Trusting Through the Stink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Being a Woman

The youngest of four girls. Two daughters. Six granddaughters. There’s a lot of estrogen in my family (at least for the younger ones).  On this International Women’s Day, and every day, I am grateful to be a woman, created by God with value and purpose.  I long for every woman to know the life giving freedom and soul fulfilling love that God designed for his daughters. As sisters around the globe have shared in a day of prayer and fasting, and today are living boldly, I am more encouraged than ever. More filled with hope. With passion. With determination to change this world for the good. Thank you for your faith. Your comments have spurred me on.I am grateful for the women who have gone before me, overcoming “impossible” obstacles for my benefit.

I posted this blog, “Jesus, the Value Giver,” on another site earlier this week, but it seems particularly fitting as today the world celebrates women.

Certainly, no one was more of an advocate for a woman’s value than Jesus Christ. He was radical in the careful, purposeful, and counter-cultural, priceless worth he gave to women—shocking the social norms of his day. He was attentive to their deepest needs, and strategic in who saw these interactions. He gave women true value and purpose—spiritual bread for their hungering souls and unending, life-giving water that quenched their thirst. And his offer has not run out or expired. His desire for a life giving relationship with us is meant not just to quiet and save our souls…but is the solution for every longing soul.

With the ever-present and deep-rooted need for purpose and value—will we, as Christian women who are truly liberated in our souls, be silent to the outcry?

Jesus was not.

No matter the social freedoms offered or missing—never forget—we are all enslaved without Jesus.

Enslaved to all kinds of guilt and shame; enslaved to hurtful and harmful habits; to insecurity and to bitterness; to money; to men; to success; to gossip; to alcohol; to what others think; and to all kinds of sins and worldly thinking.

Listen carefully, truly see, initiate, and share scriptures that have changed you. Share your life. Open your mouth. Pray.  Everyone you encounter has a story. Many are suffering quietly. Others are unaware of their needs. Either way, Jesus is the only happy ending.

We have many examples of women who prayed, were purposeful, and bold. We are not alone.

When Esther understood the plight of her nation, Mordecai’s words resonated and called her to action.

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance from the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this? Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai:
  “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”
 (Esther 4:14-16)

When the Israelites were saved from the vast army of Egyptians, crossing the Red Sea on dry land Miriam picked up a tambourine and led the women in song, “Sing to the Lord for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.” (Exodus 15:21)

The time is now. We have a song to sing, a sea to cross, and the greatest message ever to share. Together. As one.

We could go on…with Rahab, a courageous prostitute who God used to save many as she trusted his plan and his desire to use her—a once-broken woman.  And the woman from Samaria (from the wrong side of the tracks in everyone’s eyes—except the eyes of Jesus) who told her entire town about the man Jesus who liberated her. Jesus gave her his ear and his heart. He gave her value, forgiveness, and showed her respect. He gave her a purpose.

The woman caught in adultery—Jesus showed compassion and grace. He shut down the evil and judgmental thoughts (and rocks) aimed her way. He said “go and sin no more” and convicted the hypocritical, demeaning and smug attitudes that had flowed from the once assembled crowd.

God has done great things in our lives, most importantly, saving us.

It’s time to act. Together. Purposefully. Boldly. Let us speak as one, loud chorus that offers hope to women around the world. Teens are needed, grandmothers are needed….as is everyone in between. You can make a difference in this troubled world—in someone’s eternity.

Words can be many. We can post, we can carry signs, and we can tweet. But the question remains, what will we do?  As the Scriptures state, Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:18)

Who will step out on faith and boldly share Jesus’ life giving words?

Who will find ways to serve the needy?

Who will live as examples of righteousness?

We will.

 

Thanks for the Underwear…I Think

Expectations were high as the family of four gathered for Micah’s seventh birthday dinner. (Birthday celebrations bring wide-eyed excitement for most seven-year-olds, and my grandson is no exception.) The festive table had been set, the cake had been made, and the gifts had been placed beside the table. After extinguishing the flames (as much as seven candles produce) with a burst of wish-laden breath, Micah was presented with his gifts. Gracie was thrilled to present him with Pokémon supplies.

