My cell phone was ringing somewhere this morning. I didn’t know where it was, but I could hear it. My face was covered with moisturizer as I stared at myself half clad in the bathroom mirror. “Should I run and try to find the phone or not?” In a split second decision I ran toward the sound and realized, on my way down the stairs, that the phone was in my purse sitting on the sofa. My hands were covered in moisturizer. “Dare I reach into my purse’s cloth pocket and get the phone? Yes!” Caller ID flashed my sister’s number. I had to get it.
Debby won a wagon full of toys. “Do I know a family with small boys who could use a really good wagon…someone who cannot afford such extravagance?” Ah, Sister Deb, I LOVE your heart. That’s what the call was about, however, that was not the important part of the call for me. We talked nigh onto a half hour or more. She told me that her life has turned around so dramatically that she can hardly believe she is awake. She feels like she’s in a dream. Since being exonerated from an embezzlement charge and the real perpetrator is facing big jail time, she says many positive things are happening to her so fast that she can hardly take it all in. One of the small things was winning this wagon full of toys and a $50.00 gift card to Toys ‘R Us.
“Dawn,” she said, “during the period of time when I was fired from my job of 35 years after being falsely accused of embezzlement, I hated myself. No one knows what it is like to hate themselves unless they have lived this hell. You are inside this body and you can’t get away from yourself. You don’t know who believes what you’ve been accused of and who believes you couldn’t have done it. Over the past month since I been exonerated, each day it feels as if pieces of rotting flesh are falling off me. I can feel my old self again and, frankly, I am so glad to be back. I’ve missed me. The loathing I have had to live for the past 3 1/2 years is falling off bit by bit. It’s like I’m being rewarded for seeing this through.”
Friends who read here and have prayed for my sister, she is being restored. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for praying. I thought I was going to lose her. Praise Jesus, she made it through–with His help.
He is with us,
Last night I had a nightmare and I didn’t want to go back to sleep because I thought it would continue. I was in a boat going through hatches to get to someone and I had gotten through one of the hatches and looked back to see a man coming out of the bedroom closet (you know how dreams are?) with a hatchet in his hand. I awoke in fear. I have been wrestling with one relationship in my life and I was wondering if that wrestling was coming out in a bizarre dream somehow.
The day before I had read Ann Voskamp’s reading for the 9th day of Advent. Here is what stuck me to the core:
You can stand around a Christmas tree with a family tree like Joseph’s, with cheaters and beaters and deceivers, with a family like Jacob’s, who ran away and ran around and ran folks down. But out of a family line that looks like a mess, God brings the Messiah. What was intended to harm, God intended all of it for good, and no matter what intends to harm you, God’s arms have you. You can never be undone….
‘If the worst things work for good to a believer, what shall the best things?’ writes Puritan Thomas Watson. ‘Nothing hurts the godly…all things…shall co-operate for their good, that their crosses shall be turned into blessings.’
And so my friend (who was like a sister to me) was running around, left her children and husband and took up with the one she was running with. Now she is married to him and shares custody of her children with her former husband. She has accepted Jesus as her Savior through her new husband’s influence and she posts video on Facebook of her teen daughter singing worship songs. Well, I have to tell you, I struggled with all this until Ann opened my eyes to the likes of the line of the Lion of Judah. Then the woman who washed Jesus feet with her hair flashed through my mind and it looked like my friend kneeling there at Jesus’ feet. I remember Jesus saying, “She who is forgiven much, loves much.” Hmmmmm, and He looked at me and said, “Simon, when I came in your house you did not kiss me, you did not wash my feet…”
I was brought up short on this one. I like how Peter says to Jesus in the movie Jesus of Nazareth, “Oh Lord I am just a stupid man.”
