The Last Word

While “the last word” can describe a pushy eagerness to be the first and last to express an opinion, it can also be a message for another’s good, to communicate love. Sadly, the first example can be heard around us everywhere, physically and virtually.

Wyndham’s last words to me were “I love you.” Certainly, there were details of life we talked about earlier, but his last words expressed the heart of our relationship. These words are what mattered the most, to him and to me. I treasure those words. He used them daily when he could talk, but he had not been able to talk for months. So, when he somehow got these words out before he died, they were even more precious to me. While I remember so many details about his wisdom and passion for God…I remember these words the most. I carry our relationship of love with me always. His last gift to me was a diamond necklace, which he entrusted Sam to purchase. Even though he knew I am not a “jewelry person,” he wanted this remembrance so I would keep him close to my heart. And he is, always, close to my heart.

According to Jesus’ last words, He wants us to remember He loves us and will be with His sons and daughters. The fact that God’s first and last words were a blessing shows me once again the depth of His love. This moves and touches my heart.

What were Jesus’ last words? I had often thought His last words were the great commission, found in Matthew 28:18-20. But those were not His last words. His last recorded words were in the form of a blessing as He ascended to heaven.

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.
While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.
Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.
And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
(Luke 24:50-53)

Luke expounds on Jesus’ ascension in Acts as he quotes Jesus saying, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Was this the blessing Luke recorded? We don’t know. Jewish blessings usually invoke a gift or token of love, which the gift of His Spirit certainly is.

While we don’t know the exact words of the blessing as Jesus ascended, we know He raised His hands and blessed His disciples. We understand that they knew that He would somehow be with them through His Holy Spirit, though they did not yet understand how. And we know that they left His ascension rejoicing and praising God. That’s how God’s love affects us when we understand it.

Interestingly, the first recorded words from God to humankind were a blessing (Gen 1:22) and the last words from Jesus to humankind were a blessing. Learning from Jesus, I want my first and last words to communicate love. Because He loves, I can give love. I want my words to be a blessing to others. To communicate love.

This causes me to ask myself: What are my first words to others when I see them or greet them? What do they communicate?

What are my last words? What do they communicate?

Remembering that Jesus loves me and is with me brings me great comfort. His love allows me to show love to others.

A Jewish blessing is found in Numbers 6, describing God’s heart toward His people.

GOD spoke to Moses:

“Tell Aaron and his sons, This is how you are to bless the People of Israel. Say to them,
GOD bless you and keep you,
GOD smile on you and gift you,
GOD look you full in the face and make you prosper. (Numbers 6:22-26 MSG)

I love this blessing. I love the thought of God blessing me and keeping me. I thrill that He would smile on me and gift me, looking me full in the face. Amazing. God’s love touches my heart and gives me great joy. This blessing has been put to song, which has become a great encouragement to me. I pray as you listen, this encourages you as you remember God’s heart toward you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZ55mDL7dA0

One Word

As my granddaughter, Lexi, was sitting on our kitchen counter on the morning of her fourth birthday she was discussing with her parents the upcoming birthday dinner which was to take place that evening.  (Her family is living with us, while waiting to move into their new house.) Though the extended family had celebrated her birthday the previous weekend, her immediate family was going to celebrate with her that evening – her actual birthday.

It has been our custom, through the years, to celebrate each family member’s birthday with “one word” sharing. We share a word that to us describes the birthday person. Then, we explain why we chose this word.  Knowing we would not be available to join the family that evening, Lexi (still on the kitchen counter) said, “Nana and Papa, since you won’t be at my dinner tonight you can share about me now if you want.”

I love (and learn from) the vulnerability of children.  We smiled, and easily found words of encouragement to share with her.  It was easy to find words to describe her sunny disposition as she sings through life.  I think I used the word “sunshine,” or perhaps the phrase “joie de vivre” (joy of life.)  I can’t remember- as there are so many fitting choices.  I was reminded, by her request, how much this little tradition means to her.  And truthfully, no matter who we are, I believe it is always meaningful to hear people share encouraging words about what we mean to them.

