Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Short and Sweet: Small Words for Big Thoughts


One of the first writing classes I had at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference was with Susan King, a long-time editor at The Upper Room Magazine. Over the course of the class, she asked us to write a 250-word devotion only using one-syllable words except when quoting the Bible, using contractions, numbers, proper nouns, and five letter or fewer words.

Her purpose for this?

Susan writes, “Simple, direct, down-to-earth communication tends to be the most effective kind.”

We writers become smitten with our ability to string words together, and in so doing, sometimes distort our meaning with over embellishment.

Susan helped us address this problem using this mean challenging exercise.

She shares that over the years some had suggested they be collected for a book. Her reply, “What would be the theme of the book, ‘One Syllable Words’?”

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Susan that Grace Publishing is indeed going to release a collection of these one-syllable pieces entitled, Short and Sweet: Small Words for Big Thoughts. To my amazement, a piece I wrote over ten years ago will be included.

Go figure. You just can’t imagine what God will do sometimes.

Susan believes this book will help anyone who writes or speaks. A quote attributed to various authors reads, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”

Shorter takes time, energy, ruthlessness, focus, determination, and wisdom. It’s far easier to spread out in every direction, but much harder to trim your thoughts down to the essentials.

I’m looking forward to reading the book, seeing what others wrote, and learning from them. It's an honor to be included.

This development with the book makes me ponder anew these words by Paul, “God can do anything, you know―far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” (Ephesians 3:20-21 The Message).

Years ago, I never imagined while sitting in my hotel room working on this piece that it would go any farther than Susan’s eyes.

I’m reminded again that we follow God’s call surrendering our time, talents, and service as an offering, however, the rest is up to Him.

If you’re interested, you may get your own copy of Short and Sweet: Small Words for Big Thoughts HERE.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

On creating and who you really are


I’m knee deep in proposals, one sheets and manuscripts right now, because in a few days, I’m heading to the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. It’s been a while since I attended the conference and have met many incredible people there, so I look forward to reconnecting with long time friends. As I’ve written here before, I once told the founder of the conference, Yvonne Lehman, that almost every good thing that has happened in my writing is somehow connected to the Blue Ridge Conference.
 
Bev and Yvonne Lehman at the Blue Ridge Conference a few years ago
 
Yet, like almost all the writers I know, I have suffered angst at the thought of pitching my work to others. I’ve seen writers in tears, locked in restroom stalls agonizing over the dreaded pitching session. I’ve shed a few tears myself, and dread stalks me at these things.

However, a couple of years ago, I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Brene Brown speak at the Catalyst conference. I found one of her books, The Gifts of Imperfection in my daughter’s car recently and decided to read it myself. I’m amazed at the timeliness of her words in my life.

The challenge for any creative is when we put our hearts out on a platter for someone to judge, and they reject those words, it feels like they’re rejecting us. It hurts. A lot.  We’ve made a huge investment of time and thought and then . . . nada. When you read of folks sending out thirty or forty query letters only to be turned down―well, you can see how that adds up.

A New York Times bestselling author now, Dr. Brown still knows a bit about this rejection road as she sent out over forty inquiries for her first book, I Thought it Was Just Me. After no one expressed interest, she self-published. A shame and vulnerability researcher, Dr. Brown talks about how we can become resilient to shame, which is what many of us feel when we receive those rejections.

She writes in Daring Greatly, “Because of how you were raised or how you approach the world, you’ve knowingly or unknowingly attached your self worth to how your product or art is received. . .  If they love it, you’re worthy; if they don’t you’re worthless . . . With an awareness of shame and strong shame resilience skills, you still want folks to like, respect, and even admire what you’ve created, but your self worth is not on the table. You know that you are far more than a painting, an innovative idea, an effective pitch, a good sermon, or a high Amazon.com ranking.

"This effort is about what you do, not who you are.

"Regardless of the outcome, you’ve already dared greatly, and that’s totally aligned with your values; with who you want to be.”

I have often said, “I am a writer.” But no. As Brene says, this is about what we do, not who we are. I am not a writer. Writing is what I do. I am a child of God. We writers are successful not because of our acceptance but because we are courageous, putting our work out there and following God’s purpose for our lives.