I am journaling in a book entitled Healthy Holiday Living. Today the lesson was on trust and commitment. I remember my Dad being very adamant about my keeping my word to other people no matter what. I can vividly remember cancelling a play date with a friend because one of the popular kids asked me to do something with her at the same time. My Dad overheard me cancelling with my ever-faithful everyday friend. When he realized what I was doing, he told me to call Miss Popular back and tell her I had a previous commitment and to keep the first commitment I had made. Isn’t it amazing that I remember that small clip of my life out of the thousands of hours of my childhood?! Perhaps my earthly Dad’s emphasis on building trust through commitment is why this day’s devotional captivated me.
The author of this day’s devotion, P. J. Bahr, asked the question “What are you asking God for that He hasn’t answered yet? She followed the question with the statement “Stop focusing on what you want and start asking God for what He wants.” Then she said “Record the changes in your attitude and your request.” With that pattern for reflection, I found verses rushing into my mind about how to get my prayers answered and they all dealt with praying God’s will. If I prayed what He wants, I’d get it.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding and He will direct your paths. Pr 3:5
Delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Ps 37:4
If you ask anything in my name, I will do it. John 14:14
That lead me to ask myself the question, “What does God want?” I found the answer in Psalm 37, where David’s psalm lists the attributes of God people. They
do not to fret
delight in Him
commit their way to Him
rest in Him
wait patiently for Him
cease from anger
depart from evil
keep His way
have the upright as examples
If we put our trust in the Lord, He will help, deliver and save us. (v. 40) We will have peace. (v. 37). P. J. writes,
When you feel that God isn’t answering your prayers, or isn’t showing you any signs at all that He is even hearing you, don’t be anxious, but continue persevering in prayer. He may be working behind the scenes to answer your prayer above and beyond all that you could ever ask or imagine.
The emphasis should be on desiring Him not desiring what He can do.
He is with us,
And this just in from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions by Arthur Bennett:
Thou art the Inviting One, may we hearken to Thee;
the Almighty Instructor, teach us to live to Thee;
the Light-Dweller, inaccessible to men and angels,
hiding Thyself behind the elements of creation,
but known to us in Jesus.
I don’t know about you, but I could think on this all day. God-ness–it’s just so so…VAST! Thinking of it takes me down so many paths. Light-Dweller hiding behind elements of creation…what?…Oh…but He knew that He as God was beyond us so He came to us as we would understand, He came as a baby, grew up in real time and died so He’d be like us except for the fact He is God. So what can we do about all this? Worship.
He is with us,
All throughout November Ann Voskamp had those of us who follow her blog A Holy Experience think about what we may be missing during this season of Advent. I thought about the experience of missing something or someone and what angst that can cause. The 7th definition of miss in the Free Online Dictionary is the one I am speaking of – to feel the lack or loss of. Initially I thought that one would have to have had what they are missing in order to feel that something is not as adequate as it once was or is absent altogether, but there are people who feel like they are missing something, but can’t pinpoint what it is. Maybe they see another who is happy. That person has something and the observer thinks it makes them happy so they set out to get the same thing when what they really want is the happiness. They zero in on the wrong target and miss the blessing.
I don’t want to miss my blessings. Listing them helps me become aware of them…so many…This Monday I am thankful
#1400 I found the missing piece to my jigsaw puzzle. I can’t imagine hanging a picture with a piece out of the scene.
#1401 the missing earrings my husband ordered for me came today after being lost in the mail for one month.
#1402 my co-worker is coming back from a couple weeks in New Zealand. I really miss her. Work has not been the same without her.
#1403 my women’s Bible Study group starts up again this week after being off for Thanksgiving. I miss our weekly gathering.
#1404 for my husband’s attitude as his physical strength dwindles. He has real strength of character, but I miss some of the things we used to be able to do together, as does he.
#1405 for the grace of God. I get crabby when things are not logical and I have to try to get through to people who don’t appreciate logic. I miss the days before postmodernism.
#1406 I had good grammar, reading and spelling teachers that taught me how to write professionally. I miss that dedication to a proper printed page in this age of e-mail and twitter.
#1407 I am not as hungry as I once was so that my appetite matches my slowing metabolism. I don’t have to miss foods I once was able to down easily and still maintain my weight.
