Do you dare to knock?

[Paul said] “So, friends, it’s obvious that our visit to you was no waste of time. 1 Thessalonians 2:1

imageAs a former Stephen Minister, there were times I dreaded ringing the doorbell of the person I was to visit. I’d whisper the little, “Help me, Lord” prayer and enter the home unknowing what I could do or say to help the care receiver.

Stephen Ministry is a caring ministry for those who admit they need someone to talk to–someone they can trust to listen to their story and not try to solve their problem. The training to become a Stephen Minister is intense. We studied a book, role played, prayed a lot, and after commissioned had followup supervisory meetings to make sure everyone was keeping the purpose of Stephen Ministry in perspective.

Paul’s message to the Thessalonians could be a good one for a Stephen Minister to ponder after a visit. He went on to say, “God tested us thoroughly to make sure we were qualified to be trusted with this Message” (Vs. 1:3).That’s what the training was for. And, the main message we were to convey is that there is hope for their situation by trusting the Lord.

Think of the times you have felt called to visit someone you haven’t seen for a long time or a person who has experienced some rough times. Were you glad you did?

Lord, remind us when we speak to or with anyone “We’re not after crowd approval–only God approval.” (1 Thes. 1:6) Amen.

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Paradise on Earth …

heavenonearth“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” Matthew 5:5

I walked by a park model in the campground that had a sign saying, “Another Day in Paradise.” I also looked around—the sky was blue, now wind, about 80 degrees. Perfect for sure. But if it were my sign, I would have written, “Another Day in Paradise on Earth.”

What does it take to feel as if we are in paradise? We can’t all have a vacation home by the shore or a chalet in the mountains. Some people live in a shack and feel as if they are living in paradise. I imagine there are people living in mansions who feel trapped in their “paradise.” Jesus said it is about being content.

My paradise that weekend was spending time camping with my daughter and her family. Watching the boys ride their bicycles on quiet paths, swim in the lake, and toast their own marsh mellows over a fire made me wonder how it could get much better. But after four nights in a little camper, I was happy to leave paradise and go home to the sanctuary of my borrowed bedroom.

God gives us a glimpse of paradise through people, nature, and relationships. It is up to us to hang out a sign saying, “Paradise is Now.”

Lord, open our eyes to see you now and again in Paradise. Amen.

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Man, Mice and God …

God’s love is meteoric, his loyalty astronomic, His purpose titanic, his verdicts oceanic. Yet in his largeness nothing gets lost; not a man, not a mouse, slips through the cracks. Psalm 36:5-6

kills-usI’m staying with my brother in his lovely finished basement with false ceilings. When the temperature gets cooler, mice seek warmth, such as in a house. It is said mice can crawl through a space the size of its head, which makes it difficult to keep them out of a house. But why did the mouse find warmth in the false ceiling above my bed? For two nights in a row, I heard the scamper of little feet. Another night I heard a noise that sounded like a critter chewing into fiberboard. I pounded a shoe against the ceiling and sprayed a strong odor reducer into the space above the ceiling. All became quiet.

Another night and the same scenario began. More banging with my shoe and for two nights, no mouse sounds. I felt my action had frightened him or her away. However, a few days later, I smelled a dead animal in the hallway. Even though a mouse most likely won’t ever harm me, I’ll never get used to seeing them in a house.

The Psalmist said that even with the grandness and largeness of God , he won’t let man or mouse slip through the cracks. It would be okay with me if he reconsidered the mouse part.

Lord, thank you for caring for all creatures. Amen.

 

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We need nine lives …

“Mark well that God doesn’t miss a move you make; he’s aware of every step you take.” Proverbs 5:21

proofI think of the near-hits or misses during my lifetime that could have either injured or caused death, and I believe God has given us nine lives like what is said of a cat.

My children have had their own scrapes while exploring childhood. One began at around age four by building tents out of blankets. This would keep the child busy for hours.  One day the little genius decided to light up the tent in the basement with a lamp. A few hours later I went downstairs to check on the laundry and could smell something like burning fabric. The light bulb had created enough heat to scorch the blanket directly’ above the shade. Fortunately, we were spared from a possible house fire and even worse …

One of my kids and a friend were out in the garage and decided to ride up the electric garage door. The fun ended when a leg became entangled in the apparatus and was squeezed above the ankle. The buddy operating the button stopped the action. Instead of losing the foot, there is a scar as a reminder to not to do that again.

We learn from our mistakes and stupid tricks, which I’m not sharing with you. I just hope I haven’t come close to using up my nine lives.

Lord, hover over us when we fail to see the possibility of danger. Amen.

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You light up my life …

“The shining of God, the Master, is all the light anyone needs.” Revelation 22:5

loveDuring my lifetime, I’ve tested the love thing many times. As I child I just knew I was loved, but when I met my husband, I was a bit taken back by the proclamation of love because I had no way of knowing what real love was. Then, we had our first baby and a new kind of love was placed into my arms that continued to grow, just as my love for Glen. It’s hard to imagine how God builds enough love into our hearts to equally love baby number two, three, and more. But God provides an amazing love for our children. However, then I became a grandmother. Oh my… how could I possibly love my child’s baby as much (or more!) than my own children? It’s true, God gives us grandchildren as a reward for raising children.

In 1977,  Debbie Boone had one big hit, “You Light Up My Life,” a ballad of a young woman wanting love, “So many nights, I’d sit by my window, waiting for someone to sing me his song…” When love finally came along, she crooned, “And you light up my life, you give me hope to carry on…” Eventually, Debbie moved into the Christian music genre. This song could easily transpose to anyone seeking the love of the Lord. But you don’t need to sit by a window and wait.

Lord, light up our life with your love. Amen.

