THREE LITTLE WORDS

THREE LITTLE WORDS

“Oh what I’d give for that wonderful phrase

To hear those three little words

…Which simply mean I love you.”

This sweet song was recorded by Bing Crosby and the Rhythm Boys with Duke Ellington’s orchestra in 1930—nearly ninety years ago, and these Three Little Words never grow old.  In fact, the words, I LOVE YOU, when sincerely expressed, are, I believe, the most powerful, meaningful words ever spoken by the human tongue.

Retiring from full-time ministry, nine years ago, was, to say the least, an extremely traumatic experience.  Transitioning from pulpit to pew was a lonely, sad time for me.

To acerbate the situation I relocated, after forty years, to my old home town and to a church where I knew no one, and no one knew me.  

I couldn’t stand the loneliness so, being the gal that I am, I quickly became involved.  It took time, but over these nine years, I have been accepted by a wonderful group of people, whom I have grown to love.  Many in this group have known each other for ninety years, so, much of the time, I still feel like the interloper—the new kid on the block.

There is one beautiful woman in the group who intimidates me a bit.  I am sure this is not intended, and that she is totally unaware. It is my own sense of insecurity that fuels the feeling.

A couple of weeks ago, a group of us were chatting waiting for time to go to lunch.  I don’t remember the gist of the conversation, but in the act of introducing me to someone, this woman put her arm around me, gave me a squeeze and said to the group, “Faye is the life of the party, and we love her.”

I’m certain no one else remembers that conversation, but it was a “red letter” day for me—one that I cannot forget.  Those unexpected words, from that particular person, warmed my heart and made me feel like I belonged.  

“I love you! We love you!”  Do we have any idea the effect these words, and other words of kindness, have upon those to whom they are spoken?

Words are not simply sounds caused by air passing through the larynx.  Unimaginable power lies in our words. God spoke the worlds into existence by the power of His word.  (Hebrews 11:3)  Words reveal our innermost thoughts and the way we view ourselves and others.

Remember our childhood rhetoric—“Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?”

Nothing was ever farther from the truth!  I was a fat little girl in grade school, and grade school children can be mean little monsters.  I went home in tears more than one day.

Someone has said that “Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity.”  Words have energy and power with the ability to help or to hinder, to humiliate or to elevate, to hurt or to heal, to humble or to glorify.  Words can stir up the creative juices in the mind of men. Words can wring tears from the meanest of persons. Words can encourage or destroy sometimes leaving damage that lasts a lifetime.

I read the other day that words are the leading cause of death and dismemberment in global societies, and have been since the beginning of time.  Words are usually the cause of teenage suicide. We’ve all heard the stories of bullying.

I don’t remember everything said during my wedding ceremony, but I do remember my brother, who was officiating, giving this word of counsel.  “Don’t ever say anything at the expense of your spouse.  That is pure meanness.”  I have tried so hard to live by that counsel.

We are careless and thoughtless so much of the time speaking barbed words, in the guise of fun, that wound rather than heal.  I am convinced that many of us need to take closer notice of the way we speak and the effect our words have upon others.

I quote from Jodi Picault.  “Words are like eggs dropped from a great height.  You can no more call them back than ignore the mess they make when they fall.”

King Solomon wrote some very sobering words in Proverbs 18:21.  “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…”  This truth should give us pause to think.

James 3:2 and 8, “…we all stumble in many things.  If anyone does not stumble in words, he is a perfect man…But no man can tame the tongue.  It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”

  Psalm 19:14 is my prayer today. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.”

If my words please Him, my words will bless you!

Three little words!  “I Love you,” or “Jesus love you!”  Who in your realm of contact needs to hear these words today?

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

LOSING MY SISTER

My baby sister will celebrate her 81st birthday next Tuesday.  Those who have followed this blog for a while know that she is an Alzheimer’s victim.  I visit her every Tuesday and Friday afternoon without fail. 