#1408 for free primary health care in my city through the Catholic church. It would be a missed opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ to those without health care coverage if St Anthony’s Free Medical Clinic were not open.
#1409 for French Silk ice cream. It’s been my favorite ice cream for years. About a month ago my husband could not find it in any of the grocery stores in our city. He had one of the grocer’s order it special for me because I really missed it. My husband’s commitment to my happiness is a gift of God.
#1410 for a little boy who was happy to play with inside trucks even though he missed all the outside big diggers and dump trucks that had been put in the shed for the winter. Love my youngest grandson, Max!
#1409 for servants of the Lord all over my city. I miss the days when I was the helper most of the time, but more and more I am having to let others help me. I had to laugh recently when I got lost in the corn maze over Halloween. My son had to lead me out. Frankly I still don’t know where I was.
#1410 for talented people who faithfully use their talents to bless others and never get any monetary remuneration. The talented people in my life are Mary Gregory and Nan Quimby–faithfully playing the piano beautifully almost every Sunday. When they are not there, everyone misses them.
#1411 for eyeglasses and hearing aids. Others miss them a lot when I don’t have them in.
#1412 for snow on my blog. I missed it when it stopped last year.
Well, Friends, that is about it for this Monday. Oh, yeah:
#1413 for a week’s vacation from work and a light schedule the rest of the year. I almost missed that one! Get it?
God is with us,
Why the word ‘prodigal’ for this thanksgiving list? Well, I choose it because it means both ‘lavish and abundant’ as descriptive of the Father in the story entitled The Prodigal’s Son. The Father was extravagant and lavish in his dealings with his young son, giving him his fortune ahead of time and lavishing his riches on the son when he returned. The same story is sometimes entitled The Prodigal Son describing the son. In this instance the term ‘prodigal’ means ‘wayward, wasteful and a spend-thrift’. This one word encompasses two extremes in life: one life heaped with things to overflowing and one life bereft of anything, both from an extreme outpouring. One done in love, the other in foolishness. Life is like that. The same action can be good or bad. Most times I simply can’t call it, so…I am thankful for ALL. It’s like the story of the white horse.
I am thankful for:
1366 glitter and sparkles: I have glitter on my Christmas cards and a glitter snow globe at my work desk. The sparkle smooths out the stresses of the day. God knows the calming effect of glitter and He spreads it across the grass in frozen dew and snow temperate climates and in raindrops and sparkling seas everywhere.
1367 a small gathering of women who meet together weekly, intentionally, to grow in the Lord.
1368 seeing the fruits of devastation. “All things work together for good…”
1369 the snuggles of a little dog who cannot see me or hear me, but pushes deep down into my lap until he falls asleep.
1370 children who are making their ways in the world, giving of themselves as they do.
1371 good health care providers who really care for us.
1372 good co-workers at my job and the best boss I have ever had.
1373 a quiet Thanksgiving Day where I can have a wonderful meal with strangers and friends, sing (or not) around a piano with one who can play anything forever and being able to leave without bravato when my husband tires.
1374 winter and all the changes it brings. I like to change clothes, activities and celebrate the special holidays of winter.
1375 tea, especially a really hot brew on a cold, wintery day, and chai for something extra special. I’m thankful for honey, too!
1376 spices and the flavor they add to life.
1377 victory with my health insurance company and for all the people that helped me along the way: Holy Spirit Hospital’s Medical Records secretary, Barb; Holy Spirit Hospital lab administrator; Quest Labs in southern California and Liz Baldys, RN at Dr Baldys’ office for submitting each ‘next’ thing to the insurance appeal people, sometimes multiple times, to build the case for covering my husband’s medications.
1378 insurance in this day in the US when many insurance carriers are suspending coverage.
1379 Facebook, that allows me to keep in touch with friends so far away and those in town that there is just no time to see in person.
1380 red berries poking through fences, snow and hanging from trees. They brighten up a dreary landscape.
