Monday, December 22, 2014


Tradition – a way of thinking, behaving or doing that has been used by the people in a particular group, family, society, etc., for a long time. (Websters)

The past three months have been filled with ups and downs, as in most people's lives. My husband had the heart attack written about before, one of my sisters is struggling in her marriage, another fell through her ceiling and broke five ribs and punctured a lung, my brother got and infection in his bone and had to have a bone graft, my momma went blind in one eye and cannot see well out of the other, my sister-in-law came down with pneumonia, my then pregnant daughter-in-law's blood pressure sky rocketed and she had to be placed on bed rest (baby boy is here and they are both safe now) and me? I came down with bronchitis and just as I was getting well, was sneezed on and coughed in the face by a lovely little boy (whom I love dearly) in my Sunday School class. I then came down with a worse case and ended up going through three different antibiotics all tolled, prednisone, cough medicine and a second inhaler, but am well now.
My eye doctor told me my blood pressure was up a bit. I explained all this and she smiled and said, “Okay, you have a good reason.”
During times like these we can either run to the world for comfort in the form of alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, etc, OR we can run into God's arms and not only be comforted, but receive healing in ways we never even imagined. I can only speak for myself here, but yes, I received physical healing, but more than that, I was reminded of the importance of tradition, which gave me back all the joy that comes with the Christmas season.  I had lost some of it out of weariness.
When I am sick with a bout of strep, I sleep the first day of medicine and after that I am pretty good to go. That goes for virtually any illness that needs antibiotics, that is except for bronchitis and/or pneumonia.
Bronchial/lung infections wipe me out mentally and physically, I suppose because I am not getting enough oxygen to my brain. I may be awake, but I am not really totally alert and may have to be told something two or three times before I really grasp what is being said. However, this time I had been sick for two weeks and had just received my last prescription of medicine. I was still so tired that I wanted to just lie in bed with my eyes closed. I didn't really sleep (though I dozed here and there) but simply did not want to have to move. My five year old grandson came to spend the day with me as usual on a Monday...the Monday AFTER Thanksgiving. On this Monday I would usually have my house completely decorated, inside and out, for Christmas. I had put up the tree in the livingroom and placed a speckling of decorations around the house, but that was it. I simply had no energy to do more. It had taken an entire day to put up a prelit tree, and even then I only used about a fourth of the ornaments I usually do. My grandson ran into the school room and came back with a sad expression on his face. He quietly asked (he knew I was tired), “Gramma, why isn't the tree up in the school room?” We have a little four foot tree I have put up for each of the children as they have gone through preschool with me. The all important train goes around this tree. I explained that I just didn't have the energy to do it this year. He put his little hands in the air, palms facing me in assurance that what he was about to say was an “only if..” scenario and said, “Maybe, if you are feeling better tomorrow and I get all my school work done really fast, we can put the tree up together.”
You know in the story of How the Grinch Stole Christmas the Grinch's heart grew three sizes that day?
I think mine grew at least four sizes. I looked in that little face and at those reassuring hands, sat up and smiled, hugged him and said, “Yes, if I am feeling better tomorrow, we WILL put up that tree.” The next morning that tree went up, as did the train. I think I received more physical healing from that experience than all the meds put together!!
Traditions are important. They should not be all consuming, by any means, but their importance cannot be denied. They give a sense of security that all is as it should be and will continue to be so. As Jesus' representative here on earth, I want my children, grandchildren and any future progeny to know that there is security in this world and I want them to know its Source. One way I can convey this to them is through family traditions.
Our fourteen year old grandson asked me another tradition question about three weeks ago. He knew I was feeling horrid, so he privately asked (I am sure so his younger siblings wouldn't hear and begin asking as well), “Gramma, are you going to make us something this year, or have you given up on that?” See, it has been a tradition of mine to make a little something for every grandchild at Christmas for all these fourteen years now. It has ranged from pajamas, to pillows, to stuffed toys and dolls. I secretly had given up. But as he asked the question, a determination built inside me as well as an idea. I responded with, “I am planning on making you each something, but you will probably all receive the same thing this year.” He nodded and we hugged each other. Guess what? I have a homemade gift for all eight of them wrapped and under the tree as of 9:45 pm last night.
Yes, traditions bring feelings of security, but they also fill us with a sense of acceptance and being loved and I do love my family!! As I think on these things I realize with a sense of awe just how dependable our God really is.
My brother-in-law gave us three angel ornaments with Faith, Hope and Love written on them. They brought to mind a conversation I had had with a Christian sister who said she had no special gifts of the Spirit. I told her that was nonsense, because she is filled with the love of God and is always looking for a way to express that love to others. I reminded her that God's word tells us that three things will always remain: Hope, Faith and Love and that the greatest of these is Love. (I Corinthians 13:13) Why? Because God is Love!! (I John 4:8)
I pray I am able to continue these simple traditions for my family for many years to come. I want them to remember that each gift I make is a part of me and is especially for them. I want to transfer to them the tremendous love God has placed in my heart for them into these gifts so that it can become manifest in their personal lives on a permanent level. This way, no matter what happens to me in this life, they will be able to look at and/or remember the things I have personally made for them and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are and always will be loved and that that love comes from a deep and personal relationship with almighty God, who desperately loves them as well. Oh that they might each come to experience His love and forgiveness in their own lives on that same personal level that brings eternal life with Jesus. In this way, our family tradition of love can continue for all eternity!!
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.....13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13 NIV

Thursday, November 20, 2014

True Prosperity

"I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11
I watched a portion of a very short video on this being one of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible.  The young man made some valid points, but the one that is of real importance is that God is talking spirit here rather than flesh.
I believe that the Scriptures (all of them) were most definitely written at a specific time and for a specific people, but that those people were representatives of God's chosen people over all - His children.  Because of this, every verse of Scripture can be and is pertinent for today, but must be interpreted in the sense it was intended for that day.  In other words, in this particular verse God is telling His people that He has allowed them to go through many struggles for their own good.  He wants to prosper them in spirit, but they have refused Him up to this point, so He has allowed what was necessary (slavery) to get them to the point of turning back to Him and away from selfish desires.  He was using the example of slavery to humans to reveal how deeply enslaved they were to sin.  He placed this history in Scripture to allow His children of today the opportunity to understand that sin is a type of slavery before making the same mistake of turning away from Him.  He still wants to prosper us.  The problem is not misinterpreting the verse as far as its relevance for today, but rather the type of prosperity intended. 
God has never promised all of His children earthly wealth and material abundance, but rather an abundance of spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)  These are the things that bring true and lasting abundance.  During the times we are being tested the hardest, these things will bring us through and cause growth in us rather than the evil one's intent of crushing and destroying us.  Our faith will come out stronger and more determined than ever, which is the opposite effect desired by the oppressor (Satan).  Simply knowing this can bring a smile in the middle of the most difficult situation.
My last blog was about the testing of my husband's and my faith regarding his recovery from heart surgery.  As soon as we came out of that trial with a smile on our faces, we got the news that my momma had woken to discover she was blind in her left eye.  It turns out she has an occlusion in the artery of said eye.  It could be a blood clot or fat build up, but either way, she is blind just the same.  No sooner did this sink in than my brother texted that his wife is in the hospital with pneumonia and he has osteomylitis in his leg and foot bone.  He proceeded to say that if the meds didn't work, he could lose his leg.  He wished God would just take him home, because he is so tired.  I shared that God obviously still has work for him to do, so he needs to remind himself of the fact and get busy doing whatever needs to be done in order to accomplish it.  This is something I have had to remind myself of on multiple occasions.  I then texted my sisters to make sure they knew so we could all pray. 
At this point I must confess that I had become angry.  I had been informed by a sister that this has been going on for a while and he has basically ignored it.  I told myself that it didn't have to get this bad if he had only listened and gone to the doctor in the first place!!  That transferred to anger at men in general and their seeming need to be a martyr for family.  One of my sisters reminded me how the world makes fun of men and accuses them of basically being effeminate if they don't act in such a manner.  This made me angry with people in general.  I caught myself in the act, confessed it to my sisters and told them I needed to take out time to pray for forgiveness so I could pray effectively for our brother.  We all agreed to stop right then and there and pray, which we did.
 Yesterday I was talking to a cousin regarding the matter of my mom and brother.  She shared some things with me I had never considered and that helped me pray with more clarity.  Last evening we received two new messages.  The first was from one of my sisters that Momma is scheduled to see the specialist on Friday.  This was music to our hearts.  Later our brother let us know that he had finally gone to the doctor, who told him he has no intentions of removing his foot or leg unless there is simply no other way.  What he wants to do is remove the infected bone and graft in new.  If all goes well, he will be able to walk again after intense therapy.  The doctor explained that if he removed every infected leg or foot, he wouldn't be in business very long.  We are all praising God for His love and compassion on each of us, because we don't deserve it (especially me with my first reaction) but He is always there loving us and carrying us through anyway!!
The temptation to become and remain angry in situations like this is very real, very strong and easily given in to.  What are the rewards of such action though?  Hypertension, resentment, loss of affection, possible loss of relationship, and so much more.  What then are the rewards of turning to God for forgiveness and seeking His perfect will in the situation?  Peace, ever growing love for individuals involved, closer relationships, and gaining insight into Father God and His love for us.  The choice is ours.  He truly desires to prosper us in spirit, but we must desire it more than we desire the "comforts" of sin.
Father, I thank You for the work You are doing through the lives of our mother and brother.  I thank You for their willing spirits going through this time of trial so that they and all those they love and come in contact with can grow in spirit from their experiences.  I thank You that they love and respect You enough to do whatever You lay on their hearts to do even in the midst of these trials.  Fill them with Your strength, cover them with Your grace, shield them with Your joy and overwhelm them with Your love. May others see Your Spirit dwelling in and with them so strongly that they desire to know more of You for themselves.  In Jesus' name!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Life's Lessons

