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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Breaking the barrier

7:18 p.m. Today's project was to attend my dad Oliver Gray's memorial service at the National Veterans' Cemetery. The entire family was there. Many of his grandchildren and both my sister and I spoke. Each one brought out the aspects of their grandpa's conversations and guidance that meant the most to them. It was evident that my father had so much delight in his grandsons and great-grandsons! My sister Dona shared about my dad being part of  the Greatest Generation. Our Uncle Pat, Daddy's youngest brother and pastor of a church in Barstow, shared a few memories and read a beautiful poem to us.



Here are the remarks I made to conclude our service, and point our family to Christ:

                                                                "Breaking the Barrier"

"One morning this week, I was in the kitchen about 7:00. I automatically shut the door connecting the kitchen and the dining room out of sheer preventive habit, even though there was no reason to block the exit. Our mischievous toddler Clark, the reason for the barrier, wasn't even up yet!! Our minds tend to accept both real and perceived barriers, don't they?

In 1947, Daddy's biggest hero Chuck Yeager, broke the sound barrier, taking off from Muroc Field over the Mojave Desert, a B-29 bomber carrying him in an X-11 experimental plane attached underneath. Dozens of pilots had lost their lives in the attempt. (I knew much about airplane science because Daddy spent several hours with me weekly as a junior high girl teaching me the science of flight out on our patio in Redlands. Ailerons, lift... Maybe I was the son he never had). Back to Chuck Yeager!

At 761 mph, the shuddering and shock waves in the plane gave way to a sea of glass as Yeager reach Mach 1.07, breaking the unbreakable barrier. In the 50's, Dona and I would get so excited as sonic booms shook the house and rattled the sliding glass door. Then came the BOOM! Great stuff!

But a stronger, more impenetrable barrier was crossed that day over the desert, a barrier that challenges us all-- the belief barrier. Daddy crossed that barrier over 33 years ago as I had the privilege of leading him to the Lord in the kitchen of son Sean's and my tiny apartment. That's a barrier we all must cross, to have faith in the saving grace of Jesus Christ as Daddy did. 

Though he rarely got to church, Daddy read all of Billy Graham's books and supported the work of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He always packed a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child, or, in later years, gave me a check and a box to fill and deliver to church in his name. His latest reads now that he knew he was approaching death were Billy Graham's Nearing Home (of which he insisted on buying me a copy); and Anne Graham Lotz' Heaven: My Father's House.

Now Daddy has crossed the ultimate barrier, from death to life, the same barrier that my Steve crossed in January--from earth to heaven. Not at the mere speed of sound, but at the speed of Light, to JESUS, the Light of the World."

Thank you for being here today. 





   



Sunday, September 15, 2013

In every transition

5:30 a.m. Today's project is to make transitions in ministry and in family life.

After many years focusing on Women's Ministry at church, serving in leadership at Bible studies, retreats, leading specialized ministries at both Harvest Christian Fellowship and my current church, Calvary  Chapel Moreno Valley, I will return to my "first love" of  service to Jesus, teaching children at 3rd service Children's Church.  That is the first ministry I was ever involved in when I became a new believer in 1980. It was such an honor to be asked to be a Sunday School helper for my mentor Bonnie York's kindergarten class! I'd been a helper in the first Vacation Bible School my young son had attended the summer before. Knowing I'd been called to teach women, Bonnie took me under her wing and I became her substitute teacher at the Harvest morning women's Bible study, and later taught it. but I never lost touch with teaching God's word to children, because I spent 8 years teaching  in Christian schools. 2 Timothy 4:2 exhorts,

"Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season."

If The Lord, doesn't call His church up to heaven in the coming year, I intend to teach my Summer Bible  Study in a friend's home, and will be actively participating in studies at church. After Jesus and my family, my dearest love is to study and apply the word of God. Our Savior Himself said, when giving His disciples and followers the right priorities, in Luke 14:26-27,

"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and yes, his own life, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does no t bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple."

11:50 p.m. Speaking of parents and family, another, sadder transition came this evening. After a day of my very ill, but still ambulatory father not answering his phone or my daughter Heidi's knocks at the door, I went to his house in Redlands, unlocked the door, looked down the hallway and saw him seated, stretched out in his walker, both feet on the floor, with his upper body leaned back. Upon close examination, although the Lord told me he was dead, I saw his head rolled over to the side like a baby sleeping crooked, with a calm expression on his face. Daddy was at peace.

"My" plan had been to place him in a skilled nursing facility, with his doctor's approval and signature, after his appointment next Tuesday, to be cared for, cleaned up,  dressed, and let us all come to say goodbye. I had already seen an attorney to set up a conservatorship, because my dad had not  changed his clothes in a month, kept his doctor appointments, nor had he paid to fix the plumbing that was in deplorable, unsafe condition. But Daddy beat us to the punch, escaping his earthly shell and all difficulties. The next few days of making arrangements will be hard, but no harder than watching the morticians roll his wrapped, sheeted body out to the mortuary van.

At each transition, whether exciting, like my quest for directorship with Mary Kay, or concerning, like the recurring tennis elbow/arm that makes even this light typing painful, I need to look up, not around! I'll close with Psalm 121:1-2,7-8.

"I will lift up my eyes to the hills;
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.
...
The LORD shall preserve  you
    From all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
He shall preserve your
   going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and forevermore."

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Not surprised

8:11 p.m. Today's project was to meet a plumber at my dad's house in Redlands. I normally go over there one afternoon each week to visit with him, and get his groceries for the week at the local supermarket. He hasn't been up to getting in the car and going with me in the last few months. In fact, he's lost a drastic amount of weight, stopped shaving regularly, and has really let his house go. Daddy has late-stage bladder cancer, but has no pain. "If he did," his doctor told me, "he wouldn't be avoiding coming in for his appointments!" My dad refused to go into the doctor's office a month ago, so I went in his place.  Exodus 20:12 commands us,

"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you."

May I say that this day that I spent with Daddy has been a VERY long one! Today, a plumber was coming to his house to fix the problems he found last week. After a bruising resistance last week, where he finally gave in and let an inspection take place, my sister and I got I'm to agree to have a plumber actually fix the crack in his septic system's pipe. This problem began with a backed- up kitchen sink which he said he'd get a plumber out to look at, back in June. Now his whole system is  messed up after he repeatedly said, "Dana, I'll take care of it." I even printed him a list of local plumbers from the referral service Angie's List, to no avail. Many Bible study sisters, family members and friends have been praying regularly for him to get the help he needs ( which he easily can afford). It's become an unsanitary situation now, affecting both bathrooms too.

I got up at 5:30 and went about my devotional reading as always with Jesus Calling. The last sentence was a great encouragement, for it said, "Together we will push back the darkness, for I am the Light of the world."  Then I had to laugh at the headlining verse of my Spurgeon's Morning &Evening September 4th reading, Jesus' assurance of cleansing to the leper:

"I will; be thou clean."

Getting my day's home clean once again was the task for my day, one which he'd agreed to.

Despite the prayers, the evidence of cracked pipes, and my reasoning with him, no repairs were made, accusations were hurled at me, and I just decided to pay the plumb for the work he'd attempted to do, brought my dad his mail, and then came home, discouraged but not surprised.

