The Long Days of Summer

Here it is August and the summer is steadily drawing to a close. Where has it gone?  Now, don’t get me wrong…I am not a lover of hot weather.  I could be very happy with the 80’s all summer, so the cooler weather that comes with fall is something I look forward to.  But I DO love the long days of sunshine! Cool summer evenings taking a walk or sitting on the front porch chatting and sipping some lemonade. These rate way up there with things I love – and things I long for other times of the year.

The word I want to focus on is “long”, but not in terms of how many days summer spans or how long the sunlight last during these days. It is rather, that no matter how long the days are in terms of sunlight, they are never more than 24 hours. And…somehow, for me, those 24 hours are never long enough to get everything done that is there before me begging to be done.

Do you feel the same way? Busyness and chaotic schedules are nothing new.  Not to me; not to most people – and, I suspect, not to you. We listen to messages, read books and re-prioritize our schedules trying to make more room in them. These days the term is “margins”. We are encouraged to create extra space in and around each page of our life.

How are you doing with creating those spaces? I am a sad failure at it, and more than that, the pages of my book are actually running into the gutters. So, what should I do about it – and what great advice am I going to blog here for you? The answer to both of those questions is “I don’t know”.

It seems that much of my crazy life is simply the result of too many wonderful people, opportunities and obligations. Does that sound like I am not just living a crazy life, but that I have gone crazy? Let me explain: I am blessed to have a father who is nearly ninety-four, a sweet  ten-week old grandson…and many wonderful relatives between the two. And, of course, my husband of nearly forty-three years who is always at my side is part of the count. I also have great friends who are living life with me. All these people simply take time.  Time well spent…albeit it is still time. Then there are the opportunities that come my way everyday. At sixty-one my bucket list continues to grow. Not for the wild, outrageous, are and/or expensive things of life – but rather for the chance to help someone, somewhere every single day from the knowledge and experiences my life has…and will afford me. I find myself fairly bursting with things I still want to learn to do to grow my knowledge in hopes of offering help and hope. Finally, there are the wonderful obligations of life that crush in on me. Why are they wonderful? Because I am blessed with work that pays me decently and clients who treat me with dignity and fairness. Of course, many of life’s obligation do not seem wonderful…such as needy neighbors, mindless chores, and urgent responsibilities that can nearly suffocate me. But, put in the proper prospective even those obligations are wonderful because they mean I am alive and have the health to meet them.

So, it would seem that even though I don’t have the answer for myself, or you, on how to make these long summer days hold anything less in them…I have managed to get some insight that will help me face another crammed day with new vigor.   Perhaps it will you, also.

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Aglow and Burning with the Spirit

Romans 12:11 “Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord.” Amplified Version

Yesterday I picked up my Bible and began reading the twelth chapter of Romans.  When I got to this verse, I found myself touched and energized by these words.  It was a Monday morning and I knew it was going to be not only a busy day, but a busy week.  Yet these words blocked all responsiblities and duties from my mind for a few moments.  I think that recent events in America made these words jump off the page at me like never before.

Like I said, it was the beginning of a busy day – and week, so I haven’t gotten to spend anymore time meditating on this verse.  That is why I thought I would do that with you in this post.

Asburning-heart a visual learner, I found this photo a great example of what being “aglow and burning with the Spirit” would look like if I could see it in the visible world.  Fire is fierce and powerful, mesmorizing and beautiful as it licks up the oxygen that fuels it.  When combining the two and giving it a spiritual meaning, it becomes a picture of fiercely standing for Biblical truth while serving the Lord in beautiful love.  The two cannot be separated if my zeal and earnest endeavor is to be effective.

Never “lag” brings to mind one exerting energy, wearing out and slowing down.  Earnest endeavors are those that require ALL of me.  All my heart, soul, mind and strength.  The challenge Pauls give me is to not only never lag in my earnest endeavor of sharing and showing Jehovah God – but to get brighter, hotter and more on fire as I serve the Lord.  What an incredible challenge – and one that I can never do in my own strength.

As I ponder the meaning of this short verse, I am rocked by its impact on me.  My understanding of my own frailness is overwhelmed by the the incredible ability of my Lord Jesus Christ.  “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”  That is the old King James version of the verse.  Most modern translations use “who” instead of “which”.  I am not going to debate whether one is more right than the other – however, it is quite obvious that the phrase “I can do all things through Christ” means it is He who strengthens me.  To think of the verse using “which” instead of “who” points me to the fact that because I can do all things through Christ then I am strengthened in my weakness because I understand it is all about Jesus and NOT ME!

