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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Summer's last study


5:58 p.m. Today's project was to drive Steve over to Redlands to trim trees at my father's house. Getting up by 6 a.m., having our normal devotions, and hitting the road by 8:30 wouldn't have been a problem except that I got very little rest due to sleep difficulties, more like sleep terrors, Steve was having. I'm not sure the episodes are caused by Alzheimers or exacerbated by the disease, but it made for a difficult morning. Thank you, Lord, for large mugs of coffee!
I dropped Steve off and headed back home, via Clarke's Nutrition in Loma Linda to pick up some PS [incredibly long name], a supplement that makes quite a difference in Steve's demeanor and reasoning. I am hoping that resuming PS will bring positive results. I also picked up a cherry-lime 0 sugar, 0 calorie energy drink, because I was fading fast. Of course, I sat for twenty minutes on the 215/91/60 flyover bridge on the way back home in a massive traffic jam, so it was quite a morning! Yet, on this sunny day, I remember that "This is the day that the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24) Ah, on to my nap!!

My choices for the afternoon, after depositing book money from his grandpa into Steven's bank account, getting my husband a haircut, were to can some Roma tomatoes or work on my I Samuel Chapter 13 study for Thursday. I sat down to the writing, spurred on by the fact that it's the last one for the summer, with a potluck fellowship next Thursday. What a blessed summer! We have had a well-attended women's study, written lessons done in person by 15-20 gals, and 63 women did the studies online!

A group of 63 women makes quite a leap from the five of us who began together in the book of Colossians 5 summers ago at Barb McConaghy's house! God truly gave the increase as His Word, prayer, and konoinia have exemplified our gatherings and lifted His Name high. I'm praying as to providing childcare next year...

One reason I need to bring the study to a halt is a major writing project, my Galatians study now in the editing phase. It's simply too much to set aside blocks of time for writing lessons to teach and give thorough attention to corrections needed back to my editor by September 15th. I am also keeping in mind that I retired to care for Steve, who, to this point, is still fairly independent. But I'd like to have a few more "open" days like I did earlier in the year, to enjoy one another's company.

We also have an engagement party on September 11th, and wedding tasks for my daughter Heidi will begin to mount up. And I want to be a helpful mother-of-the-bride, ready for any errand or responsibility. My excitement is building weekly for Heidi and Pavel's wedding, and I don't want a stressed, harried bride with no "mom-support" in my home or on my conscience!
Amazingly, I actually finished the writing of the study this afternoon, to God be the glory! Normally it's finished on Wednesday. When the Lord tells you to move on, He expects you to move on, and helps your feet to get moving! More confirmation came by email--my editor Brianna had sent me my book with corrections ready for me to work on right away!!
Isn't it wonderful how the Lord, "who declares the end from the beginning," (Isaiah 46:10 ) is always on to the next thing? Time for me to take a deep breath and "move on!!"
P.S. The lovely view of the dome of the Library of Congress came from a CitizensUnited commemorative calendar. "Lord, teach me to number my days, that I may apply a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90:12)

Monday, August 30, 2010

With some reluctance




6:19 p.m. Today's project was to spend a quiet day at home with Steve, taking care of business issues while he managed the care of the garden, yards and dogs. In between these matters, I enjoyed editing this week's homework for the Bible study on I Samuel 13. King Saul's presumptuous offering of a sacrifice without waiting for the prophet Samuel cost him his kingdom!

Panic, haste, and lack of trust in God are often the ingredients that our enemy stirs around in a wicked soup that can lead to a believer's undoing! "Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass," Psalm 37:5 tells us. And what we commit to God, we are not to take back!

Last Saturday, we recieved a letter informing us that our credit union sold the RV we turned in voluntarily in July, for less than half of what it's worth, and now they want us to pay them back for the balance! I wonder if they grasp why we turned it in in the first place. I explained to them once again, that Steve's Alzheimers and my retirement to care for him has led to a drastic loss of income. We have been diligently praying as well as taking prudent steps: we put the vehicle up for sale, advertised over the last year at our very visible house, for the full amount of the loan. But no one could find credit, even though we had many who came to see it. We advertised with pictures in the Press Enterprise and Craigslist. We also applied repeatedly for a hardship modification from the credit union. Even though they solicited the application, they turned us down because we hadn't owned the RV for very long.

I went into a temporary panic mode, thinking of pulling equity from our rental property, or using up our annuity and TSA, but the Lord reminded me of the need to trust Him. (Especially after I had exhorted the women at last Thursday's study to do the same, not to fall back on a less-than- stellar record of panic and haste when a giant trial looms!) Sure didn't take long for a test to come, did it?

When I called the credit union, they were very sympathetic, but I also challenged them to "sharpen their pencils" in some aspects of the balance, mainly the amount we had made in payments over 2 1/2 years. We actually were current in our payments when I drove the RV over and gave them the keys. The gentleman said, "I know it's hard for folks now. Let us know how much you can pay until things turn around." I said, "Things won't turn around. My husband will not be going back to work, like a person who isn't working because of the economy, and I don't think I will be either. But we'll look at everything we are already trying to keep up with, and call you back. And we're praying."
I'm sure my teary call wasn't the best way to start the man's day, but truth is truth, and right now, the truthful facts are not pretty. But the Lord is greater still--like last night when we received $100 in cash in an envelope--a refund we were not expecting--just as we entered our church's sanctuary! And tomorrow, my dad will be paying Steve to trim some trees at his home in Redlands.
Jesus said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you," (Hebrews 13:5). We can expect a just resolution, "For He is faithful who promised." (Hebrews 10:23).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Let in the light! Part II


1:36 p.m. Today's project was to bless people at church. I made sure that we got up early and left the house by 9:15, so we'd have at least 15 minutes to give away our gifts.

Last Thursday, a lady from my Bible study gave me a lovely package for our pastor's son Joel and his wife Ashley who are expecting a baby girl, Finlee, in October. The creator of the gorgeous multicolored crocheted blanket did not want to be identified. So I needed to find at least one of the Milhouses and deliver the gift. It sure was nice getting to church early and fellowshipping with friends instead of scurrying in late (or barely on time). The last three weeks, I was beginning to feel that "Lemony Snicket: A Series of Unfortunate Events," could have been posted in our kitchen, we were getting to church so late!
Joel was delighted with the gift and posed for a funny picture, which is already posted on Facebook as promised. But the giveaways had just begun.
I had notified Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley friends that I would be giving away yellow tomatoes between first and second services. So I returned friends' hugs of greeting with a tomato or two from our sackful, catching up with the goings-on in their lives and filling them in on ours. Steve and I also had the opportunity to speak with Greg and Cathy Griffith, former missionaries and church planters in Wales, who are headed out to North Carolina on Wednesday to start a new Calvary. We are excited to see a fresh new work begin in Winston-Salem, and looking forward to this evening's send-off fellowship.
The last of the tomatoes were all given away after second service. Mission accomplished!
Yesterday's experience of clearing away dead vines in the garden presents me with another inspiration: the need for fresh, life-giving water to flow freely to the remaining healthy plants. As Steve and I cleared the deadwood away, we saw that the irrigation furrows were now visible, but not in very good shape. Many of them were clogged and cluttered with plant detritus, fallen, half-eaten, rotted tomatoes, leaves, roots and clumps of soil. The shape of the furrows had become dull instead of sharply defined like they started out.
We often begin our Christian lives like newly dug furrows: sharp and sharply defined, acting in sharp contrast to others around us. We are filled with the Holy Spirit, and stay refilled through the study of the Word, prayer, and fellowship with other believers. We listen attentively to sermons and Bible studies and drink in the wisdom of experienced believers. We experience amazing deliveries from our trials, because we "ask, seek and knock" continually at our Father's door.
Jesus said in John 4:14, "Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."
When we seriously take Jesus' call to live for Him, the Holy Spirit's living water freely flows through us, and we regularly give it out to other thirsty travelers on life's road through witnessing and sharing, even if we barely have a working knowledge of the Lord, just a small daily supply for ourselves! But we know where the spigot is to get the water flowing again--prayer and the Word of God. We don't hesitate to go refill our supply.
However, if we begin to take the marvelous Christian life for granted, let worldly desires, pursuits and the "debris" of life clutter our way, the stream of Living Water struggles to push through a narrowed canal, or it aimlessly trickles out and around the blockage, not quenching our own or anyone else's thirst. We can find that we've lost direction and purpose altogether!
But there is a cure! Isaiah 55:1 states it, and Jesus quotes it in John 7: 37-39:
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, which those believing in Him would receive...
Let's clear out our furrows, get back to prayer, stay in fellowship, be refreshed by the Word and ask for the refilling of the Holy Spirit!
Hear Jesus in Luke 11:11a, 13
If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone?...If you, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?"

