Sunday, October 14, 2018

Flowing With God's Will in Prayer


A few nights ago, I was lying in bed nearly asleep, when a precious insight straight from the Lord came into my mind.  For a few moments I could see clearly how trust in the Lord's perfect love for my loved ones could allow me to pray for them, but simultaneously to have peace in regard to them; "acquiescence" is the word that came to mind.  Acquiescence to the flow of the Holy Spirit's power, the Father's love, and the Savior's sacrifice on behalf of those I love brings peace.

Our hearts can move the heart of God, and so we should not hold back from pouring out our hearts to the Lord on behalf of others.  This is in no way a recommendation to detach from those we love just because their burdens are uncomfortable for us to share.  But I am learning that underlying my outcries to the Lord and shared heartaches with loved ones, there can flow a deep river of peace.  As I allow my prayers to flow according to God's will (and not in fear of it), my prayers become more powerful.  

We who have been cleansed by the Blood of Christ have no need to fear His good, pleasing, and perfect will.  In any crisis we have only to find the path of His provision, and although heartaches may come, we can have peace because our Lord loves us eternally, has planned for us perfectly, and once we have accepted Him as Lord, He does not let us go.

~~~

A reminder of who we are in Christ is the best way to dispel fear, both for ourselves and for our loved ones...


Saturday, October 6, 2018

Trust His Love


I found the poem, My Plans for Thee by Freda Hanbury Allen in a daily devotional I was reading 38 years ago, while I was suffering through a difficult pregnancy and struggling to hold to the hope of Jeremiah 29:11. I copied the poem onto a piece of notebook paper, taped it to our refrigerator, and read it every day until the words were mine by memory and our healthy baby girl was ushered safely into the world.  

God often asks us to trust when we can't see the path ahead. It seems a difficult assignment until we lift our eyes to His and remember how very much He loves us. The Creator of the universe, perfect in faithfulness, power, and love, cares for us!  It is safe to believe what He says and to entrust the future into His hands.  

Here is the poem in its entirety:  

My Plans for Thee

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
  - Jeremiah 29:11

        The love of God a perfect plan
        Is planning now for thee;
        It holds "a future and a hope,"
        Which yet thou canst not see.

        Though for a season, in the dark,
        He asks thy perfect trust,
        E'en that thou in surrender "lay
        Thy treasure in the dust,"

        Yet He is planning all the while;
        Unerringly He guides
        The life of him who holds His will
        More dear than all besides.

        Trust were not trust if thou could'st see
        The ending of the way;
        Nor could'st thou learn His songs by night,
        Were life one radiant day.

        Amid the shadows here He works
        The plan designed above:
        "A future and, a hope" for thee,
        In His exceeding love.

        "A future" - of abiding fruit,
        With loving kindness crowned;
        "A hope" - which shall thine own transcend,
        As Heaven the earth around.

        Though veiled as yet, one day thine eyes
        Shall see His plan unfold,
        And clouds that darkened once the path
        Shall shine with Heaven's gold.

        Enriched to all eternity
        The steadfast soul shall stand,
        That, "unoffended," trusted Him
        Who all life's pathway planned.

- Freda Hanbury Allen.

Friday, September 28, 2018

We Are Not Finished--Yet!


 I have finally gone through the remainder of the boxes we stacked in the back of a closet when, following her Alzheimer's diagnosis, my mother moved in with us in the spring of 2004. I found several oil paintings that Mom had completed, and heartbreakingly, the beautiful unfinished painting I used as the background of the meme at the head of this post.  Mom gave up painting when my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer and she became his caregiver.  After his death, she did not pick up a paintbrush again.  

There is a pathos about this unfinished painting, but also a reminder that so long as we are bound by mortal bodies, we are going to have unfinished business. We can't reach perfection here, but we can walk the perfection path blazed for us by our Savior, confident that God finishes what He starts:  "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).

Christ is the One who has finished His task ahead of us,  that we may walk in His footsteps to a successful completion of our own race. Until then, we press on in Jesus' Name.  

-~~~-

I love this rendition of Press On by Selah.  I found this lyric video at Youtube. There is a spelling error, but hey, we aren't perfect... yet!  :-)   Blessed be the Name of Him who goes before us and makes perfection possible for us at the day of Christ Jesus.  




