A BREAK (2020-05-01)
Yesterday was the maiden voyage of Cecil and Fiona, Dwight and Beka’s new kayaks. Upon Beka’s suggestion and my urging, they both bought kayaks. We live so close to large Lake Wiley, with its many inlets, and the Catawba River that it made perfect sense to invest in a way to enjoy these resources.
I know I have mentioned before I love water. From the smallest brook to the largest ocean, I love being by water. So, while I couldn’t join them in kayaking, I was able to sit by the shore at the boat ramp. Which gave me the opportunity to do another of my favorite things – people watch!
It was a busy place. There were two men disassembling a very worn out U-shaped floating dock. The pontoons were full of holes and the decking had definitely seen better days. They were using a tractor to haul away sections they had cut apart. The excitement came when one fully dressed man, hat and phone included, fell into the water! He wasn’t hurt and I hope his phone is salvageable.
The other two boat ramps were an almost constant buzz of some boats being launched and others coming out. There were watercraft ranging from humble kayaks to jet skis to very expensive speedboats; from old to new. There were people by themselves to parties up to six; small children and retired. And a wide range of expertise in launching or trailering their crafts.
As I sat and watched, it made me think of how diverse our world is. From humble to showy, from small to large, from novice to experienced. But what made me happy was how everyone was patient with everyone else. No one became upset when someone took a really long time to get their boat back onto their trailer, or when one boat was only tethered at one point and floated to block the way of another boat trying to leave the loading dock. Friendly greetings were thrown about and help offered when it looked like it was needed.
Then came the icing on a cake. A man and his dog, Ally, a one-year old golden retriever with a summer haircut, came down to play. I never did ask the man his name. I was able to pet and talk to Ally until she and her owner went out onto the dock. He threw a tennis ball as far as he could and Ally enthusiastically, excitedly jumped in, swam to the ball and retrieved it. For the first bit, she would quickly bring it back to her man and he would throw it again. But, after repeated trips, she wearied a bit and would come up on the loading dock and play with the ball, trying to keep it under water with her paws. It was hilarious and all who watched her were laughing at her antics. She was just having fun. When she had a bit more energy, up she jumps onto the dock, for her man to throw it once again.
What a beautiful way. For just an hour or so, we forgot about the Covid 19. People were naturally social distancing, each in their own boats. And now that I think about it, no one was wearing masks. People were just enjoying the beautiful day and God’s creation.
This reminded me of Isaiah 16, which is the second chapter devoted to the prophecy against Moab. In the middle of 23 verses about God’s judgment against Moab is written, “In love a throne will be established; in faithfulness a Man will sit on it – One from the house of David – One Who in judging seeks justice and speeds the cause of righteousness.” (Isaiah 16.5) In the middle of God’s wrath poured out against His enemies is the promise of Jesus Christ.
So, Lord, I thank You for this break. I thank You for the provision of kayaks and lakes and rivers. I thank You for dogs and people. I thank You for You. I thank You for the reminder that it is OK to take time out to just enjoy You and all You have given to us.
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
SONG OF PRAISE FOR TIMES PAST AND ALL ETERNITY (2020-04-15)
I am pretty sure I have never done this for my blog before, but I am just literally going to copy and paste my quiet time here. I was so encouraged today and want you to be as well. (I added things in parenthesis to clarify.)
Verses 2-6 have been my life verses since Jessica (our daughter) was diagnosed with HIV AIDS in 1986, Easter week. 34 years ago! (She died six months later.) Many times over these years I have returned to these verses. They have anchored me, enCOURAGEd me, reminded me, challenged me. NIV 1984 says, "The Lord, the Lord is my strength and my song." My life since accepting You as my Lord and Savior in August of 1979 has been a song, one with many verses and one that will continue to grow throughout all eternity, for I will continue to grow. The song has many notes. It is my song, but You are the One writing it!
1 In that day you will say, I will praise You, Lord, O Lord. Although You were angry with me, Your anger has turned away and You have comforted me. This You did through Your Son.
2 Surely God is my salvation. I will trust in Him and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord is my strength and my song. I have to continue to look to You and not myself. Because You ARE my salvation, I CAN trust in You and not be afraid. You and only You are my strength and the One writing my song.
3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. I love that this verse starts with with joy. Joy is always available to me. Always. Even though I have long had these verses memorized and have returned to them many times over the years, I never noticed it says wells of salvation and not well of salvation. Why is it pluralized? I think because yes, there is the time of our salvation, but there are unending times of sanctification.
4 In that day you will say, "Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done and proclaim that His name is exalted.” Lord, you have blessed me with the privilege of having a world-wide experience. I have lived in many countries. I have served with people from many more. When I tell of what You have done, Your name IS exalted for You are good. All the time. All the time. You are good.
5 Sing to the Lord, for He has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Right now, in the midst of Covid 19, You are doing glorious things. You are bringing people together. You are showing families what is really important. You are motivating people to good deeds of kindness. You are proving Yourself faithful and true. You are removing masks that say, "I'm OK" when in reality I am not. You are transforming Your people more and more into the image of Christ.
6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you. Never, never, never doubt that the arrival of the virus means the departure of our God. He is with us and has promised to never leave us or forsake us. I need to remember this in ALL trials. But, it isn't just that I need to remember that, I need to consciously, actively choose joy, because that is what is going to show the world that Jesus is indeed with me.
From Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible, 1997 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
“The song of praise in this chapter is suitable for the return of the outcasts of Israel from their long captivity, but it is especially suitable to the case of a sinner when he first finds peace and joy in believing; to that of a believer, when his peace is renewed after corrections for backslidings; and to that of the whole company of the redeemed when they meet before the throne of God in heaven.
“I will trust in Him to prepare me for His salvation and preserve me to it.
“Faith in God is a sovereign remedy against tormenting fears.
“Blessed be God, we have wells of salvation opened on every side and may draw from them the waters of life and consolation.”
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
Note: I have also never picked two graphics for one blog, but I couldn’t decide between them. I love the heart in the one with the black background, for the song of praise I have is rooted in love. I love the other one for the complexity of it. Life is not simple. But the challenges, the ups, the downs, the in-betweens make for a richer beautiful song.
HE IS RISEN INDEED! (2020-04-11)
Easter Sunday. But not like any Easter before. As I am thinking about the first Easter, I wonder how the apostles and followers of Jesus spent it. Not isolated from one another, but I imagine huddled together in groups of various sizes, fearfully trying to figure out what happened. What went so wrong? What was going to happen next? Maybe we have these same questions today as we face isolation, social distancing, limitations in this life-changing environment of the coronavirus.
Unlike the apostles and disciples, we have the advantage of knowing that indeed, the tomb is empty and our Savior is risen. He accomplished what He came to do. It truly is finished. Sin no longer has any power over Jesus’ followers. Death no longer has any sting for those who accept Him as their Savior. His death and resurrection bought us the freedom to choose life over death, joy over despair, hope over despondency, peace over fear and love over hate.
I do know all that and yet all too often, I find myself struggling to live according to my knowledge. These days it seems like I don’t have victory over sin. I too often lose hope and allow fear to creep in. My actions and my thoughts seem like they are frequently not from a foundation of love.
But the great news is, this it isn’t about me. It is about Jesus. Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1 speak the words I need to read again and again.
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of the glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ Jesus when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule an authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age, but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him Who fills everything in every way (Ephesians 1.17-22).
So many people have stated in one fashion or another that this coronavirus does not stop Easter. There have been songs sung, poems written, statements made that nothing, absolutely nothing can stop Easter from coming. And they are right. We WILL celebrate the empty tomb and our risen Lord. Not in church buildings. Not even with extended family and friends. There will be no corporate worship in the way that we know, but there will be corporate worship in a different way. “How the Virus Stole Easter” by Kristi Bothur (with a nod to Dr. Suess) writes,
Every saint in every nation, the tall and the small,
Was celebrating Jesus in spite of it all!
It hadn’t stopped Easter from coming! It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
And the world with its life quite stuck in quarantine
Stood puzzling and puzzling. “Just how can it be?”
“It came without bonnets, it came without bunnies,
It came without egg hunts, cantatas, or money.”
Then the world thought of something it hadn’t before.
“Maybe Easter,” it thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Easter, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
I don’t know about you, but I want that little bit more. I want my heart to soar without needing to be in the midst of a full church singing, “Christ the Lord is risen today. Allelulia!” And I want it to be more the norm than the exception every day. For remember, I know. I know the story. And even more, I know my Savior. And even more than that, I know He knows me.
I just happened to be in Isaiah 9 on Friday, Good Friday, the day we remember Jesus’ sacrifice in dying on the cross, the cross that we all must come to. Do you think Isaiah had any idea what he was writing when he wrote the words,
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. . . For to us, a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders, and He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this. (Isaiah9)
Remember, when God says He will accomplish something, He will. The Corona Virus cannot stop Him. My sin of fear and doubts cannot stop Him, for truly, He is risen today!! Raise your voices, saints of the Lord. Let the world hear our voice! HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED!!
May you be blessed. I know my heart, for right now, is once again at peace with Him and His plan.
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
LEAP OF FAITH (2020-03-31)
We have such a gracious God. He reveals Himself in so many ways; some of them very unexpected. I shared last month that my niece and I were very much into The Amazing Race. We are so enjoying seeing the places the contestants go and learning about specific areas of the cultures the contestants find themselves in.
An episode we watched yesterday had a task that proved too terrifying for one contestant to complete, even though it meant she and her partner would be eliminated from the race. They were in Dubai and had to take a ‘leap of faith’ down a 70’ slide with a 90 degree slope through a tube with sharks swimming around. The sharks couldn’t touch them, but the contestants saw the sharks. The young lady was scared of heights and scared of water and she just couldn’t make herself take that leap of faith. Her boyfriend kept yelling at her to do it, that it was for a million dollars. She tried. She really did try. She even sat down at the top of the slide, with hands clinging ferociously to the bar above her head. And her boyfriend went a step further from yelling. He tried to pry her clenched hands from the bar to force her to go down.
The next team, the team that was in last place, arrived. That meant that she had a time limit of two minutes to actually take the leap. While her boyfriend is yelling at her to ‘just do it’, the other team started telling her that she didn’t have to do it. If she was too scared, don’t worry about it. There was nothing wrong with her not doing it. My opinion of that team went downhill. In the end, she couldn’t do the task. The other team came in second to last and she and her partner were eliminated. When asked by the host how she felt, she sadly said, “I feel like I let him (her partner) down and I feel like I let myself down.”
As I thought about this, I thought about how differently our God treats us. He does ask us to do some very difficult things. Things that terrify us that are not a struggle for other folks to do. And the reward for doing the things He asks us is great. Far greater than a million dollars. But, and it is a huge ‘BUT’, He never yells at us. He never threatens us. He never tries to pry our hands from what we are holding on to. He encourages us with His love. He shows us through His Son. He empowers us through His Spirit.
The enemy, on the other hand, is like that other team. He is there to tell us that is OK to not do what God has called us to do. He tells us it is too hard. If we are afraid, we shouldn’t do it. That it isn’t worth it.
O, Lord, I know You are more than worthy to receive all my love, all my obedience. Please, please forgive me for when I cling ferociously to my sin; for when I listen to the lies of the enemy telling me it is OK to not obey. I do know without a shadow of a doubt that You cannot love me more than You do right now, nor will You love me less. Please, may my desire to love You back be stronger than the desires of momentary pleasures.
As I was writing this, I thought of a phrase from Hebrews 12.1-2. But, when I looked it up and read it in its entirely, I was amazed at how it captures exactly what I am writing about. “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
I don’t know what encumbrances you are facing right now. I do know the One Who is more than able and ever so willing to get us over the finish line in a manner that brings the Father the glory. May we all turn to Him and allow His love to propel us to imitate His Son through the power of His Spirit for His glory.
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
Note: The picture is the actual place!
GETTING RID OF THE DRAGON SKIN (2020-03-28)
I thought I was doing OK with this whole self-quarantine and social distancing. I mean, I have had 3 1/2 years of not being able to do very much. That is a long time of not going shopping much, not getting out much, not having people in much.
But I am discovering there is a huge difference between not much and none at all. It has been 23 days since I have been out of the house, save one trip around the block on my motorized wheelchair. It has been 5 weeks since I have been to church. I thought I was coping and even thriving until two house members are going out to get coffee. I can't believe how jealous I was. It was only drive through and I don't even like coffee!!
I really in no way begrudge them. I just envy them. And I feel guilty that I do.
I have it so much better than people I know. I have a family that loves and supports me. I have puzzles to do, books to read, TV show to watch, DVDs galore, games to play, cards to make, a phone, a computer. And more than all those things, I have peace because I have a relationship with Jesus Christ. I have His Word to read, study and memorize. I have A LOT!
So, where does this insidious feeling of discontent come from? Well, I think the answer is in my prayer for me for this year, that I would find my satisfaction in Him and Him alone. The saying, "Be careful what you pray for!" comes to mind. The Lord, in His loving kindness and His desire to deepen my relationship with Him is going to lovingly, but not painlessly, show me where I am finding my satisfaction.
When He rips off the veneer I have hidden under, I don't much like what I see. I really don't like coming face to face with my sin, with the things in my life that are so different from the person I want to be, and sadly enough, the person I convince myself I am.
I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader when Eustice, a rather nasty boy and unwilling companion to Narnia becomes a dragon after falling asleep on a dragon’s treasure trove with dragonish thoughts. His heart is changed and Aslan tells him he can get rid of the dragon skin. In trying to do it himself, he can only peel of one layer at a time, only to find another one underneath. He must allow Aslan to use his nails to cut through the dragon skin all the way to his own skin. It hurts far more than ripping a bandage off, but the ugly old skin is peeled off in its entirety. And then Eustice is told to dive into a pool of clear water. It stings like crazy, but then is so refreshing.
I started the book of Isaiah this week. That is what the Lord is inviting me to do – to allow Him to take off my dragon skin – when He says, “ ‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the LORD, ‘though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool’ ” (verse 18).
And so, once again I am humbly, but not humiliatingly, choosing to come to Him, choosing to believe He will wash my sins away. Choosing to hope that He IS making me into the person He would have me be. Not because I am worthy. Not because I get it. Not because of anything except the shed blood of Jesus for me. . . for you!
O, Lord, I do ask You to get rid of this dragon skin that I put on. Like the Marley brothers in A Christmas Carol, I forge the chains I wear link by link. But, You and You alone can and will break those chains. I come to You wanting to find my satisfaction in You and You alone. I desire to be more than content, but grateful for every moment of this life You have planned and given me, treating it as a precious gift. And please, Lord, may Dwight and Beka have a wonderful time going out for coffee this morning, even if it is only to go get it and come home. In Jesus’ powerful name I pray. Amen.
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
P.S. As I looked for graphics of dragons on-line, there were cute ones, but there is NOTHING cute about mine!
Prisoner of Hope (2020-03-16)
Our family’s day-to-day lives, like most others, have changed dramatically in the last weeks. Dwight came home from a Session meeting at church last night with the news that he was not to attend any gathering since he was over 60. (When and how did we join that group?!) They also made the decision to cancel Sunday school (which Dwight has been teaching), shorten the service and attempt to ensure there will be less than 50 people at each of its two services. SIM has decreed that anyone who can possibly work from home must do so and in fact, folks are not even allowed on the SIM USA campus without express permission. The clothing store where Beka works has shut its doors at least for the rest of March. The church Beka works for is going to on-line church, meaning less work for Beka at church.
I am just now recovering from bronchitis and sinusitis, which means I am just now feeling the effects of being house bound. It is strange to not get together with my prayer partners and my close friends. It is weird to take everything off my calendar for the rest of March. My Outlook calendar is color coded with events away from the house in dark green. There are NONE! My paper calendar is done is pencil. My eraser is now shorter.
I know I am not alone in seeing great possibilities and praying for God to show His power and His might through this COVID-19. We have been praying that God will use this to bring families closer together emotionally as they are brought closer together for more extended times physically. Interestingly, a prayer request our pastor gave me when I asked for specific ways to pray against the world is that young parents wouldn't feel so pressured into having their kids do so much, that the family and dinner table suffer. Might not God be using this virus to do just that?!
We have been praying that those who know Him and have trusted Him in the past, but are allowing the things of the world to take over would be wooed back to Him. With the suspension of sports, the entertainment arts and large gatherings due to this virus, might not people see that the things of the world are like shifting sand but He is a rock?
We have been praying that those who do not having a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ might come to put their faith and trust in Him. Might not this global virus point out that He is God alone and that there is none like Him? That He is The Way to inner peace, which totally trumps living in fear and anxiety?!
A friend and colleague wrote this poignant word picture that shows how for many, this virus is not merely an inconvenience, but threatens life. “Imagine that you live in a small one room shack with mud walls and a tin roof. It’s not much, but it’s your family’s home. You and your 3 million neighbors are crammed together in about 1 square mile in Kenya’s largest slum. You are attempting to practice the social distancing that everyone is talking about. The government has strongly discouraged all non-essential movement about the city. Normally you cram yourself into tightly-packed public transit vans to get downtown where you sell hard-boiled eggs on the street corner. But there are so few people out and about that you have very few customers. You barely earn enough money to pay for your transit back home. And normally on the way home, you would use a few of the dollars you earned to stop at the market and buy food for your family’s dinner. But you have not earned enough money to buy the food for dinner. Tomorrow will likely be no different. There is no government stimulus check coming, no unemployment benefits, no food banks, and even though you have a Facebook account, you could care less that the NY Metropolitan Opera is streaming free operas online because being bored is not your greatest concern. You have to choose between social distancing and eating. If you don’t work today, you don’t eat today. But if you don’t abide by social distancing protocols, your next door neighbor who is HIV positive may likely die.” She then asks for prayer for Africa and for herself as she grapples with how to love her neighbors well.
The SIM International Director wrote a very encouraging letter to all SIMers entitled, “Be Strong and Courageous.” An excerpt reads, “Perhaps we feel like we are facing a raging river with neither Moses nor the rod of God, or like the Israelites facing a wall of water, with the Egyptian army breathing murder behind. It might seem like everything has come to a halt, that we are all unable to move or do anything meaningful. However, our greatest work is still ours every day — the work of prayer. Prayer knows no boundary, no quarantine, no confinement. Prayer knows no travel ban or city blockade. Prayer is still the work. Like the Israelites, we may discover at the end of this time that the Lord has been at work all along, winning battles we were never even aware of.” (If you would like to read the whole letter, contact me and I will be happy to send it to you.)
As an elder at our church, Dwight has a flock he shepherds. One area that the elders addressed was making sure people felt connected to one another in this time of social distancing. A friend sent me a text with Zechariah 9.12 Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.” As I have stated in other writings, I love making cards. The graphic for this blog is one I designed for Dwight to send to his flock.
Please, may all of us remember that our Lord is still on His throne. May we remember that none of this is catching Him off guard. May you know that our Father will meet ALL your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. And may you be most assured that
He is still good. All the time. All the time. He is good.
LOT IN LIFE (2020-03-07)
I think I am going to have to learn how to use the ‘Dictaphone’, if that is even the right modern term, feature on my phone. I had a whole blog written in my head the other night as I was going to sleep and it would have been nice to be able to just speak it. But now it is two days later, and I am wondering how much of that God is going to have me use (read ‘remember’) and how much will be new.
I am into my 8th day of being sick. Last Saturday, I had a very bad sore throat by the end of the day. That is how my sickness in January started that resulted in bronchitis and being pretty much down and out for two weeks. On Tuesday, Dwight and I made the trip to Chapel Hill for a prescheduled checkup with my Pulmonary Hypertension specialist. While sick, I did not have a fever while I was there and my lungs were clear, so Dr. Ford could not really prescribe anything. But then on Thursday, we were at my primary care physician’s office getting antibiotics for bronchitis and sinusitis.
