Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Lighthouse Principle


Lighthouses have always fascinated me. For one thing, they are always located by large bodies of water. It doesn’t matter if it’s the ocean, river, lake or bay, I’m a fan of water views.

When traveling I always look at postcard racks to familiarize myself with the area. I have never forgotten an oversize postcard that had pictures of lighthouses in Michigan.

It was fascinating because, though all held the same importance, no two were alike in shapes or colors.

Why Bother With Light?

Lighthouses were needed to guide ships safely into port through rocky harbors. Situated in lonely places, they were built to withstand the toughest of weather conditions.

Views from the top were spectacular, but lighthouse keepers did not climb the challenging steps for the view. Their part in the mighty shipping industry was simply to make their light shine. They had no control over who would use the beams or how.

Light Still Needed

We are entering into a New Year. I’m looking forward to it, though I did not make any resolutions for it. If you’re wondering why not, I have a simple answer.

My individual resolutions have a tendency to fall by the wayside after a few weeks. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to become a better person in the new year.

That’s why the famous prayer of St. Francis of Assisi caught my attention once again. Here is the part I love:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

Each line of that prayer is a worthwhile goal. But I like that St. Francis called upon God to help him achieve them. I need that same power if I’m going to be a peacemaker or sow love. And what about forgiveness? Is that something I can easily offer on my own?

The Lighthouse Principle

It’s easy to see a world full of darkness rather than goodness and light. That’s why I want to follow the lighthouse principle this year. It may seem like a lonely business, but just as each lighthouse made a difference to ships in its area, each of us make a difference to the people around us.

Jesus spoke of his followers as light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16). His instructions were to light your lamp and put it on a stand to give light to others. Sounds like a lighthouse principle to me.

St. Francis’ prayer has more good things in it. But our light will shine brightly even with the first few lines.                                                                         

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Circle of Inspiration


Whenever I’m in a hospital lobby, I check out the gift shop. They seem to have items I don’t find elsewhere.

During my “bear collecting” phase, I found a cute figurine of a bear settled in an overstuffed armchair. He has a book in his lap and one leg crossed over the other. I enjoy this bear because he is smiling. It confirms my belief that reading is a pleasure.

I was waiting in a hospital lobby a few weeks ago. Reading to fill the time, I decided a walk would do me good. I hadn’t gone far when I noticed the gift shop. I wandered in to look around.

What caught my eye was a display of Raku Medallions by artist Jeremy Diller. Each clay circle was three inches in diameter. I picked one up and was surprised by a simple message stamped into the back: I Am Grateful.

Trial by Fire

The artist had included an informative plaque with his display: Each handcrafted Raku Medallion is fired in an outdoor kiln, and left to smolder in a pit with wood shavings. Not everyone survives their trial by fire. The ones that do cultivate strength and beauty. My silent prayer was, “Lord, help me to be one of those people.”

I had not planned to buy anything, so I left the shop and finished my walk. Back in the lobby I read for a while, but I kept thinking of the “trial by fire” message. I went back to the gift shop to read it again.

One medallion caught my eye. It was a white heart in the center of white lines which radiated out to form a cross. I turned it over and found the grateful heart message stamped into the back. I thought that makes sense. To survive my trial by fire I will need a grateful heart. I had my wallet this time, so I bought it.

Thankful or Grateful . . . 

To be grateful is to be appreciative or thankful. Thankfulness inspires a warm feeling toward someone for something good that has happened. On the other hand, to be thankless is to be ungrateful and self-centered. It can even be prideful if we think the good thing that happened was simply what we deserved.

Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” and “be thankful.” Thankfulness opens our heart to God’s peace. We can’t be thankful and discontented at the same time.

The Message puts it this way: Cultivate thankfulness. I like that. There is nothing automatic about being grateful.

I came home, hung the medallion by my desk and took out my journal. The Amplified Bible says, “Be thankful (appreciative), giving praise to God (always).”

In a matter of seconds, I had listed eight things for which I was thankful. It was very uplifting.

How About You?

Have you been going through your own trial by fire? Imagine a circle of inspiration stamped I Am Grateful. Thankfulness is a personal thing, so give it some thought. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Life of a Lie


Do you associate the word Arabia with a desert in southwest Asia? That’s what I did until I read a book called Treasure in a Cornfield by Greg Hawley.