Next, mom and dad handed him his eagerly anticipated gift. He quickly unwrapped the paper to expose the exciting gift of— underwear. img_0797He was gracious and thankful to his parents—but they could tell that underneath the grateful response stood unexpressed disappointment. They shared their love for Micah, and the evening continued, with happy kids.

Earlier in the week Micah’s room had been declared “off limits” for the week. He thought the reason was that something toxic was being removed from his room—something which he needed avoid. He took the warning seriously, and never even thought about opening the door before he was given the “okay.”  The day before his room went “off limits,” mom had gathered his needed belongings for the next few days. Micah temporarily moved into his sister’s room—an arrangement they both thoroughly enjoyed.

About ten minutes after opening his gifts Micah heard his mom’s voice calling for him. He inquired as to her whereabouts—to which she responded, “Just follow my voice.” The other three family members followed his lead as he followed her voice which led to his room.

He stood outside the door as his mom assured him he could now enter. As he walked through the door he looked around in disbelief.  He had no words to express his pleasure. micah-birthday-1

Actually, I’m not sure who was more excited. Micah or his parents!

You see—the “work” that had been done that week was a complete remodeling of his room. This was his birthday surprise. His broken flimsy bed had been replaced with a full sized bed dressed in vibrant New England Patriot coverings. An old desk from his parent’s room had been painted and refreshed just for him. Pictures of his favorite sports heroes donned the walls along with meaningful pictures of family. The room was filled with all that was special to him.

He had graciously accepted the underwear as his gift, never imagining the elaborate and painstakingly planned room awaiting his arrival.

How often in life we feel we are given underwear when we were hoping for something different. Our needs are met, but often not exactly in the ways we may have hoped or dreamed. Disappointments, loss, health challenges, financial troubles, and relationship difficulties in our lives can feel sort of like receiving underwear for a gift.

God never has it in his mind to hurt us. It’s just that in this temporary world can not yet experience life without the effects of the prince of evil…and this world is in a fallen state. Even so, no matter what we face, God lavishes his love on us. The internal blessings of the comfort of his love (Php. 2:1), hope that does not disappoint,  joy that he pours into our hearts (Romans 5:5), and peace that passes human understanding (Php 4:7) can’t be replaced by any objects, circumstances, or things.  God is preparing us for the day when no “toxicity” can reach us and is refining our character so we can follow his voice.  He knows this life is short, and is eager and excited to call to us to find him—and to enjoy the amazing eternity with him. Prepared just for us.

 
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there  to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
You know the way to the place where I am going.”
(John 14:1-4)
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope
that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
(Romans 8:18-21)

No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”–
but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
(1 Corinthians 2:7-10)

 

You may feel like you have opened underwear, but life is way bigger than underwear. Listen for God’s voice as you learn from him through his word. Let it lead you to a new perspective, a heavenly perspective that will last forever. An eternity with him that nothing can take from you. It’s going to be inexpressibly perfect. No words are sufficient to describe what he has lovingly prepared for us.

 

 

 

 

You Mean You Don’t See That Mountain?

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

 

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

I don’t either.

 

 

 

But he does.

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

 

20170112_131546

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do I view Jesus?

Really.

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

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

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

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

 

 

At Least It’s Not Lice!

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And after all…

“At least it’s not lice!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Can’t I Buy You Shoes?

I waited upstairs while my husband was crowned. Temporarily, that is. He will get his “permanent” crown in a month. While he is always royalty to me, my husband’s new crown was actually bestowed on him by our dentist.

Yeah, not as much fun as a jeweled crown.

Upstairs in the food court, I worked on my computer during the two hour “dental crowning” wait. I found a cozy sofa area on the perimeter of the food court, and as I typed I overheard lively conversation. Strangers introduced themselves to each other as they sat across from one another and then engaged in spirited talks about current and challenging political situations. The conversation was certainly entertaining. I mused over the possibility of visiting food courts and coffee shops around the country–while writing about the conversations I might hear and people I would meet. People are fascinating. Everyone has their own story, and it’s weird/amazing to think that each individual is living the details of his/her life as specifically as I am. Yet God created us all—and longs for a relationship with each one of us. That reality supersedes my thought capacity—it’s in a dimension beyond my capability to process.