I am not sure what my sister and my next steps will be. But I do know that Jesus Himself has promised to light the way, and if He can instantly heal a leper, He can cause my dad to function by reason, not suspicion.

By the grace of God I was able to finish writing my last Bible study of the summer on 2 Samuel 24, and will enjoy much pray coverage and encouragement from my sisters in Christ tomorrow.

God is so good!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Two weddings, 4 birthdays, and a baby

2:54 p.m. Today's project is to attend the "Meet Baby Desmond" event at his Grandpa and Grandma Love's home. Much of his paternal family hasn't met him yet. As I've written about ( "Battling for Life in the NICU" June 28, 2013 ) Desmond's harrowing two-week stint at Riverside Community Hospital with Viral Spinal Meningitis at 2 weeks of age put a definite crimp in the meet-and-greet events that naturally follow a baby's birth.How we all praise God that our littlest one was healed and is unscathed! My scripture portion for today included Ephesians 3:20, my faith song for his life, with praise...
To Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we could ask or think.

On Sunday, most of our family--Kruckenberg side--attended the wedding of our niece Kindra to Giancarlo Gladish (directly above) an elegant affair at the San Diego Museum of Art, followed by a reception dinner in a restaurant on Coronado Island.   Thursday, my daughter Heidi and I attended the very intimate, Christ-centered wedding of my sister's daughter Destiny to Daniel Fingleton, on a cliff in La Jolla, overlooking the Pacific ocean on a gorgeous day, with a marvelous catered dinner, attended by her children from her first marriage, Garrett and Ashley. It very much reminded me of Steve's and my wedding, because my oldest son Sean was 5 years old at the time, and because a strong Gospel message was preached at Harvest on July 11, 1981.  The wonderfully fun part of this wedding was getting to visit with the many Fingleton relatives who flew in from Ireland to be with the newlyweds! Psalm 133:1 was very much exemplified:

Behold how good and how pleasant it is, for the brethren to dwell together in unity!

On to the other manifestation of God's creative goodness in our lives, birthdays! While Jesus was a prominent wedding guest in the Gospel of John Chapter 2, we have no evidence of His celebrating His birthday as we do. (Of course, the angelic hosts over Bethlehem staged an eternally unforgettable, not-to- be-repeated, celebration of Jesus' birth, enough said)!

This week, the birthdays in my family come one after another in rapid succession: first up was my dad turned 86 August 13th, on which day I took him a Jack in the Box breakfast platter, followed by chocolate Bundt cake and Neapolitan ice cream. On the 14th, our son Kriss enjoyed a day off with his family and was the recipient of an authentic licensed Angels cap, Jarritos sodas, Mothers frosted animal cookies from me, and an incredibly detailed baseball cake from his wife Marisela. They also went to an Angels game last night. 
Yesterday the 16th was my 62nd birthday, on which I was presented with a fabulous tiramisu/chocolate eclair dessert by Marisela, Starbucks card from my son Sean and his wife Pam, and a hand-decorated card from my clever 17-1/2 month old grandson Clark. My daughter Heidi took me to lunch, and Heather and little Desmond joined us, too. Tomorrow's my "baby" Steven's 25th birthday, which he and his friends celebrated with a skydive today. He lived to tell, so that's what matters! 

My sister-in-law Sharon celebrates her birthday on the 20th, and we will all gather here at my house for our "August Birthdays" party next Sunday the 25th. This party started out as a joke, because family members from cooler San Diego and Orange County were invited to roasting Riverside in August for food, fun and air conditioning cranked high! It hasn't stopped with the exception of weddings held that month or close to it where we all saw one another and partied in a different venue.So this house has been a beehive of activity with workmen getting the yards and house in order. Provisions from the obligatory Costco expedition have restocked the freezers and the fridge. Summer dessert prep stars next week! . 

Guess you can tell that I thrive on celebrations!

We believers have so much to celebrate in Christ that words utterly fail to describe. Sweet friendships that only He could have put together, such as I have with our daughter's mother-in-law. Kathleen's birthday card had a note celebrating the fact that our kids met, and now we are friends. I treasure our church's widows' group, whose leader asked me to share what's happened in my life in the last month, after 2nd service tomorrow. I have a community widows' group that meets tomorrow also, and is a huge source of encouragement, tears and laughter included. We truly comfort one another with the comfort that Christ has given us, as II Corinthians 1:3-4 exhorts us to do. 

My children and their spouses provide emotional and practical assistance, Christian fellowship, daily interaction and good ideas. As for the grand kids, what more entertainment, love, and pure acceptance could a person ask for?  .

When I get a little lonely on the inside, wishing I had an "automatic date" for social occasions, fully attentive to me as my husband was; or when I become nervous about growing my business, God reminds me through the wise words of Pastor Alistair Begg, "You take care of God's things, and He'll take care of your things!" Therefore I thank God for the Bible study He has called me to teach, and the research and writing that go into it each week. And I am looking forward to teaching 4th grade in Children's Church on Sundays starting in October!  

Perhaps my Heavenly Father, through the Spirit,  has already given me a theme for tomorrow's sharing: Celebration of Jesus!  


Psalm 45:1-2, 6-7 says,

My heart is overflowing with a good theme;
I recite my composition concerning the King;
my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
You are fairer than the sons of men;
Grace is poured upon Your lips;
Therefore God has blessed You forever.
                 ...
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed you
With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.

May we be anointed with the oil of gladness, Father God, just like Your son Jesus, in whom we have placed our eternal hopes!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Well remembered: be a Barzillai

7:01 p.m. Today's project was to get back into home life, after my wonderful and rewarding Mary Kay Seminar in Dallas, with church in the morning, and a lovely baby shower in the afternoon. The honoree is the daughter of my prayer partner Monica. The fellowship and entire atmosphere was just full of the Lord. Additionally,  since it took me a while to find the house, I toured Riverside's "green belt" along the Gage Canal, lined with citrus groves, nurseries, horse properties, estates and small farms on my way.

Most of the attendees were old friends from women's ministry and home Bible study groups based at Harvest Christian Fellowship, our church of 22 years. There was much re-acquainting to do, since our family had changed to Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley 10 years ago so my late husband Steve could make more friends in a smaller fellowship. I consider both my "home church!"

As we were filing our luncheon plates, one guest asked me, after ascertaining that she not only knew me from Harvest, but from my school board tenure, whether a newly-elected member had filled my seat, and I said, "No, because I chose not to run for a fourth term back in 2005, because all of my children had graduated. Let new parents step in, was my thinking."

Later I went shopping with my daughter-in-law, at Von's and Trader Joe's. We only had one mishap, when a bottle of organic lemonade fell out of a hole in a bag and broke and spilled on the driveway..

Funny how the topic of school board came up again as I was rinsing down that spill of lemonade. A long-time neighbor came walking by, so I told how odd it was, and she agreed, that a Von's plastic bag would break.  She then said, "You're not still on the school broad, right?" I said no, much the same as I'd said earlier. Lorraine said, "I didn't think I'd seen any of your signs lately. The current group isn't doing much--you are missed!" I laughed and refrained from commenting on the group's actions, saying, "I don't think they have enough budget to do anything!" I've had no problem whatsoever stepping down so that younger parents can step up to office!

