BROKEN HEARTS

Does the hurt ever go away?” my friend asked, as the tears flowed.  Her husband of sixty plus years was recently deceased.

I couldn’t help but think that tomorrow, February 9, would have been my fifth wedding anniversary.  After being alone all of my adult life, at the age of seventy-seven, I married for the first time.  Sweet Cecil, a long time friend, who had been widowed, came on like a stormtrooper declaring he loved me, and there was no changing his mind.

The thought of giving up my prized independence terrified me.  I came and went as I chose.  My schedule was mine to arrange.  If I wanted to study 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 this 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, and pessimistic.  I was determined I couldn’t do this.  Yet, like the proverbial moth, I was drawn hypnotically toward the flame.  How could I, after all these years, make room for another person in my life?  How could I share my space, my stuff, my bed, be accountable to someone else twenty-four hours a day?

I was scared, but not stupid.  Being loved, being touched, being important to someone else was kind of fun.  I found myself succumbing to this cute, white-haired, charming man, who thought me “precious.”  I still laugh at that.

One morning I awakened early.  Lying there thinking of Cecil and the possibility of marriage, I thought, “Why do I cling so to my independence?  Being alone hasn’t done that much for me.”  In that moment I made up my mind.

On February 9, 2013, Cecil and I stood at the altar in his home church, where we had met.  Before God and 150 “forever” friends and family, we repeated our vows pledging ourselves to each other “For Better, for Worse.” We had many “For Better” plans:  serving missions overseas, cruising Europe’s rivers, and visiting the Great Wall of China.  On that cold, cloudless, sunshiny day, it was beyond us to think of anything but the “Better.”

Never once did I consider the hurt that might lie ahead.  But, the fact is, Cecil will not be here tomorrow to celebrate our anniversary.  Five months and eleven days after our fairytale wedding, he died of an inoperable aortic hematoma.

It made no sense.  Why did God allow this to happen?  What did I do wrong?  Why was I worthy of only five months with Cecil?  I wanted to remind God, “I was doing all right.  I wasn’t looking for a man.  Why did you interfere in my life?”

The hurt was beyond belief.  I’ve always been the strong one, but I was tired of being strong.  I wanted to fall in the floor and kick my heels and throw a fit.  I howled with grief.  Oh, how I wanted someone to take care of me for a change.  That was supposed to be Cecil’s job.

I prayed, but my prayers consisted mostly of the same tearful plea, “God, I need you.  Please help me.

I have discovered there is a “For Better or for Worse” in almost everything we attempt in this life.  We hope for and expect a good outcome, but life dictates that the outcome is sometimes really bad.  That’s when we experience the hurt.  O, it may not be the devastating hurt experienced at the loss of a loved one, but at one time or another, we all suffer hurt and disappointment.

So we return to my friend’s question.  “Does the hurt ever go away?”

My faith in a God who cares had kept me for more than seventy-seven years.  That’s why I was strong, and though I couldn’t see any purpose in Cecil’s death and the questions were unending, my faith remained intact.  I chose to trust God.

As I trusted Him, God wrapped the sharp corners of grief in His tender love, and bit by bit, the sun began to shine again.  I could get out of bed in the morning without falling apart, and I found new purpose for my life.

I can only attribute this miraculous healing to the ministry of the Holy Spirit, as I trusted God to help me find my way again.

In Isaiah 61:1-3, Jesus says of Himself, “He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted…to comfort all who mourn…to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning…”

There will always be a lonely place in my heart where Cecil fit perfectly.  I will wonder what life would have been had he lived.  But this I know.  God is faithful.  He is the healer of broken hearts.

REMEMBER THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

 

I DO HEREBY RESOLVE!

Self-improvement is a shared American Hobby.  That’s why more than 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions.

Charles Lamb, a writer from the 18th century, said, “New Year’s Day is every man’s birthday, simply meaning that no matter what a mess we made of 2017, the New Year gives us another chance to get it right.  We somehow believe, somehow hope, that we can turn over a new leaf, make a concerted effort, and finally accomplish our greatest desires.

We promise to lose weight, quit smoking, learn something new, eat healthier, read the Bible, get out of debt, spend more time with family, travel to new places, take things in stride, volunteer, and be kinder.

But in spite of all the good intentions, only a tiny fraction of us keeps our resolutions.  It is estimated that just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals.  How many New Year’s resolutions have you broken?

Why do so many people fail at keeping their New Year’s promises?

I believe that many times the goals we set are too magnanimous, too extreme, and often too vague dooming them to failure.  Shooting for the moon can be so psychologically daunting, that we never get off the launching pad, and our intentions die before taking the first step.

The other night, when I couldn’t sleep, I turned on the TV. There was a man talking about New Year’s resolutions.  He shared a formula that I believe might really work.

  1. Instead of making a vague promise, make a plan.
  2. Commit to your plan.
  3. Sacrifice whatever is necessary.
  4. Accept the consequences.

