A Blessing Sandwich

Do you remember God’s first recorded words to humankind? After their creation, Gen 1:28 records, “God blessed them and said to them….”

God’s first communication to His beloved was a blessing. Remember that.

Luke 24:36-53 remains one of my favorite accounts of Jesus. I try to put myself in the scene as two disciples, having just walked and talked with the crucified and resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus, now return from this transforming walk—hearts still burning within. They hurry to their friends, exuberant to let them know that Jesus is indeed, quite alive. During this conversation, Jesus slips in to join the crew in an almost comical conversation. I envision the disciples’ mouths open but speechless…looking at each other thinking what’s happening here? Jesus remains reassuring, vulnerable, and real…Guys…what do I have to do to show you it’s me? Go ahead…touch me…put your hands on my pierced hands and feet…and by the way, what’s in the fridge? It’s been a while since I’ve eaten. I’m really hungry.

The disciples, still flabbergasted, broil a fish and hand it to Jesus who, over said-broiled- fish recounts the entire God-story that Luke manages to record in four impactful verses. Tears fill my eyes as I envision the food and friendship-fed Jesus walking with His friends toward memory-filled Bethany. I can see the love in his eyes and hear the kindness in his voice as He turns to His friends, lifts His hands, looks into their eyes, and blesses them. While He is still blessing them, He ascends, returning home. The disciples’ mouths are again open but speechless. What is happening?

From the beginning to the end…God blesses.

So what were His last words?

His last words were a blessing.

We live in a blessing sandwich. Blessed from beginning to end.

Today is my 68th birthday, and on my birthdays, I take time to recount the contents of my life’s sandwich, held together from beginning to end with God’s blessings. God’s heart to bless feels profound, comforting, and strengthening because the pain of the fallen world also falls between and among the blessings. Ingredients of our “blessing sandwiches” include the joys of sharing broiled fish and friendship as well as touching each other’s scars and brokenness.

Even though my heart overflows with gratitude for God’s lovingkindness, I still wish I could celebrate the day with Wyndham. I feel deep pain for some dear friends who grieve. I feel the loss of my beloved Aunt Emma yesterday. (We spent our very first Christmas with her, and she showed us love again and again.)  I wish I could have spent my birthday morning as planned with Kristen, but a rough case of Covid altered all her plans. I daily remember friends in Kyiv, whose homes I have been blessed to share while I was there, and who currently experience profound loss and trauma.

I can be tempted to put down my blessing sandwich amid such pain and even wonder if I should taste the blessings. It’s a strange contrast of emotions, but I know blessing is God’s intent even through pain. His only desire is our good and He offers blessing upon blessing. Even though sin and the world try to spoil the sandwich, I must continue to taste my blessing sandwich and pack extras to share. God has blessed me more than I could dare ask or imagine. The beauty of His creation, His precious promises, and His sacrifice are always before me as are my family and friendships, including you…blessing upon blessing.

In a few moments, I will put away my computer, get in the car and drive to Boston to witness a great miracle as my third grandchild confesses Jesus as Lord and is baptized.  I could wish for no greater birthday gift.  I live in a blessing sandwich, which God has prepared for each of us. Join me in sharing a piled-so-high-can’t-get-your-mouth-around-it blessing sandwich. 26 Dagwood Sandwiches ideas | dagwood sandwich, sandwiches, wrap sandwiches

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Eph 1:3)

 

God Gave Me an Eagle

I moved to Connecticut in July. That is when I first met the goose who lived down by the river. I walk along the Connecticut River daily, and this goose brought me comfort each day. I can’t be sure, but I believe God put him there just for me. You see, he arrived the same time I did, perhaps even to the day. I am not sure. No one knew why he suddenly appeared by the dock at the river near my house or where he came from, but he loved to hang out with people there,

Years ago, I wrote a book about finding a place to belong, addressing issues of identity, loss, rejection, and grief that can often leave us feeling a bit “lost.” Throughout the book, entitled “Understanding Goose,” I inserted various anecdotal stories and facts about geese, based on the true story of a goose that had lost its mate and “adopted” my parents decades ago. Geese have a strong sense of finding their way home, and they also have a mate for life. If they lose their mate, they may “adopt” a human, as if they are looking for a place to call home. I felt like the goose was a hug from God and from Wyndham, reminding me that He knew I had lost my mate and needed a place to call home. I often thanked God for this meaningful gift, as it was comforting, a continual reminder that God was saying, “I am with you here. I know, and I know that you know.” The goose was there for my first three months of transition, and then it was gone. I heard that a woman who rescued wildlife took him to a safe place. He may have been rescued, but he was a safe place for me. I missed seeing him but knew he had served his time there, reminding me that I am never alone.