Years ago I was given an acronym that I have used many a time in my life.  F-False E-Evidence A-Appearing R-Real.  When hit with something that brings dread to my thought life, I bring this to the forefront of my mind and begin to pray; for strength to continue clinging to my Lord.  Nothing else really matters at that tiny point in time but for me to continue holding on.  It makes it possible to maintain clear thought processes, accomplish anything that I personally need to do during that time, keep peace in my heart as well as on my lips and most importantly, to observe the Lord at work. 
Living under constant threat weakens our immune system and can cause cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome, and decreased fertility.
Fear can impair formation of long-term memories and cause damage to certain parts of the brain, such as the hippocampus. This can make it even more difficult to regulate fear and can leave a person anxious most of the time. To someone in chronic fear, the world looks scary and their memories confirm that.
Moreover, fear can interrupt processes in our brains that allow us to regulate emotions, read non-verbal cues and other information presented to us, reflect before acting, and act ethically. This impacts our thinking and decision-making in negative ways, leaving us susceptible to intense emotions and impulsive reactions. All of these effects can leave us unable to act appropriately.
Other consequences of long-term fear include fatigue, clinical depression, accelerated aging, and even premature death.
So whether threats to our security are real or perceived, they impact our mental and physical wellbeing.
(From Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing - internet)
Yesterday, around 3:30 pm, I noticed my husband was looking pale, shaky and acted as if he were feeling nauseated.  He asked me to take his blood pressure.  It kept erroring out.  I finally got a reading of 198/128.  He didn't want me to call the nurse at first, but I finally did anyway.  I asked if this was something that sometimes happens and was told a definitive no.  She told me to monitor him every 15 minutes.  If it didn't start going down right away, go to emergency.  If it happens again, go to emergency.  So I spent the rest of the evening squeezing the poor man's arm over and over again.  It did begin to go down, but fluctuated a bit here and there.  Each time it fluctuated up a bit, I had to pray.  Fear would try to take me.  At one point I said to myself, "Enough is enough."  I got on my knees and told God that I was going to hang on no matter what.  I also had to admit to Him how I was feeling, so I confessed that fear was pulling on me, dumping on me and trying hard to get me to let even one hand free, but I refused.  However, I really wanted my husband to be completely healthy!  I admitted I was getting tired and so was very tempted to tell Him what to do.  Even though I know that I know He knows what is very best for our lives, I needed to tell Him that what I wanted was to not be a widow for a very long time, and actually not at all.  I don't think I would make a very good widow.  Amazingly enough, admitting this to God gave me strength to keep hanging on even tighter and keep on taking blood pressure..  Around 11:00 pm, Michael said, "One more time and then we are going to bed."  I agreed and that is what we did.  We slept until almost 3 am.  At that time he woke up with pain in his upper back and moved to the couch.  I took his blood pressure again.  It was still going down slowly.  I went back to bed and we both slept the rest of the night.  This morning his reading was 139/89, so we're getting there. 
It would be a lie to say accepting Jesus as your Savior and Lord removes all worry and fear.  Instead, the Christian is promised that we will be plagued by problems due to the thief who comes to steal from us, desires to kill us and, even more so, destroy our testimony.  If we are not walking close to God, we can be guaranteed Satan won't care quite so much.  He cares, but as long as we have no desire to get to know our heavenly Father any better, he knows we will remain weak. Why?  It is easy to rob the weak.  When we determine within ourselves to get to know Father God, Satan begins deviously looking for ways to manipulate us out of the idea.  He knows that the closer we get to God, the more we become like Him, and that goes against all his lousy plans for us.  We begin to fully grasp the truth of Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Years ago I taught 5th-6th grade in Sunday School.  I remember the results of one particular lesson quite well.  A young girl in my class listened intently, asking questions along the the way, as I taught on love being a choice rather than a feeling.  I explained that we choose to love people and then we act on it.  The feelings come later as we continue to "walk in love" through our actions, always seeking the person's best.  This young lady had a terrible relationship with her earthly dad.  He was verbally abusive evidently and made her feel that he had no love for her at all.  However, she admitted that she had been very disrespectful over the years and that this was part of the problem.  She decided to go home and try what had been taught.  She came back the next week and told me it didn't work.  I asked what she was talking about.  She explained that she had gone home, told her dad she loved him and did all he had asked of her without complaining.  He continued being mean.  I asked how long their relationship had been going bad.  She replied that it had been going on for several years.  Then I asked, "If you have been treating your dad with disrespect for several years, why do you think you can correct the damage and get him to trust you in just one week?"  She became silent and said no more.  I have thought of this many times over the years and pray that she and her dad were able to forgive and love each other, but have never heard what happened.
It is the same with our Christian walk.  We tend to get it into our heads that the moment we come to Christ we should be completely changed.  In the sense that our heart has been filled with His love, we have been changed. However, there are things in our lives we have been building on for years and it will take years of getting to know Him more fully to get us to trust Him enough to allow Him to change them in us.  Fear is one of the bigger things.  If we have been clinging to fear, thinking we cannot love someone very much if we are not worrying about them; or cannot possibly care about results of a situation if we do not dwell on it, then it is going to take some time to pry those fingers loose of our treasured possession - fear.  This is true of every lie we have ever been told and clung to.  So be alert and watch, for the very things we treasure most in this life are the same things that can keep us from getting to know our Deliverer enough to be set free.
When David was being chased so that he could be slaughtered by Saul, he cried out to God and this is what he said:
The Lord is my Rock and my Fortress and my Deliverer.  My God, my Rock in Whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  I call upon the Lord, Who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.  Psalm 18:2-3 (ESV)
He was able to say these truths about God only because he had spent many years of his life getting to know his Maker.  He knew God always had his best at heart and that even if God chose not to deliver him from Saul in this life, he would be delivered through death here and life everlasting with his God.  It didn't happen over night, but over a lifetime.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Drawing Nearer

