Gethsemane again

This morning as I spread jelly on a bagel, I heard stinging words that were hurled at me over a piece of toast years ago. Rather than launch me into anger,  those words – thank you, Jesus –  brought me back to a truth I realized many years ago, though it isn’t written into the Gospels. I’m not even sure this truth hit me at Easter, but when it  hit me, I fell to the floor in worship.

Think, Christian, of your Redeemer and Savior King kneeling in the dirt beneath the olive trees that night. Think of the lies, challenges to his identity, insults and slurs hurled against him by the “religious” power structure – just listen, and remember:

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.But  Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11“No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8: 3-11 NIV

The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ “And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and went away. Matthew 16: 1-4 NIV

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’?
“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Matthew 19: 3-9

Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him.25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27 Finally, the woman died. 28 Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”

29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

“The son of David,” they replied.

43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,

44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord:
    “Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
    under your feet.”’[e]

45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. Matthew 22: 15-46 NIV

Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.32 He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; 33 they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.  Luke 18: 31-34 NIV

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. 1 Peter 2: 23-25 NIV

Scripture enough, truth enough to remind us that throughout his ministry, Jesus was continually challenged, “traps”laid out to trip him up by the “religious” leaders who saw him as a  threat to their power base. Baseless,  senseless, unreasonable, self-centered, irrational, and yes, flat-out evil. These are the very ones Jesus came to save, to spill his blood for and redeem IF ONLY they  would recognize their sins and need of his atoning Blood, IF ONLY they would turn in true repentance and reverence to him, turn in true gratitude at least, if not in awe and wonder at such selfless, sacrificial, dauntless, courageous, relentless, passionate  love. What, if not this kind of love, would cause the ONE who knew HE WAS THE SACRIFICIAL LAMB OF GOD to cry out FOR the people he would suffer and die for:

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Matthew 23: 37-39 NIV

So what thought came to me about  the thoughts of Jesus as he knelt there in Gethsemane? HE SAW YOU! HE SAW ME! HE KNEW OUR LOVE, HEARD OUR PRAYERS, HEARD OUR SONGS OF THANKS AND PRAISE! That’s what helped Jesus stay  the course and walk through the insults, the agony, the weight of OUR sin falling on HIM: that  we would see the truth,  embrace it  with joy and run to HIS forgiving, gracrious, merciful, true love!

And what was his grief? THAT SO MANY  WOULD NEVER SEE, NEVER RECOGNIZE, NEVER KNOW, NEVER UNDERSTAND, NEVER COME TO HIS LOVE FOR THEM! Oh, I feel that  same anguish! 

That’s the sole,  singular reason I write this blog: to tesitfy to GOD’S LOVE IN CHRIST JESUS in fervent hope that some  who don’tknow HIMmay readthis, see and  hear Him,and come to HIS passionate love for them. And so that those of us, you who read this and know HIM, may be encouraged to run with the great GOOD NEWS THAT JESUS SAVES! Don’t hide your lamp under a  bushel! Don’t say someone else will do it! Don’tsay it isn’t your  calling, because IT IS YOUR CALLING! However you are grace-gifted, it is your calling! MAKE  JESUS KNOWN! MAKE  HIS LOVE AND TRUTH FAMOUS! DON’T STOP TILL THE WHOLE WORLD HEARS – even your neighbor, even your brother-in-law, even your boss, even that person who hurls insults at you.

This is why about 25 of us ordinary  women gather every Monday morning to fervently sing and declare Scripture and passionately

pray for three hours for ALL THE WORLD TO KNOW THE AMAZING GRACE AND  SAVING  LOVE  OF GOD IN JESUS, OUR REDEEMER, SAVIOR, FRIEND, GOD AND KING!  Here’s  an ordinary  guy singing what we ordinary  girls  sing. Oh ordinary person, come to and lift up  your EXTRAORDINARY SAVIOR AND GOD!

Today, pray your own honest “…BUT GOD…” Lord, Jesus, Savior, I confess I’ve held back and not shared your love when I could, and I don’t know  why it scares me, unless I fear the rejection of people more than the approval of God. I’ve kept quiet, BUT NOW AS YOU HELP ME I WILL_______________________________________________________________, and Holy Spirit,  speak LOUD and CLEAR to me, in Jesus’ name, AMEN!

 

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I Stand Amazed in the Presence ……

princeofpeace13IMG_2258IMG_2261

It was simple. It was clear. It was filled with welcoming, acceptance, warmth and unity: people literally from all over the world meeting together in a park to celebrate the Resurrection and our oneness in the love and family of Christ. So it was no problem for me to invite passers-by to join us. Soon the chairs were  taken, and  folks sat on the stone wall around the meeting area, singing, listening to the singing, and listening to God’s clear invitation into the transformation of new life in Christ. I was  blessed,and I do mean blessed, to be able to talk to some of the people watching and passing by who didn’t know ”us” or why we were there.

One young woman from Asia chatted with me and I shared that we aren’t about religion, about forms anyways and traditions, as much as about the ONE who unites us all, traditional, Charismatic, high liturgy, non-denominational: Jesus, in relationship  with him, receiving God’s boundless love  through Christ. She said she sensed that,sensed a peace and love in me (which is Christ, not me!)  and knew this meeting must be about love. With plenty of food, why shouldn’t I/we invite people just walking by to come sit and eat with us and welcome them into the love we know and feel and walk in: not just  feel-good “limerence” love, but TRANSFORMATIONAL passionate, powerful love strong enough to change us from “world/leaf-eating simply existing caterpillars” into the new creation, significance and God’s purpose filled, Jesus-Holy Spirit-indwelling “butterfly” sons and daughters of God we were created to be?

This is one short post, but I don’t have to expound at length on the truth that Jesus WAS there with us,  yes in and through each ordinary people other, undeniably loving and extending  his hand and hope and value. I do truly pray these people will come again  on Sunday nights where the group  meets in Brian and Jessica’s house, just to sing and fellowship, and feel welcomed. nothing high  falutin’ , just the love of God in Jesus Christ.

10 He (Jesus) was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name,he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1: 10-14 N

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 Living Bible

10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4: 10-11 NIV

What more do we need?

The women in this music video aren’t religious fanatics: they’re the ransomed, the redeemed,the sinners saved by grace, transformed to significance, purpose, and passion to see others find this same incalculable love, by unconditional  love through the  righteous Blood of Jesus and the unending love of  our Creator Almighty Father God!

Family, friends, please sing this at my “graduation party”!

The only “…BUT…” to pray today is BUT GOD ALMIGHTY AND JESUS LOVE ME, this I know, ENOUGH TO SUFFER, DIE AND RISE TO LIFE FOR ME!

Undercover High Divers- or,God Takes Me Into Places I’d Walk Away From!