Sunday, September 16, 2018

Overcoming Brain Freeze


I had trouble thinking of a word this morning and fear of Alzheimer's attacked.  I then opened my devotional to find this Matthew Henry quote:
"The Lord shall prevent the evil thou fearest, and sanctify, remove, or lighten the evil thou feelest. He will preserve thy soul, that it be not defiled by sin, and disturbed by affliction; he will preserve it from perishing eternally.  He will keep thee in life and death; going out to thy labor in the morning of thy days, and coming home to thy rest when the evening of old age calls thee in.  It is a protection for life."  
Isn't that lovely?  It is from Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary, Psalm 121.

In prayer, I think the Lord provided me encouragement on how to handle those "brain freezes" that seem to happen more frequently for most of us as we age.  For me the first step is to remain calm, avoid the adrenalin surge of fear to which I'm prone, and if I'm writing and not speaking to come in the back door (I think when speaking it's best just to laugh and proceed with another workable term if possible, and please, do it quickly).

Now if you are interested in a kind of brain exercise that I believe is helpful in forming new pathways when age (or Lord help me, disease) has destroyed a connection, here is how I managed this morning.

I was making a list of things to do, and was reluctantly giving way to the nudge I feel to reactivate my Instagram account.  But the word "Instagram" would not come to my mind.  Brain freeze!  Here are the steps I followed: 

1.  Don't give way to fear, the Lord is with me (take it in stride).
2.  If speaking, find another term or laugh and change the subject--keep moving.
3.  When writing, take the time to go through these steps:
a.  Brainstorm.  Beware of similar terms that are inaccurate; they provide roadblocks that stop me cold. Ignore them.  
b.  Come in the back door, another way, through another connection.  Allow seemingly random words or thoughts to come to the fore
c.   When I reach the searched-for word by one of those random connections, find a way to remember it, forming a new connection.  
Here's how this looked for me this morning.

1.  Prayed
2.  Brainstormed:  image, snapchat, share, iMax.  I recognized snapchat and iMax as roadblocks and ignored them.
3.  Random term I allowed to come to the fore was "Kardashian."  I didn't take time to question this I just let it pop up.
4.  The correct word then popped into my head, "Instagram."
5.  I analyzed the new connection that had formed in my brain: when I read entertainment news it has often occurred to me that the Kardashians would be better off if Instagram were not so instant.  This was the connection that allowed the word "Instagram" to come to the fore.

The above process took about 30 seconds, time well spent because forming new connections in our brains as we age is important.  Those new connections can allow us to continue to function more or less normally for a longer period of time when old connections have, for some reason, stopped working for us.

Note:  whether I ought to waste my time reading entertainment news might be the subject of a future blogpost.  It pops up on internet news sources such as CNN, Fox News, etc., and a discipline we all need to cultivate in this day and age is knowing when not to click on a story!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Celebrating Your Loved One's Legacy

One of my favorites of Mom's paintings. 

After I left home, my mother took a class in oil painting and discovered an unexpected gift for painting skies and trees, crooked fenceposts and country scenes.  Her work was popular at local craft shows for a time, and she enjoyed it greatly.  Six of her paintings hang in my home, and it is not sentiment that causes me to grant them their places of honor; they are beautiful and I would love them even if the artist were not my mother.  One of the signs of Mom's approaching dementia was that she gave up this beloved hobby. 

Alzheimer's disease is categorized as a terminal illness, and I wish this designation would be changed. Many Alzheimer's patients have years of time remaining to enjoy life, and that word "terminal" can hang over the heads of caregivers, especially, as the grieving process is drawn out interminably.  I was helped by the realization that we are all terminal!  During the early years of my mom's diagnosis, especially, we proceeded with life as usual...yes, our "usual" had changed, but life does not remain stagnant no matter what one's circumstances.  Change is the norm.

Now, fifteen years into my mother's Alzheimer's diagnosis, she is 94 years old and has lived in a nursing home for two years. As has been characteristic of her disease, change has happened very slowly for her, but I am moving forward in my journey to release her into the Lord's loving arms as she draws irreversibly nearer to home.

 I've had a more difficult time with grief since Mom's nursing home placement.  You would think 15 years would've given me time to accept and adapt, but the reality of caregiving is such that we are often too busy with current loads of care to be able to process the grief that is headed our way.  I also have my doubts about the veracity of preemptory grief; I'm not certain we can do "grief work" for a sorrow that has not yet arrived.

