Friday, February 21, 2014

Assignment Suitcase

Life is not all fun and games.


Your spouse is released from a foreign hospital, having lived through emergency surgery and a heart attack. Plans have come together to fly you to your family for further surgery.

What do you do?

First, you stop and praise God for keeping your Honey or Sweetie alive. 

Next you try to think about all the stuff you gotta do to get ready to travel. 

Then you start praying God will keep you both alive until you reach your destination.

I know because this was my life.

In the midst of all of those crazy circumstances, the task of packing took on the appearance of an angry gorilla. God seemed to think I was just the person to whip him into submission, but I wasn't so sure.

Of course the patient's suitcase came first as a measure of my care and compassion. So there was NO energy or inspiration left for mine - sad to tell. 

We had no idea how long we'd be on the road, but figured we'd be back home in three months at the latest. In went three skirts, some blouses, three sweaters, a collection of underwear and a pair of warm boots for winter. 

Thankfully I was prompted to include vitamins and both of our cosmetic cases. God's goodness reigns.

We've been running the medical gauntlet, resulting in higher praises to God that more surgery is not required after all, not even recommended. YIPPEEEEEE

And yet, at four months and counting we're no closer to home as we endeavor to get my health reviewed and restored. 

Now look, don't get me wrong. I appreciate it when folks ask how we're doing. I'm grateful for every person who has been and continues to pray for us. We need all the spiritual support we can get. Thanks and keep 'em comin'.

But you gotta know that given the situation that led to the packing job, what actually made it into the suitcase, and the varied and numerous activities on our schedule, getting dressed each day is becoming a trial.

What's clean?

Do these items match?

When was the last time I wore this?

Did the people I'll see today see me in this outfit recently?

I'd really like to wear a skirt, but it seems I've worn them 100 times already.

Attending church weekly and visiting the same doctor three times a week is especially challenging. I wonder what folks think.

I could say I'm losing my mind over this highly limited wardrobe, but that would be dramatic. Instead I'll just say I'm bearing up under the fashion strain and trust some of you will know what I mean.

Of course the evidence of what kind of packing job I did is in my appearance.

So for any of you who see me these days,

"How'm I doin'?"    ;-)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Are you listening?

Ever wonder about what's going on around you?

I've been on a quest to make sense of the confusing, stretching, and downright unpleasant things that have been happening in my life over the last several months.

Since God is the Sovereign, Wise, Loving, Merciful, and Powerful Creator and Maintainer of the world, He's the One I've been approaching with my petitions for understanding, direction, and confidence. 

I received a new clue about the searching process this morning.

It's not enough to have good hearing that picks up noises around me while I'm focused on other things. You know what I mean. It usually happens when we're trying to get some work done and a sound distracts us. We determine the cause and dismiss it, returning to our chosen task and refusing to be interrupted. Our ears hear the noise, but neither our minds nor our hearts fully respond or interact with it.

Scripture seems to suggest a different strategy.

"let the wise listen and add to their learning, 

and let the discerning get guidance"  Proverbs 1:5

I surely want to be 'wise' and 'add to my learning' so maybe listening is something I need to consider. It's an activity quite different than hearing.

You know what it means to listen. It usually happens when we're trying to get some work done while another responsibility awaits. We stay busy at the current task while our hearts are attuned to another topic. When our ears receive the signal that the expected responsibility has appeared we stop what we're doing. We shift our focus and apply our mental and emotional resources to the more urgent duty. 

Am I listening today?

"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."  Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Yup, listening sure does seem like a valuable pursuit.

God tells His people to listen to His voice because He is life to them and their children, and He will give them many years in the land He promised . . . my life, my children, our years. The results are well worth the commitment and effort listening takes.

I dedicate myself to this new undertaking. I am listening even as I study. 

"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."  John 10:27

Gee whizz. The Savior says that besides listening I also need to follow. 

But wait.

The Shepherd says His sheep listen to His voice; He knows His sheep and His sheep follow. There seems to be something built-into the relationship of the Shepherd and His sheep that causes them to listen and follow; hear with attention and respond in obedience. Hallelujah! Once again I can rely on my Savior and my God to lead me right where I need to go.

I concentrate on listening with my mind and heart and soul. I endeavor to follow obediently and thus uncover one more gem.

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like"  James 1:22-24

Okay, God. I get it. 

Listening and yielding are not a one time, one day thing. I need to build a habit of keeping my mind and heart and soul and being turned toward God. I need to remember who He is, how He loves me, and how I need Him every moment of my life.

  • Listen 
  • Follow
  • Remember

I praise the great I AM for granting me the Holy Spirit to accompany, empower, and comfort me on this discipleship journey. 

I'm on my way.

How about you?

Do you have any confusing, stretching, and downright unpleasant things happening in your life?

Would you like some understanding, direction, and confidence? 

Feel free to join me on the listening adventure.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

then AND now

This week I found my memory taking me back to the fall of 1976. My Honey and I were living in the Swiss Alps, part of the L'Abri community. It's the time I say my faith developed teeth. 