I was amazed by many things in this adventurous autobiography.  The book’s subtitle is The Discovery and Excavation of the Steamboat Arabia.   

Flat-bottomed paddle-wheelers, propelled by giant boiler engines, carried tons of cargo and hundreds of passengers before establishment of railroads. The mighty Mississippi and the muddy Missouri rivers were major travel sites.

How could a steamboat end up in a cornfield? In 1856, the Arabia was snagged by an underwater tree and sank in the Missouri River. As years rolled by, the river eroded and changed its course leaving the Arabia under a Kansas cornfield.

The Tell-Tale Mule 

This book was filled with amazing stories, but the life of a lie caught my interest. In 1988, the Hawley excavation team came upon the remains of a mule. The skeleton was fully bridled and saddled, laying on its right side.

An article in a St. Joseph’s newspaper, at the time of the disaster, reported that the owner had tried his best to get the mule off the Arabia but the mule was too stubborn (page 71). Mr. Hawley said this story “was unlikely” because one hundred and thirty-two years later the reins were still tied to a piece of sawmill equipment.

Why Lie? 

People are untruthful for many reasons. Self-preservation is a big one. The mule’s owner remains anonymous. He may have fabricated a lie because he was ashamed of not rescuing his mule. In the aftermath of such a major disaster who would question the story of a stubborn mule?

There’s truth in the old adage, “A lie has no legs; it has to be supported by other lies.”

I wonder how the owner felt, every time he told his lie. Knowing the truth, did he try to avoid talking about the incident? Did he think about the suffering of his mule? Or did he tell his story as a bald-faced brazen lie?

Good Reasons for Truth 

There are a couple of reasons to tell the truth: 1) It simplifies our life; we don’t have to remember what we said to keep the lie going, and 2) people know they can trust us; they don’t have to struggle to find the truth.

Did you know that Numbers 23:19 says lying is a human trait? God does not lie; therefore, He is trustworthy. Wondering what to do about a problem? Rest assured, God helps those who trust in Him (Nahum 1:7). Ask Him for wisdom. Lying is an unnecessary option.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Ring Those Bells


It’s December and I’m hearing bells. Are you? Some of them are ringing in front of my favorite stores. They’re not loud. Just a soft reminder to be aware of others needs while I meet my own.

I heard another bell today. My husband and I have a friend who opened a thrift store to raise funds for charitable works.

A bells rings briefly each time someone enters the store. To me it was another soft and satisfying sound. I enjoyed seeing the looks on faces when told the entire store was having a half-price sale. Most of them were as surprised as I was.

Bargains for a Cause

Once a month, our friend hosts a Meet the Author day. When invited to choose a December date, I unknowingly chose the last day of a week-long sale. Everything was half price. I was delighted to find nearly a dozen books by my favorite fiction author. At twenty-five cents a book I couldn’t go wrong, no matter how long it takes me to read them.

From the author’s table I always looked up when I heard the bell ring. I enjoy people-watching, but it was fun to talk with them, too.

One lady who spent the most time shopping was laughing as she said, “I’ll have to take these into the house a few at a time. My husband will think I spent a lot of money.” A man standing nearby said, “Just tell him you bought something for him. He’ll be OK.”

No Seasonal Limit 

The bell rings on the door of this store all year long. Charitable works are always in progress and a spirit of peace and love prevails.

Our friend considers all of her hard work an act of faith. When I observed her commitment in action today I thought of James 2:17. That verse reminds us that faith is good, but we show our faith by our actions.

Another verse rings a bell with me. 1 John 3:18 says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” Saying we love is easy. Showing it is not. It generally means expending energy and moving out of our comfort zone to help someone.

Bells at Christmas remind us to put faith and love into action. Why not try to ring those bells all year long?

Sunday, December 3, 2017

How to Be Wise


Nobody wants to be thought a fool, but sometimes a person's actions label him that way. A wise person thinks before he acts, but wise actions are motivated by wise words.

I never expected to find words of wisdom on the walls of a pizza place, but there they were. My husband and I had stopped for the night at Wheeler Ridge, California. In the mood for pizza, we walked into Pieology.

