Sunday, December 29, 2013

Making a List, Checking Myself

I made a list today . . . 

a Sandra-type To Do List.

I'm thinking that may mean my brain is beginning to work again after four months of battering.

That's probably a good thing since there's still so much in front of us to walk through, sort out, submit to, learn from, and basically survive.

As I re-read that sentence I realize there's a problem with the last word. Survive is an honest word at this point in my emotions, but God has so much more planned for those He calls His own, for me.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  John 8:36

The Father's plan is for the salvation He offers through Christ to bring freedom to those imprisoned by sin. The days ahead of me are for me to be FREE.

And Christ tells us more about His rescue mission.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  John 10:10  ESV

Jesus the Christ intends for my life to be not only free from the oppressive power of sin. The Savior brings more to those who trust in His work and words, the opportunity for His sheep, for me, to live life ABUNDANTLY. 

In this last little while I have to admit that whenever I used the word abundant it was to describe all the woes and trials in my life. Something happens to the human perspective when we find ourselves under the discipling [sic] hand of our sovereign and all-sufficient God. 

My experience is that when I feel like I'm battling from morning 'til night the troubles somehow takeover the entire view finder of my vision. The only things that come into focus are all those that can and do go wrong, the struggles - even potential and imagined struggles. 

The really dangerous aspect of that process happens when the difficulties continue over a long period of time. The view finder seems to lose its ability to catch the image of anything other than the hard times. Negativity somehow takes over the entire screen and a viewing habit develops.

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to break a habit? And I find this one is particularly difficult for a couple of reasons.

1) It's easy to find something that has or could or will go wrong because we live in a fallen world. That's the nature of it. Perfection exists only with God. 

2) It's easier to follow a familiar pattern than to strike out in a new direction. Feet and minds find it comfortable to walk along a well-worn path.

Speaking hypothetically of course, I would suggest that it takes super-human (divine, actually) strength to put such a negative habit to death. That's why sometimes we don't have victory in the midst of the effort. 

If I ever happened to find myself facing such a dilemma, I think I would have to force myself to stop in my thought tracks, turn to God, and plead for the Spirit's intervention. 

Then, if I ever did find myself at such a crossroad, I might have to consider the suggestion of a friend and audaciously challenge the criteria of my view finder and the way I choose to respond to what appears.

So . . . just in case I might possibly have fallen into such a nasty habit recently, I've decided it might be worth it to put a fresh set of parameters in place. I'm calling it the Blessing List of 2014

I'm going to begin focusing my mind and heart and soul and spirit on the ways that God blesses me every moment of every day. Thankfully His Word lets me know I won't have any trouble at all collecting items to fill in my list.

I will bless them [my flock, v. 21] and the places surrounding my hill. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.  
Ezekiel 34:26  NIV'84

These crazy people will appear at the top of my Blessing List.

What would appear on your list?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas is a Rice Cooker

Christmas means different things to different people. Christmas has meant different things to me at different points in my life.

  • a special visit from my grandparents on the night before Christmas
  • a vacation from the demands of my school classroom
  • a time to find out if I got what I put on my Christmas list
  • a deadline for buying, wrapping and delivering a lot of gifts

It wasn't until I was grown and married that I came to understand the biblical message of Christmas - that the Son of God left His throne in glory to become the promised Messiah, Jesus the Christ, the spotless sacrifice and only possible atonement for the sins of the world and me in particular. 

Yesterday when we opened the Amazon box that arrived on the doorstep I was overwhelmed all over again at God's plan to glorify Himself, especially during this time of remembering Messiah's first appearing. 

We found a super-dee-duper electronic rice cooker inside the box. We wondered who would send us a rice cooker as we hunted for the paperwork. It's an answer that spans nearly 30 years.

A student God sent to us, a young pastoral family in a small church, in the 1980s hailed from Malaysia. No need to tell you that he ate a lot of rice. When it was time for him to return home he offered us the rice cooker he'd brought with him and used throughout his college career. We received his gift as a reminder of the precious friendship God had built between us.

