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Posts Tagged ‘testimony’

Hand ReachingI love the way friends and family rally around when there’sa  big crisis. We pray, we bring food, we give words of encouragement, cards, little gifts, offers of help and anything else that comes to mind because we recognize a critical need.

But sometimes the smaller challenges go unnoticed and yet are often the sandpaper that wears the body down leaving it raw and open to depression and despair. An outsider might look and wonder how something small in comparison to what others are going through could have such impact.

I’m afraid I have been guilty at times of brushing off what I considered lower priority battles.

When my friend went through cancer I was there for her, constantly trying to think of new ways to encourage and give hope. I jumped in and rallied others to do the same. It’s not hard to be inspired into action when someone you love is facing a life and death situation.

But what if it doesn’t look like a life and death situation? What if it’s not big on the Richter scale of crisis but it’s huge on the personal scale of an individual’s limits at that moment in time?

I learned a great lesson summer before last when I severely damaged both my feet in a fall. The first few days were certainly noteworthy on the crisis scale. But after that, life settled into ice packs, crutches, physical therapy, the inconvenience of not being able to move as fast as I wanted and the insult of ugly shoes. (Yes, I am a cute shoe fanatic.)

When I looked around, there were people with much more serious injuries, illnesses or life challenges. Still found my small scale troubles pushing me into depression.

I think my biggest problem was feeling I didn’t have the right to complain or whine or get discouraged because my problem wasn’t that big. Of course, the size of a crisis doesn’t always determine the size of its impact. It made me stop and look around at what was going on in the lives of those closest to me. Were any of them where I was – minor trouble, major impact?

I’ve seen people sail through stuff that would bring a prize fighter to his knees. And I’ve seen people crumble under what appeared to be a minor annoyance in the scheme of things. I think I was almost one of them the summer of the foot fiasco.

Through that experience I have gained a great appreciation for waves of life that keep washing over the solid rocks on the shore. You can be rock hard and still be worn down by constant pressure no matter how gentle a disguise it comes in.

Every time that rock enjoys a little drying out in the sunshine, it once again gets a good soaking. I have friends who are like that rock. It seems that each time they get their head above water, they get soaked again. It’s seldom a tsunami. It is more often a shower. But after a while, a person can get waterlogged and the moments of sunshine are hard to enjoy. Please God, give me insight when they get to that point.

Here’s to my friends who have not gotten the cancer diagnosis or lost the loved one or faced the giant mountain of a lost job or something equally monumental but who still face challenges every bit as life threatening.

I recognize your daily struggle trying to slog through the paperwork for the divorce, the dissatisfaction with the job you have, the annoying health challenge, the trying marriage, the chronic pain, the never-quite-enough money situation, the tough decision making, the acceptance of things not going the way you want them to again.

Don’t discredit your need for help, encouragement and support. Don’t belittle your reaction to what others might consider minor worries.

If it makes you sad, if it makes you tired, if it makes you want to give up and cry – I understand. I’m praying for you. I’m reaching out to you and I’m ready to jump in and do what I can to help.

Just think of me as the very absorbent pink fluffy towel standing ready for the next dousing.

You just call out my name and you know wherever I am, I’ll come running (Carole King, 1971)

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. Psalm 34:17 (God, from the beginning of time through forever)

 

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Wow – JanuarMB900442471[1]y is over. It hardly seems possible. Why do the days, weeks, months, even years seem to speed by so quickly as we get older? Children complain often about time standing still, while most of us complain about how fast it goes.

When you really think about it, the explanation is clear. Children live for the moment. They seldom plan ahead because what is happening right now consumes them. They are focused on getting the most out of whatever they are currently engaged in.

For us it’s different. We are constantly looking ahead, planning ahead, making lists and getting into a panic because it seems we won’t have nearly enough time to complete the lists. We gloss over where we are today thinking about where we need to be tomorrow.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in planning and organization. I make lists and I keep a detailed calendar. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been participating in one activity while looking at my schedule and thinking about the next activity.

And when I do check something off my list, I can’t always say it’s been done well. And I can’t always declare I thoroughly enjoyed it because I realize I wasn’t fully engaged in it at the time it was happening.

I am challenging myself this year to take more time in the moment and less time in the future. By that I mean that I will lay down the list of upcoming events and tasks and concentrate more on where I am right now. 

One of the ways I’ve started doing this is with my morning devotions. Every morning as I go through my Bible reading for the day I’m not just checking it off the list so I can complete the entire Bible in a year. I am taking the time to look for one nugget I can pull out and apply to this very day.

Today, for instance, I finished up Exodus and read about the priestly garments God designed for those who ministered to the people. God wanted the people who ministered in the temple to be easily recognizable. When they were dressed in their business clothes, no one would mistake them for anything else but Godly men serving in a priestly role. Everything people saw when they looked at Aaron and his assistants screamed “holy”.