We placed our order and sat down to wait. I enjoyed reading quotes off their wall decor and made notes of a few I wanted to remember. For example:

(1) C.S. Lewis, famous author of Mere Christianity, was credited with saying, "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." That was encouraging.

(2) Malcom Forbes, considered wise in the business world, said, "Failure is success if we learn from it." That reminded me of telling my piano students, "Unless you know you've made a mistake, you can't improve."

(3) Henry J. Kaiser said, "Problems are only opportunities in work clothes." He ought to know. He founded over one hundred companies in his lifetime, including Kaiser Aluminum and Kaiser Steel.

How Wise Are You?

You've probably heard someone say, "A word to the wise is sufficient." That's true for those who want to be wise and know they have more to learn. 

Wisdom is not just acquiring knowledge. Wisdom is using what you know to make good decisions. Henry Ford, father of the automobile industry, provides a good example.

He said, "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants as long as it is black." Why? Early finishing techniques were a carryover from the carriage industry. Paint needed curing times of up to four weeks.

Ford changed to a faster-drying product available only in black. Why? To avoid warehousing cars just to let the paint dry. He filtered through knowledge to find what best applied to his need.

Sometimes We Need Help

I try to do that, too, but I don't always know what to do. Proverbs 13:10 says, "Wisdom is found in those who take advice." It's OK to ask for help, but be selective. 

Once in a while, I've asked someone for help only to have them respond in a disinterested or condescending manner.

That's why I love the promise in James 1:5 (NIV). It says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given you."

Do you want to know how to be wise? Learn what you can, then go right to the top and ask for wisdom on how to apply what you've learned.

After all, you have an open invitation. And who could be wiser than God?

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Travel Light


Armchair travel is a lot of fun. Some of my favorite trips are via Rick Steves' Europe. His half-hour shows on public broadcasting stations are educational and fun to watch.

One noticeable thing about Mr. Steves is how he travels light. In fact, on one of his DVDs he has tips on just how he does it.

I can think of only one time when I succeeded in traveling light. I was highly motivated because I was taking a flight to Washington state for a friend's wedding.

By planning carefully, I packed a backpack with what I needed for the week. I also took my shoulder purse and wore my London Fog coat. The trip went well.

Packing is Personal

Life is a journey that also goes better when we travel light. One way to do that is to avoid carrying grudges. Another way is to let go of regrets. Both are weights that slow us down.

Offenses are a part of life that must be dealt with. Colossians 3:13 (NIV) has a couple of recommendations: Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.

My thesaurus actually has an entry for bear with. It is followed by words like tolerate, be patient, put up with and endure.

Find forgive in my dictionary and you'll see it means to give up resentment against someone. It also means to stop being angry with them and/or to cancel their debt.

Can you see how bear with and forgive work together? Most people think of forgiveness as a one-time action. But deciding to forgive is only step one. Saying "I forgive you" is step two. But that's not always the end of it.

Unpack and Leave It Out

There was once a person I fully intended to forgive. I even said the right words, thinking that would end my inner struggle. But I learned I had to bear with the situation, too.

We were co-workers. Each time the offense came to mind I chose to travel light. I refused to take up the offense again. I said, "I have forgiven and I'm letting it go."

Eventually I was at peace with the person and situation. 

Happy Traveling

I know my experience was not unique because when I was a ministry associate people often mentioned their struggle to forgive. 

They were always encouraged to know they could continually choose to travel light.

You can, too.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Two Things That Add Up to Nothing

2 Things That Add Up to Nothing

I was leafing through my latest journal when my eye caught a scripture reference at the bottom of one page. It's a contrasting list of ten things that cannot separate us from God's love.

The Apostle Paul said he was convinced that neither death nor life, angels nor demons, the present nor the future, nor any powers, height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation would be able to separate us from God's love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38, NIV).

Count the words in italics and you'll find ten things that add up to nothing. Nothing can separate us from God's love. But a couple of items there caught my attention this week.

First it was the word life. You've probably heard people say, "Life is what happens to you while you're making other plans." It certainly seems true in a care giver's life.

Professional care givers like doctors and nurses make plans to do their job well. Even home health care personnel come well-trained. But for the family member who is called upon to be a care giver it may seem like an overwhelming challenge. That's life!

