Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Putting it all out there, Part I

5:02 p.m. Today's project was to visit our son and his wife in Long Beach. Since we have an evening off from Vacation Bible School, it seemed like a good day to get out of town for a bit.

After watching prophetic author Joel Rosenberg's "Epicenter 2010" conference for a day and a half, hearing about the alignment of nations against Israel that the Bible predicts as preparatory to the rapture of the church and the end of the world, I became very convinced that all of us who have a saving faith in Jesus Christ must share our faith very soon with unsaved loved ones, and bring back loved ones who have walked away. Greg Laurie's exhortation on Saturday was as compelling as any he's given at the Harvest Crusades. Perhaps it was even more compelling "as we see the day approaching." (Hebrews 10:25, part of an admonishment to godly living).
Steve, Kriss, Marisela and I talked about where they're at these days, in all aspects, his and her future goals, and our own very difficult situation now financially. She had made us a really good CD mix of songs and the guitar riffs from the Eagles' hits for Steve. Kriss and I later went out to Ralphs for sandwiches and had a very serious talk about his faith and how to get back on track. We both know how much bettr life, especially marriage, goes when you can say, "Let's pray," or "What does the Bible say?" when an issue needs to be resolved! So Kriss and I had some "mom and son" time, while Marisela and Steve watched "Die Hard and Live Free" on the bigscreen tv they are "babysitting" for friends, back at the apartment. The Lord told me to speak to him, I "put it all out there," and I am confident God will take care of them both!
In other family developments, Heidi and Pavel are going on with their wedding plans even though she hasn't been called back for a teaching position for the '10-11 school year yet. They both are serving the Lord wholeheartedly in the meantime. Ditto Heather and Nick, who are now living on one modest income, in order to meet future critical professional goals. Again, the two serve the Lord and others as they always have, not once considering stepping back from ministry. Kind of reminds me of my outlandish decision to retire early, cutting our one income in half! But God is the One who led me to retire and made all the timing and arrangements work, and He has been our faithful Provider to this day!
But the exciting news of the day is regarding our youngest son Steven, whom I wrote about a few days ago. He is the one whom the Lord had repeatedly spoken to me about, that he needed to quit a job that has him working on Sundays--on faith--and that He will bring Steven training clients for his gym. Even though he studies the Word on his own (frequently texting me with questions) Steven needs to be taught by their excellent pastor, especially since he serves as a high school ministry leader.
Steven emailed me today: "I'm giving two weeks' notice to Cool Hand Luke's this week." Struggling, and still low on clients, but taking a step of faith--that's what I call "putting it all out there" for the Lord! When I texted all of the kids, I excitedly added I Samuel 2:30, where God said, "Those who honor Me, I will honor."
Hebrews 11:6 says, "Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."
Have no doubt, put it all out, for the Lord to handle!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A mom's reward

3:30 p.m. Today's project was to go to Mary Me Bridal in Orange with Heidi, Heather and her bridesmaids to select her wedding gown. Such fun and exitement!

As we gathered at the house about 9 o'clock this morning, we were in a giddy mood, making ridiculous wise cracks and putting Heidi at ease. No uptight bride here! We are all believers, supportive of our beloved bride. I love what Ephesians 4:25b says, as we prepared to give our thumbs-up and thumbs-down to the scores of gowns Heidi would be trying on, "Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another." And while we wanted to give our honest opinions, we would be putting into practice Ephesians 4:32a: "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted..." Likes and dislikes can be very strong, but the only opinion that truly counts is the bride's!
I told Heidi from the start, that since all of the gowns would look good on her former model figure, it really boiled down to, "How do you see yourself? Super modern, vintage, romantic, traditional, classic, sophisticated, trendy, fairy princess, elegant, sweet?" The choices went on and on--ruched, flouncy, angular, lacy, long or short train, assymetrical/artsy, "origami"-style cut-outs, satin, brocade, bright white or ivory? Straps or strapless? Bling-y, or unornamented?Netting and lace overskirt? What kind of lace? Satin, brocade, lightweight or heavy? Easy to sit or dance in? How high are the heels she'd be wearing?
Heather, Shea, Brenda, Danielle, Charise and I sat in a cozy corner near a mannequin dressed in a very vintage look, ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the selections, but we were really of one mind as to what looked good on Heidi within her price range and preferences. It came down to two favorites, but the more modern dress between the "romantic" choices won the day!! (And the train was not too long for maid of honor Charise to keep a handle on!!)
Heidi, Heather, Charise and I ended our outing back in Riverside at the bride's favorite restaurant, Chipotle. I told Heather that I loved sitting on the patio like the "cool people" at the Riverside Plaza watching the people walk by. Ludicrous, I know! Normally when I'm down that way, I'm grocery shopping at Vons or quickly diving into the Verizon store for a phone or accessories. A leisurely girls' lunch, especially during Vacation Bible School week, is just unheard-of!! Amazingly, I was able to get my Bible study written for Thursday this afternoon, too!
The Lord blessed our day with harmony, a major goal met, and a bright outlook for future wedding plans. Heidi and Pavel's venue, Kimberly Crest Estate in Redlands, was booked months ago; the dress was the next big task. As the year flies by towards June 25, 2011, we'll work on bridesmades and groomsmen's clothes, table settings, caterers and flowers. Next spring, the pace will heat up with invitations and actual wedding day coordination details. It's good to have recent experience, with Kriss' and Heather's weddings! But like each of my children's personalities, this wedding will differ in so many ways from the others.
No matter the details of the wedding celebration, the schedule and the stresses to come, we know the Lord is in the couple He has brought together: Pavel Ilie and Heidi Kruckenberg!

Monday, June 28, 2010

While wondering what to say

3:51 p.m. Today's project was to gather an odd assortment of articles for the next two Bible station stories at Vacation Bible School. We had had an exceptionally fun and blessed night, with 4-year-olds listening, responding, and acting out the Bible story of Peter being let out of prison by an angel. (Acts 12)

Today's and tomorrow's stories concern the Apostle Paul on his ill-fated voyage to Rome to appeal to Caesar to overturn his arrest and imprisonment by the Jews. We'll re-enact the shipwreck at Malta tonight from Acts 27, and tomorrow, Paul's miraculous deliverance, unharmed, from the bite of the poisonous snake in Acts 28. Fun times ahead, but lots of items to gather: a long green sock to make a snake out of, crackers, baggies, stuffed toys, a fan, spray bottle, paper to makes sticks out of for building a fire, something with flames on it, and gummy worms. My shopping expedition took me to the 99 Cent Store, Alin Party Supply, and Big 5 Sporting Goods. I found it all, and was relieved not to have to worry tomorrow while at "Marry Me Bridal" in Orange with my daughter Heidi and her bridesmaids to pick out a wedding gown.

I had become concerned about an unsaved "friendship" one of my adult kids was developing, and was wondering how to bring it up. But do you know that the Holy Spirit was already ahead of me? In his regular daily scripture reading, he was in I Corinthians 6:15-20, and texted me to ask about it! (v. 19 says, "Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit...?") I then asked him to read II Corinthians 14-18. Hear verses 14-15:

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial (the devil)? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?

Our conversation was fruitful, with him asking good questions and paying attention to the answers! And since the Holy Spirit began the work of conviction and exhortation, I'll let Him complete it, for, as Philippians 1:6 says, "He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." Let God's good work continue!

Need to run and get Steve's dinner ready early, and the car packed for another High Seas Adventure!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Blessed indeed!

3:21 p.m. Today's project was to return to church by 2 p.m. to work on my Bible Station for preschool Vacation Bible School. I had a couple of hours before the dinner meeting for all of the VBS workers, and was eager to get started cutting the black and white crepe paper into strips to make a "jail" to illustrate the story of Peter being awakened by an angel in the middle of the night for a divine jailbreak.

