"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD...He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." Micah 4:2

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Most Valued Gift

Recently, I was asked what was my most valuable gift and without hesitation, here was my response:

I think my favorite thing to give away is my TIME. I absolutely love to hang out, comfort, encourage, or just be a companion for a fun hour or two. One of my favorite activities is visiting those who are elderly and shut-in. I learn so much history from their stories, their memories and adventures of wonderful past-times! I enjoy reading the Bible to them and taking away some of their loneliness. When we were young and dating, my husband and I used to visit the elderly people in our small town on Sunday afternoons. These were fun times, always rewarded with a mint, a kiss and a prayer over our lives. I give my time to bless others, but always walk away feeling I was the one enriched.   

Giving my time is something I will never regret and hope to encourage others to give while there is time. If you take a minute to read my other BLOG - you'll find that my Dad just went HOME to be with His Lord and I'm dealing with the transition of an empty nest.
Dad lived with me for his last 6 years. It was hard to see my strong vigorous Pastor-Dad become feeble both physically and spiritually. You see, as his days became longer bedridden hours, I became his mainstay for encouragement. I coached prayer for others in their needs when discouragement, pain, and weariness could have overcome him. Re-focusing his mind on how his Lord could meet their needs, filled him with gratefulness for the blessed life & health he did enjoy. 
We also rejoiced together in all the people he helped along his path of walking with the Lord. 

There were many times I begged people in his past to WRITE cards to him because his loneliness overwhelmed me. Neglect of our elderly is to our loss for they are full of stories of God's faithfulness and goodness. I think seeing Dad alone with no one visiting, nudged me to look for others who are possibly needing encouragement. While visiting, I used what had helped my Dad's spirit be lifted up and rejoicing. 

I read the Bible to him, encouraging him in passages of verses of hope and comfort, yet assuring him of God's constant presence and blessings. 
I also spend time in the Bible every day for my own spiritual well-being. Sharing what I just read that morning gave me fresh and new things that were relevant, with the same response of "Great is thy Faithfulness" found in Lam 3:22-26. I shared what it meant to me to read it that morning, opening the conversation with "I'm spilling over with what God said in his Word this morning..." This often showed the possibilities for the listener to hear how relevant God's mercies are for them. 
I listened to Dad's concerns, asking God to remind me of passages that would comfort him, and now, I carry a small Bible so I can turn to passages when verses come to my mind. More than anything, desiring to encourage, I look for passages of promises. 

My favorite passage is 2 Peter 1:3-11, "His divine power has given me everything I need for life and godliness through my knowledge of him...through these (his glory & goodness), he has given us his very great and precious promises so that through these promises, I participate in the divine nature"! This is a wow to me!

So, I use this "wow" as a spring board to ask what they know about God (HIS glory & goodness) and how they are participating in God's Divine Nature. This became a daily game with Dad. Eventually, I lead the conversation into the following verses, the ADDING effort. I ask what they are adding to their faith this week. We talk about how useful these are in keeping us from "nearsightedness (thinking only of self), blind (not seeing needs around us), or forgetting we have been cleansed from past sins" (causing a feeling of being lost again). 
THIS passage is awesome for many on-going conversations because we are always to be adding to our faith. We can even leave each other with "assignments of addition" for future checks on spiritual growth. Because we are God's ambassador wherever we are, we can always ask each other: "Where were you able to show a character trait of this list, (ie: God's 'goodness) this week? 

When Dad was hospitalized, I realized he was encouraged when I could tell him how God was using visiting him as opportunities for me to share God's message with others! While Dad weakly lay in the Hospice House, I had awesome conversations with staff while I sat with him! Dad's gentle spirit and love of people opened doors of God's Word everywhere for me!

Being convinced that people have value makes GIVING MY TIME valuable. 
This is our first time in 18 years without elderly care in our home (MIL first for 12 yrs) Visiting others now will be a big step for me because they will remind me of Dad's needed times of encouragement. Writing this has allowed me to joyfully review past experiences and write out a plan, giving new courage to go on alone without my Dad, ministering to those who need TIME. 

May God bless your giving of time!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A sole lesson...