No, it’s not about me. It’s NEVER about me. It’s always and ever about who GOD is, what GOD says and  does and where GOD leads me, and when He “sets me up,” it’s for goodness I could never have engineered myself.

Disclaimer: I’m not one of “David’s mighty men” who  did “exploits” and took  out  Israel’s enemies with their muscle, courage and swords. No, I’m one of God’s  daughters who loves her family, read Bible stories to my sons and knelt  by their beds to pray with them every night, put band aids on boo-boos,  rode bikes with them around the block, threw together costumes for plays, and basically tried to be a loving, encouraging, supportive mom and a giving, respecting  wife. Exploits? Swords? Battle? Not me! “I’m a lover, not a fighter!”

Or have I been looking at battle and exploits the wrong way?  Have I thought victory  depended on my muscles and courage?  Is bravery only going face-to-face against nasty people?

Maybe I need a new lens in my spirit and mind’s “telescope”! The Warrior is Jesus; the shield is HIS faith! The Sword is the Holy Spirit,  and the Victor and  empowerer and King is YHWH Almighty, Olam El, Everlasting God. Does that mean I’m irrelevant? What’s my part in the battle for God’s Kingdom to come and  His will to be done again, fully, on Earth as it is in Heaven?  I’m thinking it’s discerning my TRUE enemy (NOT the people who bring strife into my life, but the ungodly spirits whispering and lying to them)  worship, prayer, and bold kindness.

So… are you ready for a story? The latest “what is GOD up to” happened yesterday, and as usual, He started it long before. About five years ago I started going to a nearby Healing Room  (http://healingrooms.com) for some prayer and insight into an  emotional/spiritual battle in my life. And a disclaimer here: surrendering a year before that, and understanding what surrendering meant and why God wanted me to,  would have limited the wounds I needed healing for. From time to time since then, I’ve gone again, and always God has spoken loving, caring word to me. I went again last week, and God spoke about a tangled mess of cords and said, through the intercessor, that He was patiently, capably, lovingly untangling the problem. The intercessor told me, “The Lord says,’ Don’t you worry – you’re still plugged into ME.  I’m your power source! I have  enough for you – even more than you know. Say My name, plead My Blood!”

Wow! God’s arm around my shoulder and His hand on my heart, faithfully.

Are you ready for more of God’s dot-to-dot? Saturday night I  needed to  get out of the house, so I decided to go to the Saturday evening service at the church that  hosts this  Healing Room. It  was very informal but VERY SIMPLY YES, we KNOW God’s Spirit lives in us, so of course we expect to see His hand and power in our lives and we get “out there”  and live as though it’s  true. They announced prophetic prayer the next afternoon for anyone who might want some, so I signed up. Yes, call me a junkie for God’s voice and Presence! My tentative plans for later Sunday were to have dinner with my younger son, who was in town visiting some of his  friends, so I signed up for a  later time slot.

But on Sunday, my son texted me that his friends had dinner plans, so could we do breakfast on Monday instead.  Hmm… I usually drive 85 miles south on Monday mornings to attend an amazingly anointed worship intercession group (and yes, it’s more than worth the gas and time), but this was a chance to see my son, and then up popped an email about the Monday noon hour prayer here in town, so I could do breakfast with my son and still do some intercession. His friends suggested a coffee shop in the downtown area, and I agreed. Off I went  to  the church, and gosh, there were more people than I expected to see there. People ARE hungry to hear God’s voice!

What I heard from the man and the young woman, Carl and Elyse,  I sat down with, two total strangers, spoke directly into my life. Carrying the fragrance of Christ, and levels, Carl reported, going new places in different ways, prayer critical beforehand.  Elyse smiled and said as she was writing  down in her notebook what she was hearing from God, Carl had been saying the same things! The word she heard, though, was “high diver,” and she insightfully pointed out that the higher a diver dives from, the deeper the plunge, the deeper the impact. “Holy socks, God,” I thought,”you mean I’m going to go through more than I already have???!!”

Let me insert here that  I’ve never jumped off any board higher than about three feet above the pool, and then I stood on the edge and bent over and did a very shallow  dive. Usually I enter a pool by the steps! I avoid confrontation when at all possible, like to keep the peace, and may have an Achilles’ heel of mercy. Exploits and boldness are not  natural to me, nor is diving off a high board! If I have any courage and boldness at all, it’s God’s Spirit in me, not me myself and I!

Elyse said I’d/we get to choose to respond to God’s higher and deeper or not, so the next day I hopped in my car, allowing an hour for commuter traffic, and set off to meet my son for breakfast, expecting nothing more than coffee and giving him his belated Valentine’s Day card and  gifts..

The traffic on this unusually low cloud-covered day was lighter than usual due to, I suppose, the Presidents’ Day holiday. I followed my phone’s GPS, not the usual way I’d have chosen to drive downtown, when, turning up the 101 onto surprising heavy traffic, I saw a hole in the thick clouds ahead of me. Was it …no, I wasn’t dreaming … a heart-shaped hole in the swiftly moving clouds? It  was! And darn my safety conscious self, I did NOT take my hand off the wheel and my eyes off the road to switch to the camera on my phone and take a picture to show you. Trust me; it WAS a heart! And it dissolved in about five minutes, but I was aimed straight at it,  or I might have missed it. Thank you, Jesus, for  Your directions and Your Love!

I arrived at the coffee shop twenty minutes before  our scheduled time, so I got an iced green tea from the barista, Emily, at the counter. If my son’s friends hadn’t recommended the shop, and if I didn’t  know they’re solid Jesus followers, I might’ve walked back out the door after I saw the painting of a winged, horned  being with a pointed tongue on the back wall! God is  amazing and God is pure love in the places HE leads us! I noticed, thankfully, a picture of Hong Kong harbor on the changing TV screen on the wall. Hmmm…. almost nobody else in  the place, so after commenting on how  much Emily must have had to learn to make all those drinks, I asked her if she’d like to hear about a miracle. She smiled and replied yes, so I told her about how God arranged nine years earlier to make the connections I needed in Hong Kong when my granddaughter started arriving  eleven weeks prematurely. No kidding, I counted 21 miracles on that trip!

 

My son arrived, so we ordered, sat down, I gave him the photo flip book I’d made him for Valentine’s Day, along with the extra  copy  I had of the photo book of his niece’s early arrival (how had I thought to bring that to him this day, when I’ve had it since 2010?). When Emily brought our food, there on the table was the photo record of the miracle I’d shared with her!

Shortening this long story, after we ate, I asked Emily if she’d like a copy of the devotional book I had (happened to have two copies) in my car. She said  she would, and told me she’s seeking, so I gave her a book, and she asked if I’d come back before she leaves this job for another one in a  few weeks. Don’t you know I will! This was TOO GOD to be coincidence!