Per Dr. Brown’s suggestion, I will be carrying with me a one-inch by one-inch piece of paper in my purse. On it, I will have the names of the people who are with me in all my imperfections and whose opinions really matter to me. I’m not going to worry about the rest of the names that won’t fit on that tiny scrap of paper.

So, if you are a creative (I really think we all are), remember Dr. Brown’s words, “This effort is about what you do, not who you are.” Let those words sink deeply into your spirit. Let them change the way you think about your work and who you are.When those rejections come, remember you are already successful in daring to be vulnerable with what you create.

For me, more than at any other time in these past few years, I feel prepared to go to this conference and more resilient to face the process.

After the conference, no matter the response to my work, I am confident I will have something else good to share with Yvonne Lehman.
 
"What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it--we're called children of God! That's who we really are" (I John 3:1 The Message).  

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

My Mom and Rutabagas


This may be the strangest Mother’s Day post ever.

However, while waiting for my food to be prepared at a Southern style restaurant, I knew I had to write it.
 
My mom and I happily hoisting my sister, Tammy, into the air
 
When the server placed my plate on the table, I took in the cubed umber-tinged vegetable and breathed deeply its distinctive aroma.


You may not even know what they are.

The absolute wall flower of vegetables, a cross between a cabbage and a turnip, in some European countries it is considered a “food of last resort . . .  due to its association with food shortages in World War I and World War II.”

My mother knew about foods of last resort having grown up in the heart of the Depression. However, those foods of last resort often became comfort foods as people grew older. Well, everyone except my dad, who, until the day he died called English peas “little green devils” having had his fill of them during hard times.

When I entered middle school, my mother, for various reasons returned to a job she had earlier in life. In our town, women were mostly teachers or nurses, and if unskilled, worked in the textile industry, the largest employer in our town. For many years, she worked what my husband calls “shift work” leaving home mid afternoon and not returning until near midnight. This meant that during the week, I never saw her. I left for school before she rose, and returned after she left.

But, she would sometimes leave dinner on the stove for us, and in the winter, that food might often include rutabagas. Now, I need to tell you that rutabagas are an acquired taste. You won’t eat them the first time and say, “Wow, those things are yummy.” No, it might take a few tries before your taste buds acclimate to the slightly bitter taste. It might have taken me a few dozen tries, but eventually, I came to love them.

After my mother died, my rutabaga consumption went to zero as they never appeared on a menu anywhere.

Of course, they can be found in the homely vegetable section at the grocery store, but unless you have a power saw, you won’t be able to do anything with these root veggies.
 
 
 
They are hard―not potato hard; I’m talking concrete walkway hard. My poor carpal tunnel hand can’t take it.

So, when I saw them listed on the menu board at a place called Rachel’s, my heart did a flip.

“Rutabagas,” I squealed to my husband.

He peered at me in that way that says, “Have you had a stroke?”

“My mother used to cook them,” I said defensively.

Whenever we visit Rachel’s, my ordering never varies and always includes rutabagas. I eat and think of my mother.

Long ago, my sister and I walked into a dark, lonely house after school, but the scent of rutabagas hung in the air telling us mom had been there and that she loved us.

The scent of them says the same thing to me, today. Psychologists tell us the sense of smell, "more than any other sense, is so successful at triggering emotions and memories." Rutabagas and I are proof of that.

I read a post by a friend on Facebook this week, and in it, she honored the passing of a dear Christian friend. She concluded the post in such a poignant way. “See you at the house,” she said.

My mother has been gone many years, but to her I would say, “I still love and miss you, Mom, but I’ll see you at the house.”

And if I know her, she’ll probably have rutabagas on the stove.
 
"There is plenty of room for you in my Father's home. If that weren't so, would I have told you that I'm on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I'm on my way to get your room ready, I'll come back and get you so you can live where I live" (John 14:2-3 The Message)

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Relay, the whole business, and jitterbugging


Relay for Life rolled around again last week―Jerry celebrated seven years as a survivor, and I am now at seventeen years post breast cancer.

We celebrated big, even jitterbugged for about one minute and eight seconds with the newly replaced knee and broken arm. That’s about as long as we could last with our corrupted sense of balance.