Usually, I draw up a chair near her recliner and hold her hand.  The T.V. is always on with old reruns of “The Waltons” and “Little House on the Prairie.”  We talk quietly, or she talks and I listen, ignoring the programs, which we could both recite verbatim.  

She talks incessantly without ever being able to finish a sentence or explain herself.  I can sometimes see the sorrow in her eyes as she gives up. At other times she laughs and says, “Oh, I’m just crazy or I didn’t do that right.”

Alzheimer’s disease causes memory deficits and makes it hard for people afflicted with it to stay in the current moment.  I have learned that people with Alzheimer’s continually struggle to make sense of the world in the face of their declining cognitive function, and it’s a deeply lonely and isolating experience.  So, I realize that my sister, growing more confused by the day, knows what is going on, but has no control over the downward spiral. Is she afraid?

June is always happy to see me.  At times she is very sweet telling me how much she loves me and how beautiful I am.  She still likes to joke. 

When she says, “You are very pretty today,” I ask, “Oh really?” She replies, with a twinkle in her eyes, “No, not really.” 

At other times, and lately, more often, she is engrossed with the activity outside her window living in an imaginary world.  There are people out there, people that I cannot see, some she knows and some she does not know. They are doing all kinds of interesting things.  Tuesday there was a child in the group, who does not like her.

Of course, she is hallucinating.  A hallucination can be understood as a sensory experience that is imagined.  In other words, she sees, hears, smells, tastes or even feels something that is not really there.  So far, June only sees and hears people, and she does talk back to them. If they invade her room, she tells them to go away.  “This is my house.”

These false perceptions are caused by change within the brain that usually occurs in the middle to later stages of the disease.  Hallucination is associated with a faster decline in Alzheimer’s victims. 

That fact makes me very sad.  How much longer will I have my little sister?

June is also delusional.  A delusion involves a set of false beliefs.  She frequently tells me the caregivers hate her or they are stealing her stuff or one of the men is in love with her.  I have learned that everything in her room must remain in its place. If anything is moved, she believes it has been stolen.  It’s the disease that causes these behaviors.

I am trying desperately to learn how to deal with my sister’s illness.  For this impatient, sassy gal, who is known for saying it like it is, this journey is sometimes one step forward and two steps backward.  There is no way to deal with it rationally. You cannot reason it out. Seldom do I disagree with June, but yesterday, when she said that our Mama was outside her window with those other people, I said, “No!”  Mama is not out there. She is in heaven with Ted and baby Eric waiting for you.”

“Who is Ted,” she asked.

“He’s your husband, and Eric is your baby,” I replied.

“I had a baby,” she asked with wonder, and then she was back to her friends just outside the window.

The experts tell us that caregivers and loved ones must:

Remain calm and resist the urge to argue.

            Try not to reason.

Listen and flow with the moment.

Be gentle and concerning regarding any fears.

Maintain a routine.

Use distraction.  (Doesn’t work—she will not be distracted.)

I am slowly mastering the art of dealing with Alzheimer’s, but I have discovered that I must first “Lead with my love.”  So, I go with gifts—chocolate one day and a Wendy’s Frosty the next. I feed the goodies to my sister one bite at a time.  She can no longer grip anything with her fingers. Then I hold her hand, and sometimes we sing. She still remembers the words to many of our old church songs.  Our favorite: “Jesus, Hold My Hand.”

  I am losing my sister.  With every confusing moment, she is slipping away.  To one degree or another, I have taken care of June all her life.  What will I do when she is gone? I know life for me will be much easier, but, oh, so lonely.

Before I leave, I always pray with her asking God’s protection and assurance of His love toward her.  Then, overcome with weariness, I make my way home having spent every ounce of energy I could muster, but it’s all worth it.

Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”

Be good to your suffering loved one.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

GOD’S PLAN OR MINE

  Remember Jonah and the Whale?  It was the most unbelievable, spellbinding story leaving a multitude of unanswered questions in my childish mind.   Was it true? What was it like inside that big belly? Could Jonah breathe? Was he scared? Why didn’t he obey God? Did it really happen?