As a young pastor's wife I welcomed the thoughtful present for more than just the memories. I never seemed to be able to time my rice with the rest of the meal. Thankfully for more than 25 years that thoughtful memento has done its job. Whenever rice was part of the menu it went to our table properly cooked at just the right moment. 

This dear Brother has become a well-known musician and successful business man. This Christmas he's away from his family because he's on a job in China. Yet in the midst of work and missing his loved ones, evidently he decided that it was time for our rice cooking process to be upgraded. 

[[Thank you, Mac. We are indeed very blessed by your kindness.]]

Yes, Christmas is a time to celebrate the arrival of the Light into this dark world. The Son came to ransom His people from the divine consequences of sin, the wrath of the Father. There's more to tell. The Messiah also came to serve.

... just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  Matthew 20:28  NIV'84

And God's Holy Word tells us we are to follow Christ's example of obedient service whether the Spirit calls us to reach across the street or around the globe. As we served God by caring for Mac so long ago, Mac is serving God by caring for us.

May the ongoing message of the Nativity be alive in you from salvation to service. Amen

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
     did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
     taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself
     and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!
Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place
     and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
     in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
     to the glory of God the Father.     Philippians 2:5-11  NIV'84

Monday, December 16, 2013

Holes, Nests, and Mangers

We've been on the road since 4 November.  

That will be seven weeks tomorrow

and there's no ending date in sight.

I have to admit it's a bit draining to be living out of a suitcase as we maneuver through daily life along with making our way to medical and other types of appointments. Then there's church activities, a family birthday, Thanksgiving, a ballet performance, Advent blessings, Bible studies, prayer meetings, shopping, another family birthday, a trip to Maine, and a list of other responsibilities too long to mention. It's a bit stretching.

I don't mean to complain. I'm just sharing some observations I've been making. 

Well, okay, there have been days when my grumbling has threatened to become audible. On one of them recently when I was getting ready to call a pity party the following verse came up in a Bible study.

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 
Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”  Luke 9:57

Hallelujah for the Scripture that reminds me that Jesus was "tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin." Hebrews 4:15 

My loving Savior knows what it's like to 'live out of a suitcase' with many daily and additional activities and responsibilities to pursue. As a matter of fact, Jesus the Christ was born into a place that was only temporary, a stable not even set for human habitation. Once again the message that I am not alone penetrates my confused mind and lonely heart.  Deuteronomy 31:6

We moved in with our children and grandchildren a week ago and the blessings far outweigh the effort of combining two families and three generations under one roof. 

We continue to look to the Father for His plan and provision as Curt builds up his strength to undergo a nuclear stress test in mid-January. 

We have invitations to stay with friends in Massachusetts and in the home of a believing family in a nearby city. It appears we'll be moving from place to place for the foreseeable future. 

I confess this type of roving existence is not my first choice.  While I enjoy travel I also appreciate having a home base where I can lie down in my own bed and serve those the Lord brings to us there. 

How thankful I am for the Word of God. Its Truth reminds me that the Father has my best interests at heart which impacts His wisdom as He orders my life, every single detail of it.

From one man he [God] made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.  Acts 17:26-27

Please pray with me that the LORD will make His will known to me in these nomadic days. Surely He has deep messages for me.

What is the LORD using to cause you to reach out and find Him?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Here and There

It's unsettling.

I don't care what anybody says.

I don't even care if they think I'm just plain old.

There's a whole lot of stuff 
to get used to 
around here

which feels really odd since this is the land where I was born.

I know that part of the adjustment I'm having to make has to do with living in a different location. Now we need a car so I have to remember to check the gas gauge when we're out driving around.

LORD, thank you for having the little red light come on that one time.

Of course putting gas in the tank means another whole round of adjustments. Where can we get the best price? What is the best price right now? Oh, well, we need fuel right away. We better just buy it here.

Since our budget is increasingly being pushed beyond it's limit I spend a fair amount of time trying to coordinate trips to the store with dropping someone off or picking someone up from an activity. Our daughter, The Mom, has every errand combined with at least three other stops on a trip so I have no hope of competing with her.

I'm sure it's all a cultural thing. It seems this type of running here and there for one thing and another has become part of the warp and woof of life in the USA. 