"Trust and intimacy are tightly woven together.  If we do not sense we can trust a person, we probably won't take the time to get to know him or her.  And even if we do, we will be cautious."  (Charles Stanley - In Step With God)
As I read this paragraph ending this morning, my spirit began to moan.  I thought, "Lord, I have always had trouble talking with people and even with You.  Is it because I do not trust You enough?  I WANT to trust You completely!!"
 I have always thought it was simply the way I was created.  In other words, it was God's fault I am not good at communicating with others verbally.  This morning I have come to understand that it has been a choice.  I think I have know it all along, but simply did not want to admit it, or perhaps God has been quietly explaining it to me and I have simply not wanted to listen.  Either way, today He got my attention.  As I knelt in prayer and cried out that I wanted to completely trust Him, I realized that part of my problem was revealing what was really going on in my heart regarding certain people, or one in particular.  So I began praying for that person.  First I explained that I was feeling quite angry and resentful of the things this person had done to some of my family members.  After admitting this and asking forgiveness, I was given a picture in my mind of this person in an extremely deep pit; one of their own making, but a pit of slime and filth.  I asked the Lord to help them see the pit they have dug for what it is and to give them a desire to get out of it.  I told God that I realize that as human beings we have a tendency to allow ourselves to be pulled up out of pits, but be drawn right back into them out of familiarity.  In so doing, we tend to frantically dig them deeper, thinking we are benefiting ourselves, making ourselves more secure in it.  Truth is, we are simply making it more difficult to be pulled up and out.  When we finally realize we are exhausted from digging, exhausted from trying to get out, exhausting others as they try to help us climb, but sometimes simply give us more strength to keep digging, then we can fall on our face before God and cry out for help.  As I prayed I felt an urging to see this person the way God sees them.  So I said, "Lord, help me see them the way You do." 
Now I have asked God to show me what He sees before, but I have never meant it as deeply as I did today.  As soon as I finished asking, I saw a person literally wrapped in demons that were grasping and twisting tighter and tighter.  The head was at an impossible angle and there was a grimace of pain on the face; yet they were still digging.
I asked God to help me separate the person from the sin, so that I can love the person as I hate the sin.  This prayer brought me to a different place.  I cannot see the person apart from the sin until I am able to come to the place where I can see them in faith as the person God created them to be instead of the person they seem to be at present.  So I asked God to help me with this as well.
I cannot say I am there yet, as that would be a flat out lie.  But I can say that God brought my sweet husband to mind.  He reminded me that there were several years of marriage before I was willing to really trust him completely.  I would allow myself to trust him in outward areas, but I didn't trust him with really really knowing me.  I had a dreadful fear of rejection.  Over the years God has set me free.  In so doing, He gently urged me to begin to share who I really am at heart with my husband.  This was extremely difficult at first, but I started sharing things I was discovering about myself with him and he still loved me.  So I shared a bit more and he loved me even more.  Now I am not afraid to share any of my feelings with him and he now shares his inner self completely with me.  All it has done has drawn us closer and I think has allowed him to know me better that I know myself. He has been able to point things out to me that I have been blind to, which makes it possible for me to get before God to get them corrected.  I have been blessed to share with him as well, though I must admit, I tend to be a lot more blunt with him than he with me.
I have shared many thoughts with God, but it is time to stop holding anything back.  He knows me anyway.  Why we ever think not sharing our true thoughts and feelings with Him does any good, I don't know.  Stupidity I suppose.  Perhaps I should rephrase that to "lack of wisdom and understanding."  Whatever the case, I choose to toss aside the shackles of fear of sharing and put on the glorious armor of sharing all I have and am with my Creator and God.  I am certain that doing so will open another door of understanding and loving Father God all the more and what could possibly be better?  Absolutely NOTHING!!
Wisdom cries aloud in the street; in the markets she raises her voice;  on the top of the walls she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:  "How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?  Give heed to my reproof; behold, I will pour out my thoughts to you; I will make my words known to you.... For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacence of fools destroys them;  but he who listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of evil." Proverbs 1:20-23, 32-33  RSV
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  James 4:8 ESV 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Along for the Ride

This morning I asked myself what I would say if someone asked me to describe my relationship with God.  I immediately thought of the blog I wrote on leg clinging.  Yep, that's what I'd tell about.  When I was a youth of sixteen, I cried out to God to be rescued from the consequences of my sin (The payment for sin is death, but the gift that God freely gives is everlasting life found in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 Jubilee Bible 2000)  at that moment I grabbed on to His leg for dear life...and He let me.
There is more than one reason I cling to His leg.  First of all, when I am scared, He wraps His robes around me and I can hide there and know I am safe.
There are times when things become too scary for me.  During those times He reaches down, pries my arms loose and snuggles me in His arms, allowing me to bury my head in His chest as I pour my heart out to Him in prayer, which is simply talking and listening to God.  He always listens and comforts me with His love and wisdom, then, as I allow His love to flow through me and am strengthened by it, He lifts me up and places me back in my favorite spot...clinging to His leg.  You see, if He didn't do that, I would most likely become too weak from fear.  The possibility is too great that I might slip off.  He would grab me, just as Jesus grabbed Peter when he began to sink in the waves (Matthew 14:22-33), but He'd really rather I didn't slip in the first place...and so would I.
Another reason is that it is fun.  As He walks, jogs or runs, I get the thrill of going along for the ride.  Let's face it, I'm a ride-a-holic.  I love the thrill of a fast and twisty roller coaster.  The faster, more twists and turns, height and, yes, the upside down loops, the better!!  I love the thrill of swinging.  The higher and more lift and thrust, the better.  Silver Dollar City has the Giant Barn Swing.  I could ride that thing for hours and even take a nap on it if they would let me!!
I love the spinning rides as well!!  Take me high and spin me around and I am excited, joyful and thrilled!!  There used to be a ride called Chaos.  It started you out like a merry-go-round, but then it began dipping.  It took you faster and faster until at just the right moment you could feel the locks on the seats release and you began to spin forward and did a complete flip over and over again!!  Yeah, I loved that ride as well!  When it broke and they could no longer gets parts for it, I was really saddened.  
Anyway, riding and holding on to Jesus' leg is a lot like those rides.  Sometimes we just swing and I am so relaxed I feel like I am floating.  Other times we simply move at such a fast pace that I lean back to feel the wind in my hair and I laugh in utter joy at all the miracles I see passing before me.  Then there are those times that I experience the joy of the twists, turns and upside downs.  He reveals something new to me in His word and my breath is taken away as I spin from the exhilaration!!  Yes, clinging to Jesus' leg is a greater thrill than any ride that ever has or ever will be invented.  I think He gave people the idea for the rides so they could experience what life with Him can be like.  Yes, it can be scary, but the thrill of knowing that you know He will always be there to grab hold of you if you begin to slip makes it every bit worth it!!
Then there are the quiet times when He stands still and allows me to simply observe what is going on in the world around me.  These are the times my heart begins to break as I see people of all ages being abused and murdered, hearts turning black against their Creator, people allowing the cares of this world keep them from experiencing all the different aspects of clinging to Jesus.  It is at these moments that He scoops me up and reassures me that He is still in control.  Yes, there is pain and destruction in the world, but it is because mankind has unwittingly at times and sometimes wittingly asked for it.  He has warned us over and over in His word that if we turn and cling to sin, the evil one (Satan) will take full advantage and use it to destroy us.  But over and over again man has chosen the lusts of this world over Him and in so doing, have chosen to suffer.  (John 10:10) I bury my face in His shoulder and cry.  The song "The Warrior is a Child" runs through my head and I ask, "How much longer God?"  The answer is always the same, "Soon."  Then He gently places me back in my preferred spot and takes off, sometimes at a walk, sometimes at a trot and sometimes...much to my great a full out run!!  How He can do this with so many clinging children I do not know, but He does it!!  And He has never failed me, nor will He ever!!
It is my hope and joy to think that someone might read this and decide to jump on with me!!  If you prefer, He will let you grab His neck instead.  As long as you hold on there you will always feel safe.  But if you enjoy the thrill of the ride, grab onto His leg with me!!  There's enough room, I guarantee!!  Whichever you choose, don't wait.  Grab on now and hold on for dear life!  What a thrill!!  What a joy!!  What a delight!!  the very best part is this...It will go on for eternity!!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Clinging to Joy - Final Chapter