1381 Twisted Peppermint Bath and Body shower gel, lotions and liquid hand soap. It smells SO good!
1382 digital photography and being able to select 19 photos out of the hundreds I took of the grandkids this year and make a 2013 poster collage…ah, the memories.
1383 that Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts has gone viral. Thanksgiving can be found all over – in season and out. People are making lists and slowing down as they do. Some without even knowing about Ann. They just somehow know that a grateful heart is essential.
1384 heat. I notice it when I go upstairs in my house. The upstairs is so much warmer and I thank Him as I notice the change as I climb the stairs. It’s like the heat envelopes me and He is giving me a hug.
1385 justice for my sister this year.
1386 Abby’s finishing her Administrative Assistant course as she wraps up her internship.
1387 Joyce has a new place to live.
1388 stability. I know many with all kinds of mental health issues. Some suffer depression and some have anxiety attacks and some are losing their memories. I am praying strength for each one.
1389 support hose for my varicose veins that enable me to stand without pain.
1390 Russ’ grandmother’s rocking chair that is so very comfortable at the end of a long day.
1391 the conviction of Bible memorization. Four of us said all 10 verses that we learned at the last session of our Bible Study together. Here is my favorite from that group of verses: “No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us, and His love is made complete in us.” I John 4:12NIV The prize was either the One Thousand Gifts hardback book or a perpetual calendar of the same. Look at all those bird nests!
1392 victories in the lives of our church families: 1. A son, a lifetime away from the Lord, comes home and can not get enough of the Living Water. 2. A second son gets his PhD while his brother goes off to Liberty University as a Freshman. 3. An organic farmer who has plowed soil behind his team of horses for decades is diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that necessitates he learn to walk again and is regaining strength slowly struggling to walk with 2 crutches comes to the church Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. He says, “It is a new era.” 4. A family’s matriarch sees her cancer shrink while another family loses their patriarch-all trusting in the divine plan of a good God.
1393 a friend getting a job to the exact specificati0ns that he and his wife have been praying for: not to have to work on Sunday, use of a company car and phone and salary enough to cover their bills since she lost her job.
1394 a friend to walk with every Thursday morning.
1395 music that transcends words. Melodies situated at just the right time can unite a moment, express what everyone is feeling and take us to the Throne of Grace like nothing else.
1396 the years of teaching I had and now being able to watch former students take on the world for Christ.
1397 beautiful paper that makes my homemade cards look so professional.
1398 kids’ crafts online that help a grandmother be ‘awesome’, chuckle.
1399 grace that is greater than all my sin.
He is with me, thankfully,
My husband and I must drive 40 minutes to get to church and no matter what the season it is always a worship experience. The diversity of God’s expression of love for us is simply amazing. Today I give thanks for
#1354 clouds making shadows on mountains. One shadow looked like a giant eagle this morning. It stretched across two mountains – now that is a big screen!
#1355 real vultures swooping over our car on their way to breakfast. They were like mini pteradactyls, quite spectacular.
#1356 the huge, circular bales of hay sitting in the fields, the hard work of our parishioners.
#1357 cows chewing their cud as we speed by
#1358 the crisp morning air that gives a spring to your step and has you bringing out the jackets and sweaters you have not seen in 6 months–a new wardrobe!
#1359 fields that have given up their fruits.
And then this happened. My husband was listening to the radio this morning and he heard that a man had been arrested for embezzling $100,000 from the local American Legion. They said the man’s name and he knew it was he. This man had had my sister fired accusing her of embezzling funds. She was the manager of the Legion, had been for 35 years. She handled the money. She was beginning to notice cash was disappearing. She had to go. He was on the Board of Directors. He was in power over her and she left in disgrace. She never stole a dime, but he said she did. She has suffered for 3 1/2 years awaiting this verdict. It came this morning! I continue to give thanks
#1360 that my sister found enough strength to hold on.
#1361 that Jesus sent his angels along her long hard journey.
