Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 119

Wisdom and Waldo

“Where’s Wally (Waldo)?” is an oft-asked question in a book series. In these books, a little guy named Waldo in a red and white striped shirt and glasses hides among many other characters. The reader is challenged to find Waldo amidst the many other characters in the illustration. Sometimes there are similar-looking characters that make his presence harder to locate. At times, when I have tried to find Waldo, I miss him even though he is always on the page.

Sometimes “finding God” can feel tricky. He cannot be seen with a red and white striped shirt and can seem hard to “find.” Yesterday was one of those days for me that is called a “Murphy’s law” day. Murphy’s law is known as a law where “if something can go wrong, it will go wrong.” I will spare the details of the day but suffice it to say it was challenging. Fortunately, this was on the heels of a good night’s sleep and some good Bible reading and prayer, so the situation didn’t sink me. Otherwise, I might have struggled mightily. Wyndham always sought to find God’s will in hard situations. Now, I strive to continually find God in Wyndham’s very difficult situation.

When we feel like God is hard to find, it helps to know that we are not alone. David, the man after God’s own heart laments, as described in the Message version in Psalm 22:2-6.

Doubled up with pain, I call to God all the day long. No answer. Nothing. I keep at it all night, tossing and turning.
And you! Are you indifferent, above it all, leaning back on the cushions of Israel’s praise?
We know you were there for our parents:
they cried for your help and you gave it; they trusted and lived a good life.
And here I am, a nothing—an earthworm, something to step on, to squash.

Have you ever felt like this? I have felt these feelings, wondering why God is at times hard to “find.” Thankfully, David continues in verses 22-24.

Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship, and punctuate it with Hallelujahs:
Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers; give glory, you sons of Jacob; adore him, you daughters of Israel.
He has never let you down, never looked the other way when you were being kicked around. He has never wandered off to do his own thing; he has been right there, listening.

Jesus understands the faith involved in believing what we cannot see. In John 20:29, after Jesus showed Thomas his pierced hands and feet Jesus states,  “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”

I take comfort that Jesus understands. When God seems to be hiding, He is, as David states, always right there, listening. Since I know that He is listening, I figure the best way to find Him is to speak to Him and let Him speak to me.

I have found a helpful practice for “finding God” when He seems distant. It involves finding a place by myself in my house and being still. As I take some time to slowly breathe in, I think about breathing in more of God’s life-giving Spirit. As I breathe out,  I envision letting go of all my worries. Then, I “come into His presence with singing” (Psalm 100:1) by reading and/or singing hymns and spiritual songs.

Then, I read a few verses in the Bible and read them again, and again. I meditate on them by first asking cognitive questions such as “What does the scripture say? What does it mean? How do I apply it to my life?” Then, I move to more meditative ways of thinking as I ask, “How do I feel about what is being said? Where do I find myself resonating deeply? Where do I find myself pulling back, resisting, or wrestling with what is being said? Can I be honest with Jesus (and others) about these things? Why do I feel this way? And, what does this tell me about myself, my attitudes, and perspective?” Then I try to let God’s Spirit guide me to what is needed. (I learned this practice from the book Life Together in Christ by Ruth Haley Barton.) I try to pray throughout this time, as I read the Scriptures and seek to find God, up close and personal.

I also have added a helpful “pick me up” throughout the day. Remembering Gloria Baird’s “God’s pitcher” analogy, I placed a pack of Scriptures in a glass pitcher. (Thank you, Jim Smith, for giving me this pack of scriptures with a psalm on one side and a promise of God found in the New Testament on the other side.) Throughout the day, I pick a scripture to read and think about. So far, the scripture has always been just what is needed.

Deidrich Bonhoeffer wisely said, “In meditation, God’s Word seeks to enter in and remain with us. It strives to stir us, to work and operate in us, so that we shall not get away from it the whole day long. Then it will do its work in us, without being conscious of it.”

May we find God today, and every day. He is always eager to be found.

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 115

Wisdom Seeks His Face

Wyndham found something amusing as I was shaving his face last week. I was confused, asking why the laughter, but laughed along with him. He laughed because as I shaved his face, I made all the facial contortions that he would have made had he been shaving himself. I thought about this moment and how it relates to our walk with God. (I know, my mind is weird.) Because I have observed Wyndham and studied his face so long and carefully, I had imitated, without thinking, the expressions he would make.