Welcome Home

I found my husband's recent need for care overpowering at first. I was happy to have him home after nineteen days in the hospital, but he needed help day and night.

The only way to face the challenge was to adjust. Calendars and daily plans were cancelled and life went on from need to need. Family care givers recognize the challenges and encourage one another accordingly. I appreciated the kudos, but inside I fought a hard battle.

It was strange to see my husband so incapacitated. No one could say how long it would last, or if he would ever improve. I'm normally quite positive, but I found myself fighting pessimism more often than I wanted to admit.

That's when I thought about the phrase nothing else in all creation is able to separate us from God's love. That includes emotions. The Creator God knows we are emotional beings.

Jesus understands emotions, too. On earth he prayed with all his might that if there was another way he could avoid the cross. He wept at his friend Lazarus' tomb. He also recognized weariness and suggested he and the disciples go away to rest.

Stay Alert 

Emotions and thoughts work together. I've always liked the saying that you can't keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building nests there.

God gave us will power and I find it useful to keep my mind free of negative nests. Sometimes it's with scripture, other times a song. Sometimes it's with meditation and prayer, or reading a good book. But a choice is always to be made.

I've shared two things that add up to nothing. Life is a challenge. But nothing in it can ever separate us from God's love.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Why Wait to be Thankful?


Fall is my favorite time of year. I live in northern Arizona where changing leaves turn mostly bright yellow. But as I drive the streets around town I see a few lovely reds here and there.

Growing up in eastern South Dakota meant not only changing colors on the trees, but piles of autumn leaves. The bonfires we enjoyed are a thing of the past, but I have one other lovely memory.

Dad used to go pheasant hunting with the men of our church. Fried pheasant was a real treat on our dinner table. I have not had that since we moved to Arizona in my teenage years, but I've never forgotten it.

In these first three paragraphs did you notice some things for which I am thankful? I'd say it was the Fall season, colorful leaves, growing up in South Dakota, fried pheasant and happy memories.

One Special Day

I'm thankful to live in a country which honors one special day of the year as Thanksgiving Day. That means different things to different people. Which of these phrases explain it best for you?

               1. A Day to Give Thanks
               2. A Day of Worship
               3. Festival of Plenty
               4. The Last Thursday in November
               5. Turkey Day
               6. A Holiday Preceding Black Friday
               7. Feasting with Family and Friends
               8. A Day for Parades and Football Games

Usually the day of worship is the Sunday preceding the last Thursday in November. I remember one Thanksgiving at our church in southern Arizona. We distributed special note cards to the congregation. The purpose was to encourage them to write a note of thanks to someone who made a difference in their life.

Now days people can easily send texts and emails to accomplish that meaningful project. I hope you will.

Let's Get Personal

Out of the above phrases, two explain Thanksgiving best for me. Number one says it's a day to give thanks. I enjoy this special day of thankfulness, but I try to maintain a thankful heart all year long.

Some meaningful guidelines are found in Psalm 100:4 (NIV). In giving thanks to God Almighty, we are to: (1) enter His gates with thanksgiving, (2) enter His courts with praise, (3) give thanks to Him, and (4) praise His name.

I don't always do this in a public setting. Sometimes it's just a personal time of quiet reflection.

Make a Memory

Number seven mentions feasting with family and friends. Over the years we have not always been able to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with family. That's when it became special to be invited to the home of friends.

On the other hand, there were years when we were the friends that invited others over to celebrate with us. And in one church where we pastored, teams of people worked hard to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for their church family and friends.

The last Thursday of November will soon come and go. Plan now to make it special, whether public or private. Happy Thanksgiving! 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Living Life in Sync


Living life in sync means connecting with people in a timely and meaningful way. "Synchronize your watches," was a phrase in old movies. Men on a mission made sure their watches shared the same time, then off they went to accomplish their assignment.

If only synchronizing life events was a simple as synchronizing watches.

My recent experiences as a care giver caused me to think about the importance of synchronizing life in three basic areas:

At Home

We are a family of two. Upon his recent release from the hospital, my husband required constant care. I made a choice to be available. That meant my days and nights were synchronized with his needs.