I wrote in the first chapter of this journey that God had prepared me in several ways for this incredible event, but I left one very personal and loving portion out.  It wasn't deliberate, but I am glad it happened.  The day before my husband went into the hospital I had been studying for my Sunday School class of kindergartners.  I had learned an Israeli song called Dayenu (Die-A'-New) when my 5 year old grandson and I were learning about Passover.  Dayenu simply means "it would have been enough" and is about how God is all sufficient.  I wanted to find a simple video of children singing the song so I could show it to the kids and get them exited about singing it.  What I actually found was adults singing a new version of the song which made it a declaration of God's love for us in Christ Jesus.  The funny part of this is that the only reason I found theis is because I had misspelled the word.  When I type in the correct spelling, exactly what I was looking for comes up. Funny, but I can no longer seem to find it.   Anyway, I decided to watch and listen.  It was beautiful.  It talks about Christ's sacrifice being all sufficient to our needs and the peace and deliverance He brings to us when we accept His free gift of salvation.  As I sat in the hospital room, this song kept running through my mind.  It calmed my heart, wiped away fear and helped me feel God's presence and love in a way I had never experienced before.  My first week back (last Sunday) I did indeed teach the song to the children as I told them how much God loves them and wants what is best for them.  I gave them wrapping paper tubes cut into 12" sections to use as rhythm sticks.  When class was over and parents began picking them up, they got out their "sticks" and began singing Dayenu without any prompting.  My co-teacher looked at me amazed and said, "They remember it!!"  It was such a blessing!
The last thing I want to write about is the blessing of watching my husband do his best to minister laughter and gratitude to the doctors and nurses.  Even when his pain was at his worst, he was thanking them and apologizing for inconveniences.  I had more than one of them come to me and tell me, "We are supposed to be ministering to him, but he has been ministering to us!!"  The Sunday after the surgery we wanted to live stream our church service, but Adobe has decided to no longer support Androids, so we couldn't make it work.  One of the nurses he had touched came in with a hospital computer and set us up so we could watch!!  Others, who were nurses on the fourth floor where he was originally, came to visit him on the third floor to make sure he was doing well.  One was so touched she gave him a kiss on the forehead as a thank you.  As I witnessed all this, my heart was softened to want to do something special for all these wonderful, caring people.  I told God that if it was His will to place the desire on my husband's heart as well.  The next day he told me he wanted to do something....Send an Edible Arrangement to each floor.  We checked with the shift assignment nurse (a family friend) and she told us they were allowed to accept this and gave us the information we needed to send them. 
Everyone who has come to see us, including the in home care nurses, have all made the same comment, "You don't look like a patient."  No, he looks like a happy, healthy man, who loves and is greatly loved by his heavenly Father!!
Thanks for "listening" and allowing me to share my heart.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Clinging to Joy part 4

On the day of surgery, Dr. Noda came into the waiting room beforehand and explained that the surgery would take approximately 2 hours, but not to worry if it went longer, because they could get in there and find something else that needed work, which had happened before.  In that case it could take up to 2 1/2 hours.  One of the heart nurses came and asked for my cell phone number.  I had a little difficulty understanding her because she is still learning English.  I knew she was explaining why they wanted it, but for the life of me didn't grasp it.  I gave her the number anyway, figuring they needed it for a good reason.  They did.  They texted me how things were progressing.  I knew exactly when he was on the operating room table, when he was fully prepped, and when the surgery actually began.  I thought that was pretty cool!  Dr. Noda came out and told us when it was over.  The surgery had taken, believe it or not, just at 40 minutes!!  Not even an hour!!  Dr. Noda was quite pleased, told us they had found three really good veins to use and that he looked for a quick recovery. 
At this point I had a flashback to when my father-in-law had the quadruple bypass.  When we went in to see him he had tubes everywhere.  He was pale and barely cognizant.  So I prepared myself inwardly to see my sweet husband.  However, when we walked into the room he was fully awake and the only visible tubes were IVs.  He did have an oxygen mask as his body was still waking up and he was in pain from one of the drainage hoses, which made it hard to breathe.  He had great coloring and was able to talk to us though.  With beating heart surgery they are able to remove most of the tubes before the patient wakes up.  Another blessing!!
I was told they would rather I didn't stay the first two nights after surgery, as they would be waking him about every two hours to do different things, so I reluctantly left.  I knew I couldn't go home though, because I have a problem with needing everyone in my household, which consists of the two of us now, but was true when our kids lived there as well, to be in their beds at night or I cannot sleep.  So I asked my oldest son and his wife if I could go to their house.  They agreed and had already made me up a room in case this happened.  I have great kids!!
That first night after surgery, we got onto the elevator to leave for the night. I heard a young girl who had gotten on before us start giggling.  I looked her way, but didn't really see her face until she said, "You're Miss Simino from Sherwood."  Now I really looked and immediately recognized that little round face and big shining eyes of a child I had had the privilege of working with from kindergarten through 6th grade.  I couldn't remember her name, but I knew that face and said so!!  I asked how she was.  She told me that her daddy was dying.  As a matter of fact, they were removing life support that evening.  She told how she had been his primary caregiver over the past few years and how hard it was to let go.  When she finished, I hugged her tightly.  I told her that I had had two dads pass away; one lingered a bit and one died unexpectedly.  Either way, it is never easy.  Then I took her face in my hands as I did when she was little, looked in her eyes and told her, "You know I love you and I will be praying for you now and will continue."  She hugged me tighter and told me she was so glad she had "run into me."
As I walked away, I told God thank You.  He is so amazing.  Some would say how coincidental it was that that should have happened.  I know it was God at work allowing me to be His body and His voice to His hurting child.  Not only that, but He knew I was in great need of a really tight hug right then and boy, did it minister His love to me!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Clinging to Joy part three

Monday evening we were told that the surgeon would be a Dr. Noda.  The nurse said we were really lucky to get him, as he doesn't stop the heart to do bypass surgery and is known as about the best heart surgeon in the St. Louis area. She said that Dr. Noda is actually leaving St. Clare to go to St. Anthony, which is why she thought it lucky. Another nurse told us that he is the reason she is at St. Clare...she followed him here so she could work with him.  I smiled and kept silent, but in my heart I was thinking, "Luck?  No such thing.  God is just doing what He does best; revealing His great love and protecting His children." 
The next morning Dr. Noda came for a visit.  He explained that Dr. Wagner had called him in for a conference over the test results.  After a thorough investigation he had discovered that not only was there indeed the blockage, but part of the reason for it is that the artery that feeds the right side of the heart is immature - a hereditary birth defect.  The two arteries on the left had taken over and were extra large, which is why his heart is able to be so healthy.  If he had a sedentary lifestyle, this would most probably not be true.  He then told him that the other reason he had the attack was stress related.  He asked about his job.  When we told him that he works a 40 hour week, over half of the weekends each year plus is on call 24/7 and gets called out at all hours in all kinds of weather, then comes homes and has been mowing three lawns, gardening, working on 2 houses and around our house and is always watching to see if a neighbor needs help with anything, he looked at us and told us that from now on he was going to have to learn his limitations and when to say no.  Family genes may have been the stone, but stress was the catapult that set this off.
Another aside for you: only a handful of heart surgeons in the United States are beating heart surgeons.  Most of them are in the St. Louis area.  Keeping the heart beating is paramount in swift healing.  Where a stopped heart surgery takes the patient about 4 1/2 weeks for recuperation (not complete healing...that takes longer) the beating heart surgery allows the patient to recuperate in 2-2 1/2 weeks, cutting the time in half.  In my husband's case, Dr. Wagner told him he probably wouldn't get to go home until Thursday as he had three obstacles to overcome - walking the hallways at least twice without being wobbly, all tubes and oxygen removed and a bowel movement.  And then he would gradually build strength over the next week and a half or so.  However, he came in to visit Sunday after the surgery on Thursday and said he had no reason to keep him.  He would be dismissed on Monday!!  Another miracle!!  More later!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Clinging to Joy part two

