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!

 

EMBRACING FAILURE

I didn’t do it!  It’s not my fault!  He made me do it! It’s her fault!

Remember that childhood anguish—unable to admit to a failure or mistake—wanting very much to lay the blame on someone else.  Regrettably, not only children struggle with this problem. There are those who can never embrace their own failure.

Failure is a natural, necessary part of being human.  You know the awful feeling. There’s no getting around it.  We all fail to one degree or another at one time or another.  Many of us fail every day. We may not think of those little “kerfuffles”—the messes we make or problems we cause—as failures, but in essence that is what they are.  

Some failures are bigger than others, more public, more humiliating, attaching more stigma, but regardless of whether or not our failure is microscopic or earth-shattering, we must respond in some way.  We can, as many do, make excuses for ourselves, and blame other people, or we can own our failure. “I made a mistake. It is my fault.” Those failures whether large or small need not ruin us. We can learn from our failures, and move past them to better things.

We cannot control whether difficult things happen in life, but we can control how we react.

President Truman had a sign on his desk that said, “THE BUCK STOPS HERE!”  The phrase referred to the notion that the president has to make the decisions and accept the ultimate responsibility for those decisions.  That’s a great example for all of us.

Look into the background of well known successful figures, and you will find gigantic failures.  Walt Disney, one of the most creative geniuses of all time was once fired from a newspaper because he was told he wasn’t creative, but he kept trying until he became a household name.

Think of Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb and so many other things.  He was hearing impaired. He was a fidgeter. He had only three months of schooling.  Then his teacher said he was too stupid to learn.

What about Bill Gates?  He was a Harvard University dropout, and his first business failed.  Now he is the wealthiest man in the world. He admitted his failure, learned from it and moved on building “Microsoft,” and becoming a billionaire at the age of 31.

Everyone knows Hershey’s chocolate, but when Milton Hershey started his candy production career, he failed at three separate ventures.  However, believing in his vision of milk chocolate for the masses, he founded the Hershey Company and became famous in the candy industry.

SO, I CAN SAY, “I HAVE FAILED, BUT I AM NOT A FAILURE!”

It is great to celebrate success, but it is more important to learn the lessons taught by failure.  I think you can have most of the things you want in life if you treat failure as a part of the learning process.  Failure is a stepping stone toward success.

On Sunday morning, my pastor preached about one of life’s all-time greatest failure, St. Peter, one of Christ’s Apostles.  Peter was one of Jesus’ Inner Circle. Jesus took Peter, James, and John to places and exposed them to experiences the other disciples did not have.

On the night that Jesus was arrested prior to His crucifixion, he told Peter that he, Peter, would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed.  Yet Peter declared adamantly, “Though I die with you, yet I will not deny you.” (Matthew 26:35)

Yet, because of unprecedented fear, Peter failed big time.  To the serving maids and others, he denied with cursing that he did not even know Jesus.  When that early morning rooster crowd, Peter realized his terrible failure, and went out and wept bitterly.  

Peter loved Jesus.  He didn’t plan to fail, but when He did, he didn’t give up, and Jesus didn’t give up on Peter.  On the shores of the Sea of Galilee, following His resurrection, Jesus restored Peter forgiving him, and healing his wounded heart.  He called Peter and the other Apostles to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)

Wow!  What a success Peter became!

He was one of the boldest of the apostles preaching the gospel for thirty-three years.  He suffered persecution, imprisonment, and beatings becoming a willing, obedient servant of the Lord even to his death by Crucifixion.

PETER FAILED BUT HE WAS NOT A FAILURE!

You may feel like a total failure.  You’ve made a mess of things, but God hasn’t given up on you.  If you are willing to embrace your failure and learn from it, if you are willing to say “I’m sorry, He will forgive and restore you.  He still has a plan for your life. God will make you what He wants you to be.

YOU CAN STILL BE A SUCCESS IN CHRIST!

