The act of writing, of sharing the circumstances, the gifts and the graces planned and carried out by my Savior and God brings joy, peace, and contentment to know that He has my life in His hands. My prayer for those who read, who share in what I continue to learn each day, many times through my weakness, is that you will be encouraged to look for God's presence and grace in your life also.

Monday, February 27, 2012

"He delivered me from all my fears"

"I will bless the LORD at all times;
   his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
   let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
   and let us exalt his name together!
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
   and delivered me from all my fears.

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
   Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!"
    selected verses from Psalm 34

One thing that life living, a lived long life provides is lessons.....sometimes the same ones over and over again.

The big one is that hardly any circumstance ever ends up being as terrible as our fears think it will be.

 "I sought the LORD, and he answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears."

Delivered from fears,
                   from the terror of the unknown,
                     from fears of what man could do to him,
                       from fears of what storms of life could do,
                                               what sickness might do,
                                                 what enemies,
                                      or even what friends and family could do.

Delivered from fear...

My biggest fear...it made a big impression...was at 29 there was an accident and my husband, the love of my life, my security, my provider, my all—lay in a hospital hours from our home in a coma.  There was nothing I could do.  I couldn't fix him.

I was broken too...bones...skin...eyes...

But there was life too—a new baby coming in four months, a 3 year-old and a 5 year-old begging for routine, life like it had been.  Inside, I was screaming for the old routine but I was filled with fear, unspoken fear that nothing would ever be the same.  And it wasn't.

But in the midst of all the fear there was God, always there, a refuge that I ran too.  On my first night home from the hospital, I called out, I too sought the Lord and said, "God, I can't do this.  I can't see well, I can't move easily, I can't do anything. I'm afraid, I hurt, I can't fix this. I need You to do it all for me......I just need You!!  Please......."

"Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
   Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!"

And He did.  He came, He held, He provided, He brought others to help, to love, to hold.  He moved mountains at times.  The fear was gone unless I decided to take it back for brief moments and I learned over and over that fear is never an answer.

If you haven't you might like to read more about what happened then.

God is good—all the time—and I am blessed over and over and over even when it is hard. Ann Vaskomp's book One Thousand Gifts has taught me once again that the secret is giving thanks in all things—just like David said:

"I will bless the LORD at all times;
   his praise shall continually be in my mouth."

 Continuing to praise and thank my God and linking with Ann at A Holy Experience.

Thank you Lord for......

#321.  family who gives over and over to help take care of Larry

#322.  days away to relax

#323.  The beautiful creation seen out the plane windows over Utah

#324.  Lakes seen so huge they go on forever and ever—Salt Lake

#325.  Snow, surprise snow so beautiful and clean

#326.  lessons taught through study on friends and neighbors [click here to read]
#327.  green poking up in yard...spring's promise

#328.  cards to encourage others with verses shared encourage me

#329.  lessons from universe to take breath away. In The Heavens

#330.  the interent—blog enabling the sharing of a lecture not given because of snow storm

 #331. Jesus Calling to help me listen better. Help me, Lord to listen more and more.......

#332.  Your presence, always there, always

#333.   Friends, BFF, who are still there, praying, loving, caring

#334.  Warm blankets, warm tea, warm house, warm lap cat—always help to remember and help those who don't have that Click for Compassion

#335.  A cold....to slow me down....give me time to study and prepare more from your Word

#336.  Nutrition, nutrition that works, to get me well faster

#337.  Larry, well and happy

#338.  Prayers answered, again.....Lord, help me to pray more deliberately for others and watch your marvelous answers

#339.  Pictures to amaze and help me remember goodness

#340.  Encouragement and thanks from friends about writing this blog

"I will bless the LORD at all times;
   his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
   let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
   and let us exalt his name together!"

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Proverbs on Friends and Neighbors

[The following is a lecture I prepared to give at our Women's Bible Study today but was canceled due to a snowstorm.  I pray that you will find it encouraging and helpful.]

 —Neighbors and friends—friends and neighbors—They are certainly a big part of our lives.

  God is relational and since we are created in His image we are also relational.  We want to have friends, we want to have neighbors to live beside us and go through life with us.  We need people around us give us support, encouragement, love, a listening ear and value.  And in turn we grow as we help others.   

—We have all heard and probably given advice about how to deal with our friends and neighbors.  Many books have been written to help us not only deal with neighbors and friends but also how to be a good neighbor and friend.  Some of the best times of our lives have revolved around time spent with good friends and good neighbors while some of the worst times of our lives were a result of our relationships with friends and neighbors falling apart because of either our actions or theirs.