Losing weight is the number one New Year’s resolution, so let’s apply this formula to that goal.

Instead of saying I’m going to lose weight, make a plan—no potato chips, chocolate, or ice cream for six weeks.  If this seems impossible, then you must ask, “Am I really serious about losing.  What is your greatest temptation?  Be specific.

Commit to your plan.  No one can do it for you.

Will there be sacrifices?  Of course!  Will it be worth it?  Of course!

Be honest about what you are doing.  Years ago, when I joined Weight Watchers and lost a ton of weight, I prayed every day, “God, I’m doing everything I am told to do.”And that was absolutely true.  I was serious about it.  My prayer continued, “Please make my body respond as it should.”

No matter what your resolution or plan, you should be able, somehow, to measure the results.  There will be good consequences.

Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a continuation of life with all the wisdom and understanding that our experiences have brought to us.

I must admit that I do not make New Year’s resolutions, but, on a daily basis, I do examine my heart and make life corrections according to God’s plan.  For, in my relationship with God I do not have to wait until a new year begins to make a new beginning.  With the rising of the sun, I can make a new start.  Repentant for my failure, I latch on to God’s strength and take my next faltering step knowing that:

“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  Lamentations 3:22-23.

 At the age of twenty, Jonathan Edwards, a great preacher of the first half of the eighteenth century, made a long list of resolutions concerning every area of his life and ministry.  He reminded himself to reread his resolutions once each week, and he prayed this prayer.

              “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat Him by His grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable with His will, for Christ’s sake.”

 Jonathan Edward’s most impressive and important resolutions determined everything else he did the rest of his short life.  He wrote:

Resolution One—I will live for God.  Resolution Two—If no one else does, I still will.”

Let us, you and I, make that same commitment for 2018 understanding that without God’s help we can do nothing of worth.

With that kind of commitment, you can write it in your heart that every day, not just New Year’s Day, is the best day in the year.

With warmest wishes, I pray for you that this will be a crowning year in your life—that you will know God better—love Him more dearly–walk closely with Him—serve him more sincerely, and enjoy His great blessing.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

THE REAL MIRACLE OF CHRISTMAS

Unlike most of you, I have never carried a child in my womb, nor have I, except for a college biology film, ever witnessed the birth of a child.  I have no firsthand knowledge of this wondrous miracle, but I am fascinated by the facts.

At inception, the female egg is about the size of a grain of sand.  I believe that fertilization of the egg is the beginning of human life, and in that tiny, almost microscopic, mass lives the potential for greatness, for achievement, genius, tenderness, success, leadership, kindness, brilliance and the whole gamut of emotions.  Think of tiny fingers that will one day play Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto #3, feet that will run The Boston Marathon, a mind that will conquer cancer, a voice that will sway the multitude, and arms that will hold a loved one.

Friends speak of a difficult pregnancy and a hard prolonged labor, but they never say, “I wish I hadn’t done it.”  For when that child finally makes his debut appearance, howling in protest at his forced departure from a comfy, warm, safe abode, he may be red and wrinkled and uglier than lye soap, but that’s not what his mother sees.  He may not be a Gerber Baby, but his mother sees nothing but a miracle of life, a miracle of beauty when she first holds him close to her heart.

At this season, we are thinking, as we should be, about the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  We are not sure when He was born.  Bible scholars, judging from historical events of the time, place His birth between 1 BC and 6 BC.  However, we are sure that He was not born on December 25, for shepherds would not have had their sheep in the fields in wintertime.  It is believed that He was born in September or October, meaning that He could have been conceived in December.

It is not important to pinpoint His exact date of birth.  The importance is in knowing that He came.  That is the miracle of Christmas.

We have a convoluted notion concerning the birth of Jesus.  Our beautiful Christmas cards portray Mary and Joseph in a neat open-air stable, a sweet, docile, haloed baby in a pristine manger filled with fresh, sweet hay, with well-groomed, well-behaved cattle in observance.

In reality, Jesus birth parallels the birth of that newborn in a hospital delivery room. There was blood and gore and pain and hard labor and sweat and tears.  This all took place in a non-sterile, dark cave, where the lowing, sweating cattle were stabled, and the acrid aroma of cow manure filled the air.  There was nothing romantic about His birth.

We have a hard time dealing with the humanity of Christ.  But the truth is, at His Father’s bidding, He left the glories of heaven becoming an embryo in the womb of a teenage, Galilean girl.  The Son of God submitted Himself to total oblivion for nine long months.  He relinquished His supernatural power and willingly allowed Himself to be hemmed in by time and space.

He was born a man-child, and as a man-child, he behaved as any newborn behaves.  He screamed when he was hungry.  He cried when He was wet.  Oh yes!  He did wet and mess His diapers.  Joseph, with babe in arms, walked the manure strewn floor, hoping disparately to calm the crying child, so everyone could get a little sleep.  At His birth, only Mary and Joseph knew He was God’s Son.  To all others, He was just another baby born into a poor family.  Only at the heralding of the angels did others become aware that this babe was special.