As a Christian and as one called to ministry, do I dress with the same meticulous care? When people look at me do they recognize my role as a witness to His faithfulness, a follower of His word, a vessel for His use?

  • Am I wearing the face of contentment regardless of my circumstances? (1 Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.)
  • Am I thinking and speaking words that build up not tear down? (Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whateveris right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.)
  • Am I covering myself with compassion, kindness and generosity so that others are drawn to me?  (Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.)

Taking time before I start my day making sure I am ready for whatever comes my way is one way I am slowing down and assuring that I “thoroughly live” instead of “frantically live”.  

My next step is …. I’m not sure. This slowing down is a real challenge for me. I’m thinking I need to gather some children around and let them drag me into their world for a while.

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MB900422771[1]With this being the 40th anniversary of Roe versus wade, the news has been filled with commentary from both sides. You can read the pro life side and you can read the pro choice side and both have parts and pieces of logic.

I firmly believe the reason we can’t come to an agreement on the issue is because we have never had the right to even have a choice in the matter. Only God has the knowledge and foresight and vision to know whether a life is valid. And since He is the one who creates that life in the first place, He is wise enough not to create something of no value.

All of the arguments aside, I got a practical lesson on the whole issue this week. It was a beautiful illustration of life value and I wish I could pass it on to every pro-choicer out there.

The real story began over 60 years ago when a baby boy was born to the parents of one of my best friends. He was severely handicapped from the start, his body twisted and useless. And though normal communication was not possible, it soon became apparent that his mind was sharp and comprehension of the world around him keen. His fierce determination to fight for life earned him the nickname of Tuffy.

For 60 years his family has faithfully loved and cared for him. They were his advocates when the long term care facility was giving less than adequate care. They went out of their way to make sure he spent holidays with the family. They visited regularly – almost every day – for 60 years to make sure he knew he was loved. They managed to understand his method of communication and did everything they could to address his needs.

I have seen them kiss him and hug him, shave him and joke with him. I have watched them turn his chair for the best view out the window, readjust his pillows to assure comfort, get in the faces of medical staff to get them to listen, and nurse him through fevers and infections.

My precious friend has her own serious health problems, has a very challenging marriage, lost a daughter in her twenties to cancer and fights every day to keep her head above water. Never once have I heard anger, bitterness, regret or impatience over the demands of keeping Tuffy safe and secure. While from the outside this did not look like a regular, gather around the dinner table every night kind of family, it was no less a family because of Tuffy. In fact, the extra effort needed to hold them together probably made it more of a well bonded family than most.

Several times, especially in the last few years, Tuffy became critically ill. Never did my friend wish for it to be over. Her prayers were always for comfort and healing. She never asked that her life be easier, only Tuffy’s. 

Tuffy passed away this past week and my friend along with her family have deeply grieved.

To my friend he was never a burden, he was a brother. His life served a purpose regardless of his ability to walk and talk in a “normal” manner. I believe Tuffy’s life made her kinder, more thoughtful, more compassionate, more tolerant and more thankful than life without him would have.

Was their life easy with a child like Tuffy? Not in the furthest sense of the word. Was their life better because of Tuffy? You bet it was. He brought a light and a love, a focus and family closeness, and  lessons beyond measure.

Tuffy was different but no less dear to his family than any other son or sibling. I rejoice that he is free of his twisted body and running around heaven shouting and singing today. And I thank God for my friend and the life lesson she passed on by embracing what others might have called a life of little value.

If we could all let God handle life and death and just tend to the things He gives us control over, events like Roe versus Wade would not exist. Instead, love and compassion would take their place.

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:13-16 

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A work related experience this past week made me do something I never, ever do – cry. I am not a weepy person, I seldom get overly emotional in situations and I pride myself on being able to handle stress very well. But this particular incident, for some reason, took me right over the edge.

It involved a co-worker and a communication issue where I believed I’d thoroughly done my part but was caught up short when the co-worker adamantly insisted I had done nothing. I was blindsided. I felt like I had been made a fool of in front of my boss and to be honest, the co worker blatantly lied.

When in a situation like this, our first reaction is to fight back. I wanted to defend myself by listing out every action I’d taken over the past year in an effort to prove myself right. I desperately wanted to win this battle, but, so did she. It could have gone on for a long time with my poor boss the victim for having to sit through allof the she did, she said, I did and I thought stuff.

So, I gave up and walked away feeling like dirt on the bottom of a shoe.  I, who never ever cry in public, had to shut my office door and whip out the Kleenex.  In fact, the whole situation hit me so hard I thought I was going to have to leave for the rest of the day. For me, that is  extremely unusual  but I was really shaken.