Yes!  I knew it really happened for it was recorded in God’s word.  That was enough for me, and yet there has been a running controversy since Jonah’s time, for upward of 2800 years.

In all the discussion, it has been determined that it is possible that a sperm whale, for instance, could swallow a man.  Sperm whales sometimes swallow squid whole, so it could definitely manage a human.

Perhaps it wasn’t a sperm whale.  It could have been some now extinct marine reptile or a dog headed sea dragon that swallowed Jonah.

  Admittedly, it’s possible he may have been swallowed by one of those sea creatures, but scientists are adamant in their declaration that he never could have survived any longer than if he were held underwater.

According to some, an alternative to this strange survival story may be that Jonah actually died—drowned in the sea—before he was swallowed.  Then God resurrected him three days later when the fish reached the shores of Nineveh. Still, others ask, “How could he have prayed in that belly, if he were already dead?  And—the argument continues.

Some now regard the Book of Jonah as a novel written with a theological purpose.

For me, miracles, rather than scientific theories, are the best explanation for Jonah.  God “prepared” a great fish.” I don’t know if He refashioned one of His existing creatures or if He made something brand new equipped with an oxygen tank able to sustain a man for three day or if He just kept Jonah alive supernaturally.  In any case, I still believe in miracles.  

However, this story is not about whether or not a fish can swallow a man.  It is about obedience to God’s will. God had said, “Go to Nineveh—that wicked city, and tell them, if they don’t repent, I’m going to destroy them.”

Jonah had other ideas.  He wasn’t at all enthusiastic about God’s plan or His will.  He hated the Ninevites and didn’t want God to be merciful to them.  He wanted God to destroy them. He was convinced he was 100% right, so he ran away, and his disobedience resulted in a wild, dark, three-day ride from the depths of the billows and waves of the sea to the quiet shoreline, and a direct route to Nineveh.  

Imagine what he must have looked like lying there on the beaches of Nineveh in a puddle of fish vomit.  After three days in the belly of this great fish, he was one scary dude! Digestive acids had bleached him white.  He was shriveled like a prune with seaweed tangled in his hair and wrapped around his neck, and barnacles growing on his head.

Jonah had no one to blame but himself.  This whole calamity originated with his attitude toward God’s will.  

I can safely assure you that Jonah’s attitude toward God’s plan took a 180 degree turn as he slide down the gullet of that terrifying being.  

Jonah 2:1 says, “Then Jonah prayed…”  He describes his helpless situation, and in 2:7, he cries, “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer went up to you, into your holy temple.”

Do you sometimes feel that you are in the belly of a big fish?  I do! When I decide to do something on my own without asking God’s guidance or I knowingly disobey what I know to be His will, then the big fish shows up, and everything goes out of control.

I like the words to the song that says:

“Are you in the big fish?

Are you sitting in the belly of a world gone mad?

Have you turned your back on His wish, or His will for your life?

 Have you made Him sad?

Do you want to get out of the big fish?

Listen to God and follow His plan,

And you won’t be part of the main dish.

He’ll spit you out on dry land.”

 

Jonah got the message.  He still hated the Assyrians.  He still wanted God to destroy them, but in spite of that, he did what God asked him to do.  The Assyrians were saved, and Jonah learned some great lessons about compassion.

Whoever you are, God has a plan for your life, but you may not like His assignment.   Like Ford, you have a better plan, and you are convinced that you are 100% right. Your plan is superior, more reasonable, more just.  Besides, you are sure you cannot do what God asks. Let me tell you, “God intends to make you ideally suited to carry out His plan.

Will you follow His plan or will you turn your back?