But, this blog isn’t really about my health. It is about God. I am currently reading in Ecclesiastes. I am not finding it a particularly encouraging or even enjoyable book to read. In fact, I would have to say I think I enjoyed the book of Job more.
Before I start reading a book of the Bible for my own quiet time, I read in Ryken’s Bible Handbook and Nelson’s Bible Dictionary, which help in my understanding and application of the Bible. One feature I like about Ryken’s is he tells the reader what to look for as they go through the book. One of the tips for Ecclesiastes was to draw real-life parallels to what Solomon writes.
In chapter 5, in the midst of talking about how meaningless riches are, is this marvelous verse, “When God gives someone wealth and possessions and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot in life and be happy in their toil, this is a gift from God.” (New International Version, verse 19) When I first read this, I thought about each day being a gift from God. The more I thought about it, I realized that the phrase, “lot in life” had negative connotations for me, more fatalistic than God-decreed. “Lot in life” makes me think of limitations in a negative way. The New American Standard Bible states it this way, “Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God.” That is how I took it when I first read it. To be able to enjoy life exactly as it comes is a gift from God.
And then on Thursday, the day I was feeling absolutely miserable, I read chapter 7. While Ryken categorizes this chapter mainly as negative, for me it had this excellent pearl of wisdom that would dictate me categorizing it as positive. Verse 14 reads, “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God as made the one as well as the other.” What an excellent way to approach each and every day. Knowing that God is the One Who has made the day. Remember the old chorus, “This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.”?
There comes a sense of peace, a sense of contentment, and yes, a sense of joy when I look at everything in my life as coming from the hand of God. God, Who cares for me and loves me more than I can ever understand. God, Who is good and only wants good for me. God, Who gives me “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow” as the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness declares.
I am working on memorizing a key verse for each of the books of the Bible. My verse from Genesis is 1.31. “God saw all that He had made and behold, it was very good.”
So, while my body still feels pretty miserable today, Saturday, my spirit is singing with His! Oh, that that might be true of all my days.
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
Note: How I wish I had my daughter Beka’s skills. She would have a most excellent graphic to portray this idea that all our days are from the hand of God and are good, but alas, I don’t, nor could I find a graphic online that came even close, so I leave you to picture your own!
AMAZING RACE (2020-02-08)
I have discovered the TV show, Amazing Race. Twelve couples, each with a relationship with one another, team up to win a race that crosses borders, oceans and continents. They are stripped of money, credit cards, cell phones and GPSes. They carry a pack with essentials, not knowing if they will be crossing desserts, frozen terrain, oceans or crowded city streets.
At the beginning all twelve teams are given route information - where they must go on this leg of the journey. Sometimes there is a very specific way they must travel. Sometimes not. At the end of the first leg, they are given a DETOUR, a choice between two activities. Typically one is easier, but potentially takes more time. The other is faster, but scarier or more demanding. The next clue is usually a ROAD BLOCK. Only one team member may complete the task and they must decide based on a sketchy (at best) clue. This task involves skill, speed, brains, brawn and overcoming fears. . . in any number of combinations. The last team to arrive at the pit stop is eliminated from the race. And oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the winning team at the end of 12 episodes wins $1,000,000.00.
Manda and I have been watching this. We are towards the end of Season 3. We have clear piles for the categories of our responses to their tasks.
As in all reality shows, there is drama. We find ourselves rooting and cheering on, not the smartest or the cutest, not the best traveled or the ones that speak the most languages, but the teams that are kind to one another. The ones that seem to enjoy and appreciate the trip and each other.
The author of the Book of Hebrews tells us we are in a race and that we are to run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews12.1-3) Micah 6.8 says we are to live (and isn't life a race?) in a specific way - acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with our God.
When we finish our race, we don't get a 1 million dollar prize. No, something infinitely, eternally better. A crown of righteousness.
So, THE AMAZING RACE is real and so popular there are more than 30 seasons. There are specific rules and if they aren't followed, the team is penalized. Interestingly, there is a team of people working behind the scenes to make sure contestants are safe and secure.
The Amazing Race of Life is also real. It is not limited to a dozen groups of two, but open to all who hear the invitation given by Jesus Christ Himself to, "Come!" He promises adventure. He promises difficulties. You will mess up. But, even in that He promises He has paid the penalty. He also promises He will never leave nor forsake you. He promise you faith for today and bright hope for tomorrow. And He promises you a greater reward than money, which is here today and gone tomorrow.
So, are you in?
Ready. Set. Go!!
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
Photo: Nigerian sculpture made from scrap metal, nuts and bolts
Lord, You amaze me over and over and over again
When pulling my threads into one useful, purposeful string.
You use Your Word, Your people, my friends
To keep me moving towards You, my King.
But How do You do the things You do?
How do You enter my thoughts, my deeds?
How do You get me to hear what is true?
How do You change the choking weeds?
How do You guide me along narrow ways?
How do You keep me centered in Your will?
How do You do this every one of my days?
How do You empty me and of You always fill?
If my question was 'why' instead of 'how',
The answer would come with surety and force
For the answer has been forever and now
Love. Love unending that stays the course.
But the questions bouncing in my head tonight
All start with, 'How?' and they just don't end;
For I want to move forward, to get it right
I want what is broke to heal and to mend.
I want to live my life open in Your sight
I want to bow only to You and Your throne
I want to be saturated by You, by Your Light
I want to be satisfied by You, You alone.
Maybe knowing You and Your character is key
Spending time with You and those You call Yours
I don't know how but I hear Your invite to me
To just keep walking through open doors.
So, I will trust You to tell me what I am to know.
I will trust You to satisfy the longing in my heart.
I will trust You to take me where I am to go.
And I will trust Your timing in the knowledge You impart.
I have been pondering what friendship means. What it means in general, but more specifically, what it means to me. God has been abundantly faithful in providing many good, good friends over the years, not only in all the places we have lived, but for specific times in those locations. I remember saying to one friend, (who, ironically, I am not in close contact with anymore), “I am more who God intended me to be when I am in your presence.”
There are friends that have taught me very specific lessons by modeling it in their lives. Examples, but examples only are : receiving His grace; what true discipleship means; everyone deserves a chance to thrive; treat yourself kindly; trust Him even for what you don’t understand.
Some friends have walked this journey called life with me for a long time. Their companionship not only makes me stronger, but has played a big part in God’s molding me. With these friends, I have laughed, cried, pondered and prayed. Other friends, although having a large impact on my life, seem to have come in for a specific season and maybe even for a specific reason.
I wasn’t sure this was going this direction, but it is where the Lord is taking me, so I am as much along for the ride as you are! I want to share four specific friendships.
My brother Dave has long been someone I look up to – both figuratively and physically, as he is 6’6” and I am 5’3”! He is always someone I can talk to. He protected me from bullies when I was in junior high school. He challenged me to do things I didn’t think I could do. But his greatest gift to me was telling me my need for a savior, and not just any savior, but the Lord Jesus Christ. His next greatest gift to me was the freedom to do what God had called me to, go where God had called me to go. He and his wife, Karen, took care of my Dad, not grudgingly, but willingly, lovingly, and when I would say I wish I could be there to help, Dave’s answer was always that I was where God had called me and he was where God had called him. What an amazing gift!! I still can and do share anything and everything with him.
My daughter, Beka and I did not have the best relationship while she was growing up. I was too critical, too interested in how things appeared and less interested in discovering who she was. I did not grow up having a close relationship with my mother and quite honestly, didn’t even know that could be possible. I didn’t understand how Beka was wired. I am so very task-oriented and Beka is so very creative, reflective, needing space to just think. God, is His infinite grace, has developed my relationship with Beka to the point I count her one of my very best friends. In Joel 2.25, God makes a promise to the Israelites. I have taken this as a fulfilled promise to me. “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.” I had allowed the great army of circumstances, of life, to eat away at what was most important, but God has restored my relationship with my daughter beyond anything I could ever have imagined. She makes me laugh. She makes me think. She helps me see God from a different viewpoint. She makes me more whom God intended me to be.
My best friend (with skin I can touch) is Dwight. I have said before that he is the one who has taught me to receive unconditional love and he is. He is even teaching me how to give it. His sacrificial love has been ever evident in his care of me since my diagnosis. He has willingly given up so much to put me first. I can’t write any more about him (because of tears of gratefulness) than to tell you he is truly a man after God’s own heart and mine.
I can’t talk about friends without talking about Jesus. More and more He is showing me that He is sufficient. What an insufficient word! He is so much more than that. I am awed that He is teaching me to delight in Him. Not just in what He does, but in Him Himself. I confess that when days are filled with noise, I think of Him less often than I would like, but in the quiet of the night when I can’t sleep, He is the One I talk to. When I read His Word, He speaks to me of great and marvelous things. Like friends in the book of Job.
I have read Job 1-14 so far. This is what started my pondering about friendship. What kind of friends do I have? What kind of friend am I? I want to be one that listens, really listens. One that seeks more to understand than to be understood. One that points people to God Almighty. One that doesn’t make people smaller, but God bigger. One who speaks truth in wisdom with compassion.
Romans 8.28-30 "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
God is good. All the time. All the time. Good is good.
Happy New Year!
Before I tell you what I am hoping for in this new year, I am excited to share with you God’s faithfulness in 2019. My verse for the year was James 4.8: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you; cleanse your hands, you sinners and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” As I looked back over my monthly take-aways from my journal (which come from weekly take-aways, which (you guessed it) come from daily take-aways), I had a very deep assurance that while yes, I had drawn closer to God, in reality, it was He Who had drawn me closer to Himself!
These are my big take-aways – and they really are. Truths that have changed how I think, how I process, how I view God and hopefully which result in changes in my actions and reactions.
1. PUT GOD FIRST. This one is so obvious, it is almost (but not quite) embarrassing to start with it, but I just had to. The first three months of 2019, the Lord kept bringing Matthew 6.33 in front of me. “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” First in my priorities. First in what I do during the day. First in decision making. I am not saying I do this perfectly, but I can tell you I feel very strange if I do anything but spend time with the Lord first in my day!
2. I AM IN A BATTLE. There were very few weeks in 2019 that this wasn’t a take-away. I know God was reminding me of this so that I would continually look to Him. When I couldn’t figure out why I was failing in whatever, He would remind me I was in a battle. I would win, but only with Him fighting for me.
3. SAY 'NO' TO UNGODLINESS. Again, this seems obvious, but so often I would settle for doing something less than what God was asking me to do. I was sharing with a friend that I think we really don’t even realize when we are settling for mediocrity. In Titus 2.11-12, it says, “But the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” This present age. Even though the Bible was written a very long time ago, God knew exactly what this present age would be. It IS possible to say “NO” to ungodliness, but only by the grace of God.
4. TRUST YOU WITH WHAT I DON'T UNDERSTAND. This was a BIG ONE! I was very much struggling with a situation in my life. My questioning God was becoming more and more joy-stealing when I couldn’t hear His answers. The more I couldn’t figure things out, the less I was trusting God. And then a friend (I have been blessed with so many godly women that speak truth into my life!) told me she simply trusted God with what she didn’t understand. I realized that is what I had to do. Questioning God is fine. He can handle it. But if my questions are robbing me of my joy and eroding my belief of Who God is, then I am the one that can’t handle it. I have long trusted Him with what I do understand. It was time to trust Him with what I didn’t, knowing He is God and He is good. All the time.
5. UNBELIEF IS AT THE BOTTOM OF ALL OUR STAGGERINGS AT GOD'S PROMISES. Which, stated another way, means that unbelief is the root of all my sin. Unbelief is the one thing Jesus became angry at. My questions started to lean towards, “What am I not believing about You?” How revealing!!
6. HUMBLE MYSELF UNDER YOU AND YOUR PLAN AND THE PROPERTY OF AFFLICTIONS WILL BE ALTERED TO GLORIFY YOU. This was another huge one! Not only in living with a life-altering, severe lung condition, but in other situations in my life. When I brought myself to the realization that God is in charge, really and totally, and gave Him everything in my life, in my situations, the property of those trials became a means of grace. Life changing!! There is a praise song from days gone by, “Father, I place into Your hands. . .” I have sung it over and over throughout this year.
7. LOVING YOU HAS TO BE MY MOTIVATION FOR CHANGE. How I would love to be able to say that I have loved Jesus enough to eat only what I should; to get the bit of exercise I can do; to stop my judgmental attitude; to live a grateful, joy-filled life. I can’t say that, but I can say I know that the more I love Him, the more these things will come under His authority.
8. GIVE THANKS IN EVERY CIRCUMSTANCE. This comes from Philippians 4.6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Notice that it says to give thanks IN every circumstance, not FOR every circumstance. How I want to continue to cultivate an attitude of gratitude!
9. EMPHASIZE RECEIVING OVER ACHIEVING IN PRAYER. This truth came from Beth Moore’s Bible study “Children of the Day.” It had made a big difference in how I pray. Primarily because all the good we receive comes from the Lord. My focus is much more on what He has already promised to give, that He will give me and those I am praying for the minds and hearts to receive His goodness.
10. DISBELIEF IN HIS ALL-SUFFICIENCY IS AT THE ROOT OF ALL MY SIN. This is really very similar to #5, but points even clearer to the fact that He really is ALL I need. This is an area I want so much to grow in that it is the theme of 2020, to receive all He wants to give me, to be totally satisfied in Him and Him alone. Psalm 107.9 (my theme verse for 2020) is Psalm 107.9, “For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things.”
11. LIVE CORAM DEO INTENTIONALLY, SPECIFICALLY, AGGRESSIVELY SO THAT I WILL SEE HIM MORE CLEARLY, FOLLOW HIM MORE NEARLY AND LOVE HIM MORE DEARLY! Oh, friends, this is the cry of my heart. Coram Deo – in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God. That has been my heartbeat for so many years. The picture at the beginning of this blog is my Bible cover. A Bible I bought when I first started going to Bible Study Fellowship in 1985. In 1996, I had this leather cover made by Nigerien craftsmen. The lettering is a bit faded. Water (and probably tears) stain it, but the desire has only grown stronger over the years. And as I do reflect back over the years – not just 2019 – I see His faithfulness.
12. WHAT IS STOPPING ME? This was a question asked in a sermon preached by our very godly pastor. The only thing stopping me from becoming all God wants me to be is me. So, as I head into this new year, my prayer is that I will have eyes and heart to see all the opportunities He has already prepared for me and that I will meet them head on – not with a spirit of fear, but one of power, of love and of self-control.
And I pray that for you, as well.
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
I know I have written before about how I love when the Lord brings His truths from different portions of His Word all together and somehow, in so doing, even though each individual part is huge in and of itself, the sum of the two parts is even bigger! (Yes, I know the word is synergy, but it seems there should be a bigger word.) Well, He has done it again (and I am not even the least bit surprised!)
As you may know, my daughter, Beka, is a graphic designer. I happen to think she is incredibly gifted, talented and skilled, not to mention ridiculously creative. She has designed our Christmas cards for the last couple of years. Last year, I had a specific idea, one that I loved, but that she didn’t and others didn’t really catch on, but so be it. This year, I gave her the verse I wanted and freedom to do whatever she liked. She operates best that way! The text from Luke 2.15 was, “Let us go. . . and see this thing that happened that the Lord has made known to us.” What she came up with was so incredibly beautiful, that even though the card was designed for Dwight and me to give, many others asked to order them for their Christmas card.
As you also know, by energy level is significantly less than what is used to be. Because of that, I have not needed a very elaborate or big calendar. I usually don’t have more than one thing a day, nor do I have many consecutive days of busyness. This December is different. I was becoming overwhelmed with the amount of things scheduled and actually had to make a 11x17” calendar that sits on my desk, just to keep me on track. On the right-hand side, I have written the above verse.
You may wonder where this is going. Sorry, I really am getting there! Right after Thanksgiving I started the book of Esther. It is one of my favorite books of the Old Testament, topped only by Ezra and Nehemiah. I have read it many, many times, not only studying it for myself, but actually using Esther to teach others ways to study the Bible. So, I was excited when I came to it again. I love how God’s Word is alive and active. It always, always, always teaches me something, even if I think I have gleaned all I can possibly glean from a passage, I come and there is something else! Our pastor explained that part of the reason for this is that we ourselves are changed each time we come to God’s Word. If I read it a year ago, I am not the same person I was then. God has been working in and refining me. Isn’t that encouraging?!
As I started to read this book, I again prayed that God would show me what it was He had for me. I long ago noticed the reoccurrences of banquets/feasting, advice, rage, edicts, drinking and fasts. I decided to try to recognize each and every sign of God’s providence in this book that never once mentions God. When I study God’s Word, I usually read it through numerous times, marking in different colors for . . .
It was strange this time to not even reach for my yellow colored pencil, the one I use for any references to God. And yet, the whole book is about Him. Once I have read it through all those times, I make my own notes. I am using a journaling Bible and so have room right in the Bible itself. In the Book of Esther, I made note of all the ways I recognized God’s providence.
Then, I read Matthew Henry’s commentary on that chapter. There were a couple of times he had found evidence of God’s providence that I hadn’t thought about. The most noted was when King Xerxes couldn’t sleep and called for the king’s records to be read to him. I had picked up what was read was about Mordecai, which lead to Mordecai being honored when Haman was planning to kill him. But, I hadn’t thought about how the very fact that Xerxes couldn’t sleep was God’s providence. Sleep is often difficult for me. Getting to sleep. Getting back to sleep if I wake up in the night. I truly am looking at it differently now.
Okay, to continue on. In reading Esther and paying particular attention to God’s providence, I am seeing His providence throughout my days. In things that I might have taken as a negative. In things that might have frustrated me. In things that I would rather not happen. But, if I look at them as providential, it puts them in a whole different light.
But here is the connection. The verse on our Christmas card. “Let us go. . . and see. . .” See what? God’s providence!! How cool is that! The very verse that is written on my very busy calendar. It has caused me to stop and search for His providence, not just in the book of Esther, but in my life, in the lives of my friends. Friends who have been sick, friends who have had surgery, friends who are struggling with family members.
I am praying that this new level of understanding will launch me into 2020! And that verse from Luke might just be my verse for the new year. I’ll have to wait and see.
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
I have a Cricut machine. It is a machine that will cut and draw anything on everything from paper to fabric to leather and even light wood. I use it A LOT in making cards and gifts for folks. I have been using it today to get ready for a Christmas Craft Luncheon at our home.
While in Kenya, a friend and I started having Christmas Craft Luncheons for the ladies who worked on our compound, along with the ladies they worked for. We had a Christmas devotional, introduced them to American food and had a simple craft that they could easily replicate with local materials. I miss doing that and so Beka and I decided to do one this year.
We are doing prayer boxes. We bought inexpensive decorated boxes at Hobby Lobby and heavy cardstock. I have been cutting the cardstock into 3 x 4.25” cards. I found a pattern for index card dividers in Cricut and then picked out designs to put on the index cards.
I was all caught up on cutting, so I just sat and watched the Cricut draw. It is amazing. Some of the designs, as you can see by the photo, are quite intricate and yet the machine drew them accurately, according to the pattern. And it did them in a specific order.
As I watched, appreciating what it could do, my thoughts turned to the Lord. He has designed me, designed you, according to His pattern. We are so intricate and yet He will finish what He started. I designed these cards for a very specific purpose. We are designed by the Master Creator for a very specific purpose. The huge difference is that while I needed six of eight different cards, He made billions and no two of us are alike.
May the Lord bless you with the sure knowledge that
Psalm 139.13-14 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works and my soul knows it very well.
Jeremiah 10.23 I know, O LORD, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.
Philippians 1.6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good!