For some unknown reason I woke up at a ridiculously early hour the next morning.  As I lay awake, I wondered if it might “encourage” God if I shared my word(s) for him. I know God doesn’t need courage put into Him (encouragement,) as He is perfect – but He does tell me He wants to hear from me…he wants to know how I feel about Him – incredible as this seems.  Though He always has been (so it was not a birthday) I began – and shared with Him word after word that described Him to me… Almighty, glorious, Father, rock, wisdom, timeless, eternal, disturber, comforter, magnificent, creator, redeemer, friend, strong, tender, perfect, joy, light, huge, meeter-of-every need, power-beyond-what-I-can-fathom (some “words” must be hyphenated)… I fell asleep with a smile on my face.  I hoped God was smiling as well.

Today I am across the ocean from my “normal” habitat.  This was the view from my morning prayer walk.  IMG_4430 Honestly, God’s creation is so amazing I could scarcely find the words to pray…so this particular morning I just sang praises.  Despite the less than perfect tune, God filled my soul with joy. Whether the view is from a dark room at night or whether from a meadow overlooking snow covered mountains – God is worthy of praise.  What are some of the words you would use to describe God? Likely, He would love to hear them.

  The Lord is my strength and my song;

        he has become my salvation.

    He is my God, and I will praise him,

        my father’s God, and I will exalt him. Ex. 15:2

   I will praise you as long as I live,

        and in your name I will lift up my hands.

    [5] My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;

        with singing lips my mouth will praise you. Psalm 63:4-5

 

  Praise the Lord, O my soul;

        all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

    [2] Praise the Lord, O my soul,

        and forget not all his benefits–

    [3] who forgives all your sins

        and heals all your diseases,

    [4] who redeems your life from the pit

        and crowns you with love and compassion,

    [5] who satisfies your desires with good things

        so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  Ps 103:1-5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everybody Needs a PT

The surgeon, speaking to us, told us we won’t want someone who is just “sweet and nice” to work with Wyndham.  He said we will want someone who will push him well beyond his comfort zone – to things he thinks he can’t do or fears doing.   This was the surgeon’s description of the needed physical therapist.

Yes, as stated in the previous post – God is in charge of the design, working and intricacies of the human body, and  we are responsible to do our part in the healing process…but the road to full recovery also involves help from someone else.  This person has experience and knowledge of how things are supposed to work and helps to teach, train, encourage, dispel fear and promote trust.  In my husband’s physical healing and growth process this person is known as the physical therapist.

So, when the therapist showed up there was a sense of “gulp, well, here we go…”…as who really longs to get uncomfortable and invite pain?  However, even though it hurt,  the benefit of the time was immediate and deeply appreciated.  My husband was on the stairs, was doing a little dance,was on his toes and was doing all kinds of painful activity.  Afterward, he was so much more confident that his knee would actually hold him. He made a lot of progress that he wouldn’t have made without the extra “push” and the training from the PT.  There are certain windows of opportunity to retrain the muscles…and that window of opportunity is now.  The trainer will come back again and again…and then Wyndham will go see the trainer  (Physical Therapist) regularly as he strives to make progress – little by little and day by day. IMG_4215

As I watch and anticipate this continuing process…I realize that while the knee is a pretty important part of the body, it (even the titanium bionic version) will not last forever.  However, our souls will.  Why in the world then, would we not surround ourselves with regular visits with a spiritual “PT” – who I’ll refer to as a “Perfection Trainer.”

I could fill the page with scriptures that teach us our need to have others in our lives.  Consider a few of my favorites:

    We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. [29] To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. Col. 1:28-29

    Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. Col. 3:16

    Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. [16] From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:15-16

    But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:13

    And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. [25] Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

I’ve been a Christian now for 45 years – baptized as a teen.  Throughout these years God has always been faithful to all his promises.  As for my part… yes it is hard work with ups and downs,  as I’m still a work in progress.  I know the love, support, training, correction, encouragement and guidance I have received from others is invaluable – individually and also collectively as I regularly meet together with my brothers and sisters.   I am so grateful for those who help me overcome my fears and help me to be more like Jesus.   I  intend to aggressively continue to  surround myself with those who offer these things to me (as I will never outgrow the need)- and also to continue to offer them to others as well – as I long to be faithful  to my God  and his family to the end.