Part two:
Another twist occurred in our story in that our neighbor, who also works for PWSD#1, had asked my husband to trade weekend duties as he had been in the hospital getting a stint in his heart the weekend before.  So now another worker had to be found to take the rest of the weekend.  Michael took the company work truck and I drove ours to this man's home.  I wanted to do the driving to the hospital as well, but any of you who know my husband will know that didn't take place.  When I realized he wasn't budging, I just told God, "Well, if he has a heart attack on the way and crashes the car, protect others."  Then I told myself that if we died in a car accident, at least we got to go to heaven together!! God got us there quite safely though and we walked into the ER hand in hand.  The registrar was seemingly surprised when he told her he was having chest pressure.  She pointed to the room behind her and told him to go straight in there.  I needed to stay and fill out forms.   I could see everything they were doing though as the room was glass.
By the time I entered the examination room, they had already taken an EKG and chest ultrasound.  Both were normal.  They declared he had not had an actual heart attack, as they could find no damage to his heart.  (Are you counting the miracles yet?  If not, you should probably start.)  We thought he might get to go home, but they wanted to do blood tests to make sure something wasn't about to happen.They took three vials.  They were going to do identical tests on each.  There are two markers, troponins T and I, that tell if you are starting an attack, having one, or are getting over one.  All of one of these markers came out attack.  The other came out .07, which some people have all the time, but for others can mean they began an attack a few days before and were now getting over it.  The next test, however, came back .126 and said he definitely had had an attack.  The third came back . 09, which told them the attack was ending now.  The doctor told us that he had definitely had an attack, but a very mild one and very minimal damage had to have been done, as it didn't show up in the rest of the tests.  
He said he would do a heart cath on Monday and really believed they would just find one partially blocked vein that had rubbed a scab and caused the attack.  They would stint it and he could go home Monday afternoon.
(A fun aside, that night I tried sleeping in the fully reclining chair next to his bed where we could hold hands all night.  Neither of us slept much at all.  The next night we tried switching.  I took the bed, he the chair.  No sleep.  When we were told we had a few more nights, Michael patted the bed and told me to get in.  I snuggled up next to him and voila, we BOTH slept quite well.  The nurses just chuckled and encouraged us that it was fine with them as long as we got some rest.  They are so sweet at St. Clare.  I have been in other hospitals that told us it was absolutely not allowed for anyone but the patient to be in the bed.)
Monday morning they came and took us to the cath lab.  The kids and I waited in the waiting room close by.  FYI - they don't put you to sleep for a cath.  You are placed in what they call "twilight."  You're awake, but you don't care what they are doing.  Well....that's not quite true in this case.  My husband remembers it all very well.  He kept telling the doctor that he shouldn't be awake because he still cared.  They had to give him 25cc more to get him to relax so they could do the procedure.  They had music going and he was telling them the song titles and performers, keeping them quite entertained.
About an hour later, a nurse came and asked me to follow her.  Dr. Wagner wanted to talk to me and show me something.  When he came out, he was rather pale.  He looked at me gravely and said, "Mrs. Simino, I have never seen such a healthy heart need bypass surgery, but your husband needs a triple bypass."  He took me in and showed me the video of his heart.  He pointed out a vein that he said was about 99% blocked.  That one could be stinted, because of its location.  He then pointed out a second vein.  He told me that one was not nearly as blocked.  However, it could NOT be stinted, as it is at a junction.  If they went to stint it and even the smallest amount of plaque was pushed loose, it could go straight to his heart and cause a massive heart attack.  He would be dead in minutes.  He then proceeded to tell me it was a really good thing that he came in when he did, as the next heart attack would probably have killed him.  Oh, our God is so VERY good!!
However, they had had to give him a particular blood thinner for the procedure and he couldn't have it in his system for surgery, so we were going to be there a while longer.  More tomorrow, if you are still interested, Lord willing.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Clinging to Joy

13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.
17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. James 3  (NLT)
 It is so easy to watch others, see their happiness and allow ourselves to become bitterly jealous.  We cannot fathom why some people are so happy and we are so miserable.  Why, we ask ourselves, does it seem everyone else around me is happy and I am so miserable?  Life just isn't fair!!  What we neglect to discover is that those who seem happiest are sometimes swamped with problems; they have simply chosen the better way and it isn't is joy.  Happiness is superficial and comes only from external happenings.  Both words (happy and happenings) come from the same root - hap, which in old English means "good luck." Joy, on the other hand, comes from the Latin gaudia and Greek gaio, both which mean "to rejoice."  (online etymology dictionary)  We all, every human being alive on the face of planet Earth has the same choice to make.  Will we seek happiness or live joy?  There is only One Source of true joy.  If we choose to turn our backs on that Source, then we have chosen superficial lives of happiness and to rely on our circumstances.  October 18, 2014 began like any other day in our household.  I woke by six a.m., read my Bible, prayed and started the daily routine of straightening the house.  My husband woke up and we checked to see what groceries we needed for the coming week and went to the store.  Shortly after we returned home, our daughter called to see if I would go shopping with her for clothes for their older son.  I agreed and we headed to the mall.  Four (yes, I  wrote four) hours later my husband called and asked if we were about finished.  He sounded a little agitated.  I figured he was hungry, as we hadn't had dinner.  I told him that yes, we were almost done and I was exhausted.  We should be home quite soon.  After I hung up, my daughter said she needed to make one more stop.  I agreed, but said it needed to be quick, as her daddy was hungry and tired.  As we were leaving the last store, my husband called again to tell me we had somewhere to go when I got home.  I assured him we would be there in ten minutes and hung up.  When we made it back to the house, our granddaughter wanted to come inside and see "Kpa."  He was dressed in casual dress clothes, so I decided he must want to eat out.  Our granddaughter gave him hugs and ran back to the car.  As soon as the car pulled from the driveway, I asked where he wanted to go.  He smiled that sideways smile and said quite calmly, "the hospital."  I smiled and asked why.  He continued smiling and told me he had been having chest pressure all day.  He had gone to Walmart to check his blood pressure.  It was 217 over 125.  He said he had thought, "now that ain't right," drove home and took an aspirin.  After a bit, he decided to see if he could bring the pressure feeling back or if it was over, so did forty (that's 40) jumping jacks.  He said he ended up lying in the floor on his back unable to move.  That is when he called me the second time.I looked at him, my heart skipping a beat and said, "Okay then, let's go."  This story is a bit long, so it may take a few writings to get it all in.  However, I want to make certain that anyone who reads this gets a full grasp of how wonderful, loving and compassionate our God truly is.If anyone had been looking in on my husband and me that night, they would have thought the fact that we were so calm about this whole thing rather strange, I am sure.  What needs to be understood is that God had been preparing me for this for quite some time.  A few years ago, sitting in church, we began to sing "I Surrender All."  A question floated through my mind, "Have you?"It wasn't too many weeks before that that I had surrendered my children and grandchildren over to God, thanking Him that He knew what was best for their lives.  This was an extremely difficult process for me as I tend to be a momma bear over all of them.  I had to come to the place of admitting that God knows more than I.  He knows what truly is very best for each of their lives.  I only know what I think is best.  Anyway, I knew where God was going with this and I didn't want to go there!!  I continued to sing and God continued to ask.  I began to cry and had to sit down.  Finally, I said, "Okay, Lord.  I surrender my husband into Your complete care.  If I one day have to be without him, I choose to love, trust, praise and worship You.  You will never leave me or forsake me, so I choose You."  I continued to cry and pray a bit longer, but walked away feeling more secure in my relationship with my heavenly Father than ever before.  Other things happened along the path to our hospital trip that warned me of its approach, but this was the most significant and the one that kept me calm.  I knew that I knew - God has our best interests at heart and will bring those things about.  That is not to say I didn't cry.  Of course I did!  The loneliness that came over me at the thought of possibly losing my husband grieved me!  But I have a heavenly Father to turn to and turn to Him I did!!  I buried my face in His robes and clung to Him with everything I had.  It wasn't easy.  Outside forces tried to pull me away.  They tugged, prodded, jabbed, screamed at me, but I refused to let go.  I was too scared of what would happen if I did, so I held on for dear life and smiled at the knowledge that as long as I did so, all was well.More tomorrow, if the Lord permits.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Smells of the Spirit

Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.
But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”
Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” John 11:39-40(NLT)