Acts 12: 11 Peter says, after the angel left him in the street, "Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent His angel and rescued me from Herod's clutches and from everything the Jewish people had been anticipating." What those who were persecuting the early Christian church were anticipating was rigging up a trial against Peter and executing him, like Herod had done to the Apostle James! And of course, God had a different idea!
Today God showed me that He had a different idea for me as well. I had spent a night tossing and turning, wondering about how much help I would have, how long it would take to decorate, when I'd get a chance to put on my costume, eat, and also how to making a reheatable dinner for Steve with only the time slot of 11:30-1:45, which had to include a nap for me!! One day I will not only quote, but learn to LIVE Psalm 26:3, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee."
I actually did lie down for 45 minutes, and God quickened my hands to blanch two small green peppers from our garden and stuff them with leftover rice, meatballs and sauce I made yesterday. I labeled the container : "Steve, your dinner. Reheat in microwave 1 minute. Check and microwave for another minute." I then made some guacamole, chips and salad for my lunch, while Steve had his stacked sandwich. After eating a cup of sugar free chocolate pudding, and packing some little snacks in case I couldn't eat what the VBS leaders were serving us for dinner (wheat allergy), all I could do was run upstairs, brush my teeth, and hop in the car back to church.
When I arrived, I saw VBS leader Veronica and my sweet helper Joanna emerging from my room--it was all finished, in perfect detail!! Just glorious!! They had been in during third service. Once I did a bit of rearranging of chairs, I was free to go home until 5:15!! Unbelievable! Tears came to my eyes, but I'd cried enough tears of loneliness, stress and exhaustion already! This was time to laugh and rejoice, and bless those who'd blessed me.
May God's generous blessing extend to the little ones who will hear about Jesus this evening!!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The epicenter

4:49 p.m. Today's project was to watch Joel Rosenberg's Epicenter 2010 conference on simulcast webstream here at home, while breaking to work on my Bible study for Thursday, assemble more items for Vacation Bible school, and visit with Heidi's friend Charise who is here from out of town before they took off for Disneyland.

Steve and I had attended the opening session at church last night, learning, among other momentous information, of current events from a military and political view, and listening to a pastor in Jerusalem today, who sees firsthand how Jesus Christ is bridging the enmity between Arabs and Jews in the "one man" movement. I would assume that the title of the concept is taken from Ephesians 3:14-18, which speaks of Christ's crucifixion making "one man" of Jews and Gentiles with the gospel:

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both [Jews and non-Jews] have access by one Spirit to the Father.

As today's simulcast featured another evangelical pastor speaking of the bloody terrorism that attends daily life for his congregation in Jerusalem; Kay Arthur teaching through the book of Esther the historical efforts to annihilate the Jews that continue to this day; son of the founder of Hamas on video speaking of his coversion to Christianity; Greg Laurie speaking of knowing Christ, living for Christ, and sharing Christ, closing with an invitation that reminded me of the Harvest Crusades I've attended since they began; and a representative of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu speaking of the current situation in Gaza, the world's response to the flotilla incident and the "two state" solution proposed by the world's nations, I was impressed once again that perhaps we are the generation that will be raptured to heaven, ushering in the final battle between good and evil, and the return in glory of Jesus Christ!!

Meanwhile, are believers to sit idly by, clasping our "fire insurance" close to our vests, focusing on our own lives only? We all certainly have cares and concerns for our own households, business and perhaps ministry responsibilities that call to us, and we need to be diligent, good witnesses. But what is the actual reason to be good witnesses, if not to open our mouths, share the love of Christ, and offer the opportunity of salvation to those spiritually dying around us?

Jerusalem, Joel Rosenberg reminds us, is the real "epicenter" for all people to come to know God in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ. It is the most fiercely contested city ever built! Listen to the prohecy of Isaiah 2:2-4:

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the LORD'S house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And all nations shall flow to it.
Many people shall come and say,
"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
and we shall walk in his paths."
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
And rebuke many people;
They shall beat their swords into plowshares;
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war any more.

Amen, Amen! May the day hasten when all men will bow down to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Not by might

3:15 p.m. Today's project was to offer our youngest son Steven some encouragement to "hang in there" up in Fresno, continue his ministries, and totally seek the Lord. He is living alone in his apartment, which means that he must meet the rent and utilities on a meager salary from his job as a runner for a steak restaurant. Steven works very hard at adding clients for fitness training at the gym he co-owns with a friend, but so far, it's slim pickings due, I am sure, to the economy. Recently, we were blessed that his grandpa sent him a check that will help quite a bit.

Steven is a high school ministry leader, coached a Christian high school's track team, and evangelizes wherever he goes. So the enemy loses no opportunity to distract him, from a dead car battery to a suddenly defunct cellphone! (The devil doesn't bother to aim flaming arrows at do-nothing Christians!) So while he studies his Bible for learning, guidance and inspiration, and aced his Bible classes at Fresno Pacific University, discouragement does come his way.

I miss Steven terribly, especially the scripture conversations we have, and the privilege of answering his questions on the topics that cross his mind from a biblical point of view. But the way I feel closest to him is by praying for him. For weeks now, I've been praying over the fact that his restaurant schedules him for Sundays, a real bummer, because he loves the teaching of the Peoples' Church's new pastor. And frankly, Steven needs to be fed from the Word like any of us do, if we want our ministry to be fresh and inspired. So I have been praying for a schedule change for him for the last several weeks, to no avail so far. If Steven could sign up three more clients, he could say "adios, pardner" to Cool Hand Luke's!
An outrageous thought keeps coming to me while I'm praying for my son, whether in my journal, where I lift up Steven and all of our family, or just as I'm "think-praying" throughout the day: what if God wants him to quit the steakhouse on faith, so he can once again attend church, and let God send the clients?! This idea has come to me every single time I pray for Steven, no exceptions!
Didn't God tell Joshua that the priests carrying the ark of the covenant were to stand in the Jordan River before God piled the waters up in a heap for the people to walk across on dry land? (Joshua 3). Sometimes God tells us to take a daring step of faith!
Now I have always been leery and very cautious about telling anyone that I have a word of knowledge from the Lord for them, even if it has come to pass a number of times, generally with women I am teaching, counseling or ministering to in daily life. And the word of knowledge has turned out to be true on those occasions--a work of the Holy Spirit, not me! So today, when Steven texted me saying that there are no new clients, even though he's trying, I thought, why not give him the word--so I did and added, "pray about it and confirm it with your pastor."
He didn't answer one way or the other, but his next text mentioned that Chad the youth pastor and his wife were going to find him some clients, so he must have talked it over with them. Steven will also post an ad on Craigslist. So maybe this has been the spiritual "shot in the arm" he needs!
The Lord gave me Zechariah 4:6 as a further encouragement for my youngest son:
Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.
May Steven step forward in faith and see what the Lord will do!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An ideal day

3:36 p.m. Today's project was to enjoy Bible study with our ladies, seeing the work of the Holy Spirit using Scripture and the calling He has given me to study, write and teach it, in the lives and comments of the members. We really teach and exhort one another, whether our understanding of the Word is deepened or is blossoming for the first time! I Samuel Chapter 3 contains young Samuel's call to know the Lord, and his call to ministry. That chapter contains so many rich veins of truth in each passage that it would be impossible for any one teacher to mine it all! But this small body of believers all works together, as the Lord leads, "for the edifying of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:16b) And to hear the sisters praying for one another's needs despite having deep needs of their own--or maybe because of it!--is just a slice of heaven!

After Charlotte drove Cindy and me back to my house, I rushed in, ate lunch with Steve, changed from a skirt to cargo capris, and hopped into my Jeep for a trip out to church. I needed to meet with Veronica, Ivett and my helper Joanna to get supplies for my Vacation Bible School preschool Bible station. Like any teacher, I was eager to get into my classroom and "get the lay of the land," so I could begin envisioning how I want to lay out the reading area, the activity area, and the ocean-themed decorations for the whiteboard and walls. Ivett called youth pastor Joel, asking him to create posters for my classroom, we discussed the props for the first day's Bible adventure, and then went to the education building with my helper Joanna.

There we saw the giant "boat" that will be on permanent display in our classroom. Score!! I am very grateful that it's going to be rolled into my preschool room, especially with hundreds of children attending the elementary level VBS, which I believe has the same "High Seas" theme. But I will actually need it for my second lesson, where the children will pretend they are the disciples in the boat with Jesus, when Peter walks on water. (Mark 14:29) It's spectacular!

Once my helper and I measured out the gorgeous ocean mural and figured out what we need--masking tape, black crepe paper, plasti-tack (to put posters on the wall), and a bell. We had a few moments to chat and get to know each other better. I put all my supplies from home in a corner of the room, and headed for home. Once here, Steve and I did some gardening, harvested tomatillos and tomatoes, and he went out to walk the dogs.

As I began the search for masking tape, I also found a small but loud bell! While seraching for the plasti-tack in my desk drawer, I came upon an old cell phone, and went to the garage to toss it into the charity collection bag that I am filling up for the Cancer Society. While doing that, I looked up onto a shelf in the garage, and there was a little package of plasti-tack right in front of my eyes!! Praise the Lord! I can't wait to see when and how the crepe paper turns up!

God is so good, even in the tiny details and needs we bring before Him! We step forward to serve; He provides the means and materials. We remember the sick and poor; He spares us an expenditure we would have gladly made! In Psalm 50:12b God says, "The world is Mine, and all its fulness." He not only owns everything in His creation, He knows where everything is!!!