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

LAUGHTER—THE BEST MEDICINE

 

Charles Dickens is quoted as saying, “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”

Laughter is a big deal!  It is a celebration of the good things and, very often, it is how we deal with the bad.  There’s no doubt about it. Life is better when you are laughing. When you embrace love and laughter, you can let go of fear and anxiety, and laughter becomes the healing balm that can change every aspect of life.

During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln said, “With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I would die.”

We all live with anxiety and fear, of one sort or another, and the stress is sometimes so overwhelming that we want to throw up our hands and quit.

BUT, it is a proven fact that laughter can chase away the darkness.  It boosts the immune system, reduces pain releasing feel good endorphins more powerful than morphine.  Laughter reduces depression, tension and stress. It improves breathing, lowers blood pressure, protects the heart, and helps weight loss.

Laughter is and always will be the best form of therapy.  Someone has said, “Regular laughter is like getting a gym membership for your heart.  Fifteen minutes of laughter a day is as important as thirty minutes of exercise three times a week.”

So, if laughter is so beneficial, why don’t we laugh more?  

I have been learning a lesson about laughter in trying times, from my little sister who suffers from Alzheimer’s.  When she first moved to a care facility, I made a commitment to spend two afternoons a week with her. For the past two and one-half years I have faithfully showed up every Tuesday and Friday.  It is not always something I looked forward to, for I never know what to expect from my sister, but I keep going.

When I was there on Tuesday, as usual, June talked incessantly about her imaginary friends who are always just outside her window or high up in the corner of her room.  Though I do not understand this disease, I am convinced that my sister is still there. She knows exactly what she wants to tell me, and she is aware when it doesn’t come out as she intended.  She always starts with the right words—two or three or four, and then the words that follow, words from her own English language, are so garbled that they make no sense at all. Sometimes her words become nothing but gibberish.  

She knows when she has failed, and she either gives up or she laughs.  When she gives up, I comfort her with, “It’s all right. Don’t worry. I understand.”  When she laughs, I laugh with her. Tuesday we laughed a lot.

I have made it my mission to understand, and I must say that I am becoming more and more fluent in “Gibberish.”  I don’t say this to get a laugh. I’m just trying to put some kind of label on my sister’s manner of communication.  When she is speaking, I hold her hand, and look in her eyes. I watch her facial expressions and her gestures, and I am aware of the tone of voice.  She knows whether or not I am listening, and scolds me when my mind wanders for a moment.

I am amazed that June can laugh at herself.  I see her eyes begin to sparkle, the corners of her mouth turn up, and she laughs softly saying, “That wasn’t right.”

It makes my heart ache to know that she is constantly struggling to make herself understood.  It is her last and only hope of maintaining a connection with the confusing world in which she now lives. 

I am determined to give her many occasions for laughter.  For the Word of God says, in Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart does good like a medicine…”  A better translation might be, “A cheerful heart causes good healing.” 

My sister’s eighty-one year old body is comparatively healthy.  It is her mind that is sick, and a mind cannot heal without laughter.  Mirth is God’s medicine.

Just a suggestion!  If your day is so dark that you cannot find any reason to laugh, look at the Apostle Paul’s advice in Philippians 4:8, “…whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” 

Try it!  Surely somewhere in these thoughts you will find a reason for laughter.  

The most wasted of all days is a day without laughter.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

AGE IS AN ILLUSION

If you have followed my ravings for the last couple of years, you will know that, in spite of approaching my 84th birthday, I refuse to think of myself as being old.  I declare, with vigor, that my mind is young. My heart, with a pacemaker, is still working, and my attitude is positive.

However, the very kind caregivers, in the rehab center where I was held captive for three weeks, did their best to convince me that I am old.  The first night I was there, a young gal came romping into my room announcing that she had come to change my diaper.

“My diaper,” I yelped!

“You don’t need your diaper changed,” she asked?

“No! I don’t have a diaper, and I’m not planning to have one,” I told her.