Over two thousand years ago and before, people were required to offer animal sacrifices and sprinkle the animal blood all over the place (or so it seems to me) to cover their personal sins. They sprinkled it around the tabernacle, on the hems of garments, on their big toe and thumb and so on. You can read all about it in Leviticus chapter 9. I have understood the animal sacrifices for a long time. We needed an innocent blood sacrifice, because it is our hearts that became contaminated with sin and the heart pumps the blood – all through our system. So our blood needed cleansing, which Jesus was willing to and did provide at the appropriate time. However, we needed to understand just what He was about to do first, and thusly, the animal sacrifices that covered, but could not remove our sin. Jesus' blood is like a blood transfusion for us. When we accept Jesus' sacrifice on our personal behalf rather than simply for the world in general, He does more than simply flush out our system, He actually gives us a new uncontaminated heart.
I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 11:19 (NIV)
We can learn a lot from the heart and blood flow.
  • It carries oxygen and nutrients to your body's tissues
  • It takes carbon dioxide and waste products away from the tissues.
  • It is needed to sustain life and promote the health of all the body's tissues.
To the Christian this should speak volumes. This is speaking of our physical heart, but when God says He will give us a new heart, He is speaking of our spiritual heart, which is hard as stone before we accept His free gift of salvation. He gives us one “of flesh.” Words we can relate to: Flesh is pliable, durable and protective. God places in us a pliable spiritual heart that He can mold into the form of His loving Son Jesus. It is a durable heart that can withstand much more than our physical minds want to believe possible. It protects us from the old habit of sin if we will listen to it. So, yes, we can learn much from the heart and blood stream. But our spiritual blood WAS contaminated and needed help, thus the sacrifices.
There was another matter though, that I could never seemingly understand until today. Why incense?
On it Aaron shall burn fragrant incense. Morning after morning, when he prepares the lamps, and again in the evening twilight, when he lights the lamps, he shall burn incense. Throughout your generations this shall be the established incense offering before the Lord. On this altar you shall not offer up any profane incense... (Exodus 30:7-9)
Reading Martha's words to Jesus at Lazarus' tomb almost made me gasp. After all these years of wondering, my thick skull finally took it in.....Sin and the spiritual death it produces STINK!! Perhaps I have been taught this before or maybe it has been told in a sermon, but I never really HEARD it until today. It made Jesus' next words open up like never before. “Didn't I tell you that you would see God's glory if you believe?” Some will say I am making inferences here, and that's okay, but when I make a statement and someone replies to it, I assume they are speaking regarding the comment I just made. Therefore I can only assume that when Jesus spoke these words, He was letting Martha know that when God does a miracle, He NEVER does it part way. So I believe that when Lazarus came out of that grave, he did NOT stink. Why? Because I believe, as I have said over and over again, that our God is awesome at depicting what He wants us to understand and that here He wanted us to grasp that when we receive Jesus as Savior and Lord which brings life, He removes even the stench of sin from our person and we will begin emitting the fragrance of His Holy Spirit, Who comes to dwell in and with us permanently. (John 14:16) As long as we walk in His might, it is His fragrance the world will detect in our presence.
Father, sometimes we get a whiff of sin all around us and begin to wonder if it is us. We begin to feel defeated, unworthy, guilty and so much more. Sometimes it overcomes us so fiercely that we are thrown into a pit of despair, fear, anger, bitterness and even depression. Lord, help us to remember that we did indeed once smell that way. However, the moment we received Jesus as our personal Savior and Lord, You sent Your Holy Spirit to dwell in us and with us for all eternity. Jesus Himself promised that the Holy Spirit would never leave us in John 14:16. Thank You so VERY much for this assurance. Lord, when the influences of sin in this world begin to creep in around us, help us remember that You have given us a new heart that will pump the transfusion of Jesus' blood throughout our spirit man if we will continually seek nourishment from Your word and from communion with You through prayer. If we begin to feel sorry for ourselves, to doubt, to worry, etc., help us remember that You paid a humungous price in Jesus so that we would not have to do those things or believe the lies thrown at us by the evil one any longer. Thank You for Your sweet fragrance and that, just as we no longer need animal sacrifices, we no longer need physical incense. Your Holy Spirit's fragrance fills every nook and cranny of our being!! I love You!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I'm Leg Clinging

Lazarus was sick....The sisters therefore sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, him whom You love is sick....”
When therefore He heard that he was sick, He stayed then two days longer in the place where He was....
Then Jesus therefore said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.” John 11:2b-3, 6, 14-15 (NASV)

“Glad for your sakes;” what powerful, awful, wonderful words.
One day, about three years ago now, my daddy went to his pastor and asked for prayer that his borders of testimony of Jesus' great love would be expanded. Everywhere daddy went he would ask someone, whether a waitress, store cashier, neighbor, etc., if they knew for certain that when they died they were going to heaven. If they ignored him, he prayed for them. If they said yes, he rejoiced with them. If they said “no,” he would ask if they would like to. He never pressured, but if they said they DID want to know for certain, he would open up the Bible and lead them down the “Roman Road” of salvation. This was not enough for daddy, quite evidently. I understand, because sometimes I feel so enclosed in my borders that I daydream about what it would be like to be called out to another country. I have, however, been called to reach children, those in my immediate vicinity, and to whomever God leads me. The funny thing (and I use the word “funny” in the most ironic sense) is, a couple of weeks later, daddy passed from this world into the loving arms of God. My momma says she had gone to the bedroom to tell him breakfast was ready. He sat up and put lotion on his hands, laid back down and was gone. I am certain beyond a doubt that Satan and his dominions were laughing and partying at this point, thinking they had won a great victory. One less man to spread the message of true hope to this world. Expand his borders indeed!
When I was informed of daddy's passing, I was sitting in a van with some of my grandchildren, while their mom had gone in to buy shoes for her brother's wedding later that day. One of my sisters called and told me. I thought my heart would burst with grief! I cried out to God, “WHY?!! Why today of all days, Lord? Why couldn't this wait until tomorrow even? Then I could go and be with Momma! As it is, I have a son who needs me here for his wedding!!”
This rant continued for some time until I was finally able to get calm before my heavenly Father. I have told this story before, but I don't know if people really get the gist of what was going on inside me. First of all, I had really always believed Momma would be the first to go. It wasn't that I wanted this to be so, I simply thought it would be. She has so many different things wrong health-wise in her body, I think all five of her children thought that way. Daddy was the strong one physically; well, at least more so than Momma. Secondly, I really, really, really needed to be held by Momma and my siblings!! Daddy was the real hugger of the family!! What would I do without those hugs!! I have tears streaming down my face thinking about it. I miss those hugs desperately at times! Then there was my son and his bride who wanted and needed me to be at their wedding. I am close to all my children – very close. My older son, though, had been a prayer partner with me and had chosen a song about friendship for us to dance to – our song, so to speak. I had to be there, and Momma agreed. There would be time come Monday to take care of the arrangements for Daddy she told me.
Here she had just lost the love of her life, her partner for sixty plus years and she said these words, “Poor Sherry. She will really want to be here for me, but she NEEDS to be there for her son.” So my sister told me Momma's words and asked me to do my best to find the joy in the wedding so I could remember it with joy.
Momma and Daddy were not going to be at the wedding. Momma's health would not permit it. Daddy bemoaned the fact. He wanted to be there badly. I know this for two reasons:he told me and because Father God doesn't lie. As I became calm before Him with one final cry of “why?” He spoke these gentle, awful, love-filled words:
“Your daddy really wanted to be at the wedding today, so I brought Him up here so he can watch it from heaven with Me.” And that is how I was able to make it through. Words of comfort like none other. To me it spoke these words, much like those He spoke to the disciples, “I am glad for your sake that I allowed him to come home. I know you wanted him to be at the wedding, but he couldn't. This way you know he can watch from the best seats available and rejoice with you.”
Sometimes we feel so alone and wonder why God allows what we deem tragedy into our lives. We have to, we NEED to remember that everything He does or allows is out of His great love for us. Yes, we hurt. Yes, we feel alone and lost at times, but we are never really alone in our hurts or otherwise. Jesus felt every hurt ever imagined as He hung on the cross to pay the price for our sins, because we could never afford to do so for ourselves. Our debt becomes bigger by the fraction of a second. Therefore, He offered Himself in payment and our totally innocent, one hundred percent pure, Jesus took all our sins upon Himself and declared them paid in full.
What about Daddy's prayer for expanding his borders? If you could sit down with my siblings and self, we could tell you wonderful stories of how God has answered that prayer bigger and better than Daddy could ever have dreamed. Immediately we all had a deeper burden for the lost. We each have experienced similar times of counseling others and sharing the truth of the Gospel with them like never before. My personal experience has been a desire to grow more and more like Jesus every day. Before I was content with a little growth here and there. Now I have a hunger that drives me to study, to teach, to preach if necessary, to counsel, to LOVE!! I no longer just want to “get in and get out” when I go shopping. Instead I find myself looking for someone to smile at and/or encourage. I am no longer the same.
“Shackled by a heavy burden. Bent beneath the guilt and shame. Then the hand of Jesus touched me and now I am no longer the same. He touched me. OH!! He touched me! And oh, the joy that floods my soul! Something happened, and now I know...He touched me and made me whole!!” (My momma used to sing this as a solo in church. She has such a beautiful voice!)
Father, You love us so much! We tend to forget this truth. We allow anger, fear, and loneliness to become our task masters rather than Your great love. Help us. Forgive our god-making efforts, where we either try to manipulate our lives and make ourselves out to be god, or we turn instead to chemicals and other devices. We are weak, but You are strong. Help us walk, not just close to You, but clinging to You all along the way. I think of when Daddy would let me sit on his foot and cling to His leg. He did the walking. I was just along for the ride. Help us to trust You in the same manner. Let us sit on Your feet that were wounded on our behalf, cling to those legs that bore the weight of the burden of our sins that were laid across Your dear shoulders and simply go along with the ride You have prepared for us, trusting You every step of the way to never stumble, trip or fall. It is here we can either close our eyes and enjoy the mystery of where You are taking us, or open them wide and be amazed at the scenery!! It is from here that we can look up into Your face, see those loving, smiling eyes and feel safe and secure. We can always know that Your step is sure and will take us safely wherever we need to go. Help us to know that we know that we know we are safe as long as we stay there, clinging to You.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Forever Faithful Fear