Me with my crazy headband to celebrate our "Carnival for a Cure" theme
 
As I look back, I see all the things God has allowed me to experience because of these seventeen years: my children growing up, their graduating high school and college, the birth of grandchildren and their unfolding lives, ministry in the church, in prison, and to the homeless. Even the privilege of being there for my mother and my father as they slipped from this life was a high honor. I had only begun to write for others to read when I was diagnosed, and God used that event to propel me even further along the path.

A verse God gave me many years ago has been in my head lately.

I first read it in the King James version, “. . . but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest” (Jeremiah 45:5).

Let’s move from the language here and turn to how Eugene Peterson translates it in The Message, “ Don’t worry. I’ll keep you alive through the whole business.”

So, God has kept us alive through the "whole business."

The "whole business," of course, has included treatment, recovery and  some other messy hard times, but all worth it to be here for the many milestones and ministry we have been honored to see.

Oswald Chambers views this verse as having to do with abandonment, that having your life as a prey means you have let other things go. He writes, “When you do get through to abandonment to God, you will be the most surprised and delighted creature on earth; God has got you absolutely and has given you your life. If you are not there, it is either because of disobedience or a refusal to be simple enough.”

When faced with a grim diagnosis, things that previously held high importance slip away and show themselves for the time and life wasters that they truly are. We are almost forced into making our lives “simple enough.”

But all that is for naught, if we reach the other side of the crisis and take up our old ways. It’s a daily challenge to sort out what’s truly important. But worth it.

I love what Chambers says, “God has got you absolutely and has given you your life.”

It is enough to make us want to jitterbug.
At least in our hearts.

Bragging a bit about our church's participation--raised almost $11,000. My friend and breast cancer survivor, Brenda, raised around 4500 herself. Stunning. She's the number one fund raiser in the county. Co-leaders, Brenda and Lynn, coordinated the church relay effort while shining in their tutus. No surprise we received second place for "Best Costume." So cute. 
 
Lynn and Brenda

 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tearstained Shoes

While cleaning out my closet, I raked out a pair of black shoes and  examined the soles--too worn to be given to charity, I wondered, could I actually throw them away?

You see, those shoes represented a touch point for a favorite devotion of mine that I wrote, which first appeared in the Upper Room Magazine.



 I went to my computer and hunted down that meditation, deciding to share it with all of you, today. It references Psalm 56:8, “Record my lament; list my tears on you scroll—are they not in your record?”

“I’m in a group that volunteers to work with inmates in a maximum security prison for women. One of the rules we’re constantly reminded of is this: Don’t take anything in the prison; don’t take anything out of the prison. We are not allowed to give the women a piece of gum, a pen, or even a note. They are not permitted to send anything outside the prison with us. 

Every time we visit the prison, we spend a few minutes with the women who desire our prayers. We hold their hands and pray for them individually. Many of the women cry. A couple of months ago, during the prayer time, I happened to open my eyes and looked down at my shoes. The toes of my shoes were dotted with the tears of the women for whom I had prayed. When I left that evening, I did take something with me:  tearstains.

God has made a record of our tears and is touched by them. In the same way, every time I wear my tearstained shoes I am reminded to pray for the women who are incarcerated, asking for healing that comes from God.”

 So, I have to tell you, I put the shoes back, deciding I couldn’t part with them. Not now, anyway.
 
Friends, if your heart is especially hurting today, remember that God knows and cares about your tears. Every single one.



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

If you're looking for a friend for every circumstance


I waited in the car late one afternoon with the windows rolled down while my husband ran back in the house to pick up something he’d forgotten. Then I heard it, the distinctive Hoo, hoo-oo, hoo, hoo. I grabbed my phone, did a little research and confirmed what I was hearing―a Great Horned Owl.
 

Photo Courtesy Alan D. Wilson Creative Commons Share Alike Attribution 3.0 License

When I have an experience like this, I want to tell someone. However, I don’t have a long list of friends who really care about this sort of thing. My friend Jim used to, but he passed some years ago. My dad always loved to hear about it, but he’s gone. My wildlife biologist son cares, but he was at work. Then it came to me, I’d tell Kevin, a definite wildlife aficionado. I hoped to see him later at church.

Often when I’m working on a painting, I get to a point when I don’t know whether the next brush stroke will be one too many, so I call Lilyan, an artist, friend, and neighbor. She runs over and gives me a little advice. Or if my creative daughter is in town, she’s always good for insight on artistic endeavors.

When I need writing encouragement, I have a group of writers I meet with on a regular basis who keep me on the right road. I hope I do the same for them.

However, I wouldn’t call my writer friends with a wildlife sighting or ask them about a painting problem.

I turn to different friends with different situations.

However, isn’t it a relief to know that we have one friend who knows about everything? And cares about everything? And has wisdom on everything?

His name is Jesus, and he said these words in John 15, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. . . I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

In this glorious Easter season, we remember again that Jesus laid down his life for us, his friends. This One whom we can turn to with any problem, any joy, is our Friend.

Many of us remember this wonderful hymn which goes, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear; What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!”

The key word being “everything.” No hunting around for just the right friend, because Jesus is the right friend for every circumstance.

Makes me want to hoot a little myself.

Listen to a Great Horned Owl HERE at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Scroll down and hit the Typical Voice arrow. If you don't know about this site, and care about such things, it's a treasure trove of information on every kind of bird imaginable.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Holy Week and what can't be taken away


I cracked open my journal yesterday morning and reread prayer cards I made when I participated in a study a couple of years ago on Ephesians 6 , The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer.

A quote I copied from Priscilla leapt off the page. “No matter what your present circumstances or past entails, none of the ailments of life can take away what the cross has given you.”

I paused a moment pondering again that truth during this Holy Week.
 

 






Now we have some ailments going on over here at our house with replaced knees, broken arms, and other aching parts. However, what Priscilla says is none of that takes away from what Jesus did for us. His strong, powerful, and mighty work is still in place.

A good thought when you’re feeling especially fragile and vulnerable.

Holy Week calls us to reflect, to ponder the work of Christ on our behalf. “But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. . . ” (Isaiah 53:4 The Message).

ALL the things wrong with us, not some, not a few, but ALL.

We can reframe a sense of weakness in these words, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) and in our fragility embrace, “. . . that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself” (Romans 8:11 The Message).

We can allow God to take any sense of despair, and filter it through, “Christ in you the hope of Glory.”

So, no matter what’s broken down, battered, torn up, and decrepit, what Jesus has already done for us on the cross still stands. We have all that resurrection power in us to buoy us up in the face of any present trouble.

No “ailments” can take it away from any of us. I'm underlining this in my journal. Twice.

Dear friends, have a blessed Holy Week and Easter. May His presence be especially real to you during this Holy season.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A broken arm, true colors, and joy


“It’s almost funny,” I told my daughter.

“Not quite,’ she said somberly.

Four weeks after Jerry’s knee replacement, the day he drove for the first time last week, I took a spill.

Broken arm, stitches on head, and most likely headed for surgery to stabilize elbow. However, a big but here, I have no brain injury. A concern after becoming tangled in wires I didn’t see at a local restaurant and hitting my head on the concrete curb.

Let me repeat, no head injury besides the stitches. So thankful.

Poor Jerry barely able to walk himself is now caring for me.

We’re kind of messes.

Typing with one finger so I’ll get to the point.

I believe God will use these troubles for good. Somehow. Some way.

i'm so very close to getting another book finished and working on a proposal to take to a conference in May so I can pitch the book. Now this. Me and my one finger. Pity party threatens.

I don’t get it, but I know God does.

 I read these timely words in Streams in the Desert this morning, “. . .  we are to believe that out of this is coming something more for His praise than could have come but for this fiery trial.” and  “. . .  there is a power that can make us victors in the strife. There are heights to be reached where we can look down and over the way we have come, and sing our song of triumph on this side of Heaven.”

So, despite these circumstances, I aim to put on the garment of praise. James said, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors” (James 1:2-4 The Message).

I want my true colors to point to Jesus. Always.

So friends, maybe, you too are in your own version of trial today, let’s press in together to His presence and power and sing that song of triumph.

So, maybe it’s not funny, but we can still have joy.
 
p.s. After I wrote this post yesterday, I received a call from my doctor and the verdict is in . . . no surgery on the arm. Yeah!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

One Ringing Bell Spring Home Vignettes and the Stories Behind Them


Spring started for me after Christmas; I need to plunge right ahead to lighter and brighter. Just a reminder of my caveat back at Christmas and how I have to be very creative about decorating with limited budget.

So, my first vignette started back in January. I hung a painting I did over this garage sale find chest. I painted this scene of a Victorian home in middle Georgia, the grounds of which remind me of my beloved grandmother’s house, now demolished. The painting hangs directly in my line of sight when I wake up in the morning―a good way to start the day.



I bought a new pillow from T.J. Maxx and put it on this chair I recovered myself, so don’t look too closely. I am aware that I never got around to recovering that little patch on the arms. What is it the Nester says, “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.” Then, I roamed the house looking for things that would work with the artwork including this weird lamp I found a couple of years ago. Don't ask me why I love it, maybe because of the sculptural quality.

In the living room, where I have my prayer time on this sofa many mornings, I made a little nest of shredded Aspen wood. I’ve had the glass eggs for a while, but I thought they looked pretty with the Aspen wood. The handmade pottery vase was a birthday present last year from my kids. The laughing rabbit and his friend came to me as gifts from the women I worked with during those ten years I spent as a fashion buyer.




I heard a designer on television once say, “We’ll fill the shelves with cute books.” I did look for books that went with this color palette, but they are all books we love for the words inside, not their covers alone. Finally, the painting  I did is an illustration of a line in Sidney Lanier’s Marshes of Glynn poem but of a location where our family has spent many wonderful days on a coastal Georgia island. The title of the painting, “On the firm packed sand, Free.”

This French Country cupboard is my favorite piece of furniture in the house―made by my dad. I found a picture in a magazine and asked him if he would make it. I love it so much and having my dad’s handiwork in the house makes me feel he is still with me in some way. This piece has had many lives. It’s been traditional flow blue and transfer ware in the past, but now I have my collection of American pottery on it, all scavenged from garage and estate sales.

 
 
 

The big bird plates were a gift from a friend and play into a lifelong love I have for all things bird. However, I have probably reached my maximum capacity to display such things. I even pulled a few bird-ish items from this vignette thinking them too much. The wax rabbit sits in my mother’s bread bowl. A talented artist made the little church of reclaimed wood pulled from our church during a remodel.

Finally, I haven't decided exactly what my Easter table will be, but I know I'll use this cross as a centerpiece.

Thanks for coming along on my brief vignette tour. This time of year is all about new life and new starts. Friends, I'm praying each of you are finding those possibilities in your own lives.

One of my favorite verses reads, " . . . just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Romans 6:4). I am so thankful for new beginnings.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Coming at you fast

The end is actually in sight on a new book project, but still lots of work ahead. I'm trying to stay focused, so, that's why I'm reaching into the archives today. I love this picture of our dog Charlie, who sadly is no longer with us, but the photo brings back great memories and a wonderful lesson he left me.

Our poodle Charlie has a problem whenever we go to the beach. With Charlie being so small, and the wind currents strong, he appears as if he’s going to lift into the air like the “Flying Nun.”

Now’s there’s a dated reference for you.

As you can see, his little ears stand at right angles to his body the whole time we’re there. Somehow, it doesn’t seem to affect his enjoyment though.


I've often known how he feels. I’ve been in the middle of some strong winds myself during which I could hardly catch my breath before another problem presented itself.

Jesus offered wisdom for times like this. “If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock” (Matthew 6: 25 The Message).

Sometimes life comes at you so fast, you hardly have time to process. You don’t want to lift off your foundation when rains, rivers, and tornados come, which often appear as health issues, family problems, or financial struggles.

The thing I know about Charlie is that when he’s at the beach, someone’s always holding him, and that makes him feel safe.

And if we allow God to plant His words of truth deep within us, We’ll be secure through any storm.

So, if you see me, and my ears are flapping, don’t worry.

The winds may howl, but God’s got me.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

When you need a chicken


I dashed down to the cafeteria to grab a bite during Jerry’s recent stay at the hospital.

Eating alone in a hospital cafeteria is one of my all time least favorite things to do.

I would have loved to sit on the patio but it was too cold that day, so I chose a table next to the windows. I'm munching on one of my fries when I catch movement on the patio in my peripheral vision. I turned and saw this―the last thing I thought I might encounter at the hospital that day.
 
 

 
In all her feathery glory, she walked over to me. I laughed out loud. I stood to take pictures then looked around to see who else might be watching. A hospital employee noticed my amazement and said, “Oh, she’s often out there seeing what she can find”.

I guess the crumbs from a hospital hoagie are preferable to the chicken feed she had at home. Where home was, though, I had no idea in the middle of this in town setting.

Years ago, during one of many hospital stays, my mother received a terminal diagnosis. During that time, I found myself in the cafeteria alone again, because Jerry was caring for our children so I could be with my mother. In the middle of that crowded place, I felt like the last person on earth in my grief. But after I took a seat and was just about to take a bite of my cold salad, I heard someone call my name.

I looked up to see my next-door neighbor, Joyce, sitting near me. Joyce was something of a celebrity at our house. She fed a dog biscuit every morning over the fence to our back yard labs, Freckles and Sunshine, as well as our poodle Charlie, who had been my mother’s dog before she could no longer care for him. Charlie could be upstairs but still know when Joyce opened her back door and  would race down the stairs like a wild dog to get to her.

Well, when I saw Joyce, the tears started to flow. She wasn’t there to visit. She didn’t even know about my mother, but was meeting a few friends to eat. However, it felt as if God sent her on my account that day. What a comfort to see her.

God knows what we need when we need it. I guess like most folks, I tend to get a little uptight when someone I love is undergoing medical procedures. I needed something to break the tension when Jerry was in the hospital, so God sent a chicken to make me laugh.

I needed to cry after my mother’s diagnosis, and God sent my dear neighbor Joyce, a loving familiar face to let me know I was not alone.

I tell you, God has these divine appointments down.

We often quote Philippians 4:19-20 regarding monetary supply, but these verses go so much further. In the Message, it reads like this, “You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus. Our God and Father abounds in glory that just pours out into eternity. Yes.

Oh, yes, He does indeed take care of everything we need.

Sometimes, He can even use a chicken to do it.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Lean on Me


We maneuvered up to the curb in front of the physical therapy center. He with a new knee only a week old, stared at the elevation of the concrete edge a moment.

Sometimes a single step can seem mountainous.

“I think I could do it if I had someone to lean on,” he said.

Over the years, he’d battled cancer, had a heart attack, and multiple knee surgeries, but I never heard him say this before. He’s an “I can do it myself” kind of guy.

He could probably dead lift me, no problem. Strong for a man of any age.

Though he outweighed me by sixty pounds, I didn’t hesitate. “Lean on me,” I said.
 

I had leaned on him plenty of times. After breast cancer surgery, when trying to emerge from a Phenergan and morphine fog, I had to walk, and it seemed impossible even to stand. I leaned on him.

So now he put his arm on my shoulder, lifted the good knee up to the curb, and followed with the bruised one, raising himself to the sidewalk.
 
He wasn’t heavy at all.

In another cultural reference that’s sure to date me, a few lyrics drifted to mind from Bill Wither’s song, “Lean on Me,” and I hummed the tune under my breath as we navigated through the door of the center.

I once witnessed a friend who was recovering from having suffered over forty broken bones in a car accident try to get out of bed one afternoon. She stared at the floor a long, long time.

Sometimes that single step takes all the courage we can muster, but we can climb all kinds of mountains if we have someone to lean on.

As Bill wrote, there will absolutely come a time when each of us, without exception, will need that shoulder. That is true in the natural realm and in the spiritual realm.

Deuteronomy 33:27 reads, “The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

This morning, after I had already written this post, I came across these words in Streams in the Desert, “God is constantly trying to teach us our dependence, and to hold us absolutely in His hand and hanging upon His care. This was the place where Jesus Himself stood and where He wants us to stand, not with self-constituted strength, but with a hand ever leaning upon His, and a trust that dare not take one step alone. It teaches us trust.”