“Oh,” she said as she quietly left the room.

This scenario was replayed over and over again much to my chagrin.

Please understand.  I want to be honest with myself, and with you, about this whole thing.  I need to be realistic, so I reluctantly admit that more and more I am recognizing little signs of aging.  Oh, not physical signs. That’s been going on for a long time. Anyone can look at me and know I am old. I am thinking of mental processes.

Much to my frustration, my memory sometimes fails me, and I am a little more cantankerous and determined, if that’s possible, than I used to be.

Before my scheduled surgery at the end of July, I had some work done on my house.  Because of unexpected delays, the work was not finished by the time I had to leave. Consequently, I allowed the workmen to install a lockbox, so they could finish the project while I was gone.

I couldn’t take my purse, money or other valuables to the hospital, so at the last minute, I decided to keep them safe by locking them in my file cabinet.  Good idea! Right?

Upon my return, I was anxious to retrieve my stuff, so I went to the drawer where the file key should be, but it wasn’t.  Truth is, I had no memory of having put it there or anywhere else. I looked the house over from stem to stern. No key! What to do!  I tried my best to jimmy the drawer open. I used every other key in the house. I called friends. I went to the office supply store where I bought the file.  They couldn’t help me.  

Somewhere during that time I thought about my rings.  They weren’t in the drawer where I keep them. Surely a worker didn’t take them.  Did I put them in my purse before I locked it up? I didn’t remember. That morning was a blur.

Finally, I called a locksmith.  Oh, I knew to do that all along, but I was so determined to save some money and take care of things by myself.

I was relieved to find my rings nestled safely in my purse.

So memory is sometimes a problem, and there are other things to be considered.

What do I do when I can no longer take care of me and my house?  Already I am forbidden to climb a ladder, so how do I change a light bulb or an air filter.  How do I retrieve that bowl on the top shelf?

I can’t afford not to think about these things, neither can I afford to be obsessed by them.  So, I am taking it one day at a time constantly reminded that, if my mind is centered on Jesus, my heart will be at peace.

In Psalm 37:25 David said, “I have been young now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread.”  God is faithful!

Isaiah 46:4 declares, “Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you!  I have made and I will bear; even I will carry you and deliver you.” He is talking about Israel here, but I believe this also applies to the individual.

This just simply means that even when the hair is white, eyes grow dim, and the teeth are falling out, God will take care of His own. 

Psalm 92:14 tells us, “They shall bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing.”  That’s God’s promise.  That’s what I want to be.  Even at an advanced age we don’t have to throw up our hands and quit.  We can still make a difference.

Age is an illusion!  That’s what they say.  To me that means even though my body betrays me, I will guard my sense of humor, live with a positive attitude, and try to make a difference in this world as long as I am here.

My best advice—“Don’t give up on something because you think you are too old or too young.”

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN BLUE

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN BLUE

“Have you ever been lonely?

Have you ever been blue?                                               

                                                               Have you ever…”

This old country song recorded by Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline asks a poignant question, which we could all answer in the affirmative.  Who hasn’t been lonely or blue from time to time?

That melody set me to thinking about the word “blue.”  It can mean so many things. We talk of blue skies and limpid blue eyes, baby blue and butterflies—all lovely things.  Yet the word blue also has a darker meaning. It can refer to one who is sad, in low spirits or, taken to the extreme, one who is even suffering from a psychotic disorder called depression.  Life has come to a halt. It seems all hope is gone. It is difficult to think, concentrate, or even function normally, and feelings of dejection overwhelm.

I have just come home from three weeks in a rehab facility recovering from a left knee replacement.  I needed to be there to take advantage of the great physical therapy, but I hated being there for various other reasons.  

At least three times, perhaps four, a nice lady stood by my bed with her clipboard and asked me the following questions.

“Have you ever been depressed?”

“Have you ever felt that life is hopeless?”

“Have you ever thought about killing yourself?”

My answer to each question was an emphatic, “No!”