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Let in the light! Part I


3:52 p.m. Today's project was to take advantage of the moderate weather and rid the garden of old dead tomato and cucumber vines as the growing season is gradually closing for the year. I had thought of attending a sorority luncheon in Redlands, but the 30 minute drive bookending the 2 hour get-together would be a lot of time gone away from Steve. Besides, weekdays can become so hectic that Saturday needs to be set apart for time to be together!

The vines are still producing, but the yield is less and the fruit is smaller. Steve and I easily pulled out enough dead sections to fill our green waste dumpster. We picked two bags of both green and ripe tomatoes, peppers, two cantaloupes, a cucumber and tomatillos. These lovely flowering plants now seem to be on a second growth spurt. Wish this little "second wind" had happened the week before the August party...would have saved me a trip to Smart & Final to buy tomatillos for salsa!
As we cleared away dead woody stems and branches, I noticed that a lot more light became available to the healthy plants that remain. I discovered a chili pepper plant that hadn't even grown past seedling stage, as overshadowed as it was. I found unpicked green beans and bell peppers. But my great hope in exposing the remaining plants to more light, is that the nasty, destructive little critters like slugs and worms that love shade will slink away, or burn up in the sun!! Is that mean?
There are so many references to the presence and rightness of "light" in the Bible.
God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. (Genesis 1:3)
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? (Psalm 27:1)
Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart (Psalm 97:11)
Your judgments are like light that goes forth (Hosea 6:5)
I am the light of the world (Jesus said of Himself in John 8:12)
Let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light (Romans 13:12)
For it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6)
The face of Jesus Christ! What a picture, what a comfort to know where to look and whom to look to, when things around us loom dark! That is why Matthew 4:16 reminds those of us who were once lost, "The people which sat in darkness saw great light."
"God is light," I John 1:5 says, "and in Him is no darkness at all." As I look forward to the freshening effects of more sunlight on my vegetables, I think of the ill effects of darkness fleeing! Ephesians 5:13-14 states:
All things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says,
"Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light."
Thank you, Lord!

Friday, August 27, 2010

The upper echelon


3:39 p.m. Today's project was to get my hair done, and prayerfully, sell some Mary Kay products. Every Friday I have Steve load up my inventory cart and a pretty basket containing skincare products. My tax lady Patty told me that every time I demonstrate or publicize my product line, I can claim mileage for taxes. So every week, I apply products while under the hairdryer with conditioner on my head!
Finances have been tight, to say the least, here at home, so I did write in my journal a prayer that I might makes some sales today. I was asking, in essence, that the Lord might create interest in my efforts to advertise the positive effects of my product line; I was not asking God to sell products for me that I neither use nor demonstate! I often quote this favorite,
Proverbs 22:29:
"Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean [obscure] men." (KJV)
"Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before unknown men." (NKJV)
"Do you see any truly competent workers? They will serve kings rather than working for ordinary people." (NLT)
Inspiring and challenging as that verse is, my goal is to sell tons of makeup and skincare to multitudes of everyday women! (The kind that identify with me and I with them).
The salon I patronize, Upper Echelon, is in Moreno Valley near March ARB. I began going there when Ed Vaughn, now in North Carolina, worked there. (In fact, he is the one who kept telling me about Calvary Chapel of Moreno Valley, where we now attend after 22 years at Harvest!) This salon is friendly, full of very talented beauticians and a lively crowd of clients of all ages, races and descriptions. Many of the clients and most of the stylists are customers of mine now!
The owner Chris has a smaller salon in Riverside, so on the rare occasions when my gal Irene can't do me, Chris makes sure to get me set up with Renee or Olivia over there. Styling my hair is no mean feat, because my hair is thick, straightened but kinky at the roots, needs to be both flat-ironed and curled, and my roots grow amazingly fast because of all of the protein I eat. It has been critical for me to develop a small cadre of hairdressers (including two who now work at different salons) who can bring order to the chaos. These ladies are worth their weight in gold!
Friday is potluck day. Robin had brought a fabulous chicken salad that I plan to imitate from her list of ingredients. Earlene's blackeyed pea salad and her grits casserole have been hits at my house. The tamale man comes by on Fridays also, yum, selling pork, chicken or jalapeno-cheese varieties for $1.00 apiece. And I bring in the organic tomatoes. The yellow ones are a real novelty hit with operators and clients alike.
My hairdresser, Irene, has had unusual problems with her health this summer, starting with a burst appendix. Yesterday she had a number of serious tests for other symptoms, but she's hanging in there. Suebabe, generally a laugh riot, has now developed a painful case of plantar fasciitis, perhaps from standing up so long every day, and is simultaneously coping with her boyfriend's terminal cancer. Alisa was widowed after many decades of marriage, but is as pretty and professional as can be. Earlene is encouraging, helpful and very devoted to her church, with a specialty in styling black hair. I don't see Kim too often, but we have in common our desire to eat as naturally as possible. We all pray for one another and support one another during these tough times. Business is slow like it is everywhere. But we can still rejoice in births of grandkids, salon "family" marriages, and grown kids' successes. We enjoy delicious homecooked dishes, take each others' book and sales recommendations, experiment with makeup, and of course, compliment the beautiful results on each patron!
Over the last two decades, I've seen everyone through trials, just as they have encouraged me with Steve's Alzheimers. I have had free rein to open conversations about faith in Christ, and testify with confidence in my Savior's ability to make a way during the darkest of times... He is able! My God is able to deliver me from the fiery furnace, just as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego told King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3:17! And if you put your faith in Him, he'll deliver you too--from the fiery flames of hell!
Thankfully, I've made an appointment to get my 1-1/2 " of roots touched up on September 10, because I wouldn't want to embarass the professionals at Upper Echelon--they've been too good to me!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

This is not a suggestion


6:46 p.m. Today's project was to attend and teach our Thursday morning Bible study. I put a priority on my attending the gathering, because I am privileged to enjoy a room full of women who reflect the love, compassion and commitment that every Christian should have. They have attained the wisdom and knowledge of God's Word that make our discussions of the week's verses--even our various sidebars-- fruitful, encouraging, and eye-opening. Not one of us hesitates to bring forth a thorny or controversial issue, because we know that the answer to any of life's trials or perplexities can be found in the Bible!

"You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word." (Psalm 119:114) and further, in verse 130, the Psalmist continues:

The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple." And don't we want to be led by the Holy Spirit out of our simpleness into having "the mind of Christ" [I Corinthians 2:16] operative in our lives?!

After worship, we go over any questions in the former week's written lesson that individuals have found particularly meaningful. Today we reviewed I Samuel Chapter 11.

After a huge military victory over the Ammonites, the new King Saul was encouraged to kill those enemies who had mocked him earlier, but he turned down his kingly prerogative, saying that no one was to be killed, because it was to be a day of celebration for all of Israel. He acted humbly.

The assignment was to write out the scriptures listed on the subject of Christian humility. We enjoyed good discussion of several verses, and everyone acknowledged that God does want us to be humble, giving Him the glory for every good and perfect thing He does. Then Malinda made a striking point about Micah 6:8:

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

"Do you notice something?" she asked. "This is not a suggestion! It is a command from the Lord, that we walk humbly with Him!"

That got our attention! I think we get so focused on the "biggies," such as the commandments that forbid us to steal, murder, worship idols or commit adultery, that the positive directives that make our Christian walk such an invigorating and exciting journey through life can be minimized in our minds. Despite the fact that we humans have so much to be humble about, we don't find humility very energizing! Our flesh wants to be actively engaged in doing good, and we most certainly are called to aid and bless our fellow man. But how vigorously the enemy works to substitute an expectation of public accolades for the deep, inner satisfaction of hearing God's quiet "well done, good and faithful servant"(Matthew 25:23)!