I seem to spend so much energy organizing my days as efficiently as possible that I have very little spark left keep up with things when we get back to the house. Timing is a big part of that process. 

You see, sometimes I forget to buy (or discover I need) an ingredient for a recipe. When that happens I can't simply ask Curt to go downstairs and pick it up at the shop in our building - or walk to one of several shops in our neighborhood. That means I have to concentrate when I shop to make sure I'm buying everything I think I'll need for at least the next seven days. 

I confess I never realized how much the setting and general tone of the world around me affects my days. I was pretty good at it all myself when we lived here and I'm making progress in adapting. It's just that I was living very differently in Prague and now I'm not there.

I have to say though that there's at least one thing with which I'm not sure I can or want to become comfortable - speakers.

Speakers seem to be everywhere, in the doctor/dentist's office, the grocery store aisle, various shops, airports, malls, and now even at gas pumps.

Maybe that's old news to you, but when we stop to get gas there are now announcements being made while we sit or stand there. It feels INVASIVE.

The first time I realized what was happening to me was when an image popped into my head from a trip we made to Lithuania. On a day off we visited a Communist museum. It was a remake of an interment camp complete with buildings, fences, uniforms, propaganda materials, and so forth. At one point we were walking around the property, our eyes enjoyed the natural scenery but our ears were bombarded with messages in Russian. 

Speakers posted all around the area blared out pro-communist rhetoric. I couldn't understand a single word, but the overbearing fervor of the tone was quite disconcerting. We couldn't chat with our friends. I could barely hear myself think. 

It was odd and upsetting, to say the least, to be 'transported' from an American gas station in the early 21st century back to a Russian indoctrination center in the mid-20th century.

I felt an actual chill.

I decided then and there that I will not be adjusting to every aspect of the cultural context in which I find myself these days. Instead I will continue to read and meditate on God's Word, pursue a life of prayer and obedience, and join with the saints in holy fellowship.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will."  Romans 12:1,2

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Finding My Way.

What's going on in my life?

What does Scripture have to say about it?

Two questions with blog-type answers to share.

The last week was full of ups and downs.

pretty typical

But the ups were pretty high and the downs were pretty low

which brings back the roller coaster feelings.

God granted us a visit with dear friends we haven't seen in a long time.

We met mid-week for prayer with the local body, and worshipped our gracious God together on the Sabbath with our grandchildren (and their parents).  ;-)

We're looking ahead to an appointment my Honey has today with his gastroenterologist. We expect to hear good news in a more complete report of his US tests. We plan to ask lots of questions and receive loads of new and helpful information.

We finally got paperwork in place which ought to allow us to move forward with actually making plans for my Honey's cardiac care. The appointment to begin that process is set for tomorrow, 10 December. 

My Honey is feeling "100% stronger than when we arrived in the USA".

I continue to adjust to this culture - almost ran out of gas when we were out doing errands one day.

I need to move forward with another treatment plan to address the ongoing pain I'm experiencing in my lower back.

We're still struggling to get insurance coverage on the Loon Pond house.

We'll be leaving the home of our kind hosts and moving in with the Baggs five-some, humbled by their willingness and eager to fit into their routine.

There's a winter storm descending with snow and freezing rain that could easily disrupt the medical plans we praised above.

Just writing out these few details has me back in the vise-like grip I was sensing on Friday.

That's when God stepped in and caused the wild thoughts in my brain to gel. 

What I've been thinking when I get all tied up and then pause a moment to relax in the bondage I feel is that I canNOT sort out every detail. The task is not only overwhelming, but it's downright impossible for me. 

All I need to do is tend to them with my simple human resources. 

I recognize that I canNOT handle and evaluate and figure out every single aspect of our lives to determine where we're going nor what we'll do nor make the next thing happen nor tie everything up all nice and neat with a beautiful bow on top. 

All I need to do is be intentional about my next step.

As I settled a bit further into the constricting circumstances I realized I am NOT responsible to try to unravel the mystery of what Jesus would do. I only need to discover what God has for me.

As a matter of fact, I'm thinking of making a great big sign that says that.

What does God have for me?

Thankfully that assignment is not overpowering . . . mainly because it's not a solo mission.