I told Barry Seagren, our host and tutor, that I wanted to learn about the biblical view of women, and the person and work of the Holy Spirit. He assigned me a variety of lectures to listen to and books to read. I got busy. 

Little did I know that at my seat around various tables and in Farel House God would reveal a deep-seated, life-long weakness. 

To address it I undertook a major study on love; reading, reviewing, meditating on, and praying over every reference to the word (love, loved, loves, loving) in any concordance I could find. 

These were the days way before online search engines. The exercise took a lot of time and energy, intentionality and diligence. It was the first time I'd been enveloped so fully in the Truth of Scripture.

God met me in His perfect timing, wrapped me in His arms, and taught me what I needed to know. The key element was His basic identity.

"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."  
1 John 4:8

To this basic fact my gracious Father added a host of others to weave a tender yet sturdy cocoon to encase my hurting heart and broken identity in His enduring embrace. To keep the most crucial Truths in the forefront of my mind I noted them on a bookmark and placed it in my Bible. It stayed there, reminding and sustaining me, for many, many years. 

I've shared that practical idea with a lot of people over the years. But, I have to admit, I don't know where my own example has gone. And maybe that's part of why I am where I am today. 

Life gets busy. Important information gets forgotten. 

Support systems dwindle. Weaknesses reappear.

This time around I recognize the need to identify my feelings, share them with my Father, turn to His Word for sustenance, and bask in the Truth. I'm starting over and think another bookmark may be in order. If so, I've already chosen the verse that will be at the top of my new list.

"As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'"  Mark 3:17 

When Jesus was merely moving away from being baptized the Holy Spirit came to Him. Before the Messiah performed one single healing the Father announced the intimacy of their Father-Son relationship. Without the Great Physician accomplishing any miracles at all God Almighty declared His love for Him. Though the Shepherd had yet to rescue even one sheep I AM revealed the pleasure He gained in His existence. 

Yes, this is the Father's love for the Son. But remember, God is love. Love is one of the Father's attributes. Love is who God is. Love is what God does. 

I want to 

  • appreciate
  • relish
  • delight
  • savor
  • revel
  • drench
  • luxuriate
  • soak
  • bathe

in this all-consuming love.

It is that foundation that allows . . . no, that causes me to surrender to the Father and welcome His will with joyful abandon, to understand and enjoy the unique way He made me, and to fulfill the purpose He has for my life.

What are you immersed in today? 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Too Pooped to Post

In case you haven't noticed, today is Tuesday.

That's one day after Monday . . .

which makes me one day late for my weekly note.

Yes, I did remember the deadline.

No, I did not meet it.

Hmmm, maybe I should have invited a guest post.

Maybe next time.

It seems the physical stress of the last 15 months and in particular those of the last six have finally taken their ultimate toll. 

I couldn't meet a writing deadline.

God graciously lifted the mental and emotional burdens over Curt's serious health issues with his cardiologist's clearance to travel on 14 January. He's really been doing marvelously well. He's even walking 30 minutes a day, even up and down hills.

Evidently his improved condition gave my body permission to bring its complaints further into the open. The last week has brought further pain complications in my back and hips which have contributed rather ruthlessly to a heightened level of mental confusion and inability to cope with every day life.

Now don't start feeling sorry for me.

I have been applying the energy and focus God has granted to rest in His presence. My time in the Word has been richer. My fellowship with the Savior has been warmer. The ministry of the Spirit to me has been sweeter. For these things I lift honor and glory to the Triune God of all creation. 

There's more praise to be given though the actual evidence is still unseen.

The highly-recommended chiropractor I visited yesterday has a clear understanding of what's going on in my body. It seems the sacrum at the base of my spine has locked itself in place in a very unnatural position. That means that my whole skeletal structure has been functioning at odd angles for much more than a year. 

Suddenly the increasing complex of aches and pains all makes sense.  Hallelujah!

This wonderful news is tempered by his prognosis that it will take a couple of weeks to improve mobility and hopefully bring relief from pain. Another couple of weeks will be needed to move my body back to 100% efficiency. It's not so long to wait considering how long it's taken to get into this predicament. 

However, all of the various symptoms came to a crescendo of sorts on the very day of my appointment  and they are still pretty much in place. Let me share a great big, "Ouch!"

So for the time being I need to rest - as much as I'm able with an appointment today with my primary care doctor and a business meeting in the afternoon. Then there are the other responsibilities we gladly undertake to support Bill and Jenna by dropping off and picking up our grandchildren from various activities. At least those activities don't require too much brain power. 

I pray I'll be back on track in time to post next week. I'm going to leave that in the Father's hands. Please join me in heartfelt gratitude to Him for leading me to the healing process He has arranged for me. I ask that this path would be straight and sure and short that we might return home to Prague. 

How about you? 

My signal that I was way beyond the end of myself was missing a writing deadline. 

What's the red flag that signals the end of the line for you?