Holy Spirit – I pray – be aglow and burning in me as I serve the Lord in Your strength.   Then I will never lag in zeal and earnest endeavor fiercely standing in truth and love.

Words…the 5 W’s and God

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Anyone who knows me, knows that I struggle with the propensity to talk too much.  I do not often spew unkind words or unhelpful words; nonetheless I can identify with a text balloon that is jammed to the bursting point.  It is something I have prayed about, chided myself over, followed various disciplines regarding… and only rarely do I feel that my amount of talking is “just right”!  Are you like me?

We live in a world of words.  According to a 2013 post on a language blog, males average 7,000 words per day and females from 10,000-20000.  However, both sexes average only about 500-700 words of actual value (these are words which are intended to communicate something of importance to another person).  That is a sad statistic, but not one that is terribly shocking.

Even if you are not a person who is prone to talk too much, I bet you still struggle with idle chatter at times because it is often expected of you.  We are a society that feels talk is a measurement of our level of involvement, commitment, intelligence, devotion… and the list goes on.  So, is there a way to limit not only our idle chatter, and also increase the number of words we say each day that have actual value?  I believe both objectives are worthy and attainable.

What if, before we opened our mouths to speak, we mentally ran the 5 W’s through our minds?  How might that change what we say and how much we say?  Would it also increase the number of words that had actual value?  Let me add one more element to this concept.  What if during that mental moment of thinking through the who, what, where, when and why – we also prayed for God to give us clarity and insight to speak only words of value.

I am struggling with how to explain what I am trying to convey, but I think using an acting auditioning technique will help.  Many years ago, I was taught to look at every script I was given for an acting audition from a who, what, where, when, why viewpoint.  You see, I needed to focus on who I was in the script – and who I was talking to; what I was talking about; where I was when I was talking about it  and when it was (these two parts were up to me to decide the scenario); and finally why I was talking about it.  Acting audiion scripts do not include idle chatter.  They are to the point generally lasting only 60 seconds.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not saying that we can never just relax and chat.  Goodness, life would be far too regimented if that were the case.  But, we all know that many conversations need to be – and CAN be – more focused and valuable.

I am challenging myself to really focus on what words will be of actual value in a conversation AND trust God to impress me with what to speak.  Will you accept the challenge also?  The outcome would be making idle chatter extinct and increasing our words of actual value exponentially.

It is, of course, much easier said than done – but my deepest desire is to talk less and… when I do talk, make sure my words have actual value!  Lord hear my prayer.  Amen.

Words…and the 5 W’s

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Anyone who know me, knows that I struggle with the propensity to talk too much.  I do not often spew unkind words or unhelpful words; nonetheless I can identify a text balloon that is jammed to the bursting point.  It is something I have prayed about, chided myself over, followed various disciplines regarding… and only rarely do I feel that I my amount of talking is “just right”!  Are you like me?

Simply put, we live in a world of words.  According to a 2013 post on a language blog, males average 7,000 words per day and females from 10,000-20000.  However, both average only about 500-700 words of actual value (these are words which actually are inteded to communicate something of importance to another person.).  That is sad, but not really terribly shocking.

Even if you are not a person who is prone to talk too much, I bet you still struggle with idle chatter at times because it is nearly expected of you in some situations.

We are a society that feels that talk is a measurement of our level of involvement, commitment, intelligence, devotion… and the list goes on.  So, is there a way to limit not only our idle chatter, but actually increase the number of words we say each day that have actual value?  I believe both objectives are valid.

What if before we opened our mouths to speak we mentally ran some, or all (depending on the situation) of the 5 W’s through our minds.  How might that change what we say, how much we say and what would be the value of these words?  Let me add one more element to this question: what if during that mental moment of thinking through the who, what, where, when and why – we also prayed for God to give us clarity and insight to speak only words of value.

Let me pose a few scenarios to explain where I am going with this.

1. You are meeting with a good friend to discuss the specifics of an upcoming important event both of you are attending.
Who?  You and your friend

Lessons of Life

Ever feel like you have been in school too long when it comes to learning life’s lessons?
When I was journeying through cancer I told a few friends that I wanted to be on Summer Break  …and that is what I feel like again at this juncture in my life.