Likewise, when one becomes familiar with the “face” of Jesus, their actions begin to resemble His; what He would do, and how He would think. To know Jesus, I must carefully consider and meditate on His words so that through His Spirit the eyes of my heart will be enlightened (Eph 1:17-18). When we love Him we want to know Him…His expressions, thoughts, and attitudes so that prayerfully, even without realizing it, we imitate Him. I pray to let what flows from Jesus flow from me. For this to happen, I must continually seek His face.

Seek his face? What does that mean? In the Old Testament, when one even came close to the face of God their face became radiant, too bright to be viewed. God’s face reflected such glory and majesty that it could not be directly viewed; yet, the Scriptures teach us to seek His face:

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chron 7:14)

  Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
  Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.
(Ps 105:3-4)

So how do we seek God’s face? We look at Jesus. There, we see God’s face.

And the Father who sent me has testified about me himself. You have never heard his voice or seen him face to face,
and you do not have his message in your hearts, because you do not believe me—the one he sent to you.
“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!
  (John 5:37-39 NLT)

We see God face to face when we “hear” Jesus’ voice and “see” his face. To seek Jesus’ face means to seek Him relationally; it doesn’t mean we learn a religious system. Wyndham taught me to seek God’s face; to know Him relationally in a much deeper way.

What does Jesus’ face show? In His face we can see compassion and courage with those who are hurting or lost in idolatry (Mark 10:21). We see the pain in His face as He agonizes over lost Jerusalem (Mt 23:37). We can see His empathy when His face is covered with tears because His friends are hurting over the loss of their brother (Jn 11:33-35). We can see the agony on His face as He knows He must be separated from His Father in order to save us (Mt 26:39). We can see His face emitting forgiveness while He was hanging on the cross (Jn 23:34). We can see His confidence in His disciples as He tells Peter to “feed His sheep” and  tells His disciples to take the gospel to all the world (Jn 21:16-17; Mt 28:18-20). We picture His glowing face as we hear Him give a blessing for His parting words before ascending (Lk 24:50). We see countless other faces of Jesus.

When we consistently, carefully, and considerately seek His face we start imitating His thoughts and moves, even without realizing it, because we are being transformed into His image, from one degree of glory to another. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, our faith will always be strong (Heb 12:1-3). May we continually seek His face, turning our eyes upon Jesus.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Refrain:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conqu’rors we are!

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Written in 1922 by Helen Lemmel

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 114

Wisdom Learns to Dance

Wyndham has many strengths. Dancing was never one of them. He just hears the beat of a different drummer. It’s not that he didn’t want to dance with the beat, he just didn’t hear it. Our children have had fun in the past imitating his one and only dance move. It looked like the action movement that accompanies the children’s song called, “Roll the Gospel Chariot Along.” The action consists of twirling one’s hands around each other. Right there, that was Wyndham’s dance move. (Oh, how I’d love that simple move now.)

So, it was particularly meaningful (and wise), when he agreed to take ballroom dance lessons with me in the couple of months preceding Sam’s and Leigh Ann’s wedding fourteen years ago. I love to dance. When I hear music, I can’t help myself. The rhythm makes me want to move. It makes me happy. It may not be pretty, but I do feel the beat of the music and love to respond. For a few months, we, along with Sam and Leigh Ann, took ballroom dance lessons at an Arthur Murray Studio that happened to be about a mile from our house. We all had fun, and since he can count quite well, we learned some basic 1,2,3,4 box steps. Sam and I, by contrast, had some “out of the box” steps at the wedding. I recently passed by the old “now closed” studio and reminisced about that time and thought about dancing. I see a metaphor with dancing and a relationship with God. Too often, one’s theology of Christianity means adherence to outward laws while under the observation of an “all-seeing eye” in the heavens. God is often wrongly perceived as uninvolved, too big to care, or too small to intervene. There could certainly be no “dancing” with such a God. Perhaps some think Christianity as sitting in an audience watching God “perform;” but, the audience member can only watch in awe at the marvelous grace, majesty, and power of the dancer, not participate in the dance.

Too often, God remains separated from the “audience,” separated by the vast gulf of the orchestra pit. I picture Christianity, or a relationship with God,  as God crossing the gulf of the pit and extending his hand to me, in the audience—carrying me to the stage of life to dance with Him. As I follow his lead, I begin to hear the music of God’s orchestra and am better able to get in step with his dance. I’m clumsy, so He starts me with the simple 1,2,3,4 and I get tangled up in my own feet; however, I realize that when I trust Him and let go of me, it’s an exhilarating, scary, beautiful, unimaginable, thrilling, frightening, and oh so wonderful dance. He never lets me fall; I just have to hang on and follow His lead.