Lord, help us to seek Your approbation alone, knowing that the world may or may not notice. Let us be at peace either way.

May our fleshly lust for recognition bow before Your requirement to walk as the Word has commanded, humbly with our God!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A little respite, but not for long

4:40 p.m. Today's project was to search, seek, decimate, destroy and kill every last ant on our kitchen counters. Yesterday we saw a moderate number, and dispatched them with Shaklee Basic-G germicide (organic like most everything I use or grow). They are killed on contact because the dilute solution smothers them without leaving a poison residue behind. We had pretty good success yesterday, but got up today to discover even more of the critters! So, we added boiling water from the coffee pot to our arsenal, killing lots of them in the sink and even cooking a fly at the same time. This heat must be slowing the flies down, too. And our sinks and counters are virtually germ-free!

It took half a day of absolute focus-- sweeping, mopping and wiping up every crumb, spraying and boiling the ants, until Steve finally finished them off while I wrote my Bible study in the office. We just were not about to let insects take over the kitchen I work so hard to keep clean for my family! "Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord..." Colossians 3:24 says, so we did!

We have a bit of a respite from the pests now, so we can enjoy dinner as usual, and relax a bit. But we will certainly be on the lookout. How like our Christian life this is! We beat back the enemy's annoying spiritual attacks with prayer, encouragement from others, and resolute effort, and we do receive a rest for a period of time, a sweet reward from our gracious Heavenly Father. Ephesians 6:10-18, the passage on spiritual welfare, tells us to put on the whole armor of
God in order to stand against the wiles of the devil (v.11), as well as wrestle against principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age, and against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (v. 12). We are to be focused, prayerful, resourceful and filled with the Holy Spirit. We are not to fight on our own, but to apply the Word, truth, righteousness, faith, and prayer to win the raging battle!(v. 14-18)

I'm enjoying a respite from a few trials that hit our family in the last couple of months, but I know more difficulties are coming--we live on this earth, don't we? So this time will be wisely used for prayerful preparation, and to pray for others in current trials.

The Christian life is the most joyful and satisfying life known to man this side of heaven, but it is also one of vigilance in prayer and applying the word of God.

II Peter 1:5-7 exhorts us:

...giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self control, to self control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.

And verse 10-11 encourages us:

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things, you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The eventual fulfillment of that promise is worth every trial we will ever endure!!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Our valedictory: what will our life's testimony be?



6:00 p.m. Today's project was to get settled back into our home routine, finishing off outside jobs like spraying flies, chopping down ant-infested dead cornstalks, and treating the dogs with fly ointment early in the day. But mainly, I needed to sit down to write up my notes for Thursday's Bible Study.

In I Samuel 12, the Prophet-priest-judge Samuel addresses the people of Israel after their new king, Saul, led them to a major victory over the evil king Nahash and the Ammonites. Spirits were high, and Saul had his formal coronation. (Ch. 11:15) The shy leader who once hid before being anointed before the people in Chapter 10, as well as the naysayers who asked, "How can this man save us?" are now gone. In their place is a confident king acknowledged by all.

Then the chapter takes a turn as Samuel rises to challenge the people with his own testimony. He had been a public figure since he began serving at the tabernacle at Shiloh under Eli at age 3. He began his service in an era of utter corruption and perversion of the priesthood. Yet Samuel could stand and say to the public, "Here I am. Witness against me before the LORD and before His anointed [Saul]: whose ox have I taken, or whose donkey have I taken or whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed, or from whose hand have I received any bribe with which to blind my eyes? I will restore it to you." (v. 3) Of course the people said Samuel had done none of these things.

Samuel's testimony was of a life of righteousness before God and man.
In II Timothy 4:6-8, the Apostle Paul states as he nears death in a Roman prison:
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only, but to all those who have loved His appearing.
Paul is not boasting--he is glorying in what God has allowed him, "the least of all the saints," (Ephesians 3:8) to accomplish for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. What will my statement, or yours, be as death approaches? That will not be a day for self-congratulation, but a day for serious reflection.
Did I accept Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord?
Did I put Jesus Christ first in all my thoughts and decisions?
Did I love others as I wish to be loved?
Did my service over the years lead others to know Christ as their Savior, or to love Him more as a result?
Did I represent Christ accurately, giving Him the glory for every victory, no matter how small, and conversely,
Did I speedily take responsibility, confess and repent of any and all wrongdoing?
Intense questions--worthy of intense self-examination--while there is still time!




Monday, August 23, 2010

59 years


6:09 p.m. Today's project was to get up at 5:30 in our motel room to go into Chula Vista to support and help our oldest son. Steve and I have had plenty of time on the road the past 5 days, and have enjoyed each other's company in the midst of trials.
After we had some certainty of the outcome, Steve and I drove over to Coronado Island for a little relaxation read: napping, in a shady spot, and then drove over to pick up some pints of Haagen-Daas ice cream, in vanilla almond and coffee flavors, to eat on a bench in front of the Vons on Orange Avenue. We watched the tourists strolling and took advantage of the 2 hours we had on our parking meter. Since the afternoon was young, we had a a smooth ride home, and joy for the Lord's graciousness. It also helped that the Lord had given me a restful night's sleep, on a hard motel mattress with a loud fan blowing on me, no less! (And Steve was resting peacefully with his C-pap, too, praise the Lord!)
When I got home, I reviewed and mostly deleted, a few hundred emails, but re-read one from a fellow Alpha Omicron Pi sorority sister, Bertha "Birdy" Heatley, inviting us for a Panhellenic (All-Greek) luncheon next Saturday. I decided to reply in the affirmative, even though I don't go very often. The event is in Redlands, so I might visit my favorite high school teacher, Mrs. Alexandris, also that day. It also works out that I still have some watermelon sorbet left from the August party to share!
Birdy's email was very moving for another reason entirely. Her husband of 59 years is now receiving palliative--end-stage comfort--care for cancer. 59 years... imagine, they got married the year I was born! That's such a picture of lifetime love and faithfulness. Will they make it to their 60th? That question is for God alone now. Psalm 31:15a calls each one of us to acknowledge that[our] "times are in Your hand." And I can think of no one I trust more that my God. He always does what is best.
Birdy wanted to let all of us know that there's no reason she cannot keep up with some of her duties for our charitable organization, but will have to pass some responsibilities on to others. There's another picture of faithfulness: service to the less fortunate. Birdy's the real deal. I wonder, as our elders begin to pass on into eternity, will we exhibit the same steadfastness and dedication to volunteer work, whether in church or in society at large?
I pray so. The needs have never been greater!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Appreciating the unseen


7:55 p.m. Today's project was to bask in worship and fellowship with God's people, anticipating excellent teaching in the Book of Jude by our pastor. How I needed the Word taught this morning, even if we were late getting there!

Steve and I were late today because of my sleep-deprived poor judgment--that's two nights of broken sleep in a row. My son Kriss in Long Beach mentioned that he's also had a very un-restful week, but no offense, sleep deprivation at 28 is a lot more recoverable than at 59! Steve had not put on his C-pap last night, and when I awoke to the commotion, we had to put it on. When you have a lot of worries--not imagined, but very real--getting up at 1:30 to address a problem is the last thing needed. Pray as I did to return to sleep, and for wisdom with the issues at hand, falling back asleep was very hard. I even made sure to "remind" the Lord that David said in the Psalms, "I will both lie down in peace and sleep, for You alone, Lord, make me dwell safely." and "Lo, You give Your beloved sleep." Of course my new theme verse Proverbs 24:10 came to me as well: "If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small." Lord, give me strength--YOUR strength! was my prayer before I dropped off.

One of my concerns was how to recover enough energy to drive down to Chula Vista to see and support our son. Yet here I sit at a desk in a Motel 6 eating a delicious chicken salad from Vons deli in Murrieta, Steve is on his second sandwich, washing it down with Coke Zero. Our dessert will be their Candy Apple salad. Tomorrow's breakfast comes from our fridge at home and the garden: cantaloupe, cereal, lunch meat, and cheese. But as of the middle of last night, we had no money for the motel, no gas money, and certainly no food money!