This book of wisdom, Proverbs, gives us wisdom concerning friends and neighbors—a wisdom that is based in the “fear of the LORD” and that is played out in covenant life—the practical details of everyday situations and relationships.

I’m sure many of you had times growing up when you didn’t feel you had a friend.  Maybe you had had a best friend and they moved away but there was no one left to be your friend.  With tears running down your face, you heard your mother say, “In order to have a friend, you have to be a friend.”  That actually came from a man named Elbert Hubbard, but really was a retelling of Proverbs 18:24 in the King James Bible:

A man that has friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother”.

As women, one thing we all would like is a close, trustworthy, faithful friend.  Spouses are great but a best friend, a bosom buddy, a kindred spirit like Ann had in Diana in Ann of Green Gables is something we all desire. 

 The wisdom we looked at this week in Proverbs pretty much sums up why that is:
       We were reminded that a true friend.....
            —loves at all times
            — sticks closer than a brother
            —goes with us to the ends of earth to take care of us just like Ruth did for Naomi
            —picks us up when we are down after all two are better than one
            —isn’t ashamed of us and if we get kidnapped or thrown in prison like Paul did
            —and speaks truth into my life so that I am a better person. 
Because she is a true friend, she will give good counsel, she will actually wound me if it is for my good, and she will listen to my rebuke to her and not be hurt knowing my counsel comes from my love for her.

Years ago, probably 40 years ago, there was a woman, Marlas, in the church we went to.  Her calling in life was to share the Gospel with everyone she came in contact with, but when it came to working in the kitchen during pot-luck dinners, funerals, banquets she always disappeared.  She was always coming up with ways we could have these dinners so we could minister to more people but she never helped.  One day she and I were in the basement and she was asking me to plan yet another "meal."  In my head, I wanted to scream, "You do it this time."  But instead I firmly said something to the effect of, "Marlas, it is time that you started helping in the kitchen when we have these dinners.  You don't even know how to find the dishes we use."  If someone had said that to me, I would have been hurt but what I saw happen was that she took my "advice" and applied it.  From then on she was right there helping us work.  My admiration and respect for her only grew after that. 
Various proverbs go on to say that the qualities I should expect from a friend include being:
            —one who would never share bad things about me to others behind my back
            —one who would overlook my faults and just love me
            —one who would give me the benefit of the doubt when it seems like I am offending her because she loves me and knows I wouldn’t do that intentionally
            —one who would understand that when it seems like I want to fight or start an argument, there are circumstances beyond my control—like PMS, menopause, the bills, something my husband or kids said to push me over the edge.  A friend stays calm, quiet and loves me because she understands me and knows me well.

We all know what we want in a friend, but true friends, stick-closer than a brother types, are hard to come by.  I have no doubt that many of you would love a friend like that. I would like a friend like that. So the question for each of is:
      "Am I that kind of friend?"  
      "Am I willing to do what it takes to be that kind of a friend to someone else?"

From life’s experience…..I know that close, trusted friends are few and far between.  I read somewhere that we should feel fortunate indeed if we have one such friend in our lifetime.  If we have had more than three in a lifetime, we should feel blessed. In our culture the shortage of close trusted friends is probably due to time.  It takes time, a lot of it, to really grow, to nurture a deep friendship. And it also takes selflessness to be a friend and with the emphasis today on “me” and “my” needs, many can’t see beyond themselves to the hurts and needs of another.  Friendship must be a giving relationship.  It has to be about what can I do to encourage you, help you, ease your pain, hurts and aches—and a lot of times that means we need to be listening not talking.

We live in a culture, a country where we know many people. Just look at FB.  I mean how many friends do some of us have on FB?  I have a lot—over 600 and I know people who have even more.  My friends include classmates and friends from high school and college, church friends from the last 45 years, 160 students from 17 years of teaching, and other people I’ve met in various work and social situations.  When I speak at retreats, I usually gain a few more “friends."

I call them friends but to be honest there are only a few I know well. Some of them could be really close friends if we lived closer but we don’t or if there were more time we could be closer.

Aristotle said “He who hath many friends hath none.”  Today, I’m afraid here in the US most of us have many friends but no close friend who can speak truth in our lives.

The example we looked at in our study of Jonathan and David is one of real friendship—a deep solid love for each other that meant they would die for each other if necessary. Friendship that is a commitment, a life-long commitment. A determination to love through thick and thin.