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; 
I will counsel you and watch over you."  Psalm 32:8 NIV'84

"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'"  Isaiah 30:21 NIV'84

In this Advent season I pray the Father blesses you and your household, your relationships and your local body for your joy and His glory. Amen

Monday, December 2, 2013

Holidays OR Christmas?

I'm pretty happy.

I think I've found the solution to the debate about whether to say "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas" as we move toward December 25. 

The time leading up to the celebration of the Nativity, Christ's birth, which includes the four preceding Sundays, is actually called Advent. Therefore the most accurate greeting to offer during this season is "Blessed Advent". 

I came to this conclusion as the LORD has been drawing me into pondering the idea of waiting. The circumstances of my life certainly contribute to that process. We've been in the USA for a month with no definitive progress in having my Honey receive the cardiac care he needs. We're looking to the Father in expectation as we do our best to sort out way-too-many details.

I'm beginning to compare my meager efforts in the light of God's power and purpose with the efforts of the Old Testament believers. They lived under God's unfolding plan of redemption, but all they saw were foreshadowings. How did they manage to remain faithful day after day as they waited across generations for the promised Messiah?

I want to understand the ability of my forbears in the faith to toil in hope for literally hundreds of years of famines and feasts. They had to come and go, build houses, prepare meals, birth babies, mend clothes, welcome visitors, raise animals - all the normal activities of life under the Father's hand.

At the same time these diligent ancestors appear in my mind's eye, leaning forward toward heaven in fervent prayer. Their hands are clasped and raised, pleading for the expected Emmanuel to come and ransom His people from their mournful captivity in sin.

And so I want to be in my inner man.

I want to come and go, make a home, grocery shop, serve meals, do laundry, nurture grandchildren, weed gardens, encourage families - all the normal activities of life under the Father's hand. 

At the same time I want to be leaning forward toward heaven in fervent prayer. I want to keep my hands virtually clasped and raised, pleading for Christ to return and gather up the captives He has freed from sin.

Dear Father, please cause me to faithful in the mundane and the challenging. Lead me to persevere in duty and prayer for the sake of your Holy Name. 

"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."  Ephesians 6:13

Hint: Enrich you Advent season with daily readings over at Lifework Forum

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Here but Not Here

The LORD knows what He's doing. I certainly do not.

Born and raised in New England,

lived by far the majority of my 66 years within the borders of the United States of America,

and yet somehow I feel as if New Hampshire is a foreign land. 

Yes, yes, I know that I've lived a long time, 

the pace of change in the world seems to be increasing,

and I've been based in Europe the last two years.

But those reasons don't seem adequate when I interface with the culture.

I'm overwhelmed by the kinds of products available in stores that I've never seen before.

I struggle with the decision making I have to do at the grocery store - sheer numbers, ingredients, price, etc.

I have to ask how to do basic activities - fee, best locations, etc. for using an ATM card.

I sense an even more serious threat against the family in almost every cultural aspect.

Neither Curt nor I seem to be able to sort our way through the medical world maze.

We have evidently become triangles caught between two nations of squares and circles.

What joy there is in being with the family God has ordained for us. There's a grounding that takes place when we're together, a secure familiarity that brings peace.

We are deeply grateful on this Thanks-giving Day for the way God intervenes in our lives and draws us close together. 
(MIssed you Sunnie but hope to see you before long.)

Perhaps all of these conflicting experiences and emotions are what caused me to connect so completely with the words that describe God's plan to return His people from Babylon where He'd exiled them.

"See, I will bring them from the land of the north 
and gather them from the ends of the earth.
Among them will be the blind and the lame, 
expectant mothers and women in labor, 
a great throng will return.
They will come with weeping;
they will pray as I bring them back.
I will lead them beside streams of water
on a level path where they will not stumble,
because I am Israel's father,
and Ephraim is my firstborn son."  Jeremiah 31:8-9

The Father would bring His people back to the place they were from, but they were driven to prayer as they were overwhelmed to the point of tears. 

And so I too find myself falling down in supplication as I am overcome by emotion.

Where are you today?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanks-giving Past & Future

On this approximate date in 1976 my Honey and I became brother and sister. 