What on earth happened? Nothing! But God in heaven heard my cries and acted in His child's behalf!

Stacy, a friend I actually came to know on Facebook and in the blogosphere before we met formally in person (we'd seen each other at Bible study), has an inspiring blog called, "Courage Does not Always Roar," on this blog's reading list. Yesterday she posted II Corinthians 4:16-18:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

God was working invisibly the entire time I fretted and mentally "tried on" a variety of solutions, some of which may have worked. But only God could have been responsible for causing everyone I came into contact with to flow smoothly with His intentions for His kid!

Our trials are not over, and I'll try again tonight to get some sleep, but I'm trusting in the Invisible God who does all things well!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Back on the road


6:01 p.m. Today's project was to return home safely from Fresno. Steve and I had made the 5 1/2 hour trip there to assist our youngest son Steven with his financial aid at the Christian university he attends, Fresno Pacific, and to help him out with repairs to his Jeep.

Thursday night, we went out with Steven and his friend Angela, and returned home for a good night's sleep on the Aerobed. On Friday, we had a few small outings in town and settled back in the apartment to clean up (literally) and address the handling of Steven's speeding ticket. "Let all things be done decently and in order," the Apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 14:40, so his dad and I put Steven's kitchen in order pretty quickly.

John, a friend of Steven's from church, was due at 8 a.m. this morning to remove the power steering pump, so Steven could get an exchange refund on the new part, due to arrive on the Kragens truck at 10:00. As soon as my debit card was credited, Steve and I were planning to hit the road. We were to arise at 7:00 to have our devotions and breakfast.

But last night, Steve had struggles with his C-pap machine, and kept moving it around on his face, causing very loud "whooshing" sounds. The Lord allowed me to go back to sleep each time, in gracious answer to my prayers. At 6 a.m, however, Steve sat up and began tearing off the mask, seeming to be utterly disoriented, as he wakes up even at home some days. My sleep was gone at that point, so I asked him to go ahead and go out to the kitchen table, have his meds and supplements, eat his banana and begin his devotions while I caught a few more winks.

When I went out to the kitchen a while later, I looked in vain for my vitamins. He had taken mine, too! The two sets of supplements were placed on separate napkins next to each of our Bibles like I place them at home. I had no extras, because we were to leave for home.

This was not a good prospect for the long, boring drive home! Since Steve can no longer drive, we can't switch drivers. I found one Shaklee Vitalea multivitamin, posted Psalm 94:17 on Facebook, drank three cups of coffee, and lay down for about 15 minutes awaiting the return of our son and my debit card.

The verse I posted said, "Unless the LORD had been my help, my soul would soon have settled in silence." Pretty apropos for a morning of desperate tiredness; I was actually in too dangerous a condition for driving.

Since I had jolted myself awake with all the caffeine, I decided we might as well take advantage of it. We kissed Steven goodbye, got gas, and I posted a request for my friends to pray us home. Three hours later, in a huge rest area in Lebec, just before entering the Grapevine, I checked in on Facebook and several had pledged to pray. (By the way, the bottle of "5-Hour Energy" I drank only lasted an hour!) My buddy DeAnna sent me a picture message on my cellphone of the group up at Shaver Lake we had hoped to be part of. It made for perfect timing to request prayer from them, too! I fixed a quick lunch for us and napped for about 30 minutes in the back seat.

I am so grateful to the Lord that Steven's car is repaired and he can attend classes on Monday. We made it home safely, too. The three of us are "back on the road" with the Lord, by His kindness and grace.

And I'll be going to bed early tonight!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Definitely pouring in Fresno



5:47 p.m. Today's project was to drop Steven off at his fitness studio, "Middleton's Health and Fitness," which he co-owns with his good friend Eric. Eric's older brother runs a school for mentally retarded adults in the same building as Steven and his friend administer a physical education program for them. As I took a quick tour of the facility, I saw a nice variety of machines. Not a bad start, I thought, telling Steven that I'm proud of what he's accomplishing. All this on top of the high school ministry he helps lead at the Peoples' church, his studies at Fresno Pacific, finding jobs for his friends throughout the state, and his constant evangelism make for one blessedly busy young man!
His dad and I went on to Vons for a few groceries. I was about to buy a small saucepan for boiling the 3 ears of corn we'd brought along from our garden, when the Lord reminded me that the large covered sautee pan Steven already has would serve nicely to steam the corn, if I broke the ears in half. $21.99 + tax saved!

Still having some time to kill, we stopped over at the adjacent Taco Bell. We saw a 99 cent taco deal, so after crossing the drive-through to get into the restaurant (an awkward design!), we took our bag of quarters, nickel and dimes that we keep in the glove box for emergency gas money/homeless giving and ordered one taco. Steve got seated and I went to the ladies' room, (which was my actual reason for going in). From there I heard our number called out, and was concerned that Steve wouldn't hear or remember to check the order number, but when I got back to the table, I saw him with 2 tacos! Steve explained, "The lady told me it looked like I needed another one!" You know, Jesus tells us He is always with us (Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 13:5) but the two small blessings we experienced were still delightful!

And do we ever need His presence here in Fresno! "When it rains, it pours," the saying goes. We have been trying to figure out: paying for Steven's school, getting his Jeep repaired tomorrow, and a speeding ticket he needs to take care of. Last night his FAFSA finally went through, starting a process in which he can apply for other aid. Before we dropped Steven off at work, we ordered and paid for the needed parts at the local Kragens. I'm somewhat mollified by the refund we'll get back when Steven and his mechanic friend take in the Jeep's old power steering pump.

Steve and I spent a relaxing afternoon in the apartment, doing laundry, enjoying our corn with plenty of butter, and sprucing things up. I checked out the details of paying the court fines and wrote them down for Steven--and experienced one long hold time! Then we did some reading and I took a much-needed nap, worn out. We parents just love to help our kids, even in their adult years. "Children are a heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is a reward." (Psalm 127:3)

Then there's the next generation. Our 12 year old grandson Xavier called to say hello. When I told him we were in Fresno, he related that his friends don't believe his Uncle Steven is a bodybuilder. So I emailed him a picture of Steven at his last competition so he can set those kids straight!

Trying and costly though their scrapes and needs may be at times, there is a love moms and dads have for their children that is hard to describe. And grandchildren are definitely the "crown of old age."
As the Lord Himself will do anything in His infinite almighty power to save and keep us, so we act in a very limited way to benefit our own children.
We just now returned from dropping Steven off at Eric's home in Fresno's elegant historic district where we met his parents. They were absolutely eloquent in their praise of Steven. "We are so pleased to meet you!" they exclaimed. "We can't say enough about Steven. He's well-grounded, has a strong faith and he's been so good for Eric!"
The fruit of this womb, child number five, has truly been our reward!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Landscapes


6:07 p.m. Today's project was to drive to Fresno to see our youngest son Steven. Considering that we left after 10:00, had to get gas at the Vons on Limonite near the 15 freeway, then deal with a heavy slowdown on the 5 north past the Grapevine, arriving at Steven's by 3:00 was pretty good time!

We ate in the car to save money, and stopped at the rest stop in Lebec. Steven kept texting, "Where are you?" which had me wondering, but it turned out that he needed to go food shopping for his every-3-hour eating schedule, and was out of food! His car is not running, either, so our presence--particularly our Jeep--was sorely needed.