During the week, even while in the frenzied, glamour-packed events in Dallas, I'd been pondering my Bible study's last lesson on II Samuel Chapter 19 (I took my written lesson with me, though I didn't have time to work on it much). We had learned about Barzillai, a wealthy older man who supplied exiled King David and his people with provisions when David was escaping his treasonous son Absalom in an earlier chapter. When invited to come live at court with the restored king, Barzillai turned down the offer, saying in verses 34-37 that he no longer had a taste for life in Jerusalem, was too old at 80 to enjoy it, and wanted to return to his home to die and be buried with his fathers. But he requested that his son Chimham go in his place.

Barzillai was gracious in letting another take his place of honor at the king's table, in the king's service.Why? Because he had served honorably, and distinguished himself, and was ready to step aside for another.

I wrote this  lesson almost 30 years ago. Little did I think that Barzillai would be my role model in righteous behavior! No one ever thinks they'll be over 35 one day. Yet here I am, at 62, a widow retired from public service and employment, but still active in Bible teaching ministry; a business owner enjoying my grown kids, their spouses, and my grand kids. Not to mention that when my fingerprints come back from the Moreno Valley Police Department (and Summer Bible study concludes for 2013) I'll be assigned a classroom to teach during 3rd service Children's Church. I cannot wait!!

My I share with you the verses regarding Barzillai that are part of this week's Bible study?

Proverbs 16:31:
The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness.

Philippians 4:11,12:
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
How well I know those extremes as a widow!

I Timothy 5:9,10:
Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number (congregation), and not unless she has been the wife of one man, well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.

Titus 2:2-5:
...that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things--that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

And finally, we have the Apostle Paul's valedictory, II Timothy 4:6-8. May we, fellow believers, be able to say this when God calls us home:

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 who have loved His appearing.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

A week of weeks

9:02 p.m. Today's project was to run my little rental car, a Yaris, out past Cal State San Bernardino to help a new consultant conduct two very lucrative Mary Kay parties for her business associates, friends, and family. Her success and the success of my whole team will propel us from Director-in Qualification to Directorship in the next two months. The Lord has literally turned the lights green at this time to make the move upward!

My schedule has been very full and hectic, but at 62, God has given me such strength and energy, even with a bad case of tennis elbow that has limited my writing, except for that which I do for the Bible study I teach on Thursdays. (That's a non-negotiable)! Psalm 92:10b describes my attitude and general being right now:

You have anointed me with fresh oil.

After Bible study on Thursday afternoon, I finally got a cortisone shot in my afflicted right elbow, and it's normal again after two months of suffering that was spreading pain to my left arm, too. However, good news came from orthopedist Dr. Rodriguez, that the x-rays showed no arthritis in either elbow. I was delighted to see that Exam Room 1 was decorated with plaques and pictures with Bible verses, too!

Now, why am I driving a rental car? Thursday afternoon on my way to my meeting through San Timoteo Canyon, I began feeling some hesitation when the Jeep's automatic transmission would shift, especially going up the small hills and down in the curves. But I went on to enjoy the meeting. That evening, while there was still a dusky light, the Jeep got into real trouble, barely making it up the last grade. Oh, how I prayed that I'd at least make it out of the Canyon and onto Redlands Boulevard, where I could stop and easily be assisted by Auto Club! I decided against the freeway route home, so stopping and starting, huffing and puffing on the Jeep's part, I made it to a big intersection, about 4 cars back from the light at Nason & Cottonwood. So, the Jeep would go no further, it was dark, I prayed and remembered to put on the emergency flashers. I contacted AAA, called my mechanic and texted every praying person and family member who came to mind and waited! I refused to think of myself as a victim of a potential crime! Psalm 91:1-2 says,

He who dwells in the secret 
  place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of 
  the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, "He is my
  refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust."

I had a minimum of 30 minutes to wait, and God was faithful. People just pulled up behind me as the light turned red, then as the light turned green, they noticed my emergency flashers. I don't think more than one or two drivers honked their horns, even before I fumblingly thought to start the flashers. And because the neighborhoods all face away from the signal, no naughty kids came out to bug me.  Was I ever glad the Lord didn't allow me to bring any guests to the meeting that afternoon! Texts came in continually with encouragement, and my daughter Heidi called to find out what was happening to me. One girlfriend, Michelle Tindall texted, "I love you, Dana!!! You scared me! You get home! That's an order!!! Lol"

A very nice tow truck driver hooked the Jeep up, and off we went to my house. On the way we talked about the way that even PG-13 movies have gotten so bad, and he's such a conscientious dad that he actually is going to see a movie first to approve it! This opened a door for witnessing, so I told him about the special youth events our church is having on Thursdays, and he was quite interested, because his kids are teenagers. As I rode along in the huge truck with my Jeep behind me, I kept thinking of what a pastor said on the radio earlier in the week: "You take care of God's things, and He'll take care of yours."

My mechanic came over yesterday morning to check things out. So I got the heap--or Jeep--towed out to a highly recommended transmission shop, and I believe I'll see it sometime after I return from our Mary Kay Seminar in Dallas next week. There is no room for worry--God's got me busy with finishing the backyard fence, stocking the pantries and fridge before I leave on a 6:05 a.m. flight on Tuesday, helping my consultants with their orders, and spending time with my grandsons! And I love that the Mary Kay Seminar ends on Saturday at noon--plenty of time to get back home for church from wherever in the US consultants call home!!

Let me close with Psalm 91:14-16, God speaking:

"Because he has set his love upon
  Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he
 has known My name.
He shall call upon Me, and I will
  answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation."



Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mighty Widows

7:55 p.m. Today's project was to attend the two widows' support groups I joined shortly after my husband Steve passed away in January. Interestingly enough, both groups meet on the 3rd Sunday of the month.

Calvary Chapel's "Widows' Might" is named after the widow in Luke 21:3, who came to give her offering at the temple. In that day, there was no taxpayer-financed safety net, so unless a widow had sons and or other family to support her, she could become destitute indeed. On this occasion, the wealthy gave large sums into the treasury, but Jesus commended this poor widow for giving two mites (lepta, very small copper coins):

Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.

At the Widows' Might, after enjoying a beautiful worship time, our leader Roberta focuses us on a scriptural theme or a Psalm, as she shared her learning from Psalm 37-8 today.

Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in the way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; do not fret--it only causes harm. 

Some months, we have a Bible study taught by one of the group. We share prayer requests, our own testimonies of the way the Lord is upholding us through the Word,  His faithfulness through very hard trials, and even the amazing way He may be using us, the majority ladies in their 80's, to witness and reach out to others. As we close in a circle of prayer, we are assured by the Lord that He is with and among us, even if the world might see us as occupying a very disadvantageous position! I don't generally join the others for lunch, because I need to go home, rest a bit, and today, for example, deal with a plumbing problem, before heading out to another wonderful widows/bereavement group, "Mending Hearts: Building a Network of Support."

Mending Hearts meets in the home of Kathy Potts, a widow of five years, and adopted mom of handicapped teens. Most of the ladies, of all ages and stages of loss, attend Palm Canyon Church. I first joined the group on February 10 for a lavish Valentines Day luncheon, only a month after losing Steve. We do very specific sharing and ministry to one another, building strong bonds of love, and end with a potluck meal. On February 24, we put together "Care Packages" in large bins meant to last a crisis-stricken family for a week, until they can get their bearings after a tragedy or loss.