Those thoughts, those dark places, are so foreign to me.  Have I ever been sad? Have I ever felt blue? Of course, I have, but never to the point where I couldn’t function—never to the point where I wanted to give up.

When sweet Cecil died after only five months of marriage, I was devastated.  It was the worst time of my life, but even then I knew there was hope and help and one day the sun would shine again.  How did I know that? I knew that because I knew Jesus, and His middle name is HOPE and HELP and COMFORT and RESTORATION.

So, here in this rehab center, I was feeling kind of proud, maybe even a little superior.  I was laughing and joking with my therapists and caregivers. I was ahead of the curve in my physical progress.  Everyone was a little amazed at how well this 83-year-old woman was doing. I liked that!

Then the light came on, and I realized where I was.  This place was not only a temporary rehab center. It was also a long term skilled nursing facility, and most of the residents were there without choice, and they weren’t going home in three weeks. 

I watched some of these long-time residence wheeling around in their wheelchairs going nowhere, and I wondered about the ones who were confined to their beds.  Were they suffering depression? Had they given up? Were they longing for the end of life?

I can’t imagine the degree of desperation that would motivate me to take my own life.  Yet I know that it happens. Suicide in the elderly accounts for 18% of all suicide deaths.  Among those 65 and older there is a suicide every 90 minutes, nearly 16 every day.

Somehow my sense of pride and superiority disappeared as I realized how very blessed I am.  I had a place to go home to in a few days. I would be able to cook a meal and mop the floors again.  O, goodie! I could get in the car and drive to Taco Bell. I could go to church and lunch with my friends.  I left that rehab center feeling, not proud, but grateful for the healing that was taking place in my body, and grateful that I have a personal relationship with the author of HOPE.

You may feel “blue” today.  In fact, you may feel as though you have hit rock bottom and there is no way out of the pit.  Let me tell you, “He is our hope.”

The Psalmist David said, “…My hope is in You,” and the writer of Hebrews 6:18 (The Message) tells us that God can’t break His word, so “…we who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go.”

In Romans 5:5 the Apostle Paul declares, “…hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit…”

In your time of need, flee to Christ, who is your hope.  He will not disappoint.

If you are on cloud nine today, thank God for His goodness, and share your joy with a suffering neighbor.

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

THINGS THOUGHT IMPOSSIBLE

I was born with the wanderlust.  I inherited it from my father.  He never saw much of this world, but when he became restless, we just moved across town.  In fact, we lived in seven different rentals, in the same small town, between my second birthday and kindergarten.  We always paid the rent, so we weren’t running from the landlord.

I have seen a lot of the world and yet, at the age of eighty, I still long to fly away to some distant land to see new faces and experience new places.

When I was four years old, my father decided to move the family to Colorado.  Someone told me it snows there, and Colorado was colored pink on the map, so I put it all together and decided that the Colorado Mountains were covered with pink snow.  I was excited.

The day came when the seven of us, mama, daddy, and five kids, piled into our 1934 Buick and started across the Arizona desert towing a large four-wheeled trailer filled with our early poverty belongings.

For some inexplicable reason, my father chose the month of August for this family adventure.  In 1939, there was no such thing as air conditioning in an automobile, but not one of us died from heat exhaustion.  

Zipping along through the burning desert, at 40 miles per hour, we made good time until we turned north toward the mountains.  Yarnell Hill was our first challenge.  To my father’s dismay, the Buick balked unable to pull the weight and make the uphill grade.  Again and again, he tried to no avail.

Finally, daddy decided that he would offload part of the weight, take the rest to the summit and come back for another load.  Part of what he offloaded was My Mother, my sisters, and me.  The boys would be his helpers. 

We have a picture of my twelve-year-old sister standing in the skinny shade of a saguaro cactus. 

My Dad has been gone for many years, but I can still feel his frustration, disappointment and sense of failure as he tried time and again to find a way to get his family to Colorado.