About 3 months ago it hit me what a marvelous and ominous word "forever" is.  One evening, as I laid next to my husband I thought, "I wish it could be like this forever."  In an instant I knew....IT WILL BE!!
I will always have  my husband as my best human friend, for all eternity!  There will be absolutely no end to our friendship!!  What a wonderful thought!  What a relief from fear of longing to hear his voice, feel his hand holding mine...he will always and forever literally be with me!!  Yes, there will be that brief period of time when we are physically apart, but our spirits are forever intertwined through the blood of Jesus. 
That night I actually turned and whispered a thank you to that lovely man and told him how awesome it is to know for certain that we will be together forever.  He smiled and nodded in consent and hugged me closer.  He must have remembered that moment as much as I, because about a week ago we pulled in to a gas station.  When we went in to pay, a young cashier asked, "Are you two together?"  That dear heart said, "Forever."  I almost started crying.  Tears did well up in my eyes from joy.  I grabbed his hand and we walked out the door with a little skip.
Thinking on this one little word has opened my eyes to the enormity of the need to love others into God's kingdom.  If we do not, they will spend eternity in torment!!  Think on that a moment and that selfish little uncaring world that tries to wrap itself around us whispering that the hatred going on in this world is no concern of ours as we are not involved in it will start to quake in fear.  Satan knows that if we begin to grasp just a bit what forever or eternity really means we will begin to also understand that people don't stop existing because their bodies quit functioning.  We were created in God's image.  He breathed HIS Spirit into us (Genesis 2:7) making us eternal beings as well.  We will either spend that eternity in a perpetual state of learning and growing in Christ, which is real life indeed, or in a perpetual state of turmoil, hatred, and terror; wishing it would all end, yet knowing it never will.  This is death indeed - being utterly and endlessly separated from real life in Christ Jesus.

God has been crying out to us to choose life from the beginning of time.  In telling man not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge He was telling him to choose Life - God.  Later, when Israel was getting ready to enter the Promised Land he spoke it through Joshua.
I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving The Lord your God, obeying His voice, and cleaving to Him; for that means life to you and length of days...Deuteronomy 30:19 (NIV)
Now He continues to cry out through the blood of His Son Jesus -
And to Jesus, the Mediator (Go-between, Agent) of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood which speaks [of mercy], a better and nobler and more gracious message than the blood of Abel [which cried out for vengeance].
So see to it that you do not reject Him or refuse to listen to and heed Him Who is speaking [to you now]. For if they [the Israelites] did not escape when they refused to listen and heed Him Who warned and divinely instructed them [here] on earth [revealing with heavenly warnings His will], how much less shall we escape if we reject and turn our backs on Him Who cautions and admonishes [us] from heaven?  Hebrews 12:24-25 (AMP)
Father, help us, Your children, begin to fully grasp eternity, forever in our hearts.  We know the definition and we believe it in our hearts, but our minds get easily removed from it as our senses cry out that all is finite.  Help us to look into the eyes of eternity when we look into the eyes of the lost.  Help us to not walk in selfishness at the contentment of our eternity with You, but rather to allow ourselves the discomfort of feeling their fear, loneliness and anxiety of not only being lost in this world, but lost from Your presence.  May our hearts cry out for their forgiveness as Jesus cried out for ours as He hung from the cross in agony (Luke 23:34).  Help us to hold no grudges, bear no ill will, but to seek their entrance into Your kingdom of grace.  May we walk forever in faithful fear of disappointing You. I ask this in Jesus' precious and most holy name.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ode to Joy

Sitting still in God's presence for a moment, an hour or however long cannot be mistaken for any other experience in life. There is nothing quite like it and it is never the same twice.
Yesterday I sat in awe of the God who loves me. My spirit soared at the things I was shown and I think I was grinning for the rest of the day. Today I thought my heart would break. I sat and cried and poured my heart out to God as I watched in my mind as child after small child was beheaded by ISIS.
Not only that, but the crying faces of the other innocent children being forced to watch made my heart wrench in agony. My stomach knotted and I grieved as if they were my own grandchildren.
Up until today it has been far off in another land, and though sad, was nothing I had to do more than pray about. Today I must do more. So I asked God what I can do. I can pray AND give. I can give to the one Christian organization I know about that is fighting in the front lines to stop this monstrosity (ISIS)– the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice).
Some would say here that God is mean and/or evil to allow these horrors to take place. It is quite easy to do as it takes blame off man, which is what we really want. Blaming God is a facade. We know in our heart of hearts that man is the sinner and full of evil until and unless he turns his heart and life over to the One who gave His life in our place so that sacrifices could end. God was not just redeeming mankind through Jesus, but all creation.
For God in all his fullness
was pleased to live in Christ,
and through him God reconciled
everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. Colossians 1:19-20 (NLT)
Animal sacrifices could cease. God does not desire the sacrifice of life in any form. He only ordained animal sacrifice as a means to redeem mankind until the day of Jesus. Then all blood sacrifice would come to an end as the ultimate sacrifice would be given.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. Psalm 51:6 (NLT)
And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices. Hebrews 10:18 (NIV)
And indeed that sacrifice was made at the cost of God becoming man and offering Himself in our place. (Colossians 1:19 above)
Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live. Galatians 1:4 (NLT)
As hard as it is to admit, Jesus died for those who are members of ISIS as much as He did for me. we must differentiate between the individuals and the organization.  It is easy to be swept up into an organization, even one you don't really want to be part of.  Just watch a fight on the playground.  Children who would never desire to hurt another can be found in the crowd chanting, all in order to "fit in." God loves those who have joined ISIS and wants to see them set free. So I did something I never dreamed possible. I prayed for them; that they would begin to actually see the atrocities they were committing; see the innocence and trust in the eyes and hearts of the children and how it was being ripped from their beings. I asked that in seeing they might repent and get on their faces before God in understanding of the sacrifice of Jesus that has already been made and that they no longer have to fight for. I asked for forgiveness – for them and for me for hating them.
Father, it is very difficult to love our enemies, but not impossible, for You have instructed us to do so. (Matthew 5:44) You have made this possible by dwelling in Your children through Your Holy Spirit. He gives us the strength to do so. May Your children come to the realization that in hating those who belong to ISIS, we are murderers ourselves. (I John 3:15) Help us to remember that we do not fight against flesh and blood, but against powers, principalities and rulers of the air. (Ephesians 6:12) Help us to remember the words of Your man David from so many years ago: Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will trust in the name of the Lord our God. Psalm 20:7 (NIV) Help us to live the words found in I John 3:18 [My] Little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth. May our prayers be filled with truth, our tongues speak words of peace and our actions be overflowing in love.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Be Still and Know....