Off I flew to the noon hour prayer, where 50-ish of us poured out fervent prayers for our nation, our  leaders, our infrastructure, our schools, our national character. High diving?On my “usual” Mondays, 25-ish of us pray for loved ones, friends, ministries, other faiths, governmental leaders, nations, and terrorist groups to come to know Jesus as Savior, as Lord of  their lives and Lover of their soul. Again, high divers, andLord  willing, deep impact, because noneof these 85-ish people pray for their own financial gain, fame,or easy living; what we/they pray for are the concerns of God’s passionately loving heart. Here’s what the meeting I missed prayed for: “Sharing about discernment of the  enemy’s works and God’sleading us to worship and praise Him for His Sovereignty over the as He goes to battle. In our praise, pain will turn to JOY as we see Him. He will not let us go. He is LOVE and has given us Himself!”

Boy, howdy and hallelujah! God LOVES ME! GOD LOVES YOU! HE  GIVE HIMSELF TO YOU A ND FILLS YOU TO BE HIS LIGHT, HEART, HAND, VOICE,  COMPASSION, PRAYER VICTORY HERE! If anybody thinks  this is religion talking, then you don’t  know HIM! God is RELATIONSHIP, not religion!

Yes, I guess we DO dive from the high board! Lord God Almighty, Holy One, One and Only Lord Most High, yes, by YOUR power  that inspires us to PRAY, may YOU FILL and cause our prayers to have deep, lasting, powerful, redeeming, delivering, life-transforming impact in lives, hearts, minds, bodies, spirits, wills, people YOU created all around the world, for their Eternity’s sake and Your Glory, Your delight, YOUR praise and pleasure and relentless Love’s sake, in Jesus’ name, amen!

IT’S ABOUT YOU, FATHER, JESUS, HOLY SPIRIT!

WHO AM I – WHO IS THIS READER –  TO YOU IN THIS?

And that’s enough to throw me flat on my face on the floor in worship and awe, asking YOU to give me the courage to take a  deep breath and dive as YOU make of this what YOUR HEART DESIRES!

 

a “…BUT…” to pray (yes, this is your most powerful weapon!):God, I may be – heck, I am – timid, scared, small, powerless in myself, BUT YOU SAY I am Yours, so fill me with Your courage and help me ____________________________________,  by Your Holy Spirit, for Your glory, in Jesus’ name, amen!

But I never traveled alone ….

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Hong Kong island from the Aberdeen side, 2006

Yesterday during my conversation with my long-time friends Belva and Maureen, I realized something positively and powerfully true: in the four times I’ve flown alone to Asia and back, and the one time with my younger son, I never WAS alone.

Trip # 1, crossing the Pacific roughly eleven hours after I heard the news that sent me online to book a flight, on the phone to call my friend Julia to hopefully connect with her  parents in Hong Kong,  and then hurriedly to the bedroom to pack a suitcase, I  tried to keep my  heart and mind at peace  by reading Brendan Manning’s book “Ruthless Trust.” He wrote, “ For me and many others, Jesus is the revelation of the only God worthy of trust … The promise of his (God’s) presence and the presence of his promise ….” I prayed all the way for safety and  health for my daughter-in-law  and newly arriving over two months too early granddaughter. Was I alone? NO! God’sars of promise and peace wrapped me on that flight, and HE proved his promises are faithful when 1) I easily found Julia’s mother in the airport and 2) Elsa arrived safely and never developed a serious complication in the seven weeks she was in the NICU. I counted 21 miracles on that trip! You may think  miracles are only things like raising the dead and restoring seeing eyes  to the blind, but when God arranges  three successive apartments to stay in on an island with mile-high rents and hotel room costs, a complete Thanksgiving dinner when the best you were  hoping for was turkey sandwiches at a deli, and warmly welcoming people – strangers who became friends –  in a church in Kowloon,  I call those miracles.

Trip # 2, crossing the Pacific again, this time to mainland China and Thailand, on the   I remained in good health and relative clarity of mind  despite the 35 hours without sleep. On my return trip  with what I thought was plenty of time  to  transfer in the airport  in Hong Kong, I was able to pick up my bags (which couldn’t be checked through), check them through security, go outside the terminal, go back into the international side of  the terminal, go through security again, check my bags, go through security again, and get an iced tea at the Starbucks  right beside  my gate with a whopping eight minutes to spare before  boarding  the plane!  Was I alone? NO!

Trip #3,  again to mainland China and Thailand, no issues  going, but coming back I flew from the interior to another mainland airport where, surely, there would be signs in English and English-speaking workers who could direct me to the van to get to the ferry to get across the harbor to the airport.  Uh,  wrong. I exited the terminal to a parking lot  filled with vans with nothing but Mandarin characters on them. Just as God says in Isaiah 30: 21, “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.’” And that’s exactly what happened, when God provided an airline pilot from Taiwan, walking behind  me, to guide me to the van that went to the ferry terminal. Was I alone? NO WAY!

Trip #4, the trip  that Orbitz almost  cancelled due to a  flight change by Korean Airlines, thanks to the 24-hour flu bug I caught, I was able to talk directly to Korean Air and salvage my  trip by leaving a day early, with the added benefit of staying in a hotel in Seoul to rest up, have lunch, and exercise in the hotel gym. On the way back I was  blessed with an extra day to stay with dear friends in Chiang Mai, get a  birthday massage, and hear an incredible story of God’s power and providence. Was I alone, ever? NOT EVER!

Trip $5 to mainland China with my younger son, with (again, we thought) ample time to arrive in Beijing and catch our flight  to the interior, we met  an impossibly long line at immigration, surely too long for us to get through and catch our flight. BUT a cleaning woman directed us (and how did she speak English and see our predicament??) directed us to go through the diplomaticl ine. Then when the inter-terminal train  zipped right past the terminal we needed  and deposited us at the next terminal, again Isaiah 30:21 in the form of a Chinese university professor  behind us, traveling back home (to the same city we were  heading for) from teaching in Texas, who helped us navigate security and find the train that WOULD take us  to the terminal we needed. Then when Satan broke all Heck loose at the next security checkpoint, we  still made it to the gate in time to  board  just before they closed the boarding.

Oh,Rose, why do you ever doubt God’s love and PRESENCE? I can almost  hear my eternally patient Heavenly Father saying,”Tsk, tsk, my beloved daughter, how many times  do I  have to pull your  hide out of the fire before you WILL TRUST MY LOVE FOR YOU and THAT MY PLANS ARE FOR YOUR GOOD???

 

I actually got word from God back in 2013 through an intercessor at a Healing Room – and NOT  the intercessors I was praying with – that said, “I’m trying to bless you. You have to LET me!”

Okay, 1) I must be a slow learner when it comes to my heart catching up with God’s  truth and  2) the sons of Korah said it more poetically than I just did:

For the director of music. A maskil[c] of the Sons of Korah.