We also had planned a walk-in appointment at the financial aid office at Fresno Pacific to secure his new loans. So when his dad and I pulled up at the apartment, Steve took the cooler and the Aerobed upstairs, and Steven and I went to the university. We had a good visit while we waited, sharing scripture and anecdotes, including how to pay for the huge traffic ticket he owes, and the repairs his Jeep needs. Then we found out we had a huge set of paperwork hoops to jump through, and made plans to work on the FAFSA tonight!
Did I mention that school starts Monday? Kids! So our plans to meet friends at Shaver Lake are probably on hold. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, "For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven."
We did have a good plan for this evening, however. Steven wanted us to meet his friend Angela, whom he met at FPU. She hales from Porterville, out in farm country, and moved to Fresno with her brother to attend college. In order to keep a light and friendly vibe, rather than sit around in an awkward "getting to know you" mode, we went to the Dog House Grill, home of Fresno's most famous tri-tip sandwich. Loud and busy, the Dog House is the quintessential college and family hangout, with at least four athletic events going simultaneously on big screen tvs. It's the "official" Fresno state team diner as well.
We talked about our hometowns, our garden produce, and my favorite kind of avocados--Bacon. I hope she'll bring me one if she gets a chance, since produce stands are all over Porterville. My goal had been to share the Lord with Angela, especially since she's going into the army in a few days for a 4-year commitment. We'll speak again tomorrow afternoon when she comes back over. I enjoyed her sweet and cheerful personality, that's for sure.
I'll be praying for an opening to witness. I know she has been going to church with Steven. She'll be taking a small Gideons New Testament with her to her posting in Oklahoma. I need to remember that I didn't know the Lord at 21 either!
I Timothy 1:15-17 says (NLT):
This is a trustworthy saying and everyone should accept it: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners"--and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God.
Amen.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What am I to make of all this?


2:26 p.m. Today's project is to get ready for our trip to Fresno to visit our son tomorrow. We also hope to run up to Shaver Lake on Saturday to see our camping friends, but with Steven's car down with repair needs, we may have to stay in town and help him out.


Of course, that makes today a pretty busy one! We had come home late last night from Disneyland, after a nice evening together. With no A/C in our Jeep, driving in the late afternoon and at night makes the most sense. We slept in about 45 minutes later than usual, awakening to the fact that my dad was coming over "before it gets hot," which means before 10:00. When I came downstairs to turn on the coffee pot and Steve to let the dogs out, their leftover food (a huge no-no!) was covered with ants! I got Steve the Shaklee Basic G, he kind of hurriedly dressed, and killed the ants. Thankfully the spray is organic and safe, because the dog who'd left part of her meal was eating it, ants and all. He had to go get some shoes on and take the mess out to the garbage out front. He realized why I say, "If they don't eat their food, remove it. They'll be hungry in 24 hours!!" "Wisdom is shown to be right by its results," Jesus said in Matthew 11:19 (NLT)

Since we were in the backyard anyway, and the morning was cool, I figured I'd make up some Neem biological worm killer and douse the tomatoes, green beans, peppers and corn with it. Three pailfuls later, that job was done, I was completely drenched in sweat, and needed to get my devotions started. Things were cuckoo, our morning schedule upended!

My dad came over and visited with Steve while I was getting cleaned up and dressed for a hastily-arranged hair pre-travel hair appointment. I was able to give him a cantaloupe, ear of corn, tomatoes, bean soup and cornbread which he loves. However, this giveaway didn't make a dent in the huge bag of yellow tomatoes on the counter that Steve had picked yesterday!

An exciting note! One of the hairdressers is going to the funeral of a 33 year-old cousin Friday, so I got the chance to share the gospel with her--may the message be given resoundingly at Harvest!

So when I came home, I canned 2 quarts of yellow and two pints of Roma tomatoes. There really wasn't time for this, but once you have a system and process in place, you can do even an involved task quickly! Thank you, Lord. The thought of wasting food is unbearable to me. I still have some to give away, and that doesn't count what we need to take up north to eat on our trip. Our super healthy bodybuilder son doesn't have any normal people food, I'm sure!

More issues: Steven, who was talking to me while I canned, has one error, my electronic signature, to correct on his FAFSA financial aid application for Fresno Pacific. I had almost gotten to the end of the online form when the website timed out. (I had to attend to my tomatoes and took an ill-considered break!) "Oh well," I thought, and called the university. We'll go in person Thursday p.m. or Friday and I'll take care of it during a walk-in appointment.

On the blessing front, Steve has recharged my jeep's A/C so I can go to Ace Hardware to get flystrips; finally the tormentors can leave the poor dogs alone. Happily, we can afford the $4.49 price. One concern arose when I called our annuity company about a delay in transferring funds to our checking account. Normally I fax over a request and the funds are electronically transferred within 2 days at most. The harried but very pleasant agent said, "The people in that department are swamped now. They can't keep up with all of the requests for withdrawls." Uh-oh! Is our national economy going to see a "run on the banks" a la "It's a Wonderful Life?"

Steve is doing better now that he's walked and laundered the dogs, but was very disoriented this morning. Seems that the plans for traveling and a very small list of chores has him stressed, so I'm keeping things light for him today. No sense worrying him! His Alzheimers doesn't allow him to absorb much information on finances, so I prayerfully make what arrangements I can for all of our needs. We have been blessed by our mortgage lender's modification plan, so God is working all the time, no matter how trying our daily circumstances are!

Let me quote this "hymn of faith" along with Habakkuk in 3:17,

Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls--
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.

And with that, Steve is taking a bag of tomatoes to our next door neighbors!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

May His handiwork be seen in mine!

3:48 p.m. Today's project was to follow up on the suggestions of a well-known Christian author and "flesh out" the notes and commentary on my A Woman's Walk through the Word:Galatians Bible study. I've been praying about her wise counsel, and the Lord has shown me to go forward.

The first step was to email my conceptual editor at Tate publishing and let her know that I'll be using my lecture notes to add to each lesson's commentary. I plan to give more thorough explanations of the text as well as adding personal touches as I would if I were speaking with the reader in a Bible study setting. To my delight, and in confirmation of the decision I'd come to, editor Brianna agreed, having already planned to point me in the same direction!

My concept has been to let the written Word of God, seen in the verses the reader looks up, speak for themselves, as the Holy Spirit leads. And for the women who have completed the lessons independently online, that's the way it works out. Scripture confirms and explains Scripture, and brings to mind just what the Lord has designed each individual to receive. II Timothy 3:16-17 says,

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Some very mature believers are able to glean from the Word for themselves, being very attuned to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Most people, however, benefit much more from having a pastor or Bible teacher lead them into the truths of the Word. Bible teaching guides and shapes the fellowship--koinonia-- that makes up the Church. God has designed us for interaction centered in Him, and calls leaders of the Body of Christ to provide structured settings for that crucial interaction.

I am keeping in mind that a person who comes into a Christian bookstore and picks up the Galatians study will require more background facts and interpretation included than one who can ask her question on the spot in a study setting. And the personal touch, tone of voice, and "birdwalking" I tend to do when teaching can be captured in part if I reveal my life experiences as the Spirit brings them to mind. My desire is that my love for the Bible and my love for the Body would come through on every page!

For today, I added some phrases from my speaking notes, and strove to let my awe and admiration for the Word infuse the study's introduction. There will be much work ahead, and lots of editing. But when I picture this truth, that "you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus," (Galatians 3:26) dawning on someone's heart, and possibly turning them away from false doctrines, it will all be worth it!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ecclesiastes 5:20


1:47 p.m. Today's project is to have some birthday fun! I awoke to see my daughter Heidi off to work, receive a "Happy Birthday!" from Steve, put the coffee on, get the dishwasher emptied and have my morning devotions. I really appreciated the Gevalia "Special Anniversary Blend" coffee this morning, because I had been up late. Why does it seem like whenever I go out of town, I return to at least two hours of tasks to perform?Shows you the value of hours spent at home, doesn't it?

The kitchen towels were all in the laundry bin in the garage, so I started a load. Our vitamin and pill dispensers were empty, so I quickly had Steve quarter the aspirin with the handy pill cutter and lay out all of the bottles for me to fill up the sections. Heidi had left the kitchen clean and tidy, and had fed and brought in the dogs, so that was done. Coffee made and timer set, washload moved to the dryer, Facebook check-in, manually start the sprinkler system, load and start the dishwasher, take last dosage of anti-arthritis supplemnents, do complete facial care, and to wind down, finish my Amish novel before hitting the sheets around 11:45!