It has been a tough eight months, starting with my husband’s aunt’s massive stroke leading to her death a few days later.  Then my mother’s health deteriorated very quickly and she passed away the first week of October. (You can read about the life lessons I learned during this incredibly difficult time on October 21st’s post.)

Two days following her death we were given the fabulous news that we were going to be grandparents for the first time this June.  It was such a poignant reminder of the circle of life.

After mother’s funeral I spent the next couple of months getting my elderly father moved into assisted living and worked on his assets to ensure he has enough money to live off of for as long as God allows him to live.

We began a new year with great expectations…especially for our grandchild’s upcoming birth.  But, we were soon back in school learning another life lesson.  This time it was the sudden downturn in our sweet dog Sasha’s health.  Even though she was having struggles, the medical professionals couldn’t find a reason – and then there it was; a tumor on her adrenal gland.  She came through surgery after a few days of touch and go.  Over the next several weeks she improved and we had our playful 8 year old girl back.  After a walk through our local park two weeks ago where Sasha frollicked and played, showing her proud strut, she took a strange turn – wandering glassy eyed into corners, hanging her head, seemingly unable to hear us and respond to us.  The next two days were brutal watching her decline.  Her doctor’s diagnosis was that she was probably in adrenal crisis.  If that were the case it was quite “fixable”.

We were so hopeful as we begged God to let her make it just another twenty-four hours to get the blood test results proving adrenal crisis – and all would be well.  God had a different plan.  She was NOT in adrenal crisis.  She had something else very wrong with her.  Something neurological.  Her odd wandering and placing herself in corners is called “head pressing” and it is always a sign of a problem in the brain or the brain stem.  We sat in the examining room stunned, knowing what had to be done, but so fighting it.

We let our sweet little one slip away while holding her close.  It only took a few second and then she was gone, But the words “…and then she was gone” seemed to make no sense.  How could this be?  She should have had more years to share the “special sauce” God covered her in when He made her.  We felt cheated and felt she was cheated also.  We had so much more love to spoil her with.

So, why is it that our pets hold such a special place in our hearts?  The death of my mother was very painful, but this was – and is – a different kind of pain.  The day we let her go as I cried, I pondered this question .  I was comparing the love that we have for our children with the love we have for our pets.  I knew it wasn’t the same, but the reason escaped me for a few moments.

Then it came to me and it was such an eye-opener that I felt I needed to share this “life lesson” with you.  Animals are part of God’s creation that do not have a sin-nature.  Yes, all creatures and creation were affected when Adam and Eve chose to exercise their free will in the Garden of Eden. However, creatures were not created as beings having free will.  They live their lives by instincts.  That is why, they can…and do…love us unconditionally!  They are not capable of breaking our hearts and rending our spirits like our children may because of choices they make in life.  With our pets we get a glimpse of what God created us to be: sinless.  What an incredible realization!

I have not yet closed the chapter on this life lesson.  The pain is still too new.  However, I have learned – once more – that God desires us to grow and learn from each of life’s lessons.  My life has, yet again, been enriched in the midst of my pain…and for that I am thankful.

A Poem: “HOPE”

imgresI found this poem in one of my newsletter I put out several years ago for women journeying through cancer and wanted to share it with you.
Hope is a candle in the night
Hope is a long respite
Hope is a feather…once lifted, it’ll only get higher
Hope is an oasis in a desert
Hope is a diamond in the dirt
                                Hope is everywhere yet hope is scarcely there
                                Hope is the dream of better days
                                Hope is the passion ablaze
                                Hope is beautiful
                                …and hope is tranquil
                                Hope is there for everyone
                                It is an asset that ALL has in abundance
                                       Copyrighted – Melvin T
The source of our HOPE is God and faith in Him.  May your week be filled with hope as you focus on the source of your hope.

One Purpose and Goal

I have long prayed that my actions and words would glorify God…but, in the last several weeks I have realized that this is not, or should not be, my one purpose and goal.  Not because it isn’t a noble and worthy calling but because it is unachievable.  My daily prayer was “Lord may I glorify YOU in all I say and do”.

However, the words to a song I have often sung should have now become my daily prayer: “In my life Lord be glorified, be glorified.  In my life Lord be glorified today.”  You see, glorifying God isn’t something I do, but rather something I am. Over and over these past few years and I get older, I am reminded that it is not about doing, but about being.  We are human beings, not human doings…as some say.