When the music portrays the sounds of tragedy, God lifts me; when the music elicits fear; God holds me; When I need to step out of my comfort zone, God twirls me; and when I can’t hear the music; He guides me. For some reason, He wants to dance with me and invites me into partnership with Him. He carried me over the pit that separated us, and as Zephaniah pens in 3:17: The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

I never want to be separated from Him, because I’d fall back into the pit, and on my own, I really can’t dance. If I distance myself, I can’t even hear His song. Oh, but this dance is not just for me. He is calling everyone to this dance, and it becomes more beautiful as it is synchronized, reflecting His grace and majesty. Everyone that joins has a special contribution to make. I want everyone I know to join, so invite as many as I can. I tell them to listen to His music (His words) and follow His lead in order to let Him carry them across the pit and dance in step with His Spirit of grace and truth.

The beautiful truth is that God calls us into a relationship with Him. I must be attentive, imitating his heart, vision, and purpose as I follow Jesus. God is not uninvolved with me or any of His creation, and has in fact, through Jesus, given me the fulfillment of the promise of His Spirit dwelling in me (Acts 2:38-39; Col 1:27; Rom 8:11). The “music” we dance to must come from the Father. As Galatians 5:25 states, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Otherwise, we will “dance to the beat of a different drummer,” with disastrous results. I long to listen to and obey the Word of God, while understanding the freedom resulting in the dance God wants to dance with me. I remind myself that there is no fear in love (1 John 4:19) and that I can know and rely on the love God has for me (1 John 4:1). So, I will keep on dancing, twirling, and holding on for dear life… all the way into heaven.

(photo of poster “Dancing With God” from lindaleecreates)

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 113

Wisdom Looks Back to Look Forward

When I write, I often know how I want the piece to begin and end. It’s just those pesky missing chapters or paragraphs in-between that become problematic. So, I look back to previous chapters in order to make progress on the next ones. The chapters yet unwritten.

Today, many of us look back to a life-changing day in the United States eighteen years ago. We know where we were and what we were doing when tragedy struck. We look back and remember.

I will never forget walking through the September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City six years ago and finding a note placed on a memorial wreath by a name etched in concrete. Before this encounter, I had felt a general sadness for those who had fallen; after, it became personal. The note read:

Dear Donald, 

Your children and I miss you more and more each day. Donald (14) plays soccer, golf, and drums in his first year of high school. Lara (14) continues to dance and sing. She was selected to be in the select choir. Connor (11) looks just like you and loves the ocean. He has the same passion for bodyboarding as you did. They speak of you often and wish you were here to see them grow up. As for me, I am very busy running around getting them to all their activities. I miss our life together.

Until we meet again. Love, your wife Jacqueline

On the other side of the letter was another picture with this message:

Every year on your birthday your niece, nephew and children throw a wreath in the ocean in Montauk. This was your favorite place. Everyone misses you.

As tears streamed down my face, remembrance went from “history” to “personal.”

This past week, Wyndham and I looked back through pictures representing memories, as our church celebrated her 40th anniversary. It was inspiring to remember spectacular ways God has changed countless lives. It was also sad, yet inspiring, to look back on the life of a dear friend who passed from this life two weeks ago. Another treasured friend left our house to drive to a place in the mountains—to look back and remember his beloved wife on what would have been their anniversary today. Remembrance is personal.

Though we are living in difficult chapters, we can look back to remember the goodness of our God and his unspeakable blessings in our lives. Though we have shed many tears these last few days simply remembering, they are precious, meaningful tears because they come from love. Remembrance is personal.

Remembrance becomes personal only when names, emotions, and memories are attached to an event we are remembering.

Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are merely historical, general events until they are attached to someone whose love captures our hearts. Whose presence we feel. When this happens, remembrance becomes personal and revolutionizes the way we think and live. I owe the meaning and hope in my life to his example, sacrifice, power, words, and his Spirit that lives in me. If my remembrance of Jesus isn’t personal, then he will be a distant historical event observed in a museum, rather than a current life-changing, joy-producing relationship.

Looking back at Jesus’ life and experiencing his presence makes remembrance personal and helps me look forward. Because of his life, I know the way the story ends—and it’s glorious.