What amazed me was all the things that had to be done beyond his care. It's funny how many times I thought of the old saying, "Man may work from sun to sun, but a woman's work is never done."

Beyond personal care there were meals to prepare and dishes to do. I was grateful to have a washer and dryer. Having clean clothes and bedding was certainly made a lot easier.

Prior to illness, my husband had dealt with the trash, picked up the mail and paid the bills. I knew how to fill the car with gas, but had never taken it in for tire rotation. Our lives got in sync as I learned to do what needed to be done.

Outside the Home

Once again, circumstances have shown us the importance of living life in sync with others.

Physical ailments draw so much energy for recovery that there's not much left to build new relationships. That's why we were grateful for emails, texts and phone calls from family and friends saying, "We're praying for you." Or, "If there is anything we can do, let us know."

I wish I could list all the ways people have made our lives easier.

Thrift store shoppers found a cane for my husband just like the one in the hospital. They also found a like-new transfer bench for showers. Another friend made hospital gowns for ease of home care. A neighbor stops by for our trash on his way to the dumpster.

Inside the Heart

My husband and I try to share a devotional and prayer every day. Almost daily I remind myself that I need my evening rest---that the Lord's compassion and faithfulness will be renewed in the morning (Lamentations 3:22-23, NIV).

Prior to care giving challenges, I had a routine of Bible study and writing each morning. I was telling a friend yesterday that I have been unable to keep it up, but that I feel God's compassion, not condemnation. 

Perhaps that's because in the Lord's compassion He remembers that we are made of dust (Psalm 103:13-14, NIV).

There has never been a day without challenges but, in my experience, living life in sync makes it easier.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Humor by the Side of the Road


I wonder if Santa Claus ever noticed the ads for Burma-Shave? For thirty-eight years this product was advertised on six small wooden signs in a row. Each was planted on a post in a field along a highway.

While browsing my shelves this week, I found The Verse by the Side of the Road: The Story of the Burma-Shave signs and jingles with all 600 of the roadside rhymes. It's a small book written by Frank Rowsome, Jr. (1965). Flipping through it brought back happy memories.

Fun Advertising
On family vacations all five of us enjoyed reading the unique jingles as our car whizzed by. The last sign always said Burma-Shave. For those who never saw these, here are two examples:



Life is a Challenging Journey
Perhaps this book caught my eye because my husband is in need of a shave. While he was recuperating from colon surgery in the hospital, his whiskers never gave up. I kidded him about looking like Santa Claus, but he said, "I'm too thin." I said, "OK, then, Santa's brother. But why don't you keep the mustache and chin beard for a while?" He had struggled hard just to shave his cheeks.

Dealing with recovery from any trauma or long-term illness is difficult. When someone is unable to care for themselves, the challenge is not theirs alone. It's also a challenge for the caregiver.

Dismissal from the hospital last week included a referral for home health care. We are grateful. But the bottom line is that my husband and I are left to deal with challenges on our own, twenty-four/seven. Anyone who's been there can understand how daily living routines tend to become overwhelming. That's why we look for good medicine every day.

Good Medicine Helps
I'm talking about the kind mentioned in Proverbs 17:22 (NIV): A cheerful heart is good medicine. I'm also aware of the contrast in that verse: A crushed spirit dries up the bones. I don't want that, but sometimes I realize it feels like I'm there. That's when good medicine is needed.

A cheerful heart is a happy heart . . . a joyful heart . . . a rejoicing heart. None of these come automatically, and what helps one day may not help the next. One good medicine is happy memories. That's why the Burma-Shave book was timely. It reminded me of family fun times on vacations in the western states.

Recovery from any illness or surgery seems to make days long and nights longer. Sleep is helpful, but who wants to sleep night and day? Nutrition is important, but you can't eat your troubles away, so . . . what else? Good medicine!

I find it in happy memories of favorite trips or vacations, people we have known, and churches we have worked in. I find more good medicine in my Bible, books, magazines, favorite DVDs and DVRs.

A Common Challenge
We each have a different life's journey. What we have in common is the challenge to look for humor by the side of the road.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

What A Day!


It's easy to think we are in control until the jolt of something unexpected, like a trip to the emergency room. My husband began an unforeseen journey of hospital care and recovery on October 5, 2017. It ended with his release on October 21, 2017. What a day!