What a mighty God we serve!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Setting sail

5:52 p.m. Today's project was to find, borrow, or make a costume for our church's Vacation Bible School. Heidi was asked by the director of Children's Ministry, Ivett, to teach the preschool Bible Center, but since she felt less than qualified to work with that age group, she pleaded with me to do it, pledging to be my helper. I was happy to acept the job, because I like to participate in VBS each summer, in any role needed, and I missed it last year when it didn't work out. In her persuasive speech, Heidi reminded me of the fun I had doing Bible stories, puppets, action songs and crafts with the preschoolers at Moms' Mornings for 4 years. (I also led the School Readiness program for 3-5 year olds for the Jurupa Unified School District). Even though my VBS experiences had always been at the elementary level, I figure the Lord has a new adventure in store! So I laughingly said yes. VBS is exhausting, but sheer fun and excitement--I can't wait--wait, it's next Sunday! Coming up least my Bible study message is written for the ladies tomorrow!

The theme this year is High Seas Expedition, so all things nautical will be on display to welcome the preschoolers. I've had a number of conversations with VBS leader Veronica and Ivett about decorating the room, and was given the names of young gals who will help me. I've been gathering items for object lessons for the different days, like a lantern for the Apostle Peter's escape out of jail; ocean-themed blankets for pretend sailing when Peter steps out of the boat to walk to Jesus; bandages and gauze for the day we speak about healing; and little kid books to compare the Bible, which is true, to the stories, which are pretend. As we look at Bible accounts of miracles and faith, the key idea we want to get across is that God's Word is true! In fact, every time we say, "God's Word is true," we all yell, "Let's Go!"

Steve and I went to the Goodwill thrift store, and bought the nautical striped top and canvas shoes pictured above--pretty spiffy! I had the pants, and he found me a hat I can use from his closet!! Why did I fret so about the outfit?! Doesn't Philippians 4:19 say, "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus"?

From the Bible center, crews of tots go with their leaders to the craft, snack, video and game areas. There will be a large gathering in the sanctuary each night also. Stage leader Regina, a high school art teacher at Calvary Chapel, will make sure that the stage is dazzlingly spectacular, and the singing is loud and exciting for the kids. Above all, the crew leaders will give each child ample opportunities to ask Jesus into their hearts, many for the first time! How many hundreds of examples have I heard of in my 30 years as a Christian of children accepting Christ as their Savior, and excitedly insisting that their parents come to church, too? The verse Isaiah 11:6, though speaking of the kingdom age and the Messiah's reign, is often quoted in these cases: "A little child shall lead them."

But what drives all child evangelism are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself in Luke 18:16:

Let the little children to come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Girl time

3:02 p.m. Today's project was to study and make notes for my lesson on I Samuel Chapter 3 to teach on Thursday. Yesterday was taken up with a pile of documents and financial statements, hours just going down the drain. I managed to do some laundry and take products to a customer, but had no time for studying in my "office." Calling it a "study" might be more accurate, unless Steven is home, and then it's "Steven's bedroom." There's a single top mattress with a nice pillowcase and fitted bedspread on the floor, which he seems to favor over the fairly new queen-size bed upstairs in the guest bedroom. He'd better not tell his wife one day that he was forced to sleep on the floor at home!!

I was having my doubts about getting in any study time today, because I had just gotten settled in at my desk, excitedly opening commentaries and Bible translations, when my prayer partner called for our weekly time to pray for one another's needs; I wouldn't miss it! As Monica was wrapping up, the doorbell rang and Steve opened the door to my dad--a surprise, since he was over just Sunday for Father's Day! Of course, I couldn't go greet him for a few minutes until our prayer ended. He came over to provide a great blessing to us, a check for $300 for the aforementioned Steven, who's struggling to build his fitness training business up in Fresno! Funny thing is, on the kitchen counter lay a stamped, addressed envelope I had prepared for sending that precise amount to Steven on Friday, when my husband's check comes in! Now that's the Lord!! "I have never seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread," Psalm 37:25 says, and it so true, like all of scripture. Needless to say, Daddy went home with a large bag of garden produce from his grateful daughter and son-in-law!
The Lord gave me the general themes of the chapter today, and set the direction for what will edify and bless the women Thursday. I am so grateful for the privilege of bringing His Word of inspiration to others! Fellowship around the Bible is the best kind--it brings us alive to God and to the hearts and needs of our friends.
There's another type of "girl time" I'll be enjoying tonight--a Tupperware party at Debbie Edmondson's home with friends from church. I laugh at the term, because my daughter Heather and her husband Nick have girls' and boys' time weekly, where they chill with their own kind. At 59, I still think occasional girl time is refreshing, like the jewelry party I attended a couple of weeks ago. And with an upcoming bride in the house, I'll see what a "kitchen start-up" collection would consist of (and cost)! In her Facebook invitation, Debbie mentioned that she hadn't been to a Tupperware party in ages, and I haven't either. The gold casserole storage container pictured above belonged to my late mother-in-law, I believe, and came to Riverside with my then-bachelor husband in 1977 to grace his first house. It now serves as a dependable compost container for kitchen scraps. "Reduce, recycle, re-use--" wasn't that the chant they taught our school children in the 90's? Well, I like the Lord's plans for the earth and all creatures in it: "dust to dust." (paraphrased Genesis 3:19b) I guess we are doing our bit with composting and organic gardening!!
Looks like I have a bit of time before fixing dinner, to write down some more notes on I Samuel. May the Holy Spirit guide all of us who share God's Word and call upon His Name!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Streets of quiet

4:24 p.m. Today's project was to take an order of Mary Kay facial products to a sweet customer and friend, my daughter's mother-in-law. She's enjoying her first week of summer vacation from teaching, and looks forward to getting some projects done in their new home.

I well remember, in addition to taking the kids to the beach or making college visits, having a "task" assigned to each summer, like organizing all of our family photos into albums. Steve and I stripped and steamed off wallpaper in the family room and painted it a more modern taupe color, and covered the brick fireplace in clean white smooth stucco, along with making brick patio inserts; and I enjoyed re-reading the Chronicles of Narnia. I look back on that summer as highly productive--and I taught summer school 4 mornings a week! Teachers have to stay busy, I guess the upshot is!

The next two summers, Fridays were devoted to a summer Bible study I taught in a friend's home: Colossians, then the first three chapters of Ephesians. When the district got stingy with summer school positions, the Bible study was shifted to Thursdays for Ephesians 4-6, Galatians last year, and now I Samuel. That way, we all agreed, people can take off for trips on Fridays, like we did for our Yellowstone adventure last year. I'm not sure if we have much planned this year in the way of out-of-state travel because of Steve's condition, but an August trip to Shaver Lake is still on. We'll visit Steven in Fresno, bookending our camping stay. However, let's keep in mind that we need to quote James 4:15: "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that."

Couldn't help but notice as I drove down Central Avenue to Palm, past the Riverside Plaza at about 3:45 p.m., how quiet the streets were! Normally, that's a very busy time at the Riverside Drive/Central intersection. After school time saw all the teachers, as well as parents who'd just picked up their kids, out on errands. That is certainly when you'd find me at Vons getting a nice caramel mocha frappucino at their Starbucks, unwinding after a stress-filled day, strolling down the aisles for a few items. I had no rush to get home, because Steve was still at work and the kids were on their own, working, attending college or both.

In this season, however, teachers and moms can do their errands throughout the day, not having to be tied to a bell schedule, just like I can since I retired last June! I remember as a teacher, pretending up until the last minute that I was a homemaker all the time, and that summer with my kids--or young adults--would never end!! But end it did, and I began to get excited to go to school and pick up my class list, see my colleagues, catch up on all the travel, wedding and baby news. then I'd begin to decorate my classroom. The flurry of activity would be echoed in my home, as college class registration, financial aid, book purchases and housing plans took center stage for our family.

I'm enjoying the calmer atmosphere here in Riverside, the kids out biking, skateboarding, or taking a first independent trip with a friend to the store. In the yard behind us, small children were having a little pool party. My daughter will be taking in the beach, Disneyland and Sea World once her teaching year ends. The siblings who work full time in other professions will be experiencing summer much like we are--not much change. But one day they will be parents of school kids too!

The garden is thriving, the heat is not bad yet, and Steve and I have plenty of projects to keep us busy. Peaceful days. But the peace I value most, whether the days are hectic or placid, is the "peace that surpasses all understanding," of Philippians 4:7, the peace that "will guard [my] heart and mind in Christ Jesus!"

