NEW LIFE

NEW LIFE

            On Sunday morning, our church congregation was gladdened by the photograph of a newborn baby.  There on the big screen was the image of our Children’s Pastor’s baby daughter born on Saturday night.  I do not know her name, her weight or any other details, but she is beautiful.

There is nothing quite so awesome as a newborn child.  Red and wrinkled or fat and rosy makes no difference.  This squirming, crying, sucking infant, who has been tucked away in the safety of a mother’s womb for nine months, is one of God’s greatest miracles—the essence of new life.

I couldn’t help but think about that brand new mother looking into her baby’s face for the first time—the rarest of occasions—the potential of a brand new life happening right before her eyes.

The sight of this tiny creature set me thinking about new life, and I remembered my days as a missionary and my first springtime in Europe.

By the time the snow was gone, and springtime finally rolled around, I had already been in a language school for eight months.  It was a stressful, worrisome time for me.  So much depended upon my ability to speak French, and some days I thought I would never succeed.

Thank God for spring break!  My roommate and I decided to go to England for ten days.  There I could practice my English and forget about the French.

We put my car on the boat at Ostend, crossed the English Channel and drove off the boat in the shadow of the Cliffs of Dover.  Then we headed north on the highway to London.  Now, I knew that the English drive on the left side of the road instead of the right, and I knew that, unlike ours, their steering wheels were on the right instead of the left.  I was a whole lot nervous about this venture, and my roommate was frantic.  She did a lot of squealing sure we would die at any moment.  I still wonder at my bravery or audacity.  Take your pick.

The English countryside was gorgeous.  Everywhere I looked I saw the signs of new life bursting forth.  The Crocuses were in bloom, and the trees were leafing out.  Beautiful green meadows surrounded by ancient rock fences were filled with snow-white, newborn lambs.  These babies leaped and frolicked and played in the brilliant sunshine happy in the moment.  I don’t know if sheep know what joy is, but to me, the lambs were a perfect portrait of a joyous new life.

This experience was meaningful to me in an even more important way.  The Lambs symbolized “New Life,” and reminded me of Europe’s children, in whose interest I had been sent to this part of the world.  Many of our churches in Belgium had no ministry to children at all.  Often, they were not even brought to church.  It would be my responsibility to train children’s ministry workers.  It would be my job to help establish Sunday Schools and weekday Bible classes for kids.  I thought of these precious youngsters as Jesus’ lambs.

The Barna Group tells us that 94% of adult Christians are converted to Christ under the age of 18.  Adults 19 and over have just a 6% probability of becoming Christian and partaking of this New Life in Christ Jesus.

The younger children are, when they experience this New Life, the surer it is that they will continue to follow the Lord throughout life.  I am thankful that accepted Jesus when I was five years old.

We all look forward to spring even in Arizona where it is hard to differentiate the seasons.  When the rigors of winter are past, when we’ve trimmed away the frozen stuff, the trees shedding their dead leaves make way for a new life, and tiny green spikes push their way through the soil, life takes on a new hue.  There is a new spring in the step and hopefulness in the heart.  Things seem different than usual, better than the past—time for a new beginning.

There are times when even those of us who have been believers for many years may need a start over.  Perhaps it is time to let go and allow God to breathe New Life into you.  Holding on to problems and doubts doesn’t change anything, but letting go sets you free to accept new outcomes, new opportunities, and new possibilities.

Genesis 2:7 says, “And the Lord formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

Job said, in 33:4, “The Spirit of God made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”  And I might add, “It is the breath of God that keeps us going.”

Are you in need of an infusion of NEW LIFE today?  God stands ready to breathe upon you.

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

STAYING AHEAD OF THE PAIN

On July 31 I underwent surgery for a complete knee replacement.  I’ve had this surgery before, so I thought I knew what to expect.  Little did I know! When I finally awakened, I was in excruciating pain, worse than I had ever experienced.  I have a high pain threshold, so this was totally unexpected. I could not hold back the moans and groans.

The attending nurse immediately injected morphine into the portal in my arm.  It was effective almost immediately, but that relief was fleeting. Before long the pain returned with vengeance, and I was given more morphine.  

Morphine is effective almost immediately, but the effect is brief, so something more was needed.  Oxycontin, having a longer effect, replaced the morphine. That did the trick.  

Now, I am not terribly informed concerning drugs, but you can’t turn on the TV without hearing about the drug problem in our country today.  I did know that Oxcycontin is an opioid, and long term use can lead to addiction. That scared me. I didn’t want to take it at all, but I didn’t want to hurt either.