—Solomon knew the importance of choosing friends wisely.  He said we should be
—staying away from fools, slanderers,  men given to anger, drunkards or gluttons 
—being friends with people like this could bring all kinds of trouble on our heads
—even Jesus prayed before He chose his friends which is good advice for us too

For those of you who are without a really close friend today and would really like one----the kind that sticks closer than a brother/sister, I suggest that you pray that God shows you someone who has qualities to be a good friend and then work hard to make them your friend.  Let me share two stories as examples.

            During summer school when I was in college at Greeley, I was in a dorm room that had suite-mates.  There were two rooms that shared a sink between the rooms.  In the other room was a girl, Pam Williams, who was absolutely beautiful.  She was tall, had dark hair.  She was athletic and so on.  Everything I wasn't and in my mind I checked her off as someone who wouldn't have the time of day for me and wouldn't like me.  So I just stayed away from her.  One day we both happened to be at the dorm at the same time without the other gals and Pam knocked on the wall as she came in my room.  Sitting on the bed, looking me straight in the eye, she said, "Darnly, why don't you like me?"  Wow, that was tough.  I mean I liked everyone and I liked her too but because of my behavior she got a different message.  I have no idea what I said, I'm sure I didn't tell her the truth but I quit ignoring her and we became very good friends and have stayed in touch for over 40 years.  I actually spent this last weekend with her at a conference in Reno and we had a wonderful time talking.

            Then there is my sister, Roxana.  Several years ago she met a woman in a work situation.  A woman (we will call her Ann)  that my sister checked off as not qualified to be a friend for various reasons.  But Ann wouldn't give up.  She needed a good friend, a strong friend and she knew my sister would be that kind of person.  So she started calling just to talk.  She invited Roxana out for lunch and even though she had to ask over and over and over because Roxana said "no" for weeks.  Ann did not give up and today she and my sister are very good friends.  Stick with it!!
And then we come to neighbors—Probably one of the most repeated quotations in the world is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  This is actually a rephrasing of several verses in the Bible including:
Matthew 7:12—“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
And that verse pretty much applies to what Proverb says about neighbors and friends.  As children of the covenant we won’t go wrong if we do for others as we want them to do for us.

Most of the verses we looked at this week—verses that talked about how a neighbor acts—proved this point:
            —We like neighbors who treat us well.
            —We would like good from our neighbors.
            —We don’t want our neighbors to plot evil against us.
            —We would like our neighbors to be generous, especially if we have needs.
            —We really don’t want our neighbors in our house all the time….
After all as Benjamin Franklin said, “Fish and visitors stink in 3 days.”  He really was a wise man.  He also said, “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, and half-shut afterward.”
—We also don’t like people who are constantly playing practical jokes on us just
            to see our reactions.
—And that loud lawn mower, or saw, or party, or screaming match doesn’t endear us to
our neighbors when they have no regard for quiet so we can sleep.

We all know exactly what kind of neighbor we would like.  It is too bad there isn’t a law that says the people who live next door to a house up for sale or rent, get to interview the prospective buyers or renters BEFORE they move in.  That might end a lot of problems before they ever begin.

Of course we won’t always have neighbors who act like we would like them to BUT we can certainly be the kind of neighbor Proverbs talks about.  The kind of neighbor who blesses others, who respects others and their property, their family, their space.  We can be kind, compassionate neighbors who really try to do the best we can for others, Christian or not.  And who knows, if we treat them with love and compassion what work God can do in them to bring more souls into the kingdom.

The problem is  we live in a culture, especially in cities, where we don’t know our neighbors.  It is an easy thing to move into a house or an apartment, live there for a few years and never really get to know the people living around us.
That is a sad thing especially when Christ told his disciples at least 4 times that the greatest commandment was to “Love the Lord their God with all their heart, mind and soul."  But the second was just as great and that is to “Love your neighbor as yourselves.”  We can’t do that if we don’t know them.

—That is quite a statement…..no a command.  "Love my neighbor as myself. " Sacrifice for them as I do for myself.  Make sure their needs are met as mine are met.  Love them…..do the very best I can for them because I love them…….and think of them before I think of myself. I will admit after reading some of the “worst neighbor” stories online that it might be easier to love some  neighbors IF I DON”T know them.

So why don’t we love our neighbors, really love our neighbors.  I mean I’m nice to my neighbors, I talk to them if they happen to be outside….well I at least mention something about the weather.  But why don’t I spend some of my time, energy, resources to get to know them.  Why do we wait for them to make the first move?  I do want to add here that I know some of you do know your neighbors well.  You have reached out and are loving them as you love yourself.  I praise God for you.