It is hard to understand that Jesus became as we are—human flesh and blood, but He did.  He did it for us.

Philippians 2:7-8 tells us, “…He set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human!  Having become human, He stayed human.  It was an incredibly humbling process.  He didn’t claim special privileges.  Instead, He lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.”      

II Corinthians 8:9 says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”

The song says:

From a loving heavenly Father,

To a world that knew Him not

Came the man of sorrows, Christ the Lord.

In my wanderings He found me,

Bought my soul with His own blood,

Gave to me a peace the world could not afford.

 

Redeeming love, a love that knows no limit.

Redeeming love, a love that shall not die.

My soul shall sing throughout the endless ages,

With choirs extolling His great love on high.

This is the real miracle of Christmas!  His birth, His life lived on this earth as a man, His ministry, His crucifixion, and resurrection all result in His limitless, redeeming love for you and me.

You can experience His redeeming love. You can know the real miracle of Christmas.

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

Christmas Past

CHRISTMAS PAST – RECYCLED

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL WHO READ THIS BLOG.  This has been a week of twenty-six hour days.  I have a wonderful idea for a new blog, but no time to develop it, so I will recycle a blog from Christmas gone by.  I do hope you will enjoy again the reminiscence from my childhood more than three-quarters of a century ago.

Please know that I pray for you the wonder of Christmas in Jesus Christ.  May His promised peace be a reality in your life.

CHRISTMAS PAST

I ADORE CHRISTMAS—EVERYTHING ABOUT IT!

I am awed by the blinding light of hope that descended upon this darkened world with the advent of Christ—the light that still shines in every dark corner. I love baby Jesus, the shepherds, the angels, the gold, frankincense and myrrh.  I’m reminded that all the beauty and brightness of Christmas finds its source in this glorious light.

Honestly, I am annoyed by people who complain about Christmas, and long for it to be over and done with.  Yes, it is tiring and sometimes stressful, but it’s a sort of happy tiredness.  There is a sense of satisfaction at what you accomplished today.  You just might be able to get it all done after all.

Today, I am thinking back seventy-five or eighty years to my first remembrances of
Christmas.  We lived poor, but my Mama always made Christmas special.  There was no money for fancy, expensive gifts, and we didn’t need them.  It is amazing what a child can and will love.

When I was almost four, Santa brought me a little wooden doll’s bed.  I can still see it.  I must have had a dolly too, but I was thrilled with my little brown bed carrying it from room to room.  I don’t remember other gifts that year.  The bed was enough.  And, that was the momentous year, when my ten-year-old brother decided to set me straight about Santa Claus.

“There is no Santa!” he declared.

I didn’t believe him.  I still don’t believe him.  The little girl in me loves Santa.  For me, he takes nothing from the real significance of Christmas.  I have no trouble with beautiful things that have become tradition.

Mama always bought Christmas goodies—apples, oranges, hard candy and orange slices, nuts still in the shell, and old-fashioned chocolate drops.  They were the best.  They looked like little delectable mountains—strawberry, vanilla, and maple centers enrobed in dark chocolate.  Yummmm!!!

I don’t ever recall having a Christmas stocking.  My mother always divided the treats equally between family members putting them into little brown paper bags, one for each of us.  Those goodies were mine.  I could eat them all making myself sick ruining my dinner, or I could squirrel them away and make them last until New Years.

In my hometown, there was always a treasure hunt on Christmas Eve.  All the merchants on Main St. offered a giveaway.  If you held the right number, the gift was yours.  So, in the cold, early evening of December 24, Mama, June and I walked the few blocks to town looking in every shop hoping against hope that we held the magic number.  I don’t think we ever won anything, but just being there with the bright lights, beautiful window displays, and the bustle and clamor of other hopefuls was intoxicating.

More than one Christmas Eve I came home with an earache.  My little ears were sensitive to the cold December air.  Mama would awake to my cry in the middle of the night bringing a little cloth bag of salt, which she had heated on the back of the stove.  With a kiss, she placed the warm bag on my ear.  The heat and weight of it relieved the pain.  Or was it the kiss that worked the magic?

Christmas dinner was phenomenal.  Two fat hens roasted in the oven stuffed with Mama’s luscious cornbread dressing laced with an abundance of sage.  All week the house smelled of sugar cookies and mincemeat pie baking in the oven.

Mama made a delicious raisin, spice cake, but she always said, “It just doesn’t seem like Christmas until my coconut cake is finished.”

Mama’s three layer coconut cake frosted with airy White Mountain frosting and oodles of coconut was the epitome of Christmas in our house.  A slice of that cake and a helping of strawberry Jello filled with apples, bananas and pecans was the best bite of the day.

After I was an adult, I decided to improve on Mama’s coconut wonder.  I used lemon instead of yellow cake, and I spread lemon filling between the layers.  It was good, but it wasn’t the same, and Mama didn’t mind saying so.

