Thursday, August 29, 2013

Your Money or Your Life

I took this photo as we were showing some guests around the city last week. 

This is a Catholic boys choir singing under the tower at the west end of Charles Bridge. 

It was a joy to stand for a few minutes and listen to their lovely voices. 

You may notice that one of the boys is stepping off the curb. He's moving to pick up the beret in the middle of the street where people have been expressing their appreciation by tossing money. 

Another boy, the first on the left, is holding a second beret. He will replace the one in the street while the money it holds is carefully removed and safely stowed. In that way not a single opportunity will be lost to collect some change. They've got an efficient process.

The streets of Prague are filled with musicians, dancers, actors, artists of many kinds pursuing a similar goal - to get tourists to part with their money. It's especially busy in the warmer weather during summer holidays. 

Street performers in Prague are expected to be registered with the city and pay the appropriate fees. We've seen inspectors checking for paperwork. The process has a legitimate business feel to it. 

Something about this particular encounter made me uncomfortable. 

Maybe it's because I realized that we could be doing the same thing. 

If we'd asked, our gracious visitors would probably have been willing to pay for the time and energy we spent showing them around the City of 100 Spires. We didn't know the answers to all of their questions, but we got them to all the major sights and a few others that were of special interest to them. 

The way these new friends from Missouri chose to bless us was to take us out to dinner at our favorite neighborhood restaurant. We thanked them for their heartfelt and generous response to our hospitality. Perhaps it was all the more valuable for that very reason. 

Ah ha, so there's the rub. 

We open our home to folks regularly without expecting payment. Some might call what we offer a free-gift. Then again, a gift is free so maybe that's double speak. 

Hmmmm . . . isn't that what the Father offers me?

Salvation from wrath by faith through grace comes to me as a gift. Forgiveness for my sin is free of charge - not that it is without cost. The price has already been paid on my behalf by the sacrifice of the perfect life of His beloved Son, Jesus the Christ. 

Sometimes I notice it's easy enough to sing a song or raise a prayer, to voice gratitude or make a donation when I'm around others or I'm in the mood. I wonder if my actions could be the same as casually throwing coins into a beret or bucket at the feet of an entertainer.

I'm caught up short. 

The Word tells me I need to come to God with awe and honor, humility and love, praise and adoration. Then, as we received the sacrifice from our guests, He will be pleased with my heartfelt and generous response to who He is and all He has done for me.

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.  
Hebrews 13:15-16

May His Name be hallowed in all the earth. Amen

PS  Can you find Curt? He's carrying the leather backpack he bought in Switzerland in 1977.

Monday, August 26, 2013

How to See Clearly

There's a busy week ahead of me. 

How about you?

Part of my list is on paper and part is still in my head. 

Mine feels tough.

How about yours?

I consider one item after another with what it will take to get it done. 

Just when I think I can see a way through it all, I realize more tasks will likely be added along with distractions, interruptions, and delays.

Okay, now my week seems impossible!

I begin to wonder if I'll make it through all five work days with my sanity intact whether I accomplish everything or not.

Thankfully the LORD has been granting my request to give me a hunger and thirst to spend time with Him in His Word. That's where He met me and my need this morning.

The psalms of David speak to my mind and heart, carrying my attention Godward. 

I'm grateful for the consistent reminders about where to set my eyes.

I trust You, O LORD.
You are my God.
My times are in Your hands.
Let Your face shine on me.
Save me in Your unfailing love.
I have cried out to You.
          You deliver and save me.
          You shame and silence the wicked.

When I remember Who's arranging my days, the concerns and fears fall away and I am at peace.

How about you? 

Is your week looking kind of fuzzy or overwhelming?

Seek the One who is ready, willing, and able to refine your focus.

I lift up my eyes to the hills - 
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.   Psalm 121:1-2 (NIV, 1984)

                       Psalm 31
For the director of music. A psalm of David.

But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, "You are my God."
My times are in your hands;
deliver me from my enemies
and from those who pursue me.
Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
Let me not be put to shame, O LORD,
for I have cried out to you;
but let the wicked be put to shame
and lie silent in the grave.
Let their lying lips be silenced,
for with pride and contempt 
they speak arrogantly against the righteous.   verses 14-18 (NIV, 1984)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

From the Simple to the Complex

One of the things I've been noticing about my life lately is that I'm finding the simple task of telling the time a bit more . . . shall I say frustrating.