                                                               To emanate means to:
                                              show forth, flow out of, exude, emit, radiate

flower-lightIn other words, emanating God’s glory is not something I am capable of ever doing because I do not have within me the ability to DO anything that would show forth or emit something that belongs only to God.  I am His child – His daughter, chosen and sacred to HIm.  God’s glory lies within me.  And, since I have no glory of my own, then I can only BE emanating God’s glory.  The Westminster Catechism says, in part,  that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”  Unfortunately because I am such a type A personality I read that as “I need to do something, or say something everyday and all the time that will glorify God”.  But that isn’t what it says.  It simply says that my chief end, my only purpose, is to glorify God.  …Glorify God, because His glory is in me.

I know it may sound like nothing more than semantics – but please hear me on this.  If I think I can glorify God by any of my actions or words the emphasis is on “me doing”.  On the other hand if I understand that God’s glory lies within me simply because I am His child and so He is my heavenly father – I am like the rose in the photo above whose petals are being used as instruments to carry the light of His glory through.  I LOVE that difference!

IN MY LIFE LORD BE GLORIFIED TODAY AS I “BE” THE INSTRUMENT THROUGH WHICH YOUR GLORY SHOWS

Watching Each Step – That’s Walking in Grace

ThWalk-on-the-ICE1e weather has been unusually wet and icy in Colorado the last many weeks and I find myself struggling in the mornings to keep my footing as Sasha, our Australian Shepherd, and I take our daily walk.  I don’t have “shoe chains” like those in the picture…but my metal cleats that fit over my tennis shoes have been invaluable to me on many days.

It was during one of these treacherous morning walks, as I was studying each step carefully prior to putting my foot down, that I realized this is what God intends for us regarding walking in grace.  On the mornings I do not have to be cautious of ice, I can take each step quickly and rarely look down at what is right before me.  This is what makes a walk “exercise”.  These slow plodding walks afford me little cardio benefit.

…however, when it comes to our spiritual walk, I have begun to see the necessity to take each step carefully. I imagine that most everyone reading this post is basically just like me: living each day looking ahead several steps and not paying close attention to the step right in front of us.  What I mean, is that we lose the moments because of the hours and days filled with busyness and activity.  This busyness and activity might revolve around “good” things or, at the least necessary things – but, the fact still remains that we rarely live in the moment.

Grace shows up for us in the moment – not a second too soon or too late.  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” –  II Corinthians 12:9a  Isn’t that exactly what we need?  To look at and study each moment to see God’s grace for us exactly when we need it, is like slowly studying where I put my feet when on ice.  Each step in life has the potential for being treacherous, and yet most of the time we bulldoze on trying to get ahead – “get some cardio workout” regarding our career, or our education, or a multitude of other things.  

On that particular morning’s walk, as this truth came to me, I found myself suddenly smiling…laughing; because God had revealed a great truth to me in the midst of acres of silver slick paths.   When I walk in the moment, looking for what God has for me in it – I find grace.  On the other-hand, when I run ahead – frantically thinking about all that has to be done – I get easily overwhelmed because grace didn’t make the run with me.  God doesn’t offer you grace for tomorrow, or even the next hour.  If he offered it in the future of what value would it be for the moment?  That would be like me saying to myself “I will put my metal cleats on after I slip several more times, and maybe fall and injure myself.”

God promises His grace is sufficient.  Do I believe that?  Do you believe that?  The way we begin believing in something is to take a step forward and see what happens.  Grace is metal cleats on bottoms of tennis shoes keeping us safe spiritually on this treacherous walk named LIFE.

I Haven’t Been Practicing What I Preach

Practice what you Preach

I have been struggling the last couple of months with the circle of life.

Within just 36 hours of my mother’s death we were overjoyed with the announcement that our first grandchild was on its way.  But somewhere
in the midst of the emotional roller coaster of life, during those days, I found myself dealing with feelings that I didn’t even know were there. Feelings of discouragement and disappointment and disenchantment.  Brutally honest rantings with God regarding MY choices for the end of my own life.  I want to leave this earth for my heavenly home while I am still a vital part of society and my family.  I don’t want to be a burden and overstay my welcome here below.  …sound familiar?

