Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 108

Wisdom Owns It

I remember as a child taking a job feeding my neighbors dogs for a few weeks while the neighbors were out of town. I probably remember this because they had me feed them bologna sandwiches for treats. I dutifully did the job, but it was a job. They were not my dogs. And they slobbered. A lot.  Then, when I was nine years old I got my own dog. I was thrilled to be the owner of a dog. This was different than feeding my neighbor’s dog. I named my dog. I played with my dog. I talked to my dog. He slept on the foot of my bed. I even wrote a poem about my dog. He was mine. I owned him

So it is with our spiritual life. If we don’t truly own it, it will feel more like a joyless job, often feeling like a mere routine? We certainly won’t thrill in it, write a poem about it, or delight in talking to God.

So what might keep us from owning our spiritual life? Routine? Neglect? Following rules rather than personal convictions? Pleasing people more than pleasing God? Having a “back door” for a possible exit? Perhaps these reasons point to our need to “work out our own salvation…” Sunday, Wyndham relayed a message about owning one’s spiritual life.

Sunday was a glorious day. Our teenage grandson made the decision to follow Jesus and was baptized into Christ. We now have a granddaughter/sister and a grandson/brother. Caleb wanted to be baptized in our hot tub in the back yard so that his Papa could be part of the wonderful occasion. We realized the day before that Sunday was also Wyndham’s 47th spiritual birthday. He was baptized on June 2, 1972. It felt like a kiss from God to share this date.

Since Wyndham cannot speak clearly or loudly enough to share, he carefully expressed to me what he wished for me to share with Caleb on his behalf. Not surprisingly, the first scripture he wanted to share was one that has stayed close to his heart and guided his character since that day in June, 47 years ago.

The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5)

He asked Caleb to strive for this love and to keep a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith.

He then asked me to read 2 Timothy 4:6-8

 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near.
  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

It was hard to read this scripture through my tears because it feels so real and relevant. Wyndham has fought the good fight and is still fighting, perhaps in the most difficult way yet. Time for departure is nearer than we wish. He is, as described in a previous post, running “heartbreak hill.” Heartbreak hill is a long, hard stretch up a hill near the end of the Boston Marathon route. However, eternal life with God…. beyond description is waiting at the finish line. Now that’s someone and something to run to!

Wyndham asked me to tell Caleb, “It’s your race now!”

True words.

We must all own the race marked out for us. No one can run it for us. If we don’t own it, we won’t run it. At least not for long. And if we don’t own it, we will have no joy attempting the run.

Sometimes it takes times of reflection and prayer to internalize the true ownership of our race. Then, and only then can we keep running despite injury, fatigue, or course detours. The beautiful thing is that when we take ownership of our race we are carried along by loving arms of support and the breath of refreshment from he who runs alongside us, gives us refreshment, and picks us up when we fall. It’s my race. It’s your race. May we own it and run it wholeheartedly, never taking our eyes of the one who runs with us.

  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
(Hebrews 12:1-2)

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 107

Wisdom Transfers

Our son, Sam, just entered the smartphone world. He resisted for a long time, much to his entire family’s displeasure. He could not receive our family “group texts” or pictures. It was time to switch. Meanwhile, Wyndham’s phone sat on the windowsill. For part of Sam’s birthday gift, I suggested that he take Wyndham’s phone, keep it on our plan and pay the accompanying monthly charges. This seemed like a good idea, and it was. However, Sam would need a new number, which meant Wyndham’s number would disappear. Forever.  All I needed to do to make this change was to go online to my carrier and change the number. It would take less than five minutes to complete the task, but it actually took me three weeks to accomplish. The physical process was simple. The emotional one, I came to realize, was not so simple.