Beka and I spent the day together last week. We went to an outlet mall, out to lunch and then headed to Hobby Lobby, our favorite place to spend time together! She goes for the beads and jewelry making section; I go for any paper stuff – colored paper, patterned paper, stickers. You name it, I love looking at all of it.
There was so much of the store devoted to Christmas. Aisles and aisles and aisles. Everything! Trees, ornaments, lights. Dishes, tablecloths, napkins, runners. Outdoor decorations, indoor decorations. Stockings, boxes, wrapping paper. Stocking stuffers, puzzles, toys, craft sets.
As I am writing this right now, I am asking myself, “How much of my heart is devoted to Christ?” That is rather a loaded question. I claim to want to live my live Coram Deo – in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God. And yet this morning, I am rather burdened by how badly I fail. How my actions, my words, my thoughts, my attitudes reflect, not a life lived Coram Deo, but one lived with pride and doubt.
I went to bed discouraged last night, wondering if I was allowing Christ to make any difference at all. I woke up discouraged this morning. Stepping on the scale didn’t help, but rather pointed out that no matter how much I say I want to have my eating glorifying God, it is really temporarily satisfying me.
But then I went to the Lord in prayer. I have been in Nehemiah, one of my favorite Old Testament books. Last week in chapter 4, where Nehemiah and the returned exiles had started work on the wall, opposition comes. I took seven applications from this chapter.
During my time of prayer, God led me back to Scripture that He has been placing on my heart. Scripture like 2 Timothy 1.7 “God has not given us spirit of fear (timidity), but one of power, of love and of self-control (sound mind).” Scripture about taking our thoughts captive to Him. Scripture about His truth. Scripture about submitting to God, resisting the devil, drawing close to God. I came to the conclusion right then and there that, YES, I do allow Jesus to make a difference in my life. And it does matter. I then read Nehemiah 5. The Jewish nobles and leaders were sinning by charging interest to their Jewish brethren, making it necessary for them to sell their children into slavery. Nehemiah was outraged and after pondering the situation and praying, he called those doing wrong together and pointed out their sin. They had nothing to say in response. When he urged them to change and do right, they agreed. The text goes on to say in verse 13 that “the whole assembly said, ‘Amen’ and praised the Lord.”
I know I will sin again and again, but that isn’t the point. The point is, confess it to the One Who is righteous and just and will forgive my sin. (1 John 1.9). And to take Him at His Word. He is conforming me. My heart is devoted to Him, no matter what lies the enemy tries to tell me.
A friend of mine told me how their preparations for and celebration of Christmas are focusing on Christ and Christ alone. That is what I want for my heart. Yes, I love the lights and the decorations and can hardly wait until the day after Thanksgiving to transform our home, but I don’t have to wait to receive the transformation of my heart Jesus is offering. So, I am not going to skip over Thanksgiving. Lord, thank You for the gift of You!
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
Well, my birthday has come and gone. Celebrations were S-T-R-E-T-C-H-E-D out over a week with family and friends spoiling me sweet!! But people weren’t the only ones gifting me. God Himself showed me multiple times that He wanted to celebrate me! He really did!! The God of the Universe! How does one wrap their mind around that?
In doing a Bible study on Thessalonians, the author brought out that we are called to serve. I have finally accepted that my service to the Lord looks a lot different now than it did a couple of years ago. But, in His infinite grace, I was recently asked not once, not twice, but three times for materials I developed in Kenya. I was so overwhelmed with His love, assuring me that my labor for Him had not been in vain. But that isn’t all.
Someone that is very dear to me called me on my birthday. This person is not known for giving compliments, which makes it all the more precious when he does give one. He affirmed me in my writings. I didn’t even know he read anything I wrote! Corrie ten Boom was asked what she did with compliments and her wise answer was, “I hold them for a little while and then I give them to God.” Well, I asked God if I could hold that compliment just a little longer than I would normally have done. In fact, I am still glowing. Please, Lord, don’t let any pride creep in and override my very grateful heart. But, as if that wasn’t enough, there is still more!
Beka and I were meeting up at the mall for an early supper and then our favorite thing to do – go to Barnes and Noble, pick out kids’ books and read them to each other. I had Dwight drop me off early so he wouldn’t have to fight Friday afternoon traffic, plus, I just wanted an hour by myself. I am VERY rarely on my own outside of our home. I decided I was going to get something to drink and some chips with guacamole from Chipoltes. After waiting in line and getting ready to pay, the young lady behind the cash register said, “I’ve got this.”
“I’ve got this. You don’t have to pay.”
The two people before me had to pay. I was floored. And then I just had to bubble up with joy. My Lord was giving me yet another present. I thanked her profusely and told her it was extra special because it was my birthday. “It’s my birthday, too!” We both laughed, sharing names and birthday greetings.
I don’t know if you have seen the movie War Room. At the end of the movie, the husband who had been on the verge of having an affair at the start of the movie did something incredible for his wife. His wife is crying as she says, “I am sitting here with my favorite dessert and my husband is washing my feet. There’s got to be a God in heaven!”
While I love that line, I haven’t stopped thinking about how Jesus came down and is involved in my life. In the details great and small. In everything. He uses His Word on a daily basis. His promise is, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 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.” (Isaiah 55.10-11)
I know that truth, but this past week, I have seen Him show me the truth in ways that I can actually write about. The very truths I read in His Word and took note of, He then demonstrated through others’ interactions with me. So, yes, there is a God in heaven, but His Spirit is here!!
Okay, just one more blessing I have to share. It is bubbling out! My niece and I are doing a study of Romans. We just read Romans 8. The truths contained in this chapter are yet another incredible demonstration of God’s immense love for us. Chapter 7 is all about the tension between sin and good. But then comes chapter 8. It starts with, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” and it ends with “nothing. . . will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus." And sandwiched in between are promises that the Holy Spirit is interceding for us with the Father ACCORDING TO HIS WILL, assuring us we are more than conquerors.
These last weeks I have an such an remarkable joy and peace in the Lord. I have felt like I AM more than a conqueror! And now for true confessions. I feel a bit like when I wake up and my hair happens to look great. I KNOW that means that will need a haircut within 3 days. So, I am trying hard to focus more on Him and what He is doing. And when the next trial comes (and it will!), may I pursue Him the way He is pursuing me – wholeheartedly, with great love!
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
The day I have been dreading, avoiding, delaying, ignoring and generally any other adjectives that hint at denying has come to pass. The dreaded C-PAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine now has a spot next to my bed. Oh, I can’t begin to tell you how much I have really, really not wanted this!! Well, yes, I can and will begin.
I had a sleep study done in 2017 in South Africa and was so thankful it came up with no signs of sleep apnea, or least not enough to warrant C-PAP. When we returned to the U.S. in March of 2017 and had our first appointment with our pulmonologist at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s (UNCCH) Pulmonary Hypertension Care Center (PHCC) (Yes, it is a mouthful – I just say UNCCH), he wanted me to have a sleep study. I delayed him with, “But, I just had one in South Africa.” And even though the South African method of reporting data was different from the U.S’s ways, my doctor did not push it as hard as I pushed against it. While the subject has come up repeatedly over the last 2 ½ years (can’t believe we have been back that long already!!), I have successfully dodged it. Until now.
I have been so fatigued and because my diagnosis is rare, with the secondary diagnosis being even more rare, there aren’t a lot of paths to explore in an attempt to alleviate at least some of the fatigue. So, reluctantly, like a 2 year-old told they have to take a much needed, but even much more protested nap, I gave in to a sleep study that was conducted on August 5th. We drove all the way to Chapel Hill for the test, hoping that being at the same hospital as the PHCC, test results would be easier and quicker for my doctor. After some difficult communication hurdles, I actually slept fairly well and was so excited that I didn’t have to have C-PAP during the night. I came home confident I did not need C-PAP. And my euphoria lasted about two weeks.
Then I received a phone call from the sleep lab asking me when I would like my C-PAP sleep test scheduled. What?!
How about NEVER!. I didn’t understand at all what was happening. It turned out that the communication hurdles were larger than I thought and I didn’t quite soar over them like I thought. I was border-line and my doctor wanted me to have the C-PAP study. RATS!! (To put it as nicely as I can.)
So, back up to UNCCH on September 8th. Because of one PH medication I am on, I am congested all the time. This meant that the only real option for me was to wear the full mask. I felt like I should be piloting a fighter jet! I didn’t think I would ever be able to sleep with it. And then, I was told I had to try to sleep on my back at least some of the time. I don’t sleep on my back. I sleep on my side. But, I could almost hear God saying, “Resistance is futile!” And so I complied. Reluctantly.
Well, you can guess the result since I spilled the beans in the opening paragraph. I am on C-PAP. Last night was my first night. It will take some getting used to, but I did sleep. And I figured out a way to hide it all away during the day in the very nice bedside cabinet Dwight made me for Christmas.
How does all this relate to me living Coram Deo? Living my life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God. To be blunt, I wasn’t. At all. Nada. If it would have done any good at all, I think I would have been stamping my feet, or throwing myself down on the ground, kicking and screaming.
But God. Aren’t those two wonderful words? BUT GOD! My prayer for me lately has been to be quick to see EVERYTHING as a gift from God. Two key words there. QUICK and EVERYTHING. I was having a very hard time seeing C-PAP as a gift. Beka and I are doing a Bible study on Thessalonians. A comment today was on 1 Thessalonians 5.18. “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” The author led us to note that Paul is telling us to give thanks IN everything and not FOR everything. While this very much applied to a very personal deep heart issue, it also applies to C-PAP.
As I was trying to fall asleep last night, I was trying to figure out why I was so opposed to this. Many, many people use C-PAP and are very much helped by it. Where did my strong opposition come from? I don’t know that I have all the answers, but the one that came up clearly in all its ugliness was a feeling of entitlement. Wasn’t having to wear oxygen 24/7 enough? Wasn’t needing a wheelchair if going more than 50 feet enough? Wasn’t not being able to cook a meal in its entirely or do a load of laundry or clean or any of the other things I used to do enough? The answer. No. Plain. Simple. No.
And another reason stems from fear. Fear that this won’t make a bit of a difference and we are back at square one. Fear of being tethered to one more appliance. Fear of one more visible sign that my life is not what it used to be.
But God. In all His graciousness and perfect timing, led me also to 2 Chronicles 20. The Moabites, Ammonites and Meunites were getting ready to attack Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. In this chapter he prays a beautiful prayer that states the sovereignty of God, the power and might of God, their being chosen by God and their dependence on God. It ends with these beautiful words, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” (verse 12)
I can’t say that I don’t know what to do. 1 Thessalonians 5.16-18 tells me to “be joyful always, to pray continually and to give thanks in all circumstances.” I don’t do it well, or quickly, but I can honestly say, “my eyes are on You.”
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
About the picture: All of the people shown when I searched CPAP were men. This expression must almost exactly mirror mine!!
This blog comes from the depth of my heart and is actually the start of my quiet time today, and as such, is written to God. But I feel He wants me to share it with you. As a reminder, my blogs are meant to be written Coram Deo – in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God. I am so grateful to Him.
I need to talk with You before I read Your Word today. You know that the last week or so has been so rough. I have been so consumed with my sin in eating and my doubts about my relationship with You. I have cried alone. I have cried with You. I have cried with Beka. I have cried at (notice the preposition, if that is what it is called) Dwight. And just this morning, as I was praying for Dwight, who is heavily burdened with our low support, it came to me - Ephesians 6. I know this is about relationships, but isn't my relationship with me included in that?
Finally, be strong IN THE LORD and IN HIS MIGHTY POWER.
In ourselves, no. In YOU. I am expecting myself to love You perfectly and that just can't happen this side of heaven. Yes, my sin in eating is habitual. It is eroding. But, my life is in You. Not in my success of whether or I eat right or don't. And as for our support. It is You. You have to bring it in. You have to be the One to lay on the hearts of people to give. It is Your power. Not ours.
Put on the full armor of God SO THAT you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.
How do I know that these struggles are part of the enemy's schemes? Because they are bringing doubt and not hope. They are bringing shame and not just conviction. They are debilitating and not encouraging. They are bringing death and not life. They are robbing me of my joy, of my faith, of my assurance of salvation. They are leading me to think that something I can do or don't do has a bearing on how much or how little You love me.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
I have always used these verses about my relationships with others and I believe it is You, Lord, Who showed me this morning that my relationship with myself is secondary only to my relationship with You. Your Word says that all of the commandments are summed up in 1) Love the Lord with all Your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. And what is the key word? LOVE!! It is like A Chance to Die by Elizabeth Elliot. The key to Amy Carmichael’s ministry was her love. Her love for You. Her love for those who ministered with her. Her insistence on their love for others. For treating one another in love, with love. Elizabeth Prentiss says, "To love You and know that I love You. That is all." Love covers a multitude of sin. Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. And the greatest love is Your love for us. Anything and anyone that diminishes my understanding and accepting of Your love is straight from the devil!
THEREFORE put on the FULL armor of God, so that WHEN the day of evil comes, you may be able to STAND your ground, and after you have done everything, to STAND.
Therefore. Why is it there. What follows is in light of what has already been stated. It is Your power, not mine. It is a struggle, but not against myself, against the enemy. So that. . . Those two words are always a huge sign to me indicating that what follows is important. And it is true here. It is not, "if" that follows, but "when." Meaning, the day of evil will come. And every day can be described as a day of evil. The enemy does not ever give up in trying to disrupt my peace in You. He knows he cannot remove Your love for me, but he also knows that if he disrupts my peace, I will doubt. And I have been doubting. Not Your love for me. But my love for You. And that doubt has brought me lower than my knees. It has made me want to curl up in a little ball and call it quits before I bring more shame on You. But here the promise is that if I am fully clothed in Your armor, I will be able to STAND. Standing takes great effort for me. It actually takes more effort than walking. I tire easily. At church, if I am talking to someone, I look for a place to sit. I can’t stand around talking. And so this promise is especially encouraging. Your Word is telling me that after I have done everything, which I take to mean putting on the full armor You provide, I will be able to stand. And the next verse tells me that I won't be standing all wobbly, looking for a place to sit, but I will be standing FIRM!!
The armor are listed out and each one is so important. The belt of truth. The breastplate of righteousness. But I want to focus on the last ones.
Your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of PEACE.
It is interesting that it is my feet that are equipped with the gospel of peace. Yesterday, in a study of 1 and 2 Thessalonians Beka and I are doing, it was all about walking with You. And I walk with my feet. And what has been missing is my peace. I cannot walk WITH You without Your peace. Without Your peace, I am stumbling after You or giving up and curled up by the wayside or running ahead of You. But, if I am going to walk WITH You, then I need Your peace. The word, "need." It isn't just that I desire it. Or even that I crave it. I need it. And it is mine. It is promised by You. It is provided by You.
In addition to all this, take up the shield WITH WHICH YOU CAN EXTINGUISH ALL THE FLAMING ARROWS OF THE EVIL ONE.
Oh, Lord. There have been so many arrows. In fact, I have described it to both Beka and Dwight, not thinking of these verses, as if every thought has been like a sword piercing me, killing me. I forgot that I have a shield. And it is so much stronger than even the shield of Captain America! I am continually wearing Your armor. I don't take it off. But, I did lose sight of the fact that I was wearing it. But, right now, I have defeated the enemy. My head is thinking truth as I read Your Word. My heart is right with You.
I also so desperately need to wield the sword of the Spirit. Lord, thank You that even in this latest battle, and that is definitely what it was, I stayed in Your Word. And that wasn't easy because everything I read pointed out my sin to me. "For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4.12) But I have to allow it to do this with the belt of truth buckled around my waist.
This crisis of faith didn't turn around until I remembered just a brief portion of Philippians 4.6-7. Don't be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, WITH THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. The part that brought me around was being thankful. I started to thank You for the struggle. It is hard to find things to be thankful for in a struggle, but I discovered they really are there. And when I started to thank You for them, Your peace entered. Your truth entered. You led me to the place I needed to read.
Lord, you are an amazing God. I am so very thankful You are on my side. You are on my husband's side. You are on my daughter's side. You are on my other family members' side. You are on my friends' side. I pray for each and every one and the private struggles they are going through. Today, right now, may they know the truth of the fact that You are on their side. You have equipped them with all they need to STAND FIRM. Thank You.
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
P.S. I love this graphic because it shows warrior wearing the full armor of God and actively in battle!
Over the last couple of months I (well, my Cricut) have cut out 1,500 stars and lots of letters for our church Vacation Bible School (VBS). Last Saturday and Sunday our church sanctuary was transformed into outer space with stars, planets, moon, a space ship and an astronaut. It was so much fun to see the kids’ awe as they walked into a much different space than the one they had left just a few hours before. All this was done, “that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there in no other.” (1 Kings 8.60)
Tonight we joined the closing night of VBS. My heart was delighted to hear the children sing the songs they had learned about The God of the Universe, to listen to them recite the verses the teachers had planted in their hearts, to see pictures of them having so much fun learning about the mighty God we serve.
As we were decorating the sanctuary last weekend, I started to think about how many hours it took for me to cut out 1,500 stars, even with the Cricut. Then 500 white ones had to be glued on 500 black ones. And then glitter put on the 1,000 white ones. 500 of the stars were glued to black craft paper that was taped to the walls. The other 500 hung from the ceiling with fish line. I figure there were at least 30 man hours put into just the stars.
Then I thought about our God. He spoke the stars into being. “And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to distinguish between the day and the night, and let them be signs to mark the seasons and days and years. And let them serve as lights in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the earth.” And it was so.” (Genesis 1.14) With a word they were created!! And way more than 1,500. And then He took it a step further and named them all!! “He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.” (Psalm 147.4)
The children at VBS were challenged to guess how many stars there were and to think about naming them. Most children guessed below 500, but one guessed 1,005. As I think about their guesses, I realize they are a great picture of how I underestimate God and all He does for me. That lead me to think of the following song. I would encourage you to read the words slowly. . .
COUNT YOUR MANY BLESSINGS by Johnson Oatman, Jr, published 1897.
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.
When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings—money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.
So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
In many ways, July was a tough month. My energy level was extremely low, making it difficult to do any of the things I had planned to do. Our granddaughters came for a couple of nights and it felt like I could hardly engage with them unless I could do so and still lay on the couch. But amidst the tiredness, I find that my soul has been more at peace. As I was reflecting on lessons God is teaching me, He showed me that I am learning (note that I did not use “learned”) to trust that He has this. . . whatever “this” is today, whatever “this” will be tomorrow. He already has it, and because He does, I can.
I know that I cannot even get close to naming 1,500 blessings, but I also know, without a shadow of doubt, there are way more than 15,000,000!!
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
I found myself questioning God over and over. Not on issues like His sovereignty or His goodness or His power, but more on my response to Him. A sermon on Exodus 20 (The Ten Commandments) recently challenged me to think about how I delight in and enjoy God. I found that I had trouble figuring out ways I really do delight in Him. I know He delights in me because His word tells me that. Zephaniah 3.17, “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior Who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing." Psalm 149.4 “For the Lord takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with salvation.”
Our pastor brought out how God set aside one day out of seven in which we are to worship our Lord and take delight in Him. He compared it to a young couple in love, about to be married. The husband-to-be says, “There is one rule we are going to keep. No matter how busy or crazy our lives get, we will always set aside one day to just enjoy and delight in one another.” It truly bothered me that I could think of any number of ways to enjoy Dwight, my kids, my grandkids, my friends, but how did I truly delight in and enjoy God Almighty, Creator of all I see and don’t see?
I know that I enjoy and delight in Him when I am reading His word, when I am worshipping with others, but quite frankly, I can’t see myself doing that from the time I get up to the time I go to bed. Another way I came up with is being in His nature. I love being outside. My Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH) certainly limits that, but it doesn’t have to take it away completely. Since the gift of an electric wheelchair, I am able to go on “walks” with Dwight. He walks and I roll! We can take drives. I can sit on the back deck.