At the end of the day, hot, tired, dirty and disheartened, we turned around and headed back to Wickenburg.  There we found a place to camp for the night.  Daddy went to a nearby grocery store coming back with supper – bread, bologna and a big bucket of ice water.

Setting the icy water down by the car running board, where I rested my four-year-old self, my father turned to other chores, and I lifted my poor tired, dirty, disappointed little toes and plunged them into that deliciously frigid bucket.  To this day, I cannot remember the consequences of my precipitous action, but there had to be some compensation for the loss of pink snow, right?

The next morning our tired and wiser family headed back to the valley where my parents were at home for more than fifty years.

The mountains defeated us.  Had we conquered the first rise, which was not much of a mountain at all, I wonder what we would have done when we reached the Rockies. 

Years ago we sang a little chorus:  

“Got any rivers you think are uncrossable.

Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through.

God specializes in things thought impossible.

And He can do what no other power can do.”

Mountains often defeat us.  Too frequently we are faced with insurmountable problems to which there is no discernible solution.  Like my father, we exhaust ourselves trying to get over, around or through the problem. 

2500 years ago, a man named Zerubabbel faced just such a mountain.  

After seventy years in captivity, he led 50,000 Israelites back to Jerusalem, where they anticipated rebuilding the temple and their treasured city.  He was no doubt discouraged when he saw the extent of the work, his feeble resources, and the formidable opposition. This was a mountain he could not cross.

In Zechariah 4:6 – 7 we read:  “…This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.  Who are you, O, great mountain?  Before Zerubabbel you shall become a plain!”   

I like the way the Message says it.  “So, big mountain, who do you think you are?  Next to Zerubabbel you are nothing but a molehill.”

You may be facing an unscalable mountain today.  Remember, it is not by your efforts, but by the power of the Spirit of God.  When you stand shoulder to shoulder with Him, that mountain is nothing but a molehill.  He can do what no other power can do.

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

Bionic Woman

 

Many of you are too young to remember “The Bionic Woman,” a very popular television series from 1976 – 1978.

After a skydiving accident resulting in extensive injury, Jaime Sommers’ body was rebuilt with cybernetic or electromechanical implants known as bionics.  

The word bionics is a combination of the words biology and electronics.

Jaime was given an amplified bionic ear enabling her to hear at low volumes over uncommonly long distances.  She had extraordinary strength in her new right arm—strength enough to bend steel, and with her powerful legs, she could run over 60 miles per hour.  Need I tell you? This girl became an undercover spy for the Office of Scientific Information, (whatever that is) while posing as a middle school teacher.  Farfetched! Yes, but not for long.

Bionic implants are no longer farfetched.  There is the Bionic ear (cochlear implant), the artificial heart, an I LIMB hand, and retinal implants.  These mechanical versions replace or enhance organs or other body parts. They differ from mere prosthetics by mimicking the original function very closely or even surpassing it.

Now, I am telling you all this, so you will understand when I say, “I am quickly becoming a bionic woman.”

I now have an artificial aortic valve, a pacemaker, numerous stents, an artificial right knee twice over, a new right hip, and next Wednesday, I will receive a new left knee.  

Of course, none of these are bionic, well, maybe the pacemaker is.  I won’t be able to run any faster, hear any better or even open a water bottle, and I won’t be serving as a spy for the Office of Scientific Information.  I am hoping, however, to be able to walk again without a limp, and with a little more assurance. But—I think the cane will be with me ‘til Jesus comes. After that you can find me running down the Golden Streets.

So much for the Bionic Woman!  

Regardless of the outcome of knee replacement, I have learned that my true strength does not come from surgery, artificial joints, canes or walkers.  I depend upon the God who made me. He is my strength!

Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Psalm 27:1, “…The Lord is the strength of my life.”

Just so you know.  I will be in rehab, out of commission, for about three weeks, so you will have to put up with some “Oldies but Goodies.”