I can not begin to count the number of hours of conversations that took place between Wyndham and me on that phone. It served as a connector,  advisor, timing adjuster, grocery list reminder, expression of love and affection sender, as well as a picture sender to show each other a grandchild’s milestone or a big fish. As we often traveled in the car together, Wyndham and I would be on our phones in order to keep up with many responsibilities. I often reminded him that the physical phenomenon of sounds waves, cell towers, and various wondrous laws of physics would carry his voice—the loud volume of his voice was not needed to reach the person on the receiving end. I found it futile to attempt long conversations on my phone while he was on the line. His voice was too loud. However, I overheard so much encouragement given, so much counsel given…replete with inquiries to the tackle shop in Gloucester to find out if the stripers were biting. His phone made many calls to our kids, grandkids, and friends… sharing victories and defeats, joys and sorrows.

Wyndham hasn’t been able to use his phone for many months. His hands can’t hold it, and his voice is no longer strong enough to make conversation. It makes no sense for us to pay a monthly fee for a windowsill trinket. So, tonight I made the quick switch to change the phone number and officially transferred the phone from Wyndham to Sam. It seems such a simple and reasonable process, but somehow the reality didn’t feel that way. While his family was over for dinner celebrating Emery’s birthday. I handed Sam the phone, got up to put away the dishes from the dishwasher, and then unexpectedly felt the tears flow. Sam hugged me, understanding.

Funny thing though. Because of all the conversations, all the encouragement, all the instructions, all the love, all the laughter….I am confident the same sort of conversations will continue to happen on that phone. Conversations of encouragement, of love, of concern, of counsel, of laughter. I am quite sure, however, there will be no calls to the tackle shop, though perhaps there may be one or two to a golf course to set a tee time.

It’s actually okay—no, it’s more than okay—because this is what is supposed to happen.  Wisdom transfers. In fact, wisdom isn’t really wisdom if it is just stored in our heads. It’s simply knowledge then. Wisdom transfers knowledge into a heart of faith and applies it to and with another person. Wisdom must be transferred. Person to person. Generation to generation.

  And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Tim. 2:2)


  You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone.
  You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
(2 Cor. 3:2-3)


  Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.
  Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the highest heavens. You have done such wonderful things. Who can compare with you, O God?
  You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth.
(Psalm 71:18-20 NLT)
 

I will sing of the LORD’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. (Psalm 89:1)

So, never forget that all you do and say transfers to someone watching and listening. May the love of God in our hearts transfer to all we have the opportunity to encounter. God has, in a sense, transferred his number to us to extend to the world. We must simply make the calls.

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 106

Wisdom for Today

So, I found out from several of you looking for Wednesday’s blog that Wednesday (today) is not actually Tuesday, as I originally thought it was. My, how life can get off track. Since our church met in the pouring rain in a park an hour away on Sunday, I knew I could not be away from Wyndham for such a long time—so did not make it to church. I have been to church on every Sunday of my life that I can remember unless I, or a family member was sick. We even went to church in a little town in Tifton, Georgia, the morning after we married! Thus, when I missed church Sunday my whole calendar went down the tubes. I should not be surprised. I thought Monday was Friday, so don’t quite know how I thought that today was Tuesday. Go figure. The year I turned 57 (too many years ago) I had thought I was 57 for the entire previous year. For real. I was encouraged that I did not have to grow older when I actually did turn 57. At my age, I usually only remember the birthdays by 5’s. Since I turned 65 this year, I’m good, though don’t ask me how old I will be next year; however, since it will be the same number twice I should be okay.  At this point in today’s self-deception, I will certainly avoid stepping on the scales.

The wisdom I glean from all of this is perhaps one of the most valuable pieces of wisdom I am currently learning from Wyndham and from his illness. No matter what day the calendar says, today is the day I have. That’s it. So, what I do with today is most important. For Wyndham, there is not much the day brings for excitement other than loving and being loved. But really, what else matters? That, dear friends, is a full and rich day!  (Oh, and he does like his chocolate croissant in the morning.)

Really, nothing is more important than loving God and loving others today.

  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
  This is the first and greatest commandment.
  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
(Matthew 22:36-40)

In light of these thoughts, I ask myself these questions. Today.