But my questioning didn’t stop there. We received news of a dear friend’s daughter who had come out of a long cycle of making bad choices. After being in a much better place for an extended period of time, she went back to bad choices. Why? Why did she, why do I choose to sin? It makes no sense. We have the Holy Spirit, part of the Triune God living in us and yet we manage to willfully choose that which we know is not good for us, nor part of God’s plan.
I was feeling more and more like a slug after reading about Amy Carmichael’s life. And to tell you the honest truth, I was offended when she referred to herself as a slug. Give me a break!! One, how could she even begin to think that and two, that is my feeling!!!! Combine that with reading of the evil kings and having read only Romans 1 and 2 and I was not feeling so much like His chosen one, but more like a waste of space!
In that frame of mind, I went to church. 35-40% of me didn’t want to go. I was just going to sit there and cry. But the rest of me did want to go, hoping that the Lord would get me out of the cycle I was in. And guess what? He did!! The first thing to get through to me was the reading from Ephesians 4.17- 24. Verse 17-18 says, “So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;” I felt like describe me to a T! My thinking was futile and instead of enlightening me, my heart was becoming hard. But as the service went on, what God really used to speak to me was reciting the Nicene Creed together. Our pastor always starts out with, “Christian, what do you believe?” To which we all respond, “I believe. . . “ God finally pierced my heart and mind with the deep awareness that I would always have questions. I am not God!! I know that I trust Him with what I do understand, but would I trust Him with what I don’t?
On page 333 of “A Chance to Die,” Amy says that she “declared her certainties, not her questions.” Earlier this year I read Randy Alcorn’s “Hand in Hand,” a book where he looks at God’s sovereignty and free well. Randy says that if God says “A” and God says “B”, we can know that both are absolute truth because God said it. We don’t have to understand it. We just have to believe.
But now to the really big thing God showed me. So, I knew that my attitude was wrong. In the service on Sunday, the Ephesians passage went on to talk about taking off the old self and putting on the new, being renewed in the attitude of your mind. My sin wasn’t in my questioning. God is certainly big enough to handle any question I can think of. He might not answer them, but He doesn’t get angry at them. In fact, He tells us in James 1.5, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
But, what I was doing was allowing my questions to override my joy, my peace and that is where I was wrong. Really wrong! In Galatians 5.22-23 we are told that the fruit of the spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” When I was quenching all that fruit, I was wrong.
But the good news? Manda and I came to Romans 3! The righteous life by faith!!! I am forgiven. I am washed clean. Oh, I still have questions. But right now, as I write, I am really OK with that.
Friends, I hope you don’t ever think I have it all together. Nor do I want you to think I am one big ball of mess all the time. I share these writings with you because I really do want to live my life Coram Deo, which, as defined by R.C. Sproul “is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God.” My blogs are intended to be honest and genuine testimony at how God is teaching me on this journey. For I believe with all my heart that. . .
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
As you know, we had to go to the Emergency Room (ER) last week because my pulse was dropping to the low 30s. This has been happening intermittently for months but started happening more frequently and was greatly affecting how I felt. We had the option to go to an ER here near us or drive the three hours to Chapel Hill, where my pulmonologist is. After much prayer, it just seemed smarter to go there where he would be available for consultation. Pulmonary Hypertension is quite rare and most doctors know little about it, so being in a place where they do know about it and how different symptoms and drugs might interact is important.
I made a number of observations I would like to share with you. I don’t know if it is like this at all hospitals, but in Chapel Hill, one gets admitted into the hospital through the ER. Previous experiences there told us that we would check in, then sit in one waiting room until we could be registered. After registering, we would then sit in another waiting room until someone came to bring us back to the actual ER.
Well, we discovered if the reason you are there is because your pulse is dropping into the low 30s, there is NO waiting! We didn’t even register. We were taken back and I was immediately given an EKG and then immediately brought to a “stall,” my word for the places divided only by curtains. And within fifteen minutes I was hooked up with all kinds of wires, an intravenous (IV) line was put in and a doctor was in to see me. It was almost dizzyingly fast! And, unlike our other ER visits which resulted in being admitted, we knew almost immediately that I would be admitted.
I would love to say that the rest of our experience was equally fast, but we actually spent almost nine hours in the ER before going to an observation ward, where I was given a very nice room, with a sliding glass door and curtains and allowed to get something to eat and sleep for eight hours!
At one point during the ER visit, Dwight went out to get something to eat and drink and I was left to make further ER observations. One of the things about these “stalls” is that you get to hear everything being said in the “stall” near you. The man to my right was being diagnosed with pneumonia. He also had some schizophrenia, along with other mental issues in his medical history. (Like I said, one hears everything!) He had a horrible sounding cough and his oxygen saturation kept going all over the place. His mom was with him to begin with, but she left and I heard medical staff in there asking him questions, to which he replied, but I could tell he didn’t even really understand what they were asking. I prayed the medical staff would not take his word for anything and that their treatment of him would not be based on what he alone was telling them.
On the other side of me was a woman who also came in with cardiac issues. But, unlike me, she spoke no English. None. And for some reason, they weren’t able to get an interpreter for her right away. They were actually using some kind of electronic device – phone or tablet or computer – to talk with an interpreter through the phone. (I could hear but couldn’t see!) I couldn’t help but feel so bad for her. It is scary enough being in the ER when one can communicate – both in speaking and hearing, but how much more so when you can’t tell them what is wrong and you can’t understand what they are asking or telling you. I prayed that an interpreter would soon be available.
On the other side of that woman was a highly agitated man. I heard him yelling, “Get these things off me!” “The sheriff put them there and they have to stay there,” was the reply. I concluded that he was handcuffed to the bed. He was yelling at the medical staff and I thought of how much they must have to put up with. I marveled at their patience, but also not allowing him to abuse them with his speech. Then I heard them asking him, “Sir, how much heroin have you had today? What other drugs have you taken?” Ai yi yi yiyi. I live in a sheltered bubble! I prayed he would calm down and for an extra measure of kindness and patience for the medical staff.
Dwight returned from his jaunt (interpret as very long walk) to Starbucks and I was quietly (knowing every word I spoke could be heard) telling him what I had overheard. Yes, I felt like I was eavesdropping! And then I realized something. The man with the pneumonia had been taken up to a room, so he would have a doctor assigned to him and would get the proper treatment. A couple that were obviously friends of the Spanish woman had come and while their English wasn’t much better than hers, at least they could communicate with her. And then an interpreter came. And the agitated man was calm.
We had prayed, and asked others to do the same, that my heart rate would drop while I was there being monitored. It didn’t happen. Why? I don’t know, but I know the One I prayed to and that is enough. In Ephesians 1.18-19, Paul prays, “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will KNOW what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.” If I have to choose between knowing why my pulse drops and the things Paul mentions, I’ll take Paul’s list any day!
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
Note: Photo is not one I took, but my “stall” looked pretty much the same. See the curtain!
Memorial Day weekend always marked the beginning of summer for me. Growing up it mean that our family went out to the small cottage our parents owned on a lake just outside the Minneapolis area. The name of the lake? Lake Riley!
When I say small, I really do mean small. I have been in other cottages that people call small. Believe me, they weren’t! (If you want to see what I mean, just go to WORD, click on Insert. . . Online Picture and type in ‘Cottage on Lake.’) I was trying to figure out the square footage and I really don’t think it could have been more than 5-600. It had two very small bedrooms that had double beds that one could barely walk around. And one of the bedrooms had a curtain instead of a door. It had a living area, a kitchen, a bathroom with just a stool and sink – no shower or tub. But the best part was the screened-in porch that went half-way across the front and along one side, which also had a double bed.
In my earlier years, opening the cottage meant my Dad and older brother taking down the boards that covered the screened porch, mowing the grass and putting in the dock and the floating raft– that was a cold job in Minnesota in May! For me, it meant helping my mom make up the beds, washing all the dishes and pots and pans. I didn’t mind, it meant summer was almost here!
We didn’t have potable drinking water, so we would take jugs to a nearby spring. How I loved doing that! The water was ice cold and tasted so good!! Our bathing was done in the lake, which was no hardship because come June, we were in the water more than we were out of it.
After opening the cottage, the hard part arrived. Leaving. We had to go back to the city and finish up the last weeks of school. But, oh, the anticipation of what was coming! On the last day of school we moved out to the lake for the summer. My dad would come out Friday evenings and leave Monday morning to go to work. He would come out each Wednesday and spend the night. But the rest of us would be there all the time – barring medical and dental appointments in the city – until moving back into the city on Labor Day with school starting the next day.
I loved every minute of those seemingly endless summer days. When we were growing up, there were no fences, no humungous houses. All the kids played together, swimming and endless games across all the backyards. I would sneak away with a good book to a yard a couple houses away and climb up in their weeping willow trees and read where my younger brother couldn’t find me.
I remember 4th of Julys spent with neighbors, sparklers, fresh picked raspberries from a nearby farm and gallons of vanilla ice cream. We felt like we had our own private fireworks show as a famous wrestler owned property across the lake and would put on a big display each year.
There are so many good memories – the old, old wicker rocking chair that was my Dad’s when he was there and we all fought who would get to sit in it when he wasn’t. Arguing with my older brother over which was the front yard – lakeside, of course! Playing Monopoly when it rained. But most of all, was being in or on the water.
As we got older, things changed. My older brother was busy with his own things in the summer and didn’t come out as often. The boards covering the screen-in porch were replaced with sliding glass windows, which meant no more cleaning up after a rain. The old oil-burning heater that took up a good portion of the living room was replaced with a much smaller heating unit.
Even after I went away to college, I took every opportunity to go to the lake. One summer I was working two jobs. I managed to get 3 days off from both of them and headed to the lake with our dog. Man, did I get sunburned! I was so sick I had to be taken to emergency, but you know what? It was almost worth it!
After our family was accepted with SIM in July of 1988, we put our house on the market. It sold rather quickly, but we were able to delay moving out until April 1989. We then planned to move into the cottage until all our support came in, when we would then move to Liberia. Well, there was still A LOT of snow on the ground, so after staying with good friends for 6 weeks, we moved to the lake at the end of May. I loved it then as much as I did as a kid and I loved that my kids were able to experience a bit of what I did.
The years went by. My mom, who loved Lake Riley as much as I did, died. My older brother and his wife had a busy, athletic family with six kids. We were overseas most of the time. There was a lot of development all around the lake. What had been open fields became tracts with huge houses. Lots that had had small cottages now had year round houses.
We came back to the States for one home assignment and my Dad had sold the home I grew up in and moved to a suburb with my brother, but sadder for me was he had sold my beloved cottage. I drove by to see what it looked like. The people who had bought it, bought the lot next to it as well. They tore down both cottages and with their 100 feet of shore property, they built a house that I think was 90 feet wide, a towering 3 stories that took up most of the lot.
But you know what – I don’t believe that anyone living in those giant houses could possibly have had as much fun as I had. It wasn’t fancy. It wasn’t big. For heaven sakes, it didn’t even have indoor bathing or potable drinking water. But, it was the life of Riley. And to this day, the majority of my dreams are located there!
One of the areas of my life I have been praying about is contentment and gratitude. I despise how easily I can fall into the trap of entitlement or the idea that I need this or that. But in remembering Lake Riley, I am encouraged. May I have the same contentment and gratitude in all areas of my life. That contentment and gratitude definitely lead to great joy! I want to be able to say with Paul, “I have learned the secret of being in content in all situations!” (Philippians 4.12)
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
*Life of Riley, as defined in dictionary.com: a carefree, comfortable, and thoroughly enjoyable way of living:Since winning the lottery,he's led the life of Riley.
Dwight loves to garden. I mean, there is little that he loves more than digging in the dirt and seeing things grow. This proves the saying, "You can take the boy off the farm, but you can't take the farm out of the boy. He gets so excited when he sees seed catalogues come in the mail! And in the depths of winter, he is planning and plotting (literally, he is laying out where everything will go) and can hardly wait to get those seeds started. This year he made a nursery in the garage with a plastic enclosure and grow lights, tucking them in carefully. He placed it next to our freezer so that the heat from the freezer would keep his little babies (as Beka calls them) warm and cozy.
This week I actually took a tour of the yard with him. I have never walked all the way around our house before and we were both impressed that I did it! He showed me where flowers had come back from last year and where new ones were planted. He showed me what was in all the raised beds, having added a couple this year. He pointed out where the raspberry, blackberry and loganberry bushes were planted. He told me which ones were thriving and which ones weren’t. I absolutely loved his passion.
Me, I have never loved gardening, but I do love flowers. I love the seemingly unending variety of colors and shapes and heights. And it amazes me how each one has specific requirements for them to thrive. Some like to be in a very sunny place and others like shade. Some need lots of water and with others a little sprinkle once a week is enough to keep them happy. Some need rich soil to grow and produce flowers and others seem to grow in anemic soil just fine.
Because Dwight loves me so well, he spends almost as much time poring over the flower section of the seed catalogues as he does the vegetables. He dug flower beds where there never were any (hard work!) and wanted to create for me the cacophony of color that I love. I just want variety!! In addition to the flower beds, he planted pots that are on the railing of our deck. They don’t get rain water, so he is so faithful to make sure they get the water they need.
Last Sunday our sermon was on the body of Christ using 1 Corinthians 12 as the text. We had a guest preaching, a former intern at our church. He was challenging us to see that it is in our unity that our church will accomplish what it is the Lord has for us to do. Our church focuses on the Word, prayer, sacrament and fellowship. He shared how it is the Holy Spirit Who works to strengthen His body, to strengthen us as individuals in all four of those areas. And of course he talked about spiritual gifts. Whatever the gift, The Giver is the same and His purpose is the same – to manifest His grace for His glory. The Lord is intentional and purposeful in giving the church the diverse gifting of His people. No one can downplay their own role or another’s because one would then be downplaying the Lord’s plan and it just isn’t smart to do that. Read 1 Kings or Ezekiel!! How does one know if one is indispensable to their church body? Because they are there!
I have been thinking a lot about this during the week. And I see a correlation with Dwight’s garden. He has tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, lettuces, squash, green beans, peas, potatoes, asparagus planted. Now, he could have planted all tomatoes. That would have been okay, but how much better to make spaghetti sauce and salsa to have both the tomatoes and peppers. And he could have just one kind of lettuce, but how much more interesting and tasty is the salad made with leaf lettuce, arugula and spinach. It is the variety that is going to enhance our meals.
And the flowers. There is a yard near us that is filled, and I mean filled, with beautiful purple irises. I think those are my favorite flowers and I love going past their yard and gawking. But, then I get to our yard and I love the variety of colors and shapes and heights! I love how the deep yellow daisy type flowers play off the height of the white ones that spike up (I don’t remember their name!!). I love the blue of the morning glories as they climb up our front stoop support contrasting with the red of some wild flower.
In 1995 our family went to Washington, DC, spending five days of touring some of the Smithsonian museums. Not nearly enough time!! At the rear entrance to the Museum of American History is a very large plaque. I don’t remember all it says, but I do remember this part: “Celebrate our diversity!” I remember thinking then how different the Christian church would look like if we truly did this. If we truly celebrated the different colors, different heights, different flavors we all bring to the body, knowing that God Himself intentionally and purposefully created all of us to manifest His grace for His glory.
As I think about this issue again, I am asking myself, do I celebrate the diversity in our household? Do I celebrate the diversity in our church? Do I value each person as the Lord Himself values them? May it ever increasingly be so!!
Ephesians 4.1-3 (NASB) “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.STAND FIRM 2019-04-09
Do you remember the TV show, The A-Team? I have oft quoted Hannibal Smith saying, “I love it when a plan comes together.” And I love it even more when I can see how it is God’s plan for me!!
I recently had an altercation with someone. I confronted that person with truth, but I did it feeling like they owed me an apology. And I didn’t get one. I was more upset at not getting an apology than I was with the original perceived offense. That night the Lord showed me that I didn’t have the right to demand or even desire an apology. That was between Him and the person. I was so afraid that in asking for an apology I had damaged our relationship. But God. Don’t you love those two words together. But God. But God’s grace was sufficient. I apologized and so did they. And then I received a card in which the person had quoted 2 Timothy 2.19: “Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness."'
Later in the week, I met with a friend. We both expressed our dissatisfaction with our times together and how neither of us was doing well. We shared our thoughts that the enemy had entered and was wreaking havoc in our lives, robbing us of the joy we had been experiencing in our relationship with each other and with the Lord. We confessed. We asked for Jesus’ forgiveness. We asked for His help. And we both felt pounds lighter!!
During our time together, I shared Jude 24-25: "Now to Him Who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”
The next morning, as I was struggling to have enough energy to get out of bed and was praying, the Holy Spirit brought 2 Thessalonians 2.15-16 to mind, "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word."
And Ephesians 6.11-13, "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual sources of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything to stand."
There is such a theme arising here. STAND! From Jude, He will MAKE me stand in the presence of His glory. I won't just fall on my face, but because of Him in me, because when God the Father looks at me, He sees the righteousness and holiness of Jesus Christ, He will make me STAND! And from 2 Thessalonians, I am urged to STAND firm to what I have been taught, and with the command comes a blessing, another benediction, that He, who loves me and gives me eternal comfort and good hope by grace, will comfort and strengthen my heart in EVERY good work and word. I started memorizing this verse January 20, but never had it spoken to me as clearly as it did that morning.
Both my friend and I needed the Lord’s comfort because we both were feeling like we were failing in the very things we wanted to do, with our actions and with our words. But here we are reminded that it is Him at work in and through us. And not just the promise that He will work in us, but that He is. And my role is to STAND firm on what I know to be true.
Then my thoughts turned to Ephesians 6, where I was reminded once again to STAND. But why? So that (My second favorite phrase in the Bible, right after “But God.”) I can STAND against the devil's schemes. We recognized that it was the enemy at work. Help us to be diligent at fighting fully clothed in His armor. And last, but certainly not least, and in fact, may be the best of all, is 2 Timothy 2.19 which tells me that His solid foundation STANDS firm. Nothing can shake it. Nothing can alter it. Nothing. Not Satan. Not me. Nothing. And on that very firm foundation is the inscription that He know who are His and that all who confess His name must - we have no other option - turn from wickedness.
So, just like in the past few weeks He has been impressing Matthew 6.33 “Seek first His kingdom and His righteous and all else will be given to you,” on me over and over and over, now He is impressing on me my need to STAND FIRM in Him, by His power, through His grace for His purposes. Thank You.
Thank You, Lord, that You care enough about me to grow me into the image of Your Son. Thank You for Your Word that is sharper than a two edged sword. Thank You for the Holy Spirit who not only convicts, but guides me into all truth. Thank You for forgiveness. Thank You for new mercies each and every morning.
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3.16)
This blog is going to be a bit more difficult to write, but I need to do it. God has put so many things together in the last month to get me to the place where He wants me today. In sharing this, I am coveting your prayers. I cannot walk this walk without Him, without the help of the Holy Spirit, without your prayers!
I have struggled with my weight since I was in junior high school (back when it was called that and not middle school!). My weight has been central to my struggles with my parents, with God, with my family, with others, but most of all, it has been my struggle with myself. I have had seasons of success in taking off the weight, only to later put it, and more, back on. I have had very real health concerns that should have been motivators all in themselves. The need for a full knee replacement when I was in my 40s. And now, while weight is not a contributing factor to the pulmonary hypertension, it would be better for me to get it off.
God has brought me to a state of desperateness. Everything I have read in His Word seems to be telling me that 1) I need to put Him first and foremost; 2) yes, He is a God of love, but He is also a God of wrath and while Jesus took that wrath upon Himself on the cross, it cost Him; 3) it is time to rebuild this temple.