We'd already been husband and wife since August 1968, but the union in Christ was and is a more poignant transition. 

I remember Thanks-giving that year quite well. 

We gathered with the L'Abri community in the HuĂ©moz chapel nestled in the Swiss Alps. It was a particularly somber occasion, filled with much reflection on the goodness of God. The plan to share a testimony and then sing a hymn seemed like the perfect balance. 

I'd be happy to be corrected by another attendee, but I think I was the first one to jump to my feet. I could barely contain my joy since I had prayed for my Honey's salvation for a very long time. I praised and thanked God for making my Honey and me truly one in the Spirit.

You know, I think that's a great place to start my Thanks-giving gratitude this year.

Dear Father, thank you for Your great work in our hearts, my Honey's and mine. Thank You for joining us into one on that earlier date. Thank You most especially for uniting us on that glorious Swiss day 37 years ago. Amen

I won't post my entire, ongoing list, but I assure you it will be long and strong. 

How about yours?

Now I want to focus on the same kind of life-giving unity for our grandchildren. 

Dear Father, please bless our grandchildren with unwavering faith, the ones we know now and any others You may choose to gift to us. 

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast."  
Ephesians 2:8-9

And in Your perfect will and timing, I further ask that You would bless each of them with a You-loving, -honoring, and -obeying spouse.

"'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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'"  Jeremiah 29:11-13

What are your prayers for future thanks-giving?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

How Thursday Became Saturday

This time I claim a whirlwind.

That's right, a whirlwind.

It wasn't the most destructive kind, but it made a shamble of the tentative routine we've been enjoying and sent us scurrying to keep our balance.

We wracked our brains and made lists for each other.

We packed as many tasks into the day as we could and that did not include preparing a post.  

The idea that gripped us was that we might have to wait several months for Curt's cardiac surgery. 

If that were the case, we thought we might as well wait out the time in Prague and the most efficient way to do that would be to take the pre-planned flight that takes off 25 November, this coming Monday.

Necessities outlined by our daugthers:
1) 100% approval from Curt's cardiologist to wait and travel to Prague in the meantime.
2) 100% assurance that Medi-Gap insurance coverage is in place before leaving.

We understood and appreciated their perspective and agreed to meet their criteria.

Yes . . . a whirlwind of prayers and thoughts and activities . . . a definite whirlwind.

As we scurried here and there I said to my Honey, "It feels like we're living in a pinball machine." 

Ever since Curt got sick our life seems to be ricocheting around like the steel ball that's been shot out onto the playing field. 

Circumstances interrupt or we make decisions that set us on a certain course.  

We do our best to adjust to the new direction only to get caught in one of the holes or diverted by one of the posts that set off blinking lights. 

All the thought and energy we applied is lost and we're forced to recalculate using the new route before us.

To carry on the analogy, we're thankful all over again that God's hands were on the flippers!

On Friday morning we decided that we couldn't take the stress of trying to tie up every loose end in order to fly out in three days. We breathed a sigh of relief as we forged ahead with the events of that day.

We had to give up a visit with dear friends we've been trying to see since we arrived. When I made the call with the sad news I told my friend I was beginning to feel as if it might be easier not to make any plans at all than to face the disappointment of having to cancel them. I was blessed by her understanding and willingness to look to the LORD for an opportunity to see each other.

Of course it's silly to think we can live without making any plans. The very nature of the world requires that we look ahead and make the most of each day. I need and want to be ready for all that the Father has planned for me both now and in eternity.  It takes a lot of dedication and courage to forge ahead in these trying times, the kind you are facing along with us. 

I'm happy to report that when we submit to God's will there are blessings all along the way. For example, the fully packed day we had yesterday included an invitation to a delightful gathering. (see photo below)  Had we stuck to our original plan or even the short-lived one to fly back home on Monday, we would not have been able to respond with the resounding, "Yes, we'd love to."

I'm learning!!!!!

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."  Proverbs 16:9

The best part . . . the really good news, if you will, is that

in spite of the whirlwind

in the midst of bouncing around like a pinball

God is granting us joy upon joy.