How aggressively do you seek out “Perfection Training?” Do you seek it as Paul describes in Colossians ” with all his energy that he so powerfully works within me.” ??

While the knee may be okay without it, the soul won’t.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving a Mark

As I prepare to write, I stand amazed at how quickly and thoroughly our new puppy has impact wherever he goes.  In about ten seconds time he has chewed a box, tried to pull out the computer wire, chomped on the trashcan, brought out a towel, carried papers away and various other “accomplishments”.  I am confident he is leaving a mark every place he visits, albeit not always a positive one. (It’s a good thing he’s so cute)

While still a baby, and not yet trained, this tiny little furball can alter numerous situations around him quite quickly and decisively.  It is dumbfounding to me.  (I’m also becoming a strong advocate for crate training)

I pray, as I go about my day today, that I can “leave a mark” (a good one), on people and situations with whom I come in contact.  I am confident that this can’t happen without prayer, thought, focus and initiative.  Hebrews 10:23-24

    Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. [24] And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (emphasis added)

If I am not alert to the presence of God in my life I can just go through the day, leaving little or no mark.  I can sometimes be like a phrase I once heard, “Sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I just sit.”

One of my friends, when I was a young Christian, used to greet me excitedly saying, “Did you have a Jesus day?  Did you have some Jesus conversations?”  This would always get me thinking, because when I consider the life of Jesus, and read again and again the accounts of that life I am utterly amazed at Him, and called so much higher.  Everywhere Jesus went…every person he spoke to, every situation he was in …he made a difference.  He left a mark.  The sick were healed and “casual conversations” led to decisions that altered eternity for men and women.  When Jesus spoke with individuals they felt heard and understood- loved, and often very challenged.  He spoke with authority.  He also cried with compassion.  He was dependent on his relationship with the Father.  He spoke the truth that resonated with hurting, troubled and complacent hearts.  He made huge “dinner parties” from mere leftovers, kept to what was truly important over the urgent and showed us what love really means.  He did this in an unparalleled way -by giving his own life for those who disregarded him and spat in his face, including me.  Yes, I am amazed.  I pray I can leave some mark today that reflects Jesus in me and points someone to him in a life-changing way.

Matthew 5:16

    In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

1 John 2:6

    Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

Yes, our new puppy leaves a mark everywhere he goes.  Like him, I pray to leave more of a mark where I go… and challenging as it is, I pray it will be more like Jesus than Denver….having  a “Jesus day”, that brings Him to situations and conversations I encounter, one person at a time

Col. 3:17

    And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Hebrews 13:20-21

    May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, [21] equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Snippets of Love

The Christmas cards almost didn’t go out this year due to “communication stuckness”.  This is a ‘condition’ that sometimes affects me.  It happens when there is so much to say, or so many things to catch up on that I don’t know where to start.  Unfortunately, the result can mean that I “get stuck”.  

My husband tells me my brain seldom rests…I’m always thinking about something which can lead to “information overload”. Then, my communication can get out of sync with what goes on in my head and cause “communication stuckness”. For example, when my mom was still living I made it a goal to write her weekly. At first I used “snail mail” but later we communicated by e-mail.  Since she was deaf for many years she relied on written communication.  I thought about writing her nearly every day, however too often I would get “stuck” when actually trying to follow through on that intention. Often it seemed there was so much to say that I would not know where to start – so that I wrote less often than I wished.  My sister suggested that instead of trying to write “more” less often – I could write “less” more often….perhaps a few sentences several times a week.  She suggested that I could even forward an interesting or humorous article that I’d received from someone else.  It was more important that I say something to let her know I was thinking of her.