Favored Sandals
I slipped on my favorite sandals, and once again, smiled at the comfort and ease of the beautiful upper leather snuggling my feet. I loved their soft color for summer, and their loose swede insole cooled my feet, while the buckled tightness kept my feet from slipping. Another warm season happily brought out my stored sandals and I looked forward to their comfort for yet, another summer. These trusted sandals had cushioned my feet while trekking the paths of a tropical island, endured hard concrete of sidewalks and malls in several countries, and even walked on carpeted rugs of church and home. They had served me well, and so, this morning, I hurriedly buckled them on and took off.
My first errand took me to a large warehouse for garden equipment. I had not walked far when I noticed my left foot was becoming more loose. I bent to tighten the buckle, and continued walking down an aisle. I stumbled. Mental disgust scolded my feet to walk right, and I entered another aisle. As I turned a corner, I tripped, looked down, and finally, my sandals had my full attention. I picked up my foot, looked at the underside, and found the sole completely split from side to side!
I needed a fast escape route to my car!
I hobbled out of the store,  slowly and methodically placing my foot, hoping I wouldn't totally lose my balance, trip completely, or drag the sole along the concrete with a bare foot. Calculating the number of steps to the safety of my car, my heart raced, hoping my crumbled sandal would carry me.
As I neared the car, I felt the right sole unprotected on the hard pavement, and the left held on with a few loose threads! Regrets and wishes forced each step as I reprimanded my carelessness for not checking the condition of my soles before I had ventured out into the market place!

Slumping into my seat, I mumbled, "Wow, one sole broken and another barely hanging on!" Unfinished errands, and a wasted drive home emphasized my carelessness and I pondered this "sole lesson".

My soles take me every place, yet I gave very little thought to the damage of useful wear and tear, years of abusive walking, and even storage left behind.
It's the same for my inner soul. How often do I examine the condition of my soul before venturing into the marketplace? Am I worn out by the useful wear and tear of daily errands and demands? What about where I walk, and even storage time my soul has endured? I considered other souls that cross my path. Were some of them cracked, tired with use and dry from the lack of moisture? Maybe others around me felt completely broken, in need of deep repair, or barren, hanging on with just a few threads.

My favorite sandals are ruined, but this doesn't have to be the case with our spiritual inner souls. We've been given God's Word to check daily the condition of the inner soul before we take a step into the day.

We face many situations in a day and these can break our souls, wear our souls out, and even detach it from the very source and fiber of the inner life. We're foolish to think we can just buckle on the old without checking the conditions and think our souls are good for the miles of the day.
Our souls need renewal. The Bible teaches the source of renewal, restoration, and repair is all found by time spent in Scriptures. Our souls find refreshment at the feet of Jesus as He only can repair our souls with His Word.

Finding daily repair in nourishment, direction, and fulfillment for the inner man, the old prophet exclaimed, "Thy WORDS were found and I did eat them. They were the joy and rejoicing of my soul for I am called by thy name, O Lord of Host". Jeremiah 15:16
And the psalmist recognized Scripture for his path in his conclusion, "I will walk in freedom for I have devoted myself to your commandments." and also, "Your WORD is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path." Psalm 119:45, 105 NLT 

Knowing joy, rejoicing, guidance and direction are found in the Presence of the Almighty giving your soul freedom to walk today's path unhindered.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

A Peaceful Challenge of Heart...

This morning, I enjoyed the leisure of no calls, no house chores, and no projects demanding completion.  I'm finding it daunting to be away from home on holiday, yet, I'm so enjoying being with family! With no demands, I wandered into the backyard and found an enticing hammock calling my name. Swinging gently in the breeze, gazing toward the tops of the trees, and watching the dancing clouds lulled me into a much-needed nap. What a wonderful luxury I enjoyed as I relaxed my weary spirit!
It was just a swift 15 minutes, but it was enough to revive me.

The rest of the hour lingered, so I opened my Bible to 1 Peter 4.  An enjoyable letter because we know so much about the author's encounter with Jesus and his progress in accepting Truth. Peter was a strong-willed disciple, always jumping into the forefront with opinion and self-protection. Through the years of ministry, he must have learned much in allowing the Spirit of truth to penetrate his actions. He definitely had the experience to describe his precious love for his friend and Savior, Jesus Christ.
As I continued to read, his desire to pass on his knowledge leaped off the page and challenged my own participation in the Savior's physical suffering.
Remaining peaceful, I began to meditate on the passage, and several thoughts became evidently applied in my own heart's desire.