I can’t tell you how many times a day nurses asked me, “From 1 – 10 how aggressive is your pain?”  I didn’t know how to rate the pain. It just hurt.

When I was moved to rehab, I was told I could have the pain medication every four hours, but I determined not to ask for it unless I was dying.  

Nurses didn’t understand.  “Don’t wait until you are hurting,” they scolded.  “You have to stay ahead of the pain.”  In other words, “Ask for it before you need it,” but I didn’t.  Sometimes my physical therapist asked, “Don’t you want a pain pill before we go to work”?  I admit that I did ask for one at night, so I could sleep. When I was released from rehab, I was given a prescription for Oxycontin, which I tore up, when I got home. 

Perhaps I was too cautious, but there is a serious problem—an epidemic—with Opioids, in our beloved country today.  An average of 130 Americans die every day from an Opioid overdose. 21 – 29 percent of patients who were prescribed these drugs for chronic pain end up misusing them, and about 80 percent of people who use Heroin, previously misused prescription drugs.

This crisis can be traced back to the 1990’s when the pain became the “fifth vital sign,” and pharmaceuticals became the primary treatment.  Somehow patients were led to believe that they need never hurt, but an over-reliance on drugs has helped to fuel this epidemic.

Today, some doctors readily admit that the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry are a major part of the drug addiction problem in our country.

Drugs are pushed everywhere we look.  On television, on billboards, on the radio, this multibillion dollar industry peddles its wares 24/7.

Pain is not a vital sign nor is it a disease.  It does not fall into the same category as body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and breathing.  It is a highly subjective symptom, which cannot not be measured with number scales and smiley faces. 

I have friends who suffer chronic pain.  It never goes away, so it is not my desire to offend anyone.  However, pain is a part of life, and when healthcare providers prioritize pain it’s easier for a patient to become fixated on it.  The more he thinks about it the bigger it gets, so he looks for a medication fix. Depending on how it is used, that medication fix has the potential to become a greater pain than the pain itself.  

Admittedly, I do not have the answer to this widespread catastrophe, but I have decided to stay informed, to be cautious, and to cultivate a heart of compassion for those who have fallen victim.

Physical pain, of course, is not the only pain suffered in this life.  There is the pain of loss, the pain of failure, the pain of fear and aloneness, the pain of rejection, and the list goes on.  A medical doctor and drugs can do nothing to touch or alleviate such pain, but I know someone who can.

In Isaiah 61:1-2 (The Message) Jesus told us that God sent Him to bring good news to the poor, to heal the broken hearted, to set captives free, and to comfort those who mourn.

Again Isaiah 43:2-3 says, “When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers they shall not overflow you.  When you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God…”

This just simply means that when you are in over your head, when you are in rough waters, when you are between a rock and a hard place, when your life is broken in some way, God will be there.  

You want to stay ahead of the pain?  Trust in Jesus. He will not allow the pains of this life to destroy you.  He is more powerful than any drug, and you cannot overdose on the promises and reality of God.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

FORGIVING AND FORGIVEN

FORGIVING AND FORGIVEN

I was a rookie missionary living alone in Brussels Belgium.  I had arrived on August 25, exactly four months to the day before Christmas 1975.  I was already dreading the coming holidays, because, though I had not lived at home for a number of years, I had always managed to be there for Christmas with my family.  

After a couple of months, I acquired a roommate, another single woman. Virginia was a veteran missionary, who worked at the Bible College, where I would teach after I finished language school.

We decorated the apartment for Christmas, and I began to think “it might not be so bad after all.”  I knew the college was planning a big Christmas celebration. I looked forward to it with great anticipation knowing that the fun would make up for some of the loneliness.

However, my roommate, who was at the school every day, never mentioned the party.  I thought it strange, so I finally asked for details.

Hesitantly, Virginia said, “Faye, you can’t come.”

“I can’t come to the party, but why,” I demanded.

Then she told me that the president, calling his name, said that since I was not yet faculty and I was not a student either, I couldn’t come.

I was crushed.  I wept like a baby.  How could anyone be so mean?  Didn’t he know I was alone for the first time at Christmas?  I don’t know why it hurt so much, but from that moment, I deliberately avoided this man who had wounded me so deeply.  

AND I kept crying.  I cried for days. In fact, I cried for years.  For years to come, whenever I thought of that Christmas it was hard to keep back the tears.

One morning, not having thought of this for years, while I was praying that incident came to mind, and in my spirit, The Lord said, “Get over it. You need to forgive this man.”

I immediately arose from my knees, went to my desk and wrote a letter.  I reminded my old acquaintance of who I was repeating the details of the incident.  I told him, that being alone and in language school, I was terribly hurt at being excluded from the festivities.

