for “dealing with menopause.” Gifts of gym memberships, tweezers, wrinkle cream or strait jackets will likely not be well-received. Hugs, expressions of love, and assurances that you believe she is beautiful will be most helpful. She needs to know she is still valued and the object of your affection—not your “old lady.” Together, make a plan ahead of time for how you will handle new difficulties that arise. When the difficulties come, you will better know how to help each other. When the covers fly off at night and she throws off her nightgown, this is not an invitation. She does not want a hug. She does not even want to be touched. An ice pack would be the most romantic gift you could offer at this time. Ask her what would help her as she navigates this stage of life, what she most needs from you. Thank you for your understanding.

Women: We’re in This Together Friends, remember that every woman who lives long enough goes through this change and comes out on the other side, and so can you. With God, you can do this gracefully. It’s really an okay experience. I’m fully enjoying this stage of life, as are most of my friends. Make sure you stay close to God and laugh at the days to come. A sense of humor goes a long way. The wisdom of Proverbs tells us:

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones. (Proverbs 15:30)

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)

Remember that this time in your life involves your husband as well, so wives, be sensitive to your spouse. It’s really not all about you or him. It’s about us as a couple, with God at the center. God still calls us all, male and female, to consider each other’s needs above our own. That’s a constant upward call for me. I hope I’m getting better with years of practice and learning from God, empowered by his Spirit—but I always need the reminder.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17–18)

This post is an excerpt from my new book, “An Aging Grace: Collected Wisdom on Aging Gracefully,” available at ipibooks.net