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.