I received dozens of birthday wishes from friends online, and from my dad and the kids by phone, but one greeting, from my very long-time (NOT old) friend Susan Kroeker, really stuck with me, because she quoted Ecclesiastes 5:20, a verse I'd never paid any attention to before:

"He will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart." (NKJV)

"God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past." (NLT)

At 59, I have plenty "days of my life" to brood over, but I choose to look back only if necessary, address any issue with whomever it concerns, and focus on the joy of daily life with my Jesus. One joy I had today was to see Steve diligently bent over the I Samuel study, writing down verses.

This would not be remarkable for most Bible-reading Christians, because we can easily cover 5 or 6 study questions with the appropriate verse and add a personal application with each one if the Spirit so leads, in a reasonable amount of time, say 20 minutes. But Steve's Alzheimers causes him to have trouble finding the verse, and then he needs to follow each letter carefully with the point of a pencil. He has to look back and forth several times to register which numbered verse he needs, find it, look back, then he loses his place, and begins the process over and over again. Writing is physically difficult for him, and the numbers get confusing, too. For instance, this morning, he needed to look up Romans 13:14 : "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, fulfilling the lusts thereof," but mentioned that he was confused. I saw that he was looking at Romans 1:3, so of course that made no sense for the question as he sat re-reading it.

He went on to write the verse, his third for the day. This was a total joy for me, because Steve normally manages 1 verse per day, then the frustration builds up and I suggest a break to have his cereal, eggs and toast. (He has a banana to start off with each morning as he takes his medication). I wondered whether doing a written study alternating with his Horizon online devotional and chapters, was a good idea when he happened to read an intro to one of the lesssons while I was putting a copy on the porch of one of my study members, and asked if he could start! Who am I to hinder God's Holy Spirit?

God didn't promise Steve a supernaturally easy time of study, and it is very difficult for him, but what ease are any of us promised in this life? I'm not quite with Job's "Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble" (14:1) but we can all testify that troubles come our way! And so also come devastating diseases like Alzheimers.

On this lovely and heinously hot day, I am grateful to be alive, a loved wife and mother of a large family whose rambunctiousness has not settled down with their adult years. My mom is gone, but my dad is very active in our lives, with lots of advice and encouragement to offer, sought out by his grandchildren. Our loving family is being added onto yearly, with one wedding after another. The Lord has graciously given me a Bible teaching ministry and a record of public service. Friends from all walks of life cheer me on and the sentiment is mutual. Galatians 5:13b tells us, "...by love serve one another," and there is no other kind of satisfactory life for the believer.

Who's got time to mope over yesterday's blunders? Or project woe onto yourself for the future?

God keeps me busy with the joys of my heart!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The power of apology--the healing of forgiveness


10:58 p.m. Today's project was to go on a very difficult visit out of town. It was financially difficult, because we only had $14.00 for gas; physically difficult, because the Jeep's air conditioning isn't working; and emotionally difficult because an apology had to be delivered concerning wrongs done almost 25 years ago.


The Lord allowed our debit card to work for the gas we needed; somehow we kept a breeze blowing through the windows all the way there, over 2 hours; and the apology was humbly and straightforwardly delivered, and received with surprised gratitude. That things will be different hence is without question, as we acknowledged that while only God can grant true forgiveness, His Holy Spirit is the One within our hearts to give us the strength to ask for and receive forgiveness from one another.
Sincere apologies are transformative, changing the giver and the receiver for the better, for life, if actions follow through from the words and tears. And forgiveness is commanded by scripture. Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive, 7? Jesus answered, 70 x 7. (Matthew 18:21-22) That seems like a lot, unless I think about all of the times God has forgiven me!! (and you!)
Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:14, following the Lord's prayer,
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Heavenly Father forgive your trespasses.
Lord, give us the power to ask and receive forgiveness today!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

We're here for one another



5:51 p.m. Today's project was to welcome our mechanic and friend Steve to our home (or rather to our garage!) to install a new radiator. He set right to work, only stopping for lunch. This week's special for all of our guests has been hamburgers saved from the August party to be enjoyed with garden tomatoes and homemade pickles. After lunch, he drove out to Moss Motors for some MOPAR coolant and a radiator cap. Along with a check, we sent Steve home with a jar of pickles and bag of produce to share with his wife Linda.

The Jeep is now in perfect shape, for which I am grateful to the Lord! I love the way the Body of Christ comes together for anyone who has a need. "...we are members of one another," Ephesians 4:25b says. I Corinthians 12:12-14 (NLT) shows us that both unity and diversity are characteristics of the Body of Christ:

The human body has many different parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.
Twenty-eight years ago today, I delivered my second son Kriss Andrew Kruckenberg, surrounded by wonderful friends and my Christian in-laws. But only two years before, I had been welcomed into the body at Calvary Chapel Riverside as a worldly divorced single mother. Steve and I had married just one year before. That was the love of the body in action, the way God gave me so many friends to encourage me that day and any day I needed support. As I grew in the Lord, I was able to "come alongside" others who found themselves discouraged or hurting. Eventually God gave me a Bible teaching ministry and the ability to reach many women through the power of the written word!
Speaking of the written word, I received a very unique kind of help today with my Woman's Walk through the Word Bible study in Galatians. It has been accepted for publication, but none of the editing or detail work has begun. I asked a prominent Christian author to read some sample portions and give me her thoughts. Her advice was timely and valuable in so many ways! Now I have a direction to take in the editing, and her wisdom in pointing out the need for more pesonalization and some anecdotes is priceless. It's an effort I willl enjoy undertaking in order to bring the study "to life." Even though I'm a huge people person, my true "self" is an academic, happiest when buried under a pile of reference books and commentaries!! (Unlike most people).
Thank you, Lord, for sending Your children help when we need it, and using other believers to bring help we sometimes don't even know we need!
"My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus," the Apostle Paul declared in Philippians 4:19. His people, with all types of talents and skills, are riches indeed!
How grateful I am that other believers are here for me.

Friday, August 13, 2010

84 big ones!



6:23 p.m. Today's project was to enjoy some fun time with my dad and Steve on Daddy's 84th birthday. The original reason for his visit was to take Steve out to look at a new electric lawnmower like the one we had that broke a few weeks ago. We had celebrated all of the August birthdays on Sunday, but I wished him the best on his own birthday anyway.(He's pictured to the left with his youngest grandson, my Steven).
When he found out that our friends had blessed us with a powerful gas mower, he said, "Well, Steve and I will get around to something!" And the two of them always do. I mentioned that a professional auto mechanic was coming over tomorrow to replace the Jeep's radiator, and a new project was born! "Dana, let me just come over and have a look at that," he answered. Daddy had his own auto repair service bays in the large Chevron gas stations he owned in the 60's and 70's. So "today's project" for Daddy was to come and make sure the radiator was truly beyond repair, and that wasn't getting ripped off! If I had let my fave dealership do the job, I would be looking at twice what I'll spend with Steve Kirkwood, due to their labor overhead, so I'd gotten two diagnoses of the problem already. But a third opinion never hurts! Proverbs 11:14b says, "in the multitude of counselors there is safety."
Funny how dads' way of showing their love is to examine and fix things, or solve problems, even for a daughter who's been married almost 30 years to a very mechanical husband! By the time I got home from the hairdresser, Steve and Daddy had examined the lawnmower and the garden's burgeoning cantaloupe and were enjoying the KABC's local "News at 11." It seemed utterly weird to me, because our tv rarely comes on before 5 p.m. and it's The O'Reilly Factor on Fox, then Hannity and Greta Van Susteren. By 8:00 p.m., we go out to take our walk.
Since I'd only driven 6 miles home, the Jeep wasn't hot, allowing Daddy to make his examination, verifying with Steve's flashlight that yes, there was a leak, and the price I'm paying is very fair, and indeed, a professional mechanic's license can be one that allows work on his customer's property. "Whatever you do, do heartily..." Colossians 3:23a tells us, and that's the example my dad has set all my life, whether in military service in 3 wars (WWII, Korea, Vietnam); as a business owner; or even working part time in his early retirement years.
My dad was pretty funny while he and Steve enjoyed their hamburgers at the kitchen table, stating that he hadn't used the DVD player and movies my sister and her kids and I went in on for his birthday. "I don't have time to watch movies! Got too many books to read. Besides, with a book, I can read a while, take a nap, wake back up, and take up exactly where I left off." My sentiments exactly!
May the book lovers of our society all be reading at age 84!!
And still have a lot of books yet to get to!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Down for the count at last