This morning, I prepared for a Zoom meeting with my doctoral advisor concerning the first chapter of my dissertation. My advisor helps me know how I am doing on my project, gives helpful input, and offers encouragement. In my talk with God beforehand, I told Him how I wished I could have a conversation like that with Him, where I could more concretely hear Him, His feedback, and His encouragement. I told Him how much I appreciate the encouragement He gives, but I felt the need to hear it more clearly from Him. I thanked Him for the goose and the way it had been a “voice of encouragement” to me. I concluded, that after three months, the goose had served its purpose. I thought to myself that it was time for me to fly, and asked God if he would give me an eagle today, for that visible encouragement. I have never seen an eagle on my walks, though through binoculars I saw this one way down the river this summer while on a boat ride.

As I neared the bank of the river, I stopped…just to check. Across the river, I noticed a large bird flying, and while I hoped it might be my answered prayer…I figured it was probably a more common bird, like a hawk. At that moment, the bird turned ninety degrees and flew directly over my head. It was clearly an eagle. I have no explanation why it turned from its path and flew over my head, except for God’s love for me and His encouragement. I could hear God telling me, “I am still with you in your transition, and it’s time to fly.” I then felt tears falling down my face and thanked God for His tender care.

  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
  but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.                (Isaiah 40:29-31)

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 81

Wisdom Speaks with the End in Mind

Words are funny things. They are powerful. God created with words. Words play many roles as they: Inspire. Instruct. Hurt. Convict. Comfort. Entertain. Enlighten. As they do their jobs they produce varied emotions in the speaker and the hearer. Upon reception of words we may cry, laugh, sigh, smile, cringe, or even scream. Have you ever longed to own a “word catcher” that could catch careless words somewhere between your mouth and someone’s ear? I have. Unfortunately, there is no such thing—so the burden is on the speaker. If not careful, as the Red Sox would say, “Damage done.” 

Wyndham asked me a wise and rather profound question this week. I was in conversation with someone who was assisting us in a particular task. All was good. Perceiving a problem, I communicated something to this person in the form of a question, reminder, and plea. I didn’t raise my voice, and I tried to be kind and positive. However, this was not the first time I’ve spoken similar words to this person, and the words have yet to be well-received. As I think back, maybe this was the fifth or sixth time over the past year I have spoken similar words.  However, I thought perhaps the time was right to bring up the previously visited topic. Again.

Well, it wasn’t.

After the person didn’t react well the mood changed. Wyndham asked me later, “So, what were you hoping to accomplish?”

I thought about this question for a while. What was I trying to accomplish? I did feel, upon evaluation, that I was trying to bring about needed change for that person’s (and my) well-being. However, I thought through other times I’ve had this same conversation. What did I seek to accomplish then? Some of those answers would have been to let the person know:  I don’t approve. I want you to know my level of frustration. You’re not doing “it” the right way. 

Whenever words are born of frustration, or dare I say “condemnation,” they don’t accomplish good. They don’t strengthen relationships, While the end results of what we hope to accomplish may be right, timing and attitude are key. It is wise to ask: How will my words affect the relationship?  What am I hoping to accomplish? How would I feel if I put myself in the hearer’s place? Am I most concerned about speaking my words, or am I more concerned about the overall welfare of the hearer?

I would wish Paul to describe me as he does Timothy in Philippians 2:19-20.
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you.

 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare.

I must get “me” out of the equation and wait until the emotions of the moment pass and frustration levels wane. While speaking the truth in love is needed and right (Ephesians 4:15 ), wisdom is needed for when and how to speak. Often, this can be determined by stopping to consider the wise question,
What am I hoping to accomplish?

 

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)

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

The Power of a Sneeze

It’s that time of year.  My entire family has spread the coughing, sneezing, hacking stuff.  I’m in the midst of it, and with a workshop tomorrow I’m trying hard to get over it in order to keep from sounding like a hoarse horse when I speak. IMG_5390Thankfully, I’m better today.

Sneezes and coughs can travel further than you might think.  Weather.com shared the results of a recent study done at MIT, which has been considered a potentially groundbreaking discovery in helping identify the spread of germs.

“[The study] changes our current ideas of how far germs can spread in aerosols such as coughs or sneezes,” Mary B. Farone, Ph.D., associate professor of biology at Middle Tennessee State University, told weather.com. “We used to think if we could see the spray, that was the limit of the dissemination, but this study shows that tiny particles, such as bacteria and viruses, can be spread much further on gas clouds.”

These gas clouds allow germs to spread beyond the air right in front of our faces.

“This changes our perception of what needs to be cleaned, especially if these clouds of microbes reach ventilation systems which can then spread the germs even further,” said Dr. Farone. “Because the germs can be carried through ventilation systems, make certain that filters in air vents are changed regularly and use filters that trap small particles like bacteria and viruses.”  www.weather.com/health/news/how-far-does-your-sneeze-travel-20140410

So, now that you are fully grossed out and wondering if your sneeze could end up affecting someone on another continent…I want to flip this to a positive, spiritual thought.  God’s spirit is always at work, and we have no idea how God can use potentially insignificant acts of compassion–or words of kindness and boldness to impact people close by….and far, far away.  There are spiritual forces at work far beyond what we can see with our eyes, or really even imagine.  I have heard amazing stories of one person’s words, invitation to study the Bible, or an act of kindness having impact far beyond the initial action.  The Bible tells us to expect this.

Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things.
Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both.  Ecclesiastes 11:5-6 (NLT)

“The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.
It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.   Isaiah 55:10-11 (NLT)

This morning I watched a video that moved my heart, and reminded me of the far reaching power of compassion.  It will be worth your while to take a look:

http://www.lifebuzz.com/old-scrapbook/

And this was a heroic effort to save physical lives.  Eternal life is of much greater significance.  God has given us eternal life—and words we say, or actions we do can have eternal impact if we keep on sharing and doing good.

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.
No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.
In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.   Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT)

So, if you sneeze—please cover your mouth.

And if you do good—let it go and let God work.

 

 

Clarence’s Shoebox

Today, during our staff meeting, we had an opportunity to share our appreciation for a dear sister, Laura Webster.  It was Laura’s birthday….and a big one.  An elder’s wife, she is a beautiful woman, inside and out.  As her strong and burly husband, Clarence, shared about her with tears he recounted a story about a shoe box.

As a young man, Clarence assumed he would try to make his life work by entering the military.  His mother became disabled, and called him into her room one day.  Under her bed was an old shoe box, which she pulled out to show her son.  Upon opening the box, and seeing a sea of green, he was dumbfounded to discover that the box was full of hundred dollar bills.  His mom had saved this money throughout her life, and presented it to Clarence.  She implored him to use this to go to school.  He did just that.

It was at university that Clarence met his wife, who impacted him greatly, especially when she became a Christian after they were married.  This led to his own decision to become a Christian.  Clarence recently buried his mother, and even more recently his brother, both of whom had followed suit as they learned the Scriptures.  His sons and daughters- in- law are wonderful Christian men and women as well, and his grandchildren are being raised by faithful, confident parents.  So many lives in many places have been touched by this couple.  For Clarence, it began with the shoe box.

We may never know how an opportunity we afford someone can impact them and countless individuals for generations to come.  Clarence’s mom did not have much money, but decided she would scrimp and save to give her son a chance to succeed.  Similarly, I’m reminded of a woman in the Bible whom Jesus said would be told about everywhere the Gospel was preached.

Mark 14:3-9

    While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

    [4] Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? [5] It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

    [6] “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. [7] The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. [8] She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. [9] I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Her sacrificial giving “what she could”, (though it was not a lot by human standards) had a tremendous impact on Jesus and on those who heard of her actions.  Even today, years later, this woman inspires me to give what I can.  And Clarence’s shoebox reminds me that what you and I may be able to give can have a ripple effect of good that may make an eternal  difference in many lives – in ways that we may never  even see.

Eccles. 11:6

    Sow your seed in the morning,

        and at evening let not your hands be idle,

    for you do not know which will succeed,

        whether this or that,

        or whether both will do equally well.

 

 

 

 

Telling Brady About Denver

After our women’s workshop Sunday I joined my husband, Wyndham, at our son’s house to watch the end of the Pittsburgh-Denver playoff game.  I’m not gonna’ lie…as a University of Florida alumni,  I’m a Tim Tebow fan.  However, I’m still loyal to my New England Patriots.

Sam (our son) and his wife, Leigh Ann, have a dog named Brady (yes, after Tom Brady of the New England Patriots).  Brady was born outside of Denver, and Wyndham and I brought him back with us, as we returned from a conference in Denver.  So, Brady and I have a special connection.  Wyndham takes him (and his brother Luke who belongs to my daughter and son in law) pheasant hunting.  Brady does not understand that he is too big to be a lap dog, as you can see.   Suffice it to say, we are attached to both Brady and Luke as granddogs.