I wrote, “That was so long ago you may not remember, and you may not feel a need for my forgiveness, but I NEED TO FORGIVE YOU.”   With that act of forgiveness, my hurt packed up and slipped away.  The next time I saw this man I was able to greet him with joy. The past was gone.

Forgiveness is powerful!  It is the intentional and voluntary release of resentment regarding an offense.  It banishes any need for revenge or punishment toward the offender.

Nelson Mandela is quoted as saying, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemy.” It won’t, but it may kill you.

The act of forgiveness is first and foremost for me, for the forgiver.  I guarantee that I benefitted more from that letter than my offender did.  I realized that he probably had no idea how he had hurt me, and I could move on without any malice in my heart.  There was no residue of resentment or desire for revenge or punishment toward this man.

Forgiveness guards against anger, stress, anxiety and depression.  It even provides health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and aiding heart problems, and it brings peace to the soul.

People who forgive are happier and healthier than those who hold resentments.

One must be strong in order to forgive.  Corrie Ten Boom said, “Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.”  Forgiveness cannot be an occasional thing, it must become a continuing attitude, which means “we must cultivate a forgiving spirit.”

When I think of forgiveness, I think of Christ and how He is faithful and just to forgive us.  C.S. Lewis wrote, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

Luke 15 records one of the greatest acts of forgiveness in the Bible.  It is the story of the Prodigal Son, who took his inheritance and wasted it in riotous dissipated living.  When he was broke with nothing to eat and no place to go, he came to his senses remembering that even his father’s servants had three meals a day.  He decided to go home, confess to his father, and beg his forgiveness. Little did he know that his father stood ready to forgive and to celebrate his son’s homecoming.

I can testify to the fact that it is wonderful to be freely forgiven by my heavenly Father, and because He has forgiven me, I must be willing to forgive those who have wronged me.   Matthew 6:14-15 says, “If I do not forgive others, He will not forgive me.”  That should give us pause to think. 

In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter asked Jesus, “…how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me?  Seven?” Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.”

Who do you need to forgive today? 

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOING IT ALONE

 

I never planned to be alone.  I planned to have a handsome, clever husband and a house full of dimpled babies.  I kept setting deadlines for this anticipated life.  

“I’ll be married by the time I am twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five,” but those deadlines came and went, and I was still alone.

What do you do when your dreams do not materialize, and the thing you think you want above all others proves to be unattainable?

Well, you can sit with hands folded and wait and wait and wait as disappointment overwhelms and hope fades.

I never fell victim to that kind of despair.  Thank God! I realized that, disappointed though I was, there was still a life to be lived.  Time is a finite resource, and I could never win back the time I wasted feeling sorry for myself, so I got on with my life doing what I believed God wanted me to do.  Did I want to do it alone? Never! Yet, I had no choice, so I learned to be alone.

I learned to be alone and I did a bang-up job of it.  Figuring out life alone developed my self-sufficiency, and boosted my confidence.  I was forced to learn how to handle things for myself. I discovered that I was capable of doing more than I thought I could.  I began to enjoy my freedom and prize my independence.

I found that I could be a successful public school teacher, that I could leave my teaching job and enter fulltime ministry, that, at God’s bidding, I could settle in Europe as a missionary, learn the French language, and work effectively in other far off places.  

It took being alone for me to really get to know me, and I found that I liked the person that I was becoming.

Yes, there were times when I was lonely.  There were times when I was afraid. There were times when flights were cancelled in strange places, and no one in the world knew exactly where I was at the moment.  That’s scary, but I always found a way out of those situations.

There were things that I had to guard against.  As a woman alone, knowing that I was responsible for everything, I had to be careful that I did not come across as too brash or too demanding.  It is sometimes hard to strike a happy medium—to be sweet and kind and still get things done.

Years later, a male friend of mine accused me of being pushy.  He hurt my feelings. I told him frankly that, as a woman alone all those years, I had only done what was necessary.  However, I can see how it must have looked to him. His wife, a lovely lady, would not go shopping without him, nor would she buy a dress unless he saw it first and approved.  I would have been hard put in such a situation.

At the age of 83, I really haven’t changed all that much.  On Friday, last week, I was scheduled to have new flooring installed in my bedroom.  Materials would be delivered on Thursday. Thursday morning the phone rang about 6:30, and I received a voice mail message saying that they were on their way and would arrive in a few minutes.  When they had not arrived by noon, I called Home Depot, and they referred me to the delivery company, who had no record of a delivery for me. “Call Home Depot,” they said.