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Honor your father

7:10 p.m. Today's project was to host a Father's Day barbeque celebration for my husband Steve, dad Oliver, and our kids. Daddy came over, I gave him a kiss and greeting, and then went upstairs for a nap. We had hosted a birthday party for our friend Michelle, with 50-60 friends and family in attendance, and more food of all kinds than we had room to put out! Cleanup, though graciously headed up by Shea Rendle, wasn't over until midnight. Add my lengthy bedtime routine, which always features documenting praise reports in my binder and a bit of reading, and I think I went to bed around 1 a.m. Steve and I woke up at 7:00 as usual for 9:45 service, heard a sermon on the end times, and were blessed to see many go forward to accept Christ or to recommit their lives to Him. You can see how 30 minutes of shuteye were sorely needed!

Heidi and Pavel arrived, Nick and Heather came in shortly after, and we weren't expecting Kriss and Marisela until later. The conversation Sunday was lively while we snacked and I shucked corn. Daddy was mesmerized by Chris Wallace's "Fox News Sunday." Steve, though an honored guest, likes to stay busy, so he cleaned the barbeque grill with crumpled foil while I got the condiments out and Heidi tore up lettuce and set it out. We have homegrown yellow and red tomatoes now, so I used the sections of our servingware for those, the onions and the cheese slices. The corn, burgers and hot dogs were ready at the same time, the table was set with all condiments and corn cob prongs, so off we went to the dining room table, got Steve rounded up and situated, and Pavel said grace.

We were full swing into all manner of subjects, from Stonehenge to Heather's most annoying celebrities list, to "Man vs. Wild," when there was a loud knock at the door. Fully expecting Kriss, I did not believe my eyes when I saw our grandson Xavier! Older brother Adrian came loping up, and hugs and kisses exploded around the living room. Sean and his fiancee Pamela followed. Praise the Lord, we had enough food for four unexpected guests...I think our "loaves and fishes" multiplied!

After dinner, we had the dads pose together as they opened their presents. More funny--or rather, ludicrous-- conversation and our afternoon came to an end. Kriss called to say that he and his wife decided to spend the day with her family down in Long Beach, and that's perfectly fine. We love them, too!

As our family expands, we want to make sure to love all of our in-laws with the love of Christ. That means being flexible and considerate. I am so grateful that they love our children too!

The Apostle Peter, in the 3rd chapter of his first epistle gives these instructions for all believers, v. 8:

"Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude."

God's Word works every time it's tried!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Swirling around

4:13 p.m. Today's project was to prepare our house for a birthday party/fellowship gathering for our friend Michelle. We took advantage of the Saturday to sleep in until 8 a.m., because I'm sure we'll have a late night after the her crew is finished cleaning up! Third service could haven been an option, but my dad is coming over for a Father's Day barbecue, and I still need to pick up more frozen burger patties and fresh corn on our way home. And Daddy is known to arrive early, bless his heart! He'll love the vintage airplane photo posters I bought him. I believe some of them are from the 1930's. I bought Steve a set of multi-colored pens he can use for journalling, figuring that Father's Day gifts should mainly come to dads from their kids, right?

The enemy has been causing division in situations I had no information about, or responsibility for, as well as "oughts" dredged up from 2 decades ago! Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 18:15-17 that if someone has "ought" against you, go to them. And that is what I do if I know they have it! Blindsided attacks and backbiting "slams" certainly don't match up with Jesus' command. But since forgiveness is always in order, that's the road the Lord has led me to. There are far too many blessings to be enjoyed unhindered, such as the growing and thriving Bible study He has given me; lovely vegetables from the garden and the privilege of invigorating labor that God uses to produce it; giving to the Lord of our time and resources; a decades-long Christ-centered marriage, with the love still strong despite Steve's Alzheimers; godly, faithful friends; healthy children and grandchildren and an ever-expanding group of in-laws! God has blessed in so many ways that holding a grudge just won't do: as Paul did, "I press forward!" (Philippians 3:12)

Another area of attack has been in our finances; we are all feeling the effects of this currently mismanaged economy. Steven needs more training clients at his gymin Fresno, so he can quit the steak restaurant where he has to work Sundays; Kriss and Marisela are both seeking better-paying employment and coping with one car for two commuters! Praise the Lord, though, for our other three kids who are making it in their circumstances with relative stability! As parents, we try to send a little something if we can, but some doors are closing as we are move into a "new normal" of fixed income only! That's fine, because the Lord will go before us into any valley, and bring deliverance in the way He best sees fit! May we remain faithful, and trusting, making our stand on the Rock!

God's people Israel had been neither faithful nor trusting, and as a result had been driven into captivity. Do we need to confess that we have been captive to sins and the lust for material things? How we need our Savior and Deliverer, Jesus Christ the righteous! Just as the Jews returned to their land, let us turn our hearts back to the Lord!

Isaiah 62:11 gives reassurance to God's people: "The LORD has sent this message to every land: "Tell the people of Israel, 'Look, your Savior is coming. See, He brings His reward with Him as He comes.' " (NLT)

And to His people today, Jesus says, in Revelation 22:20, " 'Surely I come quickly.' "

Even so, come Lord Jesus!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Women at work

4:35 p.m. Today's project was to allow a godly young woman to bless me by preparing our home for her birthday party on Saturday!

Sound confusing? Michelle turned 26 last week, and really wanted to host a fellowship time for friends and family, but didn't have the space. Heidi offered our home after clearing it with me, and the fun began. Michelle and her sister-in-law Joanna attend the home Bible study I teach on Thursday mornings, and I have no concerns whatsoever that all facets of this gathering will be done "decently and in order," as the Apostle Paul adjured the believers in Corinth about their church gatherings in I Corinthians 14:40! And the party will definitely be a koinonia, centered around Christ, complete with worship.

Loving to entertain, and thoroughly excited by festive gatherings, I was willing to get the downstairs cleaned with Steve and Heidi's help, no big deal because I clean all the time (surface cleaning, anyway)! Imagine my surprise when Heidi told me that Michelle was going to come over the day before the party and clean house for me!! At first it seemed unusual, and my daughter and her fiance thought it might be a slight insult, but it was nothing of the sort, because Michelle had never even been to my house before. "I just want to bless and thank you," she told us at Bible study yesterday. No sense in being touchy, because we all need help from other believers, as the Lord showed us yesterday in our prayer request time, even if we don't realize it! We not only should exemplify "purity, knowledge, longsuffering, kindness and sincere love by the Holy Spirit," (2 Corinthians 6:6 paraphrased) but we need to allow others to do the same for us!

I set out nice soft rags and products for polishing furniture and glass in the living room and family room, and cleansers for the downstairs bathroom, because those are the only jobs I could see needing done. We'll have to mop and vacuum tomorrow as we would before any gathering. Since Michelle arrived about 1:45 p.m., I had time to take a brief nap after the hairdresser's and then go down to Altura Credit Union to re-do a shared branching deposit. Because of her help, I was free to spend time watering the garden, planting corn and green beans, and harvesting tomatoes and tomatillos. I also finished pressure cooking some chicken for salads next week. As we worked, we had much time for heart-to-heart sharing, so our afternoon flew by.

Michelle's mom is a super cook, so she will be serving: broccoli chicken rice; fettucine alfredo; spaghetti and meatballs; stuffed potatoes and caesar salad with homemade dressing, and I've probably left something out! I'll throw in Jello and Cool Whip for those who are too stuffed to eat cakes and other huge desserts. We also have tons of drinks left over from the colonoscopies Steve and I had scheduled, and we were supposed to consume pre-op. (He had his procedure; I'm putting mine off until fall when I have no huge obligations, The reason? I was sick for five days after the one I had 5 years ago. Actually, when I saw those huge needles in the backs of his hands, I thought "Nah!").

Heidi got home and helped put pictures back on the entertainment center, Michelle put the pictures back on the piano, and Pavel arrived. The three of them are having a funny and relaxed conversation in the living room.

Tomorrow, Michelle will be here with cold foods and salads to refrigerate, extra chairs and a table, and to put up some balloons and other birthday decorations. Heidi and I both said, "not til 10:00 please!" because we do our entire morning on Saturdays in our pajamas, or what passes for pajamas. Devotions, breakfast, then comes getting ready for the day!!

There's nothing sweeter than fellowship, so tomorrow will be a reward from the Lord for the three of us "working women!"

