Even to Old Age, I AM HE

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For the second time this Christmas season I went caroling at the nursing home with a group from our church. Our pastor led the way on both occasions. The second time we went he gave us Christmas cards to hand out and encouraged us to minister to the people as we walked the hallways singing. Various people in our congregation had put a handwritten message inside the cards along with a bookmark.

Many of the residents were non-responsive, seemingly trapped in a world that confused and confounded them. Some would nod their heads and smile with a shy acknowledgment of their appreciation. I was so caught off guard when I entered a room where one resident was sitting in a chair singing with great enthusiasm.  She was alone and her face was aglow with joy. I just stopped in front of her and looked at wonder at the glory of it.  She never missed a beat, but held my gaze and kept singing… then my tears began to flow. She reached out her hand, touched me, and spoke some words of encouragement. She was so frail in body, but so strong in spirit. I think she knew my tears weren’t from pity, but from gratitude. How faithful is the One who is indeed Immanuel, God with us?

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save. Isaiah 46:3-4

On another hallway I entered a room to give out the Christmas cards. This resident had an iPod to her ear, but she put it aside to let me know that she had a splitting headache and that her request for some aspirin was being ignored.  She asked me if I had any aspirin and I told her I didn’t, but I would like to pray with her. She said, “Well, I would rather have an aspirin.” The way she said it was so funny I could barely contain myself. I told her the hospital would frown on visitors dispensing aspirins, but I could pass on her request to an aide. She looked at me with slightly more interest and said, “Well, are you going to pray for me or not?” I laid my hand on her head and gently massaged her scalp while I prayed for the Prince of Peace to give her His peace and for healing of her headache so she could get some rest. Then she didn’t want me to go. I explained that we had other rooms to visit, but I would check back in on her. Several minutes later when we passed by her room I looked in and she was sound asleep.

So far, this is my favorite Christmas experience.  I am thankful our pastor led the way in the busy season to remind us as Paul did in Acts:

 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” Acts 20:35

I left the nursing home a blessed woman. Let’s  remember our Savior’s words.

Lord, thank you for those you have put in our lives who spur us on to love and good works. Help us to lift you up in this season in word and deed. In Jesus name, amen.

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Ebenezer Stone

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(Pictures: Family on Thanksgiving 2003 (Our fourth child, a baby girl, came along as our beautiful and joyous gift in 2006) and finally our Ebenezer stone (actually petrified wood, which is wood changed to stone, so it’s quartz-like) in our front yard moved all the way from East Texas to Colorado–a very heavy rock!



It was late November 2003 right before Thanksgiving. Tabor was only 4 1/2 months old, Noah, 5 and Kylie, 4. Chris began to have pains in his stomach. He went to the doctor twice before Thanksgiving to no avail.

Thanksgiving day, we are at Chris’ parents house and Chris is not eating. We should have taken him to the emergency room right then and there. No good southern boy misses his Mom’s best dish–Sweet Potato Casserole done-the-right-way. He didn’t eat at all that weekend. His stomach hurt. He took hot baths. Nothing would help. On Sunday, he began to run a fever at my parents’ house. I was very worried. I remember crying, “I think you’re going to die. You need to go to the doctor. What if it’s cancer or something?”

So on Monday morning, Chris took his truck to work. We lived 40 minutes away from his work and 45 from the hospital/ doctor’s office. He was going to get into the doctor’s office as soon as he could. On I-20, his truck broke down (pump module driver went out). His parents came and gave Chris their ’88 Suburban. Chris went to work. When he finally got in the doctor late that morning, they gave him something to drink and were running an MRI on him at 4 pm. So Chris slept in the bed of the Suburban. I got a call at 5:30 from Chris. They were keeping him through the night, but couldn’t tell him what was wrong, yet. Finally about 7 pm, I heard that Chris was having a laparoscopic appendectomy. No one was there with him.

At 10:30 pm, the doctor called. He began, “He’s not out of the woods, yet.”

I asked “Should I come up there?”

He said “Someone should be here!”

Oh my, I didn’t realize how very serious it was. Then came the doctor-talk. Basically, Chris’ appendix had been ruptured for 3-4 days and it had solidified (so the poison did not spread to his bloodstream).

They had opened Chris up immediately and took a part of his intestine, as well. His brother went up and stayed the night, since I had the kids asleep.

I drove to the hospital every day for 7 days, spent the day with Chris and then went home. The oldest two kids had preschool, and friends and family helped. Baby Tabor went with me to the hospital.