Sugar is an idol in my life. I could call it something else, like a bad habit, or an addiction, but at its base, it is an idol. I can’t eat a little. I can’t stop at one cookie, or even six! The more I eat, the more I want. When I am eating sugar, the thought of what I can eat next seems to hover in and around any other thoughts. I gave up sugar in December as my gift of obedience to my King. And then I started again. I have tried to give it up again and again since then, only to give in to this one piece of cake. This one cookie. Yeah, right.
My Bible readings have been all over the place lately. I am primarily in 1 Kings and was astonished all over again at the breadth and depth of wisdom that God gave to Solomon, all because he asked for that instead of freedom from enemies, good health and wealth, which God gave him as well. Our church is going through Ezekiel at a weekly Bible study. That has impressed on me that sin is ugly, dirty and deserving of God’s wrath. And God’s heart desire is that “they will know I am the Lord.” I read Haggai for a Bible study Dwight is leading. The Lord is calling the people to rebuild His temple. They have been looking after their own homes and lives, without looking after their first priority – God! He even says, “you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied;” (Haggai 1.6) And the sermons have been from Exodus. “You will be My people and I will be Your God.” When I was in Deuteronomy, I memorized this verse from 30.19: “This day I call the heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” Each time I choose to eat sugar, I am choosing death. Death of self-esteem. Death of good intentions. Death of peace. And that death affects all those around me.
Now, don’t get me wrong in this. I know that I am loved by the Lord. I know Jesus is my Savior and in almost all areas, He is my Lord. I know the Holy Spirit lives in me. In God’s unfathomable mercy and grace, He blesses me beyond measure and my cup surely overflows almost all the time! But I am more and more aware of the one area I hold back from Him. The one area I try to justify and excuse and ignore.
But, I can’t. I just can’t do it anymore. And better yet, I don’t want to!!
I get together with a young mom from our church. She is someone I connected well with the first time I really talked with her. She wanted to come visit, for which I was so grateful as the couch gets old day after day. We have been getting together weekly for a number of weeks now and she is such an incredible blessing to me. We met yesterday and I found out she was certified as a life wellness coach. And I found out that her heart’s desire is to help people lose weight. I tell you, I started to cry! At God’s goodness. At His timing. At His provision. If I had found that out the very first time we met, I might have been tempted to think she only wanted to be friends with me because it is obvious I need to lose weight. But, now I am taking it exactly as she means it. She wants to invest in my life, just as I want to invest in hers.
So, I am starting again. I have been sugar free for 3 days. Please will you pray that I may be successful in staying that way. But so much more than that. In Haggai, some of the people went about the task of rebuilding the temple, but not with the right heart or attitude and so God did not accept their work. I am doing this because I want to tear down the high places, get rid of my idol, and put God first. Make Him my #1 priority in all areas of my life. It seems many passages I read lately have reminded me of Matthew 6.33: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” What are all these things? Life. Self-esteem. Peace.
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
We met friends today we have known for over 40 years! (Seriously? over 40 years? Where did those years go???) We have not seen them for many years and now they live near Charlotte. It was so fun catching up and so incredibly encouraging to 1) hear how the Lord has been faithful in working in and through them and 2) sharing His faithfulness in our lives. Scott asked, “How has it been for you since moving back to the U.S.?” And it was like the Lord gave me the answer to his question.
I told him and his wife that our first year back was best described by renovation. While I knew that was true in regards to our home, I realized it was also true in regards to my life. God was doing a renovation in my heart. And while each renovation of the house brought us closer to what we wanted the final home to look like, I didn’t have a clue what the “final” outcome would be of His renovation in me. I just knew that, like wanting the house to look different from what it was, I wanted to be different from what I was.
The process of both the house renovation and my renovation were similar in many respects. Old had to be taken out to make room for new. It involved a lot of work. It was messy and discombobulating. One area would get ‘finished’ for a time, only to have to come back to it for something else. It was living in chaos and confusion, longing for when the renovation would be complete and at the same time wanting to take a breath in between each new project.
The house did come to a finish in the renovation process. And while that can’t be totally said of God’s renovation of me, I did get to a place where I was learning to live differently. Like the wall taken down that divided the kitchen and eating area from the living room, God took down walls I had built that in some ways compartmentalized Him. Like Dwight removed all the old flooring to put in new, I felt like God removed foundational misconceptions of who I was and replaced it with who He said I was. Like Dwight covered over dark paneling with a bright, light yellow paint, God, brought light and freshness into my heart.
The second year of being back in the States has been one of learning to live in the renovation, both in our house and in my heart. God taught me the absolute truth of Ephesians 2.10. I am His workmanship. I am created in Christ Jesus to do good works. He has good works planned for me to do. God opened up opportunities for me to have ministry even with the physical limitations. Ministry that blessed me and built His kingdom.
Now God is doing even more. I wrote in January about my To Do list and how I was letting that dictate my emotions again – feel good when I get all the way done; feel lousy when I don’t. I realize that He has taken me from that to a holy contentedness. I still have a holy discontent – wanting to be more of who He designed me to be, but I have a holy content in who I am and what I am doing today. As I was meeting with a very good friend this afternoon (yes, two wonderful encounters in one day!), I was sharing this with her. She asked me how I came to the place I am. I thought about it and realized it is because I am believing more and more I am who He says I am and less and less who I and others have said I am.
How come? I have to say it is the working of the Holy Spirit in me. He is leading me to read more and more Christian non-fiction, and even the Christian fiction I am reading is pointing me to the Lord. He is leading me to watch far less TV and fewer movies. He is helping me to memorize Scripture. He is trying to lead me in being more consistent and deeper in my prayer life (still a struggle!). I am finding myself hungrier and hungrier for God’s Word, to be in it more and in a deeper way.
God is richly blessing me with more opportunities to be about His business, and all within the parameters my health dictates. I get to meet with people one on one and in small groups. I get to hear the Word of God preached and taught by godly men on four different occasions each week. I get to pray for people as I make cards of comfort, encouragement and celebration.
You know, the more I trust in God’s sovereignty and goodness, the more I see the glass not just as half full, but I truly see it overflowing! I have been saying that frequently and just now as I looked up the verse, I realized it is so much more than that. Psalm 23.5 says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.” The enemy knows the buttons to push to get me thinking that the glass is half empty, but God is so much stronger!!
We recently visited the Billy Graham Library. Both Billy and Ruth are buried there. On Ruth’s grave is the inscription, “End of Construction – Thank you for your patience.” The construction has ended in our home, but I love that the Lord will not cease renovating me while I walk this earth. And yes, a hard hat, the helmet of salvation, (Ephesians 6.17 ) is necessary! Even so, I am excited about what He is going to reveal about Himself to me in this third year back in the States!
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
There has been a commercial airing for a while now where they are trying to tell you that you need to show your devotion by giving expensive jewelry. Every time I see it, the hackles on the back of my neck tingle (Does one really have hackles on the back of their neck?) thinking how absolutely untrue that is.
Dictionary.com defines it as 1) profound dedication; consecration. 2) earnest attachment to a cause, person, etc.
3) an assignment or appropriation to any purpose, cause, etc.: the devotion of one's wealth and time to scientific advancement.
The Holy Spirit gave me eyes to see and a mind to notice many real examples of devotion in just the last week! Dwight and I were having a late lunch at a restaurant near us. A woman had come in and across the back of her shirt were large letters saying, “AGENT.” I couldn’t see the shield on the front of her shirt (not for lack of trying!) saying which branch she was with. She ate by herself. A table next to her filled up with three adults. I am rather the curious type (No! Do not translate that as “nosey”!!) I noticed that when her bill came, the other table told the waitress that they would pay her bill. I thought, “How nice of them.” But what they did next absolutely floored me. As she stood up to leave and thank them for paying her bill, they joined hands and touching her, they prayed for her. They prayed thanking her for her service, asking for protection and all in the name of Jesus Christ. That is devotion. Devotion to Jesus. Devotion to others.
But that isn’t the only time I was aware of devotion in the last week, devotion I personally witnessed. I witnessed it when a lady took a single gal for surgery, staying with her and then when she was released from the hospital took her into her own home to care for her. When the “patient” had to go back because of complications, she took her, stayed with her and will again offer her home as a place to recover.
I witnessed it when our pastor came to the hospital at 6.15 AM to be with us while I had a very short surgery to repair a trigger thumb. He wanted to sit with us, pray with us and then sit with Dwight while I was in surgery. It doesn’t matter that the staff wouldn’t allow him to come back and we didn’t know he was in the main waiting area. He was there and he was praying.
I witnessed devotion when I heard of a young mother applying God’s Word to her heart, her mind and her hands in her desire is to be a godly wife and mom.
I witness devotion every day in my daughter. Her continued trust in her Savior humbles me as she struggles with years of unanswered prayers.
And I witness devotion from my husband all the time. His devotion to His Lord. His devotion to me. His devotion to his children and grandchildren. His devotion to our church and its members. It shows in his actions, his words, his attitude.
As obvious as it is, I just want to write it out. The devotion that I witnessed and took note of (those two aren’t the same thing) in just the last week all stem from the same source - Jesus Christ. We love because He first loved us. These people showed His love to others because they know they are loved by Him.
1 Chronicles 22.19 says, “Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God…” Titus 3.8 tells us how to live out that devotion. “This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.”
You see, all the people I mentioned (which were just examples of what I observed), have an “earnest attachment” to their Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. They take His “assignment” to do what is good, seriously. They bless others because they themselves have been blessed.
And I’ll take that over expensive jewelry any day!!
Interesting side note: When I looked for a graphic to go with this and typed in “devotion,” the first ones showed a cross or a person praising the Lord!
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
TO DO OR NOT TO DO 2019-02-02
Have you ever heard of the Christian Planner? A friend had posted how much she liked it and how excited she was to be using it again in 2019. So, I looked it up and I loved it. I used to make my own calendars/planners and I don’t know how I would improve on this one. The idea is that you totally integrate your walk with the Lord with your daily life. It has a place for vision, goals, bucket lists, sermon notes, weekly overview of your quiet time notes, as well as a monthly calendar pages and weekly calendar pages that include tracking your goals. And it comes in so many pretty colors!
I really wanted one for myself, but 1) they aren’t cheap; 2) I have a NIV Journal the Word Bible that I have been using; and 3) I use OneNote on my computer extensively, which syncs with my phone. But, oh, how I wanted one!! Another issue is that my thumb was getting sorer and sorer, making it difficult to write. (It has now been diagnosed with trigger finger and I will have surgery on Friday, Feb 8.) But, I did buy one for my daughter and one for my niece and they love it!
Years ago (My, how they fly by!), when I was planning a short term mission program in Kenya, I learned that according to an SIM survey, 85% of those who had been on a short term mission trip felt further away from the Lord while on their trip. My response was, “SIM failed with 85% of those people!” And so I talked a lot with our short termers when they arrived on the field about how to keep their time with the Lord sacred and meaningful, not allowing busyness to overtake that precious time. One of the things I encouraged them to do was to set aside one day of the week to review the past week and try to identify one or two things that God was teaching them. Then at the end of the month, review the weeks, and at the end of the year, review the months. In essence, that is what the Christian Planner sets you up to do.
So, I decided to start that again in my life. I love designing forms! And I love OneNote. So, I did my own Christian Planner. I set up goals – things I wanted to become habits in my life. I have a way to check off when I have completed each task for that day. And I combine it with a weekly to do list. I was so excited to start. I love my goals. To do more memory work. To read more Christian non-fiction. To learn more about my Cricut. (to name a few!)
I needed to do something like this. With the amount of time I have to spend laying on the couch because of the Pulmonary Hypertension, I can feel like I do absolutely nothing. There are days I feel like I have to climb a huge, tall ladder just to get to slug status!! I was getting so tired of TV.
I have to say, that this “system” is helping me. My verse for this year is James 4.8 – “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” I can see this happening as I focus my time better. And often the TV doesn’t come on until the nightly news!
But then the dominant Martha side of me burst forth! I began to put things on my “To Do” list just to check them off. Yes, I have done this in the past, but not for a long time! I began to fret when I had to carry something over to the next week. I even started to not put something on the list so that I didn’t feel bad if I couldn’t get it done! Ai yi yi yi yi!!
Our pastor is leading a Bible study on Ezekiel which started a couple of weeks ago. One (of so many!) things that I really took to heart was when he said that God had equipped Ezekiel with a holy stubbornness. It made me think about how God is the One who made me a Martha. A Martha who likes order; who likes to make forms; who likes paper work; who likes lists. I don’t have to apologize for being a Martha. I don’t have to wish He had made me more of a Mary. I only have to continue to learn how use the way He wired me for His glory.
And so, as I write this, I have eight items on my “To Do” list, three of which are bolded, meaning they carried over from the last week. And Sunday is my reset day. But I am choosing right here and now, in the presence of you, my witnesses, not to fret. I am also very tired today. So, I am probably going to head to the couch, thanking Him for my Martha-ness and not tackle any of the items. . . once I check off “Write Blog!”
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
Note: You can view the Christian Planner at www.christianplanner.com.
“Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. You get it? We both have layers!” Can you name the source of that quote? My daughter and niece are able to carry on complete conversations that actually make sense saying nothing but movie quotes! Usually I can’t even remember whether or not I have seen a movie, much less quote it, but I have seen Shrek so many time, this one I can do!!
Layers is the theme of this blog. Beka and I were able to go to Columbia, South Carolina to visit the Columbia Museum of Art. It is only about an hour from our house. As we were driving, we talked about memories from other times spent together, what God was teaching us in His Word and just general stuff.
We passed a swimming pool that was standing on its end as an advertisement and Beka said, “What a big bathtub!” You see, I had said the same thing, in all seriousness, when our kids were elementary school age. And it has been a standing joke ever since. But, it really does look like a big bathtub.
Then we were getting close to Columbia. Another family joke on me is how many times I have ended up in Florence, SC when I have not wanted to go there. The problem is that Interstate 26 and Interstate 20 both converge on Interstate 77 in Columbia. And because my geography is only slightly better than my absolutely terrible sense of direction, I have taken the wrong one. Not once. Not twice. But THREE TIMES!! Well, I was navigating us into downtown Columbia and I almost put us on the wrong one AGAIN!! And that is with a GPS!! So, we added more layers to familiar laughable memories!
And then there was the museum. The first thing I saw was this beautiful chandelier made from layers and layers and layers of blown glass. It was stunning and photos do not do it credit. There were so many creative and wondrous things to look at. Layers of paint that the artists applied in such a variety of ways. Some were surreal. Some were realistic. Some were minimalistic. Some were chaotic. But all were layers of expressions. And one could get layers of meaning the more one stared at the art. There were also different pieces of furniture, pottery, porcelain, and sculptures. As I think back, I realize that all used layers.
In the quote above, Shrek is trying to get Donkey to understand that there is more to him than what most people see. That is true of everyone. Even people I think I know through and through have layers that I haven’t seen. They have experiences that I know nothing about. They have relationships that don’t involve me at all.
The only One that truly knows me and everyone thoroughly is God – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. There is absolutely no experience, no relationship, nothing that He doesn’t know. The question I asked myself is, “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” There are things I have done, words I have spoken, thoughts I have had that I would really rather think that the Lord doesn’t know about. But, my longing for someone, anyone, to truly know me even better than I know myself, is actually greater than any embarrassment or shame (which is NOT from the Lord) about sins I have committed in thought, word and deed.
I think knowing that God knows all my layers is only a very positive thing because I can trust Him with that knowledge. He isn’t going to hold up the negative to shame me. He isn’t going to keep bringing up my sins, but rather He forgives them as soon as I confess them. He only wants me to trust Him, to love Him, to obey Him.
What is really awesome to think about is that I will never know all of God’s layers! Not on this earth and not in heaven. He is infinite. He always was and always will be. He is infinite in time and space. And He is infinite in layers. That means that it never gets old studying His Word. It never gets boring listening to sound preaching. It means that there are treasures to discover each and every day. I just have to be willing.
Well, when I started writing this blog, I knew that God was wanting to teach me something through our time at the museum, because it really is all about Him. But, I didn’t know exactly what it was going to be until I started to type. I love it when He brings my chaotic, tangled strands of thoughts into something I can remember.
“He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1.17
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.“For I am God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for me to do.” (paraphrased from Ephesians 2.10) This is the verse the Lord gave me for 2018. As the year draws to an end, I reflect on how He has been so faithful in showing me the truth of this verse.
I was a do-er. Doing things was rather how I defined myself. I remember working in the SIM USA Personnel Department after our second evacuation from Liberia. I worked for an incredible godly and wise man. He would dictate letters for me to send out to potential candidates and others. He finally quit giving me all the letters at one time because I would feel like I had to have them all typed and sent the day he gave them to me!
But there was a down side to this strong work ethic. I wasn’t so good with people face to face. This same man quietly told me that I might be better off really listening to people instead of continuing to work on the computer when they stopped by my cubicle to talk! That was over twenty years ago, but I still remember his gentle correction.
I would love to say that I changed then and there. But, I didn’t. Doing things, lots of things, was still my “go to” default. And then I couldn’t. It has been two years now since my diagnosis of Pulmonary Hypertension and less than a year with the added diagnosis of Pulmonary Veno-Occlusive Disease. So, when the Lord gave me Ephesians 2.10 as my verse for the year, I am afraid I might have responded a bit like Sarah did when hearing that she was going to become pregnant at a ripe old age! I tire so easily. I am no longer driving. I need ten to twelve hours of sleep at night. If I do something one day, I have to make sure I don’t do anything the next day. It can take me hours to recover from making the bed or emptying the dishwasher. I don’t do the laundry, cooking or any of the cleaning.
But, God has been so very faithful in proving the truth of this verse. He has allowed me to start a card ministry. I have long loved making cards. While assigned to Kenya, I had purchased a Sizzix die cutting machine and gradually increased the number of dies I had to MANY! All of this moved with us to South Africa, but not wanting to bring home excess luggage, I sold it all to two friends in South Africa, where it wasn’t easily available.
God blessed me with a great desk from Habitat for Humanity’s Restore. I knew I wanted it big enough to be able to do cards on and it had to have lots of drawers. Check, check!! And I started to make cards again. It was something I could do for just ten to fifteen minutes or longer if I had the energy. I built up some paper supplies again, but oh, how I missed the Sizzix machine! And then Dwight surprised me with a Cricut machine for my birthday. It has been a steep learning curve, but it has been so much fun (once I passed the frustration!).
The cool part in all this is that week by week, the Lord lays on my heart those to whom I am to send a card. It could be someone in need of prayer. It could be someone with something to celebrate. It could be someone I haven’t contacted in a while. And with each card, comes prayer and thanksgiving.
As 2018 comes to its end, I can only look back with a grateful heart, not just for the card ministry, but that once again the Lord proved His faithfulness to His Word.
The verse He is laying on my heart for 2019 is James 4.8. The first part of the verse reads, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” That sounds good to me. I want to get closer to Him. I want Him to be the first One I go to with joys and sorrows. I want to seek His face continuously. But the second part of the same verse reminds me that I have to be willing to put effort into this. “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” And yet, somehow in a way I don’t understand, He does that part as well!!
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
All day long I make choices. Some are intentional, like choosing what book to read, how I am going to expend energy, who I will send a card to, opening my Bible, saying a prayer. But others, while still being choices, are not so intentional, like giving in to an attitude of discontent and/or frustration or slipping into an entitlement mentality. The thing is, the result of my choices don’t just affect me, but those around me, whether for the good or the not so good.
I am struggling this Christmas season with making good and wise choices. I tend to want to do more, to help more, to be involved more, but this leads to being over-tired, which leads to choices in my attitudes which negatively affect those I live with.