I realize that there are a number of contributing factors.

1. We live in Europe where a lot of folks use the 24 hour clock.
This is all well and good for anyone like my husband who's developed the skill of knowing what hours above 12 mean. I continue to get caught trying to figure out what readouts on our stove clock such as 17.17 mean. 
(Now come on and admit that looks odd to you too.) 

2. We live in the Central European Summer Time zone (UT+5) while our children and grandchildren live in the Eastern Daylight Savings Time zone (UT-1).
This means our clock needs to read 19.00 when we Skype while their clocks would be reading 13.00. Every week I get countless opportunities to check and translate the time as we look forward to chatting with our family.

3. We live in a different time zone than many friends around the globe. 
That means I might be writing to someone when they're eating breakfast as I'm preparing dinner. It's even happened that I've been messaging with someone who's actually living a different day than I am.

4. We live in a place where a different language predominates.
Sometimes when I'm able to translate the hour I may not be sure what day of the week or what month is being announced. That can cause frustration with transportation and/or events.

All in all, what used to be a simple task has become quite complex. 

You know, that's kind of like my spiritual life. At first it seemed pretty simple: love Jesus, keep paddling. Then a lot of twists and turns in the river made it more complex: direction, goals, children, grandchildren, maturity, relationships, jobs, churches, languages, cultures, . . . . 

The level of frustration rose from something like trying to tell time on a 24 hour clock to not having a clue what day or year it might be. That's when The Savior stepped in.

[Jesus] said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority."  Acts 1:7

It's okay that I don't know exactly when and how everything is going to happen or work out. It's even okay that I don't know when one detail will fall into place or become irrelevant.

As a matter of fact, I discovered King David was in the same boat and his response is the one I need to adopt.

My times are in your hands  Psalm 31:15a

Thank you, Almighty, Most High God. Your Truth has once again met me and brought my heart to rest in faith and trust. Amen 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Powerful Words to Consider

A friend suggested Psalm 107 was full of Truth . . . 
about me and the LORD

I needed wisdom and relief so I spent some time reading it.

She was right.

A. fallen humans                                   B. Perfect God
wander in wastelands                           delivers
hungry and thirsty                                 leads
lives ebb away                                      satisfies and fills
sit in darkness and gloom                     saves x 2
suffer in iron chains                               brings out x 2
rebel and despise                                  breaks away chains
stumble without help                              breaks down gates
become fools                                         cuts through bars
suffer affliction                                       sends forth His Word
rest in iniquities                                      heals
loathe food                                             rescues
draw near death                                     speaks and stirs up
courage melts away                               stills the storm
reel and stagger                                     hushes the waves
at wits end                                              guides to a haven 
wander in trackless waste                      blesses
                                                                lifts the needy
                                                                increases families

How are YOU doing?                              Anything like ME?

Too much understanding of Column A 
                                                                and not enough of Column B?

Maybe it's time to redirect our focus Godward.


Run. Do not walk.

Grab a Bible.

Pray for God's intervention.

Read Psalm 107 for yourself.


Repeat daily at various references.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Victory Over the Four Ds

It's been a long week.

In truth it's been a long month.

There's nothing quite like disturbance, disruption, disappointment, and/or discouragement to make time drag.

Let's see if I can explain.

The project to install proper flooring on our balcony started well with the roofing material being laid in two days. The workers were real craftsmen and it was a joy to watch them make their way through the task. 

We were delighted to see the old black tar paper replaced with durable material. Our expectation grew that it would soon be covered with new sparkling tiles.

The information we received at the end of the first phase was disturbing.

Nobody was to walk on the balcony until the project was complete.
Nobody knew when the crew would arrive nor how long the task would take. 

So we sat inside adding
two tables,
four chairs,
an umbrella with stand,
a few plants and pots,
and a bag of soil
to our living space.

God reached down and enabled us to minimize the disrupting influence as we welcomed and entertained three rounds of guests in our home.