First of all, in verse 1-2, I found that biblical truth burrowed into our spirit causes deep change when we actually grasp the physical suffering of Christ on our behalf. The painful truth that another suffered innocently for our own horrible sin of self righteousness takes root and forces perspective and actions to follow in strength. A consuming desire to have the same attitude becomes a must, a driving force, a decision maker, and causes absolute evaluation of changes that must take place in order to attain this desire.

Peter writes that following this understanding, there must be an attitude adjustment. Realizing that Christ's physical suffering was brought on because he purposed to bring us to God, makes one consider that to have the same purpose may cause personal suffering. Although, we are commanded to participate in bringing others to know God, Peter writes to consider the cost this attitude may bring and understand it will be a cross of suffering. If we step out into the world, carrying the same purpose of bringing others to the Savior, we must be prepared for connected suffering. Trying to accept this theory, we hesitate the desire to grasp Christ's attitude, considering the real worth in the weight of His purpose.

A side benefit comes when we accept the willingness to suffer for Christ's cause.  We start to grasp how separated man is from God, that sin keeps man from God, and quickly shy away from any pull sin might have on our lives.
Gratitude shows us that his purpose is a high calling, and we desire to claim Christ's attitude as our own, but slowly recognize that every high calling has a cross of suffering. The weight of this cross takes many forms of hurt as it challenges our physical, emotional, spiritual or mental comfort.

Peter warns that one of the most frequent sufferings attacks many in their new found love in Christ. They run to old friends, thinking they, too, will be glad to be brought to God, but confront disappointing responses in a pulling away and even rejection. Their change in desires, the aspiration to be like the Christ, the  rejection of old ways and habits, and even the loss of defensiveness is not understood.
Old friends reject these changes in the new lifestyle for two reasons.
           First, because this new attitude is seen as religious fanaticism. It does not fit their religious belief system, so they reject it as abnormal behavior, call it 'extremes', and consequently, reject truth.
           Second, because their conscience sides with the truth shared and is against their own lifestyles, making them uneasy. Time spent together is uncomfortable, then, unbearable; so avoidance becomes more frequent, finally ending friendship. Invitations and phone calls cease. Rejection from friends show their real rejection is toward the God who calls through the cross. With a broken heart, we mourn the consequence of their choice.
We realize Christ's purpose to bring others to God is a heavy cross.

As the peaceful time of meditation ended, I was left with the challenging question.
               Is your choice to be like Him worth the weight of this cross?
                                          Peter says, "Absolutely."

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Battle Rages On

My Dad
In the home of the elderly patient, time and schedules begin not to matter. There comes a time when appointments, chores, and lists are not the concern of daily schedule. A simpler routine sets in, closely resembling the beginnings of life. Someone else prepares food and meets daily demands while a dreamy sleep of yesteryear overtakes the patient. Awakening only for meals, a desire to snooze in a nearby chair is preferable, and even from that chair, longings gaze toward the bed whether the sun shines or stars twinkle in the sky. 
Without a purposeful study beyond the window, there is no difference of night and day, and the calendar moves on alone as the elderly one stares into the memories of the past.
The life of the care giver tries to slow down also. Friends and activities are put aside, basically  out of necessity, as concerns become more intense and necessary. Thoughts envelope the welfare of the patient, the care needed, and desperate prayers drown in pleas for the strength required to meet the eminent emergencies of each moment. 

Projects untouched 
This is my life with Dad. Often, I make plans for the little tasks I want to accomplish each day, yet find myself just sitting nearby, rubbing his hand as I watch his face. When I reflect on the day, I really don't know what filled the vaporized time from sunrise to sunset. Each morning, I make my lists for getting chores accomplish, but quickly give in to the desire to sit nearby, leaving projects untouched and waiting my attention. I am aware of the ticking of the clock, but the movement of its hands only remind me that the near presence of death pauses my activities and consider life.

There is no real explanation for what happens, but one's experience of sitting in a hospital room, anxiously watching a loved patient sleep, knows the feeling that describes the busy world stopping or maybe, at least, the sense that it moves on without you. 
There is real comfort in just sitting in the quiet room. The portal of death is honored as it causes all to patiently wait for the process of death to do its damage before real life triumphs. 
One must fight the settling in of discouragement by claiming the promises of God for life. A seed must die before life is produced. So it is with our own condition. Jesus died to give us life. So, in the process of this battle with death, it is pertinent to obey God's command:
"Stand still and Know that I am God".