His life and mine are intertwined, thanks to marriage vows over fifty years ago. I've always enjoyed being the passenger while he's been the driver, but today we received a new challenge. One of his first discharge instructions was, "No driving." Two little words turned my world and his upside down. What a day!

I made many daily trips to the hospital because I wanted to meet his daytime and nighttime nursing teams. My hat is off to people who can work twelve hour shifts and remain pleasant. I also met the hospital doctors, cleaning personnel, meal delivery persons, physical and occupational therapists, chaplain and volunteers. My husband laughed when he told me, "I no sooner get to sleep than someone wakes me up to give a med or check my vital signs." What a night---what a day!

I had lots of text messages, voice mails and emails inquiring about my husband's progress. It was encouraging to know people were praying for his recovery and strength for me, too. I tried to respond to each message personally the first four days. It was overpowering, so I decided to send group updates as blind carbon copy emails. That left about four people who had to be reached by phone. We live in a marvelous day! 

Following surgery, my husband's progress was steady. On October 19, 2017 the hospital doctor felt he was ready for release. My husband was in good spirits and ready to go The nurse removed three sutured IV tubes in his neck, gave him the required flu shot and told me I could get him dressed to leave. That's what I was doing when I realized he had become stiff as a statue and totally unresponsive. I called the nurse; she called for help. Later a CT scan showed nothing. The next day neither did an MRI, but my husband had stroke-like weakness on his left side. What a day!

Now we're home. I appreciate my husband's concern for my health, but I'm the caregiver and will do what needs to be done. He certainly did that for me when I fought cancer in 2007 and beyond. We used to open our Sunday morning church service with a chorus based on Psalm 118:24. It said, "This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it." When my husband tried to change the opening song, people begged to keep it. Life is full of sunshine and shadow. This is the latter; what a day!

Music speaks to our hearts. There's another song we sing. It's based on Lamentations 3:21-24. Perhaps you know it. The message is that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases and His mercies never come to an end. In fact, He is so great in His faithfulness that His mercies are new every morning. Every day has the potential to be a good day! We're counting on that.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Practicality of Caring


Have you ever gone through hard times and been comforted by the concern of others?

When I was going through cancer treatments many people comforted me with things that had comforted them on their journey. The same thing happened when I became a caregiver for my father. And again, when he passed away.

Since taking my husband to the emergency room over a week ago, the practical side of caring has been on my mind.

When I facilitated grief recovery classes, one scripture we always discussed was Second Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV). God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others in trouble with the comfort we receive from God.

This exchange of receiving and giving is easily observed in a small group setting, but less obvious one-on-one. 

Either way, the practicality of caring is extremely valuable.

Much of its value lies in the variety of ways it is shown. If everyone did it the same way, life would be very bland.

While waiting for surgery, our pastor came to pray for my husband and serve him communion. Many friends sent messages to say you are in our prayers

The practicality of caring is in action, not theory.

The morning after surgery I walked in to see a smiley face and get-well balloon tied to the foot of the hospital bed. They brightened the room, but my husband was not very alert. When I questioned the nurse she said, "All I know is that two people came and said they were praying for him."

A friend, well-acquainted with my husband's love of cars, sent him a floral arrangement in a cute little roadster. People sent cards to our home. My brother sat with my husband and gave me a day of rest. The night I was called back to stay with my husband to calm him down, a friend responded to my request for some fast food.

The practicality of caring is knowing what you can do to please others, not yourself.  

We were blessed with many expressions of love and concern. I tried to answer texts, emails and phone calls daily. But after my husband's surgery, his recovery was slow and I was exhausted.

I sent a group email, letting people know I appreciated their concern but I would have to respond with group updates. I knew I was loved the next day when my phone had no texts or voice mails. People had sent brief, affirmative responses to my email, expecting no replies.

Have you experienced some comfort in trying times? God says it's a two-way street. He comforts us, we comfort others. Some people say that's paying it forward.

The practicality of caring is open to your interpretation

The important thing is to act on it.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

An Unexpected Greeting


I knew my husband wasn't feeling well. In fact, I had suggested the emergency room the night before but he declined. I was fixing breakfast when he came out of the bedroom the next morning and said, "Take me to ER."