#1362 that Dave Rising became a psychologist even though his father said he should become a minister. I believe his wise counsel kept my sister alive.
#1363 for everyone who stood by my sister’s side, especially those who gave her jobs, convinced of her innocence.
#1364 that my sister has a closer walk with Jesus.
#1365 and that healing may now begin.
He is with us,
I was studying “Humility” with my First Place 4 Health ladies this Friday. Our study guide tells us that the Latin root for “humility” is humus, meaning “from the earth”. We might say, in modern times, a humble person is “down to earth” which means that the person is approachable and not too lofty. This is a trait that all Christians should possess. If one is not approachable what kind of relationships can she build? Our Bible verse was I Peter 5:5
5 In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble.”
By this verse in my Bible I had written a note from a past pastor’s sermon. It said, “‘humility is the work apron. Peter is literally saying here, “Slave, put your work apron on.”‘ In Philippians 2:3-4 Paul says that humble people think of others before they think of themselves. They prefer the other. Paul was telling Christians they need to have such an attitude if they are truly going to make a difference serving others. Humility is the covering that makes us true servants and not “do good-ers”. It separates those who use the poor to look good from those who help the poor attain their highest good.
I lamented that humility was not one of my strong characteristics, and that wearing an apron to work may be a healthy reminder for me throughout the day of just Whose I am in Christ and the necessity of humility in my relationships. The circle of women got excited at this prospect. One even offered to lend me her Mary Englebert apron. At that point I got a mental image of actually wearing an apron throughout the day. Another lady (so witty, she is) responded without hesitation, “Well, Friend Dawn, simply Don (Dawn) your apron.” That cinched it for me.
When I got home after Bible study, I found an old apron crumbled in the back of a closet space. I took it out. My husband said, “Are you going to wear that?” I said, “Yes, I think I am.” He did not know the humility story, but he ironed it for me. There was no turning back now. When your humble husband, irons you an apron, the Lord is not being subtle, no, He is not…
And so, Dear Friends Who Pass By Here, if you see me this week out and about with a green apron on, you’ll know why. It’s back to the earth for me. After all, I am but dust, am I not? And just to reacquaint myself with the primordial home of my physical self, I pulled weeds and dead flowers out of the flower bed in front of my house. There was much dirt and dust, but so much living there, insects of every kind. At one point a grasshopper hopped onto my shoulder. He could come to me because I had positioned myself so that I could ‘be with him’ in his environment’. What a metaphor!
He is with us,
As I was sitting at the breakfast table this morning eating my usual cereal topped with blueberries, red raspberries and yogurt and taking pieces of yogurt-soaked cereal and feeding it to my pups, I was struck by how many berries I still get off my bushes every day. I get enough for two bowls of cereal-one for my husband and one for me. I take my pups out periodically to relieve themselves during the day and each time I pick a few berries that have ripened and place them in a cup in the refrigerator. The next morning I always have enough for this:
That’s my hand selecting a dog treat from my cereal bowl. Anyway, I am amazed how a few pickings a day yield enough berries for breakfast. In the same way I was amazed when I picked up my Bible to read September 14′s readings and more of the Bible was to the left of me than was to the right. I am, once again, 3/4 of the way through my Bible for the year. I read for about 10 minutes every day and, over time, I get the whole Bible read!
The same happened to me with core strengthening exercises. At first I could not even balance to get into the positions, but I persisted. Every day I would assume the positions and each day I could hold the position stable for longer until now-6 months later-I can do the whole 25 minutes right along with the DVD. As I thought about it more and more it became mind-boggling how foundational this principle is and how many of us just don’t get it. We get impatient, try to take on too much all at once, and run out of steam before anything has the chance to happen. Today I am thankful for all the little by little’s in my life
#1340 counting one thousand gifts here each Monday. You will note that I am over 1000, but I started in January 2012.
#1341 losing 35 pounds to get to my ideal weight and being able to keep it off. It took 4 !/2 months to lose it. I have kept it off 10 years this October. Losing the weight slowly enabled me to learn and make the lifestyle changes that have enabled a successful maintenance phase.