Chris looked at us and didn’t really care about anything. He really was not with us. I took him home and took care of him for the next month or so. Christmas was a blur, but I went and got a tree, bought new lights for it and decorated it. I took the kids to school and lived life in a blur.

January 12th rolled around. Chris went back to work! He was very slow with his “shark bite” incision healing, but numb. The following Sunday we did our blessing box with the kids. We had so much to be thankful for! Then we all went out and signed & dated our Ebenezer stone. We thanked God and said, “Thus far has the Lord helped us.”

The next Christmas rolled around. I began to remember the year before and then Chris said, “Where did those Christmas lights come from?” I began to cry. “You weren’t really with us last year, were you?” “I guess not,” he said.

God has been unbelievably gracious to us. I remember the prayer I prayed during that time, “Lord, I’m weak. YOU be strong.” I said it over and over again. I am thankful also for so many who prayed. Indeed, many stood in the gap for my Chris! God was strong. He IS and He will be.  Our HELP is He.

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Same Day Obedience

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Recently I have been revisiting the life of Abraham.  I know that Abraham was flawed, as we all are, in his character. Fear and self-protection caused him to put his wife in a compromising position, not once, but twice during their life together.  However, when God gave him a directive, Abraham moved in prompt obedience, even though it would prove to be relationally or physically costly.

When God instituted the covenant sign of circumcision Abraham was 99 years old. We are told in Genesis 17:23b that he took,

 “every male among the men of Abraham’s household and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the very same day, as God had said to him.”

I can just imagine the excuses I would have come up with:

  1. Let me get them used to the idea first.
  2. I can’t afford to have all the men down at the same time.
  3. Let’s wait a few days and get caught up on the work around here.

When Ishmael is around 14 years old Abraham is asked by Sarah to send him away and God confirms that this is something he needs to do. We are told that

“the matter distressed Abraham greatly because of his son.” Genesis 21:12

God assures Abraham that he will take care of the boy, but His plan for Abraham will come through Isaac. How does he respond? Genesis 21:14

So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave them to Hagar, putting them on her shoulder, and gave her the boy, and sent her away.”

Is there a relationship in your life that you know in your heart of hearts is not part of God’s plan? Will it be painful to send them away? Yes, it will. Are you willing to put it away for the greater purposes of God’s glory in the story He wants to write through your life?

God comes to Abraham again and this time tests him by asking him to take Isaac and offer him as a burnt offering on Mt. Moriah. It is almost inconceivable that we read,

“So Abraham rose early in the morning,”

to do what God had commanded. How can we understand such a willingness to obey and to obey promptly?

He considered God ABLE and FAITHFUL. Do we?

Each step of obedience led to a deeper and greater revelation of God’s unfolding plan for Abraham and His intention to bless the world through this man. He had been tried by God, and in the process, Abraham had seen His incredible faithfulness and trustworthiness. Within Abraham’s act of obedience to give up his son, God displays His glorious plan of redemption.  Hebrews 11:19

In the same way, I believe when you and I yield promptly to God’s directives for our lives, His glorious plan of redemption is displayed through our lives.  Let’s ask the Lord to impress deeply on our hearts the need and ability to give ourselves to prompt, same day, or early the next morning, obedience. Has He not shown Himself to be faithful and trustworthy to us?

Lord, help us to acquire a mindset of prompt obedience to your known will for our lives. Help us to push past excuses and delays and with eagerness press into serving you without hesitation. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Faithful in the Little Things

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Last night, I finally forgave my treadmill. Yes, indeed.  After over a month in a hospital, my dear friend Joanne, is awake and beginning the road to recovery.  Just this evening, she even wrote a post in her own hand.  I cannot tell you how my heart is near to bursting over it.  Bursting in praise to God!

You see, Joanne was found unresponsive by her treadmill the morning of January 11th.  After a normal “Joanne” morning, she had a massive stroke. And though I completely realize and understand that it was not the treadmill’s fault, I have been angry with my own treadmill.  “Humph-ing” every time I pass it.  Association is a strange thing.

So last night, I broke my association and began a new one.  I dressed for the time. Then I placed my music in my pocket and my headphones on my head, and I began to sing praise, as I walked and ran on my treadmill. Further still, I began to pray for my friend, Joanne.  I prayed for her strength and courage in the days, valleys and mountains ahead of her.  I prayed for her husband, Toben, who has been so strong and has allowed God to fully work in and through him. I prayed for friends, who are making decisions that will mark and change their lives.  I prayed for friends, who are seeking God’s will for adoption, foster care or both.  I prayed for my family, my Chris and my extended family.