I read an article today at caring.com that gave ideas about celebrating the legacy of a loved one who is dying.  The activities outlined in the article seem helpful to me; memorializing our loved ones with a quilt, a scrapbook, or a box of memories gives us a sense of...oh, if not closure, then the feeling that we have preserved their legacy and honored who they were.  I especially liked the idea of taking a class to gain a skill our loved one possessed, and then using their materials to create a work of our own.  This would preserve a visible "passing of the torch" and provide a continuation of a legacy that brought joy.

I don't know whether I'll ever take a class in oil painting, but my mom's legacy will continue through me in my writing and teaching, and most especially through my faith in the Lord, which grew from seeds she planted in my heart by her words and example through all my growing up years.

You can find the caring.com article of ways to preserve a loved one's legacy here:  5 Creative Ways You Can Celebrate a Dying Loved One's Legacy.  


Details from paintings by my mom. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Trust


"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen" Ephesians 3:20-21.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Comfort


Isn't it a comforting thought that the Lord is responsible for us?  Like a shepherd watches over his flock, He keeps us under His care.  What a relief!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

God Will Provide


I used to read a Russian folktale to my first grade students in which the main character says repeatedly, "God will provide."  In the face of hopeless circumstances, when there is no food on the table much less food to share, Tante Golda refuses to give up her plan to carry through with her traditional potato latke party, even though she has no potatoes at all.  If you love children's books and stories about miracles (along with a really good recipe for latkes) this book can still be found from third party sellers at Amazon, here:  Miracle of the Potato Latkes, by Malka Penn.

During this summer's drought in Kansas, I've thought about Tante Golda and her confidence that the Lord would provide for her needs.  I've clung to the certainty that God, who did not withhold His only Son as the provision for our greatest need of all, would not fail to provide for us whether fields provide grass or ponds continue to provide water for our cattle...or not.

During our 45 years on this farm there have been years when we had complete crop failures, the most notable being the year our daughter was born, when the corn crop failed so badly that we walked through a field carrying laundry baskets and picked up dried nubbins of corn from the ground to feed to the pigs we raised back then.  That was 1980.  It did not rain that summer, but in the fall we received a bountiful gift nonetheless: our sweet little girl.  And God did provide for our material needs as well.

But this year, it has finally rained. And miraculously, during the driest July in recent memory, we received perfectly timed, tiny rains that were just enough to keep our soybeans alive, if not thriving. And then, at the beginning of this week, we received a glorious, soaking rain that has caused green to return to lawns and pastures (I think of Tante Golda's one potato that somehow multiplied to many). A pond that we had feared would go dry has received enough runoff to keep us from having to haul water to cattle.

Whether through years of disease, as my mother has faced since her Alzheimer's diagnosis in 2004, or seasons of plenty, God does provide for our needs. I've found this to be so time and again, in good times and bad. Blessed be His Name! 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

His Enabling Presence


I snapped the photo above at sunset last evening.  I brightened it just a bit, but the pink rays of light were present in the original photo.  While trying to crop the picture I became frustrated that the light rays seemed to shine directly on an unattractive, grass-free patch, and there was no way to crop the rough portion away without losing the impact of the photo.

The thought came that light pouring onto an ugly part of a road is symbolic. Although I've certainly not enjoyed the grief of watching Mom fade into Alzheimer's disease, I've never been so aware of the Lord's enabling presence.  My mother often states the same sentiment; in the fourteenth year since her Alzheimer's diagnosis, she says,  "God is with me!  Jesus is right here in my heart!  I'm never alone!" Her anthem is the Gaither song Something About That Name so that she brings smiles to many faces as she is being wheeled down the hallway to meals, singing, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, there's just something about that Name!" 

Here is a youtube link to my mom's current favorite song, with an invitation to praise the Name of the One who sees us safely through every life challenge: 




Monday, August 13, 2018

Trust


God is the only one in possession of all the facts in any given situation. We can trust in His good intentions toward us and in His ability to make us a way through.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Praying for Grace to Accept Positive Change


 It has been a more than a year since my mother exhibited negative words or behaviors toward me, other than a normal, transient irritability when she is physically uncomfortable.  Gone is the focused, resentful, anger that held me in its throes during her last year at home, as her Alzheimer's progressed beyond her ability to reason logically or perceive accurately. She now views me as her advocate and defender, and this has allowed her to release her past anger toward me.  This has been a healing time, and I am grateful for it.