At times I can find the same challenge of “overload stuckness” in my communication with God.  I think about Him throughout the day, and communicate often in my head (and heart). However, I can get “stuck”  when I feel there is so much  to pray about that I can’t even remember it all – and feel  it would take hours each day just to mention everything I need and want to pray about.  I know that communication with God in prayer and in hearing him through the scriptures is the most important part of my life – so I want to overcome the “communication stuckness”  that sometimes occurs.

I am grateful for the instruction and challenges in the scriptures.  1 Thes. 5:16-18 states:

    Be joyful always; [17] pray continually; [18] give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I learn from this that throughout the day I can  give  “love snippets” of gratitude ….. shorter expressions of love to God throughout the day.  He wants to know I am thinking of him.

I also realize that communication  takes preparation, watchfulness and devotion.  It takes hard work and discipline as described by the term “wrestling” in the scriptures below.

Col. 4:2     Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Col. 4:12   Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.

I’m going forward with a plan to help me overcome “communication stuckness”-  so that I can be a better “prayer wrestler”…. more devoted, watchful and thankful.  I crafted a little organizational tool to help me with this.  It’s a simple laminated bookmark with an “assigned by me” topic for prayer focus each day.  For me, when there is a lot of information to pray about and act upon I get lost and stuck without organization.  I’ve found it helpful to have specific days for specific focus.  I plan to use this to accompany the snippets of communication throughout the day.

I can also learn to be more effective in communicating my appreciation to others more often by using shorter snippets instead getting stuck in overload.  It is even “okay” to simply sign my Christmas cards with the short note  – “Love, the Shaws”. If I tried to write more I might still be stuck, pen in hand, with a pile of envelopes by my side.

This year, in thinking about communicating snippets of love more often, I tried something special while getting my cards out.  I highly recommend it if you choose to send cards (a personal preference thing).  As I quickly stamped each card, I thought of my favorite memory with the addressee and then thanked God for them. ( I didn’t take time to write those memories,…otherwise, I’d still be writing and no cards would have gone out.) After I had done this I felt very full and blessed to have such wonderful friends and family in my life

 

Anatomy of Encouragement

Luke 18:17   I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Over the Thanksgiving weekend we gathered for our annual Shaw family photo.  As the family grows – this is no small feat.  In fact, when you look at the picture and see everyone’s big smile, you will have no idea how much time has gone into capturing that one moment. There were likely blinks, tears, frustration, laughs and distractions before the perfect pose was captured.  While awaiting the “photo shoot”  I  was reminded of God’s call for us to encourage one another.  This reminder came as I watched a situation unfold between two of my grandchildren.  It began with a pout.  I believe the snapshot of this pout will say more about my granddaughter’s attitude than words can tell.  (I will refer to my grandchildren by the number in their birth order.)  # 3 was not feeling particularly encouraged about the upcoming photo shoot.  Can you relate?  I can.  When we don’t want do something we can often keep our expression from showing our displeasure…but the inside of our heart reveals a pout similar to this.

We all get stuck at times and need others to encourage us.  Often crucial, however, to our “getting happy” is for someone to notice and to care enough to speak with us when we need some attitudinal adjustment  – and accompanying encouragement to move forward in a positive way.  This is where #4 came into the picture.  He loves his cousin and was genuinely concerned with her unhappiness.  So, he went to her and spoke with her.  Hebrews 3:13

    But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

While #3 is too little to sin…she was still softened in her heart and attitude by some words (I didn’t hear what he said to her but it helped a lot) from her little cousin.

I reflected on how much I can grow to be more alert  to another person’s discouragement, unhappiness or bitterness that can lead to hardness of heart.   I know for me it begins with taking the time to consider others above myself.  Philip. 2:3

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

Most often, intentions are good….but busyness can blind me to things that are going on in others’ lives.

It takes time and thought to consider.  May I always be more like my grandchildren…noticing… and taking considered action to encourage – as well as being quick to respond to encouragement given.

Hebrews 10:24

    And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

After the “encouragement encounter”….#3 was immediately ready to go. 

(thanks to Vanessa Embling for all the photos)

Carried Close to His Heart

Isaiah 40:11

    He tends his flock like a shepherd:

        He gathers the lambs in his arms

    and carries them close to his heart;

        he gently leads those that have young.

I think of this verse as I watch my husband carry Jordan in and out of the house, first thing in the morning and  last thing at night.  This new routine is causing some back soreness, but we think it’s worth it. This caretaking of our invalid dog is teaching me many lessons.

Saturday morning I had a good cry –  a deep sob is more accurate.  It had been two days since Jordan had eaten or had drunk water.  He would and could not stand.  Wyndham and I concurred that we would wait until Monday to decide whether to put him down, but I felt the inevitable was approaching.

I had made him scrambled eggs, meat, and chicken soup – and offered them all to him.  He had no interest.  Then he surprised me. Saturday night, on a whim, I tried feeding him Ritz crackers with peanut butter on them.  Apparently, that hit the spot.  He at the whole roll of crackers.  Yesterday he had about 4 hamburgers, a chocolate chip cookie (his favorite…and chocolate hasn’t hurt him in his 14 years) and drank a lot of water.   Last night he stood up.  This morning, I cooked some ground beef (with  some mashed sweet potatoes added) and he ate it all from my hand.  Then, after being carried outside he stood up, did his business and wagged his tail.  It seems he truly is getting better!  Whether or not he will fully recover is still unknown, but I’m encouraged.

Meanwhile, I think about the fact that he is our dog.  A perfectly wonderful dog mind you; but I do realize he is not quite human.  I think about the tender loving care he needs right now and how eager I am to give it.  And I am a very imperfect human.

I can’t really begin to grasp the love God extends to me.  It floors me to think that I am made in his image….thought of even before I was born (Psalm 139) and that he gathers me in his arms, close to his heart as the scripture above states.  Shamefully, I worry about too many things.  Next time (likely later tonight) when I’m tempted to worry about something I need to remember how I feel about my dog… remember God’s loving care for me, his sheep.  Nothing is too big (or too little) for my God.

Matthew 6:25-27

    “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? [26] Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? [27] Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

Luke 12:22-26

    Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. [23] Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. [24] Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! [25] Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? [26] Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

 

 

A Song of Encouragement

Ever go to encourage someone and then discover that you have received  much more encouragement than you have given?  Last night was one of those nights.  I went “back to school” for a lesson in encouragement.  Before dinner my friend, Deidre, sent me a text – “Peggy & Scott & I going 2 sing 4 joan…can u come?”

Scott, and his mom Peggy are here visiting friends. Having spent months in the hospital with brain injury after a nearly fatal motorcycle accident, Scott wanted to spend an evening of his time here encouraging Joan, a dear sister in Christ and special friend to Deidre.  Joan is currently in ICU on a ventilator fighting for her life. She was heavily sedated when we arrived –  not conscious.  Her devoted husband was waiting in the room for our arrival.  Donning yellow gowns and latex gloves, we were escorted into her room filled with lighted machines, tubes and high pitched beeps.  Deidre’s husband, Paul, prayed.  And then we sang hymns and spiritual songs-lots of songs. Scott closed out our time with a prayer.

Psalm 42:8
By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me–
a prayer to the God of my life.

I would not have thought of extending this encouraging gesture. I assumed Joan would not be able to hear us.  The above Scripture is written in context of the psalmist’s desperate need for God’s comfort and hope.  This passage describes to me the deep comfort found in God’s love and his night-time song to me. I felt God’s love and comfort extended to Joan through the night-time songs and prayers.  I watched the touches of tenderness shown to her and through this short hour of singing I learned a deeper  meaning of encouragement.  Thank you for encouraging me with the comfort you showed to our sister.  And if you are reading this, please say a prayer for Joan. She needs our prayers.

Isaiah 49:13
Shout for joy, O heavens;
rejoice, O earth;
burst into song, O mountains!
For the Lord comforts his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.