I took one small break downstairs after a shoe store caught my eyes. I thought of the brown boots I “needed” and took a quick look at the store’s inventory. However, I don’t like really like to shop, so soon talked myself out of spending money on something I really didn’t need. (Besides, I didn’t see THE brown boots.) So, I went back to my sofa-turned-workspace.

Then–he walked by, revealing a slight shuffle in his stride. I first noticed him because I smelled him. He had obviously gone without a shower for a while. His coat was tattered. His shoes looked like those belonging to a clown. The upper parts of his shoes flapped, displaying their disconnection to the soles. I wondered about his story. He was likely homeless, and my heart saddened as I observed his look of “lostness.” Perhaps he was as disconnected from his soul as were his shoes from their “soles.” Had he lost his family? Endured a tragedy? Lost a job? Suffered in war? I don’t know. However, I did know it was cool and rainy outside, and his feet would surely stay cold and wet as they were.why-cant-i-buy-you-shoes

I remembered the shoe store downstairs, got up and quickened my pace so I could walk beside him. I didn’t want to startle him, so spoke quietly ensuring that no one else could hear.  “Sir, I see that your shoes have holes in them and it’s rainy and cool outside. Could I please buy you some shoes?

He looked down and quickly shuffled away as he said, “no.”  I watched out of the corner of my eyes as he found a chair and adjusted his shoes and socks. I felt badly for noticing them, as I wondered if I had caused him embarrassment. He then proceeded to a food counter but quickly walked away. I tried to sneak ahead so I could prepay, but he eluded me, seemingly on purpose.

Seeing he did not want my “help,” I gave up and prayed for him. Why wouldn’t he let me help? Why couldn’t I buy him shoes?

I’ll never know. I felt sad. I know I can become too easily discouraged when my offers to help aren’t received. How about you? I like to “fix” broken shoes, broken dreams, and broken hearts. However, I can not. I can’t fix anyone (I’m busy enough working on myself), but I can point every one to the only one who can fill their soul–and who is the lover of their soul.

5  Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.
6  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
7  My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
8  Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. 
 (Psalm 62:5-8)

God sees our shame, our broken dreams, our fears, our longings. He sees our disconnection and comes beside us as if to ask, “Can I buy you some shoes?” It would be wise (and warmer and dryer) to answer yes, but it is tempting to respond the same way as the man I met today…and elusively shuffle away. Maybe we are ashamed, maybe we aren’t sure we can trust him, or maybe we are just too busy walking to hear his offer.

I know when I feel fearful, I can fail to notice God walking beside me, longing to connect to the deep recesses of my soul. I pray I won’t be elusive, but will quickly and decisively (and figuratively) say, “Why yes, I’d love new shoes.”

 

“Every Day is a New Chance”

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

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

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

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

Every day is new chance to:

Count the many blessings I have been given.

Serve others.

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

Choose gratitude.

Hope.

Encourage someone.

Remember what Jesus did for me.

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

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

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

Today we have this chance.

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

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

 

 

Digging Out from Disappointment

We’ve all felt it. It comes in various shapes and sizes without respect for age or background. It can kick you in the gut—when you don’t get a desired job, or make the team, or garner attention from someone you were sure you would marry. Maybe it stabbed you when a trip to the bathroom dashed your hopes of a longed-for pregnancy. I still remember several years of that longing-turned-disappointment.

As we live more years and know more people, disappointments seem to loom at every corner. We feel the disappointments of poor choices made by friends or family (or ourselves)—and relationships that didn’t turn out the ways we had envisioned. Often they come in the form of health challenges. We don’t ask for them, plan for them or desire them in any way. ~1524161

As I have mentioned before, my husband has a (still) undiagnosed central nervous system disorder. In a year’s time this villain has stolen his ability to walk, caused great fatigue and various other difficulties. However, recent MRI findings brought us new hope for a treatment that could “fix it.” The doctors thought they saw a vein formation putting pressure on the spinal cord. To confirm this MRI “finding” my husband would need to go through a procedure (an angiogram) to locate and treat the problem.