For the rest of us we have excuses…..dozens of them
            —I don’t have time or they don’t have time.
            —they have more than I do.  What could I possibly do for them that they can’t do?
            —some of you might even think that it isn’t worth it to reach out because you will only be here in Colorado Springs for a short while before you are transferred.  It is hard to get to know people and then leave them behind.
            —Some of us worry about what they will think…..will they think I’m crazy.  I mean they probably won’t eat the bread or cookies because they think I poisoned it.
            —But we do need to reach out to our neighbors.  We do need to get to know them.

A big question in all of this is just who are our neighbors?  Is it just those who live next door or on our block?  It is interesting that Jesus actually answered this question while he was here.  It would be good if we looked at this story—we can learn who our neighbors are.
Luke 7:25-32  [Click to read text]
What a story of compassion and mercy.  We all admire this good Samaritan because of what he did for this poor man on the Jericho road who was at the point of death.

First let’s talk about the characters in the story:
We have the Jewish man going from Jerusalem to Jericho.  The road, still visible today, included long stretches of rocky terrain that made it a useful base of operation for robbers. It was actually 18 miles long and descended down 3,200 feet.  For you mountain climbers that is quite a descent. The man had been attacked by robbers leaving him half-dead.

Next we have a priest and a Levite also going down the road—both men whose occupation was to help others, especially other Jews—I mean that was one of their duties.  They both passed by on the other side unwilling to stop and help him.  This probably had something to do with the possibility of the robbers still being close by waiting to rob anyone who stopped to help.  They would be facing danger if they helped. I’m afraid for many of us, perceived safety issues keeps us from helping the most needy among us—those that live in drug infested neighborhoods or neighborhoods with gangs and drive-by shootings.  Or how about working with those who have AIDS.  Or even going to third-world countries can be dangerous—there are diseases, bad water, drug lords, deadly bugs and snakes.

But in this story Jesus told, we have a Samaritan walking down the road to Jericho who saw the injured man and  had compassion on him.  One thing we need to understand is that it would have been unthinkable then for a Samaritan to help a Jew or a Jew to help a Samaritan.  Jews thought Samaritans were nothing more than dogs and the Samaritans hated Jews just as much.  And yet this despised Samaritan  man stops and helps someone who was really considered his enemy.  He even sacrifices his own money and possessions as he binds the wounds, pouring on his own oil and wine to dress his wounds.  He took the Jew to an inn and cared for him all night.  The next day he gave money, his own, to the inn keeper saying he would be back and pay for any other bills that were yet to be incurred to take care of him.  Sacrifice of his own goods, property, time, energy to do for someone who he knew he hated him.  I couldn’t help but think: I wonder when the Jewish man realized who had helped him, who had saved him possibly from death, who had done all of this for him, I wonder if he felt differently about Samaritans.

And why did Jesus tell this story?  Because a lawyer was trying to justify himself to Jesus that he had indeed fulfilled what was written in the Law— “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and will all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 
Jesus told him he had answered correctly but he was to go and love his neighbor as himself….then he would live.
But the Lawyer, knowing He had not, asked another question, “Who is my neighbor?” and thus we have the story.
So based on this story, WHO indeed is our neighbor?  The pretty, nice, hardworking neighbor who believes like I do?  Or what about the old widower, who rides a really old Harley, wears earrings and runs around without a shirt on and loves to talk because he is lonely? Or what about the Muslims in our city, our country, or the drug addicts, or the atheists, or the liberals.  Or what about the children in our city, our country, our world who are unloved, hungry, hurting with no hope.

The point Jesus is making here is that we need to show care and compassion to those with whom we would not normally have any relationship.  It is good to help our friends, those in our communities, those in our families but Christ asks even more from us…we are to love our neighbors, yes even our enemies.

 Luke 6:27-36: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, love those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.  To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.  Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.  And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you?  For even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.  But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

You loved us when we were your enemies, sinners in total opposition to you and your holiness.
     We were wretched, dirty, unlovable.
            We were hopeless with no one to save us.
            Yet because of your steadfast love and faithfulness You sent your only Son to redeem us from the penalty of our sin—sin that should have separated us from You forever.
            Father, help us to be a friend like You have been our friend with acceptance, forgiveness and steadfast love. 
            —Just as you brought hope to us, help us to bring hope to the hopeless.
            —Just as you sacrificed the thing most precious to you for us, help us to sacrificially give to others.
            —Just as you loved us when we were unlovable, help us to love the unlovable.
Help us with your power to be kind to the ungrateful and evil.  
Help us to show mercy as you showed us mercy.   
Show us how to be a true friend and a kind, compassionate neighbor to those you bring our way.
In the name of Jesus, our unfailing friend, 

[You might also find this previous post "Love your Neighbors" helpful.] 
[Ann Voskamp also wrote her blog on the same topic today....go to 4 Ways to be a Better Friend.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Love your neighbor as yourself....