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Have compassion …

“Abraham replied, ‘Child, remember that in your lifetime you got the good things and Lazarus the bad things. It’s not like that here.” Luke 16:25

compassionThe scripture above comes from the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, a poor man with ugly sores who lived on the street. The rich man ignored him, probably stumbled over the poor Lazarus who only wanted a bite to eat.  When they both died, Lazarus went to heaven, and the rich man to Hades  where he realized he had doomed himself to spend his life in hell.

I’m reading a novel called “Ruby ” about an oppressed black woman living in the south. As a six-year old child, she had been placed in the care of a woman who thrived off of men sexually abusing Ruby. That’s all she knew and lived her life as a whore to survive. She eventually returned home to her family shack, lived in filth with obvious mental illness. A childhood friend remembered how sweet she had been as a child, took pity on her, cleaned her house, and spent hours cleaning her body and separating strands of her course hair until it could be combed. Then his peers ridiculed him.

The hero in “Ruby” wasn’t a rich man, but a humble man who saw value in the woman he had once known. If “the rich man” had done the same, he would not have spent his life in hell.

Lord, let us not stumble over someone in need. Amen

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Sleep on …

“If you pull the covers back over your head and sleep on, oblivious to God, I’ll return when you least expect it, break into your life like a thief in the night.” Revelation 3:3

sleepSome days I want to go to bed and pull the covers over my head and stay there—especially on cloudy days such as we are having in Iowa. But I would end up with a hungry belly and an aching back. This morning I woke up around 5:00, too early to get up, and spent time catching up on Facebook and Emails. Then I fell back to sleep for couple more hours.

When I awoke, my covers were up around my head and twisted as if a tornado had landed in my bed. Normally, I can slip out of bed and pull up the covers and the bed is made. I wondered, “Was I wrestling with the Devil?” I remember dreaming about writing books and had told someone, “I’ve self-published nine books.” So, why was I so restless?

I’m on the last week before I head back to Arizona. I have a lot on my mind—packing, the route to take, what the weather will be like, etc. I don’t think I’m worried about all the things I need to do here and then when I get home. But sometimes our dreams do, Even then, sleep is said to be the best meditation for our soul.

Lord, help us sleep restfully knowing you are in control. Amen.

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Squirrels as a forecaster?

“King David grew old. The years had caught up with him. Even though they piled blankets on him, he couldn’t keep warm.” 1 King 1:1

imageSeveral squirrels in the backyard are busily collecting nuts and hiding them for their winter meals. I could say something here about how this winter we might be missing some friends, family members, or politicians, but I will refrain.

Can we look at animals such as the squirrel to make predictions of the forthcoming winter season? The Farmer’s Almanac website suggests the height of a squirrel’s nest indicates the severity of the forthcoming  winter. I haven’t seen a squirrel’s nest in over fifteen years, nor can I tell if the squirrels are more frantically gathering nuts than usual to help forecast what kind of winter we can expect.

Last week I bought a heavy winter coat and a lighter coat with a zip-out liner. Many people are asking if I’m crazy to leave my warm Arizona home and spend the winter out East. I don’t know, but I might be one of the missing nuts this winter. I’ll prepare by digging out my Cuddle Duds, warm socks and gloves, and just hope this winter won’t break records on snow level and sub-zero temperature.

Like King David, I’m getting older and colder. However, I’m determined to spend Christmas and a few months with my kids and grandchildren in front of the fireplace being warmed by their presence.

Lord, give us warmth in relationships regardless of the weather. Amen.

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Something new …

“God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.” 1 Corinthians 1:9

adventureMy mother called and said, “Today I’ve done something for the first time and probably the last.” I wondered what this 95-year-old character had been up to. She’d gone to her great-grandson’s cross-high school country track meet and said, “I walked for what seemed like miles and then had to stand and wait to see him for two hours. Then we saw him for a few seconds. But it was worth it when I heard, ‘Thanks for coming, Grandma, for coming.’ And I got a hug, too.” I was amazed she’d gone in the first place.

Mom’s game for most anything, but yesterday she didn’t understand the the physical effort it would take to watch a cross country race. If she’d known, she possibly wouldn’t have gone and missed the opp0rtunity to share this experience.

Apostle Paul tells us that God invites us into spiritual adventures with Jesus–a run well worth witnessing to further our faith journey. We are blessed when we venture into scripture, dig in and find a new meaning every time we read it. It may be only one word we’ve read before and suddenly a light goes on in our brain, and you will end up saying, “I get it!”

Lord, open our minds to different ways to expand our faith growth. Amen.

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Blessed …

“We will never turn our back on you; breathe life into our lungs so we can shout your name!” Psalm 80:18

goforitIn 2008, a lung biopsy that showed that Glen had Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis–scarring of the lungs with an unknown cause–in the bottom one-fifth of his lungs. Shortly thereafter, the pneumonia-type symptoms went away. Every year at his six-month checkups, Glen showed strong oxygen levels.

In March when Glen went into the hospital with pneumonia, the doctors weren’t overly concerned but treated him aggressively. However, none of the medications helped Glen’s lungs, and over time he went from six liters of oxygen per minute to eight, then to ten, fourteen, eighteen, and finally twenty liters per minute of pure oxygen.

After three weeks, and no improvement, the pulmonologist came into Glen’s room and said, “Glen you are a very sick man. Do you have your DNR signed?” PF had taken over. His only alternative at this point was to go on a respirator. He chose hospice care instead.

September is Pulmonary Fibrosis awareness month. After reading testimonials from patients with PF, I thank God Glen suffered for only a few weeks. Many PF patients live for many years with no energy, constant coughing, and are attached to an oxygen tank full time. A common thread among folks with PF is how they have chosen to live each day to its fullest. Many healthy people don’t even do this.

Dear Lord, help researchers find a cure or a way to slow down this dreadful disease. Amen.

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