We counted the days until August 10th—the day of the procedure. Though we knew it was not a sure cure, the doctors were hopeful and so were we. Full of faith, we dreamed of how we’d celebrate our new miracle.

Instead, the procedure showed the MRI findings to be false. To add insult to injury, he had a very difficult time waking up from anesthesia causing enough concern to land him an extra hospital stay.VZM.IMG_20160810_224055 The night he came home he developed a high fever from infection. That day was also the hottest day of the year, and for some unknown reason the power in our house went out. It felt like cruel irony—power gone. It seemed that all we had hoped for resulted in “disappointment on steroids.” A hard kick in the gut.

With significant sleep deprivation, the next morning I sat in a 100 degree parking lot outside of a lab while holding a little sterile jar of pee in a bag—and sobbed. And prayed. And wrestled with God. I asked him if he had heard me, and if he cared. I “reasoned” with him that we could accomplish so much more with renewed mobility and energy. I reminded God of his promises and how faith- building it would have been for all the grandchildren who fervently pray for their Papa.

I felt like I was sinking in mud and getting nowhere—like a time I got my car stuck in mud. The car wouldn’t move forward, and sank lower and lower. I then reasoned that if perhaps I stepped on the accelerator a little harder I get could get out. Instead, mud flew and I sank even deeper.

Several things were needed in order to dig out. (A good cry was one of them.) I didn’t want to sink in the mud then, and I don’t want to sink in my disappointment now. With my car, I needed some solid ground, some trial and error, a push and a tow in order to move forward. I needed the same in that hot parking lot, holding the sad, now infected jar of pee.

When my car was stuck, I grabbed handfuls of nearby gravel—solid ground to put beneath the wheels. Likewise, when sinking in disappointment I must find solid ground—“one piece of gravel” at a time. The solid ground is truth. I must hold on to truth. We live in spiritual battleground and Satan wants me to believe the lies—that God doesn’t care or have our best interest. Two of the many “truth rocks” I rely on are:

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.
In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
(1 John 4:16-18a)

 Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge…

One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong,
and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.
(Psalm 62:5-7, 11-12)

The solid ground also includes the majesty of creation. As I observe nature and smell the summer gardens, view the sunset and hear the oceans roar I am reminded that God is the potter. I am the clay. As I see around me the love of a mother for her child and witness lives who have radically changed— I know love is from God. God loves me. He hears me. I rely on this. I know this in my mind and place it in my heart. I don’t have the big picture. He does.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
(Isaiah 55:8-9)

The solid ground includes the immeasurable blessings and answered prayers I have already received from my father: My salvation, his spirit within me, and the hope of eternal life top the list.

My husband, who is a godly man of integrity is also a blessing I don’t deserve. Though not so physically strong now, to me he has never seemed stronger. The relationship I share with my children and grandchildren cause my cup to overflow with joy. My friends are a beautiful result of this solid foundation. I am blessed to be part of a loving, vibrant church who lives for God.

I dig out by finding solid ground and placing it in my heart and mind. Sometimes it takes trial and error. I don’t always get it right but God is gracious.

Sometimes I can’t seem to find the solid ground, or the gravel seems to slip from my hand. That’s how I felt in that parking lot. So, in that hot parking lot I texted my daughters and friends to tell them I was hurting and needed help. I needed encouragement. And they sent it. In scriptures, in prayers, and in encouraging words. I needed the push, and the tow to help me dig out.

And I have hope. No disease or disappointment can take that away.

Grab your solid ground, keep trying, ask for a push, and don’t be afraid to be towed. Remember you don’t have to drive alone. God has this. He always has. Our heavy foot on the accelerator doesn’t help. With God, I can do this. You can do this. Let’s dig out together.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of  the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a new place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. (Psalm 40:1-3a)

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:3-5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hesitate…or Jump In?