A couple weeks later we were told the workmen would come on Monday and finish by Friday. We were pleased to think God was going to allow us to get our outdoor retreat back in shape before we left for some time out of town.

However, nobody appeared on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday morning. 

We were asked on Wednesday afternoon if we would let the workmen bring the heavy concrete tiles through our flat early the next morning. It was hard to imagine how they'd get them up the access shaft and to the roof so we said yes. Besides our landlord had already given permission.

We got up on Thursday and, with mounting expectation, moved the accumulated outdoor furniture as well as our coffee table and rug to make a clear path. If they did the job the way the roofers did we still might get things back in place before we left.

Then we waited

and waited  

until mid-afternoon.

It took three guys a little over an hour to deliver the tiles. The boss only spoke Czech so we enlisted translation help from our neighbor. As it turned out the crew was going to begin on Friday and work through the weekend with the goal of being completed sometime on Monday. 

The disappointing nature of the situation set us back . . . until we realized that all the activity, noise, and mess would take place while we were gone. 

Yeee haw! Thank you, God.

The next morning we said good-bye to the crew with smiling faces. We dropped the metal blinds you see above and headed out to the bus station. 

We quite enjoyed our time in the Šumava Mountains in the home of Czech friends. They could easily have gotten tired of hearing how happy we were that we'd be going home to move everything back onto our balcony as soon as we got there. I trust we balanced that out with the invitation to come and enjoy a meal with us real soon.


When we returned on Monday afternoon and raised the metal blinds a mess is what we saw. There were tarps and materials spread all over and tiles still stacked. We couldn't find out any information so we lowered the blinds and discouragement settled over me. 

We've lived all week without being able to enjoy our beautiful view. The weather's been lovely since we returned and we haven't been able to enjoy that either. Thankfully God reached down and provided another one of His divine glimpses. 

I've come to see the blocking of my view by the metal blinds as an analogy for the curtain between earth and heaven. While I make my way through this fallen world I have no idea what's up ahead, not for today or this week, or next year or into eternity. There's a barrier blocking my view.  

I simply cannot see what God's doing on the other side. 2 Corinthians 5:7 says it well, "We live by faith, not by sight."

The flooring project was completed yesterday and this morning the workmen carried out the left over tiles. Curt swept down the walls and the railing and the flooring. The invasion of the concrete dust will probably last for a while, but we'll be moving the furniture this afternoon.  

I'm pondering what the Four Ds have shown me and I'm being drawn to Job and Naomi.

His wife said to him, "Are you still holding to your integrity? Curse God and die!" [Job] replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?  Job 2:9

I do not want to be a foolish woman. I want to be as resilient as Naomi who recognized God's proper authority over her. She was worn down by the circumstances He brought into her life yet she continued to call God by His worthy titles as she put one faithful foot in front of the other. 

"Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me." So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.  Ruth 1:21-22

What's happening in your life? Are you faced with some combination of the Four Ds - disturbance, disruption, disappointment, discouragement? 

Here's what God says about all of that. 

No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him - 
but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit. 
Isaiah 64:4;
1 Corinthians 2:9-10

Monday, August 12, 2013

How to Respond to World Events

Is there anything bothering you these days?

Do you feel at all unsettled or insecure?

Are you sensing a threat?

If so, you and I have a lot in common. 

Call me crazy, but I think there are a lot of us.

God crept into my devotions the other day and set me on a sturdy asbestos raft.

I went to the Isaiah passage because it's been a lifeline to me since my father's death in 1988. I'm always drawn deeper into my personal relationship with the Almighty in the opening verses. 

This time it was verse 3 that caught my attention.

For I am the LORD, your God, 
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; 
I give Egypt for your ransom, 
Cush and Seba in your stead. 

The realization of God's great care over His people Israel in releasing them from their bondage to Pharoah crept over me. He not only took the Egyptians through the 10 plagues and sent their riches off with the fleeing Israelites. He also drowned the entire Egyptian army. This biblical episode speaks volumes of the length to which God will go to redeem those who are His.