 With due respect, I have to say my boss showed concern and checked back with me to make sure I was okay.  I wasn’t, but I was better.  And the reason I was better was this – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 is tucked under the plastic cover of my desk. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” The verse ends with Paul stating “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

When I’m walking tall I’m not thinking about Jesus. When I’m bent over fighting tears I’m crying out His name. Do you ever wonder if God get’s lonely for the sound of your voice so He decides to let a little crisis in to remind you that’s He’s waiting?

He pulled me out of the pit I was in and bolstered me to make it through the rest of the day. Was it a huge, devastating storm I went through? No. It was more of a heavy shower that forced me to practice some recovery methods. Now, I’m a little better at handling rain because I’ve practiced again. When the big storm hits, I’ll be up for it.

Am I rejoicing in that confrontation with the co-worker?  Absolutely not. But am I rejoicing in a Savior who never fails to bail me out? You bet I am.  I’m remembering again that I have a God big enough to supply all my needs (Phil 4:19), a God who fights to prove my innocence (Psalm 37:5), a God who will give me perfect peace in chaotic times (Isaiah 26:3) and a God who enables me to face any giant (or co-worker) out there (Phip 4:13).

As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.”  Romans 10:11

 

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My heart broke this morning when I heard a report on the local news of a fatality accident that took the lives of a mother and her 14 year old daughter. They were hit head-on when another vehicle crossed the center line.  The cause of the accident was reported as inattention.

I wonder how someone left behind after such a tragedy comes to grips with that conclusion? How do you process through such a deep loss when you know it was completely avoidable?  How would you, as the driver of the other vehicle, live with the fact that your split second distraction took two innocent lives?

All morning I’ve been thinking of the phrase “but for the grace of God, there go I.”  I confess, I have picked up my cell phone to check a message I heard come in while I was driving – a split second of inattention. I have opened a piece of mail while sailing down the freeway – a split second of inattention. I have reached around to hand something off to a grandchild in the back without pulling over – a split second of inattention.

It’s interesting that shortly after the news report this morning our local station had a technical glitch causing the sound to fade out for almost a full minute.  Just as it came back on the voice of one of the favorite morning show hosts was heard blasting out the expletive “sh_t”. He apologized profusely once he realized his message had been broadcast to his listening audience – a split second of inattention.

Those two incidents have had me pondering all day the many ways our distractions can result in serious outcomes.  They may not be as tragic as causing a death and maybe not as wide reaching as to get the attention of an entire listening audience, but certainly they can be every bit as sobering.

As bikers, traveling hundreds and hundreds of miles on our Harley, we are fully aware of what a split second of inattention can do. We hear about the accidents all the time. We’ve been lucky, pretty much due to the fact that my husband is ever vigilant and aware, never taking his mind off his job as the driver.

As parents of small children we learn early that once they begin to roll over constant care must be taken to assure their safety. We also learn quickly how children learn what they see and hear.  A split second of inattention in our language and invariably we hear our profanity repeated from the innocent mouth of our toddler.

Living a Christian life requires constant attention also.  If we don’t walk the talk, the damage is extensive. A bit of inattention in the way we handle a store clerk, a family member, even another vehicle on the road is a lesson in hypocrisy, the kind that has for centuries given the church a bad name. We speak kindness but model impatience when the clerk won’t let us return the item without a receipt. We preach compassion but treat a family member with disdain. We claim tolerance but lay on the horn when the guy in front of us is too slow or doesn’t signal for a turn.

A split second of inattention can make us the person who crossed the center line and killed a gentle spirit or a childlike faith. Distraction is a favorite tool in satan’s hand. It happens when we haven’t taken the time to school ourselves for vigilance and practice minute by minute the Christlike qualities we strive to emulate.

In memory of a mother and daughter I didn’t even know, I’m putting my purse with my cell phone in the back seat of my car from now on so I won’t be tempted.

In memory of a Christ who died for me, I’m putting my Bible on the front seat of my life so I will be watchful at all times.

What will you do to protect yourself and others from your split second of inattention?

“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning,” Luke 12:35

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Yesterday a friend shared that she felt her life was just a series of “starting overs”.  Her heart was heavy and her soul was discouraged.  Things weren’t working out the way she’d planned – again.  My heart hurts because her heart hurts and I wish I could change her situation.  I wish I could tell her what to do to make it miraculously better.  But the truth is, there are no quick and easy answers.

Isn’t that just the way of life?  Are any of us where we really wanted to be today?  Has anyone not seen dreams die or goals remain unreached?  When I was in 8th grade I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would become a nurse.  Instead I became a wife.  When I lived for riding horses I never dreamed of a day when my pasture would be empty but my motorcycle shop would be full.  When I was pregnant for the first time I never imagined that my son would never take a first breath.  On my wedding day I didn’t know marriage would be so hard, or for that matter parenting, keeping house, keeping my sanity. 