March's topic was "Alphabet Soup" of pertinent healing scriptures and frank discussion. "The Power of Empathy," in April, led to an emotional discussion of the way Jesus empathizes--"Jesus wept," John 11:35--as one of us, with our hurts and sorrows. Hebrews 4:15 says,

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  

We shared the empathy we have received and given in our journey of loss. May's topic, "Please Don't Say That!" says it all.What we don't want is quick quips or false hopes. We need to recognize that "we live in a fallen world, and it often falls on us." We want what Jesus told us in John 16:33:

I have told you these things that in Me you might have peace. In this world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.

"Peace. With one word Jesus quiets the quest of our soul. We thirst for peace--shalom, wholeness, stillness, rest, healing. Take heart. Hope. Come alive again....If all we do is talk about life's losses, then that too fails to tell the whole story. We need to be able to deal with life's losses in the context of God's healing."

The June 15 meeting (which I missed due to my Chicago trip with son Steven) was a balloon launch in honor of our loved ones who have gone to heaven before us.

Today we discussed, "Don't Let Grief be Contagious." and we discussed this contrast: grief is a wound, not a sickness, and loss isn't contagious. We were asked to color in the emotions that best describe us--today.

I colored in three choices in the "Tangled Ball of Grief," whereas many of the ladies selected several. I first colored "Yearning," because I wish that my "Original Steve" was still with me. But I had to admit "Relief," because of the tormented, anguished, lost, helpless person he became in his last years.Then I had to acknowledge "Loneliness'" because I don't have a certain, intimate, soul mate to do life with any more. That doesn't mean I am not joyful and happy with the life God has designed for me most of the time, it's just a fact. I am now single, not married.

As we talked, some shared their feeling of being lost, others had wise counsel for relating to others who want to know how to talk with you about your loved one. Let them know it's all right to talk about them. One gal found it wonderfully comforting to re-read her sympathy cards, and others concurred. I believe I will do that tonight!

Our lesson ended with Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV):

Do not be anxious for anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.




Thursday, July 11, 2013

Beloved of the Lord, sleep well

10:20 p.m. Today's project was to teach our summer Bible study on II Samuel 17, where David narrowly escapes the army of his traitorous son Absalom, who has seized the throne. As with every week's gathering, we enjoy rich gleanings from the Word of God, and lively discussion. As much as I anticipated sheer enjoyment of our study time,  a major commemoration preoccupied my mind when I arose several hours earlier.

This day, July 11th, would have been my late husband Steve's and my 32nd wedding anniversary. He died 6 months ago in his bed in the assisted living residence where he had lived comfortably and well since September 2012. Despite our grief, my children and grandchildren and I have moved forward, experiencing accomplishments, trials, as well as the mental and emotional adjustments that must be made when the father and husband of the family is just--gone.

Behold, I will do a new thing we are reminded in Isaiah 43:19, and God has made that abundantly clear. Two of my kids, their spouses and little ones are living here now; a new grandson was born on June 9, then took ill with spinal meningitis within two weeks. Desmond is home now, after 2 weeks in the NICU, completely healthy and normal, thanks to the prayers of hundreds of Christians for his healing..

I have set up a trust for  all of Steve's and my estate. The yards and property are now being landscaped and properly fenced; my business is growing rapidly as God is literally bringing the women who want to join me in the effort to become a Sales Unit with me as Director. I'm pictured below with one of my team members.

Steve won't enjoy the earthly rewards, such as travel and career cars, that my business will provide. He was always so supportive, and would be my loudest cheerleader if he were here and in his right mind. But, his sojourn on this earth ended, reminding me of Hebrews 11:8-10:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Steve is now living the promise of eternal life, having gone to be with the Lord Jesus he loves. And while God is anointing my work and ministry, answering prayers, and being the central presence in my life, I have so much to look forward to when my time comes to leave--prayerfully with all other Christians in the Rapture --(I Thessalonians 4:13-18), if God wills it during my lifetime.

God blessed me with a lovely dream the other night! Steve and I were younger, enjoying our time together, including a visit to Harvest Christian Fellowship where we attended for 22 years. All was bright, beautifully decorated, and the worship and fellowship were sweet. What a peace I always wake up with when I dream of Steve! I am living proof that when we honor what God honors, faithful marriage, He has a reward for us:

 ...the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 

Additionally, God gave me this verse when I awoke after the sweet dream, Psalm 127:2b:

For so He gives His beloved sleep.

Thank You, Lord Jesus!!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Essentials for ministry

8:53 p.m. Today's project was to enjoy sweet fellowship. Midday, I picked up a friend's daughter from the Amtrak train station in Riverside. Emily wanted to surprise her mom by arriving all the way from Germany, where she and her husband are stationed, to help her recuperate from surgery. You should have seen  Emily's parents' faces when they opened the door! Priceless! It's not often that I have the privilege of blessing Debi, who's been there for me so devotedly throughout Steve's illness and since I became a widow this year. As Proverbs 17:17 says,

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

After a few hours at home with my kids, and taking care of a few chores in the yard, I headed off to Perris with a head of iceberg lettuce and my Bible to join Karen Morales and several good friends at her home for her bi-monthly "Ladies Only Fellowship," featuring taco salad and multiple desserts. Upon entering, Karen has us each write the address of a Bible verse on a square of paper, fold it, no name, and drop it into a  jar. Later in the evening, we pick a different one than we brought, look it up, read it to the group, and spontaneously explain what it means to you. It's always fascinating to see which scripture the Holy Spirit has for each of us, because He knows the need of each woman there! One need was met early on: laughter! Proverbs 15:15b (NIV) says,

...the cheerful heart has a continual feast.

I couldn't stay for the entire evening because Kathy Potts, who leads one of the monthly widows' groups I attend, had invited me to the Christian bikers' clubs' monthly outreach event at the Farmer Boys restaurant not far from my house. The clubs host the event, and open it to bikers from everywhere as an evangelistic outreach.

Kathy's adopted teenage son Daniel, once in a band, was the featured drum soloist for the evening, playing even the most complicated rock beats to popular Christian tunes.Nothing unusual about a talented young man entertaining a crowd--my son Kriss plays his drums still, after a stellar career in high school marching band, and drumming for his own bands. But you'll see Daniel's uniqueness below.

Daniel was born without arms! His adopted parents and older siblings taught him to do life without arms, much as Nick Vujicic, who has neither arms nor legs, was taught to make his way in life. He became head of an international evangelical ministry, "Life without Limits," with a 5 minute devotional heard on radio stations throughout the world. I have seen Nick at the Harvest Crusade, using his testimony to give a stirring challenge to thousands to drop their sin and excuses, come forward and be born again. 

Daniel played for two hours, with only small breaks to drink water. His mom Kathy told me, "His abs are like steel from leaning back and holding his legs up that long!" And Daniel plays well. He's been contacted by bands  looking for drummers to play the clubs in LA. But that's not his kind of scene, his mom remarked.In fact, the tip jar he had in front of his drum set had a believer's purpose--to help raise money to attend a youth retreat later this month.