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved."  Ephesians 1:3-6 ESV

Listening to two sermons this afternoon in preparation for a lecture to give on Proverbs concerning neighbors and friends came back to basics.....

   —I am a sinner who lives among sinners
       —I am the worst of all sinners
   —I am loved by God, totally, more than any man can love another
       —I am to love others (sinners too)  just as I am loved by God

What is so amazing is that He loved us while we were still ugly, ugly, ugly sinners, still.....
He didn't wait for us to clean up, to become pretty, acceptable, lovable or even "kind of good" first.
He loved us, accepted us, died for us, hugged us while we were ugly, unacceptable, unlovable, depraved.

He valued us
    He honored us
          He started a relationship with us before we were worthy
Because He loves us with an everlasting love.

And then over and over He said,
"Love your neighbor as yourself."
That's what he did.  He loved us as much as he loved himself.

And now we are to go and love likewise—
   no matter who....
    Someone different than me
       Someone who rubs me wrong
           Someone who hurts me
              Someone who doesn't love me, or respect me, or treat me right
     Especially someone who doesn't deserve it.

    Someone who smells funny
         Someone who lives different than me
              Someone who dares to be lazy, rebellous, or a thief
                   Someone who wears very little
                        Someone who makes money immorally
         Each and every person, I am to love.

A child of God, a real child of God, must
      LOVE others
          No matter what
             No matter when
                 At all times

Because He first loved me.

 And now to write that lecture.........

But first to say "Thank YOU, God" for undeserved, unearned graces.........

#301.  Time with friends in a new city to learn and be encouraged....

#302.  Friends to give rides to and from airport....

#303.  Tire World to fix car problems....

#304.  Matt to fix garden pole to hang bird feeders......

#305.  Babies to hold in the nursery on Sunday......

#306.  Truths learned because of lecture to prepare....

#307.  Air to breathe......

#308.  Water, good water, to drink.....

#309.  Snow for beauty and for moisture......

#310.  Gifts to crochet......

#311.  Birthday parties to anticipate.....

#312.  Daughter to drop-by and eat with....

#313.  Father—95 years old—to call and visit with...and still get advice from......

#314.  Sam's rotisserie chicken—5 meals to eat—5 good meals

#315.  Victoria magazine.....to see more of Your world

#316.   Young friend, Amy, to teach the "old" speed dial set-up....much faster

#317.  Prosperity enabling more "others" gifts....

#318.  Prayers of others for my heart needs.....

#319.  Sleep, blessed sleep in a different bed for two nights......

#320.  Basketball player who thanks God—every time, all the time....Jeremy Lin

And now to write......and learn.......and be convicted.  Thank you Lord for your Word.  Help me to be faithful and listen to You.  And prepare each of us for blessings, conviction, and truth from your Word. Amen

Monday, February 13, 2012

And the Grace continues.....

Continuing to count

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. John 1:16 NIV

#276.  A beautiful day of snow falling and white frost covering everything.......breathtaking

#277.  A joy filled afternoon cooking Lebanese food with friends for friends—both delicious~

#278.  A phone call from a dear friend acknowledging 35 years of caregiving....she was there from the beginning
#279.  The anticipation of a trip...to connect with another friend not seen for years

#280.  A simple "Love" card from a friend

#281.  The phone ringing....."are you all right?"  Concern and compassion from one child to another, sister to sister.

#282.  Lunch with friends complete with laughter, love and life.....

#283.  Thrift stores....and finding a dress and two jackets.....affordable

#284.  Valentine's Black Tea..........tasting like chocolate, cherries and joy all at once......