I think the fear began the day before our wedding in December of 1974. I was taking my very last university final. For my elective that quarter (we were on a quarter system at the University of Florida) I had taken a life guarding class. Since the month was December, and the only school pool at the time was outdoors, the water was heated. I still remember many cold days when I would quickly throw off my warm up suit and race into the pool…desiring as little time as possible to be exposed to the elements while wearing a swimsuit. (In that part of Florida during that time of year the temperature often reached the 30’s and 40’s.) A few days before this final test the pool heater broke and the water was cold. Very cold. My instructor postponed the lifesaving test for a future date when the heater was working, but I couldn’t wait. I was getting married and moving to a new state the very next day so I requested to take it as originally scheduled. The water and air temperature were ridiculous as I dove in for my test. (I got such severe leg cramps my “victim” had to help me out of the pool.) Needless to say, I’m sure you never saw me sitting on a lifeguard’s chair.

My family fully understands (through years of observation) that it takes me a really, really loooong time to place myself in cold water. In fact, it usually doesn’t happen. I’ll start in with my toes, then after 15 minutes or so work up the courage to get my feet in. After about a half hour of inching myself in, I will either slowly submerge myself with a scream…or give up and get out. Usually I get out. Yes I know it would be simpler (in your mind) to just jump in. I really don’t enjoy this dilemma, because I like to swim.

Imagine my joy when I found out early this year that a gym near my house contains a pool where the water temperature stays in the mid to high 80’s. Aaahhh. I signed up and have been swimming all year. I eagerly and willingly jump in with no hesitation whatsoever! I don’t even bother to gingerly put a toe in before getting all wet…I’m quickly “all in” swimming laps. The water is invitingly delightful. I stay in as long as possible.20160311_151948 (1)

As I returned home from swimming today, I thought of how I (and I’m likely not alone so will use “we”) can too often hesitate toward wholeheartedly “jumping in” with God…opting to put a toe or two in the water. We can hesitate in simply obeying the Scriptures when they seem hard. We can hesitate by way of indecision and procrastination. We can hesitate in reaching out and sharing our faith. We can even hesitate in prayer. At times I hesitate to pray because of the hard work involved in prayer. It takes a decision to jump in wholeheartedly in order to overcome our hesitation. And it takes a recognition and acceptance of the love and mercy of God.

When I hesitate,  I fail to embrace the truth that I am jumping into the arms of my infinitely loving and powerful Father. I can forget that his ears are eager to hear my thoughts, my praise, my fears, my failures, my requests, my longings. I can let fear rule, though God’s perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). When I embrace the love of my Father, I can then “jump in” with no hesitation and arms wide open. His love is warmer and more refreshing than my 86 degree pool. It’s not cold or painful. And it’s oh so refreshing and strengthening.

1 Kings 18:21 (NASB)
21  And Elijah came near to all the people and said, ” How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word.

Proverbs 24:11-12 (MSG)
11  Rescue the perishing; don’t hesitate to step in and help.
12  If you say, “Hey, that’s none of my business,” will that get you off the hook? Someone is watching you closely, you know— Someone not impressed with weak excuses.

Hebrews 10:19 (MSG)
19  So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body.

Thankfully, God did not hesitate to help me!

Romans 8:31-33 (MSG)
31  So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose?
32  If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us?
33  And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen?

Jump on in. The water’s just right. It’s delightful. It’s perfect.

 

Some exciting news!

It’s been a while since I’ve “refilled” a morning cup, but for good reason. I’ve been working on a big project and can’t seem to “walk and chew gum” at the same time.  Thus, no blogs.

I’m excited to tell you of this new project, which should be released from Illuminations Publications in late spring. It’s entitled—An Aging Grace: Helping Each Other Age Faithfully.

Personally, I have felt an increased need to embrace aging—and to see it as a beautiful part of God’s grace rather than a “gift” I’d rather not receive. As I travel this “road of aging” I assume I’m not alone in my needs. Personal Bible study, outside reading, personal reflections, and incredible contributions from some amazing authors (who have contributed to this anthology) have greatly encouraged and inspired me on this journey. I’m eager to share these things with you.

Covering many topics that deal with spiritual, emotional, and physical issues, the book is honest, humorous, and quite practical. My prayer is that the book will highlight God’s views on aging, thus encouraging and strengthening our souls. The beautiful artwork on the cover is from Jeff Tabor. I’ll be sharing more from the contents and contributors in future posts. Stay tuned! AnAgingGrace