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!

 

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!

 

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!

 

REMEMBERING THE FUTURE

REMEMBERING THE FUTURE

            Flipping through channels yesterday afternoon, I was stopped by these words, “The most painful state of being is remembering the future…”

            This morning, unable to forget that statement, I went on line to discover that those words were written by the Danish Philosopher and Theologian, Soren Kierkegaard, who lived and wrote in the 19th century.  His complete statement was, “The most painful state of being is remembering the future, particularly the one you will never have.”  Kierkegaard is describing a feeling of somber nostalgia for unrealized possibilities, a sense of regret or grief for the future that will never be.

            In the last six years, I have spent a good amount of time doing just that.  Many of you will remember that, after waiting a lifetime, at the age of seventy-seven, I finally married for the first time.

I actually don’t remember thinking about what the future would be like with sweet Cecil.  If I had thought about it, I would have acknowledged that, at our age, we would never celebrate a twenty-fifth anniversary, but ten years together was not out of the question.

However, I was so taken up with the fairy tale aspect of the present, the excitement of preparing for a wedding, and the fact that a wonderful man loved me that I gave little thought to the future.

When I walked down the aisle toward my beaming bridegroom, on that chilly February afternoon, there was not a cloud in the sky.  The future could be nothing less than glorious.

After a storybook honeymoon, we came home to learn how to live with each other.  I had always lived alone, but Cecil was not hard to get used to.  We lay side by side late into the night making plans for the future.  We snuggled on the sofa, prayed together, and held hands.  Cecil mowed the lawn, and I did the laundry, and five months later, he was gone dying from an inoperable aortic aneurysm.

I was devastated.  The tears wouldn’t stop.  I stood before his portrait and howled like a banshee.  We had never spent a Christmas together, never celebrated my birthday, and we would never observe one wedding anniversary.  So many “Nevers!”  A funeral and a burial will be a big part of my memories.

The French have a term, “déjà vu” meaning the strange feeling that in some way you have already experienced what is happening for the first time.  I don’t know if it fits here, but I have imagined the joy of Christmas with Cecil sitting by the tree opening gifts, enjoying the turkey and the pecan pie.  In thought, I have vicariously experienced river cruises we planned, and the missions work on our agenda.  I am remembering first time experiences that have never happened and never will happen.

When I open the drapes each morning, I am face to face with his smiling photo.  I can greet him now without tears, but I am always wondering where he is.  I admit that I do scold him once in awhile, when I must deal with mechanics, when a light bulb needs changing, when I don’t want to go alone.  Last year was a difficult, painful time for me.  I could imagine Cecil’s tenderness as he cared for me.  I was mad at him!  Why wasn’t he there?

“Where are you, when I need you, Cecil?

I can almost see his broad grin as he runs to help.

Cecil still fills much of my thoughts.  The knowledge that our future has been lost is ever present.  In a sense, I will never stop suffering the loss.  I still want to know the “what ifs,” the parts that cannot be answered.  I still want to know what my future life would look like, but—

One cannot grieve forever.  Life goes on.  Being a child of God and knowing Christ as I do, I know He has a plan for my life, and even at the age of eighty-three, there is still a purpose for my remaining years.  I will not spend my time crying “If only,” and longing for something that cannot be.

The sweet singer of Israel says, in Psalm 147:3, “He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.”

Again, in Psalm 30:5, David tells us, “…Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

That’s my story.  My Father has healed my broken heart and bandaged the hurts.  Night is passed and morning has dawned.  That supernatural joy that only God can give, the joy I thought was lost has returned, and there is a song in my heart.

Just a note:  God’s healing is complete, but grieving is a process.  It was close to two years before I was sort of my old self again able to return to the main stream, able to resume my responsibilities.  Though I will always love Cecil and think of him, I want you to know I have not been crying for six years.  God’s healing really is wondrous!

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

BEWARE THE FINE PRINT

 

My sister would never take medication until she read the fine print on the packaging.  Then she wouldn’t take it at all.  By law, pharmaceutical firms are required to list every possible side effect whether or not it has ever been suffered.  Last, on many of these lists of side effects, is the word “death.”

June was always sure she would be the one who would fall victim to these unusual exceptions.  Hence, no medication, even if it would save her life.

I took her to the dentist a few days ago.  While filling out her “new patient” files, I read through a long list of illnesses which might or might not trouble her.  I was supposed to check off the ones that applied to June.  I had to laugh, when I realized that she was not troubled by any of these frightening maladies.  There were no checkmarks.  Me?  I would have had to check off at least six items.  It seems that reading the fine print has served my sister well.

Reading the fine print is indispensible in our times, for institutions and businesses are forever seeking ways to protect themselves from their own tricky practices.

I recently, after less than a week, returned a piece of equipment, for which I had paid cash.  The equipment had never been used and still sported its original tags.  I was told that I must forfeit 25 % of the purchase price.  When I objected, the salesman pulled out the paper work showing me the fine print.  Suffice it to say, “He had not directed my attention to that clause, when I made the purchase.”