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA

Today we will celebrate America’s 243rd birthday.  The 4th of July is ordinarily a fun day, a day of gladness with grand fireworks displays, picnics in the park, parades, and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

Independence Day ought also to be a day of thanksgiving—a day of looking back, of taking stock, remembering how we got here—how a handful of colonists became a great nation—the “Land of the free and the home of the brave”

For me, and I believe for many others, this year’s celebration will be mixed with a sense of sadness at the climate in which our beloved nation now finds itself.  Instead of “Yankee Doodle” I catch myself singing “God Bless America, land that I love.  From the mountains to the prairies, to the ocean white with foam, God bless America, my home sweet home.”

“God Bless America” was written by Irving Berlin, a Jewish immigrant, while serving in the U.S. Army during WW I.  However, it was only at the rise of Adolph Hitler, in 1938, that the song was made public. It was actually a form of prayer for God’s blessing and peace for our nation.  The song tapped into the national psyche offering a kind of collective prayer for the fear over threatening war.

“God Bless America” has had a long shelf life.  It was even hailed as the new national anthem, and used, through many decades, for a wide range of purposes from presidential campaigns to sporting events. Following 9/11, the song took on a new life once again signaling renewed patriotism, but I don’t know if it was ever really—sincerely sung as a prayer.

I know, of course, that this is the season for “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” and Let Freedom Ring,” but for some reason, my heart is crying out, “God Bless America,” and I have been thinking about just how much God has blessed this beloved land of ours.  As turmoil and strife swirl around us today, we need to retrace the road of blessing that has brought us thus far, for God has clearly blessed America during the past two-plus centuries.

First, I think of the 102 passengers aboard the Mayflower who arrived at Plymouth Rock on November 9, 1620.  Roughly half of these were Pilgrims or “Separatists” and the others were servants and crewmen. More than half of those aboard died before spring arrived.

While some would deny the truth of their purpose, this handful of people separated themselves from the church of England, escaping persecution and imprisonment, wanting to practice their religion as they chose and establish a new church  in a new world.

Perhaps for the sake of these committed Pilgrims, God chose to pour out His blessing on their descendants and their new country.  These Pilgrims became the “stepping stones” in the formation of what has arguably become the greatest nation on earth.  

When I think of the “handful” of colonists who stood against “King George III and the whole British Empire, I am convinced that we were blessed by God.  Not that God was against the British, but that He enabled our countrymen to battle through to victory to form a nation free from tyranny—a nation “Under God!”

We are further blessed, because our forefathers came together through much turmoil, injustice and hardship using the wisdom of the Bible, history and other cultures along with their own experiences, and fashioned the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  These God fearing men, whether professed Christians or not, accepted the truthfulness of the Bible and the authority of God embracing the basic freedom of religion and a Christian outlook on life, morality and government. Some would rewrite history in order to change these facts, but they cannot change the truth.

Today, we live in a beautiful, bountiful land able to support a large population—a country that retains incredible freedoms.  We are the envy of the world. Why do you think so many want to come here?

We are free to worship as we choose never fearing death or imprisonment because of our faith.  We are free to speak our minds, to elect our leaders, to pursue our own dreams.

  Who, in his right mind, could deny God’s blessing on this nation?

I fear, however, that we have abused our freedoms taking them as license to behave in any way we choose regardless of the hurt to others producing a generation that thumbs its nose at God.

Now we live in a divided nation having denied the blessings of God.  From morning until evening we abuse, belittle and accuse our fellow Americans.  The acquisition of power seems to be the desired goal. Never mind how it is attained.

I tremble at the thought of asking God’s blessing on this country, why would He bless us, and yet I do, because I am reminded that there is still a lot of light and salt in our world.  There is still a multitude of people who love God and are ready to stand up for what is right. “Give us another chance, Lord,” I cry.  “Please heal the division in our land, and turn us back to you.”

When I read 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land,” I am encouraged believing that God can still intervene.

“God Bless America” is at its heart a prayer for the well-being of our country, especially in these politically and racially charged times.  So, let us “humble ourselves” and “turn from our wicked ways,” and with longing hearts, sing again this prayer believing God for better days and many more “Happy Birthdays” for the “Land that we love.”  

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!