4:29 p.m. Today's project was to join my friends at our home Bible study, sharing in the Word, worship, prayer and encouragement. Our text was I Samuel Chapter 11, where, after a resounding victory against the oppressive Ammonites, Saul is finally recognized as the King of Israel. After a rough start, marked by his own timidity and diffidence, Saul proved to be a strong military leader--exactly what the people had been looking for when they demanded that the prophet Samuel appoint them a king, "to go out before us and fight our battles." (I Samuel 8:20b)

Somehow the Israelites could not see that God Almighty Himself had been going out before them and fighting their battles all along, ever since He led Abram out of Ur into Canaan! (Genesis 12)

I think that we are much the same way, from the earliest age in which we can assert our independence. The two-year-old yells, "I do it myself!" when he can do no such thing, at least not yet. The teenager claims, "I already KNOW how to drive!" the first time they take the wheel with their learner's permit. The alcoholic says, "I can quit any time." The desperate mom who can't meet her bills says, "I'll take on an extra job and go to night school," not realizing that the kids need her more than ever in tough times. Our first response always seems to be counting on ourselves, counting without God.

God has given believers His Holy Spirit to guide, provide wisdom, open our eyes to the truths in the Bible, and to comfort us when we are hurting; in fact, He will pray in our behalf when we are so overwhelmed that we don't even know how to pray! Romans 8:26-27 says,

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

Wow! I think that the more desperate my situation is, and the less I can do about it, when I'm "down for the count" after a series of body blows, is when I'm most ready to let God intervene! "At last," I imagine the Spirit saying, "I will pray as she really needs to be prayed for!"

When your name and mine are brought to the Father in the name of the Son, through the mind of the Spirit-- stand back! Amazing things are about to happen, things beyond our comprehension and for our highest and best good!

From despair to prayer is a transition I'm committed to making, because MY GOD IS ABLE!












Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lest we boast


5:53 p.m. Today's project was to pray for my daughter Heidi on the first day of achool with her new class of 3rd graders. I laid hands on her before she went out the door around 7 a.m., and prayed that the kids would be delightful. At that grade level, the students are used to being in school, most are reading, and they are little enough to love their teacher! I've taught 3rd many times, in Christian and public schools, along with all but one (1st) of the other elementary grades, and it was always my favorite. Last night she mentioned that hers are the advanced and early advanced English learners, so it wouldn't be a difficult group academically speaking. Quite a break from teaching the lowest-achieving and worst-behaving class of fifth graders at her last school in the Language! remedial reading class!

I taught that same remedial class for three years at another low-scoring school, and emerged battle-scarred and weary, but managed to teach my 6th graders about the Lord, taking advantage of the "Ancient World History" social studies curriculum. Houghton-Mifflin's textbook is outstanding, not only presenting the biblical figures Moses, David, Solomon, Jesus and Paul as historical figures, but quoting the Bible accurately! In fairness and professionalism, I also taught them the other major world religions as they presented themselves on civilization's stage. All believers should take to heart Paul's exhortation to Timothy: "Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season." (II Timothy 4:2)

But I've taken great pains to describe to Heidi the discipline issues that arose during those years in a gang-infested neighborhood with little parental assistance. Suspensions, expulsions, fights and disobedience were common. I'm actually grateful for the stressful days, because it is so much better for my daughter to know she can ask me about strategies that worked for me with the worst kids and classes, rather than for me to have floated decades of decent, docile students. So in an odd way, the troublemakers were a gift, a kind of "thorn in the flesh," as the apostle put it in 2 Corinthians 12:7, "lest I should be exalted above measure" and take credit for the ease I might have claimed in the profession. Success, yes. Ease, no!

My prayers were answered for Heidi-- her class is smart, adorable and well-behaved!

Sentimental thoughts of so many friends going back into the classrooom today are normal for me as I enter my second year of retirement. I forwarded to my teacher friends an hilarious email with illustrations of demented and goofy test answers from every grade level. Example: "Where was the American Declaration of Independence signed?" "On the bottom."

I was privileged to watch a very special teacher last night at Heart to Home, Regina Hernandez. A Calvary Chapel Christian High School art teacher, she generously gave of her time before the start of the new school year to teach women to paint a small landscape on canvas. They were doing a fine job, too, following the steps faithfully, but each with their own personal touch. They had a good teacher!

God expects us to follow the steps He has taught us to glean from His Word, as well as it is faithfully related to us by our pastors and teachers. Yet He allows for every conceivable personality to put our "touch" onto our steps of obdience, while being wholly committed to following Him. After all, He created each one of us. God knows us and loves us unreservedly. (Even unashamedly when we fall short!)

As a teacher, that's one lesson I want to make sure others learn--while I learn it myself!!



Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What measure are we using?


3:07 p.m. Today's project was to host a friend for lunch here at home, have some relaxing fellowship and get to know one another better. In addition to being a recent widow, she has also suffered physically from three strokes, the removal of 14 vertebrae, and paralysis caused by caused by blood clots in her spinal column.


She really enjoyed strolling through the garden, while looking out for bees, which I am also very allergic to. I picked a bag of assorted vegetables for her, and we enjoyed the mild temperature and sun for a few minutes. Of course, Jada and Bailey found the visitor --or her dog's scent--just amazing, and did leave a paw print or two on her shorts. Steve was out in the yard and ran over to call them off while my hands were full of produce. I wiped off the dusty marks with a wet paper towel when we went back inside. But never a complaint, only smiles and laughter did she offer. A perfect guest for us, that's for sure!

The two of us walked outside to view our long-running water leak , still trickling away from the City's sprinklers next to our property. The code compliance lady was supposed to be here today, but so far, she has not arrived. We also are awaiting word from our auto mechanic on the arrival of a radiator for the Jeep, but the two his supplier received today and yesterday apparently looked fishy, so we may be looking at a replacement time later in the week, possibly Saturday. "He makes all things beautiful in His time, " Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, so I'll just go with His timing on these matters. If I don't have a choice, why fuss? Just rearrange and rearrange again!
We then had a big lunch, with a hamburger for her with all the trimmings, and chicken breast salad for me, homemade pickles, salsa and chips, and two of our frozen desserts from the August party on Sunday. She told me about her difficult childhood, particularly about a stepmother who looked out for a neighbor's financial wellbeing rather than get treatment for her daughter's shoulder after a car accident caused a severe whiplash. After decades, no chiropractor can release that seized-up joint. In fact, my friend is in constant pain. When it becomes agonizing, she seeks therapeutical massage, which I too have found beneficial for my relatively minor complaints.
I think that perspective is what all of us need here. My friend had not one word of condemnation about her upbringing, or the medical issues she has had, just quietly related the facts. And with that attitude, she always blesses me, and is loved by her many friends in the community, receiving much help through her grieving time and the inevitable transitions she has to undergo. I am inspired by her, and again, able to put my difficulties, which are considerable, in perpsective nevertheless.
I reflected that her attitude was very much in contrast with one that came to mind early this morning during my journalling time. I was praying for an individual whose approach to events and circumstances is negative, has a cold demeanor, and offers criticism over the very slightest thing. They then report on a regular basis that they don't fit in and are left out and snubbed. I was prayerfully writing that they would be met with friendly faces in their work setting, that God would be merciful. I'm not sure just how He will answer that prayer, however, because
He then gave me this verse, Jesus' statement in Matthew 7:2,
With what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
A painful truth to hear, but a truth nevertheless!
And that's the Word.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Recovery time!


4:52 p.m. Today's project was to recover in every sense of the word from a righteously hilarious and love-filled day of August party fun!

This was a big weekend for millions of us Christians in Southern California for a much bigger reason, the Harvest Crusade. Whether we prayed, posted flyers, invited friends, attended, provided transportation (like my son-in-law did for us), worked the week before on physcially setting up the venue, or feeding the workers, Harvest Crusade staff and performers, we all had a part in the salvation of tens of thousands of souls.

