Just listen …

“Suddenly while still in the meeting place, he was interrupted by a man who was deeply disturbed and yelling out, ‘What business do you have here with us, Jesus?’” Mark 1:23

Someone always wanted information or help from Jesus. Imagine how tired, hungry, and maybe even a bit grumpy he might have been but still managed to be a representative of God’s love.

Sometimes our days go like that. We start out on a mission and become sidetracked by people who need to talk, need something, or just have a question,  but it turns into a “therapy” session. I tend to be patient during these types of encounters, but it is difficult to muster up niceness when tired. But, it’s worth an Academy Award for best actor or actress when we actually help someone, even when inconvenient in our schedule.

Many years ago I tried to get in and out of the grocery store quickly to drive my daughter to a ball game. An elderly man followed me around and kept talking about his son coming home to visit. I tried to ignore him by giving him short, almost curt, answers, but perhaps the Holy Spirit nagged at me, and I stopped shopping, leaned against my cart, and listened to him tell a story about how he and his son had been estranged since his wife died. “What shall I do?” he asked. I said, “Just open your arms. listen to him, and love him.”

Lord, when someone needs to talk, help us be patient and engaging. Amen.

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Trade Junk for Joy …

“A miserable heart means a miserable life; a cheerful heart fills the day with song.” Proverbs 15:15

My son is a general contractor and is currently “flipping” houses. Recently, he purchased a home formerly owned by single man who died suddenly of a heart attack. He had no children and a couple of nieces inherited his house–and his mess. For years he’d been a hoarder. Mike showed me pictures of empty plastic soda bottles piled high in the corner of the kitchen, papers stacked everywhere, bathrooms that should have been condemned. The nieces were happy someone wanted to buy the house and clean it up.

I try to understand why people become hoarders. Loneliness? Boredom? Just don’t care about organization and cleanliness? From what I’ve learned, even if  something is useless, it is hard for a hoarder to part with it. A hoarder may know they have something important in the house but can’t find. They lose relationships and become angry and defensive when someone offers to help them clean up their home.

There is a parallel with a house hoarder and a heart hoarder. How much junk do we keep in our hearts? Frustration? Fear? Hatred? Hurts? Lies? If you were to take a paper heart and write on it everything you are holding on to, it would make your real heart palpitate.

Jesus says we should unload on him. He’s got a heart big enough for the worst hoarders.

Lord, help us rid our hearts of junk that keeps us from feeling joy. Amen.

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What about Bob?

“God will let you laugh again; you’ll raise the roof with shouts of joy!” Job 8:21

Recently while garage sailing, I found the DVD of the movie “What About Bob,” which was popular in the early 1990’s. I watched it the first time while recuperating from stomach surgery. I lay on the couch, holding a pillow against the incision, and tried not to laugh. There had not been much laughter during the weeks of being ill and following the surgery. A good laugh would have been the ticket for helping me heal, but it hurt too much to do a belly laugh.

There is a research project in Australia in which Alzheimer patients are exposed to humor therapy through music, mime, and clowns. In some cases it has been found to be as effective as psychiatric medication in reducing agitation in the patients, which is common with the disease, reducing the amount of agitation that goes along with the disease.

Over the years, I’ve learned to laugh more and cry less. I laugh at myself most of the time. When I need a good laugh, I watch old reruns of “Frasier” on Netflix. I laugh at my dog playing, children being goofy, and whatever tickles my funny bone.

Life is too serious not to find ways to laugh. If you’ve forgotten how to laugh, find someone who will laugh with you. One begins with a fake laugh, and before you know it, you’ll be “rolling in the aisles” with belly-bursting laughter.

Lord, bless us with laughter and a happy heart. Amen.