As MacArthur said, “I shall return!”  I’m a tough old gal, and I’m not finished yet.  My surgeon calls me “TIGER.”

Appreciate your prayers!

 

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!

 

MONSOON SEASON

MONSOON SEASON

Monsoon season is now underway in Arizona and the rest of the southwest. Arizona monsoons are typically experienced during summertime, July through September.  At this time of the year, there is a shift in wind direction bringing a different kind of weather. Temperatures rise, humidity increases and winds are high. Thunderstorms move through the region bringing dust storms, periods of heavy desert rain and flash flooding.

If I understand correctly, storms develop when warm, moisture-filled air rises.  As the air rises, it cools and the moisture condenses falling back to earth in the form of rain—hopefully lots of it—or other forms of precipitation.

Storms can come out of nowhere in a hurry.

Many years ago, on a hot summer day, I was driving from Phoenix to Las Angeles through the Mojave Desert.  The sun was shining brightly, the sky was cloudless, and the air conditioner was doing its job. The drive was a bit boring the barren landscape broken only by an occasional Joshua tree and countless wind turbines, but I was enjoying my brand new 1974 Oldsmobile sedan.

As I neared the Palm Springs area, I noticed that the sky ahead had darkened precipitously.  All of a sudden I found myself in the middle of a storm. There was no avoiding it. A rainstorm I might have handled, but this was one of those notorious desert sand storms.  Powerful winds had kicked up the desert sand forming a wall of dust, which blocked out the sun and lowered visibility almost to zero. I could barely see the road a few feet ahead.  

This storm had appeared out of nowhere in an instant of time.  What was I to do? The National Weather Service advice is to “seek shelter from dust storms indoors,” or “pull to the side of the road and turn off lights.”  In the middle of the desert, there was no shelter to be had, so I pulled to the side of the road, my only alternative, and waited out the storm, while the swirling, pounding, abrasive sandblasted all the paint off the front end of my new car. 

Dangerous storm conditions can appear suddenly and wreak havoc on everything in sight, and being observant isn’t always enough to avoid disaster.

However, I have discovered that storms do not only originate when the weather is hot when humidity is high and winds are strong.  Storms do not always have to do with the weather. Often, storms have to do with life itself.

We all suffer the storms of life.  They originate with a doctor’s devastating diagnosis, a failed marriage, a troubled child, the death of a loved one, or financial disaster.  

On a Saturday morning, I sent my healthy, laughing Cecil away to run errands, and in the emergency room, before nightfall, his impending death was pronounced—a sudden storm out of nowhere!

Darkness descended eclipsing the brightness, and the joy of our three and one-half months of marriage blasting away the beauty of years that were to follow.

Where do you go in that kind of storm?  Do you just pull over to the side of life until it passes by?  Where do you find shelter from such a disaster? How do you survive the unmitigated pain?

Unlike the Mojave Desert, where there was no shelter, I knew there was shelter in this storm.  So I called on God. My prayer was one of desperation. Howling like a banshee I prayed the only words I could find, “Lord, I need you.  Please help me, Lord, please help me.” Yet, in essence, I was praying King David’s prayer from Psalms 32:7 and 17:8. “You are my hiding place…Keep me as the apple of your eye, hide me under the shadow of your wings.”  God understood completely.  He wrapped me in His great arms becoming my shelter for the weeks, months and even years to come—until the boisterous wind abated.

Perhaps this is Monsoon Season in your life.  The storm was so unexpected, but now you are living in the middle of it.  What do you do? Where do you go?

Psalms 46:1 tells us, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  

In Psalms 31:3 and 61:2-3, David cries, “For you are my rock and my fortress…Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  For You have been a shelter for me…”

Face it.  You cannot weather this storm in your own strength.  Run to God! Take refuge in the rock that is higher and stronger than you, the rock that is higher and stronger than a category 5 Hurricane with winds up to 157 miles per hour, a rock that is higher and stronger than anything that will ever come against you.  Take shelter in Him. There is life after the storm!

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!