So, what are the essentials for evangelism? Nice clothes? You should have seen the bikers in their gaudy black vests, graying braided hair and tattoos! Hear Jesus' comment about the expectations the Jews of His day had for the forerunner of the Messiah, Matthew 11:8-9:

But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' palaces. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet.

Mark 1:6 tells us that John the Baptist wore camel's hair shirts, a leather belt, and ate locusts and wild honey! Yet his ministry became so famous, so truthful and so convicting that all of Judea, including Pharisees and Roman soldiers, came to the Jordan River to be baptized by him. Ultimately, John was beheaded by King Herod for telling too much truth!

Does a Christian need to spare no expense or time to minister grace and encouragement to a fellow believer? I don't think I spent more that an hour from leaving to returning home, taking Emily to see her parents, and traveled perhaps 10 miles round trip. My "works" were hardly noticeable compared with God's plan to bless Debi so abundantly today! Karen blessed a roomful of women today, in a simple but tidy house, with mutually shared, everyday food. That's true koinonia!

Let's look at Romans 10:14-15 for the requirements to be used by God to save souls:

  How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
  And how shall they preach, unless they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them who preach the gospel and bring glad tidings of good things!

I don't see anything mandatory there about arms, legs, hands, lovely clothing, mansions, or long distance travel, do you?

Let us do what is at hand and do it faithfully. This is not only the best way to reach others, but our simple daily efforts, performed prayerfully, are well pleasing to God.

     


   




Sunday, June 30, 2013

Envy?

5:25 p.m. Today's project was to own up to twinges of jealousy I've felt in the last month or two.

Normally, the Lord has gifted me with the ability to be genuinely happy for others, and I am, because He has saved me to eternal life, blessed me with an incredible family, loyal longtime friends, productive work and Spirit-led ministry. Best of all the gifts of this life, Jesus gave me 31 years of love from a godly husband, my Steve, who passed away January 1 of this year. Our 32nd wedding anniversary is coming up in eleven days.

As a suddenly single person, I've not spent much time--except at first--envying couples in the prime of life, because even though Steve was unwell for the last year and a half of his life, we enjoyed lots of fun together from the time I retired in 2009. The Holy Spirit wordlessly comforted me by reminding me that I had much more to be grateful for, in all honesty, than to be sad about. That is why He is called the Comforter by Jesus in this promise in John 14:25-27:

These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name,  He will teach you all things, and bring to remembrance all things I have said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Practical matters of settling Steve's estate, Social Security and life insurance; and addressing neglected areas of our property have consumed these 6 months, along with my children and grandchildren living with me here in the house. My oldest son's family, and my older daughter and son-in-law live in neighboring cities. I've formed active daily routines and worked my Mary Kay business successfully, without anxiety about daily provision, safety, or having to do all of the household chores myself. Major repairs have been undertaken by my sons and sons-in-law, for which I thank the Lord.And even the dogs have a new pal in my 15-month-old grandson Clark! Our adorable 3 week-old grandson Desmond is battling back from meningitis and is improving daily, may God be praised!

But we know from I Peter 5:8, that 

our adversary, the devil, walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.

And if the devil can cause me to focus on what I don't have rather than on the wonderful things I do have, I will be devoured by envy and bitterness. I would be indulging myself in sad, shocking and ungodly attitudes, not to be named among us as believers!So I do what James recommends in 4:7:

Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

But temptations are always with us in this earthly life, just different temptations beset different people!

Lately, I realize that the temptation to envy now hits me when I see very elderly couples like the Smiths whom I spent time with yesterday, delivering product to the wife Nancy. They bantered, bickered, teased and praised each other with loud, even boisterous voices, much to my delight. The husband whipped out of his wallet honeymoon  pictures of his wife in her 40's style bathing suit, and a picture of himself as a skinny kid in uniform just before the start of World War II. The wife kept saying that he was deaf, but he totally heard everything we said--or if he didn't he just kept on with his line of chatter.I hadn't laughed out loud to that degree since our grandson came down with meningitis last Monday.The Smiths really lifted my spirits.

God bless the elderly couple I saw inching along last Thursday afternoon in the Stater's parking lot in Mentone, holding hands, or probably holding each other up, holding on for dear life. Steve and I held hands whenever we walked together anywhere, from our dating days onward. I felt a twinge of sadness for what would never happen for me again with Steve in this life, but the Holy Spirit reminded me that he is healthy and whole, and the happiest he's ever been, living in heaven now.  And I am happy now, too, in the life He has designed for me. I pray a blessing on those couples I see for setting such a wonderful example to their families and the world at large. That's "Love for a Lifetime," as Dr. James Dobson put it. 
Whenever I am at a momentary loss as to how to think or pray, I rely on the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to keep my mind and heart in the place of gratitude where God wants me. I'll close with Romans 8:26-28:

...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. 

   And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, and who are the called according to His purpose.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Battling for life in the NICU

8:19 p.m. Today's project is to finally sit down, prompted by the March of Dimes keepsake journal, "Baby," and reflect on the Lord's work in saving my newborn grandson Desmond's life from spinal meningitis.

At 1:10 a.m Monday morning, Heather and Nick called his mom Kathleen to ask what to do about two-week-old Desmond's 102 degree temperature. "Take him to the hospital!" she replied. At 1:45, I awoke to use my bathroom, and sleepily marveled behind my closed door that all the lights were still on upstairs in the rooms next to me, but figured the baby was up nursing, and went back to sleep. I had set a 4 a.m. wake-up alarm so I could drive my other daughter Heidi and her husband Pavel to LAX for their 2nd anniversary flight to Maui, so staying up was not an option.

At 4 o'clock, I went into the hall and peeked into the rooms and the parents and baby were gone. "Maybe they spent the night at Nick's parents' house," I thought. 4 a.m. was no  time to be calling anyone, so I hustled about and got out of the door and on my way to Redlands to pick up Heidi and Pavel. We traveled lightheartedly to the airport, I deposited them, and went on my way home with just a "pit stop" in Bellflower.

Little did I know that Desmond was fighting for his life!

I was most of the way home when a text message from Nick came in about 9:30 a.m., detailing Desmond's near-fatal fever, the painful tests, such as a spinal tap, which their little one had to endure without pain medication, and the prognosis: bacterial spinal meningitis,14 days' minimum in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit--in isolation!. Future complications include deafness and brain damage! However, since they brought the baby in so quickly, he had the best chance for survival. Thank you, Lord!!

We didn't see much of Heather as she and Nick came home to rest Monday afternoon, but he told me later that evening that the two of them had endured 2 and a half hours not seeing Desmond, but hearing him scream from lifesaving medical procedures. Nick and Heather were requesting total privacy at that time. I went over to Nick's parents house just to be together, commiserate, and talk about how we could help. Information was quietly going out to the families.My friend Linda Martinez' prayer chain had been set in motion for Desmond's complete healing.. As I tweeted earlier this week, "Praise God that He has not left us alone in our tribulations! Jesus said, in Hebrews 13:5,

I will never leave you nor forsake you."

It was one of the most difficult things I've ever done, to look at my daughter Heather, a new mom with her baby away from her for the first time in his life, standing at the kitchen counter quietly eating the poached egg and sausage Nick had fixed for her breakfast. You could cut both of our pain and sorrow with a knife. She asked me if I wanted to come see the baby, and of course I said "yes." I went upstairs and cried a little, because the loud sobbing I felt like doing would have upset my daughter and son-in-law. I was devastated, just devastated, horrified and frightened. As Nick's mom and I said, we've both had our full share of childhood mishaps and injuries, but nothing ever happened with our newborns.