In I Samuel 30, David and his men rescued their wives and children from the Amalekites. Some men had stayed behind, too exhausted to continue. After the victory, some "wicked and worthless men," said that the ones who stayed behind should not share in the spoils. David then established a regulation for fairness for his army when they went on their raids and rescues, v. 23-25:

But David said, "My brethren, you shall not do so with what the LORD has given us, who has preserved us and delivered into our hand the troop that came against us. For who will hear you in this matter? But as his part is who goes down to the battle, so shall his part be who stays by the supplies; they shall share alike." So it was, from that day forward; he made it a statute and ordinance for Israel to this day.

SoCal Christians prayed, donated and battled trials and enemy attacks in order to support the three-day Crusade, with resounding results for the Kingdom of God.

We've taken just a bit of refreshing rest today, while maintaining vigilance in prayer, and are right back at our Father's business!


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Much-needed time


10:12 p.m. Today's project was to enjoy the annual August Party gathering which turned out to be the biggest one we've had. My nephew Brady and his girlfriend Jessica arrived two hours early, and enjoyed the privilege of uninterrrupted time to talk sports with our youngest son Steven, down from Fresno for the weekend. They also got first dibs on the grapefruit lemonade and tomatillo salsa! My dad arrived not too long after. Meanwhile, I finished my final cleaning of the downstairs, and went up to our room to shower and change.

By 2:00, most of our family had arrived from Orange and San Diego counties. Amazingly, when Heidi and Pavel arrived at 2:30 after teaching 5th & 6th grade class for third service, everyone was here and the jumphouse was in full squealing mode with about 5 youngsters aboard. Steven regaled everyone in the kitchen with his ministry and coaching stories, and good talk and eats kept everyone occupied.

One very special guest came in, to whom I gave a very long hug--in fact we clung to one another. It was my sister-in-law Michaele, whose husband Larry, Steve's brother, is in residential care with advanced Alzheimer's. "I have missed you so much!" I cried out. She had ridden with her son Chad, his wife and little ones. This is one person who knows what I'm going through all too well.
We went out to the garden with my daughter Heather to visit, and very quickly began comparing notes about the stages our husbands are in. They both have the disease, but Larry is 3 years ahead of Steve and is unable even to attend church because Michaele can no longer fully manage his movements. My Steve, on the other hand, is all too active in the sense of constantly finding something to do, which is good and keeps him active and fit. But he takes off on projects that make no sense and also cause minor destruction to our property when I'm out of the house for a time, or even just downstairs. We even can quote one another's exasperated remarks when confusion causes unpleasant or costly difficulties. It sure is good to have a sister in the battle with me. I'd forgotten how good it feels to be with someone who's "been there." All of my friends and those with whom I minister have much comfort and love to offer, but they have no idea of the confusion and frustration I experience daily with an Alzheimers' mate.
"Early onset" Alzheimers does not make for the same life experience as the typical very elderly victim has. To be stopped in the prime of life with dementia and physical breakdown caused by a faulty brain is just devastating--there is no other word I can use for the sense of failure Steve feels for being unable to work, unable to carry out more than one instruction at a time, not knowing what day it is, or what we are planning for next few minutes, hour, day or week. Imagine no longer driving! or losing the ability to speak clearly, write, or in Steve's case, hear because of the slowness of processing sounds in his brain. At 53, not 93.
Michaele and my dicussions in the garden and in the kitchen where we prepared the fried green tomatoes, just-picked corn on the cob and set out the go-withs for the hamburgers, hot dogs and hotlinks, exemplified II Corinthians 1:3-4:
Blessed be the God and Father or our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we are comforted by God.
Later in the evening, we who were still in the house remarked how happy Michaele was keeping busy with me in the kitchen, just cooking her heart out for the crowd. "The kitchen is where she's happiest," I said. "Andthink about it: she no longer has a husband to cook for at home."
She and I will need to spend more time together!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A world without the Word


7:46 p.m. Today's project was to attend my son Steven's Nutrition and Fitness seminar at our friends Sherri and Devon's home. It was just the four of us, but Steven gave a presentation worthy of the professional certified trainer that he is. No wonder he was LA Fitness' "Trainer of the Year" for San Diego County when he was only 18! More importantly, he is a leader in youth ministry in Fresno, and growing daily in God's Word.

The rest of my day has been spent in preparing for a large family gathering tomorrow afternoon --both sides of our family will be here, with plenty of food and yummy desserts abounding! The specialties of the house are tomatillo salsa, ice cream cakes, watermelon sorbet, frozen lemonade pie, and my Heidi's oatmeal cake. As I write this, Steve is collecting green tomatoes for frying; tomorrow we'll pick our corn fresh. As much as the burgers and hotlinks will delight our senses, the desserts will be over the top, and the kiddies will be squealing in the jumphouse, our fellowship in Christ is the key to a harmonious and joyful time. Literally, "the brethren will dwell together" tomorrow(Psalm 133:1) with "Ultimate Frisbee" as a finale.

This evening, Heidi and Pavel brought over the movie "The Book of Eli," about a world devoid of all vestiges of civilization (apparently due to a nuclear holocaust), where a hotel-size bottle of shampoo is a treasure; the vast majority of the population is illiterate; killing by bands of men is a daily occurrence; and women are disposable victims of violence; but one man has The Book. It is literally a savage post-historic world, a world without the Bible, without the consciousness of God in the minds of men.

Yet the few who know how to read, and know what the Bible is, fight to the death for the very last King James Bible to be found. I couldn't help but think of the value of the Word of God to believers in hostile countries, who treasure as little as one page per underground congregation!

Bible-loving Christians identify with Jeremiah 15:16: "Your words were found and I ate them. And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts."

Jesus Christ, the logos, the Word of God made flesh, is made known through His Word. Through the Bible we come to know His heart, His character, and find strength to follow His commands!

The Book of Eli presents a horrifying spectacle of a world without the precious, civilizing effect of God's word. It answers the question, "Where would we be without God in this world?" Man becomes a feral beast--kill or be killed, no understanding or wisdom. As Psalm 49:20 puts it, they are "like the beasts that perish."

Psalm 119, a paean to the glorious Word of God, says it all in verse 105:

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

May we never experience a world without the Word!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Crusading


2:46 p.m. Today's project is to procure a serviceable vehicle to drive my friend and Steve to the 2010 Harvest Crusade at Anaheim Stadium. Why do I need to come up with a car? Not only is the air conditioning in my Jeep not working, but the radiator has a major leak.In the stop-and-go traffic we'll face as we near the Anaheim Angels' Stadium, it could blow or steam, I am not sure which!

Our auto mechanic friend Steve Kirkwood came by this morning to give us a verdict: we'll need a new radiator which he'll order today and install on Tuesday, much cheaper than our dealer would do it. It will take several hours, but the car will be home in our garage the whole time. Lots of details, but the bottom line is, we need to get to the Crusade safely!
Prayer answered--I was offered and and accepted the loan of our son-in-law's car!!

We are having a massive August birthday party that we host annually on Sunday and coincidentally, we have a broken lawnmower too! I know that our family, extended and extended-extended family and friends wouldn't care, but we do take concern to maintain our property as neatly as possible. The call went out, and not only did friends give us a mower yesterday, but a young man named Ryan came by this morning and mowed, weed whacked, and blew away all of the debris as well!

God has truly blessed us the last few days, no matter what the enemy satan brought against us! As Joseph said to his repentant brothers who sold him into slavery, after he had rescued them from famine and settled them in Egypt, "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good." (Genesis 50:20)

Now home from the Crusade, and I am blessed to know I have a new (to me) sister in the Lord! Turns out my new neighbor accepted the Lord a number of years ago. She totally gives God the glory for bringing her through hard trials, to this new change in her life. And she'll be joining us on Thursday morning for the I Samuel study!!

It's been a busy, happy, productive and blessed day! 30,000 attended the Crusade tonight, and 2,368 went forward to accept Christ!! This will be a banner year--Jesus Christ brings much-needed hope to weary, hurting people!
In Isaiah 61: 1, Jesus says of Himself,
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me,
Because the LORD has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound.
For freedom, deliverance and truth to be told captives held in the snare of the devil, once doing his will, bound by sin (II Timothy 2:26)--that's why Jesus came!