A few years back, I went to the local Honda dealer ready to buy a new car. Actually, I am leery of car salesmen, but I knew exactly what I wanted, and I went armed with needed information.  Sitting down with the salesman, I told him what I wanted, and then I said, “Give me the bottom line.  I want to know exactly what I will pay.  I don’t want any surprises later.”

Then we went to look at cars, and I found the perfect one.  Returning to the sales room, we sat again at the desk, and the salesman added up the cost.  Taking the original amount he had quoted me, he began to add this and that and the other. “No, No, No!” I said, “I asked you for the bottom line.” “Yes, but then there is this and there is that, and…” he replied.

“Please give me my keys,” I demanded.

“But why,” he asked.

“Because I going home.  I don’t deal with dishonest people,” and I turned and left.

The next morning I received a call from the manager of the Honda Dealership.  He wanted to apologize hoping he could still sell me a car, but I was finished with them.

It is only smart to be cautious these days for we can no longer accept a man’s handshake as insurance against fraud.  Businesses have found a way to circumvent the courts and ban people from joining together in class action law suits by adding to the “fine print” a clause that says, “They may elect to resolve claims by INDIVIDUAL arbitration,” and that clause is always and only in the “fine print.”

The upshot is that it is nearly impossible for an individual to take on a multi-billion dollar corporation.  There is no way to win.

Now-a-days, it is difficult to apply for a credit card, use a cell phone, get cable or internet service, or shop on line without agreeing to private arbitration.  The same applies to getting a job, renting a car or placing a relative in a nursing home.

I must admit that my problems in this area have been minimal.  However many people have suffered big losses, but what are we to do?  We can continue to do business, (as we must) ignore the possibilities, and believe that everything will be all right, and for the most part, I guess, it will be.  Yet, I hate feeling that I must always be on guard lest I be cheated, so I am learning to “READ THE FINE PRINT!!!”

Companies have essentially made it impossible for an individual to challenge them.  Business has a good chance of ignoring the legal system all together and doing as it pleases without dire consequences.

It is disappointing, frustrating and hurtful to acknowledge that there are so many untrustworthy people and agencies in our society today.

Thank God!  There is still one in whom we can trust, for there is no “fine print” in God’s word.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and he will direct your paths.”

In Proverbs 30:5, we are told, “Every word of God is pure…”

Again, John 17:17 tells us, “…Your Word is truth.”

Matthew 24:35 declares, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My (God’s) words will by no means pass away.”

“TRUST IN THE LORD, AND DON’T DISPAIR…,” and READ THE FINE PRINT!

 

Remember the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

TAKING RISKS

TAKING RISKS

Yesterday I heard that Americans will place $6,000,000,000.00 in bets on the Patriots or the Rams, and they will sit through the Super Bowl, on February 3, hoping for or dreading the outcome of the game.  Many of them will lose their money, but that is the risk they are taking.  SIX BILLION DOLLARS!!!  That’s a whopping risk!  Many, if not most of us, cannot conceive of that much money.

I must own up.  I am not a football fan, nor am I a gambler, so I don’t care who wins.  I guess it’s all right, at my age, to admit that.

As I said, I don’t like taking risks.  The stock market, for example, scares me.  I’ve worked too hard for what I have to risk it in a volatile market.  However a few years ago, about 2008, (wouldn’t you know) I was advised to invest a small portion of my savings in stocks.  I was thrilled when, at the end of the first quarter, I had earned 12% interest.  At the end of the second quarter, I lost the 12% and part of my capital.  During the third quarter, I withdrew that bit of money and spent it on things I had been longing for.  So much for the Stock Market!

Life is inherently risky.  If you leave the house, cross the road, play football, spend time in the hospital—in a very real sense—it is a risk.  Everything we do is a risk.  The only way to avoid risks is to do nothing.

I suppose the riskiest decision I ever made was to marry, for the first time, at the age of seventy-seven.   My family thought I was nuts.  Friends cautioned me.  One woman backed me into a corner and told me how miserable her mother was, after marrying a second time at an advanced age.

Risking the loss of my prized independence terrified me. I came and went as I chose.  I lived the way I wanted.  My schedule was mine to arrange.  If I wanted to work in the middle of the night, there was no one to object.  I was accountable first to God and then to my church leaders.  That was it!  At that late juncture, I wasn’t looking for a man.  I had done quite well on my own.

My emotions ran rampant.  I was excited…fearful…hopeful…pessimistic.  I was determined I couldn’t do this:  yet, like the proverbial moth, I was drawn helplessly, hypnotically toward the flame.

However, when I walked down the aisle, on that beautiful cool, clear, cloudless day, I never once entertained the thought of risk.  The future beckoned to a life of love and laughter, and I couldn’t wait to get started.

Five months later my Cecil suffered and inoperable aortic hematoma and God took him home –away from me.  My pain was unbearable.  This made no sense.  Didn’t I know what a risk it was to marry at this late date?