#285.   "Thank you's" from others for obedience/love because of replay's on Family Life Today

#286.  Facebook to chat with former student in Africa, now an English teacher in a missionary school

#287.  Good day for Larry

#288.  Bad days for Larry to teach me to trust You

#289.  Awesome Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe....soft and chewy

#290.  Pinterest.....gazing on photographs that are absolutely breath taking

#291.  Clean bathroom vanity......ahhhhhhhhhhhhh

#292.  Opportunity to share Reliv......new customers...improved health
#293.  For Reliv leading to good health

#294.  The "Love Came Down" cup to remind me where Love is from....always coming down

#295.  Another who shared lessons learned from One Thousand Gifts.....encouragement

#296.  Opportunity to love the lonely

#297.  Irish Stew......comfort food

#298.  Montagues.........with friends........good food........relaxing.......restoring

#299.  Computer with color printer......endless possibilities to create for others

#300.  Tea cups to bless others with special tea

God's grace is so abundant.  He gives in spite of our unfaithfulness, our lack of love and compassion, our arrogance at thinking we can do this alone.  The least we can do is acknowledge his grace with thanksgiving.....taking the time to look for it.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

AND you might like to be reminded on this day that because of God's love, "Love did indeed come down" for you and for me.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

One anothers.....

 Fifty-nine times.....yes, I said 59 times or is that 5 times 10 plus 9 equals 59 times from Matthew to Revelation the phrase "one another" [each other] is used.  And most of them imperative sentences—commands—sometimes polite and sometimes with an exclamation point at the end.

So what?? So we must listen and then obey.  I mean 59 times must mean the command is important and has serious implications.

"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." Galatians 5:13 ESV

The question is—do we?  Are we "one another" focused?

Truth is sometimes we are
           and sometimes we aren't.
Usually obedience depends on
   —whether I am busy with "me stuff"
   —whether taking action is safe,  convenient, or pleasant
    —whether I get a return on my time
     —weather—all kinds, inside and

More than any other time of year, in February, around the 14th, the rhetoric around us centers on LOVE, making this a great time to take action and be obedient because many times for many people the day to honor LOVE ends up being
l-o-v-e- short......

       for those in love—a day never doing enough for our "only one"
                                      or a day not getting enough from our "only one"
          for those not in love—a depressing day—designed only to magnify
                                                shortcomings, unlovableness
             for the widowed,
                   the divorced,
                   the caregivers of a spouse who can no longer "love" back
             —a day to remember, ignore and wallow in self-pity.

I know something about the latter.....the self-pity, the remembering, the ignoring—it isn't pretty.

Usually only God actually sees the selfish-pity, smells the stench, hears the inward sobbing since everyone else is too busy with his/her own pain.

So what can be done??  We hate ourselves for falling victim to the "You deserve to be loved." the "It is your right...", "Life isn't fair," lies.

"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. " Philippians 2:3 

Paul Harvey (for those of you who remember) told this story years ago on his "Rest of the Story" radio program.

The leader of the Salvation Army, William Booth, just before his death sent a one-word telegram to all his officers around the world.  Only one word.  A simple word.

The word?? OTHERS.

And certainly the Salvation Army has been a picture of being "other" focused to this day.

Actually the word "others" is not so simple. "Others" a powerful word because it affects everyone in the world—either as a receiver of "otherness" or a giver of "otherness."

  "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.  I John 3:16-18 ESV

Wasn't it actually for "others" that Christ came down to earth?  He came to do His Father's will, to glorify the Father, to redeem/save a people from their sins.  Others......it was all for others......never for Himself....NEVER.

Christ brought "love down" for others.  

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another." John 13:34 ESV

And finally, little by little, we begin to understand that we were loved, deeply loved by the ultimate lover—Jesus Christ
    —not so we would hoard the gift for ourselves,
    —not so we would hide it,
    —not so we could use all that love for our benefit.

  No, we were loved [by Christ at the cross],
     am being loved [by Christ no matter what we do or don't do],
        and will ALWAYS be loved [forever]
              so we can love OTHERS with HIS love.

You see "others" is the opposite of "self."
By being truly "others" centered and focused we can't be self-centered and self-focused. 
So now to find "others" to show God's love and compassion to.

   Just look in your home, next door, across the street, at work, at the gym, mall or restaurant, in the church bulletin, on line, or anywhere there are people
        —pay close attention to their foreheads and imagine a sign written there—"Love me, please."

May each of you have a wonderful day,
      Loving others in such a way that you are love-filled with His changing grace
            Seeing God's showers of tangible grace and love on you every moment
                     Having the beyond a doubt assurance that He loves you eternally

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love."
I John 4:7-8 ESV

Post Script—I just went to get the mail and found a lovely card from a friend....a friend who is  "others" focused knowing that LOVE did indeed come down for EVERY ONE of His own—thank you.
 And then, in just a few minutes, a call asking if I was okay....someone thinking I seemed down yesterday—love in action, taking a little time, encouraging, sharing God's heart that cares—thank you.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

"Count it all joy...."