When we look back to look forward, the chapters become clearer. They may look blank and scary now, or contain new plot twists we did not intend or wish to write about—but nonetheless, they are part of our story. May we always remember the ending, and faithfully and courageously write (live) new chapters.

As we remember, may we let Jesus’ love inspire us to look forward to the day when there are no more tears, no more death—only life lived in love in the presence of God and all who have given their lives to him.

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband;
and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them;
 he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
(Rev 21:2-5)

 

 

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 111

Wisdom Cares in Many Dimensions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 104

Wisdom Looks for the Miracles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 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 – 85

With love and deepest appreciation for your friendship…

And as the video expresses….family and friendship are the most precious memories. (The video attached is a little heartwarming end of the day from the granddaughters:-) )   

Merry Christmas from the Shaws 

 

PS   The anniversary video surprise turned out great!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 82

Wisdom Lives Today

I’m often asked, “How are you doing?” This is a loaded question.  I appreciate the question, yet I don’t know how to respond without prefacing my answer with “today.”  Today I am doing okay. Today is the only day I know I have on this earth, though I am confident I have endless spiritual “todays.”  With the progression of Wyndham’s illness, we treasure today—each day. It’s a gift. Because it is precious, I think of today a bit differently than I used to. Things that once seemed important often don’t carry the same value they once did. I know things may get more difficult physically for him, and for me, but we choose not to focus on this. Anticipatory fatigue and anticipatory anxiety are real things. Things we don’t wish to choose. Thus, we focus on today. 

Today I can do the most important things. I can love God and love people. I can be loved by God and be loved by others. Today I can serve, and today I can live out God’s purpose for my life. Today I can strive to help Wyndham have the best today possible. With God, and only with God, I can do today. And tomorrow, I can say the same thing. Living today keeps me focused on what I can be for God and others now and helps rid my mind of worry and regret. I better understand Jesus’ admonition to ask for daily bread. Today my faith must be real. I must live fully in today. I know that many tomorrows will hold various difficult situations because Jesus says, “in this world you will have trouble.”  However, he continues with “I have overcome the world,” so that we can have peace and take heart (John 16:33). Thankfully, this world is not my true home. God planned for us the life before the Fall (when sin entered). As I mention in the book “An Aging Grace,” His lovingkindness and grace kept us from the Tree of Life so we won’t have to stay in a broken world forever. He has something amazing planned. However, to get there I must live well today.

When Wyndham was diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy his neurologist lovingly looked at us and said, “You will have the privilege to focus on the things that are most important. You will learn to live the way all of us should live every day.” I could write a whole post on Dr. Khurana and what I’ve learned from him, but I’ll limit this tangent to a few sentences. He has a rare combination of gifts such as listening intently, showing compassion, focusing on the positive, knowing what to say and what not to say, eagerly wanting to help (giving his cell phone number and answering quickly), and building you up.  To add to this he is brilliant, yet humble. He is currently building brains from stem cells (in the Khurana Lab at Harvard…yes, it’s named after him) in order to search for cures for this disease. His team of researchers is making amazing and exciting progress as they seek to match antibodies with wayward proteins, hoping the antibodies will kill the proteins that fold improperly into the cells, thus wreaking havoc on the nervous system. I know this is a tangent, but Wyndham’s neurologist understands the physical value of focusing on today, even while his research is for tomorrow.

Such is wise living. Wisdom understands that focusing (spiritually) today is what prepares us for tomorrow. My faith must be strong today to prepare for unknown tomorrows. How I live today affects how I spend eternity. I must wake up today with a pure focus on loving God and loving people, and being loved by God and by people. Certainly, I get distracted and fall short, but this is my goal each day. The Scriptures below (and many more)  instruct me on today (emphasis added):

  This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Psalm 118:24 (NRSV)

  For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice!  Psalm 95:7 (NRSV)


  Give us today our daily bread.
Matthew 6:11 (NIV)

 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Matthew 6:11 (NLT)

  The lines of purpose in your lives never grow slack, tightly tied as they are to your future in heaven, kept taut by hope. The Message is as true among you today as when you first heard it. It doesn’t diminish or weaken over time. Colossians 1:5 (MSG)

  So watch your step, friends. Make sure there’s no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God.
  For as long as it’s still God’s Today, keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes.
  If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, we’re in this with Christ for the long haul.
  These words keep ringing in our ears: Today, please listen; don’t turn a deaf ear as in the bitter uprising.
Hebrews 3:12-15 (MSG)

  Since everything here today might well be gone tomorrow, do you see how essential it is to live a holy life?
  Daily expect the Day of God, eager for its arrival. The galaxies will burn up and the elements melt down that day—
  but we’ll hardly notice. We’ll be looking the other way, ready for the promised new heavens and the promised new earth, all landscaped with righteousness.
  So, my dear friends, since this is what you have to look forward to, do your very best to be found living at your best, in purity and peace.
2 Peter 3:11-14 (MSG)

So, I ask— how are you today?