Then a song came on…it was from our dear friend and worship leader, Kevin Walker, who died of leukemia last March. Kevin sang a song he wrote called I Will be Faithful. Over and over, he sang these words, “I will be faithful, faithful in the little things…I will be faithful, faithful in the little things. By your strength that flows within, Lord, I’ll press on to the end. I will be faithful, faithful in the little things.”

And my friends?  Kevin was.  He was faithful in the little things.  I began to pray over his sweet wife, Julie, who would be especially missing her dear man on Valentine’s Day. I began to thank God for how Kevin is still speaking LIFE into my life. Though he has gone on to life eternal with Jesus, Kevin’s words are still reverberating.  His words about his Papa, God.  He called God, Papa.  And he saw God as Papa–loving, kind, redeeming, healing, resurrecting Daddy.

As I slowed down my walk, I began to commit even more to be faithful in the little things.  Faithful to care.  Faithful to call. Faithful to walk. Faithful to hug. Faithful to see. Faithful to write.  Faithful to pray. Faithful to speak. Faithful to stand firm. Faithful to fight the good fight. Faithful to forgive. Faithful to see and know God more as Papa.

Faithful. Faithful in the little things. Faithful to see beyond the treadmill to the race before me…and to run it.

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A Safe Haven

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My Chris and I married when we were young. In fact, the other day we were considering the fact that at the age of 19, I was engaged to him, and we married when I was 20. So as we consider our older two kids, who are nearly 13 and just turned 11,  we are thinking, “Wow. I cannot believe our parents let us get married so young!” As my Chris added, “Good thing the Lord was in it,” I began to muse on the steadfast places in our relationship of over 19 years of marriage.

1) We built and are building and will continue to build our relationship on Christ. I am in charge of my time with the Lord.  My Chris is in charge of his.  I don’t ask him if he’s read his Bible that day and he doesn’t ask me if I’ve read mine. However, we often DO talk about what we did read that day–we discuss it.  We work together best, if we take responsibility for our own relationship with Christ.  We pray together–sometimes we pray on our knees together right before we go to bed. And we pray FOR one another. We share prayer needs.  I let him know if I am feeling a burden or a “check/ flag” in my spirit regarding a choice/ decision he is making.  He lets me know what is “checking” with him. I cheer on time Chris spends with godly friends.  Chris cheers on time I spend with godly friends.  We know that we are not an island in our relationship.  We need others to sharpen us in the faith. We both love to go to worship at our church and to see our friends here, who have carried us and cared for us–and we them–on countless occasions.

2) We enjoy spending time together and spending time alone. As a family, we love to be together.  We have numerous traditions and special occasions.  We like to make a special night or party of most things we do, like our pizza pajama night every Friday. As a couple, we like to be together.  We used to go on a date every single week.  It was great! It was ex-pen-sive. We can no longer afford that, but we still go out once in awhile.  Our favorite date is dinner, a movie and the bookstore. Since we are home more now, we might work a puzzle during our kids’ rest time. Or we might sit out on the back porch and talk and dream.  We also like to spend time alone and away from one another, as we both have hobbies that do not intersect.  Every week, we each have one night for our hobbies while the other spends time with the kids.  It is time we invest in the other’s “love-tank.”

3) Our bedroom is a safe haven. Our children must knock to enter.  We have mini-dates most evenings and nearly every Saturday morning, where we enjoy talking, dreaming, reading together, sharing what we’ve read or learned, watching television programs which we taped on the DVR or movies from the library, sometimes I knit while he reloads bullets, sometimes we enjoy a plate of the odd assortment of cheeses he found on manager’s special with crackers.  Often we sit and hold hands.

4) We both recharge by being outside. We know whenever we get in a funk as individuals, a couple or a family that we have not been outdoors long enough. Our restart (alt-Ctrl-Delete), if you will, is going out of doors on a hike, picnic, drive or camp out.  We just need a perspective shift from time to time.  God created His creation to be life-giving and restorative for us.  He knows what we need.  And He freely gives it.