Larry and I have an anniversary coming up—February 13, not our wedding anniversary but the 35th anniversary of the car accident—an event that drastically altered the path we were going down.  There have been past February's that the date has gone by and I totally forgot the day; but because of this blog and working on "the book," I have been thinking about that day and the days and weeks that followed.

In retrospect, God's preparation for that Sunday and the days and years that have followed was crucial to how I would respond to the changes and the subsequent decision to continue to care for Larry, to carry out the vow I had made just eight-and-a-half years earlier.

Some women have said to me, "God knew that you would be able to take care of him.  You are so strong!"

A few others have said they would do just as I had done if anything were to happen to their husband, but I know in my mind, that I wouldn't have.  If I had known ahead of time what was going to happen, I would have run the other direction as fast as I could. But praise the Lord, I didn't know and while I didn't know what was coming, my wonderful Lord because of His steadfast love and faithfulness was preparing me, growing me in the knowledge and wisdom of His grace.

You see God doesn't give us trials because He knows we are strong enough to handle them....He gives us the trials to test us; to help us understand that we can't handle them.  God wants us to depend on Him and to praise Him for who He is and His Work in our lives—all of it.

Funny thing is the preparation centers around the one thing—our knowing Him through His Word.

All those verses I had learned growing up in Sunday School and then in Vacation Bible School became very real to me.  In those early years of my life, I earned many awards for Scripture memory.  I even memorized whole chapters at a time and once for my memory work earned a week at Junior High Summer Bible Camp, a life changing experience.

Because of injuries in the accident, I ended up with double vision for months and found reading exhausting since I had to wear a patch on one eye, alternating eyes each day.  But the verses I knew by heart came back one after the other as I got up each morning giving me comfort, truth and guidance.

"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 
II Corinthians 2:9

"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galations 2:20

"I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13

One passage that I said over and over again, especially as I laid down to sleep was Psalms 23....

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. 
He leads me beside still waters. 
He restores my soul. 
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 
      I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
     your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; 
      you anoint my head with oil; 
     my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, 
      and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever."

God was leading me.  I wasn't alone.  He was right there, in me, strengthening me. Since that day, I have been in the process of learning to be more and more aware of His presence.  The Holy Spirit is  always there reminding me of truth, leading the way, praying for me, helping me to be honest about myself and my dependence on God.

Looking back I saw that a Foundation of Truth had been laid through the years because of all the Bible verses I had stored away.  The teaching from solid pastors teaching God's Word faithfully had laid a strong framework for truth. 

Soon after the accident I began receiving advice from friends and family about what I should do.  But when the advice came, the Holy Spirit was able to impress on me certain verses of truth from Scripture that really kept me on that level path I talked about here. [click on here and it will take you there.]

I'm sure each of you can only imagine some of the advice—a few actually thought I should divorce Larry, "After all, you have your whole life ahead of you."

Or "You have needs that Larry can no longer meet."

"What about the children?  You need to focus on raising them, not taking care of Larry."

Most of the time this came from those who weren't believers but some of it came from people I respected.  Sometimes I wondered if they were right....as time went on, I realized it would be easier if I didn't have Larry's 24/7 care to deal with.

But always, always, the Spirit reminded me of the vow I had taken on August 17, 1968.

"...for better or for worse, in sickness and in health."  This was certainly the "worse" and "sickness" part of that vow, but God had promised to never give me more than I could handle.  Paul had said we would have trials.

"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you." 
I Peter 4:12

Just a few months before the accident, I had told my Lord that I wanted to be used by Him to bless others, to reach others with the Truth of His Gospel.  I often thought about that request of mine and knew from the book of James that God has a purpose for our trials and running away wasn't the solution.  Joy was.

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4 ESV

Monday, February 6, 2012

Reflecting on God's goodness and grace

Every day is a good day to reflect on the goodness of God—today three verses in Isaiah help me see a little of what God's goodness and grace look like.

All thanks to my God and Savior Jesus Christ.

"The path of the righteous is level;
you make level the way of the righteous.
 In the path of your judgments,
  O Lord, we wait for you;
your name and remembrance
are the desire of our soul.
  My soul yearns for you in the night;
my spirit within me earnestly seeks you."
Isaiah 26:7-9

—Thank you that You take our hand and guide us through the hard places; the uneven places, the places with pot holes—making the path level.

—Thank You for Your perfect path for us that makes us look to you for help, that draws us to our knees as we slowly but surely learn to trust You and Your plan for our life.