Battle between life and death
Because of God's faithfulness, we have the potential to see life and beauty, even when the presence of Death becomes our backdrop. Gradually, we can accustom our eyes to focus on beauty, observing signs of new life, and experiencing peace in the darkest moments as we learn to stand still and know God is still Sovereign. 

Recently, I saw this conflict of life against death depicted most vividly in the quiet peace found in the VA cemetery. We visited my mom's grave as Spring was coming to life. The living scenes blossomed in gorgeous beauty among the final markings of death. Focus on nature portrayed God's intent for Creation, although, the backdrop displayed a subtle reminder of destruction promised by our original disobedience to God's Word. 
Yes, God remains faithful to His Word. Death brought into the world by man's choice can be pushed to the background by God's Life given to us through the death of His Son.
May you see beauty precede your darker backgrounds showing your knowledge of God's faithfulness. May you rejoice because Christ arose victorious over the grave!

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Too Heavy

A sojourner meandered along the well-worn trail in deep thought, yet occasionally, he took moments to enjoy the surrounding beauty and the streaming rays of sun bouncing off the overhanging jagged rocks. He knew his Creator walked alongside, and offered praise for the delicate handiwork in little things he noticed lining the path. Throughout this trek, he had passed several other journeymen, lingering with them as he heard their responses concerning their welfare.

Now, he noticed a young man carrying a heavy burden, climbing the slope before them. He increased his pace in hopes to join him, and even hoped to relieve some of the burden from the hiker. As he drew near, he realized that the burden was a crippled young boy who clung tightly to his carrier's neck. The young man struggled beneath the weight, shifting it from side to side as he maneuvered the rock-laden path.
His offer of help met with a smile, but was declined because the little guy clung tighter at the sight of the stranger.  
"Isn't he heavy?" the sojourner asked the young man.
"Oh, no!" he exclaimed! "He's not HEAVY, he's my brother!"

I may not remember all the details of this short story, yet the response of the young man often comes to my mind in my present circumstances. I have the privilege of carrying my Dad added to my own personal journey  I realize many times that the care of my elderly Dad is often viewed by others as a heavy burden, and I admit, there are many days when my steps stagger beneath the weight. I often find not only my legs tired, but my arms sore by the many lifting tasks, and my back a little bent under the weight I must shift from side to side. In quiet moments as I consider all that transpired in the previous hours, my heart still rejoices at the gift God has given to me.
The task of my Dad's care is a joy for I have learned much.

My Dad's faith in the unseen God remains strong, yet the darkness of the valley of death overwhelms even this strength in the hours of pain. His spirit fights back when his physical mind wanders in confused pain and weariness. Words of hope and blessing in the Savior's Presence place a weak smile on the wrinkled face and his eyes still sparkle with testimony of God's faithfulness. Without a doubt in these last days, my Dad knows and often quotes from the ancient Job, "I know my Redeemer lives and on that day, shall STAND..."
What a glorious hope our Savior gave those who believe in Him! No matter how dark the valley, how rugged the path, how heavy the burden, the vision of the SON walking with us brings back our joy!

So, as I walk along this path with a true soldier of the cross trusting me to carry him over the rough spots, softening the blows of pain in the darkest of hours, refreshing with Scripture his weary soul and encouraging another step from arthritic limbs, I must respond with a weary smile - and often through tears...
"He's not heavy! He's my Dad!"

Thank you for your prayers and notes of encouragement.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Valley of the Shadow of Death