The gifts were opened, the wrappings disposed of.  Of course, Mama always saved ribbons and the larger pieces of paper—wrinkles and all.

I can still hear her say, “Careful, careful.  Don’t tear it.”

She could press out the wrinkles and use the paper again next year.  That’s how you save money.

Our kitchen and dining area were combined in one fairly large room.  Today the open concept is greatly desired.  For us it was a simple necessity.

In those early years, we were all at home.  Nine of us sat around the table, bowed our heads and thanked God for His blessing, and devoured the wonderful meal Mama made.

We all knew well the import of Christmas.  We knew about God’s wondrous gift to this world.  Most of us had accepted that gift as our very own.

Not a one of us owned a checkbook or a bank account, but we were, oh, so rich because of God’s generosity.  Jesus made the difference!

For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given…And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6.

JESUS WANTS TO BE YOUR VERY BEST GIFT THIS CHRISTMAS.

 

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW

 

 

THE TREES OF CHRISTMAS

I’m sitting here with a broad, silly grin on my face, because I have just finished decorating my Christmas tree.  I don’t know why that makes me so happy.  It just does!

I must admit that it becomes a little more difficult each year, and I was not quite sure I would be able to do it this time.  Because of my daily dosage of blood thinner, my doctor has warned me away from ladders, but you can’t trim a tree without a bit of climbing.  So I fudged a little, because my German angel couldn’t get to the top by himself.

The tree is gorgeous!  It is a bright, shining conglomeration of colors and shapes.  Alas!  It has no theme.  I have never cottoned to themed Christmas trees nor those decorated in only one color.  I just want to use all the stuff that I have collected over the years.  I am still using some of my Mom’s decorations.  They are old and faded and tarnished, but they are filled with sweet, sweet memories.  I say it again, “This tree makes me happy!”

In 1975, I was a brand new missionary in the country of Belgium.  Everything was good and exciting when I arrived in August, but as Christmas drew nearer and nearer, I just wanted to lie down and die.  I had never, in my thirty-nine years, been away from my family at Christmastime.  However, instead of giving in to despair, I determined to make Christmas as much like home as possible.  To that end, my roommate and I bought a large tree and put it in front of the French doors in our third-floor apartment.  Its beauty brought a bit of cheer to my aching heart.

We were cleaning house on December 23, when Ginny decided to vacuum behind the tree.  (You’d have to meet Ginny.)  All of a sudden, I heard a loud crash and a moan of despair.  My friend had knocked the tree over with the vacuum.  There on the floor lay the denuded tree among dried pine needles and broken ornaments.  There was no way to salvage it so, after I recovered from my urge to kill, we dragged it into the elevator and dumped it in the basement.  Through a series of unlikely, frustrating, even amusing events (another story to be told) we were able to replace the tree, and Christmas came and went without further calamity.

No one is quite sure how or when the Christmas tree originated, but we do know that, even in the middle ages, various cultures brought greenery into their homes in the winter time.  It symbolized life in those cold, dark days.

It is said that Queen Victoria’s beloved Albert introduced the tree into the English culture.

The story, yet unproven, that I love best and want to believe, is that of Martin Luther.

On a Christmas Eve, in the 1500’s, Martin Luther made his way home from vespers.  Walking through the snow-covered woods, he was struck by the beauty of the snow glistened trees.  Their branches, dusted with the soft white powder, shimmered in the moonlight and the twinkling stars overhead seemed to decorate the tips of the evergreens.

At home, he set up a small fir tree and decorated it with tiny candles, which he lighted in honor of Christ’s birth.  He told his children it reminded him of Jesus, who left the stars of heaven to come to earth at Christmas.

I love the beauty of Christmas—the brilliant lights, the vivid colors, the tantalizing aroma of baked goods, the seraphic faces and shining eyes of expectant children, and the pile of gifts under the tree. But this beauty all wrapped up together is only a faint reflection of the beauty of Christ, who is Christmas.

I am continually blessed at this season when I realize that men and women, who deny Christ’s existence, who have totally rejected Him, who hate everything He stands for, continue to celebrate His birth.  O, they deny it, but by simply giving place to Christmas, they are confirming that HE IS!

So—for me—the Christmas tree is a symbol of life and light and hope that Jesus brought to this sad world at His advent.

Now, it occurs to me that another tree really plays the leading role in the story of Christmas, for the gift of Christ’s birth is incomplete without the magnificence of His sacrifice at Calvary.

1 Peter 2:24 says, “…who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree (the cross), that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness…”  

 So, trim your trees, sing “O, Little Town of Bethlehem,” and “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” but while you celebrate Jesus” birth, celebrate, also, His death.  Let Him make Christmas complete in your life.

Remember the sun will come out tomorrow!

           

What A Waste

It was early morning, and I was bouncing around in the back of a huge truck on my way to the city dump, in Calcutta, India. (The city is now called Kolkata)  I have sent tons of garbage to the city dump in my hometown, but I have never been there.  So, why in the world—why would I get up before sunrise to visit a dump?