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The right part

4:00 p.m. Today's project was to pick up a seal for the--how can I put this delicately--sewer valve on the RV. There's no misery like a sanitation system going out while you're camping, so Steve wants to have plenty of time before our Shaver Lake trip to get this slight leakage fixed. (The tank itself is empty, so no problem there, thankfully).
I wanted to go on a little outing with Steve after lunch, because I'd been gone to Bible study today for a few hours. Steve kept himself busy, mowing the backyard and ridding the Flypod of its gnat-filled pheromone adhesive card. [We have had the most obnoxious attack of gnats in our kitchen, centering round the avocado plants]. Now we can wait for the attack of flies that will come along in the summer time to set it on the counter again!
At this stage of his Alzheimer's, it isn't a matter of Steve being able to stay home alone safely, but of us spending time together, the reason for which I retired. Lately, I've noticed him having a lot more trouble with self-direction, and also moving much more slowly as he goes about his daily chores and self-care. It now takes him the better part of an hour to shower and dress in the morning, and he no longer even blowdries his hair. He used to complete this routine in about 15 minutes! To put things in perspective, I can give myself a complete Mary Kay facial and body treatment, put on full makeup, style my hair, accessorize with costume jewelry, and be totally presentable to go out in 30 minutes. There aren't really any surprises here, but the changes I knew were coming aren't any more welcome for it!
At our Bible study this morning, we were talking about trials, and God's providence and ultimate control over all things, reflecting on the worship song of Hannah. I Samuel 2: 5-7 says,
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, and the hungry have ceased to hunger. Even the barren has borne seven, and she who has many children has become feeble.
The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up. The LORD makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up.
The ladies, especially Theresa, emphasized trusting God no matter what happens. We are all mature believers, but sometimes we are tempted to ask, "Why me, Lord?!" But I shared with them that many times I end up following that question with another one: "Why not me?" For all the blessings I have been given by God, first and foremost my salvation, what unfairness could I possibly accuse the Lord of? Job said, so rightly, in Job 2:10b, "Shall we accept good from God, and not adversity?"
While repeating simple directions and helping in the incessant hunt for Steve's lost possessions is exacerbating, it's not enought to ruin my day or his, if handled tactfully and lovingly. Sometimes the Lord leads me to physically get up and help him find things; sometimes it seems to be more approriate to let him solve the problem. Either way, mercy needs to triumph over judgment between us in our marriage. I certainly cannot claim perfection! Just today, on our way to Giant RV, I drove right by their street, Santo Antonio, and ended up making a U-turn on the next right, Cooley Drive, and coming back. Steve had held up his thumb as we approached the correct street, in a brief gesture that I couldn't interpret, but he hadn't been able to formulate words fast enough to say, "Don't we turn here?" Asking later, "Why didn't you say something?" didn't even make sense in this new context--Steve can't respond quickly with words any more.
We do have to apply the right part of wisdom to relationships with our loved ones: a correction may be necessary, but how much more is forgiveness when asked for! Impatience may be justified, but kindness all the more, in all things, at all times.
Lord, help me find the right "part" today!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The back story

4:21 p.m. Today's project was to write the message for Thursday's Bible study on I Samuel Chapter Two. We have a nice group of women of all ages which is growing as teachers get off for the summer and a few return from vacation. About 10 more ladies are completing the written lessons online because of distance or work schedules. Now in our fifth year, I continue to be amazed at the diligence and devotion the women demonstrate for learning God's Word!

Steve and I had a quiet morning that included our regular Bible study and devotions, laundry, harvesting tomatoes, staking plants and planning the next corn planting. Spraying organic cutworm killer would take place in the afternoon. I couldn't wait to grab my water, purse, Blue Diamond almonds and hole up in my office amid piles of reference books, a legal pad full of notes taken earlier in the week, post-its for quick reference while speaking to the group, and the Pink Princess plugged in and charged up for an occasional "Brain break!" The King James, New King James, and New Living Translations were at hand, and I'd read the chapter in the NIV already. Wonder of wonders, this morning I'd completed my own lesson, too, during my devotion time! In full agreement I quote Psalm 119:97, 103-104:

Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.
How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way.

How grateful I am to the Lord for giving me the ministry of studying and teaching His Word! It is truly through the Holy Spirit that I began teaching women's studies in 1983. I am still amazed that an avocation that I love so well, Bible study, is being used to help others know the Lord and His ways better, and apply the Scriptures to their lives. Another huge blessing is that I get to be in fellowship with prayer warriors and students of the Word, seeing each other through the trials of this life, as well as the miraculous acts of deliverance God performs in our behalf! When Jesus is in the midst of His women, a unity and bond are formed that no one can break apart--they have to go through Jesus first! (And Jesus did say of His church, in Matthew 16:18, "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it").

Before we gather, however, there is much to be done here at home! Email and Facebook invitations, forming my lesson contact list for emailing--I was up last night until 11:00 p.m. with that task! The beauty of the age we live in is that once the ladies got paper copies of the first week's lesson to peruse last Thursday, from now on I'll email them to all but the few who can't print them out or have no computers. Lots of emailing directions to our hostess' home in Moreno Valley are needed, also phone calls to set up a carpool or caravan for our Riversiders. But no complaints here. Just knowing that women want the Word of God blesses and energizes me immeasurably!

Notes in Bibles by Chuck Smith and Victor P. Hanson, and commentaries by Vernon McGee and Matthew Henry make for an exciting beginning of my Bible study week. As the Holy Spirit causes the lesson to rumble around in my head, tailoring the message to my women, and convicting me in areas that need to be brought to the throne of grace, the message takes shape. A final review early Thursday morning allows for concepts that had not been present in my earlier study times. The Lord will add what He wants to the lesson--and subtract what is not needed.

Just as He does in my life!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Problem solved

4:05 p.m. Today's project was to ask for prayer on a few key issues that came up in my life. I had kept them to myself for a day, praying and secretly crying over them and seeing what the Lord would say, as opposed to dwelling on the comments of people. I followed Jesus' advice in regard to fasting for this period of mourning over injustice, so although I was rather low-key and kept a bit more to myself around the house, I made a good dinner for Steve and Heidi: leftover roast pork in a curry sauce with cornbread and honey from the Ilies' hives.

When you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Matthew 6:16-18)

One thing I noticed was the way God sent encouraging people my way the entire day yesterday, within minutes of feeling devasted, amazingly. The first few were in person, some on the phone, others through email and Facebook. Encouragement came on all topics including Vacation Bible School, helps ministry, and my daughter's friend's mission to China. God even gave me a blessed time of study and preparation in I Samuel chapter 2. So much fun and excitement, peeling back the layers of the Word of God, realizing how much instruction for godly living is to be found in following the lives of Hannah and Samuel!

Awakening this morning after a very restful sleep, but still finding myself at a rather low point, I decided to share the crushing blows I'd received with Steve, and really broke down and wept. We prayed together and then continued on with our devotions. Then, after baring my heart to the Lord in writing, I ate, went upstairs and returned my prayer partner's phone call. How fitting that she is a lay counselor, so her wisdom was very apt and reassuring! We prayed for one another's issues as we do weekly.

I then received an answer to a prayer I'd placed before my FB friends on an entirely different topic!! I truly "went on my way rejoicing,"(like the saved eunuch in Acts 8:39), and organized meals for a family at church with medical issues while strolling through Vons. So today became an excellent time of fellowship and meeting others' needs.

God met my needs, both to give and receive, as only He can!

Problem solved!

Monday, June 14, 2010

God's creativity

3:30 p.m. Today's project was to organize the summer session of Heart to Home with three home arts offerings.
"What's old is new again," the saying goes, or, as Solomon stated, "There's nothing new under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 1:9). "Chocolates Galore," "Rosie's Mexican Cooking" and "Acrylic Painting" were huge hits in recent years. As church administrator Marianne and I agreed, once we have a template for the year of Tuesday night classes, it's easy to prepare the Sunday bulletin insert.
On my way out of the church office, I was stopped by Pastor Sammy and his wife Ivett, telling me about the fun they had being the decoys for Pavel's surprise marriage proposal in his and Heidi's 5th & 6th grade classroom. They had called her out of class and kept her busy with small talk while Pavel and the kids prepared the event. Can't wait to see the video shot by Pastor Mark's son! Ivett also gave me the names of three ladies who can create artwork for my pre-school VBS Bible Center. That's a relief, since neither Heidi nor I have a talent for backdrops or prop creation!

Heidi's friend and bridesmaid is at our computer, getting advice on the curriculum she'll be using to teach English in China. Seems to be similar to the Language! program both Heidi and I taught in Jurupa Unified. What a glorious opportunity to share culture and maybe even her life experiences with her students! That's one long trip...but the Lord put it on her heart to go, and has made all arrangements and finances come together. "Where God guides, He provides," Calvary Chapel founder Chuck Smith always says!

I continually marvel at the way God gives remarkable creative skills and desires to individuals, from gardening and building, like Pavel's family does on their 2 acres, creating intricate gourmet food and desserts, teaching academics to children or adults, writing, composing and playing music, painting or preaching--it's all God's creative handiwork!
As I take in the colors, aromas and anticipate the taste of the vegetables pictured above, enjoy fresh eggs from the Ilies' hens, and will soon slather their bees' honey on cornbread, I look forward to joining with the worshipers in Revelation 4:11 who sing,
You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Joy and joyas!