Just this morning I read 1 Samuel 15. The title in the NIV is, “The Lord Rejects Saul as King.” I had to stop for a moment and give thanks to the Lord that no matter how many bad choices I make, intentional or not, He will never reject me as His child. Saul makes some really bad choices in this chapter. The Lord sent him on a mission to totally destroy the Amalekites for their treatment of Israel when they were coming up from Egypt. He is to destroy everything living, people and animals. Not only does Saul not do that, he compounds his disobedience by first saying he saved the animals to worship the Lord and then by blaming his men. Samuel, Israelites’ priest, responds by telling him, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15.22)
It would be so much less painful to NOT apply the lessons in this chapter to myself. It would be so much easier to just rest in the fact, and it is a fact, that the Lord will never reject me. But, my heart hears God telling me that He delights more in my obedience, my heeding Him than my trying to do things that He hasn’t designed me to do, even if I think those things will help people. Ouch!!
God usually drives home His point to me in numerous ways. My stubborn heart needs that! Beka and I have been attending our church Bible study on Hebrews. Our pastor has pounded home that the message of Hebrews is “Jesus is better.” He is better than the angels. Better than Moses. Better than the priests. Better than the Old Testament sacrificial system. Chapter 13.1-6 is really about a right ordering of priorities. Verse 5 is the one I felt the Lord was having me focus on. “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
God is using His Word to remind me that He is better. Following Him isn’t easy, but it is worth it. That still, small voice in me is so easily drowned out by my own desires that even when I think the choices I am making are for good, if they aren’t God’s plan for me, they will have a negative effect on me and those around me.
As I finish writing this, I think I sound too much like I have it all together. That I have learned this lesson. I don’t. I haven’t. How I long for the day that I will do the right thing at the right time with the right motive. Unfortunately, that day isn’t going to come this side of Glory! But, for right now, I am going to make the choice to quit writing, to go have lunch with my husband, and to rest the remainder of this day as we have grandchildren coming this weekend.
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
Our family loves doing jigsaw puzzles, especially around the holidays! (Why mostly around the holidays? I would have one in progress year-round if we had the space!) In the last month we have done three puzzles. Each puzzle had its unique challenges.
The first one, Saint Basil, while only 550 pieces, challenged me. I don’t do so well with trying to put pieces that physically fit horizontally and vertically, but the design is curved or swirled. It takes me a long time to figure out how to look more at the design itself and less on the orientation of the shape of the piece.
The second puzzle, World Traveler, was 1,500 pieces and it was hard! It was so busy that even when there were only a few pieces left, I still didn’t have a good sense of what went where, what travel sticker was next to another. I would find a piece on the table, then find where it went by looking at the box (yes, we look at the box!) and by the time I looked from the box down to the table to put it in place, I had lost where it went. I would look back at the box, but then I couldn’t find its place on the box again! My strategy was to not look at the box at all at first and just get two or three pieces (of the 1,500) to go together. So, I had all these little (and I do mean little!) groups of two or three or maybe even four pieces, not having any idea how they fit into the whole.
The third one was my favorite, 1,000 pieces that all came together commemorating Christmas stamps over the years. It was one of those puzzles where I could actually quickly figure out where a piece went and I could also easily find pieces that would complete the stamp I was working on. I loved how simple it was to work on one stamp at a time and there was no question about what stamp was next to another.
Last night, as I was drifting off to sleep, I thought about how much fun we had doing the puzzles. My mind went to how certain aspects of my walk with the Lord was like doing a puzzle. For instance, I cope pretty well when things in my life line up easily; when I see how events fit together; when I can easily see the pattern. But when God throws in the curves and the swirls, it can take me awhile to focus more on His design and less on my inability to see what He is doing.
There are also the times when the best I can do is to get one or two “pieces” hooked together. Like when I linked that the reason I couldn’t honestly sing in church on Sunday, “It Is Well With My Soul” was because I couldn’t honestly sing, “I Surrender All.” Later I put together the reason that I was feeling lonely and sad while decorating for Christmas was because I couldn’t figure out how to put as much effort into preparing my heart as I was putting into preparing the house and gifts. I tried to address both issues by putting together the idea of reading “Because of Bethlehem” by Max Lucado with reading verses on joy. I had these three little groups, but it wasn’t until God put all those bits together into His bigger picture that made it possible for me to once again be able to sing, “It Is Well With My Soul.”
Thankfully, wondrously, there are also the times when I can easily see the bigger picture and it gives me such unadulterated joy! It is easy to see how the parts of the story fit with one another, build on one another. Like reading the book of Ruth after finishing Judges. I am sure that it comes right after the book of Judges, because one can be pretty depressed at how evil the people were when everyone did what they saw as fit. But in the midst of this evil (for Ruth takes place in the time of Judges), there is this amazing account in which it is easy to see people looking out for one another’s interests; to see expressions of love, loyalty, faithfulness, integrity, devotion, goodness and kindness.
There is a connection between all these lessons and that is Jesus Christ! He is not only the Designer, He is the Design. And while His puzzle has an infinite number of pieces and the box with the picture is His Word and we only get to see an infinitesimal part of the grander design, He is with us each step of the way, revealing Himself and His plan!
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” Ephesians 2.19-22
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
The holiday I missed the most living overseas was Thanksgiving. One would think that Christmas would be the hardest, but actually, I loved Christmases overseas. They were just simpler than what we have made Christmas here, and living in a mission community, everything centered on Christ. So from decorating to presents to food, everything was easier. But growing up, Thanksgiving had so many traditions involved. Our family gathered every year with another family, one year at our home, the next at theirs. The food was always the same. The people were the same. The games we played were the same. It was Thanksgiving!!
I love everything about Thanksgiving. I love the gathering of family. I love the playing of games. And of course, I love the food. I love turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy. I love green bean casserole and cranberry sauce. I love pumpkin pie with real whip cream! I love the leftovers. What beats a turkey, cranberry and mayo sandwich? Or turkey soup with homemade dumplings?
While living overseas, I can only remember a couple of times eating Turkey at Thanksgiving. Keep in mind that while we ministered IN Liberia, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, we ministered WITH North Americans, Asians, Europeans, South Americans, Australians and New Zealanders! Our first Thanksgiving in Liberia, one of our co-workers went with Dwight and killed live turkeys. While the guys cleaned the innards out, I was left to pluck the feathers. I am a city girl through and through. I wasn’t at all sure it was worth it!
Our second Thanksgiving in Liberia, after we had already been evacuated once and returned, we were given an American Butterball turkey by a guy who worked at the American Embassy. He gave it to us because he said we always had people at our house! What a treat, as we had been eating only Liberian food for months!!
We only had turkey once in our seven years in Nigeria, and that was a locally raised one. It was a bit on the tough side, but at least someone else plucked the feathers. And in Kenya, the American school sold “real” turkeys each year, but they were so expensive. We guiltily indulged one year to the tune of about $75.00! But all the rest of our Thanksgivings in Africa we ate roasted chicken. In later years, it was even possible to get cranberry sauce (at a price) and cream of mushroom soup, but never French’s fried onions. And while it was good, and I was so thankful for the friends around us, it just wasn’t the same.
Last year we did the whole Thanksgiving thing at our home. Turkey and all the trimmings. A beautiful table set with my grandmother’s china. And our whole family together. When I say, “we,” I should be saying Dwight and Beka because I really couldn’t do much. And it turns out that our grandchildren don’t really like turkey, nor does Beka. So, Dwight was left trying to contend with mountains of leftovers!
So, we are breaking from tradition this year. We are having Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, corn casserole and a cranberry Jello salad. I am surprising myself with how OK I am with this. All those years being overseas, wishing for a turkey meal and now that I can easily have one, we are not. And I am totally OK.
That tells me that I am learning what is really important. Relationships. Time spent together. Pleasing one another. Looking out for each other’s interests.
So, it is with a grateful heart that I say THANK YOU to the Lord! Thank You for Your many blessings to us. For the family You gave us all those years overseas. We never celebrated a Thanksgiving alone! For the family we get to live with and near now. But most of all, for the knowledge that as Your children we are growing day by day more and more into the image of Your Son.
“I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders.” Psalm 9.1 (NASB)
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
Dwight and I, along with Beka and Manda went on a day trip to Lake Lure and Chimney Rock yesterday. We all needed a break and we are blessed to live close enough to this beautiful spot about 2 hours away. God gave us an absolutely stunning day with a bright blue sky and weather was warm enough we could eat lunch outside and cool enough that we still needed sweaters!
As I was reflecting back on the day and thanking Him for the many ways He gave to us, I went back and looked at my photos. I have already shared some of them on Facebook, but these three really struck me in many ways. First and foremost is what a creative God we serve, One of variety and contrast. And then I thought about how often my own life is reflected through God’s creation.
The picture with the greens and yellows, tall trees, mountains and streams speaks to me of the times I may be different from all those around me, but we blend together in a harmonious, pleasing way. Living together with our adult daughter and niece has been a learning experience. Recently, Dwight, Beka and I were trying to re-organize one of our pantry areas. Without going into a lot of specifics, let me just says that it was not a harmonious experience! And we all felt bad that we were causing the others stress. The organizing did get done. We all made compromises. But, what came after as we talked through the experience was precious. Each of us brought something unique to the discussion, but like this picture, all parts put together are beautiful.
The second picture with the brilliant reds, oranges and yellows reminds me of when I allow God to shine on me, through me. This picture would not be near as bright, as beautiful, without the sun shining through it. It is only when I allow the Son to shine through me that I can possible reflect Him. On a side note, this picture was taken in the parking lot of an urgent care medical facility about 30 minutes from our house! As I think about that, and I may be reaching a bit here, but God has certainly given me the spectacular in the midst of the medical hurdles!
The third picture is my favorite. I have always loved water – be it a lake, the ocean, a stream, whatever! This picture, with the running water and the stunning red rose speaks to my soul. Running water is never stagnant. It is always moving. As I read God’s Word, His truths, like the water, are running through me. And the rose to me represents Jesus Himself. He is the True beauty in my life. He is the burst of color in the scene!
How gracious is our Lord! He give us a marvelous break from the daily routine, complete with incredible weather, quirky and fun conversations and beautiful sights of His creation. But He also gave me remembrances to reflect on later and see the day in its deeper shades of meaning.
“All the earth bows down to You; they sing praise to You, they sing the praises of Your name." (Psalm 66.4)
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
After watching all summer for our morning glories to bloom, they have started. There was one bloom yesterday and two this morning!
I have been urging Dwight for weeks now to just take out the vines. They have overtaken our front stoop and there are so many brown leaves. I felt a bit betrayed by these vines and I thought often of Jesus cursing the fig tree that had no figs on it.
But Dwight just kept saying, “No, let’s just give them a bit more time.” And now, when the rest of our flowers are about finished, the morning glories come out! My picture does not do them justice. I can’t get close enough and the color is so much richer in real life.
God used these flowers and His Word to encourage me this morning. I just finished the book of Joshua. For each book of the Bible, I am writing my own title, if you will. “Do not fear; do not be discouraged,” is how I entitled this book. And yet, I am struggling with that very thing.
In August I had told my pulmonologist about chest pains I was having. Not frequently, but scary. He looked over all the tests I have had and did some blood work and said that he was confident it wasn’t my heart, and thought it was likely muscles in that area that were getting worked harder as I gained more energy. But now, the pain is more consistent and stronger and yes, scary. My doctor has moved my November 9 appointment up to October 23.
I am scared about what may be coming next. I am discouraged that the chest pains are keeping me from doing all I want me to do. I keep bringing my fears and my discouragement to the Lord. Having been in the book of Joshua for almost a month, with its constant theme, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged!”, I have been praying hard along those lines for me. I know that God has commanded me. I know He is with me. And I have even more than Joshua. I have the Holy Spirit living in me! And yet those fears and discouragement pop up. And so does the decades old question, “How do I let go and let God?”
In chapter 24, Joshua recounts for the Israelites what God has done for them and then gives them the command in verse 14, “Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness.” He goes on to tell them to “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” And the very familiar verse follows, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (v 15)
Those words, along with the appearance of the flower among the morning glory vines are telling me to be patient. With my body. With my heart. With me. What I see as failure to produce, failure to bloom, both in myself and in the vines, is God working. And He isn’t done yet!
While I have learned many applicable lessons from the book of Joshua, there is one huge difference. 24.19 says, “Joshua says to the people, ‘You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; He is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins.’” Because of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection, this is not true for those who know Him as Lord and Savior. He does forgive my yielding to fear and discouragement. And even more, He is at work in me helping me to choose daily to serve Him.
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.CELEBRATE! 2018-10-03
Aren’t celebrations wonderful?!
I love birthdays. I like planning for other folks’ birthdays and yes, I love when it is my birthday. I love the anticipation. I love how the excitement builds. I love thinking and pondering what we are going to have for my birthday meal. I love figuring out what I want to do on my birthday. What to do is a bit more challenging the last two years with my limited energy and ability to get around, but there are still options.
And so, plan I did. I would come up with one idea and then discard that idea for a better one until I knew I had the perfect combination. Dwight and Beka and I were able to go to a game store near us that has loads of games that you can sit and play. You pay $5.00 no matter how many people are in your group and no matter how long you stay. I hadn’t even heard of most of the games, but I knew I liked Ticket to Ride. We played a version of it that we all liked, but had never played before – Sails and Rails. The $5.00 could then go towards buying the game, but given its cost, that is going to have to wait.
For my meal, I chose Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and our family recipe chocolate cake with raspberry filling. Oh, my. Dwight made the most amazing meatballs. We are definitely going to have those again soon! And Beka did a stupendous job on the cake, making her own raspberry sauce from fresh raspberries. In the words of my daughter, “It was so-o-o-o tasty!”
And now the celebration is over, but the wonderful feelings have stayed with me and we made more memories!
I am just finishing up the book of Joshua. Many times God tells Joshua, “Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged.” And the reason is that God Himself is Joshua’s Commander. God wants Joshua to look at Him and not at the circumstances. To trust Him and not in their own strength. To know He is fighting for them and they don’t have to conquer all these people on their own. And God is faithful. 11.23, “Then the land had rest from war.”
The Israelites themselves had to have their own excitement, planning and plotting about what they would do when the wars were finally over; when the land the Lord had promised to Abraham would finally be theirs. The next chapters describe the distribution of that land. 19.51 says, “And so they finished dividing the land.”
Wouldn’t you love to have been present then? The land was divided by tribe, but there were thousands of people in each tribe. How did they decide who would live where within their allotted space? Did they argue over houses that were left standing? Did they get to pick their neighbors?
I can only imagine that there were celebrations galore! Celebrations that were beyond the required festivals and feasts. I can only imagine the memories each individual family made as they settled into the promised land. I only have to wait a year for my birthday to come around, but for the Israelites it was hundreds of years – from captivity to wandering in the desert to fighting for the land. They had a L-O-N-G time to plan. Yes, there had to be celebrations galore.
But, as I think about this, I realize how each day is a celebration. Each day God is telling me to not be afraid or discouraged. Each day He wants me to look at Him and not at circumstances, to trust in Him and not in my own strength. The fact that He IS my Commander is cause enough for celebration!!
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.ASK, SEEK, KNOCK! 2018-09-09
OK. Here is a warning up front. Get ready to laugh!!
Beka and I had planned a trip to a large outlet mall about 30 minutes away. It was her birthday and we both like browsing and eating lunch out.
One of the medications I take is a diuretic to make sure I don’t have extra fluid on my heart or in my lungs. Sometimes when I take it, I am in the bathroom every 10-15 minutes for a couple of hours. Other times, I go once or twice and that is it. But, I always have about 45 minutes before the medication takes effect. I have also found that I don’t feel all that great if I don’t take it. You needed that background for the rest of this story to make sense. Sorry about that.
So, thinking it would take about 30 minutes to get to the mall, I took the medication right before we left. (Why, oh why, didn’t I just wait until we arrived at the mall?! A question I would be repeatedly asking myself!!) We sailed through Rock Hill and Fort Mill on the freeway, but as soon as we entered North Carolina, traffic started backing up. Even though it was past 9.00, there was still rush hour, or more accurately, not-so-much rush hour. When we were in the thick of the traffic, I started to feel the need to go the bathroom.
I don’t know if you have ever driven in uptown Charlotte, but it is not for the directionally challenged. Between one ways, roads that aren’t straight, roads that are constantly changing names, we knew it wouldn’t be easy to exit the freeway, find a bathroom and then find our way back onto the freeway. So, Beka and I decided that we would wait until we were past the uptown traffic. (By the way, why are some city centers called ‘downtown’ and others called ‘uptown’?)
This seemed like a good plan and one my body agreed with. . . until we hit road construction! I had forgotten about the dreaded road construction!! We were in stop and roll traffic. Stop for a few minutes. Roll a few feet. Stop. Roll. You get the idea. And there was nowhere to exit. So, we are moving along, well, creeping along, and my bladder is making itself known. I am starting to jiggle my feet up and down, rock in my seat and definitely praying! Beka was driving and kept asking, “What should I do?” I really didn’t know. There really was nowhere to exit!
We prayed and kept stopping and rolling and prayed some more. I told Beka she better not start laughing because that would certainly do me in. I kept asking myself why I hadn’t waited to take the stupid medication!! As the situation was becoming more desperate, Beka suggested going behind the huge gravel piles along the side of the road. The problem with that was that I would have to climb over the concrete barriers. We were looking for RVs. (Have you seen the movie Two Weeks’ Notice with Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock?)
As the situation continued to deteriorate, I said, I would even use a porta-potty! And then we saw one and we could get to it. By get to it, I mean that there weren’t solid concrete barriers blocking us. So, Beka gets over a lane, exits through the cones and is driving in a construction zone. It looked like there was a huge drop off right ahead and I yelled for her to stop, thinking I would have to run the rest of the way, but, it was actually sloped so she could drive down it and right up to the wonderful blue bathroom. There were no construction workers or vehicles. I hopped out of the car, and had to climb a rather high step, but oh, the relief.
Now, while I was in the bathroom, a construction worker came by in a bobcat type of vehicle. He stared at Beka and she just kind of waved at him, mouthing, “Good morning.” About that time, I realized I needed toilet paper. Not seeing any, I opened the door a bit (Beka says, “wide open,” but don’t believe her!) and was playing charades to get her to understand that I needed something! She understood! As she was bringing me some napkins, I did find the toilet paper holder up higher. So, again, the door gets opened just a bit (Yes, again hear Beka saying, “wide open!”), I finish up and get back in the car.
Now we have to get back into the traffic. So, we drive up the slope, get turned in the right direction, go through the cones and Beka merges into a traffic. The man who let us in had a very strange expression on his face!
The construction went on for a number of miles more. And while we saw many porta-pottys, all of them, every single one, was behind solid concrete barriers. There was no way we could have driven to one. And there continued to be no viable exits!!
Oh, how we laughed about this. You see, whenever Beka and I go somewhere together, we seem to have adventures. Usually it just involves having to backtrack, make U-turns or going to businesses that are no longer open. This was the first one like this.
But amidst the laughter, there was a lot of thanking our Lord. To have a somewhat accessible porta-potty when my need was at its more dire was nothing short of a miracle. I am thinking of Matthew 7.7. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” God, quite literally did this for us. We were asking Him for somewhere for me to go to the bathroom. And boy, were we seeking!! And when I arrived at the porta-potty, I did knock! How amazing is it that the God Who created the entire universe cares about me, Dorothy, needing to find a bathroom?! Oh, and a bonus! It was actually very clean!!!
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
Are you competitive? Ok, be honest here. On a scale of 1-10, 1 being you would actually cheat to allow someone else to win and 10 being you would cheat to win, where are you? Me? Well, while I wouldn’t actually cheat to win, I would have to put myself at a 9.5. The dictionary defines “competitive” as, “having a strong desire to compete or to succeed.” Yep, that’s me.
And, while the drive to succeed can be used for good, like most things, it can also be negative. Our household was playing a family favorite card game called Books and Runs. It is a type of rummy game in which low score wins. I was losing. Really badly. Terribly. My score was greater than the other three players’ combined!! And the more points I racked up, the more my attitude soured. And like food that has soured, it stunk!!
I thought about it as I was going to sleep that night. Why do I respond like that? It is a game. In itself it has no eternal consequences. In fact, minutes after the game is over it is forgotten. But my attitude didn’t right itself that fast. Verses popped into my mind like, “. . . in humility value others above yourselves, . . .” (Philippians 2.3) and “Be kind and tenderhearted to one another. . . “ (Ephesians 4.32)
And then those thoughts collided with something I had observed earlier in the day. I was laying on the couch and noticed butterflies and hummingbirds coming to our flowers in the front of the house. I marveled at God’s creation and how beautiful both were. I started to thank God for His creation and also thought about the transformation that went on in a butterfly’s life.
The actual term for these stages is “metamorphosis,” which is a Greek word that means “transformation” or “change in shape.” (www.ansp.org) It started out from an egg and then went on to become a caterpillar, which is also called the feeding stage. The job of the caterpillar is to eat and eat and eat and it can grow to 100 times its beginning size in a matter of weeks. It then goes on to become a pupa, and while it may look like nothing is going on from the outside, there is a lot going on inside. And from there it becomes an adult, when its main job is to reproduce.
Yes, I had to look all this up to get the terms right because as I was watching it, I was just thinking how it went from crawling in the dirt to flying. And, smiling with joy, I was thinking how my Christian walk has gone from crawling in the dirt to flying! But, as I looked up the information so that I would get it correct here, I was amazed at the similarities between my transformation from a non-Christian to a growing one and that of the butterfly. I mean, think about it. As a Christians, my job is to eat, eat, eat, feeding myself on God’s words and truth. And I go through stages where it doesn’t seem like anything is happening, but a lot is on the inside. And as I grow, I share with others what I have learned in hopes that they also will be transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit.
But like all analogies, this one breaks down. Unlike the straightforward, linear transformation the butterfly goes through, my own seems to go forward, backwards and sideways with stages overlapping one another! I had gone from smiling with joy at the thought of the transformation Christ had brought in my life (flying) to thinking, “Argggghhhhh! Will I ever get it right?” (crawling in the dirt) And the answer to that somewhat rhetorical question? NO!! Not in this lifetime.
How thankful I am for our Lord’s compassion. I had been lying in bed and remembering my bad attitude with shame. “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love, I am not consumed, for His compassion never fails. They are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3.19-23)
The sermon last week covered Proverbs 21, which is mainly aimed at those who are not following God’s ways. Our pastor brought out that the fool comes to a bad end because of God’s sovereignty, righteousness and punishment. The only way out is stated in verse 21, “Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor.” Because of the grace of God, this is possible through the Holy Spirit.
So, come on over! Play a game with us. We love to play all sorts of games. I promise to pray before we start that, win or lose, I will have an attitude that honors Christ!
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good..
On Friday I was able to go all around town with Beka as she looked for paper to print her graphic design business folder. We were in so many different stores and I even was able to get a much needed haircut. I am so blessed to be able to spend time with her.
I realized a long time ago that the more you know about something or someone, the more you enjoy it. For instance, if there was a movie set in Minnesota and the main character made greeting cards, I would really enjoy that. And the more I know about something or someone, the more I want to know. That is true in my relationship with my daughter. The more I spend time with her, the more I enjoy her and the more I want to spend time with her. The same is true in all my relationships, especially the Lord!
On Saturday I was able to attend a baby shower for an expectant young mother from our church. It was very well attended and it was so nice to be able to visit with other women from our church. After we all ate, instead of playing games there was a time of prayer for this family. As I listened to the prayers for the parents, the big sister (not very!) and the new baby, I thought of how pleased the Lord was with this group of women right then. Colleen received many beautiful gifts, but long after the little boy has grown out of the clothes given, those prayers will continue to clothe him and his family. What an incredible blessing to be able to be a part of those cherished moments.
On Sunday, I was able to go to Sunday School, the worship service and the evening service! All three!!! I haven’t been able to do that since we returned to the U.S. in March of 2017. I felt filled up by God’s Word and God’s people. We are so blessed to attend a church with a pastor who is passionate about sound biblical preaching and teaching. While Michael is an incredible academic, God has gifted him in preaching so that we, as hearers, can learn more about our Lord and Savior and are given the opportunity to apply what we have learned.
Not only do we have a gifted pastor, but our church is a community of people who love one another and take opportunities to show that love. While many of the women were attending the shower, many of the men were helping a single woman move. Love in action!
While I was at the baby shower, Linda came up to me and shared how her source of homemade cards was no longer available. She had bought some supplies herself, but sewing is more her creative outlet. So, Sunday morning I brought her a pack of 5 cards that I had made. Sunday night she thanked me profusely for the cards, telling me how much she liked them! What an encouragement that was. You see, I love making cards and make way more than I send. She mentioned that she really needed cards for baby showers, so I was able to make 3 this morning, even after my busy weekend.
I really am so grateful to the Lord for this season of being able to do more than I was able to do even last week. "I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” Psalm 9.1
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
Some decisions are easy for me to make. Do I send a card to a friend that might need some encouragement? Yes. Do I try to go for a walk around our block? No. Do I spend time with the Lord today? Yes. Do I plan yet another activity into an already busy week? No.
But other decisions are very hard. Dwight and I were at the pulmonologist’s office on Friday. The really good news is my heart is doing very well right now. The pressure is almost in the normal range. The harder news is that I most likely have an additional diagnosis of pulmonary veno-occlusive disease. This involves the small veins of the lung circulation rather than the small arteries. It is extremely rare (1 -1.5/10 million people!) and the only sure way to diagnosis it is a lung biopsy, which would be too dangerous for me to have. What leads my doctor to this diagnosis is my continued need for oxygen and how my oxygen saturation drops below 88 even when on 3 or 4 liters.
The doctor’s first suggestion was that I go on a steroid. I immediately had red flags! I had been on steroids in South Africa and when I was weaned off them, I became very sick. When I asked him what the side effects were, he rattled off a list that rivaled any of the medication commercials one sees on TV ads. The more he talked, the more opposed I was to starting this medication.
But. . . But, what if it would help give me more energy and less breathlessness? What if this was the answer? What if it meant I could start cooking again, going for that walk around the block, plan that other activity? What if?
And yet, what overshadowed all those “what ifs” was the memory of two months of severe headaches followed by seven months of extreme nausea. Would it really be so bad if I had reached status quo? Would it really be so bad if feeling good, but having to watch my activity level closely became our normal?
But, what if? What if going on the steroids meant I could spend more time with my grandchildren. What if it meant that I didn’t need to use my wheelchair to go into restaurants? What if it gave Dwight relief. What if it meant that he could have a full-time ministry at SIM because I could resume cooking, laundry, cleaning? What if?
And yet, did we really want to live with nausea and headaches again? And what if it didn’t do any good anyway?
So, I dodged making a decision. I said I need to pray about it. And here is a true confession. While that sounds like a good choice, and spiritual and all that, I need to call it what it was. A delay tactic. A way to say no, without having to actually say it.
But, as soon as I said the words, I knew that is exactly what I had to do, what we had to do. Pray about it. I know we all have those things that we wish God would send us an e-mail telling us what to do. I am reading in Numbers and God is so very clear. Do this in this exact way. I would love something like that from Him. After praying and crying for three days, I have decided to not go on the steroids, but I am not totally at peace about it. I am just more at peace about not going on them that I would be to go on them.
The doctor gave me another option that has no side effects. Try to lose some more weight. I have already lost 65 pounds, but he told me to aim for another 50-60. That seems monumental to me. The weight came off easily when I was too nauseous to eat, but with the nausea gone, not so easy. But Dwight is in this with me. And so is God.
So, did I make the right decision? I don’t know. Am I still in His care? Absolutely. As I was sharing this with our pastor, I started crying. . . again. Unfortunately, it was at the start of a fellowship meal at church. Yes, my timing was off! When he had listened to me for a while, he said, “Well, one thing is for sure. With it being so very rare, this is no mistake. God knows exactly what He is doing.” My immediate response was, “What if I bring shame to Him. What if God says to me what He said to Moses when Moses struck the rock to get water when he was only to speak to it? “Because you did not trust in Me enough to honor Me as holy in sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (Numbers 20.12) What if I don’t trust Him enough to honor Him in the presence of those around me and I will not hear “Well, done!” when I get to heaven. And Michael’s response. “You won’t get it right. You’ll mess up. But you’ll be forgiven and move on.”
Lord, please keep me from dishonoring Your name. Please, may all I think and say and do be for Your glory, for
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
A friend’s air conditioner was not working for the 3rd time in one year and she had to move out of her house while she waited for the part to come in (for the second time!) and for an appointment for them to come fix it. . . again! THE LORD IS STILL ON HIS THRONE.
Our pastor came back from vacation to find that a pipe had burst while they were gone and brought down the ceiling in his daughter’s room as a result of the flood. They just had major water damage that took months to fix. THE LORD IS STILL ON HIS THRONE.
A friend from church needed pancreatic surgery. The surgery was much less invasive than they originally thought it would be and her healing has been incredibly fast and pain free. THE LORD IS STILL ON HIS THRONE.
Another friend from church had her shoulder rotator cuff replaced. She is finally over the worst of the pain. THE LORD IS STILL ON HIS THRONE.
Boys and their coach were stuck in a cave in Thailand. All have made it out with the help of skilled divers. There is a very concerted effort in getting them out that is uniting countries in services and prayer. THE LORD IS STILL ON HIS THRONE.
Our support is down to 75% and we just found out that $3,000 of medication costs for my Pulmonary Hypertension is not covered. THE LORD IS STILL ON HIS THRONE.
A dear friend broke his wrist from a fall. It is healing badly. After getting checked for nerve damage, it will most likely need to be broken again and reset with a year recovery. THE LORD IS STILL ON HIS THRONE.
The son of a good friends has been suffering with horrible headaches for years now. He is on disability, has been to numerous doctors and clinics and they are still looking for a medication that will help him. THE LORD IS STILL ON HIS THRONE.
Beka still needs a full-time job. She is recently getting more hours at her retail job. THE LORD IS STILL ON HIS THRONE.
Our church is filled to overfilling and we need a bigger sanctuary. We need the funds to pay for it. THE LORD IS STILL ON HIS THRONE.
After severe drought and extreme water rationing, the Cape Town, South Africa dams are at 50% and it is still the rainy season. THE LORD IS ON HIS THRONE.
I watched a video of my pre-school great-nephew reciting John 10.27: “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.” He and three of his cousins learned this verse at the 2nd annual Grandma Camp that my sister-in-law leads. THE LORD IS STILL ON HIS THRONE.
I just finished Leviticus in my quiet time. My number one take-away is, “I AM the Lord your God.” My number one take-away from Genesis is, “. . . but God” From Exodus, “. . . so that you might know I AM the Lord your God.” THE LORD IS STILL ON HIS THRONE.
My energy is up enough that I have scheduled to sit in on a debrief this week and attend a workshop on debriefing in two weeks. THE LORD IS STILL ON HIS THRONE.
Good friends we met in Kenya and now live in Canada have been near us for the last month. We used to play a lot of games together and Peggy and I would do crafts. We have been able to get together with them numerous times and are planning to go to Charleston with them this week. THE LORD IS STILL ON HIS THRONE.
No matter what YOU are going through, what you are dealing with, what fears you have, what joys you are experiencing, the absolute fact remains – THE LORD IS STILL ON HIS THRONE!
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
Do you have a Cricut? Do you know what one is? It is an amazing machine which cuts any design out of everything from crepe paper to leather with great precision. It also will draw or write. And I want one. Badly! When we were leaving South Africa, we just didn’t have the luggage allowance for me to bring my Sizzix machine (a die cut machine used in crafting) and all the dies I had collected over the years back to the U.S., so I sold it to two good friends.
This past week a friend shared with me about the Cricut. Not really knowing how it worked or what it was capable of, I started watching YouTube videos. Beka joined me and we both started dreaming of the possibilities. The Cricut allows you to download their designs for a monthly fee or to import your own. Beka is an extremely talented graphic design artist. (You can see her work on her webpage – www.rebeka.graphics or on Facebook at Rebeka’s Graphics.) The more videos we watched, the more excited we became.
Beka has been trying to figure out how to move forward in using her love of graphic design to fully support herself. While she has done a number of jobs for different folks, the work has not been steady. As we broached the idea to Dwight, he encouraged Beka to come up with a business plan.
This led to Beka doing a lot of research and for us to brainstorm together. We went through a number of ideas and with each added bit of information, we revised what we were thinking. Beka was able to identify her vision and purpose, her targeted client base and we even came up with a marketing package.
I had been praying for God’s help in this process over the last week. I had come to the conclusion that my wonderfully talented and creative daughter was much better at completing a specific project within a defined time frame than she would be at building up inventory. Actually, the way I thought of it was much more negative and I was going to talk with Dwight about it and have him talk to Beka. But then Beka and I were talking it came out like I just wrote it to you.
As I was getting ready to pray with Dwight that evening, I shared with him what God had done. . . and that I hadn’t even prayed specifically about that particular issue. And then it came to me what God had been doing for us all along.
I just finished reading through the book of Exodus and God was using it in my life. Like Bezalel and Oholiab in chapters 31 and 35, whom God had “filled with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills. . . “, the Holy Spirit had given us those same gifts. He gave us knowledge through all the research we did. He gave us understanding of each other’s gifts (Beka’s is art and mine is organization!). He gave us wisdom in how to move forward. He has filled us with all kinds of gifts to do what I believe He has designed Beka to do.
And why did He do this? Again, the answer comes from Exodus. “I will take you as My own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, . . .” (Exodus 6.7) In that one statement, God is proclaiming His desire for His people to know Him. Throughout Exodus, He reinforces this theme. He reveals Who He is through the ten commandments, through His detailed plan for His sanctuary, through His protection and provision for His people. And He does the same for us today. Why? So that we might KNOW He is the Lord our God.
I want my response to be like Moses’ request of God in 33.13. “If you are pleased with me, teach me Your ways, so I might know you. . . “ How that request had to please our Lord!!! And I can’t really think of anything more important to ask of Him!
And yes, I still badly want a Cricut!!!
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
You know what? I used to think that adventure and change was what I desired. And God certainly gave that to me. I have lived on three different continents, seven different countries and . . . wait a minute, I have to count. . . at least twenty-five houses!! And I am not even going to try to count the number of miles and the houses of friends that we have stayed in as we travelled across the U.S. Is it any wonder that I now long for normal.
But, since November of 2016, normal keeps changing on me. The only thing that seems to stay the same is my now constant companion of my oxygen hose. I am extremely grateful for it, but it does tend to tether me and at times yank me back to reality!
From November 2016 to March 2017, normal was learning more about Pulmonary Hypertension (PH). It involved a lot of doctor visits in both Cape Town and Johannesburg. And it involved changing from almost thirty years of living in Africa to relocating back to the U.S. I guess I could say normal was defined by changes. BIG changes.
March 2017 to May 2017 was loaded with stress. Starting treatment for the PH. Buying a house. Learning to live with our daughter and niece. And intense headaches caused by one of the medications of the PH.
And then started the house renovation. Oi vey!!! Normal could have been defined by furniture that belonged in one room being in another or the smell of Kilz and paint. But it was most certainly defined by dust!! Everywhere, no matter what room was being worked on, dust! The renovation started at the end of May and finally finished last month! How do they do it in one hour on the TV shows?!
In the midst of the renovations, there were other changes. I went from feeling pretty good in June to nausea and three visits to ER in Chapel Hill (3 hours away) in July, two resulting in three-night stays. And the nausea continued until March. That was the new normal.
And then the nausea was gone as soon as I weaned off the culprit medication. Praise the Lord!!! I had more energy and I was able to do more around the house. I was able to enjoy playing games again. I felt like a new person. I was even motivated to get a moped so that I could accompany Dwight and Beka on their bike rides. We started having people over for meals again. Hey, this was a new normal I could live with! Yes, I still became fatigued, but it began to take less time to recover from that tiredness. If we planned stuff every other day, I did pretty well.
And now normal seems to have taken a turn. . . again. For the last ten days I have had very little energy. Just sitting up seems to be more than I can do. I have had to turn down visits from friends, cancel getting-out dates with my husband and have pretty much been couch bound. I saw a doctor here in Rock Hill and she did a chest x-ray and blood work and everything looked good. There seems to be no explanation for why my oxygen saturation is dropping into the low 80s at different times during the day. Is this the new normal? And while I sincerely hope it is not, I have no guarantees.
And so, I have tried to look at what doesn’t change. God’s love for me. His sovereignty and His goodness. His Word. My growing in Him regardless of what I can or can’t do. Was that what Paul focused on when he wrote, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4.12) Is the secret to focus on things that are certain, on the hope we have in Christ? I had to go back and read all of chapter 4 to find the answer.
Here, read with me. . .
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4.4-9)
You see, the answer to the secret is there. It is focusing on things that don’t change. So I am going to choose to rejoice. Not in the PH, but God is using the PH to teach me more about Him. I am going to choose His peace over anxiety about tomorrow. I am going to choose to think about excellent and praiseworthy things. Truly, knowing Him deeper is better than being able to get off the couch!! (Although I wouldn’t mind if He allowed that as well!!)
So, while my daily normal may continue to change, my normal of being His child does not!
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
A PINCH OF SALT (2018-05-21)
It seems like I have battled with my weight for my whole life, certainly since I was about 10. 50 years!! It has affected everything in my life – my relationship with my parents, my relationship with my husband, my relationship with God, my ability to do things. It has dictated what style clothes I wear. . . whatever would fit!! It has warped my perception of who I am. If I were granted three wishes, my first would be to weigh 120. My second would be to stay at that weight no matter what I ate. I don’t even know what the third would be, but probably in the same vein.
Over the years, God has incredibly blessed me, but I have always felt like He was blessing me in spite of myself. And I have prayed and prayed and prayed for His help to lose weight. I have memorized Scripture that speaks about self-control and our bodies being His temple. I have had temporary success with any number of diets, but that is all they were – temporary!
And now God has granted my heart’s desire. One of my drugs for Pulmonary Hypertension (PH) caused extreme nausea for seven months and I lost 65 pounds. Even when the medication stopped, I had no appetite and struggled to get 700 calories a day. In April I had appointments with both my primary care physician and my pulmonologist. Both expressed concern that I wasn’t eating enough and referred me to a dietician.
The Lord again blessed us with a great person helping us. She was patient, a good listener and really explained things well. She even understood my real fear that once I did get my appetite back, I would gain all the weight I had lost. She gave very good advice, along with specific things to do, understanding that PH kept me from exercising much.
But it has been a challenge. She wants me to count carbs instead of calories. And the number of carbs seems incredibly high to me. But, it isn’t just trying to get in the right number of carbs and the right carbs, but also enough protein. The hardest thing for me, though, is to stay under the 2,000mg of salt/day ordered by my pulmonologist.
There is salt in EVERYTHING!!! I expect it in packaged foods and restaurant foods, but in fresh meat and veggies?! A simple salad with lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and carrots has 50mg of salt, and that doesn’t include what is in the dressing. Breads and cheeses are also high in salt. I had a very negative outlook when it came to salt!!
And then our sermon at church yesterday was about being salt and light in this world. He talked about how yes, salt is used to flavor, but more so it is a preservative with the function of slowing decay. And that is what we are. He stressed that Jesus was saying in Matthew 5.13 that if we are kingdom people, as described in the Beatitudes in Matthew 4, if we are those kind of people, then we ARE salt. “You are the salt of the earth.” It is a state of being, not a hoped for trait. And as such, we are slowing the decay of a sinful world. We make it more difficult for sinful actions, attitudes, words to take place around us.