5) We remember that we are on the same team–a divided house will not stand. This comes from watchfulness and prayer.  We ask the Holy Spirit to get in our business and show us the places where our walls are tearing down.  There are some things that are not allowed–kids trying to play one parent against the other nor trying to “run the show,” friends trying to bash their own spouses and we have a careful watch over the media that is going on in our home. If we would not allow certain behavior in our home, why would we invite that behavior to exist via television programming? We set up boundaries that are FOR us, and honestly, we need them. We do not spend time alone with members of the opposite sex nor do we dine alone with members of the opposite sex.  Picture this, it is as if we are standing back to back with one another and our arms are linked together.  It is a defensive stance–and united front. Everything we do is as a team–our finances, the running of our home, time, priorities and more.  This is yet another reason why we need that time alone to talk together. We need to continually work to stay in tune and on the same team.

6) We laugh…a lot. Honestly, this is part and parcel because of my Chris.  He is a funny guy.  His humor has kept us laughing, when we might have been crying or fighting or feeling sorry for ourselves.  We like funny.  Funny is what we do.

7) We often exercise together and have enjoyed getting up early to The Shred video this year. Refer to # 6 –this brings about perpetual laughter. I want to live a very long time with my Chris.  As we are now beginning our forties together (he’s 40 and I’ll be 40 in February), I want us to be healthier.  Because we make a good team, we do healthy best as a team.  So we exercise together and we keep one another accountable.  It works for us.

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Take time today to consider what aspects of your relationship are steadfast–the places of “safe haven.” Look for the signposts of dangerous terrain–and today begin forging steps together for your future.  Making your marriage a safe haven is absolutely worth it–it is work, but it is a valuable and life-giving investment for future generations. That is a gift and a treasure.

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At His Feet

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Yesterday, I shared my heart-story about Ruth and praying to the LORD –gleaning from the field in which we currently find ourselves. Well, I didn’t share the whole of my prayer with you, so here is the rest of that prayer.

 

“LORD, like Ruth we lay at your feet, ready for you to cover us. We long for You, our Kinsman Redeemer. Without your covering, we will be completely without hope.”

 

Let’s talk about covering. We all do it. It’s something that we do to find security, to put up walls around ourselves, to guard ourselves from perceived harm. For example, I have felt much security in the fact that we have a job, home, life insurance, and health insurance. In the past, I also have found security in food–a full pantry and a full stomach. So I have been throwing off “coverings” on my person that God would like for me to take off–layers that have built up over the years for what I would certainly call protection. I perceived that I was safer. But my perceptions were wrong.

 

So here we are in our field, and God has certainly removed some protective coverings from our lives, making us feel exposed to the elements. But we have learned not to rely on those things, but to rely on Him. He is our cover. For we know and rely on the love God has for us. (1 John 4:16a)

 

Also in our field, I have been exercising and losing weight–50 pounds so far. But I will not find refuge in that–I keep ever before me the fact that the LORD is requiring me to throw off what hinders. (Hebrew 12:1) Not only am I throwing off what hinders, but also I am praying, praising and learning more about God’s Word, as I exercise. So I can’t wait for that time every day. I’m not there, yet, but I am pressing on. (Philippians 3:12)

 

On top of that, we are daily laying down our rights. (1 John 3:16) We are not letting a bitter root grow up. (Hebrews 12:15) We are seeking the LORD while He may be found. (Isaiah 55:6) And we are just plain having fun with our family. (Psalm 68:6)

 

There is still some work to be done here in our home. I can’t say what all the LORD is doing, but I know it is for good. And I want it all. On the other side of this tunnel, there is some freedom to be gained and a healthy way of living mentally, physically, and spiritually.

 

God will cover us. He already has by the blood of Jesus. That’s what He has done–He covered our sins with His shed blood on the cross. He has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. But also He is continuing to cover us. May His glory so be on us that, like Moses, we must cover our faces from the brightness of His glory before others. Then may we shine as His lights in this dark world.

 

But you’ll welcome us with open arms when we run for cover to you. Let the party last all night! Stand guard over our celebration. You are famous, God, for welcoming God-seekers, for decking us out in delight. (Psalm 5:11 The Message)
 

I’m thanking you, God, out in the streets, singing your praises in town and country. The deeper your love, the higher it goes; every cloud’s a flag to your faithfulness. Soar high in the skies, O God! Cover the whole earth with your glory! And for the sake of the one you love so much, reach down and help me—answer me! (Psalm 108:3 The Message)

 

What coverings does Christ want you to surrender to Him today? Uncover, my friends. Then let Him cover you. He is a mighty Refuge. He is a firm shelter that will not fail or falter. He is a secure dwelling for you and all that concerns you this day and always.
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