Only God could intervene for Desmond, and He did! When I went to see him in the NICU, the visit began with a 3-minute surgical scrub and the donning of a gown.My old Bible study friend Ginger Fero, now a charge nurse, gave me a hug and reassured me that she had placed him in the NICU immediately (not in pediatric ICU) for his further protection. She arranged for the finest neonatal specialist to attend Desmond, knowing who Heather was right away (family resemblance). Christian doctors and nurses are attending him around the clock. And I was delighted to see that his color was regular newborn pink, and the stiffness in his little neck from the disease was loosening. He was nursing and eliminating, moving about as a baby should.On Tuesday, we still didn't know what the repercussions for the future might be, but people were praying.

As Nick asked for prayer on Facebook, a friend from their church set up "Meal Train," one of the websites that help friends organize meal deliveries to hurting families, those in crises of any kind. Nick and Heather's lunches and dinners are delivered to his parents' home, which is much closer to the hospital than mine. That way, Desmond's parents can head back to the hospital conveniently. In what happens to be the most critical week of my Mary Kay business year, the Lord allots time for me to spend an hour each day with Heather and Desmond, and have the privilege of seeing him progress daily.

Desmond hears, responds, looks me straight in the eye, coos, and does all of the normal newborn movements.He nurses vigorously. He turns his head and is even lifting it up to look around. And because of having formula during the night and as a daytime supplement to breastfeeding, he's even filling out, and looks cuter than ever! How hundreds of believers are praising God today!

As a believing nurse explained today, "All the prayers are working, most of us in here are Christians. So keep the prayers coming!" She went through the daily improvement Desmond has shown, and told us of the amazing skill of the doctor who found a way to get the IV into his umbilical cord area, not easy 2 weeks after birth, falling off of the cord, and the closing up of the area. As she left, it occurred to me that prayers not only helped Desmond and his family, but help the nurses and doctors too--giving them wisdom for enacting each part of their role, and not making costly mistakes--the stakes are high for the preemies and babies with life-threatening illnesses! David wrote in Psalm 144:1, 2a

Blessed be the LORD my Rock, 
Who trains my hands for war,
And my fingers for battle--
My lovingkindness and my
  fortress,
My high tower and my deliverer,
My shield and the one in whom I take refuge

It is with godly, God-honoring confidence that I thank the Lord Jesus, Desmond's Deliverer!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Being kept in peace

8:59 p.m. Today's project is to reflect on the way that God has kept me in His perfect Peace while I've been in the eyes of several hurricanes of busyness the past two weeks. Isaiah 26:3 (KJV) says,

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.

With Summer Bible Study beginning three Thursdays ago, just days before our little Baby Desmond was born, it's been an exhilarating and challenging month. Nothing do I love better than new babies in the family! And I treasure answering God's 33-year call on my life by delving into God's word in preparation for teaching the ladies and disseminating their written lessons. Now we are in the group's 8th year--the fourth year of the Books of Samuel, taking half a book each summer. Becoming absorbed with David's adventure of knowing, obeying and trusting God, while learning about what is in our own hearts, never gets old. We studied Colossians, 2 years of Ephesians, and Galatians previously. I believe the Lord is leading me back to the New Testament for 2014, should He tarry!

I jokingly said to my son-in-law and daughter (Desmond's parents) a few days ago, "I'm looking forward to a week where I don't lose a day (of study)!" Last week, Wednesday was lost due to a drive to LAX and an afternoon of migraine illness; this week, Monday was a travel day back from Chicago, where my youngest son Steven and I had a wonderful time with his national bodybuilding competition, worshiping at the fledgling Real Church plant, and touring that amazing town.

But the Anchor of my soul, Jesus, has been in the midst, easing every step of the way, and allowing our family's lives to mesh, move, and be met at every turn by His loving Presence. The momentum of my Mary Kay business is speeding up also. What a joy it is to help meet women's needs for high quality products and the opportunity to have rewarding businesses of their own!

One development that has not been positive is the difficulties my 86-year-old dad has been struggling with lately. He does not remember which day or time I tell him I'm coming to do his weekly shopping, so becomes irate when I call to say I'm on my way. "It's people like you," he'll say, "that can't be trusted to show up when they say they will!" I just tell him the day and time we had agreed upon, and calmly say, "I'll be there between 12:30 and 1 p.m." Sometime he has he energy to come  with me, and then prefers to sit in the car. Other times, he'll painstakingly walk into the tobacco shop to get his chew. Until recently, his house has been at his standard of cleanliness. But about three weeks ago,  I noticed black water coming up the kitchen sink drain. I purchased two kinds of strong drain cleaners, but have returned each week to see the ooze now up to the brim of the deep sink, and a skin forming over the top. (And the bottles unopened, not even taken out of the bag).Repeated urgings to call his septic man or plumber have gone unheeded; if a plumber he didn't call showed up at the door, Daddy wouldn't let him in most likely. So please join our family and friends in prayer--as of last Friday, he did have plans to call a plumber, but got sick, little wonder.  Again, I need to trust the Lord, act prudently and respectfully, and not project dread into the future! Always remember, and don't repeat, Job's sad statement and outlook,Chapter 3:25:

The thing which I greatly feared has come upon me, and that which I was afraid of has come unto me.

A great help in staying calm and trusting God, and above all, LETTING GO of responsibility for the future of my family and the world around me, has been my Jesus Calling devotional. Using scriptures, the author and former missionary Sarah Young is able to project Jesus' tenderness and loving care for His children. This book helps me realize that the petty perfections I assign myself do not reflect His outlook towards me at all! I am able to really internalize the words of Jeremiah 31:3, 

I have loved you with an everlasting love.

Using Psalm 5:11, "Let all that put their trust in Thee rejoice;" Ephesians 3:20, "He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we are able to ask or think;" Jude 24," To Him who is able to keep you from falling;" and Joshua 1:5b, "I will not fail you nor forsake you," here is a portion of June 19th's message:

"I am with you continually, so don't be intimidated by fear. Though it stalks you, it cannot harm you, as long as you cling to My hand. Keep your eyes on Me, enjoying Peace in My Presence." 

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee.







 



Friday, June 14, 2013

The value of half an hour

3:48 p.m. Today's project was to leave my house at 4 a.m., for a 6:50 flight to Chicago, where I am now sharing a hotel room with my youngest son Steven preparatory to his competition in the Jr. Nationals bodybuilding competition. He's tanned, rested and ready, or at least only has one more professional tanning session to go, later this afternoon. I feel quite energetic, because it's not even 2:00 in California! We'll see how and when the lack of sleep catches up with me!

I have always loved Psalm 31:15, "My times are in Your hand." As well as Psalm 90:12, "Teach us to number our days, that we may attain a heart of wisdom." Lately, the Lord has been waking me up 30 minutes before my cell phone alarm was set. And I mean wide awake, ready to get up. And as my morning devotions and tasks have proceeded, I've been so grateful for that extra time. The extra time Wednesday allowed me to leave on time with no stress while taking Steven to LAX for his flight. After spending a horrific afternoon violently ill with a migraine Wednesday, I woke half an hour early Thursday to finish my Bible study on II Samuel 14 for my 10:00 morning teaching. The timing was just right for what The Lord had me write.