This morning, early: Me: "God I need a Bible Study to go by.  I am floundering." God: "Go online to free online printable Bible studies."  So I did.  What I find truly amazing is how specific God can be.  He wasn't just telling me to type those words into the address, but to actually go to the site called "Online printable Bible Studies - Thoughts about God."
As I scrolled down the list of studies, my eyes fell on one entitled "Be Still, My Daughter."
I felt drawn to it, so I clicked.  Fully expecting a study that would last a week at least, I was really surprised that it was a simple devotion...but what a devotion.  It was exactly what I needed.  I read the whole thing in less than two minutes, including the list of verses given.
One paragraph really hit home and I quote: As I sat there trying to catch my breath, it hit me. "This is what your life is like. You're wrapped up in getting things accomplished, even good things, and you're relying on your flesh and power most of the time for insignificant victories, all the while missing what's important."
At the end of the study a challenge of spending 15 minutes alone in the quiet with God was given.  I jumped at this, went downstairs and out into my flowers in the backyard.  I knew that I knew I was supposed to read the book of Ruth.  I prayed as John Piper did years ago, "Lord, help me read slowly, understand what You want me to know and grant me wisdom."
God always goes above and beyond what we ask.  As I sat there, fully expecting to hear from my heavenly Father, an astounding thing happened.  A hummingbird (I love hummingbirds) flew right next to me and hovered not five feet away.  At one point it flew very close, so close I ducked a bit.  As I did so, the bird stopped in its place, about two feet from my face  and looked at me for about three seconds, as if it were trying to decide if I were anything to be bothered about, then flew off. Three seconds may seem fleeting, but when you are looking into the eye of a hummingbird, it seems like a forever moment.  A thrill ran down my spine at the joy I was experiencing.  I could see every detail of that bird.  I believe it was a female, as its colors were duller than usual, yet I could see the emerald greens of its wings and ruby reds of its throat, the white  collar it sported and the black head.  I think I noticed more about that hummingbird in a breath than I have noticed about them in a lifetime, and I have actually been privileged to have my husband save one stuck in our garage and hold it in front of me as it gained back its breath.  That time I was too caught up in the excitement of knowing he had actually caught one and was holding it open palmed before me.  The little thing seemed to sense he would not hurt it.  It just sat there until he finally decided to give it some help and tossed it up.  It flew high into the sky and away.  Today was better.  This hummingbird seemed to come to me to check me out.  What a thrill!!  I stopped and thanked God for that wonderful blessing of sharing a heartbeat with a hummingbird.  I could feel God whispering that this is the kind of thing that happens when we just get still before Him.
I went back to reading Ruth and these words jumped out at me: And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not...Ruth 2:15
God wants to pour out his understanding and wisdom on us (James 1:5  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (NIV))
In this little verse hidden in the book of Ruth I discovered God directing me to glean ONLY in His fields and not simply to glean, but to go deep into the fields of learning and understanding in order to gain wisdom that only comes from Him.
This invitation is extended to all of us, but so often we are are content to glean not only in God's fields, but the fields of the world as well.  We figure that a little bit here and there won't hurt us, and wasn't it Paul that said all things were allowed? (Yes, but he also said not all things are profitable.)  I know I will be tempted and sometimes give in to my flesh and step foot in a wrong field, either out of ignorance, thinking I am in the right place or deliberately in rebellion.  I don't like to admit this about myself, but my flesh is so very much weaker than my spirit.  I am extremely grateful to know that my Father will always be there to point the way back to His fields where I will begin to glean again until the day I boldly walk into the actual sheaves and allow myself to be enveloped there by His word.
This gives new meaning to the song:
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves.
We shall come rejoicing bringing in the sheaves.
Rejoicing indeed!!
Father, thank You for this invitation to know You better.  Thank You for guiding my steps today to spend time simply being quiet before we.  We are trained from early childhood that we need to be busy all the time or we are being lazy.  Lord, help us remember the story of Martha and Mary and all the cautioning of the Psalms to "Be still" so we can know You are God.  I thank You too that You will not rest until You have completed all Your good work in me that You have planned for me from the beginning.  I love You Lord!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Child Talent

Matthew 25:14-30 is the parable Jesus told regarding talents. I have read and reread this parable many times over, each time gleaning a small amount more. This morning I didn't even read it, but as I sat and prayed regarding a conversation I had last evening with one of our children regarding their children, a very quick and extremely informative thought flashed through my mind regarding it. “Children are a form of talents.” Verse 14 says:
For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. ( ESV)
For it is like a man who was about to take a long journey, and he called his servants together and entrusted them with his property. (AMP)
For it is as when a man, going into another country, called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. (ASV)
Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. (NIV)
 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. (KJV)
No matter which translation is used, it is His property (or goods in old English terminology) that is entrusted to the servants. Psalm 24:1 says:
The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him. (NLT)
The earth is the LORD'S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it.
We are all God's goods or property, even as the animals, plants, air, earth, etc. The passage then goes on to tell us that He gave to one man five talents, another two and to another one according to their personal ability. (vs15 AMP) However many children we have, we must admit first of all that they are not our own, but God's and secondly that, even though they are His, they are our responsibility. This should instill enough fear in our hearts to get us moving in the right direction, but as can be seen with the third servant, all too often causes us to do the opposite. In fear of making a mistake, we give in to the false doctrine of allowing our children to choose if they will attend church, choose if they will participate in giving of themselves, etc. We think we are giving our children “freedom” and “blessings” when in effect we are placing them in bondage to the things of this world by giving them what they want rather than what they need.
The question then arises in my heart, “How well have I invested the children God has given me? Have I invested them in the Kingdom or the world? Did I teach them all they needed to know in order to continue the growth in talents by investing the children God entrusts to their care? Have I shown them how to go about it?” The answer that arises in my heart is that I gave it my best. I could have done better had I known how, but I did what I believed best at the time and have to trust God to bring about the increase. (I Corinthians 3:6) It would be easy for me to fall into a pit here, because I have grown much since my children were little. I can look back and see now what I could have done differently. This would not change a thing and God tells me not to dwell on negativity. (Philippians 4:8) So what can be done then to continue helping the investment grow as much as possible?
But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren ...Deuteronomy 4:9 (NLT)
Sharing with our children and grandchildren the things we have learned and witnessed about God in life is the answer. Sometimes this is difficult to say the least. We may have to point out an error they are making in the investments of their little talents. However, we must count the cost! Do we want our children and grandchildren to continue the investment or do we sit by and watch as the profits dwindle?
Ultimately it is our personal choice.
19 Now after a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.
20 And he who had received the five talents came and brought him five more, saying, Master, you entrusted to me five talents; see, here I have gained five talents more.
21 His master said to him, Well done, you upright (honorable, [b]admirable) and faithful servant! You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little; I will put you in charge of much. Enter into and share the joy (the delight, the [c]blessedness) which your master enjoys.
22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, Master, you entrusted two talents to me; here I have gained two talents more.
23 His master said to him, Well done, you upright (honorable, [d]admirable) and faithful servant! You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little; I will put you in charge of much. Enter into and share the joy (the delight, the [e]blessedness) which your master enjoys.
24 He who had received one talent also came forward, saying, Master, I knew you to be a harsh and hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you had not winnowed [the grain].
25 So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is your own.
26 But his master answered him, You wicked and lazy and idle servant! Did you indeed know that I reap where I have not sowed and gather [grain] where I have not winnowed?
27 Then you should have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received what was my own with interest.
28 So take the talent away from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. (Matthew 25 AMP)
In my heart verse 27 could cry out to us, “Then you should have at least taken your children to Sunday School and/or Children's Worship where they could learn about me from someone else!”
What God really wants though is for us to make the investment of our children by example, teaching and living for Jesus by not only taking them to church, but going and being the Church ourselves.
Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it. Proverbs 22:6 (NLT)
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:27 (NAS)
Father, I am doing the best I know to do. Continue to reveal to me the things necessary to continue investing our children and grandchildren so they can become wonderful stewards of the children You entrust to them. May our entire family grow in wisdom, understanding, and all the luscious fruit of the Spirit, that our legacy might bring honor and glory to Your most holy name rather than our own.  Reveal to Your children the need to not only invest our children wisely, but to make right and godly choices that influence our children and grandchildren to invest of themselves for Your kingdom as well.