6:36 p.m. Today's project was to visit Heidi's fiance Pavel's family in the western La Sierra neighborhood of Riverside. Both of us sets of parents were eager to meet and enjoy the people who raised our children in the Lord. I love the way the Lord is working in Heidi and Pavel's lives, so they can say with David in Psalm16:5-8:

O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup;

You maintain my lot.

The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;

Yes, I have a good inheritance.

We had had a very exciting weekend already. Pavel came over on Friday to get our permission to ask for Heidi's hand in marriage. When he texted earlier that afternoon to see if Steve and I would be home at 4 o'clock, this experienced mother of the bride knew what was up!

When Pavel came in, I invited him to join us in the living room. He opened up his heart and asked us both if he could propose to Heidi! So exciting, and the right thing to do; Heather's husband Nick did the same thing 2-1/2 years ago. Steve gave him an immediate thumbs-up, but I said "Let's build up a little suspense!" and we pretended to be consulting with one another. After the requisite "grilling" about where and how they planned to live, his future career plans and adjustments for his serious eye disease, we of course said "yes." We moved on to discuss children they want to have. Then, of course, we put our heads together to figure out how he'd keep a surprise element in his proposal. (Like me, Heidi doesn't surprise well--we figure things out). We decided that it would have to happen in the course of everyday life, in a place where Heidi normally would be.

Lo and behold, after third service, the lovebirds burst in the door full of thrill and energy...Heidi wearing her stunning Tacori ring! Pavel had had Pastor Sammy ask Heidi to meet with him. In the meanwhile, the kids and Pavel had banners ready, and one of Pastor Mark's sons had the video camera set. Pavel even went down on one knee and proposed there in the 5th&6th grade Sunday School class! Too precious! I can't wait until the CD is ready.

After I took some "ring" pictures and posted them on Facebook, of course (!) we went off to Pavel's home. What a gardener's and orchard keeper's paradise! And the Romanian hospitality, hilarious conversation and many building projects kept us all very relaxed, blessed and perfectly compatible. The barbecued pork and chicken were fantastic, and lots of salad and yummy desserts served to order with coffee ended a lovely afternoon. We left with gifts, too: a basket of fresh eggs, cheesecake, apple pie and lots of grilled pork. Rodica and her daughters like the Mary Kay goody bag I brought, too.

All in all, I agree with the Psalmist, that despite our trials, today's events showed me that indeed, "The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places."

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Time to get real

5:12 p.m. Today's project was to drive to San Dimas to listen to a vacation ownership--timeshare-- presentation and return with vouchers for the two of us to fly free anywhere in the continental United States, and also have the free 7-day use of a rental car. Those prizes are always welcome, but the third "bonus," 2 days and nights in Las Vegas, we can take or leave, because we neither drink nor gamble! Of course, a couple of days away anywhere are welcome.

We once owned a timeshare with the same RCI network, but it was a different company, back when we were both at the peak of our incomes. Even though we had kids in college and in the last most expensive years of high school, we managed it fine. But, we ended up selling it because we only used it about 4 times--our work schedules and the kids' school demands had us pretty tied up. Doesn't it seem like when you have money, you have no time, and when you have time, you have no money? One of the ironies of life! Makes me glad to know that this world is not our home!! In heaven, we will have no shortage of time to do what we love best: staying in the presence of God, loving and praising Him in fellowship with all of the saints, "out of every tribe, and tongue and nation" (Revelation 5:9).

As the salesman reviewed our travel experiences and preferences, Steve and I acknowledged how grateful we are to be well-traveled, whether as part of school board conventions around California and the country, long road-trips with our kids, anniversary trips to Hawaii and Alaska, mission trips to Wales and England, or most recently, camping in the western states in our RV. We fully know the advantages of ready-to-enjoy timeshare suites, too. We had a very frank discussion of the expense of taking the RV, gas especially, and KOA campground fees. Not to mention the monthly payment!

When we got to the point of looking at numbers, and Steve and I saw the very reasonable "today only" figures, including one-time or annual fees, we realized that it would be about 1/4 of our monthly RV payment! In all fairness, the RV does give us a mortgage interest refund at tax time, no small figure. But I guess the timeshare would too, now that I'm looking back on our past ownership. What to do?
When Steve and I sat alone for awhile to talk it over, some more issues came to light that really don't concern money. Steve can no longer drive because his Alzheimers has robbed him of logic and judgment along with his memory. I enjoy driving, but I physically dread even the 7 1/2 hour drive up to Fresno and Shaver Lake that we took last summer and are semi-committed to for this August. That is a Ford F-450 V-10 truck, plus the motorhome! And unfortunately, Steve tends to disrupt my concentration with irrelevant remarks and directives that are the complete opposite of the moves I need to make on the road, often mistaking the number of a freeway we need to go on and yelling, "Take that offramp!" or some such. I have actually asked him to sit in one of the other seats in the RV, just for the sake of my concentration. And I don't share directions with him any more, even in the Jeep, because the information gets jumbled.
Not much companionship, is it? Companionship is the reason we bought the RV in the first place. I took over the driving after our last trip with our grandsons to Yellowstone and through the Rockies, because we had so many brake-slammings, u-turns, missed offramps and generally dangerous driving that I as "co-pilot" was exhausted! Steve literally was just mechanically operating the vehicle, not driving. "Driving" calls for a huge number of skills, like planning ahead, knowing your next exit, safe lane-changes, pacing your distances between stops, reading the movements of other drivers, and total awareness of surroundings. The skill-set, extensive though it may be, is automatic for experienced drivers.
We also enjoyed the "moving workshop" aspect of the RV, with Steve's 40 year maintenance background making it a perfect fit as a retirement hobby. The confusion is now setting in for fairly simple tasks, or it takes several weeks to solve a problem. Not usually an issue, because we don't take it out but every few months. However, he gets very stressed -out, bummed, and I can't be of any help other thatn to drive us to Giant RV for parts. Maybe it's time to sell the RV, a heartbreak for Steve, even though he is thinking the same way. I'll miss it too.
Steve and I didn't buy the vacation package today, but the Lord used the appointment to expand our thinking to other changes we need to make now that we have a clearer picture of our fixed retirement income. The timeshare offer was good, very good, but the RV would have to be sold fast, and that didn't happen last year when we had it on the market.
With God, every day is new and fresh as we bring our concerns to Him. We will wait on Him in this matter, as with all others.
We will be "casting all our care upon Him, for He cares for us." (I Peter 5:7, paraphrased )

Friday, June 11, 2010

Quite a day!

3:20 p.m. Today's project was to take Steve to Parkview Hospital's Ambulatory Surgery Center by 10:00 a.m. for an age 50+ routine colonoscopy. He had done very well with the prep process, unlike myself a few years back. This could have been either because of the more streamlined process, only one gallon of solution to drink, as opposed to two or three different items I had to to consume, or, because he has a perfectly normal digestive system. I suspect the latter!
When we arrived right on the dot, the center was very crowded. We signed in, and I gave the receptionists some Mary Kay lipstick samples, as I always like to do. I filled out tons of paperwork, Steve signed and initialled them, and we waited about 3 hours, during which I was reading A Light to My Path, a novel by Lynn Austen about Civil War-era slaves from South Carolina who come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ through their brutal trials and eventual emancipation. When I first began the latest book my reading buddy Charlotte loaned me, the descriptions of the slaves' beatings and degradation were so graphic [for me, the queen of squeamishness, anyway!] that I put the book down for a few days. I then felt compeeled to give it another try. As the narrative picked up more of an adventurous tone and the characters developed further, I really got into it. Tears flowed rather easily, because I realized that I am only 4 generations of my family away from slavery. What courage, stamina and faith my ancestors showed, on both of my parents' sides of the family, Mississippi for Daddy, North Carolina for Mommy. So while Steve watched tv, I was very well occupied.
While Steve's procedure took place, I got good exercise walking around the perimeter of the hospital to the cafeteria to purchase lunch for me and Steve both, since he'd be ravenous after 24 hours of juice and Jello fasting. The tuna salad I had was just the way I like it--NO SWEET PICKLE--and Steve enjoyed the ham and cheese sandwich on our way home. No complications, just a smooth procedure, praise the Lord! How wonderful that Jesus goes out ahead of His people, His sheep, in every situation! In John 10:3b-4, Jesus alludes to Himself as our Shepherd:
"...the sheep hear [the shepherd's]voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice." There is no one I trust like I trust Jesus!
Just before we left to come home, I got a very curious text message from Heidi's boyfriend Pavel asking if Steve and I were going to be home at 4 p.m. lips are sealed for now, I'll keep you posted!!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A new study

4:10 p.m. Today's Project was to carpool over to our first summer women's Bible study of 2010 at Debbie Snyder's house. So exciting! Studying and preparation began a few months ago, including printing up the lessons, hot off the press from my editor Esther Balos. I had reminded all of my study regulars and invited many other friends by email and FB, and couldn't wait to see what God was going to do.

I got up at 6:30 to have my regular devotions and Bible study time, currently in the book of Micah, and to post Psalm 78:5 (God's command to Israel teach His laws to their children) on Facebook. Since Steve needed to begin his fruit juice and Jello fast before his colonoscopy tomorrow, I thought I'd let him sleep in later. The fewer hours you have to be hungry, the better!

Debbie, a friend I met through my daughter Heather and husband Nick, came over a little before 9:30 to ride along. She was taking a huge step of faith, because she had never attended a Bible study of any kind! We chatted and waited for one long-time friend from Harvest, who had mentioned that she needed to drive herself, and would follow us because she has a grandbaby due any moment. We left about 9:40.

Everything looked wonderful at Debbie Snyder's, as we began the 3rd year at her home, 5th year so far. She had muffins and drinks for us. Jenny and Cindy were already there, and we were soon joined by Theresa, Karen, Michelle and Bobbi. Charlotte is on vacation, Joyce has this last day of teaching, Cindy B had a dentist appointment, and Malinda has repairs going on at her home. We are expecting some more teachers, including my daughter Heidi, and a couple of moms just about finished babysitting for their teacher daughters! It was a nice mix of "ages and stages."
One by one, we introduced ourselves, ending with me. I told the women that this was the first Bible study I wrote, 1985, I think, and it was a direct result of the reflective note-taking I did in my quiet time--not the time I spent preparing to teach my home Bible study, or for a session at Harvest. Quiet time is the key! Theresa chimed in very powerfully, saying, "There is no growth or spiritual depth without personal devotions, digging into the Word for yourself." Amen to that, we all agreed.
As I told the women during the introduction to I Samuel, when I teach a book of history, I like to go back to the book(s) before it. I touched briefly upon Ruth, for the genealogy of David, and the human family of Jesus, but we talked quite a bit about the Book of Judges to set the tone for
I Samuel. For the first eight chapters of the book, Israel is still in the era of judges, charismatic leaders who would rise up to deliver God's people from the enemies the Lord allowed--or sent--to afflict them for their idolatry. In a rollercoaster cycle that many Christians experience in their own lives, the Israelites were in a victory-disgrace-victory-disgrace cycle that would leave them with intermittent peace for 10, 20 or 40 years. I handed out small maps of the areas the tribes were assigned by Moses, but sadly, because they did not drive out their enemies as commanded, the land of promise was only partially theirs by the time our book opens.
With spiritual and physical warfare, the transition to the monarchy, and the thrill of worship and answered prayer, this book of Bible history is anything but dull. We will see many many parallels to our Christian walk while "living" through developments in the key players' lives.
When we look at Israel today, in peril once again from her surrounding enemies, we see that "what goes around, comes around." Our study in I Samuel is as new as tomorrow's headlines!
There is no "news" to our eternal God!
And with the challenging, convicting, yet refreshing presence and voice of the Holy Spirit, the next months of study will be life-changing!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Avoidance as policy

1:35 a.m. Today's project was to call Dewey Pest Control and get them over to our house in response to a foul smell exuding from Heidi's room up in the top corner, under the roof. The crawl space is over her room, poor girl! But she's getting married next year and her room will become yet another guest bedroom/storage room for us.

We were delighted to see our regular rat man here with his ladder after just a couple of hours. Gabriel is very cheerful and does a quick, neat job. He comes once a month for maintenance, but he wasn't due for a week or so. The stench was mild, but in this heat, ooh! It would have gone bad fast! The rats travel over to the roof on the large branches of our Silver Dollar Eucalyptus trees. Before Gabriel even got here, Steve had cut down three massive branches using a 15 foot long pole saw with wicked blades on the end. When I came back from an errand, he was already chopping up the branches and putting them in the green waste dumpster.

After a time upstairs with Gabriel, Steve came down to the kitchen for a plastic grocery bag, signifying at least one dead rat requiring removal. Yes!! See, the crawl space is "where they come to die" because they can't get out. (And they say rats are smart! Guess not!) All I said to Steve was, "Don't let me see it or smell it." The rat was successfully removed from our property.

Unless it was in a pet store, I've never seen a rat--and I don't intend to start now at age 58. I know I'd have nightmares. It really is funny, because I lived out in the country in Colorado in the '70s, and even with going into neighbors' root cellars with them to get potatoes or canned goods, I never saw one. You can call me squeamish, that's fine. I almost threw up at the sight of what I think was a cockroach a few years ago, but gathered my strength to smash it and call Steve for cleanup! Poor thing was probably an innocent cricket...

Right now, we have a small gnat invasion in our avocado forest by the kitchen window, but I've set up the "Flypod" and scores have gotten trapped already. Goody. Must be the moisture from all of that potting soil drawing them, who knows? But I don't care to coexist with them!

Some situations we are best to avoid, such as the sexual temptation that Joseph experienced in Genesis 39:11-13, when his boss' wife demanded that he sleep with her, but he ran outside instead. Earlier, he had said to her, "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" If you know you'll get carried away at a sale, sisters, stay away from Kohls!! (I speak from experience, getting a grip on myself in the housewares department one day only when I realized that I didn't even have room for the pretty completer set that went with some decorative porcelain trays I was buying!) And it's not just women--the big screen tvs at Best Buy look pretty alluring to my husband!
Some avoidance is wise, helpful, and prudent. But when avoidance turns to denial and we don't go to the the doctor over serious illness, a strange lump, digestive issues, or even allergy attacks that temporarily stop our breathing, it's just foolish and dangerous. God gives us the signal of pain to get our attention and cause us to take action or ask for help.
Emotional and mental avoidance/denial are equally deadly to our spiritual wellbeing, personal relationships, and ability to pray and worship God with our whole heart. Whom do we think we are hiding from, anyway? God knows everthing about us, including our sins, and our every thought before we think it!! And He loves His children anyway!! Psalm 139:1-4 says,
O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
There is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.
In verse 7, the Psalmist David asks, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?" The obvious answer, from before the foundation of the world and on to all eternity is, "NOWHERE!"
Far from causing me to feel distraught and desperate, I find vast comfort in knowing that I cannot get off into a spiritual crawlspace and try to hide with my "secret" sin! I'd be trapping myself like those nasty rats, wouldn't I? Why not just come out into the Sonshine of my Heavenly Father's presence, run into his waiting arms with confession of my sin, and receive the comfort of His never-failing forgiveness?
As the radio commercial says, "It's a no-brainer!"

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Waiting game

2:05 p.m. Today's project is to wait on the prognosis for Pavel, our future son-in-law. He was initially diagnosed with low vision due to dry macular degeneration, but a more knowledgeable opthamalogist determined the condition is retinal dystrophy, which can lead to blindness. Therapeutic contact lenses are helping, along with very high-grade Shaklee eye health supplements. Heidi believes his deterioration is leveling off. We hope so.

The 7:15 examination in Baldwin Hills, with Kaiser's top eye specialist, will determine the extent of eventual blindness and its progression. Lord, let it not be so, I pray! Many family and friends are in prayer today, and we are all so grateful for their love and diligence to bring Pavel before God's throne in supplication!
Of course, right now I am on pins and needles, so grateful not to just be sitting here weeping uncontrollably. Naturally, as a mother I want to hear the results from my Heidi right now, but she and Pavel may not even be out of the consulting room yet. And I need to realize that the two of them will need to process the news first privately--that's only right. The next tier of sharing will be with his parents and us.
As I look at the lovely picture of those two, I am thinking of their wedding at Kimberly Crest in Redlands where the picture was taken. There are so many implications a poor diagnosis would bring! Should the wedding take place over a year from now as planned? Last night, when Heidi and I both confessed that we are scared, I said, "We'll have to be sure Pavel sees you in your gown, so he'll always have that memory." She agreed, but we'll wait and see. Wait on the diagnosis, then see what God actually allows to happen.
The difference between prognosis and God's intervention has happened to so many believers and their families that I could write several messages from my 30 years as a Christian alone!! God is not limited by anything any specialist says, because as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego told Nebuchadnezzer as they prepared to step into the fiery furnace, "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us..." HE IS ABLE, there is no doubt in any believer's mind. But God does work with the laws of nature that He set into motion, and sometimes Christians are given, or allowed, difficult trials and devastating diseases. I am a cancer survivor myself, and my husband Steve's Alzheimer's is advancing daily-- slowly, but despite all medical, behavioral and "natural health" approaches, his disease is advancing. No sense being in denial.
Heidi just texted me that there is no news yet. Steve and I have a big sub sandwich from Albertsons ready if they come by in time for dinner, but they may stop at his parents and then come here. I pray that God's love and peace will pour over all of our hearts! Pavel's family are also born-again Christians, who attend Harvest. We will share comfort and assurance from both of our long marriages, having gained spiritual strength from the many trials all families
The Lord led me to call Pavel's mom just now, and we had a very blessed conversation. The two of us shared the dreams we have for our children --they have five children, 3 boys and two girls also! We wholeheartedly agree that our Heidi and Pavel are a "match made in heaven." Steve and I will be meeting Rodica and Constantine for the first time on Sunday afternoon at their "ranchito," I guess you'd call it, in the La Sierra neighborhood in west Riverside. They raise chickens and turkeys, and she supplies me with fresh eggs each week. They have an orchard and Constantine raises bees. We just received a jar of orange blossom honey yesterday, yum! I'll also pick Rodica's brains about my tomatoes, and perhaps we can set a date to have Pavel's dad help Steve repair our fence. They're our kind of people!!
Heidi just texted me, and the diagnosis seems to be retinitis pigmentosa, where there's a worsening every ten years, rather than a steady decline. Perhaps that is a bit of good news, but I'll know more when she and Pavel get here!
Whatever the outcome, we have raised our daughter to know and trust God, and to go forward in Jesus' Name, for He said, in Hebrews 13:5, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Monday, June 7, 2010

