Grateful, Courageous, and Cheerful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And choosing to be courageous and cheerful.

Each day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And cheerfulness?

Deep down in the heart joy supersedes circumstances.

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

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

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


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

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

…And have a wonderful Thanksgiving day—and life!


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

 

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Taking Risks

Risks motivate me as long as I feel they are safe, in the same way that spontaneity thrills me as long as it is planned.  Needless to say, I need courage to take risks.  Risks to be uncomfortable because of my faith; risks to be truthful and bold when truth may not be appreciated; risks to experience cultures that aren’t known to me; and risks to embrace the lives of others when they complicate mine.

Yesterday, I learned a lesson from the birds that took residence in my hanging geranium plant on my front porch.  I was blessed, a few days before I left for a European business trip, to peek into the recently built nest as mama bird laid her eggs, one by one. IMG_5075 As I twice daily climbed onto a chair to peer into the nest when it seemed time for the eggs to hatch—I just happened to glance at the exact time the first bird was hatching.  I marveled at the process that took place. 0609141313a As I checked the nest throughout the day, one  bird after another hatched—until all five eggs were replaced by five tiny, bald, awkward looking,  bird-like creatures.  For several days I watched the mother and father bird feed the babies as they oversaw their little brood while perched on the utility wire above the nest.  Then, I had to leave town for ten days.

When I returned, I realized that while I had flown nearly 10,000 miles— the baby birds had flown nowhere.  They remained on the nest, even though they looked like fully developed little birds.  They ventured beyond the nest on the branches of the  plant, but did not go beyond the safety of their known geranium-world—into the wild, blue, and unknown sky. IMG_5253

I wondered how long they would stay safe in their nest, and what it would feel like to fly for the first time.  Would their wings be strong enough?  Would they be able to survive on their own?  What would it feel like to face the first thunderstorm?

In the meantime, my sad little geranium was thirsting for water.  I had at times carefully watered around the nest, but yesterday’s heat was showing stress on the plant.  So, with water pot in hand, I stood atop the chair and carefully watered around the little birds—assuring them I wouldn’t hurt them.

Evidently,  the looming prospect of “death by geranium drowning” was all the motivation this little family needed to take the risk—to fly away.  Suddenly, one of the little ones “just did it.”  It successfully  flew away to the nearby tree.  As soon as this little bird left the nest and hit the airways—the others followed.  Poof—they were gone, not to return.  It will be a whole new world for them, complete with today’s thunderstorm. IMG_5255

While I would like to think I am always motivated to “fly” and take new, scary steps  because of deep faith and the thrill of the unknown — too  often it is because I realize what might happen if I don’t fly.  While I likely won’t be submerged in geranium water—I realize that when I don’t step out on faith there are consequences.  Most importantly, I can’t please God without faith.  People I could serve may not be helped if I hesitate; I’ll withhold truth; and someone who may be searching for the life that God offers  may not hear about it.  While I realize each person is responsible for their own life, I am also called to live by faith—faith  that allow God to work through my life.  If I don’t, my faith will atrophy and I’ll “die in the nest.”  That’s motivation to fly with.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. By faith Abel …

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  Hebrews 11:1-4, 6

 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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him 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 sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3

What holds you back from taking a fresh leap of faith?  As I remember the scriptures and those who have courageously stepped out before me, I am encouraged to take new steps of faith, even though it’s scary.  I realize there are always risks….but the risks are even greater if I don’t leave the nest.   Thankfully, God will always be the air that lifts my wings—and Jesus “flew first.”

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28-31  

(As the pictures chronicle the bird experience, be assured that no birds or geraniums were harmed in the process.) 

 

Speaking of Courage…My Friend Gloria

While at a women’s midweek last night we had a group discussion.  One of the sisters in my group was recounting an example she heard many years ago from Gloria Baird.  The sister was remembering Gloria’s example of how we can sometimes try to get cool on a hot day by moving the blades of an electric fan with our fingers.  She recounted how difficult and futile this exercise was as we try to live life on our own power, and that if we merely plug the fan in to the power source we can enjoy a powerful, cool breeze.

Sometimes, people have lasting impact and don’t realize how much difference their lives and words make.  My friend Gloria has impacted so many lives, including mine.

Philip. 2:1-4

    If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, [2] then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. [3] Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. [4] Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

This scripture makes me think of Gloria, and how she strives to live her life.  Now, during a very trying time, she is continuing to lead by example.  While in the midst of fighting cancer and undergoing chemotherapy and its associated difficulties (including lessened immunity and hair loss) she continues to show us how to be joyful and giving in the midst of adversity.  This is just a “shout out” to say thank you for your continual example of courage and love for God, his word and his church.  And, for those reading this… please continue to pray for her comfort, peace and complete healing so she can continue giving to so many.

And even though it’s past the “electric fan” season here in New England…the analogy still applies.  God is so powerful beyond imagination…we’ve just got to plug in to that power.

John 15:5
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Courage to be Different

What do you see in this picture?  An old church building with a colorful display of pumpkins?  That’s certainly a pleasant enough autumn scene… but I was inspired as I drove by this venue because of another scene.  As I looked up at the myriad of wires above me, I saw “courage” and was reminded of Jesus’ courage –and the courage to which he calls me.

There is a lone bird among the crowd of other birds on the wire who is “not like the other”.  He (or she…I don’t know how to distinguish bird gender) inspires me. Look closely at the bird in the middle on the third wire down.

Years ago I would sing along (with my children) to a song that often played on Sesame Street.  The lyrics included the words, “One of these things is not like the other, which one is different, do you know?”

It’s not that hard to spot something or someone that stands out as being different.

I was inspired today as I saw this bird of a different species standing out among “everyone else”.  I was reminded of the apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 1:20 and again through his words to Timothy.

    I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

2 Tim. 1:12

    That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.

I’m inspired by the teens and campus disciples who shine in bright contrast to the world around them and aren’t afraid to be different.  I’m inspired by parents who are following Jesus who don’t give in the the worldly values which are so strongly espoused. I’m encouraged by the singles who are living for God, and not for selfish ambition.   I’m challenged and inspired by the words of Paul above, as he learned them from Jesus who said,

    In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

I’m amazed that God is not ashamed to be called our God (Hebrews 11:16) and that Jesus is not ashamed to call me his sister (Hebrews 2:11)

So, thanks little brave bird for your courage to be different from others around you.  You remind me that I am not a citizen of this world, but of heaven.  And my life needs to stand out and be decidedly different — so that God can be clearly seen.  I hope the birds in the crowd will (metaphorically) see Jesus and desire to fly away with you as you lovingly and courageously make an impact on them. I pray to make a difference for Jesus as I fly though my day today.

ps.  While on the bird theme…my proof copy of the new book “There’s a Turkey at Your Door” arrived!  More information coming soon, but you can see info at https://www.createspace.com/4000079