Actually, this site, where 4,000 tons of new waste is dumped each day, is known as Calcutta’s Garbage Mountain, and it has become, for some twisted reason, a tourist site.  No wonder!  The dump covers sixty acres and is ten stories high.  It is permanently on fire from the combustible waste deposited there, and no one tries to put it out.  A fetid, unbearable stench hangs heavily in the air.

Amazingly, in 2016, Calcutta received an award for impressive waste management.  I dare say that the 30,000 miserable souls that live permanently on or around the garbage heap are not impressed.

Many of these garbage residents are rag pickers or waste pickers.  One can find almost anything there including dead babies, smuggled chocolates and medicine, money and even gold.  These souls spend their days sorting through the “yuck” picking out recyclable stuff and burning rotting bodies.

When Bangladesh broke away from Pakistan in 1971, the population of Calcutta grew from one million to eight million overnight.  (Current population is fourteen million.)  The city had no provision for such an influx.

When engineers were asked for a solution, they replied, “Raze the place and start over!”

I was in Calcutta for the first time in 1980.  The sights I saw and the experiences I had sear the mind and make faint the heart.  Never before had I seen such abject poverty, such suffering.  Multitudes lived on the sidewalks sheltered only by a cardboard lean-to.  They drank from the gutters, and at dusk, they lit their charcoal burners to heat tea and prepare what meager food they had.  All over the city black smoke filled the atmosphere and settled on everything in sight.  Beggars were everywhere.  A trip to the market drew a throng of little black-eyed boys begging to be hired to carry parcels.

I was there for ministry, but I ashamedly admit that there were days I was reluctant to leave the house.  However, on that early morning, in 1980, we were on our way to “Garbage Mountain” not as tourists or to see the sites—we were there to feed the hungry.

The line had already begun to form before our truck came to a halt at the designated site.  It was all very orderly.  In single file, the line of women and children snaked through the wasteland as far as the eye could see waiting politely for the one nutritious meal they would have that day.  They came with their tin cups and other containers.

Each one was given a cup of milk and two substantial whole grain pancakes.  I don’t know how long we were there or how many people we fed, but after awhile they were gone.  I imagined they had found a quiet place among the rubbish to enjoy, perhaps, the only meal they would have that day.

I asked why there were no men in the line.  I was told that, if the men were fed, there would be no motivation to find work.

Our faithful, longtime, missionaries worked tirelessly.  They had established a thriving church, an elementary school, a feeding program and a hospital in Calcutta, and in every place, in every way, they preached the good news of Jesus Christ.  Yet, from a distance, stacked up against eight million “waste” people it seemed so little—too little.

The trip to the dump hung over me like an albatross.  I thought about those emaciated children gladdened by a cup of milk, and I wondered whether or not I had made any difference at all while I was there.

In reflection, I thought of the widow in Mark 12: 42 (The Message) “One poor widow…put in two small coins—a measly two cents.  Jesus…said…this poor widow gave more than all the others…she gave extravagantly what she could not afford—she gave her all.”

The “garbage dump” people around us are seldom lovely and appealing.  Sometimes they are utterly repulsive.  But in Matthew 10:31, Jesus, who cares when a sparrow falls, declared that the least person is worth more to Him then many sparrows.

Jesus asks us to look at the need around us.  He asks to give extravagantly, even what we cannot afford—to give our all.  In fact, Luke 38 (The Message) says, “Give away your life…giving, not getting, is the way.  Generosity begets generosity.”

You may feel that “your all” is not very much, but just as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, He will multiply your “gift” and make it more than enough.

Giving “all” brings bonus and blessing.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

WE DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO

Yesterday, when I opened the mail, I found another bill from my attorney—the attorney I never planned on, and the attorney I never wanted.  I feel like I am caught in a sticky spider’s web with no way to extricate myself.  To say that I am upset puts it mildly.  In fact, I am at my wit’s end.

Last winter, when I finally made the heart-rending decision to request legal guardianship and conservatorship for my younger sister, I had no idea what I was getting into.  I had agonized for months over what to do, while my sister’s illness became progressively and noticeably worse.

She absolutely refused to surrender power of attorney to anyone.  The stack of legal forms glared at me from my desk every time I entered the room.  Finally, I gave up.  I had prayed diligently about the situation until it seemed that the court was the only solution to our dilemma.  So I filed the papers and this weary process began.

The court appointed an attorney for my sister.  Her interests must be protected.  I understood that.  However, I didn’t hire an attorney.  I didn’t need one.  She’s my sister.  I just wanted to take care of her.  Her doctor had attested to her illness, and it would be obvious to any investigator.  Wouldn’t it?

I received a letter from my sister’s attorney stating that his fee was $375.00 per hour.  What?  I foolishly thought that had to do with working hours.  I didn’t know it included every second in the car, waiting for red lights and stopping for gas, every moment on the phone, every e-mail written and read, every stamp licked, and waiting for tardy judges.