Then I thought, “What if I had not married him, had not taken the risk?”   I would have missed the brief life and love we shared.  I would have missed his kisses, his warm embrace, and a hand holding mine.  That joy, however brief, far transcends the searing pain, the irretrievable loss and the ever present sorrow.

Yes, everything in life involves risks.  Life would be boring, dull, and tiresome, if we didn’t take risks.  Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

There are different kinds of risks.  For example, becoming a Christ Follower, a Christian, carries incredible risks.

In America and around the world the price of being a real Christian is rising.  I am appalled by the dishonesty, anger, hatred, and strife, which permeate our atmosphere today

2 Timothy 3:12 tells us, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”   These words make more and more sense every day.

In the early church, to become a Christian was to risk your life.  Every Christian knew that sooner or later he might have to defend his faith at the cost of his life.  Scripture is filled with risk takers.

Queen Esther said, “If I perish, I perish.”  Shadrach and his comrades refused to bow down, and the Apostle Paul said, “I do not count my life of any value…if only I may finish my course.”

No one better appreciated the risks of obeying God than Jesus Himself, who came, “…to give His life a ransom for many.”

            No one can say for certain what kind of risks you will face as a Christian.  Some have lost family, friends, and even their life, but I must tell you—THE FINAL RISK IS GONE!

Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”   

Romans 8:37 – 39, “…neither death nor life (or anything else) will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

John 11:25, “Whoever believes in me, though he may die, he shall live.”

No matter what we risk today, this is our promise for eternity.

The question is:  Will I, accept the risks?  Is what Jesus offers worth the price?

THINK ABOUT IT!

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FLYING ABOVE THE CLOUDS

What do you do when inspiration seems to have flown the coop when there is no hint of creativity flitting around in your brain, and you can’t think of any cute, funny stories, nor interesting experiences or life-changing events?  What do you write about?

This is the predicament in which I find myself.

I am afraid, during this summer, I have thought more of myself and my physical needs than I have thought of blogging.  Since my surgery did not relieve the greater part of my pain, I spent my time in and out of doctor’s offices trying to determine the next step—hip surgery.

It’s been a hard summer fraught with anxiety.   Dark clouds, clouds of pain and disappointment, inactivity, boredom, and uncertainty, have hung low obscuring the brightness of life, and yet, this morning I find myself singing my theme song:

“The sun will come out tomorrow.

Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow

There’ll be sun.

Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow.

You’re only a day away.”

Have you ever flown above the clouds?  I have!  Flying at thirty-five thousand feet the sunshine may be brilliant, while below the plane, a dark, unbroken blanket of clouds stretches as far as the eye can see, and you know that, in that particular local, people are suffering a dark and dreary day.

In a sense, I have been living under a cloud blanket, but wouldn’t you know, just often enough, the clouds have rolled back, and the bright and cheerful sun has shined upon me.

Friends have been wonderful.  On a particularly dark day, when I was trying to figure out how I would take my handicapped sister to her doctor’s appointment, the sun peeked through, and I found myself flying above the clouds.  It was one of those extremely hot Arizona days.  (Anyone can tell you that I am at my worst when I am too hot.)  How in the world could I manage my walker and hold my sister’s hand at the same time? Then a friend stepped in and said, “I’ll help, and he did.  He not only took us to the appointment, but he stayed through the whole ordeal.

In the waiting room, there was such a hubbub—signing in and getting my sister settled. There was no way to remain inconspicuous. Of course, she needed to go to the bathroom, and I couldn’t take her.  I must admit my patience was wearing thin.  Then another ray of sunshine—an employee volunteered to help.

A beautiful little Korean gal came to sit by me.  I am sure she could see my frustration and discomfort.  Taking my hand she asked, “May I pray with you?”  “Of course,” I agreed.  She prayed so beautifully asking God for His comfort, His enablement, and His healing grace.  You must know that at that moment the sun was shining brightly.

My eighty-nine-year-old brother (you would never guess his age) is my brightest ray of sunshine.  He has come to stay with me for a few weeks—to keep me company and to help me out.  I would like to entertain him, but he is taking care of me.  The clouds don’t have a chance while he is here.

Every step of the way there has been someone or something lending wings to lift me above the clouds into the brilliant sunshine.

None of us is immune to cloudy days—to circumstances that disturb our peace, that rob us of our joy, that sometimes threaten the whole of life.  How do we deal with the clouds?

I laughed with joy when I found Psalm 104:3.  “…He makes the clouds His chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.”

            Think of it.  Our Father dwells above the clouds.  In fact, He harnesses the clouds for His own use.

Deuteronomy 33:26 tells us, “There is no one like God…who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in His majesty.”

He rides on the heavens to help you, and the Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:6 “He has raised us up together, and made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

With these promises in mind, I cannot allow the clouds to rob me of joy and destroy my peace.  I will instead ride with Him on the wings of the wind and sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, for my God is there to help me.  I WILL FLY ABOVE THE CLOUDS!

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!