 

 

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 78

Wisdom and Abiding Friendship

By Gary Dollar

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:7)

It was fall of 1989, near the end of my life, that I met Wyndham.  My family and I were stationed at Fort Devens in Ayer Massachusetts. I was a career soldier enlisting in the Army in 1975, and over the past 14 years, I had become severely addicted to alcohol. My attempts at sobriety for the 10 years leading up to then were futile, including a treatment program at one of the best inpatient centers in the country. I had become hopeless, emotionally hollow, and suicidal. Somehow, I was still alive but my internal organs ached. I was dying.

Even though I was reaping what I sowed and getting what I deserved, my wife Susan, my son Aaron, and my daughter Andrea were innocents and never should have experienced the hell I introduced into their lives…

  • Physical and emotional abuse
  • Fits of rage
  • Infidelity
  • Legal separations and consistent threats of divorce
  • Broken promises to change creating optimism followed by heartbreak
  • Kids living fatherless for much of their adolescent lives
  • Susan living husbandless, in fear and loneliness
  • Hypocrisy – this “man” of the house was a respected and well-liked police officer during all of the insanity, and consequently, they were forced to live the lie outside the home as a happy and healthy family.

Hurricane Florence struck the Carolinas this September with a vengeance.  It caused 53 deaths and over 16 billion dollars in damages. It made landfall bringing sustained winds of over 140 mph and overwhelming floods. Those who ignored advice to get out but survived the onslaught were comforted when Florence passed over and continued on her way. But they were oblivious to the devastation until they wandered outside. It will take months, and more likely years, to rebuild—and even so things will never be the same.

In the last half of 1989, Susan and I were introduced to Jesus and became disciples. (Apparently, nothing is impossible with God.) Repentance produced a time of refreshing for the entire family. My external changes were obvious. I stopped drinking and smoking as well as using “Army dialect,” and Susan learned to find peace in God and gain trust in her Father to protect her. The storm that presented our most immediate threats had passed over. But, it was the deep-rooted devastation to our hearts and minds that presented the biggest risk to our future physical and spiritual lives.

Eight weeks after our conversion we were deployed to Germany. Even though I told my new brothers, that “I was all set,” they insisted that Susan and I spend some time with the Shaws for some marriage discipling time before departing. That was the first time we met Wyndham. He was nothing like we expected. We anticipated a stodgy, un-relatable priest-like man who would let us talk for a while and send us on our way with some superficial advice. But he was nothing like we expected. He was unpretentious and kind, and not only opened his home to us but also his heart—much like a loving father. We knew he was a “safe place” He was extremely compassionate and never gave a hint of condescension, arrogance, or superiority. That day Susan and I confessed sin, cried, shared things from our past that we had kept secret for years. He was open with his life and masterfully handled the scriptures laying the Biblical foundation for Godly marriage.  I left his house that day knowing that I had a real friend. While serving in Germany the Shaws would always schedule time with us during the European Missions Conference in spite of the huge roles and responsibilities they had at those events. Each time we met, no matter how long the separation, they treated us like we were together the day before and were always concerned with the progress of our marriage, asking Susan how things were going. I’m not sure why they didn’t ask me…

Sadly, over the years, there have been times when I allowed my past life to resurface. These were some of my darkest moments that at times would cause me in shame to turn my back on God, in some cases for a long time. Wyndham frequently reached out to me and let me know he was praying for me. And the few times where the situation would become desperate—in love, he fearlessly came to my side to encourage and call me back to God. It was those times that led me to repentance, and back to the church family.

   From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 

   God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. (Acts 17:26-27)

God, in his providence, brought us back to Fort Devens from Germany. I have since retired from the army, moved to a neighboring town near the Shaws, gained further education, entered the civilian workforce, and recently retired. Wyndham and I became the best of friends through all these times. No man has done more to save my marriage, my life, and ultimately my soul. His carrying me through the hard times has created a bond between us that will last into eternity. I am so thankful to God that he determined for me this appointed time in history at this exact place.

There are friends who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24 RSV)