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Snappy …

“Noah disembarked with his sons and wife and his sons’ wives. Then all the animals, crawling creatures, birds—every creature on the face of the Earth—left the ship family by family.” Genesis 8:18-19

As far as I’m concerned, Noah could have left behind the snapping turtle. Years ago when my husband and I were campground hosts, we had a near-Noah experience with at least 27 inches of rain in three months. After one heavy downpour, Glen and I took a walk down into the picnic and hiking area of the state park. I ran across a turtle and wasn’t sure if it was alive or drowned by the flooded river. I began to film and talk to the turtle (I talk to all animals and babies) and said, “You poor thing, you must get tired of people ….” SNAP! The turtle obviously was annoyed by me trying to capture him or her in distress.

I came within a few inches of losing a nose that day. I couldn’t help but think the snapping turtle was one of the meanest, ugliest creatures God put on Earth. Yet, when watching it from a safe distance, it was amazing to see it plod from one side of the road to the other.

I think of the times I snapped at people because I was too tired to be civil or just wasn’t thinking. It’s not a good habit to get into, as one can lose friends really fast.

Lord, keep my tongue from hurting others. Amen.

 

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Remember when?

“Honor and enjoy your Creator while you’re still young.” Ecclesiastes 12:1

I’m not sure why this scripture didn’t say, “Continue to honor your Creator all your life until you cannot.” I’m certainly not in the age bracket “young,” but I don’t consider myself old, either. I’ve found worshiping and praising God to be easier and more rewarding now that I have more time to give to reading and studying God’s Word.

The author, Questor, says the body doesn’t “serve you well in your elder years,” but he doesn’t mention the mind. We hear “use it or lose it,” and I agree, but what happens with early onset Alzheimer’s when it attacks someone during the prime of their career.

An article in Prevention magazine on line gives ten ways to help keep your mind active. The first one is to play brain games, such as crossword puzzles. I couldn’t do crosswords when I was younger and have not improved over the years. Instead, I do Sudoku puzzles and deal with placement of numbers. I play bridge and have to remember which cards have been played and the conventions, etc. If I don’t play often enough, it’s tough to remember everything.

We hear a great deal about dementia and probably everyone knows someone who has been affected by one form of memory loss. This can cause fear and stress, which is bad for the brain. So, lighten up, enjoy whatever time God has given you on Earth. And, remember, God will never forget you.

Lord, help Alzheimer researchers continue to move towards a cure. Amen.

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Spiritual caring …

“Whenever we’re sick and in bed, God becomes our nurse, nurses us back to health.” Psalm 41:3

Recently, I returned to my volunteer position of spiritual care at the local hospital. I took a year-and-a-half sabbatical after Glen had spent three weeks in that hospital before he died.

The first week back, I purposely avoided the second floor where we had our last goodbye with Glen. The next time I went, I decided I couldn’t ignore patients on that floor because of the feelings it might dredge up. Sure enough, a patient on my list was in room 224. I half-way hoped the patient would either be busy with a nurse, out for tests, or sleeping–all in which I would just pass on by. But the man I was to visit was in his bed and I couldn’t avoid crossing the threshold into the room.

The visit went okay, and I found myself silently praying for the health of the man–that he would walk out of this room healed and ready to get back to his normal life. There was no awkward or painful moments while in the room. A hospital room does not take on the soul of the patient.

My experience with Glen at his bedside has given me patience, insight, understanding, and purpose for visiting and praying for the patient. I’ll let God be the nurse and healer. It’s my job to help raise the spirits of the patient.

Thank you, Lord, for opportunities to share prayer and time chatting with the sick and lonely. Amen.

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A gentle reply …

 

“A gentle response defuses anger,
    but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire.” Proverbs 15:1

Children act out and even scream at his or her mom–not so much at their dad who might rule with a heavier hand–and then wait for a response. I used to yell back at my kids. Bad mom. I wish I had memorized Proverbs 15 and used the gentler voice–the one a kid can’t hear unless they listened hard.

I picture Jesus as having had a soft voice. Oh, how I wish I could have walked with Jesus on a quiet green pasture listening to his every word. But one has to quiet the chatter in the mind before being able to listen. Jesus could raise his voice and temper when he encountered injustice or breaking God’s commandments. The money changers saw Jesus in action when he turned over the tables, spilling their coins everywhere.