Last night we attended the Varsity Soccer Awards Banquet at Goffstown High School. We went to rejoice in the accomplishments of our oldest and tallest (for now) grandson, William James Baggs III. 

His prowess on the field was rewarded, but it is his growth in godly character and stature that we celebrate. 
Thank you, God, for William!!

THE WINNER for the best reason for the delay of this post is that we get to tell you the latest and greatest news yet.

We received a phone call this morning from my Honey's cardiologist. Dr. Lockhart says Curt's "survival definitely would not be enhanced by open heart surgery." The other, less-invasive therapies are preferable so that is what we will pursue.

Of course Dr. Lockhart could not guarantee that another cardiac episode would not occur, but he is encouraged by my Honey's lack of ongoing symptoms and increasing strength.  He went on to tell Curt that he needed to "live life" and cleared him to fly back to Prague if that's what our plan for recovery includes.

What does that mean for our schedule?  For now we have no idea.

1) We now have confirmation that Curt can travel. 
2) We have to wait until Wednesday for confirmation from the insurance company. 

So for now we sit and wait on the hand of the LORD

(Well, there are about a million other items we need to take care of around here.)

And as we wait, we choose to follow Paul's instructions.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!"  Philippians 4:4

Please rejoice with us, lifting your hearts and voices high with praise.  Amen

Monday, November 18, 2013

"What's up, Doc?" Bugs Bunny

I'm feeling torn as I sit down to compose today's post.

Monday's the day I focus on a Scriptural theme. I've got a list of topics in front of me, but for now the need to share what's happening with my Honey's health needs to take the lead.

Come to think of it, maybe those two subjects are not in competition.

Today we head to the VA to meet Curt's new primary care physician. We've got a lot of questions for Dr. Bailey and the answers we receive will likely affect the decisions before us. 

We need to choose a facility to provide Curt's cardiac care.
We need to find a surgeon to evaluate the situation and guide us.
We need to determine the best way to meet the financial obligations.

All of this and more has to happen before my Honey even begins the treatment process.

Though we know God has arranged this set of circumstances, the sheer number of steps takes my breath away. The complex task of figuring out what they are, putting them in the right order, and actually taking them feels like way too much to handle. 

And then there's the issue of time. We enjoy being with our family, but we're already beginning to feel a bit homesick for Prague.

How will it all unfold?

As I ponder the answer to that question the events of the last two months replay themselves in my mind.

Curt was already at the hospital when the arterial bleed occurred. His life was spared.
Curt was already at the hospital when the massive heart attack hit. His life was spared.
Curt had 10 days at home to build up his strength. He travelled to the USA with energy.
Curt had a scary episode that led to a hospitalization. He received care and info we craved.
Curt is making his way along the adjustment process for his abdominal surgery.
Curt met with his cardiologist a month earlier than scheduled due to a cancellation.
Curt has received more positive options about his heart than he ever expected to hear.
I am receiving effective medical attention I've needed for nearly a year.

These facts are ample evidence that God's love and power, grace and mercy are being poured out over us. 

It's almost as if He's driving home the Truth of the promise reported in Hebrews 13:5, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." It's a promise that's repeated numerous times in the Scriptures. I've written about it before and yet it's taking on a new perspective.

God, the Almighty and Sovereign LORD over everything, is not only here beside us always - which provides deep security and confidence. The One and Only True God will always keep us. 

You see KEEP is the antonym or opposite of forsake. When God says He will NEVER leave nor forsake us that means He will ALWAYS be with and keep us. He is actively attending and intervening into the lives of those who are His, the ones He has chosen for Himself. 

Hallelujah!!  God isn't just providing us with warm and loving company along this challenging path. The great I AM is coordinating every detail to meet our needs and foster our growth according to His divine will. 

And that's as true for YOU as it is for US as we recognize and trust in the saving work of His Son Jesus the Christ. Amen

What more do we need to know about what's ahead?

Stay tuned for more news on Thursday. Be assured that, by God's perfect plan, the unfolding will be influenced by your prayers. We thank you for them.

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."  James 5:16  NIV1984

Thursday, November 14, 2013

"Go ahead, make my day." Dirty Harry

What would make your day?

Would it be breakfast in bed?

Or a surprise dinner invitation?