To make such a request, I knew he had to be hurting. I scurried around to get ready. We got his med bottles, plus his med list. I also packed a chart of all his medical appointments, tests, scans and labs for the past six months. I included a bottle of water and a few snacks for me, plus a Love Inspired novel I'd been reading. 

Welcome Back
ER registration went quickly since he had been there six months earlier. With basic information on hand, they moved to note symptoms. He didn't wait long for the emergency room.

After some tests, he was admitted to a small private room on the third floor. The hospital bed took up most of the space, but there was a nightstand in the corner and a padded metal chair. I was glad it had arms because that made it comfortable for reading.

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting
He was getting excellent care while I filled in the time. I read, took a walk, read, went to lunch, read, talked to my husband, read---hours went by.

When I tired of reading my novel, I put it down and observed people coming and going out in the hallway. Then I wondered if there was a Gideon Bible in the little three-drawer nightstand.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a New King James Version. I opened to the thirty-seventh Psalm. It's always been a favorite, but this time verse three caught my attention and wouldn't let go. I read it several times: Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness (Psalm 37:3).

Sustenance is More Than Food
The phrase that continually stood out to me was feed on His faithfulness. The scenario I shared with my husband was this: Feeding indicates food; Food indicates sustenance; Sustenance is necessary for life. I said, "I'm intrigued at the thought of God's faithfulness as sustenance for life. It's always available, but we have to choose it."

It's kind of like going to the grocery store. There are lots of good things there, but we select those we want. Items don't automatically jump into our cart without action on our part.

Comfort in the Psalms
My day started with an unexpected greeting, "Take me to ER." I needed this phrase in Psalms to calm my day. Breakfast had been cut short, but sustenance was still available in God's faithfulness.

Since feed is an action word, I kept the verse in my thoughts. I recalled previous times when God had proven His faithfulness. And I chose, once again, to believe God's faithfulness would sustain me. It's proven true for the last three days, and it's not over yet. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Molding Our Minutes


Time arrives daily in twenty-four-hour packages of moldable minutes. It plays no favorites. Each of us receives the same amount. It would be boring, however, if we each molded our minutes in the same way.

I used to get a kick out of using candy molds. The craft class was fun and I invested in molds and supplies. Family and friends were gifted with colorful candies in a variety of flavors and shapes.

Looking back on it, I don't think the candies were all that great. But the people who received them were very gracious. My gift was not just candy. It was the way I molded my minutes to connect with people.

Time for You and Me
That's the interesting thing about time. It's interchangeable. My minutes become yours as I include you in conversation or involve you in a project. Your minutes become mine as you respond.

Isn't that what takes place at a football game? The team molds their minutes to play the game. The stadium is filled with people molding their minutes to cheer them on. It's an exchange of time.

Sometimes I think a hermit might be the only one totally in control of molding his minutes. Getting involved with others always challenges our time. Just ask the home caregiver who is on call twenty-four hours a day. Or ask the single parent who works full time, picks the kids up from daycare and spends the evenings catching up on chores.

Choices and Challenges
We moderns have an extra challenge to our minutes. Anyone wanting to be involved in this twenty-first century must choose how to deal with digital devices.

I think my cell phone and computer are marvelous, but they have certainly changed my use of time. I'm alerted to calls, text messages and email all day long. I find answers to questions on the internet and I gain "how to" information from YouTube videos.

The question is, "Who's in charge?" Do we manage our digital media, or do they manage us? Wise King Solomon said, "There's a time for everything" (Ecclesiastes 3:1). But sometimes it sure doesn't feel like it.

We don't have any choice over the first two time-frames on his list---a time to be born and a time to die. But I think verse six has some wisdom for us. It says, "there's a time to search and a time to give up."

Minutes Fly by No Matter How We Use Them
In our digital age, consider verse six as "a time to turn on, and a time to turn off." How many minutes do you spend on the internet each day? YouTube? Texting? Facebook?

My biggest challenge is minutes spent on Email. No matter how quickly I think I can get it done, it always takes longer. So far, I try to open and deal with it once a day.

Would I want to return to the days before cell phones, tablets, laptops and computers? No way! I'd rather face up to the challenge of molding my minutes each day.