As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
    under the protection of the Mighty One[d]
with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me;
    therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
    the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love,
    at night his song is with me—
    a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
    as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”

11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.   Psalm 42:1-11 NIV

I share my all-too frail humanity with you all,  with someone else who, like me,has a hard time catching your heart up to God’s truth, to encourage you that GOD WILL NEVER LET YOU WALK ALONE! Even when you may be physically alone and in dicey circumstances, GOD IS  WITH YOU! Remember WHO  walked in the fiery furnace WITH Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He is the same today for you as he was then with them!

This is NOT just the power of positive thinking. Positive thinking couldn’t have gotten me out of any of these troubles or created any of these miracles. GOD DID!

Put your hope in God, for yes, you will yet find reason to praise Him!

Roller Coaster Mama

 

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The Coaster Kid with California Screamin’ in the background

With chagrin I share this today. I had no idea 16 years ago when I wrote it that I was speaking prophetically to myself. Today I tell myself, “Teacher, teach thyself! Listen to and learn from the One who taught you this!”  Twice since then the floor has suddenly, catastrophically fallen out from under me on my life ride. Is what the LORD showed me decades ago still true? Yes! Is Jesus still my secure floor, my “ride buddy,” and is God’s Word the restraint I need? Yes, humbly, and yes, gratefully, God is STILL God, and I can buckle into Him alone to find security in the “Mad Mouse” ride we call life! And to myself: this ride ain’t over yet, so hang on to Jesus, Rose!

From time to time, people who have children in college or way too much time on their hands figure up the current cost of raising a child and broadcast it across the Internet.   Whatever the figure, it’s always enough to make young would-be parents scan their checking account and think twice. I’m glad I never thought to count the dollars-and-cents cost of having children, or I would have missed the bargain one e-mail pointed out: “For your investment, you get to finger-paint, play hide-and-seek, blow bubbles, catch lightning bugs, and never stop believing in Santa Claus. You have an excuse to keep reading your favorite bedtime stories without embarrassment, watch Saturday morning cartoons without shame, and wish on stars. You have the power to heal a boo-boo, scare away monsters under the bed, patch a broken heart, police a slumber party, ground them forever, and love them without limits, so one day they will, like you, love without counting the cost.”   The bottom line of all the tallies and figures is this: The best thing to spend on your children is time.

Mothers typically spend lots of time “doing” for their children: driving them to T-ball games and dance classes, decorating special cakes for birthdays and making costumes from boxes and Styrofoam for class plays, scoring for the soccer team and bringing ice and water for track season, sitting through so many piano recitals that you hear “Für Elise” in your sleep, surrendering your kitchen and your clean house to be a den mother for eight little Cub Scouts, and walking marathon distances door-to-door to help sell Girl Scout cookies. You do these things to enrich your children’s lives and give them opportunities that equip them for their future, and to let them know they matter to you. All these hours are time well invested.

From the time he was three, my older son wanted to be the first man on Mars, so we slept out in the backyard to be sure we didn’t miss meteor showers and lunar eclipses. We sent him twice and drove him once to Alabama for Space Camp. I gave up my freezer to science fair projects, saw “Star Wars” at the theater 23 times, and – before the days of one-hour developing – found a photo lab that would develop in an hour photos of the space ship model Eric had completed just three hours before the entry deadline for a “Destination: Mars” competition. Eric worked on NASA projects four summers during his undergraduate years. Then he met Emily and decided to become a linguist instead of an astronaut. His goals changed, but all the “Star Trek” sheets we bought and pizzas I made for sleep-over Science Olympiad study sessions were not in vain. Those times we invested in his life were time invested in love, and they’ve brought a great return on our investment.

So you get involved in the things that matter to your children. If you’re lucky, none of your children want to grow up to be crocodile handlers! What do you do, though, when your child wants to be a roller coaster designer? That’s right: you ride a lot of roller coasters.

Faster than a Ferris wheel, More powerful than a merry-go-round pony, Able to leap a spilled snow cone in a single bound –I am Roller Coaster Mama!

His father is at least partly to blame for this. He’s the one who cajoled me into riding “Montezuma’s Revenge” at Knott’s Berry Farm when I was three months pregnant with our second son, Ethan. It was either that loop-the-loop, or the vacation when Ethan was six months old, when we unknowingly set up our tent trailer by a lovely grove of trees that turned out to be within screaming distance of a roller coaster. It ran – click, click, click, aaahh! – till one in the morning, which was about the time Ethan finally went to sleep.

Since then, I have been on or listened to him recount the statistics of so many thrill rides that I can tell a corkscrew from a cobra roll and a boomerang from and out-and-back. Splash Mountain and Space Mountain don’t even faze me. I have spent five straight days in the “happiest kingdom on Earth”, and now I know it’s true that there is such a thing as too much happiness. I’ve plummeted 121 feet straight down on Superman. I rode in succession The Medusa – no floor – and The Viper – no more fillings in my teeth. I can say “linear synchronous induction motor” and sort of know what it means. I hardly flinch when Ethan exults, “It goes from zero to 100 miles per hour in four seconds!” I’ve pulled g’s, caught air, free fallen, been looped, banked, and double-helixed. I’ve hung suspended from tracks and haven’t even screamed on outside loops, with the only ill-effects – other than serious motion sickness – being a cracked rib from a wooden coaster on Mission Bay, and several urgent trips to the chiropractor.

The truth is, though, I have a love-hater relationship with roller coasters. They ceased to be totally fun to me when motherhood gave me good sense, or keener awareness of my own mortality, or a combination of all the pains in the neck, literally, I now have. Oh, I can manage anything Disneyland  or the State Fair can throw at me, but Magic Mountain is another story. I prefer steel coasters to wooden ones, because the ride is smoother, they hold you in more securely, and I’m less likely to crack or dislocate something important. Still, I did not get a warm fuzzy when Ethan reassured me that the Viper was easy to ride because it’s heartline roll – a 360 degree spin something like tumbling in a clothes drier – would rotate my body but keep my heart in the same place. It did – it started out and stayed in my throat!

Why do I subject myself to this physical and mental abuse? Because I love my son, and experiencing thrill rides is important to him. I really do want to share a part of this part of his life, so I’ve had to learn some coping – or survival – skills for riding roller coasters.

FIRST – I SECURE MYSELF TIGHTLY IN THE RESTRAINTS

 Restraints are your friends, even if they are uncomfortable. On a thrill ride, G-forces and centripetal forces propel your body in ways and at speeds God never intended them to go. This is what coaster designers and enthusiasts call “fun”. Unrestrained fun can kill you, so I snug those belts tight and make sure my head isn’t going anywhere the rest of my body isn’t.

SECOND – I BRACE MY FEET, OR CROSS MY ANKLES IF THE FLOOR WON’T BE THERE

 Part of the fun of a roller coaster, so they tell me, comes from the sense of instability and insecurity that heightens your senses and sends those “fight or flight” chemicals coursing through your brain and body. When I crest the first hill on Superman and plunge down that more-than-vertical drop, I press my feet into the floor for all they’re worth. It doesn’t make the ride safer or shorter, but it helps me feel more stable and keeps my seat in the seat. If I’m riding a suspended coaster where there is no floor, or if the floor will at some point drop away, I always cross my ankles, so my legs don’t whip wildly around on the loops and snap turns. At least it gives me the feeling of support, and I know my feet won’t be thrashing around at the mercy of centripetal force.   I watch the riders while I’m waiting in line, and I’ve seen where their feet go. My mother always told me it was ladylike to cross your ankles – but I also know that feet don’t painlessly fit in your mouth after you’re four months old, and knees are really hard to repair.

 THIRD – RIDE WITH A BUDDY

 Riding with a buddy on a wooden coaster is a smart idea: another body helps to keep you from slipping and sliding. I generally ride with my husband or our son, but if they want to ride in the front seat of a roller coaster, I opt to ride alone behind them, and I opt to pray. I want the Lord beside me. The truth is, even if someone is riding beside me, I still pray!   Psalm 91: 9-12 is a standby when I go to amusement parks: “If you make the Most High your dwelling, then no harm will befall you, for he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” I love my husband and our son and would rather sit next to them than ride alone, but I also want as many angels as possible crammed in that car with us!

FOURTH – I CENTER MY FOCUS                                                                                                            

Here is where my approach differs radically from that of the rest of the family. The males ride coasters with analytical minds and cast-iron stomachs. They’re absolutely electrified, keeping their eye open and anticipating the snaps, loops and dives, so they can lean into the curves. They just don’t comprehend that in me, anticipation produces anxiety, and my eyes looping all over everywhere set my inner ear spinning and my stomach churning. I know that the odds are overwhelming that I will be alive at the end of the ride. Coaster designers do have to factor in maximum and minimum G’s, friction, velocity, centripetal forces, and human anatomy when they design rides. My brain knows that, but that knowledge never seems to reach my emotions and my stomach.

I have to attack my panic on two fronts. First, I’ve learned to WILL myself to think of positive truths when I ride. Yes, I am hurtling over a precipice which is, according to the park brochure, “the nearest sensation to throwing yourself off a cliff,” but I have timed this ride while standing in line, and I know the first drop takes just 3 seconds to the bottom; then it’s only a four minute ride from there to the end. That is also truth. I CAN be at peace for four minutes. I can put all those natural childbirth classes to use here and choose to relax and breathe calmly.

Second, to keep my inner ear and stomach contents from sloshing around, I’ve learned to focus on one spot directly in front of me (even if that spot is my white knuckles on the safety bar or an imaginary spot on the tip of my nose if my eyes are closed). It’s like the way a dancer or skater spots when doing spins. Granted, these two procedures thwart the intention of the coaster designer, and the whole purpose of thrill rides, to drive me to the brink of terror and nausea. But MY purpose in riding is to contribute to quality family bonding AND get off the ride in one coherent piece, so I don’t really care that I miss half the fun.

This brings me to my last coping skill – KNOW YOUR LIMITS. I can’t bond with the family if I’m hugging the toilet in the ladies’ room. I won’t be pleasant to be around if my neck is frozen in some picturesque, but painful, pose. I ride what I think I can handle without unreasonably taxing my back, my capacity to use mind over instinct, or the angels who have to ride with me. I try to discern when to say “no,” and to say “no” without guilt. I try to recognize when I can say “yes,” take a deep breath, and trust that the amusement park is as interested in their insurance liability as I am in my safety.

Lately, I recognize this has broader practical application in my life. For mothers in particular and women in general, if you’re part of a family, or if you have relationships at all, life often resembles a roller coaster. Can anyone else identify?   Take a typical day. It’s 7:40 a.m., and I need to drive Ethan to school by 7:50, then get 45 miles across town to take my mother grocery shopping, run errands along the way to make it worth the time and gas involved, start home before 2:30 so I can use the carpool lane on the freeway, make dinner, and get to Bible study that evening with a dessert to share. But this is the day the garage door opener won’t open. No panic yet. Between the two of us, Ethan and I manage to shove it open. Mental note: drive back home to call garage door company before hitting the freeway. Pray with son and kiss him goodbye. Drive back home, make phone call, and leave a message for husband to let him know what’s going on. Remember to stop by store I don’t usually frequent to get almond butter and rice milk that Mom can’t get on the west side of town. Hit the freeway. Make it intact to Mom’s, to learn that her medical monitor just arrived and she can’t understand the directions. Help her put on the monitor, run test recording, call the monitoring company, re-write directions for Mom so she can do this on her own, take her to lunch, as it’s now noon, take her to store. Realize it’s next to impossible to start home by 2:30, so kiss carpool lane goodbye, gird my loins for battle, and kiss Mom goodbye. Drive to discount store for errand, find what I need, discover they only have two checkout lanes open and lines a mile long. Look at watch and remember that son did not take house key, so he can’t get into the house if he gets home before I do. Madly put everything back (what would Jesus do?) and dash out of store, into the freeway frenzy, to hopefully get home before son does. And so on . . . . Have you been on that ride lately?

Up, down, whip, drop, snap, loop, squashed by four g’s, panicked by those negative g’s when nothing’s supporting me, light speed through the curves– does this sound like your life, too? How are we supposed to cope positively, calmly, with roller coaster days and thrill ride weeks?   It seems to me the same survival skills I put into play when I’m riding a coaster apply emotionally, spiritually, and practically in my daily life. I’m sure none of these principles is new to you, but looking at spiritual truths through a different context helps me remember and apply them in my life. Lets’ re-examine those coaster survival skills again and see if they fit in life as well.

FIRST – SECURE YOURSELF IN THE RESTRAINTS

Most accidents on roller coasters happen when riders ignore safety mechanisms. When riders ignore the lap belt, they pay the consequences. Don’t do what the sign at the station says to do, and you will become a statistic. I am not above the law of gravity. Neither am I above the laws of God. If I live in a way that is foolish, selfish or reckless, I will certainly be thrown for a loop when life takes me for a ride. Just as there are safety systems on a thrill ride, God has given us safety mechanisms – guidelines and wisdom – that are meant to secure us and keep us from harm, especially through the ups and downs of life. Consider this advice, for example:

“Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”      James 1:19

What protection for the emotional well being of our lives and our families following this simple instruction gives! My hands – what I do – and my tongue – what I say – would remain safely inside the vehicle of what’s helpful and good at all times

Thrill ride designers keep safety mechanisms simple to use. If you just do the dos – one click, one pull, hold tight – you’re good to go. God gives us similar simplicity in his safety mechanisms for our lives. Jesus summed up all the commandments in two steps:

“Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12: 30-31

Think for a minute about what your life would look like if you just “buckled up” with those two do’s. Love holds us securely through the dips and drops in life.

“But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now. “ Joshua 23:8

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful, and let us consider how to spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  Hebrews 10:23-24

If I’d hold fast to God and do the loving thing in everyday circumstance, my heart would remain secure and stay where it belongs when life spin-dries me in a heart-line roll. One click –love God – one pull – love others – hold on to God, and we’re good to go.

SECOND – BRACE YOUR FEET, OR CROSS YOUR ANKLES IF THE FLOOR WON’T BE THERE.

In daily life, that “fight or flight” reflex is not a 50/50 toss-up. I know I lean heavily toward “fight.” Flailing feet aren’t safe on a roller coaster. Flailing attitudes and words aren’t safe in life.   When I’m stressed, my foot frequently ends up in my mouth, or I figuratively kick the person next to me with hurtful, thoughtless words.   That’s why it’s wise to press into the support around us, even when life’s running smoothly, to give us the stability that strengthens peace and self-control within us. Your family will appreciate it, since the riders sitting next to you are the ones who bear the brunt of your flailing.   My family has no clue how many crazed tirades they’ve been spared when I do think to press into the support around me.

A primary source of support is – or is intended to be – our family, but I’m sure you’ve experienced that you may not be able to look to them for support when they’re part of the corkscrew.   We all need people with whom we can be genuine and open, people who will love enough to push back with truth and encouragement when we need it. We need people we can count on for practical help, too. That’s why it’s wise to make a floor to brace yourself through a Bible study, small group, prayer partner, or support group. One of the first things we did when we moved was to search for a small home group through our church. The group we’re part of is consistently there for each other with very practical help through illnesses, house repairs, picking up kids at school when a car breaks down, shoulders to cry on, victories shared, and keeping each other accountable.

Even before you look to other people for support, plant your feet firmly on the faithfulness of God . . . for :

“. . . the Lord will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught.                                                                                                                                                 Proverbs 3:26

God designed us to need each other, to be needed, and to be the hands and feet and heart of Christ for each other. It’s our function as parts of the same body to support and encourage one another.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

In thrill ride terms, be a supportive floor for each other.

THIRD – RIDE WITH A BUDDY

 Sometimes people fail you, and the floor you trusted in completely falls away without warning. Sometimes your floor of support can’t be there in the moment to brace you – like when you’re alone in the car with just that teenager and toddler, the alternator quits, and your day spins off in a double helix.   That’s when an unfailing buddy is vital to keep you from sliding. Invite God along for the ride to keep you from cracking a rib, emotionally, mentally, spiritually – perhaps even physically speaking. God does intervene in circumstances, but more importantly for me, he intervenes in my thoughts, giving me a healthy, proper perspective that keeps me from sliding when I’m ready to panic.   God never leaves us to ride alone.

“You hem me in – behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?”    Psalm 139: 5-7

God’s presence in our lives is security, confidence, and power. Knowing God is on the “coaster” with me straightens the curves and lowers the drops – as well as my blood pressure. Psalm 16:8 is a promise to hang onto when I’m pulling G’s:

“I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

FOURTH – CENTER YOUR FOCUS

 Choose to think on positive truths. There are generally several things true in any situation. Increasingly I see how important it is for me to choose to focus on the truth that leads to positives like compassion, peace, and faith. I may be powerless over my circumstances, but I have power over my attitude and thoughts. Many of the stressors in my life lose their power to produce stress if I choose to relax, be flexible, and shift my focus. Just saying, “Well, Jesus, what’s this about?” instead of spouting, “What in the world am I going to do now?” actually reduces my anxiety level, and I’m sure it protects my brain chemistry as well. That has a practical effect on my body and my day.

“. . . choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. . . . But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”                                                                Joshua 24:15

I can focus on the positive truth, and choose whom I will serve in my response: God, or my anxiety and agitation.

When the apostle Paul advised the Colossians to set their hearts and minds on things above, rather than earthly things (Col. 3:1-2), he wasn’t urging them to deny reality and live in some fantasy land. Choosing positive truth and re-setting your focus changes, practically, how you respond in everyday situations. Recently I was on my way to our Tuesday morning women’s study. I teach, so I need to be at church early to set up my class. I had some time, but on this day I happened to leave just as a school bus stopped a block down from our house and put out its stop sign. It was a handicapped bus, so I waited, and waited, and waited as the mother and driver loaded a child on the bus. As I sat there – choosing not to fume – I decided to shift my focus. I didn’t know a handicapped child lived on our street. I prayed for her, for her mother, for their family, for the bus driver who so patiently helps this child every day, and for the teachers who invest their lives working with special needs children. It was true that I’d sat in the same spot for five minutes, but which truth was more profitable, both for others and for myself – not being five minutes further down the road, or spending five refocused minutes in prayer? Choose to focus on the positive truth.

Set your focus on one spot that will not change. That’s the way to keep your balance and settle your insides in a loopy world. Where is that unchanging spot?

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.” Isaiah 26:3

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”   2 Corinthians 4:18

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”     Hebrews 13:8

FIFTH – KNOW YOUR LIMITS

I don’t have to take every ride. I create many of the loops and drops in my life by taking on too much, or by assuming something is my responsibility when it isn’t, or by letting myself get sidetracked (and isn’t the Internet helpful in that department?). I can choose to say “no” to some thrill rides and still be a supportive, encouraging mother. Good judgment, not guilt or compulsion, should tell me when to say yes and when to say no in life, too. What can I wisely take on? What can I let go? What SHOULD I let go? Let me name a few of the rides I’ve created:

Mind-Bender: Trying to reason with a tired two-year-old

The Enforcer: Proving to my husband I’m right about wasting electricity when he always leaves the radio on in the garage while he works in the back yard

Temptation Station: When the budget is tight and I really shouldn’t buy anything but necessities, but I allow myself to walk into Dillard’s, lured by those clearance sale signs, just to look around.

Avalanche Alley: Trying to accomplish just one more thing in the five minutes I have before I need to leave for an appointment.

Ooooh – cobra roll! Here comes a stress headache! Do any of these sound familiar? On a regular basis, it seems, I have to remind myself, “Don‘t go there; don’t even get on this one if you don’t want an argument or problem that’s more stress than it’s worth. I’m not taking this ride today.”

Sometimes , though, you have no choice. Life just drops you onto a thrill ride you weren’t standing in line for. When that happens, I need to realize I have my limits, but at the same time I also need to recognize that, for a Christian, life isn’t about my limits. No matter how scary or negative the situation, Philippians 4:13 is always in operation:

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Since the limitless Jesus gives me strength for the ride and the power to love, to pray, to choose, and to center my focus on him, I can handle the coasters that circumstances put in my life. Through Jesus, I can be at peace for the next five – okay, two – okay, for the next one minute – when an upset to my life takes me on a heartline roll.

Sometimes life goes along smoothly; some days bring a little “wild mouse” like an upset schedule. My usual rides lately are “Time Bandit” and “Mind Eraser”!   But life can seat you on more serious rides. You may suddenly careen down “The Financial Funnel” when a layoff comes along. Life-threatening illness can drop the floor out from under you faster than “The Bottomless Pit.”   Life does not give you a map of the park to help you prepare for the next coaster. You don’t know when life is going to twist you through a corkscrew roll. But you can have stability, confidence, and sound perspective that will help you handle the drops and loops with peace, and maybe even with joy.

So Lord, let me be a roller coaster mama! With your help, I won’t panic, hyperventilate, lose my lunch, or scream. I’ll buckle into love for you and others – even the ones who put me on the roller coaster. I’ll look for a supporting floor of friends and groups to push into, so I don’t kick anybody riding with me. I’ll ride with a buddy through prayer so I don’t slip and slide. I’ll center my thoughts on positive truth. When it’s within my power to choose what I get involved in, I’ll be wise about my choices. When it’s not within my power to choose, I’ll hold onto God’s strength and whooeee! l believe I’ll at least survive, if not enjoy,  the ride!

(Parenthetically – God has faithfully been beside me as He was with Daniel when he faced roaring lions, as he was with David when he stood before Goliath. People may not understand the stands  I’ve taken in the last nine years when, literally, the Devil has raged and roared against me, or why I’ve chosen to stand, but I  MUST stand for and with GOD and the sanctity and truth of God’s Word if  I’m going to stand before Him at the Judgment with any integrity at all, and even then, my only defense is JESUS CHRIST THE RIGHTEOUS, the Savior and Lover of my soul!

Revisiting Lost and Found

 

Lost – and Found

Rose Jackson ©7/24/2009

You may have noticed my posts are distinctly lacking in the “God is in the flowers and rainbows” flavor. In fact, more of my posts are about trials I face or disappointments in myself. This no doubt comes from the fact that, while I am every bit female, I‘ve never been a “frou-frou” girl. I look like death warmed over in pink, I simply look silly in ruffles, and though I love jewelry, the beautiful blingy cocktail rings my sweet friend Patty has given me look like a contradiction on my thin, veiny hands. An frankly, my life has been so challenge-filled since 1995 that I find little comfort in stress-busting articles that advise me to take a bubble bath or have my nails done. God IS in the flowers and rainbows, and probably in bubbles, too, but I need a God who is there to be found IN my pain, loss, anxiety, disappointments, grief, and frustrations. If He isn’t to be encountered and experienced there, then what hope do any of us have?

After I take the bubble bath and have my nails done, what has changed? Have those admittedly fun exercises changed my circumstances? If they haven’t changed my situation, have they changed me? No. And while I love bubble baths, I need something more substantial in my life. A stress-buster to me means seeing God’s hand moving to transform me in the middle of the messes my life seems to step into again and again like the ubiquitous gum in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

I long to dance in the rain – not because I’m a pessimist, but because I know rain will come. I need a God who isn’t afraid to get wet, who can transcend, transfigure, translate and transform, as the lyrics in John Mark McMillan’s moving, anointed song, “How He Loves” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Chx6s3qXKt4&feature=related powerfully declare: “When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, and I realize just how beautiful You are and how great your affections are for me.” I need a God of grit and guts and glory. That’s who I’m encountering in this deepest trial of my life – a God of incredible, deep compassion and love – and that’s who I pray you find within these thoughts and discoveries of mine.

This post is about my father, but Susan Miller and everyone who’s lost a loved one, this one is for you, too.

“Uuuuhhhh . . . uuuhh . . . .” Dad’s mouth opened as he tried to speak. His eyes still held that “deer in the headlights” look of incomprehension so typical of Alzheimer’s patients, but I caught a spark of – what – hope? Thanks? Love? Mom, Bonnie and I were gathered around him holding his hand, once so strong and steady as he guided wood through the saw blade, but now so forceless and weak, and touching his now thin shoulders. We’d come to say good-bye.

Two days earlier Dad had developed pneumonia. This Monday morning, the day before Dad’s 75th birthday, a nurse in the Alzheimer’s unit of the nursing home had called my Mom to tell her to come quickly, as this might be Dad’s last day. I’d thrown the car into gear and flown to Mom’s house to pick her up and quickly dash up to the home. “Oh, Rosie!” was all she could get out through her sobbing. The past five years of grieving as we watched Dad steadily decline still hadn’t prepared our hearts for this day.

Surprisingly, when Mom and I arrived, Dad actually looked pretty good. He was sitting up in a chair looking apparently healthy and pretty much like he usually did. Mom and I chatted to him while the nurses worked around us. “To him” was all we could do, because Dad hadn’t been able to speak for the past two years; in fact, he hadn’t even uttered so much as a syllable on the many Sundays when my husband, our ten-year-old son and I stopped in to see him after church. Ethan had never really known Grandpa when he was well, this man who made wagons and pedal fire trucks and doll houses and so many treasures for his grandchildren before dementia robbed him of his considerable talents.

But he was still Grandpa, still my Dad, and I thought back to treasured evenings in our back yard sitting on his telescope mount as he twirled me around the stars, or standing beside him in the garage redolent with the fragrance of newly sawn pine as he showed me how to drive a nail and drill a hole in a scrap of lumber. He was still the man I loved and respected, somewhere inside there. I dared to believe that, fought to hope it was true. Mom and I stepped aside to let the nurse take Dad’s vitals. The door opened and my sister Bonnie walked into the room. The nurse gave a slight gasp as my Dad’s vital signs shot up. Bonnie hadn’t seen Dad in two years, not since he moved from his home into this skilled nursing facility. She did live quite a distance away, but it was just too painful for her to see Dad in his continually deteriorating condition. I understood completely. Bonnie had always been there for Dad and Mom over the years, and she still helped Mom every way she could.

Dad hadn’t seen her in two years, yet something in him rose up in recognition of a face he loved, and rose up so powerfully that his heart rate and respiration increased immediately!

“Should we pray with him? Should we tell him . . .?” I honestly don’t remember now which one of us voiced what we all were thinking: should we give Dad permission to go home to Jesus? Should we give him our blessing and love? Wordlessly we all agreed, gathered around Dad, and began to pray. “Thank you so much, Father, for our father, for his love, for the faith he shared so freely . . . . “

Then we said it, every eye awash in tears that flowed to the nurses in the room, too. “Dad, if you’re ready to go, we give you our blessing to go home to Heaven.” That’s when it happened: Dad tried to speak! He looked directly into our faces and said, “Uuuhhh . . . uuuhhhhhh.” Those might have been babbled syllables to anyone else, but to the tree of us, they were the voice of a beloved husband and father, struck dumb by a disease advancing brain cell by brain cell for five years, but the man still alive and vital inside, somewhere, somehow!