I have a grateful understanding of the way God works in the lives of individuals. The biblical accounts of Esther, Naomi, Mary, the Samaritan woman, and many others bring me courage and hope as I make my way in this fallen world. God has a specific plan for my life that includes purpose and good, and He will bring it to pass by by His sovereign and loving hand. 

This broader idea that the King of heaven is orchestrating the lives of nations on behalf of His Church is something new for me to ponder. If God would go to such lengths to rescue and restore His people, those chosen by name, a remnant, in the Old and New Testament AND His character is immutable (not open to change), then it's reasonable to consider that this same God is accomplishing the same task today.

I'm as bothered, unsettled, insecure, threatened by current events as the next person. 

But Alpha and Omega is at work. There can be no doubt. 

I will not sell Elohim short.

I call for Him to act as He sees fit to glorify His Name. 


But now, this is what the LORD says - 
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name;
you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD, your God, 
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; 
I give Egypt for your ransom, 
Cush and Seba in your stead. 
Since you are precious and honored in my sight, 
and because I love you, 
I will give men in exchange for you, 
and people in exchange for your life. 
Do not be afraid, for I am with you, 
I will bring your children from the east 
and gather you from the west. 
I will say to the north, 'Give them up!' 
and to the south, 'Do not hold them back.'
Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth - 
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made."  Isaiah 43:1-7  (NIV 1984)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Fyzio Lessons in Czech

How long would you settle for leg pain before you sought a medical professional?

Add on intermittent but pretty severe lower back pain and how much longer would you wait?

Whatever your answer is it would probably double if you weren't able to speak the local language.

How do I know?

Because I was in that exact dilemma until this week.

Finally . . . with the help of a dear national friend . . . I made my way to a physical therapist to be evaluated. 

How was I to know it was an appointment with death?

It was hot outside which I'm sure was why my mouth was dry. Bella* met me at the tram stop and we walked across the street and down a ways to the bus stop. She chatted kindly with me buoying up my spirits. (I wonder if she knew my stomach was in knots.) 

The bus ride was a lot shorter than I thought. Drat.

We crossed the parking lot of a strip mall and stepped over an interrupting driveway to a plain two-story building. My nerves were so jangled I couldn't make out the words on all the little signs never mind find anything about Fyzio therapeutic

That must be why God sent Bella with me. She found the office number and led the way to suite 17.9 on the second floor - first floor in Czech. 

The door was closed and if I were alone I would have simply stood there until it somehow opened. I marveled at Bella's bravery as she waited a few moments and then knocked. Clever lady!

Soňa welcomed us in, letting us know she was with another patient at the moment. I was happy to wait. Bella and I chatted away my nervous energy. I didn't care how long it took.

When Soňa sat down with me she seemed hesitant about her language skills, but Bella encouraged her to carry on. At least I guess that's what Bella was saying because I don't understand much Czech. They were smiling at each other in that sorta way, if you know what I mean.

We held a conversation about my situation in simple but clear English. Then Soňa asked me to stand. She led me through a few activities to "locate my pain". It was almost as if some sort of ethereal connection was being built between the two of us. Whatever it was I found it comfortable to follow her lead even though some of the movements brought physical strain.

In a short amount of time with minimal language support Soňa had me lie on my stomach on a large flat table. She began working on my legs, asking me frequently about my pain levels. At one point all I could respond was, "Oooooh wow!" No translation needed. 

The relief I felt in the most bothersome knee was indescribable. If she'd kept up that particular stretch I think I would have melted onto the floor.

It was pretty easy from that point on to trust Soňa's hands. I concentrated on her technique and the various information she was sharing with me. 

Was it all a piece of cake? No. 

Soňa kept asking me about my pain when that wasn't really what I was feeling. I had to take extra care in describing an ache or pressure or discomfort. I know she didn't understand the word stabbing because both times I said it wasn't really "stabbing pain" she asked Bella for clarification. 

At the close of our time together Soňa gave me two specific exercises, one for my knees and one for my back. Thankfully Bella was there to take notes for me even though Soňa gave the instructions in English. I was in such a euphoric state that I wouldn't have remembered what she said. Relief and hope are like that.

I made another appointment with enthusiasm, looking forward to the professional and personal support available to me in the recovery process.

