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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From the lips of children…

Having finished our picnic this afternoon, my daughters and I were enjoying time together as we admired the beauty of the northern Atlantic.  The water sparkled like diamonds and the sun’s rays made the cool breeze feel like a kiss on the cheek.  (To be honest, the sun radiating on my back pockets felt like a very warm peck on the cheeks.)   We had perfect seats, directly behind two of my grandchildren, who are 2 and 3 years old.  We were out of their sight, so they were uninhibited by our presence.  We noticed them as we heard singing. Our hearts were warmed as they loudly sang “Jesus Loves Me” and “You are My Sunshine.”  Then, they continued talking, having a great time.  They talked about why they love Jesus.  And then part of their conversation went like this.

Lexi:  “You know, Jesus is sad when you are sad.  What makes you sad, Micah?”

Micah:  “I’m sad when I have to take nappies.”

Lexi:  “So why are you sad when you have to take nappies?”

(Couldn’t hear Micah’s response to “the counselor”)

Lexi:  “OK, so now we can pray about it.”

And then they both folded their hands and prayed.   I couldn’t hear it all, but  the prayer included many things they were thankful for –  including the beauty of the place, the warmth, cats and dogs, “persons and kids,”… and much more.

Seriously, it was beyond precious.  I felt like life could not get much better than that moment as I admired the spectacular setting of God’s creation and listened to my grandchildren express their love for him and to him.  Sometimes, all that seems fitting is praise.

Psalm 8:1-9

For the director of music. According to gittith. A psalm of David.

O Lord, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory

above the heavens.

[2] From the lips of children and infants

you have ordained praise

because of your enemies,

to silence the foe and the avenger.

[3] When I consider your heavens,

the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

which you have set in place,

[4] what is man that you are mindful of him,

the son of man that you care for him?

[5] You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings

and crowned him with glory and honor.

[6] You made him ruler over the works of your hands;

you put everything under his feet:

[7] all flocks and herds,

and the beasts of the field,

[8] the birds of the air,

and the fish of the sea,

all that swim the paths of the seas.

[9] O Lord, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

I learned from these two children a bit more of what Jesus meant when he called us to become like little children.  I was reminded that gratitude and praise should just be normal conversation; that often talking about God’s truly awesome attributes (as shown by Jesus ) is all that needs to be said; that when we think about what is true, noble, right lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Philip. 4:8) joy exudes from within; and  that singing and praying is what comes out of a heart in tune to God’s love.  Thanks Lexi and Micah for reminding me of the power of gratitude and praise. Try it and see if it doesn’t help point you in a good and right direction.

Coming Soon

Where does time go?  It seems I’ve not visited this site in a while.   After spending the last week in Kiev, Ukraine and Munich, Germany and meeting with numerous people and doing elder/elder’s wife training classes, it’s good to be home. However,  I left those cities having gained new friendships and deepened love for my brothers and sisters in the churches – and look forward to return visits.

As always, there seems to be a plethora of unfinished work waiting at home.  I’ve also recently been devoting my late night “writing times” to a little side project – a children’s book (thus, the lack of blog attention.)   Hopefully, this book will be ready for publication by the end of this week.  My goal is to have the book in my hands by July 1, and in the hands of children shortly after that.

For several years “Fruity Tunes” (that would be me) and her fruity friends have spent time teaching and entertaining young children.  During these shows children help the fruits chase away the dreaded “Rotten Apple”.  The fruits and “Tippety Teapot” use songs and Bible verses to  keep Rotten Apple from stealing their love, joy, peace and patience.  They also see him change right before their eyes.  This new book is a take on this story.  Two scriptures serve as its underlying theme:

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

21 Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.     Romans 12:21 (MSG)

The book,” Fruity Tunes: The Adventures of Rotten Apple”, though written for children is also quite applicable for adults.  You see, Rotten Apple (like Satan) is constantly trying to sneak in to steal our love, joy, peace and patience.  Loving Lemon, Smiley Strawberry, Patient Peach and Peaceful Pineapple learn the secret of overcoming evil with good.  Fruity Tunes and Tippety Teapot help them use songs, prayer and scriptures to chase Rotten Apple away.  (This same lesson is taught  repeatedly throughout the scriptures.)

James 4:7

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 5:13

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.

Psalm 119:9-11

How can a young man keep his way pure?

By living according to your word.

[10] I seek you with all my heart;

do not let me stray from your commands.

[11] I have hidden your word in my heart

that I might not sin against you.

The fruits also see something amazing happen when they “overcome evil  (Rotten Apple) with good.”  They learn that when they not only hold on to their love, joy, peace and patience  – but also share it that it can change people’s lives.

I love watching the love of God, (as it is seen through disciples’ lives and also read about in the scriptures) change people’s lives. The Bible truly is, as Hebrews 4:12 states, alive and active – sharper than any double edged sword.  This process never grows old and continually strengthens my faith.

Isaiah 55:11

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:

It will not return to me empty,

but will accomplish what I desire

and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

I pray today that if “Rotten Apple” is trying to steal the gifts of love, joy, peace and patience that God has offered you – that you will find the strength to overcome available through prayer, the scriptures… and even song.

1 Cor. 10:13

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

And…I’ll keep you posted on the book.