Interestingly, I've not had much trouble accepting our current, loving status quo.  This has to be God's grace; how sad it would be if I'd gotten stuck on our timeline at the soul-shriveling point where my mother was so angry with me that she often expressed a desire that I would suffer in some way. Somehow, I've been able to accept this change, and to relate to Mom as though she has now come to an accurate understanding and remembrance of me as her beloved, only child.  This is real; that other was just a terrible misunderstanding that came from Mom's diminished ability to draw accurate conclusions from environmental cues.

I want to encourage caregivers who are suffering verbal abuse from their care recipients; things can change. As your loved one's disease and circumstances transition to a different stage, positive changes can happen, even late in the disease process.  Your time of suffering is temporary.

And I also have a word for all of us, as we relate to loved ones whose past hurtful words and actions can't be attributed to a disease.  Even in the absence of a physical condition that gives us a reason to excuse aberrant behaviors, we all do one another wrong.  How do we forgive one another?  How do we relate to our loved ones based on current realities rather than past wrongdoings?  Because onlookers, especially children, tend to accept the current status quo and be largely unaware of past sins or grudges, we are at risk of looking like fools and bringing judgment onto our own heads if we respond to others based on past wrongs while failing to accept current behaviors that may reflect positive change.

Well-rehearsed spiritual truths come into play here:  judge not that you be not judged, forgive and you will be forgiven, keep no record of wrongs, cover over the sins of others, always hope for the best, trust, persevere...

If we trust the Lord to take care of us, we don't have to keep anger over past wrongs as a preceived defense against the same kind of hurts happening again. We don't have to judge in order to keep the other person in his or her place; that is God's job.  Forgiving past wrongs frees us to live in present peace.

Prayer:  Dear Lord, keep us from getting stuck on our timelines at a point of hurt, and grant us the freedom of forgiveness so we can move forward into the safe and peaceful times You have engineered for us.  Thank You for hearing our prayers back when we were hurting so badly.  Now hear our praises for bringing us out into an easier, blessed place.  We pray for those who are suffering, that they will call out to You and be ushered into spacious places of their own.  In Jesus' Name we pray, Amen. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Respect, Love, and Raising Kids

Our daughter and her son, age 10 (and #10!).  
My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's 14 years ago, but to this day, when she gives me a word of correction, I listen.  The Lord still uses her to speak truth to me.  She has a wonderful way of getting to the heart of a matter.

When I've gone on and on about some problem or another: "Just trust in the Lord!" she exclaims.

"Pray about everything!  Jesus is always with you!  Don't worry about anything!"

It's surprising to me how often these pithy little statements bring me back to the center of trusting the Lord. And this makes me wonder about how to establish a parent/child relationship that will lead to the lifelong respect that enables me to "listen to my mother" to this day.

This morning I was talking with my daughter about my concerns with the plethora of teen literature that inevitably begins with kids being out on their own for some reason or another.  Adults can't be trusted or are absent, so the protagonists have to rely on their own powers to succeed.  This makes for thrilling stories that are fun for a young person to read, but I worry that it feeds the feeling that after a certain age (12?  13?) the advice of parents becomes archaic and even foolish, and it is best to trust in oneself and one's friends for guidance.

Here is my counsel to my daughter for words to speak to her 10-year-old (going on 16) son:

Short version: 

Satan is going to try to discredit your parents in your eyes.  It won’t be hard to do, because like all human beings, we are imperfect and sinful.  The devil knows that we are the best you’ve got because of the deep love we have for you. No one on earth loves you as much as we do, and no one on earth prays as much for you as we do.  And so you can trust the Lord’s love and guidance for you as it flows through us.  

Additional words to speak as the child can receive them: 

The Bible says no one has ever been able to keep doing what is right, that’s why God had to send His son to take the blame for our sins.  It was God’s love that saved us from ourselves.  When, as your parent, I do something sinful or foolish--when you see I’m wrong about something--the devil will try to get you to ignore everything I say because of those things I do or say that are wrong.  He does this because he wants to destroy you.  If he can shut you off from the wisdom that flows through me as God speaks to you through me, he has a better chance of putting you on the path that will lead to your destruction. 

No one likes to be told what to do.  Discipline is uncomfortable and sometimes painful (no one likes to pick up trash from the yard on a hot day).  It is natural to resent having to do something that someone else tells you.  Satan will use this resentment to try to get you to rebel against authority God has placed over you.  It is discipline that God uses to sculpt you into the person He wants you to be.  It is discipline that enables you to lead the life that He wants you to lead, the life that will bring you great blessings of peace of heart and mind.  In God’s plan, learning to receive His discipline begins with learning to receive our parents’ guidance and discipline. 

Satan will tell you “Why can’t God just speak directly to me; why do I need to submit to the wisdom of a parent?’  Here is why. Our physical senses overrule our spiritual senses as we are growing up in Christ.  For a long, long time, we can’t trust that what we feel is true, because we can’t see spiritual truth clearly or understand God’s guidance as we will someday be able to do.  During this time of training, we learn what faith is.  Like a soldier follows his captain, like an employee follows his boss’s rules, like a child follows a parent, we have to have faith that the guidance of our parents and others God has placed in authority over us is in our best interests. 

Inside info: 

Our challenge as parents is to become spiritually mature, trusting in what we cannot see, believing what we have not experienced with physical senses, placing our hope and trust fully in the invisible God whose visible works surround us...

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen...*

When we grow in faith to the degree that we can say, ...but I trust in you, oh Lord, I say, you are my God, my times are in your hands**...even when the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vine***...then our hearts are set right.  And when our hearts are set right, the rest follows.  Until this point in our faith development we need wise counselors and guidance from those God has placed in authority over us.  And when those counselors fall away, well then... though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.  Another version says though my father and mother drop me, the Lord will pick me up. ****

Our goal as parents is to make believers of our children, and yes, that rings with dual meaning.  Discipline makes a “believer” of a child—he believes you will do what you say and he respects you for it.  Respect is synonymous with love in the child/parent relationship.  You teach the child to believe you.  You teach him to respect you. 

You teach him that discipline is for his good.  You teach him about real love and you become your own best PR person: perhaps not proclaiming “after all I’ve done for you” (not because it isn’t true but because it won’t be well-received) but “I have loved you from before you were born and have prayed for you every day of your life.  You can trust the Lord in me because He flows through this love channel that is unequaled by anyone else in your life.”

***

*Hebrews 11:1
**Psalm 31:14-15
***Habakkuk 3:17
****Psalm 27:10

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Right Decisions

Isaiah 61 promises the Lord's comfort to those who mourn, provision for those who grieve, and a heart that can praise rather than a spirit of despair.  And then, at the end of verse 3, we are promised something a little bit unexpected.  It says that we who have received all these wonderful comforts from God's hand will then be called "oaks of righteousness."  We've done nothing but to receive God's good gifts, but now we are called righteous!

As I've made difficult decisions on my mother's behalf it has comforted me to know that when I couch every decision in prayer, it isn't my own "rightness" I'm depending upon, but the Lord's. This has helped me to be a little less fearful about making mistakes.


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Seek Ye First...

My grandmother was a loving, hard-working farm wife who, in her later years, feared a diagnosis of cancer above all other prospective ailments.  Following a severe attack of diverticulitis, she relaxed in her hospital bed when she received the news that all biopsies had been negative.  She sighed deeply. "I know I'm dying," she said, "...but at least it isn't cancer."

Her loved ones chuckled gently at this, after all, if one is dying what difference is made by the name of the malady?  But, like many of us, the dreaded "C-word" had assumed monumental proportions in her mind, and her fear was such that to die of some other illness seemed a blessing by comparison (by the way, she recovered and lived another dozen years in relatively good health).

Fears such as Grandma's terror of cancer and my own deep fear of developing Alzheimer's disease are powerful.  We research ways to avoid the thing we dread.  We may enroll in exercise classes, buy brain-healthy cookbooks, and relax just a bit when we are able to follow self-imposed rules for better health. I'm reminded of my dad, who harbored a deep fear of the colon cancer that killed his own father. And so Dad underwent regular health screenings, ate a raw onion a day at the recommendation of his gastroenterologist (this is a remedy I've never heard elsewhere...) and insisted on having two salads at both the midday and evening meals: one green, and one of seasonal fruit. His efforts paid off.  He did not die of colon cancer.  Unbeknownst to him he had been exposed to asbestos in his youth, and he died of Mesothelioma, an asbestos-specific lung cancer.

I do not have a "what's the use" attitude toward efforts toward greater health.  The Bible says that physical disciplines are good, but it also says that spiritual exercise is better (1 Timothy 4:8), and that if we seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness first, then other things we desire will be given us as well: given, as gifts, not as something we are able to achieve or earn on our own (Matthew 6:33).

It is so important to focus our energy on initiatives that will reap eternal rewards. The state of our physical bodies should concern us less than the state of our hearts.  If we nurture spiritual health, focusing our minds upon God's truth as revealed in Scripture, the rest of the good gifts we desire for ourselves will follow according to His perfect will (Matthew 6:33).  As we trust in His love, we come to peace in the understanding that it is safe to put God first. In fact, our only true safety comes through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, because of the perfect love of Father God.

The world would convince us to place our efforts behind human empowerment based on human understanding. This is backed by two, difficult-to-get-around forces:  1)  Our human need to avoid suffering and death and 2) The enemy's subtle attempts to nudge us just enough off-center so that our strength is spent on goals that will not yield fruit that will last.  One of the devil's favorite strategies is to lead us down a wrong path with promises of escape from some fate we fear, and then to blindside us with some awful thing we didn't know enough to avoid. Seeking God first thwarts this strategy.  As Matthew Henry says, "The Lord shall prevent the evil thou fearest, and sanctify, remove, or lighten the evil thou feelest." 

If we can trust God enough to put Him first in everything, we have His promise that our fears will recede and our eyes will be opened to the blessings He provides.

~<>~

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust."
Psalm 91:1-2

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Crabgrass or Blessings?!

I am perfectly capable of looking past the very great blessings in this photo while focusing on the crabgrass.  Praise changes my mind and heart. 

I am ashamed of my reluctance to give the Lord the praise that is due His name.  I hate to admit that my self-talk probably runs like this:  I'm so sad about Mom, and weighed down by worries about the future, and I don't feel well, and things haven't worked out the way I thought they would,  And thus I avoid the sweetest portion of focused time with the Lord, because nothing but praise brings us more expediently into His presence. Our worship of God has nothing to do with who we are, or our circumstances; it has to do with who He is: perfect, beautiful, unchanging, faithful, and praiseworthy in all seasons of our lives.

Yesterday morning I drug my tired self over to stand in front of the picture window in Mom's apartment, the now silent space she inhabited for 12 years following her Alzheimer's diagnosis.  There is a sweet peace in those rooms, and it is a good place to read my Bible and pray. On this morning I determined I would lift my hands in praise and, thinking the green beauty of an early June morning would fuel my worship, I reached forward and pulled the window shade open.

Branches from the elm tree had blown down in the night.  The container I'd used as a water play area for my grandsons had been flipped over and lay at a haphazard angle in the unmown, patchy crabgrass.  The weeds in the ditch had become untidy and overgrown due to recent rains. As I stared at all of this a vulture flew overhead, his shadow casting a dark, foreboding path across the scene.

I burst into laughter. I'm sure this is not the response the devil might have anticipated; I laughed so hard that I had to sit down to recover. It was so awful it was funny...overkill, Satan!   And when I stood back up I burst into an enthusiastic song of praise to our Lord.

Sometimes, our circumstances don't appear praiseworthy, but this has nothing to do with whether we ought to praise God as He has asked us to do. Our God is beautiful, perfect, and always worthy of our praises. The Bible repeatedly exhorts us to praise the Name of the Lord, not only because it is good, right, and pleasing to Him, but also because it is very good for us.  Yesterday praise changed my perspective from how irritating it is to have the yard in such a mess to how grateful I am for rain and, most especially, for my precious grandsons.

Praise the Lord!


Sunday, June 3, 2018

God Is With Us in Every Present Moment


Although  I rarely attempt to make my phone photos look better than life, I do sometimes edit them in an attempt to more accurately reflect the beauty I saw in the moment I captured the scene.

Even a professional photographer would have struggled to accurately record the photo above, because scents and sounds were a part of its beauty. The vastness of the sky overhead, the waning sun's rays permeating every leaf and blade of grass, the haze that formed beams of light through my phone camera's lens: oh my it was lovely.  The photo also could not accurately show the true color of the old-fashioned roses, and I hadn't even noticed that pipe from our waterline intruding in the foreground.  And so I cropped, adjusted exposure, and applied filters, and although the edited photo still isn't nearly as beautiful as the real-life scene, it is a closer approximation.

As I was editing this photo, it came to me that it is important to allow the Lord to edit my memories of upsetting events in my past.  I've been struggling with memories of an emergency surgery I endured a few months ago.  I hate anesthesia, and the drugs I was given for pain caused hallucinations.  I do remember  I wasn't afraid during that long dark night immediately following the surgery, even though each time I closed my eyes, weird hallucinations began like a film resuming play.  I felt immobilized by the drugs and was unable to tell anyone what was going on. 

As I was praying about all this, it came to me that it isn't that the events surrounding my surgery weren’t as bad as I remember, but that I was more helped, more sustained through the ordeals, more loved than I remember.  Our memories can't be trusted because we remember facts, but the beauty of God's comforting and sustaining presence, although very real in the moment we are in, is more difficult to recall later on. This is probably because our physical senses have trouble recalling spiritual realities. Just as my phone camera doesn't pick up the full depth of beauty of the real-life scene, our memories have trouble "seeing" the very real comfort God provides through every ordeal.

As Micah Taylor's song, Never Been a Moment says, "...there's never been a moment I was not held inside Your arms, never been a moment You were not who You say You are..."

Dear Lord,  we release our memories of those hard things we've endured to You.  Help us remember with the eyes of our hearts Your love, Your sustenance, and Your strength that have seen us through every moment of our lives. 





Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Care for the Dying


I rarely link to other sites or articles. This is because, having written 5 books, I'm hypersensitive to broach of copyright issues.  My books have been pirated and offered "for free" from numerous websites, and this is upsetting.  I don't know whether someone who clicks on these sites actually receives one of my books, but I'm certain a virus or malware comes with the download.  That my books would be used as bait for people who could cause my readers harm is just...so upsetting.  The takeaway from this is that if something sounds too good to be true, don't be drawn in.

But this isn't like that.

I found a little article at caring.com today that addresses an issue so important that I want to bookmark it for myself and share it with others.

It is a brief, easy-to-remember summary of the main wishes of someone who is dying (although it omits the #1 need of all who are at death's door, which I address in the next paragraph).  It's something for me to keep in mind for when my mother's time comes, and I'll share the link with you here:  The Four Main Wishes of the Dying, by Paula Spencer Scott.  

(Our very most important need as we are dying is that we are unafraid of what happens after death.  My referring you to this article assumes that your loved one has peace in the knowledge that death takes us to be at home with Christ. For those uncertain whether their loved ones have come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, I refer you to this post: What if My Loved One is Not Saved. 

I'm praying right now for those of you who are providing care for someone diagnosed with a terminal disease.  It's a difficult journey, but I am continually reminded of the Lord's steadfast, enabling presence. "The LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything" (Deuteronomy 2:7).

God remembers our labors on behalf of our loved ones, provides for our needs, and sees us through even the most difficult of times.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Hope

In the Little House books, Pa Ingalls always says, "There is no great loss without some small gain." Through a loved one's Alzheimer's disease our gain can be an increased awareness of God's compassion, provision, and grace as He guides us safely through.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Always Present With Us

This morning I listened to two songs from an automatic shuffle of the music I have (somehow) downloaded onto my phone (anyone else have that sense of "not quite sure how it happened" regarding technology?).  The first was Beethoven's Five Secrets by The Piano Guys.  As soon as the music began the chords reverberated in my heart and as tears began to flow, I remembered why I've been on a fast from music.  It brings emotions right up to the surface, and if I am repressing grief I find myself unable to keep it contained.  Never mind that it is healthy to let those emotions surface, especially so if it is done in prayer, as a part of casting my cares on the Lord.  I'd been practicing repression of my grief over having had to put my beloved mom in a nursing home, and only now has it felt safe to let the grief surface even in prayer.

But I let the grief hitch a ride to my conscious awareness on the wings of that beautiful music,  tears poured down my face, and I felt better after the song was done.

Another song played:  You Are God Alone, by Phillips, Craig and Dean.  The lyrics touched my heart--our God is present, unchanging, and eternal--equally present in every life circumstance, good and bad.

Now.  Goose bump alert! I was singing in the Spirit along with You Are God Alone, harmonizing as I'm not able to do apart from when I'm praising God, and I got to the chorus...and recognized the same chord sequence that runs through a portion of Beethoven's Five Secrets!