My mother wasn’t one to yell or scream at us kids. To this day she speaks with a loving, gentle voice. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen her lose her temper, but a little disappointment on her face made us kids behave. I wish I could say I never lost my temper with my kids.

I’ve never had to raise my voice with my grandchildren because they are sweet and loving with me. I hope they won’t yell or scream at their own children someday. Anger can’t defuse anger, and sharp tongue bites hard.

Help us, Lord, to use a quiet voice when angry or upset. Amen.

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What are you counting?

“Look at the sky. Count the stars. Can you do it?” Genesis 15:5

When my grandson, Nate, was 22 months old, he could count to 20. He might have skipped 12 or 17, but he plugged along. Sometimes when we walked together, he’d count every step, or when eating, he’d count the bites he took.

I had forgotten what a big deal it is to be able to count. Nate will count for the rest of his life–his achievements, assets, failures, and even the amount of grandchildren he might have some day that he will be able to count with also.

For me, these days I’m counting my blessings, especially my relationship with God, then the people closest to me–especially my children, grandchildren, and my mother, who at age 96, continues to be a blessings. I’m grateful for good health and my safe home in a senior-friendly community.

Sometimes I fail to count the things that make my life easier, such as this laptop and the internet that makes it possible for me to write and post on the Internet. I’m also thankful to be able to drive, to work out at the gym, to travel beyond the city limits of Sun City. I’m grateful I have a full mouth of teeth, good eyesight, and feet that have carried me since I was ten months old.

I count on God to continue to bless me as I age and for people who count on me to be there for them.

Lord, I count on you to always be by my side. Amen.

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Stay focused …

November 27

“He had led everyone in his house to live worshipfully before God, was always helping people in need, and had the habit of prayer.” Acts 10:2

Good habits–life goes better when we are consistent in taking care of ourselves. Like, brushing your teeth. I once heard Dr. Phil say,”If you don’t brush your teeth, you can’t brush your hair either.” That’s good advice–especially for teenagers and would be an interesting way to establish a good habit.

I know I need to walk more for the “health of it.” I used to rise a half hour earlier than I needed to and walk two miles before going to work. Now, I don’t have to set an alarm to get ready for anything (most days), and I find it difficult to get motivated to walk. My bones need me to walk. My overweight dog needs to walk. The sunny Arizona fall, winter, and spring days are perfect for walking outdoors. When it isn’t so nice outside, there is a track indoors. I have no excuse other than I’ve developed a habit of being lazy first thing in the morning.

For the past five years, when I turned the page on a new calender, I made a commitment to either write for the whole year or not at all. I knew it would take discipline, but when you don’t want to disappoint someone (God and the readers), it made it possible to write every day.

Dear Lord, help me find a daily commitment to stay focused on a new ministry in 2018.

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Backing made easier …

 

“We’re something everyone stands around and stares at, like an accident in the street.” 1 Corinthians 4:9

Knock on wood. I have a fairly good driving history. One moving violation in front of an air force base in Nevada when I didn’t know the speed limit, and no accidents on the road. I can’t say the same in my own (or other’s) driveways. I’ve backed into mailboxes, a City of Aurora lamp post, garbage cans, and even my own daughter’s car. One time I backed into a car in a parking lot when another car decided to back out at the same time. My worst backing incident happened after I dropped a co-worker off to pick up her car at an auto body shop, and as I left, I backed into a car costing me $500.

I have a new car–my Kia Soul. It has a backing camera, and I’m loving it. I no longer have to rely on a pull-through parking space or worry about hitting a neighbor backing out of the garage. Someone surely created this amazing tool for people like me who do not have eyes on the back of the head.

Sometimes I feel as if I’m an accident waiting to happen. I drop things, I run into cupboards, open or shut doors, and yet I am blessed to have only a bruise and fractured spirit now and then.

I’m grateful God watches out for my back and picks me up, brushes me off, and lets me start over again.

Thanks, Lord, for the gift of grace. Amen.

 

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