When we shook hands to say good-bye I did my best to communicate the confidence and warmth I felt to Soňa. I said, "I believe God brought me to Prague so that you could care for me." And I meant it.

My near death experience did prove fatal.

Death to fear of language issues in intimate settings.

Death to pain that goes unaddressed for no good reason.

Death to self-consciousness in intimidating circumstances.

For me it was a life experience that reached far beyond the physical arena.

"I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken." 
Psalm 16:8  NIV,1984

"I trust you, O LORD; I say, "You are my God." My times are in your hands."
Psalm 31:14,15a NIV,1984 

"Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God."  
Psalm 42:5 NIV,1984

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."  
Romans 12:12 NIV,1984

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for."  
Hebrews 11:1,2 NIV,1984

What scary thing are you facing, postponing, trying to avoid all together? 

Don't sell God short. He's right there waiting to meet your need.

Trust Him with biblical hope and move forward.

Let me know how it turns out!

*name changed to protect privacy

Monday, August 5, 2013

Monday Morning, Promised Riches

Monday morning isn't for wimps. 

I just took this photo through a skylight from our 6th floor flat. 

The image seems to speak to me of what's ahead. 

There's a whole day and week before me with exercises galore . . . and I don't mean just the physical kind.

I admit that as I focus forward I see the challenges first similar to the rising sun as it peeps through the dark clouds on the horizon.

I am thankful that God reminds me that no darkness can hide me from Him.

I rejoice that no situation, no circumstances, not even my own efforts can shield His love.

God makes Himself known to me as surely as the rising sun scatters the darkness. Hallelujah!

My eyes scan upward to the brightening sky. 

The Spirit reminds me through the expanse of blue and the touch of pink that the Father has adventures and joy and peace planned for me.

I praise God for the creation that shouts forth His power, majesty, and grace.

I am grateful that these Truths, these promises are more secure than anything in this world for they are based on Elohim Himself. 

I pour honor and glory on His Name and lift it to the heavens with the plea that it be hallowed in all the earth.

May your day and week be filled with the same awakening to Jehovah's presence in your life. Amen

             Psalm 139:7-14

For the director of music, Of David.
                    A Psalm.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
   Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
  if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
   if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
   your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me 
   and the light become night around me,"
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
   the night will shine like the day,
   for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being;
   you knit me together in my mother's womb,
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
   your works are wonderful, 
   I know that full well.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

How to Win Souls and Influence a Nation

What power can God apply through one person over the life of another or over the life of a nation . . . what influence?

I have to confess I had only a hazy idea about the answer to those questions until this week.

Somewhere or other the name Harold Bell Wright came across my screen. I was told his books were FREE to download so I looked him up to find out about his work. HB Wright wrote 19 books that were published in the first half of the 20th century. The thing that hooked me though was the letter I discovered that was written to his daughter-in-law by Ronald Reagan.


March 13, 1984

Dear Mrs. Wright,

It is true that your father-in-law's book, indeed books, played a definite part in my growing-up years. When I was ten or eleven years old, I picked up Harold Bell Wright's book, That Printer of Udell's, which I'd seen my mother reading, and read it from cover to cover. Perhaps I should tell you I became an avid reader at a very early age and had my own card for the Dixon, Illinois Public Library. I made regular use of that card.

That book, That Printer of Udell's, had an impact I shall always remember. After reading it and thinking about it for a few days, I went to my mother and told her I wanted to be baptized. We attended the Christian Church in Dixon, and I was baptized several days after finishing the book.

The term, "role model," was not a familiar term in that time and place. But I realize I found a role model in that traveling printer whom Harold Bell Wright had brought to life. He set me on a course I've tried to follow even unto this day. I shall always be grateful.


HB Wright's first title "That Printer of Udell's" went to the top of my list. 

Say what you want about Reagan, his presidency, his political career, his legacy, or anything else about the man. Until you read this book you haven't got a clue. 

No, I won't give you any more hints. If you really want a glimpse of God's divine intervention in the lives of men and nations, you have to do the same thing I did and catch it for yourselves. > Harold Bell Wright > That Printer of Udell's > $0.00 Kindle Edition

Let me know what YOU find.

*The photo is my personal addition. None was included in the original letter on White House stationery.