One by one we bent down and kissed him, hugged him, squeezed his feeble hand, and left, fairly confident that his healthy appearance meant this might be a false alarm. Two days later he died, sweetly and quietly and I believe liberated to leave the prison of his disease and go meet his fellow carpenter, his Savior Jesus.

Some people might understandable dismiss this as coincidence to which we attributed too much significance. I might, too, had it not been for a comment from one of the nurses after Dad died, and the same scene repeated exactly four weeks later over the bed of Dad’s sister, my Aunt Cine. Francine developed Alzheimer’s two years before Dad exhibited signs of the disease. She had been bedridden, fallen away to 80 pounds, unable to walk or speak, at death’s door for over a year. Mom and I went to see her on her birthday. We took her some balloons.

“Should we tell her?” Mom asked, and I agreed. “Should we tell her that her brother died?”

“Yes,” I concurred without hesitation.

Cine was in much worse shape than Dad had been, but the day Dad died, one of the nurses on Dad’s floor at his nursing home had said to me, ‘Your father was such a sweet, wonderful man. We enjoyed him so much.” How had she known that? How can you know that about someone who can’t communicate . . . unless Dad’s spirit had been able to break out of his silence and communicate somehow, quite apart from words?

So my mother and I bent down on either side of Dad’s sister, took her hands, and I softly said, “Aunt Cine, we want you to know your brother has gone on ahead of you. He’s waiting for you with Jesus. If you’re ready to go, we give you our permission and blessing to go home.”

“Uuuhhh . . . . uuuhhhh.” Her face turned up to mine, her wild yet shallow eyes looking directly into mine, and I knew she was there. She saw me. We kissed her and went home. So did Cine, the very next day.

I never gave much credence to the notion that sometimes people need permission from their loved ones to leave. I always thought your body had the deciding voice in when you die. Now I’m certain that is not always the case.

Two intelligent, resourceful, achieving, loving people, struck down by a disease so heinous and hideous that it strikes terror in the hearts of most people. Any way but that one! What could possible be the sliver lining in my father’s and my aunt’s deaths? Simply and profoundly this: no matter what disease does to our bodies or our brains, God’s Spirit never leaves our spirit. We remain, whole, intact, filled with all the life and love we’ve known and given away, whether the outside world can access it or not. And is that a meager comfort in the face of such deep loss and pain? No, even though my sister, brother and I know we live in the shadow of DNA that may spell the same end for us, especially now that our mother has vascular dementia from numerous small strokes. It is somehow a great comfort and source of hope.

Yes, I pray researchers will home in quickly on what causes and what can cure and prevent Alzheimer’s, but while I wait, I rest in the knowledge that who I truly am, who we truly are, endures above and beyond all else. Count that as an incredible, joyful, overcoming blessing!

Note as of May 5, 2010: My brother, age 67, has just been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Note January 27, 2018: Its wasn’t Alzheimer’s, but undiagnosed bipolar disorder, and  lung cancer took Dave in January 2013. Five years later, I’m remembering the amazing time I had with my brother just weeks before he went home to Jesus, and I thank God even more passionately for the certainty that this life isn’t all there is, and Heaven truly awaits all who know Jesus as Lord and Savior and the Lover of their soul.  Dave,  I can imagine the smiles on Mom’s and Dad’s faces as they ran to greet you!

GOD IS LOVE, and He still proves it to us.

 

Just a thankful amen!

Light for One Step

 

panoMingusLookoutSome things we learn theoretically when life is going smoothly are the things we’ll need to apply practically for getting through the “test” successfully when life throws ugly curves at us. I still clearly see in my mind the dark night we were walking back from the overlook  on Mingus Mountain to the youth camp. Because the ground was uneven, strewn with rocks and fallen trees, I had to shine my flashlight directly in front of me, not out ahead of me, to see what  I needed to step over or around. It occurred to me that all I needed was light for the next step. I shrugged off the knowledge that a skunk could be anxiously poised  two feet away from me, unseen in the dark, and planted each step in the patch of light I had for it.

Oh, Rose, remember! Believe!

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. Proverbs 29:25

Easier said than put into practice and lived, BUT, nevertheless, regardless, God has been that steady mini Maglite on my path the last eight years, even though I confess I’ve tried to shine it far ahead of me, scanning the future to see where God’s blessings might lie, and yes, missing two that were right under my feet. Did that mean God stopped loving me? Does that mean God stopped blessing me? NO!

If you’ve read this blog or look over posts of the past eight years, you read how God has been faithful to me even while the winds and waves thrashed around and towered over me. Just as He led the Israelites across the Red Sea on a miraculously dry path, God has led me into His blessings and goodness, even though I’ve wandered around as much as  they did, partly because I listened to well-meaning but unwise advice, and simply because God’s blessing didn’t look like I thought it would. Truly, “The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.’”… Lamentations 3: 22-25 NASB

Twice in the last five months GOD has brought HIS opportunities directly into my path. I didn’t  scan the horizon looking for them; God simply put them “right under my feet.” People came looking for me. Now it’s my job to use what God put into me, empowered by His Holy Spirit, to make the most and  best I can for God’s Kingdom purposes and victories from them.

As my friend Donna Partow wrote, “This Isn’t the Life I Signed Up For.” Hmm, well, maybe it is, and I just didn’t know it at the time I “enlisted.” What I DO know is that God IS good all the time (ironically and NOT coincidentally the title of a women’s devotional gift book I  was just asked to write for Christian Brands). O Lord, how You love me! I do call it irony, but lovingly – and firmly -You’re reminding me that 1) YOU are in charge, and 2) You love me, and 3) You see value in me, and 4) You WANT to accomplish Your purposes in me, and 5) You are good all the time and Your will for me is good, and 6) You aren’t done with me yet!

I lean into God’s Word every day because I NEED to! I NEED Jesus to be my loving Lord, Guide, Shepherd, Sword, Shield, Father, and Almighty King.

Oh you foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith…He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. Galatians 3: 1-9, 14 NIV

Yesterday as soon as I awoke, three songs came into my thoughts in succession:

  • Holiness, Holiness Is What I Long For
  • The Strife Is  O’er, the Battle Won
  • Lead, Kindly Light

Holy Spirit of the Living God, speak to me (loudly, please, with mercy for my sometimes deaf ears) what You are saying in those songs, and help me to walk in the one foot of light You give me today. I pray you help my emotions, my over-active brain, and my spirit to rest and trust in the Light of the World, even twelve inches at a time.

Simply Amen! In Jesus’ name, God, get YOUR glory!