  • Am I loved by God and am I loving him back, today? And, am I loving others, today?
  • I am learning the value of meditative prayer and the stillness needed to come into God’s presence, to truly commune and to listen to the Spirit’s prompts, today?
  • I am learning that today’s troubles are enough on their own? I don’t need to borrow yesterday’s or tomorrow’s troubles. With God, I can handle whatever troubles come, today.
  • I am learning that focusing on the things I am grateful for shapes my attitude, today?
  • I am learning that perfect love truly does cast out fear, today?
  • I am learning that true honesty, vulnerability, and speaking the truth in love brings freedom to my soul and depth in relationships? And that my thoughts and feelings do have value, today?
  • I am learning to drink in the beauty, sounds, and smells of nature, today?
  • I am learning to be more generous, today?

This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)

Well yes, I think I shall choose to rejoice and be glad in today.

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 105

Wisdom and Vulnerability

Memories fill my head and heart as I look across my room and smile, as we enjoy the pleasure of the company of a dear friend. It’s a friendship built over many years of fighting battles together, talking about everything, praying much, sharing joys and laughter, and sharing sorrows and tears. This friend knows pretty much everything about each of us, as do we know him. I reminisce about other dear friends who visited today. Friends who are deeply embedded in our lives. Our kids grew up together and remain steadfast friends, as do we. What a privilege to be deeply involved in one anothers’ lives.

As I attempt to gather my thoughts for a blog, I am struck by the wisdom which comes from vulnerability in relationships. Jesus called his disciples his friends because he held nothing back from them (John 15:15).  God has always intended us to grow through relationships. We cannot practice our relationship with God without true relationships with others. The very nature of God is relational, as revealed by the unity of the three-in-one Father, Son, and Spirit.

Gordon helped both Wyndham and me learn vulnerability about 30 years ago when he and Theresa became our dear friends. Wyndham learned quickly, while I didn’t even understand what vulnerability looked like. You see, I had tried so hard to “do the right thing” throughout my life that I didn’t even know what I felt. What did feelings have to do with anything, anyway? I thought to focus on or express my feelings would be selfish. Also, I didn’t want to mess up, as I didn’t feel that was okay. This way of thinking made me unrelatable, always trying to measure up to earn my worth from God or others. While doing the right thing is a good thing, it’s incomplete and can become the wrong thing when vulnerability is absent. God wants our hearts, no matter how messy. He desires mercy over sacrifice. We can only learn this in the context of relationships.

As I prayed to understand what it meant to be vulnerable, I realized there were specific times in my life when I actually had shared my thoughts and feelings…and it did not go well. I vividly remember as a preteen telling my dad, when I was asked to clean my plate, that the inside gooey part of the tomatoes (that part was left on my plate) made me feel sick to eat. I was very strongly punished for “talking back.” I decided from that day on I would never “talk back,” and that it would be better to gag over the gooey inside of tomatoes or anything else and “stuff” whatever I felt rather than be honest and face consequences. (Everyone has bad days, even wonderful, godly parents.) As an adult, a few significant times when I was honest also did not turn out well, coming back down on my head with a bang. Though these may be small things, they were enough to cause me to zip my heart and my lips. While some people would “fight,” I would shut down. This was not good.

Gordon (and Theresa) were deeply vulnerable in our friendship with them. He showed me how to be vulnerable by doing so. Wyndham made it safe for me to be vulnerable, and God kept putting me in situations where I could either speak up and “swim” or “be silent” and drown. The progress did not come easily. Vulnerability, to me, was like learning a foreign language. I often felt I would rather go throw up than say what I felt, especially if I perceived a person as an authority figure. Often, I had stuffed feelings so deeply I would only come to know what I felt when I prayed, pouring out my heart to God. If I felt something with Wyndham I would often not know how to express what it was, but as soon as we would pray together it would come gushing out, accompanied with tears. I believe this came easiest in prayer because of finally trusting that God wants to know me—in all my ugliness, fears, and uncertainty. I would also tell everyone I talked to that I was trying to learn to be vulnerable, and after conversations asked them how I was doing. I begged God to make this weakness a strength–to be honest and courageous and not leave “elephants in the living room,” but speak the truth in love.