#1342 going into work every day and repeating the same processes over and over until I got them so that now I can do what I need to do automatically.
#1343 my daughter is taking keyboarding now. She asked how I could type without looking at the keyboard. I told her that she just had to keep typing [over and over about an hour per day] without looking and that one day she would find her fingers would just know where to go and she would be able to type faster than she could think.
#1344 I used the 1343 principle for graduate statistics, too. I couldn’t understand what formula to use for what problem so I just did what the book said, over and over again, until one day it all made sense. I got an “A” in the course.
#1345 We got a traumatized dog from the SPCA. Every day we were patient and loving and could do a little bit more. It has been 2 years and he lets us do everything we need to do down to cutting his nails and combing knots out of his hair. He had to be anesthetized to be groomed when we first got him! Here he is eating his breakfast cereal soaked in yogurt out of my hand.
#1346 Slowly letting go of activities of younger days. As a person ages, so I am discovering, one must prioritize more. There is only so much energy. Over the past several years I have been downsizing a little bit at a time: smaller house, being very selective in leadership responsibilities outside the home, gradually replacing heavy aerobic exercise with slow, rhythmic strengthening exercise and walking/biking and hoping the children understand the necessity of pulling out of the more robust family gatherings.
#1347 how raindrops make a river
#1348 how glances and smiles and chit-chat can build a relationship
#1349 the specks of pollen carried by bees ensure the food supply of millions
#1350 the growth of children when you have not seen them for awhile. At a wedding today I saw a child I hadn’t seen since his infant baptism, now he is in first grade. Think of all the growing little by little that his parents did not notice each day, but that took him from infancy into childhood.
#1351 the showering of gifts on a couple starting out. Each one bringing one small thing that ends up supplying a kitchen, bath and more.
#1352 Typing my memory verse for the week into Scripture Typer and finding that after 7 days of doing so, I can say the verse without any aids. Each day I retain a little more until I can say the whole verse!
#1353 realizing little by little that I know very little and that all of life is a mystery, but “...God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Col 1:27.
He is with us because He is in us,
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
This chapter of the Bible never fails to bother me. I am not a warm, fuzzy, hugging person. I like distance and, many many times I do things because they are expected and something I think the other wants or deserves. I do not, necessarily, want to do them. A lot of what I do is done because I believe it must be done and there is no one else to do it. The weariness with which I do it ruins the effort as I grumble through. Others get the message that this is a burden for me and not something I really want to do. The exhaustion shouts, “When will this be over?” I really wish I could be energized by activities of giving, but frankly, they just wear me out. Am I sowing nothing because it does not come wholeheartedly? Would doing something out of a sense of obligation have been better left undone? I guess I don’t think so because I keep doing what I feel obligated to do.
I wonder if love has to be felt. If one does loving things without feeling loving, does that not count? It seems to me that loving action in the absence of loving feelings is superior. Luke says if we love those who love us, we are no better than unbelievers. It is when we love those who would be our enemies that we are loving as He called us to love. I have to read between the lines here to get the idea that there is no feeling for the enemies, but maybe some of you really do feel love for your enemies. Romans 13:10 says, “Love worketh no ill to its neighbor.” In Dan Allender’s book Bold Love he says loving is doing what is best for your neighbor, doing what will bring them to their best self. Hmmmm. As a nurse, sometimes I have to make people feel worse before they can become better…loving may not always be pleasant, but it should always be for their good.
16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
“Sacrifices” is the operational word here. Good deeds (loving actions) are sacrifices. They entail putting yourself aside for another. Putting self on the shelf is not a comfortable thing nor is it our first inclination. Sacrifice entails renunciation of our immediate pleasure, but Jesus assures us that if we die to ourselves daily and pick up our cross and follow Him, we’ll have the fullest life possible (John !0:10). My mind is spinning. It’s time for a word from Ann Voskamp on love: