Just When We Thought

We were beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel……

It was mid-2006. Mother had continued to decline in the four years she lived with us. Her physical condition was adding its toll to her dementia. We had done all we could since my dad died of cancer several years before.  While caring for her, we kept two of our granddaughters two days a week ~ a joy and a respite for us and Mother.

But, something had to give.

Her month in a nursing home before she died did not make life any easier. Even so, we hoped this would end our adventures with adversity. No so. Five weeks through the settling of her small estate, Jerry had emergency by-pass surgery on his left leg.

A month later, his leg had to be amputated. After three years of not healing, he had a third surgery to remove the graft inserted for the by-pass.  The stump finally healed seven months later and for a short while he used a prosthesis with a walker. But it is still painful.

For the last two years, he has not driven a car, walked, or worn a shoe because of issues with wounds that would not heal. His heart disease and diabetes are not our best friends.

Why am I rehashing these affairs? One reason is to witness of the fulness of God’s grace during trials in this life and to compare the lives of God’s children to the children of Israel as He delivers us from our bondage to self and sin and brings us through this wilderness to His promised land for us.

A Worse Scenario
God’s people had been in bondage four hundred years when the Lord sent Moses and Aaron to Egypt. Their case before Pharoah to deliver Israel only made their condition worse. Not only were they still required to make bricks, but they had to find their own straw. They could not understand how the Lord was working for their freedom.

“Then, as they came out from Pharaoh, they met Moses and Aaron who stood there to meet them. And they said to them, “Let the Lord look on you and judge, because you have made us abhorrent in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us.” Exodus 5:20-21

Like the people of Israel, we cannot see how the Lord is working on our behalf until we get past a breaking point. Adversity is His means of proving His presence and power in the lives of His children, enabling us to live in the assurance He gives and to praise Him every day.

“My brethren, count it all joy
when ye fall into divers temptations; 
Knowing this,
that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
But let patience have her perfect work,
that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
James 1:2-4

More and more, we are learning what Paul meant when he said, “I have learned to be content.” Jesus becomes more precious with each trial, endears us to Him and excites our hope for eternal life with Him.

It is in the “something has to give” times that He fills us with His grace and shows His mercy ~ growing us in the process to understand the truth and reality of His promises. Christ in you ~ the hope of glory is experienced in every turn of this life, bringing us closer and closer to Him, His glory and His joy.

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time
are not worthy to be compared with the glory
which shall be revealed in us.
Romans 8:18

Dear Father, as we are still learning what it means to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, we pray your Holy Spirit to prove us to be yours. Fill us with your grace and make us know your goodness and mercy that follows us all the days of our lives; that we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Fran
Suggested Reading: TWO FULL PLATES ~ Learning to be a Caregiver

Image: Pixabay

Being Conformed to the Image of Christ

And we know that all things work together
for good 
to them that love God,
to them who are the called
according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28

The answer to years of prayer for our oldest grandchild, Ansley, was witnessed two days ago.

She grew up in a Christian home, attending church with her family, (the oldest of four sisters). In sixth grade she made a profession of faith, but was not baptized. Through high school she strayed from God and her roots of faith. She and Dustin married and, after their first daughter Samantha was born, she wanted the same Christian home for her daughter and step-son that she remembered as a child. But, it wasn’t until a crisis at the age of 25 that she was led to repentance, renewal of faith and baptism.

In January, our daughter Emery was born in an emergency C-section due to complications in the eighth month; she passed away in February after four weeks of fervent prayer. It was during this time that God proved the promises of His presence with us. Without faith in Him, I don’t know how anyone can survive the loss of a child, but I have complete peace knowing she is, without a doubt, in heaven with Him. While Emery was in the NICU, I put my complete trust in God, and  I knew I couldn’t wait any longer to make my faith public through baptism.”

And so, we continue to see the Lord working His goodness in our family. Of our six grandchildren, Ansley is the last one to be baptized. We still wait and watch how He is working in each one. But we must remember not only Romans 8:28 ~ that God works everything together for our good ~ but the reason for all things that happen in our lives, which we find in the verse that follows and explains His goodness.

“For whom he did foreknow, (those who are called according to His purpose) he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:29

As disciples of Christ, we follow in His footsteps, taking up our individual crosses daily (Luke 9:23) accepting the trials in our lives as our Father’s means of making us like His Son and so preparing us for eternity with Him (Romans 8:18). Ansley’s is a gracious testimony of God’s Word and His Spirit, working through times of crisis to bring us to Him, to teach us and prove His promises, whereby we grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and are being conformed to His image.

Our gracious heavenly Father, how can we thank you? There are no words, no expressions of our faith, that can match your overwhelming love, by which you bring us to you, to love you, to worship, trust and obey you. All is the power of your Word and the work of your Spirit in our hearts and lives. You are the God who hears the prayers that you put in our hearts, and who answers them to your own glory and our joy. We praise you, we adore you, we love you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Sleeplessness

Being awake at 2:30 this morning is a good time for me to write about the subject of sleeplessness.  I was in bed since 10:00 P.M. so I have slept. After 78 years, I am experienced and have learned to live with the occasional nights when it is difficult to fall asleep; or when I wake up early in the morning.

How we handle each of these episodes depends on how we view this state in our lives. At times, when younger, there were many different things going on that kept me awake; and I would worry, not only about the things, but about the sleeplessness.

I feel led to write about this dilemma. There seems to be an epidemic. There are sleep centers available for this problem.

First, I believe that it is a result of the condition of our world, which is enough to keep everybody awake.  Maybe we should all stay awake and pray for God to “rend the heavens, and come down; as the melting fire burneth; and make His name known among the adversaries” (Isaiah 66:1).

Our culture should not, however, keep us, as God’s children, awake and anxious.

Sleeplessness should not be the norm for the Christian.  Going through bouts of insomnia has been a learning and growing experience for me.  God’s word and Spirit have become more powerful in and through me during these times.  They have strengthened me to survive and thrive even when I have not had a good night’s sleep.  Many mornings I had to accompany with piano for a worship service after only a little sleep.  Colossians 1:9-14 became real as I meditated on Paul’s prayer for those of the early church.  He prayed that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,  giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Verse 10 in bold print was the word I needed for the day.  Sleep may have sufficed for me to serve, but sleeplessness was a means of grace to lay hold of God’s power. I have experienced more strength from Him when I needed it, than from a regular night’s sleep. 

I can speak here from a time when I was younger, plagued with insomnia; before my conversion.  My whole life was planned around my own desires.  Things were not working in my life as I had hoped.  There was no peace in my heart; sleeplessness was simply my nighttime restlessness.  The days were not much better than the nights.

The Whole Picture
In this short treatise I will attempt, by God’s grace, to address causes and solutions to this problem.  Not being a professional counselor or physician I speak only as I have learned.

How we sleep depends on how we live.  How we live does not depend on how we sleep.  Many excuses come from our not getting enough sleep.  Enough is not the same for every person. Some do not require as much sleep as others.

We should not be envious of those who can sleep anytime, anywhere, at the drop of a hat.  They are blessed in some ways that we are not.  But, we may, in our being awake, be blessed in other ways.  Christ may return while we are awake. Those who are sleeping may miss His first call.

So, at this point, let me encourage you, the reader, to look at your state of sleeplessness as God’s means of doing something in your life that you would not experience, otherwise.  God has a purpose for your insomnia, as for all things.  For the Christian, “everything works together for good, for those who love Him.  For those whom He foreknew He predestined to be conformed to the image of His dear Son  (Romans 8:28-29). God speaks to every dilemma in our lives.  It is all part of His working for our good and for His glory.

Awakeness and Awareness
Remembering that there is purpose in our being awake or sleeping, let’s look at some possible reasons for our not being able to sleep when we want to.  My list over the years have included occasional indigestion or illness, busy schedule, uncertainty, difficulty in relationships, finances, new plans, grief, overstimulation, unforgiveness, anger, jealousy, or other unconfessed sins.  Any of these, and others that you may know, easily displace the peace that God gives us as His children, in Christ.

Our awakeness may be the time for awareness of what we need to address in our daily living. God speaks in all ages and stages. We should ask for His wisdom; for what He wants us to know at every stage.  If we are not sleeping, we ask Him to make us aware of what we need.  If we cannot change what needs to be changed we pray that He bring the changes; or enable us to accept what cannot be changed.

We can break down my list and look at everything separately; but we will soon come to the same conclusion.  In everything God has His plans for us.  Awareness of what is keeping us awake is the first step that brings us to the Lord.  Presenting these of which we are aware to Him, wrestling in prayer, we will soon be tired and resting in Him.  Peace comes when all is given to Him.

Awareness of His Presence
It may be that these times are God’s planning for you to experience His presence. In the stillness and quietness of the night there is a solitude with which most people are not acquainted.   It is this sanctuary that God uses when we are not otherwise silent before Him. God can sometimes meet us here, when we are nor available during the day.  It may be to teach us not only to rely on Him for all things, His plans, His will, His way, but to establish a relationship that carries through the day and night.

Many nights I wake and wait for His presence; to know what special blessings He wants to give; for songs in the night come, especially when I am at peace with Him.

I have learned that all that I am is His, my waking and my sleeping.  He never sleeps so we can have that sweet fellowship anytime.  When I stopped fighting the sleeplessness, stopped counting sheep, and starting looking for Him to speak to me I no longer was concerned about sleeping.

Practical Habits
As I have gotten older I realize that patterns make a difference in our days and nights.  Even if we are at peace, trusting God in all things, in obedience of faith in all that we know; how we plan for sleep helps.  I do not sleep well when my evening has been hectic.  Overstimulation of any kind, talking on the phone for an extended time, caught up in a project, or anything unusual, will keep me from sleeping.  Reading God’s promises, prayer before bedtime and the review of a hymn or Psalm that we will sing next Lord’s Day is part of worship before bedtime.

Overeating at dinner or going to bed on an empty stomach are not good habits for me.  What I eat makes a difference.  By this age I know what my body will tolerate. I know my limitations of food and drink.

A dark room seems to be best.  Light tends to wakefulness.  It is similar to prayer, in that we are shutting out the world and any artificial light.  Jerry has always gone to bed earlier, and I get to bed as early as possible.  Establishing a regular schedule makes  it is easier to get up early, even if I don’t get a good night’s sleep.  Even now, I may lie back down and have a nap before the dawn of this new day, Lord willing.  Either way, my day is dependent on His strength, power and glorious might ~ His Spirit in me ~ “Christ in me, the hope of glory.” When we truly understand and experience this truth, sleep does not matter ~ only Christ.

Precious heavenly Father, Creator, Redeemer and sustainer of all living things, so make Christ real in our hearts and lives that we rejoice in Him, even in our sleeplessness. In every waking moment, make us to know your presence, use all our time to fill us with your grace. Wrap us in the glory of the one who lived for us, died for us, was raised for us, and now reigns for us, continuing to teach us. Help us to remember this life as preparation for eternity with you. Fill us with your Holy Spirit of love, joy and peace, for your glory and our joy. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Image:Google

 

Breakthrough

In February, Jerry and I were waiting in the podiatrist’s exam room for him to have his foot x-rayed. So as to encourage him, I said, “There is light at the end of the tunnel.”

His response was, “Are you sure it is not a locomotive?”

I said, gently, “Yes, I am sure.”

There was no definite meaning, nor explanation for my words, just sharing the spirit of God’s grace as we have experienced His presence through all our difficulties in the past.

The nurse wheeled him out, leaving me alone with my own thoughts in the cold, tiny room.

The still, small voice to which I have become accustomed in quiet times, asked, “Am I your God?’

Humbly, I answered, “Yes, Lord.”

“Then, trust Me.”

As simple as that, without audible conversation, I knew that however long this new episode would last, the Lord was assuring me of His presence and power with us.

Six Months Later
We have waited, as in times past, for healing, not only for treatment for the diabetic ulcer that podiatrists started in February, but for tests and an eventual stent for an aneurysm in his leg in April, to allow blood flow to the foot. Added to this was another wound from that incision

In July this wound closed after treatment with a wound vac. The same treatment did not work for the foot. This was their last resort after trying provadine, skin grafts, collagen, and foot baths. So, they sent us to the wound healing center thirty minutes away.

In this first visit last week, they took a culture that showed MRSA, a staph infection, for which they prescribed clindamycin. Yesterday, for our second visit, we were encouraged with the wound half the size as last week. The wound specialist believes this to be the reason for lack of healing, assuring us of complete healing soon.

At the outset of this sore, the primary care physician prescribed two rounds of antibiotics, but he, nor the podiatrist did a culture. There were no visible signs of infection while under the care of the podiatrist.

We are not resentful that they did not do a culture, but glad that it was done last week, believing that all things are revealed and healed in God’s timing.

Hidden Infection
This all reminds me of how things can be hidden. Just as we all carry the infection of sin within us, not knowing that we need healing, it manifests itself in different ways. Relationships are broken, families are torn apart, life can be emotionally and physically unhealthy because of hidden sin.

It is when we come to the only one who can do a culture for us that we know our sin, and accept the prescription, believing that He is able to bring total healing.

Jesus Christ came to earth as the Great Physician over 2000 years ago, He was, and still is, our breakthrough.

Gracious Father in heaven, we praise you for all things; for Christ, your Son, whom you sent to reveal our sin and to heal broken lives. We thank you for wisdom given to men to solve physical problems and to provide healing, believing that all healing is from you, for your glory and for the purpose of our serving you, living in praise and thanksgiving for your mercy, your grace, your goodness and power in our hearts and lives. Thank you for the encouragement that Jerry might soon be able to wear his prosthesis, and that we will be able to worship with your people again. We ask for your healing for others who are ill, in need of physical and spiritual healing. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

The Reality of a Dream

Early this morning as I heard Jerry rolling back to bed from the bathroom, it dawned on me. This is real. It is not a dream. I lay there, and seemingly for the first time thought to myself ~ he cannot walk. He has only one leg.

There have been other times when he wheeled past me that my mind did not register.

When I look back to the last fifteen years, it seems that it has all been a dream, and I am just waking up to the reality.

How did we get through Mother’s four years of dementia? How did we survive Jerry’s first surgery a month after her death? Where was I when his leg had to be amputated a month later?

And how, for three years after waiting for healing; another surgery and finally healing? Nothing was normal anymore. From one thing to another; diabetes, pain, and other health problems; my brother’s and his wife’s death; Jerry’s brother’s death; his heart attack in December, and more.

What Is Real?

Was it in this dream that my heavenly Father brought me to totally depend on Him?

That is the only thing that I know to be real.

A spiritual life is a cocoon that encases all of the difficulties of this human experience. It is the Father’s gift to us that enables us to endure. When we emerge from this enclosure, we are enabled to bear the realities of this life with the same presence of the Father, but with a greater reality.  Everything seems like a dream when I look back, especially as God has worked in us this year to be a witness of His grace through writing and publishing, all of which is the proof that it is His work and not mine.

Transition

This reality is part of our transition from this life to the next.

My brother told me years ago, when, at my new birth I felt like a butterfly, that butterflies do not have a very long life. That statement did not keep the Father from His work in me.

So at this age and stage of my human life, there is a sense of another transition as He continues His work in me. I love Paul’s words in relationship to the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24 KJV

acts20_24

“For I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” 2 Timothy 1:12

We, as His children, are being filled with His grace, and wrapped in His glory, forever.

This is not a dream ~ it is the reality of God’s love for us and in us ~ and enables us to endure all things, and to serve Him and others with joy.

Gracious Father, thank you that we are enclosed within your arms of grace; that nothing can separate us from you and your love.  We praise you for your presence in every moment of our lives, even before we are aware of it.  I pray that you enable your people today to know your sovereign rule and presence over all things.  In Jesus’ name we pray.

(The dream is recorded in TWO FULL PLATES ~ Learning to be a Caregiver, paperback and a free eBook for subscribers.)

O The Deep Deep Love of Jesus

O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free;
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me.
Underneath me, all around me,
Is the current of thy love;
Leading onward, leading homeward,
To thy glorious rest above.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
Spread his praise from shore to shore;
How he loveth, ever loveth,
Changeth never, nevermore;
How he watches o’er his loved ones,
Died to call them all his own;
How for them he intercedeth,
Watcheth o’er them from the throne.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
Love of ev’ry love the best:
‘Tis an ocean vast of blessing,
‘Tis a haven sweet of rest.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
‘Tis a heav’n of heav’ns to me;
And it lifts me up to glory,
For it lifts me up to thee.

Image

Staying In The Ship

“Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.”   Acts 27:31
774px-The_Shipwreck_engraving_by_William_Miller_after_Turner

Paul’s last voyage was not a pleasant one. From Caesarea he was being sent to Rome as a prisoner to be tried before Caesar. The storm they encountered was causing the ship to break apart as it ran upon the rocks near the beach of Malta. Before this final running aground where the bow stuck and the stem was being broken by the surf there was an opportunity for the prisoners to escape by throwing out the anchor and letting down the lifeboat. This could have been Paul’s chance to avoid being carried to Rome. But, he knew that what was happening was within the realm of God’s plans for him.

The following night, after Paul had been arrested, “the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.” Acts 23:11

Then, during the storm Paul stands to encourage all who are in the ship, “Take heart for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, Do not be afraid Paul, your must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you. So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on some island.” Acts 27:22-26

Paul trusted God’s plan for him; he trusted His Word; and he was obedient to the will of God. His was the example of the obedience of faith that he preached through the gospel to the Roman Christians.

God’s plans for us may be that we go through the storms and waves of this world. The relationship we are in may break up and seemingly all hope is lost, but in faith we must stay in the ship. Our relationship with God may encounter upheavals; our fellowship with other believers may run aground, but we are called to obedience to stay in the ship and endure through the entire course, even if that means that we are heading toward the final end of this life. Paul endured his last voyage with other prisoners and soldiers; undoubtedly they were non-believers, not knowing the promises or power of God to save His people. Paul is the example for us, even in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation to shine as lights in the darkness.

Cutting Away the Lifeboat

“Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it go.”  Acts 27:32

God is able: and He promises in His Word never to leave us, nor forsake us. At times He may have to cut away the ropes of anything that might help us to abandon ship. His church is that great ship that has often been run aground, but He has not forsaken her. Many leave the ship, and often have a difficult time finding it again.

Marriage and family are ships that have to bear the storms, many find these relationships on the rocks; but when we rely on God promises, His presence and power as Paul did, we will experience His working through the upheavals to restore these ships, sometimes to better relationships than they were before.

We may be the only one with faith, courage, and perseverance to stay with the ship, knowing the God to whom we belong and worship. We may be the only light that God chooses to save a whole family from darkness and disaster. This is a reality that is accepted with humility, not pride. It can be a heavy burden for us, but in time it will produce the joy that He intends for us. Wherever we are is where God places us; to testify of Him.


Sheet Music: Be Still My Soul
Image

Do You Know Where You Are?

Awareness is a rare gift. Some are born with it. Others receive it at a special time in life. To see beyond our own peripheral vision can be a blessing or a curse. Being aware of others’ faults, mistakes, and weaknesses; judging and condemning them is a curse to others and ourselves. It is the gift that the enemy of our souls uses to work an oppressive spirit within us and toward others. This curse keeps us in a state of oppression and sin. We see in others a reflection of ourselves and continue in this state of oppression until we, like the prodigal son “came to himself.”

images

He realized where he was. The gift of awareness enabled him to see his condition, and his surroundings. He saw himself in reality of his sin and rebellion.

But, beyond himself he saw the blessing of forgiveness and reconciliation; he saw the means of returning to the father that loved him.

Awareness is a blessing when we are able to see and confess that we live in a fallen world. John said in John 5:19 “the world lies in the power of the evil one.” We were born into it, with a death certificate in our hands. We grow up in it. We are an integral part of it. And we will die in this state of oppression; of sin and misery, except as we are brought to ourselves; to see where we are and our own condition.

Every Good and Perfect Gift
The awareness that is a blessing enables us to see beyond our own, and others’ failures, to see the giver of this gift from heaven, which comes down from the “Father of lights.” (James 1:17)   Not only are our eyes opened to see where we are in this wilderness, but we see Almighty God, our heavenly Father, ruling and reigning over all things; our shepherd, our keeper, our shield; our God “who supplies all our needs according to His riches in glory.”

desert-streamWe are aware of His presence and power in and through, and over all things. In His covenant with us through His Son, Jesus Christ, we are assured that He will always be with us. He will never leave us nor forsake us. These truths lived within us will be a blessing to others.

 “He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure:
for this is all my salvation, and all my desire.
2 Samuel 23:5

Dear Father, please open our eyes today, to see where we are; to accept the conditions in which you have placed us.  Let us see Christ as you continue to reveal Him to us, in us, and through us.  Make us aware of your presence and power as we live, love, and rejoice in you.  Be a light, life, and blessings to us all.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

Image 1
Image 2