Maybe a day at a theme park?

How about a touch from the One who holds your life in His hands?

We received exactly that this morning via a call from a cardiologist.

Dr. Lockhart explained that he'd been able to find a computer that would read the CD of Curt's angiogram provided by his Czech colleagues. There was a lot of medical-ese that I wasn't able to catch as I heard the overflow from the report he gave my Honey over the phone. The upshot is that it appears the heart is not in as bad a shape as he suspected from the written description. 

If I heard correctly, the blockages are further along the branching arteries which means they are not so dire. There's a possibility that instead of bypass surgery Curt can be treated with other therapies followed by the placement of another stent or two. This process would be followed by a cardiac stress test to confirm that improvement has been attained.

Dr. Lockhart cautioned us that he will need to review the images and his thoughts with a colleague. Curt is still on track for a 10 December return appointment with him. Our plans are still in place to research various options to meet the financial demands of whatever steps are determined we need to follow. 

So once again a roller coaster dive that threatens to take our breath away hasn't crashed us into oblivion. 

I seem to hear the click, click, click of the towing mechanism that I hope (that's biblical hope, the kind that sustains) will take us up another incline. 

I relax my grip and watch color return to my knuckles. I breathe easily for the first time in a while.

What's it all about . . . this life?

Am I just an unwilling passenger on a thrill-filled ride set up for the amusement of its whim-driven designer?

The words of Apostle Paul echo in my mind, "Mey genoito."  
(May it never be.)

The Father has a plan that He set in place before He laid the foundations of the world.                                                                                      1 Peter 1:20

His perfect plan includes those He creates and calls to Himself.  
Isaiah 43:1-7

By the Father's gracious provision Christ paid the ransom for my soul, redeeming my life from the wrath I deserve and granting me eternal life.  
 John 3:16

The LORD is a refuge as He cares for those who trust in Him.         Nahum 1:7

By His loving arrangement Pastor Hobi shared from Psalm 61 at prayer meeting last night. He called it "A prayer for the times we are overwhelmed" and outlined the prayer, promise, purpose of, and protection for those who are overwhelmed. It was a most fitting ministry to my soul last night and again today.

Dear Father, please cause Your Spirit to quicken my mind and heart to the messages You have for me through these trials and struggles. As You seem to be blunting the worst of the circumstances I ask that You keep me from ignoring the hand that has brought us this far. Prevent me from returning to the beginning of this particular portion of the pathway You have set for my feet. I want to remain where I can sense the shelter of Your wings. Amen

Psalm 61 
For the director of music. 
With stringed instruments.
Of David.

Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you.
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.   Selah
For you have heard my vows, O God;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

In crease the days of the king's life,
his years for many generations.
May he be enthroned in God's presence forever;
appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him
Then will I ever sing praise to your name 
and fulfill my vows day after day.

If you make it this far, please leave a comment.  Thank you.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Monday Became Tuesday

I'm really not sure how it happened but Monday became Tuesday before I could put together a few words.

Today will be a collection of thoughts I've had along with news about what's going on around here.

First a question, what things let you know that you're not at 'home'?
The other day it was wooden spoons for me.

We spent Saturday night in the ER of Concord Hospital, Concord NH. Curt was moved to his room around 5:30am and we both settled in for a bit of sleep before the day's routine began. I was really thankful for a room with a banquette beneath the window.

We were sad to miss worship with the local New Boston body, but I went home feeling relieved that Curt was being closely monitored by medical professionals again. We returned that afternoon to gather around his bed as a family. Sunnie even drove up from Connecticut to be with us. 

At one point I sat on the side of the hospital room and took in the sight of all of us together as a family. With all the uncertainty and unknowns we were facing there was a sense of strength that washed over me. There we were a small collection of human beings joined by blood and marriage (happy to call Bill our son-in-the-Lord) through the loving sovereignty of God Almighty. 

People often speak of the ways God makes Himself known to those under duress. My Honey and I have had a number of such experiences over the last two months. But this episode of feeling bathed in great strength that washed away every hesitation and fear, question and trial was a fresh taste of the Father's great love and power. It is something I want to hang onto for the rest of my life.