—Thank You the path that certainly leads to your judgment but your Righteousness clothes me—covers my sin with the Righteousness of your Son who died for me.  Covers me so that you call me "righteous," and I am.  Wonder of Wonders!!!!

—Thank You for putting your Spirit within me so that indeed Your Name and Presence are the desire of my soul. 

—Thank You for night, darkness—the lack of activity or pressure or some thing needing my attention. Only in the night can there be a pure yearning for you—not in words but by my soul and spirit.  Only then is the real need communicated with honesty—through the Spirit.

—Thank You for the yearning that You have put within me.  The yearning that makes me look for Your work, Your creative power all around me.

—Thank You for my soul—empty without You, my soul wanting to be filled, crying out for its Creator and Keeper.

—And Thank You for the Word, the Revelation, the very YOU who is the only Way, the only Truth, the only Life to all who believe in You.

And continuing my list of 1000 gifts.......

#260.... a massage, almost forgotten, but needed

#261....sunshine....bringing brillance into west facing rooms every afternoon but subtle light to meet the morning complete with cup of tea and His WORD

#262...a friend with the promise of the best tomato plants to plant in a few weeks....

#263...grown children to share ideas with

#264...cards of encouragement sent and received

#265...the view in winter from the couch—a magnificent mountain—created by a magnificent God!

#266...Grains of Sand magnified....I had no idea of the beauty

#267...clouds....snow....fog.....who knows? But covering the foothills and Pikes Peak with Sunshine on this side. Spectacular!!

#268...ideas to cook, to make, to share, to encourage, to read, to love,.....it's called pinterest

#269...encouraging words from friends, family, readers who were touched by words written last week

#270...more flowers blooming inside to remind of what is to come...primroses

#271...my new cup "Love Came Down" to remind me of the Author of Love

#272....plungers.......indoor plumbling......running water

#273...music......to calm, to encourage, to sustain

#274...movies....."Smile" to remind about hurting children and parents

#275...coffee, Kenyan coffee beans, home roasted by my son.  Amazing....no need for flavors

And now to clean my house....and dwell with joy in the presence of the Lord.

"You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalm 16:11

Also connecting today to Ann at A Holy Experience.   

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Love is not a feeling...

I just finished reading Ann at A Holy Experience today (2/01/2012). Her writing today is a beautiful expose on love between a man and a woman and how that love makes each complete.  It is more than that but you have to read it for yourself and cry your tears, and laugh with joy as she describes it so well.

I have known that kind of love.  Love from a man who loved me well, who cherished me, who loved me in so many ways every day.  He was a father who loved his children well—Greg was his side-kick as they gardened together, worked on wood projects, played together; Renee was "Daddy's little girl" and Larry loved nothing more than sitting in his chair with her on his lap. And he was eager to meet our third child that was due to arrive in June. Together, we were looking forward to the years ahead—the good times, the memories we would make, and our love which would only grow stronger.

I couldn't imagine life without Larry, without his shoulder to cry on, without his ear to listen, without his wisdom, without his love, his arms, his strength.  He was my rock and my life revolved around him.

And then on February 13, thirty-five years ago, life changed.  A car accident left us a changed husband and father—a child-like man who needed our care, our understanding, our love day after day, week after week.

And now approaching the anniversary of 35 years, it is still about love.

A few years after that accident I confessed to a preacher who had come to share during a Spiritual Life Conference in a country church that I felt guilty about something....."You see," I said, "I don't really love my husband, Larry, now a child, like I did before—for those first 8 years of our marriage—before he changed.  I don't love him like that anymore....."

He took my hands and told me his story....his wife, after bearing 5 children, had a total breakdown and spent all of those little one's growing up years in their state's mental hospital.  She was suddenly released when the youngest was a senior in high school and then he had cared for his wife, she wasn't better but in his care, until she died.

Looking in my eyes, he said, "Love is not a feeling.  Real love is a decision—a decision to love no matter what the other person can or can't do for you.  Don't ever forget that. Love is not a feeling."

God and his steadfast love and faithfulness have never failed me.  It is His arms that are around me.  It is His strength I depend on.  It is His love that surrounds me, that holds me as I continue to love my husband.

Has it been easy?  Never.  Have I failed?  Often. Do I ever wish for my other Larry?  Many times.
But God in His goodness planned this path for us.  Why?

 "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,  as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." II Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV

And that is what it is about—an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

[the last picture includes Larry and I at my dad's 95th birthday celebration "Happy Birthday, Dad!" Check it out.]