Then he called me.  Being the nitwit that I am, laughing, I asked if I could fire him.  He immediately took offense.  We were enemies from the get-go.

“No,” he said.  “I am Mary’s attorney. I am here to protect her.” HA!

Armed with the investigator’s report and the doctor’s letter attesting to my sister’s illness, I went confidently to court assured that my request would be granted.  How naïve!

The attorney told the judge that I wanted to fire him because I didn’t want to spend any money on the case.  My sister told the judge that she did not want me to be her guardian.  The judge continued the case for another month and appointed a Guardian ad Litem.  He only charges $325.00 per hour.  The legal fees began to mount.

I was in over my head.  I had to hire myself an attorney.  Through my church, I found a good and kind man.  He only charges $350.00 per hour, and his paralegal $160.00.  I think I’m in the wrong business.

Mary’s attorney insisted that her house be put in reserve.  I couldn’t sell it without court approval.  One more complication!  More hours to bill!

My attorney was a likable man, easy to talk to.  When we met together, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t there to chitchat.  The clock was ticking and the fee was mounting.

The court was so overscheduled that it was never on time.  If our fifteen-minute session was set for 9:30, we waited at least an hour or more.  I was paying for that wasted time.

On March 10, I finally became my sister’s legal guardian, but this thing was far from over.  Though I had a good cash offer on the house, everything had to be approved by the attorneys.  One final, fifteen minute, court hearing, the end of August, brought the judge’s approval.  I paid my attorney over $900.00 for that hearing.  The judge was late again.

Yesterday, I received, what I hope is, the final bill from my lawyer.  In the last nine months, my sister and I have paid in excess of $25,000.00 in legal fees.  I have decided that judges and lawyers are not really interested in the welfare of their clients as much as they are interested in red tape and a fat wallet.  When I first met my attorney, he warned me that probate lawyers are known to put their clients in the poor house, before they are finished.  I believe him.

This afternoon I e-mailed my paralegal, and said, “Please don’t do anymore work for me unless or until I ask you.

During this process, I have discovered that hundreds of thousands of families face this same heartbreaking situation.

You cannot believe T.V. commercials that portray all Alzheimer’s or Dementia victims as sweet, docile, vague little people.  I have read hundreds of stories on the internet from families who are struggling with the same problems I have faced this year.  That loved one is uncooperative and at times combative.

“We don’t know what to do,” is the common refrain.

Let me tell you, “As much as I have hated it—as hard and as expensive as it has been, I believe I did the best and only thing I could do.”  As reluctant as you may be, going to court may be your only alternative.   For the good of your loved one, prop up your courage and make the move.  It won’t be easy, but it will insure his safety and well being.

It is a comfort to know that I have not been alone during this arduous journey.  I have taken King Solomon’s advice recorded in Proverbs 3:5-6.

“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.”

Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear…”  WHAT MARVELOUS ASSURANCE!

 

Remember the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

WITH THE FUTURE IN VIEW

In the summer of 1965, more than fifty years ago, I crossed the Atlantic for the first time.  I did it alone, and I did it in style.  Little did I know I was somehow preparing for the future.I was a young public school teacher, who had scarcely been out of her backyard, but once the idea began to foment, no one could talk me out of it.

I was a young public school teacher, who had scarcely been out of her backyard, but once the idea began to foment, no one could talk me out of it.

My older brother, Lincoln, won a Fulbright Scholarship to study Opera in Germany.  He had already lived there for several years and was under contract to a local opera company, so I decided it was time to leave the shores of my native land, and check things out on the other side.

I knew it would take too long to save the necessary funds, and I was getting older by the minute, so I borrowed $1,000.00 from my local bank.  I figured it would be easier to pay it back than to save it.

My ticket, on the S. S. United States, our largest ocean liner, at the time, cost $328.50. That was all inclusive of my cabin, three gourmet meals, daily, for a five-day crossing, tea served on deck morning and afternoon, room service, and entertainment, etc. etc.  I was rich!  I had $671.50 left for my tour of the continent.  Can you imagine?  How far could you go on a $1,000.00 today?

I was scared!  I had never been anywhere alone.  The ship sailed at noon on June 2, so I flew overnight from Phoenix to New York City.  Arriving early in the morning, I claimed my luggage, suffered a wild Taxi ride through the city, and somehow wound up at the right Pier and the right ship.  I remember walking up the gang plank, but I no longer have any idea how I handled the luggage or found my cabin.

In an elegant dining salon, lunch was served as we sailed out of New York Harbor.  I ordered curried chicken.  I had never eaten curried anything, but this was an adventure, so I had to be adventurous.

After lunch, weary from the overnight flight, I crawled into bed to rest.  The sea was quite rough, and the longer I lay there, the more upset my stomach became.  I blamed it on the curry, but actually, I was suffering from seasickness. That was a sad thing to discover on my first day out.  Crossing the North Atlantic in early June can be treacherous.  I knew if I nursed the problem, I would be miserable the whole trip, so I got up, went to a movie and forgot about it.

After navigating the boat train from Le Havre, France to Paris and finding a bus to Orly Airport, I finally arrived in Bielefeld, Germany, where my big brother swept me into his arms with a bear hug.  He was relieved that I had made it.  So was I.

The following weeks were a whirlwind of excitement.  I attended my brother’s opera performances, ate with the opera crowd in quaint little restaurants, tasted, for the first time, octopus, pickled herring, and split pea soup with great chunks of German sausage.  My sister-in-law and I traveled by train to Holland, where we walked the streets of Amsterdam, visiting the Riekes Museum and the home of Anne Frank.  Lincoln took me on a road trip through Germany and Switzerland to view some of the most gorgeous sights in the world.

Lincoln’s father-in-law was director of the “Opera on the Rhine.” It was amazing to sit on the river back and enjoy the music from ages past, as it was performed from a floating stage in the middle of the river.

We toured nine hundred (more or less) beautiful, old cathedrals, where a multitude of religious relics, from the past, were on display.  These bits of bone and earthenware, and even blood were hallowed by the crowds, but I missed the heartfelt, cheerful worship that I was used to.

It is no longer unusual for ordinary people to travel to Europe, so why am I regaling you with my experiences?  For this reason:  Though I didn’t know it at the time, I believe that trip was God ordained, a foretaste of what He had in-store for me.

I knew from childhood that God had a plan and purpose for my life.  So, He started preparing me long before the plan was put in force.  Toward that purpose, during that trip, He taught me some important things about myself.

I discovered that, with His help, I could overcome fear and accomplish my goal.  I found that I was resourceful and able to navigate difficult situations, and I learned that, even alone, I am strong and determined.  I don’t give up easily.  I also became aware of a need for God in Post Christian Europe.

Little did I know that, a decade later, God would send me back to that continent, as one of His ambassadors to the lost and needy.

I am convinced that “things” do not happen randomly in the life of a believer.  God has a purpose for everything.  Those seemingly random events, you are experiencing now, may be God’s way of preparing you for future service.

Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Remember, He is always thinking of you using His ways to move you toward His ultimate purpose for your life.

The sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

ARE YOU WORTH IT?

When I first lived in Belgium, there was no such thing as MacDonald’s, Wendy’s or Burger King.  We did have our own fast food chain.  It was called “G.B. Quick.”  That was the misnomer of the century.  There was nothing quick about that fast food establishment.

For me, it was extremely annoying to be charged extra for ketchup.  In the tiniest of little paper cups, they splashed an ounce of the red stuff and charged five francs.

I decided I could buy a gallon of ketchup, set up a table outside the door, sell the ketchup for four francs, make my fortune and be fixed for life.

I feel the same way about paying $3.00 for a glass of iced-tea in a restaurant.  Do you know how much a tea bag costs?

The problem is, I remember when you could buy a Baby Ruth or Butterfinger candy bar for a nickel, but even nickels were scarce for those who grew up poor.

The blessing in our home was a Mama who knew how to stretch a dollar, to shop the sales, and make the cheapest cuts of meat delectable.

We live in a monetized world.  Everything has a price tag.  People are constantly assessing the value of their stocks and bonds, bank CDs, 401K, insurance policies, pension plans, welfare checks, food stamps, and minimum wage.  We even feel we must place some kind of value on the human life.

Have you ever wondered how much you are worth?  I dare say, “At times, because of the attitude of others or, perhaps, our own foolishness, some of us are tempted to feel we are worthless.”

The United States Government gives $600,000.00 to the family of a fallen soldier.  The worth of a victim, in a wrongful death incident, is determined according to that person’s projected lifetime income, whether he is a ditch digger or a doctor.

In 1924 Dr. Charles H. Mayo, founder of the Mayo Clinic and president of the AMA, placed a value on the basic chemical elements that make up the physical body.  He estimated that you are worth about eighty-four cents.

He said, with a laugh, “In the human body, there is enough sulfur to keep flees off a dog and enough iron to make an eight-penny nail.”  One of Dr. Mayo’s pet topics was the food we eat.  It seems our food is of far more monetary value than the body it nourishes.

Currently, in 2017, your skin is worth $3.50 and the basic elements are now worth $1.00.  (I spent more than twice that on my hamburger yesterday.)  Almost one hundred years have passed and our worth has only gone up sixteen cents.  At least we have not diminished in value.

Some of the most popular catch phrases of the modern age are, “I am worth it.”  “You are worth it.”  We use these phrases in an attempt to get something, sell something or just “feel good” about ourselves.  How sad to value ourselves by the size of our bank account.

Thomas Edison said, “From his neck down a man is worth a couple of dollars a day, but from his neck up he is worth anything his brain can produce.

In the late 1960s, pop singer, Peggy Lee made popular the song, “Is That All There Is.”  The song lyrics paint a picture of life experiences that never quite live up to our expectations.

The refrain says:  “If that’s all there is my friend, then let’s keep dancing

Let’s break out the booze and have a ball

 If that’s all there is.

This song implies that you can live as you please, if that’s all there is.

BUT—that’s not all there is.  For most of us the value of the human body is priceless, not because of its chemical makeup or even its brain function, but because of the life it cradles.  We are more than skin and brain and chemicals.  “That’s not all there is!”

Genesis 2:7 tells us, “God formed man out of the dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life.  The man came alive—a living soul!”

Think of it.  God breathed His own breath into man thereby infusing his flesh and bones with this inexplicable thing called “soul”—the part of him that lives forever—the thing that makes him who he is—that makes him a whole person—that makes him of value.

What are you worth?  God made you in His own image—He breathed into you His own breath.  What are you worth?

God thinks you are worth a whole bunch!  He proved this by paying the ultimate price, the life of His precious son, for your redemption, and if you belong to Him, the WORD is full of further proof of your value.

You have this promise in Zephania 3:17, “…He will rejoice over you with gladness…He will rejoice over you with singing.”  Would he do that, if you were a worthless piece of junk?  I think not!

Are you worth it?  God thinks you are.

THIS IS NOT ALL THERE IS!  We still look forward to eternity with Him.

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

THERE IS A BALM

For millennia, Scientist and Charlatans have offered us remedies for every human ailment-from leeches and bloodletting to present day miracle drugs.Medicine shows were common in the United States in the nineteenth century, especially in the Old West.  “Dr So and So” usually sold patent medicines or “miracle elixirs” sometimes referred to as snake oil, which, it was claimed, had the ability to cure any disease, smooth wrinkles, remove stains, prolong life or cure any number of common ailments.  Alcohol, opium, and cocaine were typical ingredients.  It is easy to understand why people, with no other resources, often fell for this hype.

Every day I see commercials touting the benefits of one drug or another.  Possible side effects are always included-headaches, sore toe, blurred vision, etc., and, “Oh yes!  You might die.”

By the time My Mom came to live with me, at the age of eighty-seven, she possessed a plethora of medications that were “absolutely essential” to her continued health. Each morning I placed her pills beside her breakfast plate. She hated those pills!

While she finished eating, I occupied myself cleaning up the kitchen reminding her repeatedly to take her medication. Coming back to the table, I asked, “Did you take your pills?”

“Yes,” she always replied.

Each night, after I helped her prepare for bed, we prayed together.

One night, she said to me, “I am so miserable.  I lied to you this morning.”  I told you I took all my pills, but I didn’t take those “nasty little Lasix.”

Those “nasty little Lasix” kept her running to the potty all day long.  She figured whatever benefit she was receiving from the medication wasn’t worth the hassle.

I consider myself to be reasonably healthy.  However, I do have an issue with arthritis, and there is the pacemaker, which must be checked bi-monthly because I am totally dependent upon it.  My heart goes into A fib time to time, and so on…        My pantry looks like a pharmacy.  Morning and evening I have a fist full of pills to swallow.  I don’t really mind that so much, but something does concern me.  How do multiple pills designed to do multiple tasks find their way to the proper place once they slide down my throat?  For example:  How does that little yellow rectangle find its way to my thyroid, and how does the white football arrive at the seat of my cholesterol problem?

I am a woman of faith, but I must admit that I have very little faith in the ability of these little pieces of colored chalk to take care of my health issues.  Yet, I follow the doctor’s directions without fail.  I dare not do otherwise.

Fact is, there is no human produced cure-all for our physical needs. You know that!  Sometimes medicine works and sometimes it doesn‘t.  Risk always accompanies any medical procedure.

A certain “Balm of Gilead” is mentioned three times in the Bible as an example of something with healing or soothing powers. This rare, high-quality ointment, used medicinally, was produced in Israel, in the region of Gilead, east of the Jordan River.  Some botanical scholars have concluded that the actual source was a Terebinth tree.

Many medical properties have been attributed to this highly sought after ointment.  As a result, “Balm in Gilead” has come to signify a universal cure in figurative speech.  No wonder it was the most costly product of Palestine.

In Jeremiah 8:22, the prophet mourns for the spiritual condition of the people of Judah.

“Is there no Balm in Gilead, is there no physician there?  Why then is there no recovery for the health of the daughter of my people?”

Jeremiah is saying, “Why doesn’t a doctor come with this healing ointment and bind up the wounds of my people?”

While it is true that there is no cure-all for our physical needs, there is a sure cure for our spiritual wounds.

Just as that fragrant balm drips freely, of its own accord, from the Terebinth, so also does the ointment of God’s grace flow freely from Calvary’s cross.

Jesus, our “great physician,” applies the balm of His grace to our wounded heart and troubled mind and ravished body bringing healing from the inside out.

“There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. 

  There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.”

If you are suffering today, open your heart to Jesus, Your Great Physician, and allow Him to apply his healing grace to your life.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!