Sunday night I once again crawled into bed alone. As often happens to me threats and pressures seem to become more frightening in the darkness of the night. As a troop of them harassed me I cried myself into my Compassionate Savior's arms. He held me in His firm embrace until I fell asleep.

Once again the power and Truth of the Scriptures sustain me.

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.  Psalm 46:7,11

The staff came around on Veterans Day to present Curt with a flag and a certificate offered in gratitude for his service in the US Navy. It was a treat to be so honored. 

On Monday morning Curt underwent another colonoscopy. The report was so positive that they decided to release him that afternoon. When we heard the good news we were already on our way up to visit. By 'we' I mean Jenna and Sunnie, Champ, Miss Mae, and BigGame. 

Instead of entertaining Doc with various activities we spent our time taking care of paperwork and making preparations to take him home. Jenna called a friend nearby to borrow a shirt, shoes, and a sweatshirt. We all decided it would be cool for the aging Hipster to enter the world in his fashionable pajama bottoms. 

Dr. Q. sat down with us and went through a lot of information about my Honey's surgery which he said was world class. He also explained the phases of recovery and offered a lot of insights about diet and menu and lifestyle adjustments we will need to make. It was exactly the kind of input we've been craving since about 6 October when we started to recover from the shock of his emergency surgery. 

By the time we were ready to leave it was already getting dark. It was hard to tell who was happier Doc or our three grandchildren.

We bid good-bye to the tremendous staff, kissed Sunnie farewell as she headed back to CT, and made our way to the Baggs home for an early dinner and bed time.

And that's how Monday became Tuesday as I missed my posting deadline.

We're thankful God built in a Day Off when we could do close to nothing - eating, reading, resting, and laundry. It's just what we needed to get ready for tomorrow morning's appointment to meet Dr; Lockhart, my Honey's cardiologist. Guess I'll be sharing that news on Thursday, assuming it doesn't somehow turn into Friday.   *tee hee

Thank you for sticking with us in this seemingly never-ending story. In spite of how it feels we KNOW that God has us in the palm of His hand and that He already has His perfect conclusion in place. Hallelujah!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Too Tired to Type

Today is Thursday and I think I'm finally winding down from the most recent push to gather up our things, fly to the USA, and start making contact with the medical community.

Well . . . except . . . that there's this other little thing happening.

Culture Shock

It might be easy enough to understand that a shift in our lives caused by multiple life-threatening episodes might lead us to feel unsettled, confused, and even questioning. All of that and more is true. Rather than continue that description I'd like to move to another very real aspect of our days.

We're back in our homeland, our passport country, the nation where we were born and raised and have lived most of our lives. And yet, it's not the same place we left two short years ago. In many ways we're dealing with similar issues we confronted when adjusting to life in Prague.

Though we speak the same basic language the conversations around us include foreign concepts, such as a Commander-in-Chief 'purging' top generals when there's so much unrest in the world. 

Though we are working with familiar money the prices we see in stores cause us to calculate again and again about value, needs v. wants, resources, and more.

Though we are the ones walking through our days there seem to be countless outside forces carrying us along at such a pace it makes my head spin.

We call doctors and fax forms.
We buy and set up a cell phone.
We rest in our hosts' generous three week provision and seek further housing.
I sit back behind the driver's wheel and concentrate on roads, traffic, and directions.
We spend time with our grandchildren and do our best to contribute to that household.
We ponder the unknown future, desiring most of all to follow the words of Matthew 6:33.

In the midst of another whole set of challenging differences I would be lost if it were not for God's presence and the power of His Truth. I revel in the Bible's use of the word same.

"There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men."  1 Corinthians 12:5,6

God is the LORD and He does not change in who He is or how He intervenes in the lives of men.

"In the same way the Gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth."   Colossians 1:6

The Good News of salvation extends God's grace through faith resulting in changed lives and new life, appearing globally as it has in me.  Ephesians 2:8-10

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."  Hebrews 13:8

The Son of God continues to seek and to save the lost, of which I was one.  Luke 19:10

"Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin."  1 Peter 4:1

I need not struggle or wander since I have an example after which to pattern my life, beginning with and working out from the attitudes of my heart.