Now hear this!

2:01 p.m. Today's project was to pick up my new cute glasses from the optometrist our family has been using, Dr. Pabalan. My friend Sherri is the optician there. The location on 14th and Brockton is right in the neighborhood where I needed to run another errand. We had a good time of sharing, and I will be praying for her, and she for me!

This seems to be a 24 hour period of notifying people, believers and unbelievers alike, of signs I see of the spiritual demise of our national conscience. I would hardly fashion myself as a "watchman" as God called the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 33:2,6,7), at least no more than all believers are commanded to be! Late last night, I shared a GodTube video on my Facebook page that showed in a very dramatic fashion the number of abortions being performed daily in our country-- 1 every 24 seconds, 3,600 daily. 50 million abortions from 1973-2009. 1 out every 5 babies is now aborted. 2 out of every 5 African-American babies are aborted. Abortion is now our nation's number one killer, above all diseases and accidents. I am seriously considering joining the Abortion Blackout by wearing black on Fridays, the goal of which is to end abortion by 2010. By the way, less than 1% of abortions were the result of rape or incest, if you are one to seek exceptions...may the Lord lead!

At 9:00 this morning, I let my friends know that KTIE AM 590, a conservative talk radio staion out of San Bernardino, featured Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, urging Americans to contact our elected officials to support Congressman Pete King's bill supporting Israel. We know that the American people see Israel as an ally, and know it is right to support them--witness the 50-year veteran White House correspondent taking immediate retirement after the fallout from her racist, anti-Semitic remarks over the weekend. We're not waiting for action from the "top"-- we the people will defend Israel ourselves!

Listen to Psalm 122:6-8:

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem;
"May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
Prosperity within your palaces."
For the sake of my brethren and companions,
I will now say, "Peace be within you."

God told Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3:

I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you and make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you shall all nations of the earth be blessed.

Through Abraham came my Savior, Jesus Christ--and I will never forgtet my gratitude to the faith of that nation God chose for Himself!

Not all of my notifications were of a negative, warning nature in this time period. I sent out invitations to about 350 women to join the summer Bible study I will be teaching starting on this Thursday the 10th. We will be studying I Samuel, and enjoying the written lessons God gave me 2 decades ago, and which, due to the invention of the PC, are now in Microsoft Word format and accessible through email to all of them if they can't attend regularly!

On an even more exciting note, I mentioned to two checkers at Vons that I had been at a women's retreat over the weekend. (Any subject I can use to open up conversation about the Lord is good for me!!) It turned out they are both Christians, taking their cue from the customer first, obviously, but they were familiar with both the Murrieta conference center and the Twin Peaks location. One even shared about a small "girl's group" she has as part of their church's womens ministry. This particular checker took me aside in an embrace and whispered to me, shaking her head and on the verge of tears, "Please pray for my son_____; he used to walk with the Lord..." I let her know that I understood. Oh, how many of us moms understand her agony and pain. Then, on the outside of the store, an elderly gentleman spoke with me about his evangelistic ministry. Bless his heart--it was inching up to 100 degrees out there on the asphalt! You know what compels this wizened old man? He quoted to me Hebrews 9:27, "For it is appointed to man once to die, and then the judgment."

God is truly pulling out all of the stops to get His saving work done in these last times! Are you on His side? God is not fooling around! He says what He means and means what He says. You must be born again," Jesus said in John 3:7. ARE YOU BORN AGAIN?

And for believers--ARE YOU TESTIFYING OF GOD'S WORK IN YOUR LIFE? Is there a brother or sister in the Lord who needs your encouragement right now, but will never get it, because they don't even know you're saved?

And you backsliders, come back now, right now! You know Christ, and you are miserable without Him. Repent, come back, be loved and received by any Christian you know--just do it!

Just watch and see what God will do in your life!

Saturday, June 5, 2010


4:41 p.m. Today's project was to lead a workshop at our women's retreat entitled "Pulled in

Many Directions--Pointed in just One." The byline was "Multi-task Building," in line with the theme, "A wise woman builds her house; a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands." (Proverbs 14:1) Our director of women's ministries, Robin, asked me to take on that workshop because she felt that I pretty much exemplify multi-tasking! With my large and very diverse family, trials, and ministries, there was no point in disagreeing!!

After two nights of little sleep and large digestive battles, I was blessed by Saturday morning's general session on practical building of our relationship with God. During a lull in the session I re-read the workshop leader instructions and came upon this point: "Workshops are more instructional, but participants should play an active role." Uh-oh! I had been picturing more of a facilitation and guidance of discussion based on my handout the women would be filling out, not teaching! I love to teach God's Word, but in the hecticness of staying out of town Thursday night, and the aforementioned lack of sleep, I had missed a rather key point! So I was able to add scriptures from Haggai, Matthew and Luke that referred to building the Lord's way and making Him our top priority.

After lunch, the women arrived at our very comfy assigned area in the lobby, with couches and coffee tables, perfect for relaxed, non-threatening discussion. After greeting each one, I opened in prayer and gave my testimony. I reiterated the topic, and then shared the background of Haggai 1:9, that the returned exiles from Babylon, now in Judah, were busy building their own palatial houses, but neglecting the building of God's house, the Temple at Jerusalem.

You hoped for rich harvests, but they were poor. And when you brought your harvest home, I blew it away. Why? Because my house lies in ruins, says the LORD of Heaven's Armies, while you were busy building your own fine houses.

I pointed out that we get very busy going our own way, don't we? Are we sometimes guilty of putting God at the bottom of our "to-do" list? We then reflected on building on a firm foundation, Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus' story of the wise builder whose house was built on a rock, and the foolish builder whose house was founded on sand. Our lives need to be built on The Rock, Jesus Christ!

On the handout each woman filled out, between her and the Lord, where she stood on the major relationships of life: God; family (name each member); work, inside or outside the home; ministry. They ranked each area "doing well," "needs improvement," or "struggling."

They had several minutes to fill the forms out, and then I openly shared relationships that were doing well (The Lord, family relationships, ministry) and needs improvement (my new "work" as a retiree caring for Steve and walking the fine line between spouse/companion and caretaker). My openness paved the way for them to share very honestly about where most of them lack--time spent in reading and studying God's Word.

I threw in comments as needed, but the women taught themselves as they began to reflect on the point I wanted them to come to: the success of a Christian's life in ALL areas is directly in proportion to the time each of us devotes to seeking the truths of God's Word on our own, alone with Him before our day begins! I consider my personal time with the Lord beyond precious, exciting and invigorating--it's my time with the One who will always love me unconditionally!!

As we discussed the question "Are my priorities in order?" most admitted that theirs weren't--again, pure honesty! "What areas of my life lack the quality of commitment and time they
deserve?" More frank answers, showing tender conviction in the gals' hearts! And finally, the tough question every Christian faces: "What would the Lord ask me to change in my spiritual life, schedule, or commitments?" The only way to get the answer is to spend some intimate time with the Lord in reading the Bible and prayer.

We ended with the concept of "counting the cost" found in Luke 14:27-30. Yes, you will undoubtedly have to get up earlier, or find another definite pocket of time in your day to get alone with God, if you sincerely desire for Him to rebuild your life!

We may be pulled in many directions, but we must be pointed in only One!