We’ve all had to readjust our plans along the way.  Sometimes it was by choice and we looked forward to an exciting venture.  Other times it was heartbreaking and seemed unfair and impossible.

But at least for me, and I’m relatively sure for the rest of you, it was a time of growth and discovery.  Even the most painful times in our journey give birth to a fresh awareness of how strong we are, how amazing a right turn can end up being, and how, regardless of what was left behind, there are treasures to be had up ahead.

Starting over points make us see again and again who is really in control.  We think that we are and we make choices, good and bad, but God channels them both into the direction He wants us to go.  When it seems all is lost, the one thing we can hold on to is His wisdom and His grace. Only God can turn a loss into a win, a seemingly fatal mistake into a life giving lesson, a brick wall into short pause. 

Each time we dissolve into tears and think we’ve failed, God turns our tears into a river of opportunity and provides a boat.  We just have to get in and start rowing.  The most important thing though is letting him set our course.  Most of our “starting overs” come from a lack of seeking direction in our past endeavors. That’s not to say that tragedy beyond our control doesn’t strike us now and then because it does.  The race we run as citizens of this world is a grueling one. Even the most athletically fit will stumble and fall along the way.

The falling down – the divorce, the bankruptcy, the loss of a job, the parenting disappointments, the damage we’ve done – those aren’t the climactic moments in our book of life.  The fact that we keep on going, keep on singing, keep on believing and keep on starting over are the page turners. 

In the end it doesn’t matter that we aren’t where we expected ourselves to be.  It only matters that we end up where God planned for us to be.  And do you know where that is?  At the throne of grace, forgiven of all our sin and failure, shining with the light of Jesus and surrounded by the people who watched our journey and were inspired to follow along.

For my friend whose broken heart inspired this post, you are at one of the most beautiful places of all, the place where you choose to fall into His great big, comforting, safe and secure hands so that He can pour His love out upon you, whisper His promises into your heart, put your broken pieces back together and set you on your feet again, down a fresh new path that leads to joy.

Today, tomorrow and the next day will be hard for you.  Count on me to walk alongside.  I’ll buy the Starbucks, listen to the problems, pat you on the back and take your phone calls.  But He is the one who will actually take your fractured pieces and form the work of art you will become as you take this turn and navigate your way down the path.

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.  Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:9-10

 

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Our autumn rides hold a special place in my heart.  While the air is crisp, requiring an extra layer of clothing, the view from the back seat is glorious.  Here in Yakima and the surrounding countryside the trees are fighting each other for attention, flashing their shades of gold and green, russet and rose.  Along the river the sumac is dressed in red while the birch trees have chosen bright yellow gowns.  I can smell the fall and it’s moist and earthy.

The autumn season is short and I always feel like we have to hurry and enjoy it before it’s gone.  There is such a contrast in the blinding sunlight and the cool air, almost like a warning.  If you’re inside looking out, it appears to be warm.  But step out the door without a jacket and you’ll shiver immediately.

Huddled on the back of our Harley with my leather clad arms wrapped around my guy my thoughts are bittersweet. I wouldn’t trade the beauty of autumn for anything but I’m sad for the signs that our riding season is almost over.  There’s always that distant thought of what will next year bring? 

Having recently experienced the sudden and unexpected loss of a good friend, it’s hard not to reflect on the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death.  The trees know truth – our life is for a season.  Autumn comes and the best thing they can do is go out in a blaze of glory. The most beautiful, eye catching time of their existence is the beginning of their death – not forever but for a time.

What a lesson for us.  We won’t be green and full of energy forever.  We must take all we can from the joy of our branches dancing in the breeze, birds singing us a morning song, friends relaxing in our cool shade.  At the same time, we must make plans to go out in a blaze of glory.

Is your house in order?  Have you served in such a way that people remark on your golden generosity?  Are you touching lives and sharing some of your rich red life lessons, your russet blessings, and your bright yellow joy of a life well lived? 

We don’t know for sure what tomorrow will bring but we can certainly take measure of what impact we had yesterday.  I want someone to reflect on their ride though the canyon of life and I want a memory to flash back of me beside the river reaching out with beauty and thoughtfulness, making their day a little richer.  I want them to hear the roar of a Harley and smile because it brings to mind a picture of Christ shining like the autumn sun from my face.  

And when my glorious colors fade, please remember I have died not forever but only for a time.  My resurrection colors will make the autumn season look like a black and white movie!  Praise God for that promise.

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.  Isaiah 55:12

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