The Lord used this coincidence to speak a truth to me that just blessed my heart; His song is unchanging through every circumstance of my life. He is always present, His purpose is always unfolding according to His perfect wisdom and understanding, and I can trust Him.

I've included links to the Youtube selections of the two songs that touched my heart today, and then I've also included a rough recording of my own of the little sequence that works through both melodies, hammered out on my ancient piano in my not-a-singer voice.

God is always present and is unchanging.  Lord help us to trust that the unchanging melody of Your steadfast presence is interwoven through every circumstance of our lives, even when we can't perceive it.


The Piano Guys Beethoven's Five Secrets




Phillips, Craig, and Dean You Are God Alone:



And here is the similar sequence I heard in both these selections that blessed my heart with the message that the Lord's unchanging song is with us all the days he allots for us here! 

Short Google drive audio of my recording of the similarities between both songs (you will need to click the link and then put your pointer on the play button on the screen and click to begin the recording):  Or you can click right HERE! 



Sunday, April 15, 2018

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Giving and Receiving in Relationships With Adult Children


There are truths I wish would be overtly taught during those famous premarital counseling classes that are a rite of passage when Christian couples marry:
  In marriage a new entity is formed as the two become one in God's sight. Your individual heartaches and joys now belong to one another. Your prior commitments are now shared. Your ongoing commitment to honor your parents is not displaced by your marriage, and your spouse does not replace your parents.  Ideally you will not feel jealous of your spouse's strong love and commitment to his/her parents, because you will share it and form with them a relationship of your own.  
Parents, too, need instruction. We should be taught that gaining a son or daughter-in-law is akin to adoption.  We have the template put forth by our God, who has adopted us as His own children through Christ. We are to love as we have been loved, forgive as we have been forgiven.  This template is needed on both sides during the sometimes tumultuous stresses of a wedding and the ensuing struggles of adapting to  a new status quo in our relationships.  We need to be steadfast and faithful for one another, forgiving, loving, and keeping the doors of our hearts open.

When our adult children marry and form new family units of their own, parents sometimes hold fast to a conviction that they must not cause additional burdens for their children during their difficult years of raising a family. Parents are often the ones who have a hard time receiving and are only comfortable when they are seen as the generous providers, and thus we set up a one way street of giving that becomes the accepted status quo on both sides. We pray for our kids, help them any way we can, and try our best not to add one iota of additional stress to their already stressful lives. 

Ephesians 6:2-3 refers to the commandment to honor our fathers and mothers as the first command with a blessing attached-- "that it may go well with you, and you may live long in the land." It was an enlightening thought for me that I may rob my children of blessing when I fail to allow them to honor me through their offers of needed support or even, heaven forbid, ask for help if I need it. My tendency has been to power through my challenges  without mentioning my needs to my kids simply because my motherly heart worries for them and, truthfully, because I don't want to be seen as needy or weak. But I am off-base if  I encourage my children to turn a blind eye to my suffering simply because it is mine and not someone else's. 

I am not advocating the use of one's children as emotional supports; as parents we ought to be spiritually mature enough to find our hearts' needs met in our Lord and Savior.  I'm speaking of a habitual "not wanting to cause trouble" mindset that, if they accept this status quo, could hinder the development of maturity in our children; robbing them of opportunities for growth that would enable them to someday transition into a caregiving role for an elderly parent without quite so much trauma for all concerned.

The Lord makes no allowance for how much work we have already done when he asks us to do something more; He requests our obedience, and that request is God's to make because He provides enabling strength for the tasks he assigns. God may judge us--and our children--more strictly than we judge ourselves; and he might not make allowances for the difficulties we've faced. Disobedience to the Lord's nudge to reach out, even with the validating excuse that the one who needs our aid doesn't appear to want our ministrations, is sin akin to laziness. We give up too easily because we have already done so much, but we mustn't dismiss or excuse sin because of all we have been through. We have experienced nothing that God has not allowed, and the solace and strength we have enjoyed have arrived through the Lord's faithful provision.  

I need to recognize that God grants my kids enabling strength for the life-challenges they face.  Parents of adult children who establish the status quo that they must always be the ones who are generous while simultaneously refusing any reciprocity may hinder God's work in their children's  lives.