By taking an extra half hour with my dad in Redlands before getting my Jeep detailed and cleaned out from my vomiting attack, I had the privilege of fellowshiping with two Christians in the waiting room of the Foamy Car Wash. One is the president and founder of a small Christian seminary, designing a missions course based on the Book of Acts; the other was a Christian attorney who wants to educate future pastors and church leaders. God's timing is like no other--and remember, He exists outside of time!

Earlier that morning, my daughter-in-law had volunteered to locate my missing luggage. In case it wasn't on the premises, I had borrowed a rolling case from the hostess of  Thursday Bible study in Moreno Valley. As I headed out through the Canyon on my way home from Redlands, about to travel through Mo Val, I thought, "Maybe I should see if Marisela found the suitcase." Lo and behold, there was a text from her that she'd found both suitcases, before I could even call! (And could I pick up some diapers for grandboy Clark?) No problem, returned the case, and stopped by Target in the same part of town!

Does God care about our mileage, our daily errands? Yes, He does, especially when taking time to care for an elderly parent, share a good word and scripture with brothers in Christ, and help provide necessities for our families. The wonderful part of being a Christian is knowing that Jesus is with me, whether in sickness or health,  in seasons of busyness and rest. the Holy Spirit makes Himself so powerfully evident as I go through every hour seeking Jesus and trusting Him. Psalm 138:8 assures each believer, each of God's precious children,

The LORD will perfect that which concerns me.

And Psalm 37:18a and 23

The Lord knows the days of the upright...the steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and He delights in his way.

Thank  you, Lord that You are thinking of us today, with pure love, and only the best in mind for our growth, sanctification, and preparation for eternal life with You!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Travail Part I

10:21 p.m. Today's project was to visit, hold and rock my newest grandson Desmond Amos Love. After a family record-breaking 23 hours of labor, my daughter Heather delivered this bundle of blessing yesterday afternoon. Today, I welcomed her into the rather large sorority of women who have given birth.

Ever since we got the news yesterday afternoon, I've been on pins and needles to go see the little one, but his dad Nick was guarding the rest his wife needed.We took turns rocking Desmond over at Nick's parents' home because the two story house we live in would be too strenuous for Heather to walk up and downstairs for a day or two. Makes sense--during a two or three day hospital stay, new mothers don't climb stairs!

"Travail," or labor, is used many times in both the Old and New Testaments to describe tumultuous or tortuous processes in the lives of people and nations. Jeremiah 6:24, prophesying  of the people "from the north country", descending upon Jerusalem to destroy it, says (all quotes KJV):

We have heard the report of it; 
Our hands grow feeble. 
Anguish has taken hold of us, 
Pain as of a woman in travail.

Micah prophesied the coming fall of Israel in similar terms, Chapter 4:10:

Be in pain, and travail to bring forth,
O daughter of Zion,
Like a woman with birth pangs.

I Thessalonians 5:2-3 speaks of the end of the age and the Second Coming of Christ:

For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them as travail upon a woman with child.

In the verse I clung to during my lengthy deliveries, John 16:21, Jesus compares the agony and the wonderful result of labor to the sorrow that will one day be replaced with joy in the lives of His followers.

A woman, when she is in travail, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish for joy that a man has been born into the world.

I'll close with His words of astounding comfort to the disciples, verse 22:

Therefore you now have sorrow (at His leaving); but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.

Welcome, Desmond, and COME LORD JESUS!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Kid raising

10:00 p.m. Today's project was to teach the first session of our summer Bible study, 2 Samuel Chapter 13.

We had a brief review of Chapters 11 and 12, whose sections I titled "The Crimes" (King David commits adultery with a married woman and has her husband killed when she turns up pregnant); "The Confrontation" (The prophet Nathan confronts David and exposes his contempt for God's laws and his sins); "The Curse" (Nathan tells David that there will be murder and sexual degradation in his family from this time on);"The Confession" (David admits he has sinned against God); and "The Compassion" (God forgives David's sins and, although Bathsheba's baby dies, their son Solomon is loved by God, and will be a great king  in his own right).

In Chapter 13, we saw the unfolding of Nathan's prophecy when the king's son and Crown Prince Amnon rapes his half sister Tamar, and is subsequently murdered by her full brother, David's second son Absalom. These utterly undisciplined, overly indulged young men had none of their father's devotion and repentant heart. Matthew Henry wrote, "whereas grace is not in our blood, corruption is."
As you may imagine in a roomful of women, the most lively and Spirit-led discussion centered around the accountability of parents to God for the upbringing of their children! We recounted the way our parents, saved and unsaved, strictly disciplined us and kept us out of trouble through the completion of childhood, and if we did mess up, they certainly would never have tolerated it!! Isn't it interesting that in families as a whole, the principle of Hebrews 12:6-11 was followed until the last 25 years:

For whom the Lord loves, He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with us as sons; for what son is he whom the father does not chasten? For if you be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then you are bastards and not sons. Furthermore, we have had earthly fathers who corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they after a few days chastened us for their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening for the moment seems to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who are exercised thereby.

In studying the shockingly violent history of King David's family, we cannot but reflect on the society in which we live today in America.  Absentee fathers sire 70% of the prison population; equally high rates of teen pregnancy, drug use, even suicide, can be traced to uncared-for, abandoned children.

Correct and discipline your children while there is hope, Proverbs 19:18 says. Love, nurture, correct and know your children well!

Lawless, damaged children are not all the products of absentee parents. An emotionally and mentally distant, self-absorbed parent may live in the same house as their child-even in a palace.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

No devotions, no day

7:08 p.m. Saturday June 1st. Today's project was to enjoy excellent fellowship with my sisters in Christ here at our church's women's retreat.

After a tumultuous Friday in my Mary Kay business, fraught with fun, challenges, and up-and-down action, our team closed out the month well. The Lord has graced me with an outstanding  team of women, almost all of them believers!

I was invited to lunch by my daughter Heidi, so we could spend time with a close friend of hers who brought her unsaved mother to the retreat. That was thoughtful on Heidi's part, because the mom didn't know anyone there.  I believe that's one reason we attend retreats: to reach out to others, whether to witness to the unsaved, or comfort a sister in need. II Corinthians 1:4:

...God, who comforts us in all our tribulation, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we are comforted by God. 

At retreats, we also have the opportunity to encourage and exhort other Christians to spend more time in God's presence, through reading His word and prayer.The theme for this year's retreat is "It is Well with My Soul," after after the famous hymn. This incredible statement of trust in God was written by Horatio Spafford in the midst of  the devastating tragedy of having lost his four daughters in an 1873 shipwreck. Yet, he had peace in his soul, because he trusted in the Living God, the One who tells us in Hebrews 13:5,

I will never leave you nor forsake you.

Of the workshop choices offered at the retreat, I selected the one on having a devotional life. The importance of this spiritual discipline was underscored for me by a mom I sat next to at dinner. She explained that she chose the same workshop despite there being one specifically for moms.She ended up taking the devotional class because, she said, "If I first get into the Bible and prayer early in my day, I'll be ready to listen the rest of my day as God tells me how to raise my child!" 

Wow!

As Christians, we enjoy hearing God's word corporately at church and at Bible studies. But nothing compares to the personal, intimate time I spend alone with God seven days a week. In fact, there IS NO day without devotional time! I need my marching orders from the Captain of my soul.

From decades of daily quiet time, here is some of the fruit that has been produced:
  • Jesus' love applied to the marriage relationship
  • Children became born again Christians
  • Wisdom in the many complex issues of child rearing
  • Children serving in ministry as teens and adults
  • Application of the Holy Spirit's gift of teaching the Bible and ministering to women
  • Creation of "A Woman's Walk in the Word" Bible study lessons
  • Leading the Prayer Tower in the early years of the Harvest Crusades
  • Guidance in running for and winning elective office for 13 years
  • "Willing Hearts, Willing Hands;" "Moms' Mornings;" and "Heart to Home" ministries
  • Joining two short term evangelistic missions to Wales
  • Galatians: An Exploration of Faith & Freedom, published in 2011
  • A Spirit-led Mary Kay business that serves as an outreach ministry to women in need
  • The grace and guidance of God in caring for my late husband and walking in joy that can only come from God as a widow
And since God has never failed to meet me in the mornings--and throughout my days--I cannot even imagine what He has in store next, should He tarry in taking His Church home in the Rapture!

Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.

Your challenge? Get up earlier tomorrow and meet with Jesus!


Monday, May 27, 2013

Original Steve, Part II


6:55 p.m. Today's project was to grasp a new perspective on my husband Steve's demise on January 1st, following on the heels of the kids' and my burger feast in his honor at home on Friday night. We all had plenty of stories to tell about Steve and the meals he enjoyed, from the Dr. Pepper to the Barqs root beer, salt 'n vinegar chips, and his most favorite, my imitation Western Bacon Cheeseburger! We ended our meal with his crave, Dreyer's vanilla ice cream, topping the scrumptious "blondies" (light brownies) made by my daughter-in-law Marisela. The weather was mild, cool, and just right for a meal on the patio, with lighted fans keeping the mosquitoes at bay. But ultimately, what made our meal a celebration instead of a wake was knowing that Steve is rejoicing, worshiping, fully fit and mentally sharper than he ever was, in his permanent home in heaven. As II Corinthians 5:8 makes clear, when a Christian is absent from the body, he is present with Jesus.

The Lord showed me a perspective on that verse from the other end of life's spectrum after church today. I ate lunch at China One, a new restaurant that was partnering with Calvary Chapel Christian School (of CC Moreno Valley), by donating 15% of each customer's bill to the school if they brought the pertinent flyer from the counter in the foyer at church. I expected to see a number of folks from Calvary there, but didn't mind eating alone for a good cause. I wasn't alone for long, because my daughter's friends Noah, Crystal, and their one-year-old Lilly came in, and said, "Are you lunching alone?" I said, "Yes." Crystal said, "Well, not any more!! We'll take this table right next to you!"

Don't you love it? I'm not about to give up on the next generation, and I hope you won't either!

This couple lost a baby, terribly deformed, dying in the womb. I can only imagine the sorrow and devastation that accompanied the delivery of a child God had named but did not allow to see life on this earth. We don't know God's reasons for the deaths of children, but I do know that God will not give us more than we can bear, no matter how dire the trial God sends us as individuals. He chose this couple to be a witness for Him.

I remember what Jesus said about His selection of Saul, Acts 9:15-16:

...He is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake.

As the three of us were sharing our testimonies over lunch, quite openly and boldly, they commented that they have been a witness to their family members with the joy that they still have in Christ, with one another, and as a family, despite the tragedy they suffered. I concurred, in that there is no reason for believers to just curl up and die mentally and emotionally when a loved one goes to be with the Lord. Just think of the rejoicing Steve is doing, the reunions he is having! We talked a bit of what their boy will look like when they see him one day in his perfect body--what a thrill, what a hope that gives Crystal and Noah! I shared my thoughts about "Original Steve," as well.  Of course we have sad times, thinking of the loss of our expected futures with an infant for them and with a retired husband enjoying our golden years in my case.Two ends of the spectrum of life on earth, the very sin-cursed earth of sorrow and destruction.

Yet, the three of us cling to, by actual experience, our calling is to be a part of  God's "holy nation, a peculiar people" (I Peter 2:9) And the reason we can go forward in life? Here is the the believer's proper reaction to death taught to us in I Thessalonians 4:13:

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as those who have no hope.

And finally, the Apostle Paul shouts from the pages of scripture through the ages to us today in I Corinthians 15:57:

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (over death) through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Original Steve Part I

9:47 p.m. Today's project was to continue make preparations (buying food) for our celebration of Steve's birthday, which is tomorrow, May 23rd. Just the kids and I are going to have a hamburger cookout in memory of Steve here at home on Friday night, because we all know that hamburgers were his favorite food. Each of us will make a special gourmet burger in their dad's honor. (Mine will be a Western Bacon Cheeseburger with the homemade barbecue sauce that he loved).  We'll have Dreyer's vanilla ice cream with Heath Bar blondies for dessert. We even have the two kinds of buns he liked: whole wheat and toasted onion. The salt and vinegar potato chips are already in the house. Somebody better pick up a six-pack of Dr. Pepper  too!

Steve would have been 58 in earth years.In his new eternal life in heaven with Jesus, however, he has become a timeless being. I like to envision him, as I say to people, as "Original Steve."

"Original Steve" is the handsome, energetic, brilliant man I met in 1980 and married in 1981, when he was 27. Now that I think of it, "Original Steve" could be the man  he was at 37 or 47, active with his wife and kids, successfully employed, well-traveled, conversant in the public education issues that our life in public service entailed. He even put on a tux for the annual Junior League Ball, and wore his tailored black suit for other civic and semi-formal occasions! Yet he could generally be found fixing or fabricating things at work or at home. And a day doesn't go by, it seems, when I don't mention the nightly family devotions he led for our family to someone. Steve really set an example to our extended family, his children, and to the Christian community of being a godly father, a praying father, a servant-leader husband, and a man who served at church.

The Steve of the last 2 years and one day was not anyone we knew, not really, other than the normal physical appearance of a husband of a wife over 60 and grandfather of three boys. His shell looked normal up until the last year, when the wandering, blank eyes gave his mental emptiness away. Before that, the two of us would be at Ralphs grocery store and he'd get dirty looks for standing in the middle of an aisle rather than walking on the right side. When I'd quietly and gently guide Steve to hold onto the cart, I actually felt sorry for the rushed crabby shoppers when the realization of his condition stabbed them with guilt!.

Maybe it's best that we not scowl at anyone. Only God knows what is or is not happening in a stranger's brain.Psalm 139:2:

You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.

I am not sure how I will feel tomorrow.  But despite knowing there's an "Original Steve" in heaven rejoicing with everyone else who preceded him, and with Jesus Himself, I personally would like having him back here with me, his wife of 31 years, watching his grand kids grow, and welcoming our new little Desmond this month!

In all sincerity, though, Steve would say, and as Christians we can agree with' what the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:23, that he'd rather

...be with Christ, which is far better.

The two of us will be reunited, in terms of eternity, very soon!