So, as I reflect on these friendships, important relationships in my community, I am ever so grateful for the depth and freedom that comes from vulnerability. I am grateful  Gordon demonstrated this Christ-like quality, and that God helped me learn this foreign language. I am deeply thankful for Wyndham’s wisdom, encouragement, example, and providing me a safe place to be completely vulnerable. I am grateful he has always encouraged me to practice honesty and vulnerability all my relationships. It has made a huge difference in my spiritual growth. I am inspired by his vulnerability, as truly everything in his life now requires intense vulnerability. He has trained for this for years, through the security he knows in God.

It is never to late to learn the language of vulnerability or even to take refresher courses. However, we must be truly engaged in a spiritual community to grow in this area. Wisdom learns vulnerability.

9  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
10  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

(2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

 

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 104

Wisdom Looks for the Miracles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 103

Wisdom and the Bunny

Every once in a while, communication goes awry. Okay, maybe more than occasionally. Through a recent communication hurdle, I was reminded that wisdom does not assume one understands what someone else is saying until one really understands what the other is saying.

Here is the background. Every night before Wyndham goes to sleep I place his CPAP machine mask on his face. It looks something like a gas mask and was prescribed several years ago for sleep apnea, which unfortunately accompanies his disease.

Thank heavens I got a newly designed mask today! No more of this.

For now, it keeps him breathing well and his oxygen at a good level through the night. I love that it helps him rest well, but I have a true love-hate relationship with the machine. It leaves pressure sores on his nose and air leaks often follow his facial movements. These leaks do not resemble the gentle sound of a soft wind, but rather the sound of a scared, angry duck caught in a trap. The leaks seem precisely timed for the moment when I fall asleep. Because of his speech difficulty, communication between us is hard without the mask, but with the mask communication often resembles a game of Guesstures and charades. He says something. I respond with “what?” at least a dozen times as I try to discern what he is saying. Sometimes it’s rather humorous.

Like me, Wyndham often thinks of things he wants to say at the end of the day. Inevitably, something comes to mind after his mask is in place. Almost always, his words (after the mask) have to do with some discomfort concerning the mask placement, the need for an adjustment of a pillow, placement of his hands, or a change from one sports channel to the next. So, this is the context from which I listen. I usually get it right pretty quickly. Usually.

So, a few weeks ago (the week before Easter) after his mask was already in place he tried to communicate something to me. Assuming I knew the context, I asked the usual questions. Do you need me to move the mask higher on your forehead? Does it hurt your nose? Is it blowing in your eyes? Do you want the channel changed? Does your pillow feel okay? Do you need more covers? Are you saying yes? Are you saying no? Don’t respond if it’s yes.

Obviously, I did not understand as he kept repeating the same thing over and over. I thought I had covered everything, but finally, I determined that it sounded like he was asking me to lend him some money. That made no sense, as our money is shared and he no longer handles money.  After another five minutes or so, completely out of the context of my thinking I finally got what he was saying. “Lindt bunnies.”

Of course! Now, why hadn’t I thought of that!? My response?

Lindt bunnies? Are you kidding me? How am I to guess this? For those unfamiliar with this rabbit species, Lindt bunnies are high-quality rabbit-shaped chocolates wrapped in gold foil, complete with a red ribbon around the neck.

In true fashion, Wyndham was thinking of something he wanted to do for someone(s). He wanted me to get eight chocolate Lindt bunnies for each of the grandkids for Easter. I still marvel that we finally got the message right, as Lindt bunnies were nowhere in my radar. Not even in the same universe.

How often we miss what someone says because we are busy listening from our preconceived notions or from our own context of what we think another says, or should be saying. It’s humorous with Lindt bunnies, but dangerous with emotion-filled conversations.

Context is crucial. What I think I am going to hear often presupposes my understanding of what is actually said. Wyndham has always had the uncanny ability and wisdom to hear someone without preconceived notions, prejudices, and the assumption that he has the correct facts. He lets conversations play out based on facts, not feelings. Principle over personality. I think that is why so many people have felt safe in his counsel.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
  Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
(James 3:17-18)

He has always taken great care to practice Proverbs 18:17 (RSV)
  He who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.