As I was listening to the sermon, I started to think of salt differently. Jesus doesn’t limit the milligrams of salt I am to the world. In fact, the more the better!! And if He can make me salt in this world, He can certainly help me figure out how to balance good carbs, not-so-good carbs, proteins and salt in my diet.
Over the years, God has convinced me that His love for me is not contingent on what I weight. And Dwight has done the same. God has taught me that I am who He says I am. And while my weight is still an issue with me, no longer would it be the focus of my three wishes. They would either be to know Him better, love Him dearer and follow Him closer or to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Him.
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
I AM willing.(2018-05-09)
It has been eight days since I read the news that the pressure between my heart and my lungs was between 30-35. This is huge!! When I was diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension, my pressure was 90. Anything under 35 is normal and anything over 50 is severe. And this new pressure takes into account that I am off the medication that was causing so much nausea.
When I first read the news, I actually was numb. And then my thoughts rambled, twisting and turning between elation, humility, gratefulness and. . . well. . . numbness. Part of me felt like the servant girl who closed the door on Peter, not believing that he could really be at the door when he was supposed to be in prison, even though they had prayed for that very thing. Part of me felt like the healed man who went leaping away in joy.
But my overarching feeling or awareness was of God’s incredible love for me. His love flooded my heart, wrapped me in a cocoon and whispered to me. Yes, I am fully aware that His love did not increase because this pressure went down, nor would it have decreased if it didn’t go down. But, there is something in having a prayer answered so clearly that shows me His love in a way that I can tangibly grasp.
I have tried many times to write about this in the past week. The best I could do was an almost clinical report for a prayer update, which you can read at www.dddhazard.org. And as I read what I have already written today, I know I am not capturing my thoughts or feelings completely. Oh, to be a wordsmith like my daughter!!
You see, there has been a struggle in my heart since receiving this diagnosis in November 2016. From the beginning, I wanted to honor God with my attitude. I wanted people to know that I knew this diagnosis did nothing to change God’s incredible, death-shattering love for me. I wanted the light of God’s glory to shine forth in the midst of this rare and serious life-changing illness.
Yes, I prayed for healing, but more than that, I prayed for my heart to be changed to what would most reflect Him. As I type that, I think, “Wow, that sounds super spiritual!” But, I am not!!! In fact, I cringe at how quickly I turn to things other than Him to satisfy. I hang my head in shame at how long it takes me to bring to Jesus the concerns of my heart. And to be perfectly honest (something I really have tried to do in my blog), I was afraid to pray for healing.
I knew without a shadow of doubt that God was able. What I struggled was with was He willing? I didn’t know if it was a lack of faith, or a deeper awareness of what is really important. This lead me to studying the book of John with the specific purpose of answering the question, “What does Jesus want me to believe?” 38% of the 58 statements where Jesus is asking people to believe are asking them to believe in Him.
You see, I didn’t know if Jesus was willing to bring healing to my body, but I knew, again without a shadow of a doubt, that He not only was He willing, but His plan included conforming me into the image of His Son. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, (Romans 8.29). And which is more difficult for Him. To heal my lungs, or to conform this stubborn, willful heart to one that only want the things He wants?
I feel a bit like the man in Mark 2.6-10 whose friends lowered him through the roof that Jesus might heal him. Instead Jesus forgave the man’s sins.
But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.” And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”
I don’t know all the whys of God bringing the pressure down, but day by day, I am getting to know Him better. Please, please take a moment and glorify our very worthy Lord and Savior!!
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
April has already been a rather busy month, but all with really good events. Through these gatherings, the Lord has impressed upon me the privilege and blessing of being a part of the body of Christ.
Our dear friends of almost 30 years retired from SIM. We first met Dave and Sheryl and their four kids when we were in our mission’s candidate orientation. We have served together in three different African countries. Their daughter actually changed her wedding date when we couldn’t make the date they had decided on! We have watched each other’s kids grow up. We have laughed together, cried together, grown together. As they were honored at their retirement party, I marveled at God’s faithfulness in using these two who were committed to going the distance with Him.
This last weekend we had a party to celebrate our pastor and his family. Michael has been our pastor for ten years. He came to a wounded and faltering body of Christ that was in danger of having to close its doors, figuratively speaking since we didn’t actually have our own doors at that time. Through his faithfulness to preaching God’s Word, developing godly leadership and loving God’s people, our church has gone from its low point of fourteen attendees to near one hundred. But, it isn’t just the numbers that have grown. People have grown through Michael’s teaching and preaching. I have heard it said that in most churches ten percent of the people do ninety percent of the work. That has never been true of Christ Ridge. We are a body that loves and serves one another. That love was shown to Michael and his family on Saturday night. The body of Christ.
And that love was shown again on Sunday as they helped us give Dwight a surprise birthday party. And was he ever surprised!! It was such a celebration of thanking God for Dwight! It was incredible to see folks from church, folks from SIM and folks that used to attend the church and still live within an hour of the church all come together to celebrate Dwight. Again, the body of Christ!!
Last night we fulfilled Dwight’s request for his birthday. He wanted a fried chicken dinner with two couples – one from church and one from SIM. It was so fun to bring these friends together and over dinner to share our lives with one another. We heard how these two couples met, dated and married. We heard about heartaches of adoptions not going through. We heard of God’s faithfulness over the years. As I was listening, I was thanking God for the variety in the body of Christ, and that we could experience it in big party settings and also in smaller gatherings.
A story was told by Ralph when their son was in a serious car accident. They thought he was in the next town over and instead he was in another state. When he received the phone call, Ralph immediately started calling churches in the area to find someone that would go be with his son until he could get there. And two pastors went. The body of Christ in action.
Being with the body of Christ encourages me. I can see God is at work through the Holy Spirit in those that believe on the name of Jesus Christ. When I watch the news, it would be so easy to think that the enemy is winning, but he isn’t. Jesus is!! And I was able to experience that first hand through Dave and Sheryl’s retirement party, Michael’s anniversary as pastor party, Dwight’s surprise birthday party, and Dwight’s dinner party.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10.24-25
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
We had the most wonderful day yesterday. It was our 38th anniversary and God blessed us with a beautiful sunshiny day and me with energy. We started out with a ride – me on my scooter and Dwight on his bike. I can’t even describe the incredible feeling of freedom as I bypassed Dwight going up a hill! We were able to do something together and he even got some exercise in!!
Then we went to see a movie. We haven’t been in a movie theater in over a year and a half!! We saw “I Can Only Imagine.” If you haven’t seen it, do so!!! It was incredibly well done and God’s mercy and faithfulness and goodness comes through loud and clear!!
After the movie, we decided to drive through a neighborhood we lived in when we came out of Liberia in 1992. Both of us were not exactly sure where the house was, but we think we found it. And as we drove through that neighborhood, we were thanking God for the neighborhood we live in. It is quiet and much easier to bike/scoot around!
Then we went out to eat. We split a plate, having eaten popcorn in the theater and the shrimp was so tasty!! We were there right when they opened and there were quite a few people with walkers coming in. I was in my wheelchair. I was rather shocked when an older man with a walker said to me, “It’s the pits being a cripple, isn’t it!” I couldn’t even answer him. I surely don’t think of myself that way, even though I need a wheelchair to go anywhere outside the house.
As I reflect back on the day, I reflect back on being married to my very best friend for 38 years. When I was in my teenage years and even into college, I never thought I would get married. I was overweight and had never even had a date. Dwight and I met our first week of our freshman year and God even told me at that first meeting that he was the man I was going to marry. We hung out together. . . a lot. But we didn’t really date. I jokingly (only partially so) tell people that our first date was our wedding!
No earthly person has ever shown me unconditional love the way that Dwight does. He has successfully demonstrated to me over and over and over again the love Jesus Christ has for me. We have had our struggles. Times when we didn’t get along with one another, but I never doubted his faithfulness to God or to me or to our children. We have gone through miscarriages, a tubal pregnancy, the death of our two year old daughter, living in very stressful circumstances in war torn countries, dodging bullets, being evacuated, health issues, overwhelming ministry challenges, children in crisis and more. But, as I look back (Thank You, Lord for hindsight that really is helpful!!), I can honestly say, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance." (Proverbs 16.6)
Early on in our marriage I read Gary Smalley and John Trent’s book “The Blessing.” It is about how we, as parents, pass on the blessing to our children. Do you know the number one way? For husbands to love their wives. Dwight, you have done this. You have done it with a servant heart. You have done it with humbleness. You have done it with joy. You have done it well. Thank you!! And Lord, thank You for the gift of Dwight!!
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
What would necessitate four adults to take three different modes of transportation to go less than a mile?
To facilitate me on my second practice session with my new moped!!! Yes, as of Thursday I now have a moped. (But as much as Dwight and Beka enjoy riding it, it might be more accurate to say our household has a new moped!!)
When we have told people about it, their immediate response has been, “WHAT?” Which is understandable. I am on oxygen 24/7 and don’t have a lot of energy. But once we explain this gives me a freedom that I haven’t had in a very long time, they said, “GO FOR IT!”
Having this moped will allow me to go for “bike” rides with Dwight and Beka. It will allow me to go for “walks” with Dwight. Well, maybe not walks, because as I gain confidence I might go faster than he can walk!!
So, let me tell you the fun story. . . After doing some checking around, a dealer right in our home town gave us a great deal. Manda (our niece) drove Dwight back to the store to pick it up and he drove it home. I was ready to go for my first practice ride. I was so scared!!! I rode it down our driveway without the engine turned on, with my hand on the brake, and Dwight in front of me so I wouldn’t get going too fast. And then I was on the street. Once I actually started the moped, Dwight backed off from helping me balance.
And off I went. . . with both feet on the ground and barely going at all!! I finally got up enough speed so that I could put my feet on the platform. I was so scared!!! I found myself drifting over the left (We do live in a quiet neighborhood, but I was definitely not on my side of the road!) and I was too scared to turn the wheel. I made it all the way to the end of our next door neighbor’s yard and with my feet down, turned around to go back. I saw Dwight running towards me and waved to him, telling him I was OK. I rode back to our house in much the same fashion. Feet down. A little faster. Feet up. Feet down. And then up our driveway with feet down and in the garage.
Whew!! I had done it. But, I knew my next time would be in a large church parking lot near our house where I had room to practice turning!! That night as Dwight and I were talking in bed, I told him how scared I had been. His response, “I was near terrified!!”
Which brings me up to four adults taking three different modes of transportation to go less than a mile. Dwight rode the moped. Beka rode her bike. Manda drove me. And I tried again. It wasn’t long before my feet were on the platform and they stayed there and I went round and round and round and round in a big oval. I was feeling so free!!! I haven’t even driven a car in a year and a half! I still need more practice before I take it on the streets of our very quiet neighborhood. When I tried to go in more of a square and less of an oval, I didn’t do too well. But, the second time was so much better than the first.
This moped means so much to me. I gain freedom and choices. Which speaks directly to me about what I have in Christ. When Jesus died on the cross and rose again, He bought for me eternal life, but He also bought me freedom to choose. To choose joy over melancholy. To choose hope over despair. To choose courage over fear. Galatians 5.1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” I could paraphrase that to read, “It is for freedom that Christ has set me free. Ride confidently, then, and do not let myself be burdened again by being chained to the couch!” Every time I get on the moped, I will be reminded of Jesus Christ’s incredible gift of freedom!!
Isn’t God just wonderful?!!!!!!!
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
P.S. The picture is from yesterday. I am wearing Dwight’s bicycle helmet. My red one arrives today!!
Beka and I woke up with great excitement yesterday and anticipation for the day we were going to spend together. We were going to do some shopping, have lunch together and then do a little more shopping. Beka had sold an item on Craig’s List and the cashier’s check that was sent to her would be cleared that day. You see, Beka has a part-time job which barely meets her financial obligations. So this bit of extra money was making it possible for her to buy some much needed items, as well as a few things that she had been wanting. And she was paying for lunch!!
Okay, when I said we both woke up with excitement and anticipation, I wasn’t quite accurate. Beka had been woken up early by multiple text messages from the buyer, wanting to know if the check had cleared and when Beka would be able to send her the money. What money?, you ask? Well, for a reason we couldn’t understand, the person was sending Beka $950 more than the purchase price of the item. Yes, that set off alarm bells in every member of our household! The buyer said that it was money for her moving fee.
So, before I was ready to go, Beka went off to the bank, withdrew the $950 and sent a money gram to the person whose name she had been given. And then we were off and running – well, riding! We went to one of our favorite places first, Hobby Lobby. Beka wanted to get some beads for a necklace she wants to make for Easter. And I just love looking!! The whole time we were in the store, Beka continued to receive text after text from the buyer. It was more than distracting and becoming downright irritating! Apparently the person whom the money was intended for was trying to retrieve it and it wasn’t coming through. Beka told her that she wasn’t near where she had sent the money and she wasn’t going back just then.
After spending a bit of time in Michaels, we headed to Olive Garden for our favorite lunch – soup and salad! And they even brought me an extra helping of black olives!! Beka continued receiving texts, one right after the other. She finally decided that we would go back to where she sent the money gram after we ate. She told the buyer this and said she wasn’t going to answer any more texts until she was there. And so we enjoyed the rest of our meal! I absolutely love their gnocchi soup!
And then we headed back to the drugstore where Beka had sent the money gram. I waited in the car. When Beka came out, she was pretty irritated. They had not sent the money gram through, saying it was suspicious, but not giving her the reason. While Beka had given them $950 in cash, they only would give her back $500 in cash and the balance was a check written on the drugstore’s account. And of course the buyer is sending one text after another to Beka. She wanted Beka to cash the check and send the money through another money gram location. Do you get the idea we aren’t having the kind of day we had anticipated?!
We then went to Beka’s bank and she tried to cash the check. They wouldn’t cash it unless she had the money to cover it already in her account, which she did not. So, we headed back to the drugstore and she asked them to cash it and they said they wouldn’t. So, her only alternative was to deposit the check into her account and to wait for it to clear. Any checks deposited into this particular bank doesn’t allow you access for two days. She texted the buyer with what she was going to do and the buyer wanted her to at least send the $500. By this point, we are ultra-suspicious and weren’t going to send her any money.
We pulled up to the drive-thru for the second time in 15 minutes, but we had a different teller. Beka explained what was going on and the lady started telling us how this was probably all a big scam. She must have spent 15 minutes with us explaining how it worked and advising Beka to NOT send any money!! She was extremely kind and patient. She said the cashier’s check that Beka had deposited on the weekend was most likely fraudulent. When we asked how that could be since it was bank’s cashier check, she told us that printers and ink are easily available and anyone can make up any check they like! When we asked her what our options were, she told us she was the bank manager and proceeded to tell us what Beka would have to do and that she should report this to the police.
After driving away, we were both rather aghast. Was Beka going to be out $750? And why had her bank released the funds that morning if there was still a chance the check was fraudulent? Wasn’t that the reason that she had to wait the two days before the money was available to her?
Well, between lunch and the two craft stores, she had already spent a chunk of money. However, that would be covered because just the day before, her state tax refund had been deposited. One of Beka’s comments was, “I would never ever think of doing this to someone.” And later, she wondered why she was such an easy target. My answer: “Because you would never think of doing this to someone.”
Although she didn’t want to, Beka went to the police station. They were rather unhelpful, telling her that she really had nothing to report because the cashier’s check had not yet been proven fraudulent. The bank had told Beka that would take another week. On her way home from the police station, she found out that her account was frozen and showed a deficit of $450. Going back to the bank, about at the end of her rope, she was told that the bank would cover any charges and that she wasn’t liable for the fraudulent check because she had not forwarded any money.
So, spiritual application, because that is why I write my blog. . . As Beka drove off to the police station, I asked the Lord, “Why didn’t You protect her from this? Why didn’t You warn us?” And His immediate, and I mean IMMEDIATE response. “I did!!” Each and every one of us had doubts. Why would someone buy an item for $300 and send $1,250 to someone they didn’t even know?! But none of us stopped and prayed about it. When, oh when will we learn!! Even though we weren’t praying about it, God was disrupting our spirits, telling us this was not right.
And in spite of ourselves, He protected Beka in so many ways. It was really through Beka wanting to do the right thing that He protected. We could have just gone off to where Beka was going to buy some shoes, but she wanted to try to get the money to the person and so decided to go back to the drugstore. That the money gram would not go was God’s protection. That Beka was able to get the money back was God’s protection. That the drugstore would not cash their own check was God’s protection. That Beka stopped at the bank first before sending the $500 cash she did have was God’s protection. That she didn’t have the money in her account to cover the drugstore check, that was God’s protection. That the bank teller was actually the manager of the bank was God’s protection.
Later, I reminded Beka of Scripture that says, “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5.18) We had all thanked God for her selling her item. That was easy. But now we had to give thanks for all that had occurred. While she wasn’t out any money (except what would have been hers for selling the item), our day was not what we had envisioned; there was a lot of stress; and the loss of faith in people.
An extra little note. I quickly looked up this verse to make sure I wrote it correctly. And the verse before it jumped out at me. “pray without ceasing;” How would this have all been different if . . . but thankfully, even when we aren’t faithful, He is!! So, we wait out the time, a bit wiser, to find out whether or not the check really is fraudulent.
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
Yesterday started out great for me! I woke up from a really good night’s sleep and actually had a bit of energy. So, I sat down at my desk and after a quiet time, I started working on e-mails – not something I do every day any more. As I was typing away, a pop-up told me an update was ready to be installed. I clicked yes, thinking it would be done in the background and I could keep using my computer. No! It was one that shut down my computer and then worked away for 10 minutes or more.
Finally, a screen came up that said the BIOS was being reset. Dwight had just come in the bedroom and so, more out of boredom than curiosity, I asked him what BIOS did. He told me it stands for Basic Input/Output System and put simply (he knows not to go into too many details for me!), it tells my computer that it is a computer and not a car or a toaster or some other device.
To be funny, I said, “I need my BIOS reset!” And then I started to think about what I had said. I realized that I already know what I am and more importantly, Whose I am. And every time I open God’s Word, every time I pray, every time I read a Christian book, Jesus is telling me, reminding me I am His and He is mine. He is my BIOS. In a world that tries to tell me differently, He is speaking truth into my life, into my heart. How amazing is that?!!! And I don’t need my BIOS reset. When I accepted Jesus as my Lord and my Savior, He reset it once and for all and nothing can ever change that fact. John 10.28 says, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
This little moment in time reminded me of something else. He has blessed me that I might be a blessing to others. I have a hard time finding opportunities to do that. While my nausea is pretty much gone since February 12, the day after my last dose of Adempas for Pulmonary Hypertension, I still have very little energy. I can be up and about for about 2 hours and it is better if that is every other day. The rest of my time is spent lying on the couch. How can I be a blessing to anyone else?
And then I remember my verse for this year is Ephesians 2.10. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. It isn’t my problem to figure out. God has it already planned. I just have to be in tune with Him to discern the opportunities. Like saying “Yes!” when my daughter wants to do a Bible study with me. Like calling a friend when the Lord places her on my heart. Like praying for the persecuted Church as I read “Safely Home” by Randy Alcorn and “I’ll Cross the River” by C. Hope Flinchbaugh. Like testifying about Jesus when I am at rehab. Like writing a blog when the Lord reveals Himself.
For years I have been praying for a picture of what clinging to Jesus is for me. The closest I have been able to get is me walking with my hand in His. But, as I write this blog, I realize that I am learning that it is leaning on Him. . . all the time. . . for everything.
You know what folks? God is good! All the time!! All the time!!! God is good!!!