We will face situations for which a human shoulder just will not do. So good to know that God is eternally steadfast.

D.L. Moody once said, “When a man has no strength, if he leans on God, he becomes powerful.” I love that in our weakness, we may lean into his strength and find grace for every situation.

It’s my privilege to have my guy lean on me. But more than this, we are both leaning hard on God.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A new knee and a new plan


By the time you read this, the deed will be done.

My hubby is getting another new knee.

Those glory-filled years as a college football player came with a price―the deterioration of joints never intended to take that kind of grueling punishment.

It was not a happy experience (nightmare is a closer description) when he had the other knee done a few years back.

Here’s praying knee 2.0 will be much better.

In any event, I’m bracing myself.

He’s not a good patient. By that, I don’t mean he whines and whimpers and wants me to fulfill his every little desire.

No, I mean he won’t let you do anything for him. He tries to do it himself.

He’s a case.

One health care professional called him an “overachiever.” That means if he’s supposed to do five of an exercise, he thinks doing ten is even better. Or thirty.

After he had a heart attack a few years ago, I had a dream one night that I was taking care of a lion. There was good news and bad news in that dream. The good news―my husband was still a lion, not a kitty cat. He was as strong as ever. The bad news―I WAS TAKING CARE OF A LION.  It’s not a job I envy anyone.

Trying to keep him from doing too much is just about impossible. I actually think it’s one of the reasons he had such a difficult time last go round.

I have a new technique in mind, though.

He has to go to rehab for a couple of days and even got special clearance for his dog Lucy to visit him. Neither one of them can be away from each other very long. He mopes. She pines.

When he starts trying to gallop instead of walk, I’ll just say, “Think of the dog. If you hurt yourself, you might have to stay longer, and what will Lucy do without you?”

That ought to work. He’ll do anything for the dog.
With Lucy as a pup.

Lucy in all her full grown glory.
 
I’ll let you know how it works out.

However, if you passed the hospital and saw Jerry lapping it, you’ll know my plan fizzled. Back to the zoo with the lion for me.

“ . . . they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A telephone with a cord?


My sweet fourteen-year-old friend leaned back against the wall of the fellowship hall at church as a group of us chatted. Her shoulder hit something and she spun around.

“’What is this?” She asked holding out the cord of a wall phone as if it the most bizarre thing she had ever seen.

“Is it a telephone?” She giggled. “A telephone with a . . . cord?”

More laughter from her.

I am not making this up. By this time, the rest of us were holding ourselves as we cracked up with her.
 
 
 

She picked up the receiver and studied it a moment, then put it to her ear. “It works,” she almost shouted her eyes lighting up with delight. She punched in numbers and someone answered on the other end. “I’m calling you on a telephone and . . .” she cackled again and waited for affect, “it has a cord.”

I don’t know if I’ve ever felt as dated as I did witnessing someone who had never seen a landline phone.

Once while on a prison ministry weekend, I was sitting at the piano about to help lead praise and worship when a telephone behind me rang interrupting the person who was speaking. Somehow, I still don’t know how, singers and we musicians simultaneously launched into a chorus of that old rhythm and blues song, “Jesus on the Mainline, tell him what you want.” The song, maybe written early in the twentieth century, brought in a little of the current technology to communicate a spiritual truth. In any event, it was a big hit that day in the meeting.

As I’ve thought of my young friend discovering the novelty of the landline phone and that she could actually make a call on it, as well as the "Jesus on the Mainline" song, I was reminded that we should have the same delight as our girl did over how we can call on the God of the Universe.

No cords required.

Anytime.

Anyplace.

Shouts and laughter entirely appropriate.

Recently, while I awaited a medical procedure in the hospital, I once more marveled at how comforted I was that others were praying for me, and that I too, could call on the Lord as I faced uncertain results. “Tell him what you want,” the song says. And I did. However, I knew that no matter the results, God would still be there.

So there you go. Call him up. No matter what’s going on. And you don’t have to worry about that pesky cord.

I’m pretty sure it’s going the way of the dinosaurs anyway.

Wonder what my friend would do if she saw a telephone booth?

“In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears”(Psalm 18:6).

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