May we strive to step out of our assumptions and listen more to understand than to be understood. To discern facts over emotions and principle over personality. Peacemakers who sow in peace do reap a harvest of righteousness…and sometimes chocolate bunnies.

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 102

Wisdom Runs the Marathon

 Last week my city hosted the Boston marathon, a running event. At times our lives can seem rather “marathonic” as we do the same things over and over for a long time—leaving us tired and depleted. Just when we feel as though the finish line should be around the corner we hit “heartbreak hill.” Heartbreak hill is a steep half-mile climb at mile twenty in the Boston marathon route which can test the strongest athlete’s physical and mental endurance. Likewise, our personal life marathons meet “heartbreak hills.”

This morning I felt this hill. I don’t really know all the reasons why. Life circumstances likely, accompanied by the end of a busy weekend and compounded by the twelve to fifteen times last night I arose to adjust Wyndham’s squeaky, leaking cpap mask. But whatever the cause(s), I felt completely unmotivated and flat. My prayer was rather cryptic, mainly asking for God’s Spirit to take over my day. Elizabeth Thompson’s Facebook post ministered to me. (God knew what I needed.) The verse accompanied by her meaningful commentary was Psalm 119 81-84 (NLT)

 I am worn out waiting for your rescue, but I have put my hope in your word.
 My eyes are straining to see your promises come true. When will you comfort me?
 I am shriveled like a wineskin in the smoke, but I have not forgotten to obey your decrees.
 How long must I wait?

I am not sure what a shriveled wineskin in the smoke looks like, but I am pretty sure it describes how I felt. I had a few appointments scheduled and a Bible study, and I didn’t want to just say words during those times, but desired to connect with God and the people involved through the working of God’s Spirit. I also didn’t want the Bible study to be a rote task, but a heartfelt connection to God and his Word to help a friend learn to love and follow Jesus wholeheartedly. So, how was I to do this while feeling flat and unmotivated…worn out and shriveled like a wineskin in the smoke?  I thought about the marathon and then saw a water bottle that Wyndham used for several years. It simply says, “Follow me to the finish line.”

I thought, Here I am, fully able to go and do while he can do nothing. And Wyndham keeps trusting without a complaint. Yeah, I’ll follow him to the finish line because he is following Jesus. Yes, I’ll follow Jesus to the finish line, shriveled and tired or not. So, I prepared for the Bible study, which was (ironically) to be about following Jesus, living as a disciple, finding life by losing my life. I had also told a friend I would write a review for her book. The book is titled, “Follow Me.” My first appointment centered on the need to follow Jesus who trusted God when he was mistreated. Hmmm. The message for me was becoming clear. I simply needed to follow Jesus. I know how to do that, motivated or not (and I was not feeling the motivation).

Since Jesus ran the race before me, he knows the route. He ran heartbreak hill. As I lived my shriveled wineskin life today I knew I simply must keep on running, following him to the finish line. Since years ago I decided to follow him I surely would not stop now. Amazingly, but as expected (because I’ve been running this race a while), I felt the Spirit of God not running ahead of me…but actually running with me, in me. God’s Spirit motivated my shriveled, unmotivated self and encouraged me, reminding me through the Scriptures I read (for maybe the thousandth time but still alive and active) that he would be with me. His Spirit was like a hand on my back giving me a boost up today’s heartbreak hill.

I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.                                  Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. (Psalm 119:32-33)

Toward the end of the day, I forgot I was running a marathon. God’s Spirit and I had conquered heartbreak hill—at least for today. Tomorrow, he has promised he will still be with me, as I follow him to the finish line.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
(Hebrews 121-3)

I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.
When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.
Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.
(Proverbs 4:11-13)

Keep on running. Follow him to the finish line.

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 101

Wisdom Takes Risks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love you both very much, Ionela (Testa)

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

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

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

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 100

Wisdom and Presence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 99

Wisdom and Courage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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