This week while struggling to pray, in this emotional state, the Holy Spirit whispered “you are thinking too much of the creation and not enough of the Creator”.  What a hard pill to swallow – not just because it was true…but because I have admonished and encouraged women I mentor and teach to not think more of themselves, as the created, than they do of their Creator!   …yet I was doing exactly that…and it somehow felt justified.  After all, with all that has transpired in my life these last several months; wasn’t what I was feeling just part of being human? Yes! But it really was nothing more than a “righteous” pity-party.  I say “righteous” because I really did desire to be “morally right” and focus on God and not on myself – but in the midst of real-life events and human emotions and feelings….I lost sight of my Creator.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not saying that I am over all these feelings now and thinking only of God.  What I am saying is that I am choosing to place my focus in a different place than I have been.  I do not know what life will look like for me in the next moment, hours, days, month and years.  AND, even if I saw it all I wouldn’t understand or comprehend what my Creator was doing in, and through, my life.  That is what we grasp for.  But for all our grasping, we come away empty-handed with bleeding fingertips.  God says “the peace of God which passes all understanding will keep my heart and mind through Christ Jesus”. Phil 4:7   There is only one way to have that peace.  It is not focusing on me, myself and I!

If you have followed my blog much you know that I love the words to old hymns.  I found myself quietly singing the words to the last verse of “My Jesus I Love Thee” while lying in bed last night.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

The only way I will “love my Creator God in life and in death” is by thinking more of Him and less of myself.  This is my constant prayer and HOPE.

A New Prospective

I know it has been several weeks since I last posted…and I have a good reason for that.  My elderly mother’s health began aggressively declining about 5 weeks ago and she slipped into eternity with her savior, Jesus, late in the evening of Oct 8th.  My life the weeks prior to and since have been crowded with more things than I can possibly recount…and that is not the purpose of this post.  I just wanted to give you some insight into where I have been, am and am going so that you can understand – and possibly identify – with me.

My husband and I have been very fortunate that, until two weeks ago, neither of us had lost a parent.  In fact, due to the longevity of not only our parents, but also our grandparents, we have joked over the years that we are stuck with each other forever.

Now that I have experienced both the end of my mother’s days, her succumbing to death and the days since her death…I have a new prospective.  I saw her agitation at unresolved issues during her last few days and the contrasting peace and rest that brought all of us in her presence, peace and rest.  As a believer in Jesus, I am ready to join heaven’s ranks, and have often be so blessed at funerals that I can hardly stay in my seat because I want to see my savior’s face.  “Take me, take me too…” I have thought.

But, in my naivety I have not contemplated the fact that although I know the outcome of my dying…I have never travelled the path that is called “death”.  It is unknown and it is unfamiliar…and it can be daunting even to the strongest of saints.  I believe it is partly not knowing how much more will have to be endured prior to God’s call home and the rest is simply our inability as humans to know what death itself is.  How is it that a person is alive one moment and dead the next?  We can’t see the heart stop beating and we can’t hear as the last breath is breathed.  Mother was simply there one moment and in the presence of Jesus the next…but, for us left behind it was quite unexplainable. As I approached mother’s still, lifeless body I knew in my heart of hearts that her soul and spirit had flown to Jesus and her body had finally come to a complete rest.  But there was no true understanding of what had taken place in our world governed by our five senses.

stairway-to-heavenThe best way I can explain Mother’s departure from this earth into the heavenly realms is with a verbal description of this picture.    She walked each step …up…up, over the last several days until she was in her savior’s arms – safe and secure forever.  Sometimes those steps came in quick succession and we saw her earthly body grow tired more quickly.  Other times the steps seemed to stall…for a little too long, from our prospective, as we looked on her suffering.  At times she seemed to look over the edge and pull back in fear “seeing” the hard times and relationships in her life as a precipice that might make her fall off the steps.  But then a few more steps and her face would ease into a smile or a calm and unafraid demeanor.   During the entire journey from earth to heaven that spanned mother’s last days she often seemed suspended somewhere between earth and heaven; sometimes whispering single words that made us know she was seeing a new dimension.  Words that made us smile and sometimes cry and nearly always startle just a bit – for this is place none of us have been ourselves.  Her last full day she seemed to be travelling further away from our reality.  She was, as it were, getting so far up the steps that she was no longer focusing on things here on earth like we are forced to do.  Of course, each step was completely ordered and orchestrated by God until He finally said “Come on home, I have been waiting for you” and she stepped from this world to “an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands.” II Corinthians 5:1