Again, I called Home Depot, and spoke to the Manager on duty explaining my dilemma.  “They don’t have any record of such a delivery, and I must have the materials today, because they are installing in the morning,” I told him.  

“Nothing a can be done before Monday,” he replied.

Being upset, I said with tears, “If they don’t install it tomorrow, I will have to wait another month.”

“Ma’am,” he said emphatically.  “It is physically impossible to do anything about it today.”

“Please explain to me what you mean by “Physically impossible,” I countered.

“Hold on just a minute,” he replied.  

Coming back on the phone, he said, “Mrs. Reese, there is a very nice young man here, who is going to deliver your materials in about thirty minutes as soon as the truck returns.”

I wanted to shout “Hallelujah,” but instead I thanked him sweetly.  Being alone, I have learned NEVER to give up.

Lest you think that I am laboring under the delusion that I have done all of this by myself for 83 years, the truth is I have never been alone for one split second.  Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus has been my constant companion walking with me every step of the way. In the bad and the good times, I have clung to His word.

Isaiah 41:10.  “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Hebrews 13:5.  “…He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”

If you are alone today, or perhaps just feeling alone, Jesus is there for you, if you will allow Him, He will be closer to you than a brother never leaving your side.  He will walk with you every step of the way.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

WHERE ARE YOU FROM?

 

My birth certificate says that I was born in Fort Cobb, Oklahoma, and the same information can be found on my American passport.

Fort Cobb was established as a U.S. Army frontier post in Indian Territory in 1859, and later, in 1899, the town itself was founded, a mile away.  When I was born in 1935, the town boasted a population of close to 700, but by 2010, according to the Census, the population had dwindled to 634. Fort Cobb was never destined to become a great metropolis. 

So, I am from this tiny, unknown place in the Washita River Valley, in Caddo County, Oklahoma.  My family left there in the winter of 1938, when I was barely two years old, and I have returned only one time.  As a young adult, I went back with my Mom, brother, and sister for a nostalgic visit. I saw the house where I was born, and visited “Miss Pearl,” who taught my brothers and sisters in the little one room school house all those years ago.  The visit recalled many wonderful memories for my Mother.

I wasn’t especially glad to be from Oklahoma.  Years ago, people here in the west sort of looked down on those from Oklahoma and Arkansas.  Maybe they were comparing us to the Jode Family in the “Grapes of Wrath.” Kids in my kindergarten class called me an Okie. When I complained to Mama, she said, “Well, you are an Okie!

Even at the age of five, I knew that taunt was not a compliment.

After having lived in California and around the world for half my life, I am now ensconced in Arizona with no plans to leave.  I am no longer sure where I am from, but I have decided that the important question is not “Where are you from, but where are you going?”

This question reminds me of an acquaintance of mine.  Dave, who had been a faithful overseas missionary for many years, was at the time, living in the U.S.  Sunday morning, on the way home from church, he was involved in a head-on collision, and died instantly.

When His son went to the mortuary to make funeral arrangements, the director took him through the building showing him caskets from which he could choose.  He looked at the beautiful oak boxes, the burnished bronze, the ones with cushy interiors, and one by one he rejected them. “No,” he said. “That’s not for my father.”

Finally, giving up, the mortician said, “Well, all I have left are these pine boxes that we keep for transients.”

Dave’s son said, “That’s it!  That’s what my father would want. He was not a citizen of this world.  He was a transient just passing through.”

There is an old song we used to sing when I was a child.

“This world is not my home.  I’m just a passing through.

My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.

The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door.

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

O, Lord, you know, I have no friend like you.

If heaven’s not my home, then Lord what will I do ………..?”

When Governor Pilate asked Jesus, “Where are you from,” Jesus gave no answer, for he had already told Pilate that His Kingdom is not of this world.  Following His resurrection, Jesus went back to that kingdom to prepare a place for His followers.

We are living in very uncertain times.  Our government is in an upheaval. It is difficult to know who is telling the truth.  It spite of my great love for America, and my thankfulness to be an American, it is impossible to be proud of what’s going on in our land today.  AND—it is difficult to be optimistic about the future of this country.

I will keep praying and hoping and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, and living the life of a good American citizen, but I am ever so glad to know where I am going.  No matter how good or bad this life has been to me, this world is not my permanent home.

You may have been born in a mansion with a silver spoon in your mouth.  Your ancestors may have arrived on the Mayflower. You may be a political great, or a billionaire, but background is not your life raft.  The question is not where you come from, but where are you going.

John 14:2-3:  Jesus said, “…I go to prepare a place for you…I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

One day Christ’s kingdom will come to this earth, and those who have been faithful will share in His Kingdom.  What a day that will be!

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!