This challenge to climb to a higher calling "in Christ Jesus" sounds exhilarating and exciting, but where there are mountains, there are also deep valleys the called pilgrim must trek. Some of these are dark, tangled full of shadows, and the unknown swallows each step. There are times when climbing higher in full trust of the Shepherd is beyond my wildest dreams, but this week, the valley loomed before me, with dark shadows and foreboding thoughts.
"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..."
These words haunt every corner of my house. Every waking moment is focused on the welfare of my elderly Dad. Every choice is made considering his care. Constantly, I check his blood pressure, oxygen, heart rate, and even watch anxiously as his ankles swell with fluid retention. In quiet moments, I gaze on his sleeping face, sketched with pain and age. 
Even as I type, I'm sitting in the dark at his bedside. He sleeps now, just a few passing hours since we  had cried together at his loss and confusion. A simple TIA (mini stroke), leaving his right arm lying limp at his side, scared us with the reality of the shadow lurking around us.
Not wanting to believe the weakness of his arm, he tried to stand and make his usual trek to the bathroom, but slumped backwards with the realization that his right leg would not hold him, nor his hand hold the handle of his walker.
Fear wanted to swallow our courage

Now, 36 hours have passed in the valley that defines our lives, but we are progressing toward the Kingdom. I became my dad's right side, and throughout our second day and night, we gingerly took each step until he gained his own ability to walk. First, it was just the struggle to the edge of the bed to dangle his feet, then, to stand, and finally, hours later, to a triumphant limp behind his walker into the bathroom in his own strength. I am so proud of him.
This valley has been long and full of the unknown. Each hesitating step causes our heart to quake and call out to our Shepherd for strength and guidance.
We cling in faith to God's promised Presence, and claim his Word as reality, and although each step is full of shadows with moments full with fears, we know His Presence.
"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..." 
His breathing is hard, panting, as his lungs compensate the weary heart. He sleeps.
What a blessing sleep is!
"I will fear NO EVIL..." 
We may fear the unknown, our weakness, and our inadequacies, but we do not fear evil. There is no evil in the arms of Jesus. Dad continues into this valley of the shadow of death, but, even now, Dad peacefully sleeps because he knows the Shepherd's promise is secure.
The Shepherd promised His Presence...and Dad knows the Shepherd's words are trustworthy.
"For thou are with me."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Gearing Up Again!  
Because hopes for group companionship in posting never happened, this blog became silent. I enjoyed being the classroom facilitator as I taught the intellectual techniques for a spiritual climb, but looking back, I cannot accurately report on continual use of the supplied equipment nor the retention of lessons learned from the instructional manual.

Steadily, our studies covered seven summits in the time allotted. but for me, without input and feedback, there were many hours where it seemed I was climbing alone.  Finally, I observed classmates racing off to other interests and books, scarcely remembering the manual in their hurry.
On my own once again, I decided to continue the climb and discover the mountain range, and enjoyed many hours as breaking light touched my horizon.

Today, I was inspired by some phenomenal mountain photos by Jay Patel, which I enjoyed through my Google+ account. They reminded me of the mountains and valleys of my spiritual walk with my LORD Jesus Christ, the Creator of all nature's beauty. I quickly contacted the photographer to ask permission to portray them in describing my journey, and hopefully encourage you to go to his site to view more.
(Please click on the link below the photos and check them out for yourself!) 
Needless to say, I began writing again and hope you enjoy my thoughts!

For the past seven years, the journey upward caused many scraps and bruises, hindrances of stumbling blocks, and even some slippery pits leaving shadows of unbelief. There were times when surprise overtook my progress as other trekkers made false paths or gave wrong directions. Entertaining signs hiding slippery slopes and jagged cliffs remain from their cutting carelessness. As I continued my endeavor, I tried to help many lost, weary, and crippled travelers along the way, but embedded deceit made that particular climb almost too dangerous, so my Guide led to other helpers along the path.

There were times when the divisive winds and eventful storms surprised my fortitude, shattered my resolve, and caused me to drag in sheer exhaustion. On occasion, my Guide carried me with comforting words from His manual, requesting me to rest in the comfort of His love. Through these times, I've learned the warmth of His Presence, the surrender of fellowship from his sacrificial trek, and the endearing encouragement to keep my eyes focused on the horizon.
In addition to my Guide's companionship, it has also been exhilarating to meet fellow trekkers, and receive their helpful advice and tools, accompanied by their encouragement to continue climbing. Gifted individually, they became part of my life through printed conversations. I absorbed their shared testimonies of learned lessons in their personal climb, and try to heed the warnings they found along the path. Their diligence to keep godly priorities, follow their Guide closely, and make little habits and training vital in their daily routines challenged me. Their meek spirit boasted of faithfulness and their written goals continue to encourage younger climbers to stay on the path, reach upward and forever step heavenward.