As Brady ventured into my lap, I told him about his little “half” brother (yes, they both have the same dad) coming to our home next weekend. We are getting a golden retriever puppy from the same breeders that we used before.  How ironic that we have named him “Denver”, and that he will be arriving – along with the Denver Bronco football Tim (I mean team) – this weekend.  I explained to him that he will certainly continue to be the “alpha dog” with Denver, but that he has to make room in his heart for his little brother.  (He wasn’t impressed.)

While I don’t think this little tidbit has any affect on the outcome of the playoff game this weekend, and very little spiritual application – I did think about how good it is to see a man of strong character and convictions becoming a household name .  Tim Tebow is getting people’s attention…that prayerfully may then cause some to explore this Jesus whom he proclaims. While we may likely not agree doctrinally on some important things in the scriptures,  I’m so happy to hear of a popular sports icon that has the reputation for being the “only virgin in the NFL”.  While many may “pay homage” to God, have Jesus’ picture tattooed on their bodies, crosses hanging around their necks…or often point to the sky….so very few have the convictions and courage to live a life that represents the Jesus I know and read about.   Our world is so upside down in practicing what is true and Godly – and in knowing the difference in right from wrong.  As the prophet Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 5:20-22

    Woe to those who call evil good

        and good evil,

    who put darkness for light and light for darkness,

    who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

  [21] Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.

  [22] Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks,

 

We certainly live in a time where powerless forms of religion reign as described in 2 Tim. 3:1-5

    But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. [2] People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, [3] without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, [4] treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God– [5] having a form of godliness but denying its power.  (emphasis added)

I pray that more and more people can come to understand the amazing direction and power to turn lives around… that Jesus really gives.

And…well, I told Brady about Denver’s arrival this weekend.  We will wait and see what happens.

 

The Power of Music

Have you ever thought about how different a movie would be without a soundtrack?  Watching the scenes, without musical accompaniment, would be sort of like eating  food without  flavor.   I truly enjoy  great soundtracks, however I’ve had to train my ear to hear them well.  So often, I have just taken them for granted, unaware of the mood that they are helping to produce.  We can usually know when something scary is going to happen by the music that’s playing, or when someone is falling in love by the score in the background.   I’ve come to realize the contributing role that music plays in my emotions.

If I may ‘wax philosophically’ for a moment I’ll share a quote:  “Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful, of which it is the invisible, but nevertheless dazzling, passionate, and eternal form.” (quote attributed to Plato). (Wordsworth Dictionary of Musical Quotations, 1991, p. 45).

God’s creation exudes harmony.  To me, the wind, the waves, the streams, the birds, the thunder and the the crackling of a fire are all parts of this orchestra.

Isaiah 55:12

    You will go out in joy  and be led forth in peace;

    the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,

    and all the trees of the field  will clap their hands.

Somehow, God’s presence within us has the ability to soothe, to comfort and express love- much as a mother does when singing to her child.

Psalm 42:8

    By day the Lord directs his love,

        at night his song is with me–

        a prayer to the God of my life.

 As I read scriptures about songs I found that they were used in so many ways:

To awaken – Judges 5:12 ; to celebrate victory – Psalm 18:1; to express joy and praise – Psalm 28:7; to express love to someone – Isaiah 5:1; to alleviate fear – Isaiah 12:2; to find comfort – Isaiah 49:13; to mourn and bring down – Micah 2:4, etc.

I realize that my personal playlists of songs reflects so many of these areas.  I have greatly increased my use of music over the past year.  I find it helpful it setting my mind.  There are songs I like to wake up to…such as “What a Wonderful World”, “You Raise Me Up”, “Light Your World” (to name a few).  Some songs help me feel close to God (they are on my quiet time play list), some inspire me and help me exercise,  and then there are some (my dancing music playlist)  that help me dance through the kitchen  and laundry room.  I have some that comfort (think ”Be Still My Soul” and “Abide with Me”)…I try to stay away from dirges that bring me down (although I do have quite a long “country” playlist I enjoy).  My favorites are playing now…some nice background music (with a “fair shake” of Kenny G and Il Volo).  I like to keep these songs in the background when I’m at home.  (I rarely use earphones, as I don’t want to shut people out, which can happen when I can’t hear them)

A philosopher (some have attributed to Plato) has been quoted as saying,
“Let me handle the music for one generation and I will control Rome.”

In other words, the things we listen to, and pour into our minds affect our thoughts and actions.  It makes sense to me, in order to help “set my mind on things above”, to have playlists that agree with this desire.

Give it a try.  You may be surprised at the lift that songs bring to your heart, and the pep they put in your step!