False Reading…Please Try Again

Before I get to the point of this post, I need to share some of the background thoughts that have led to this moment of awareness.

As a nurse, although my practice dates decades, I have a distinct memory of learning various assessment techniques. In each case, the placement of the measurement tool is critical. The blood pressure cuff only works when applied correctly. The stethoscope needs to be placed directly over the area of concern.

I imagine most professions learn early in their experience that a measurement is of no value if it isn’t anchored to a secure starting point.

These observations would be too obvious to even write if it were not that they have been helpful to me in an area of spiritual struggle.

My confession is that when worship songs passionately declare that God is good and He never lets you down, I still secretly ponder, “I know He is good and He never lets you down, but I have a brutal picture in my memory of a time when He wasn’t good and He did let me down”. (For those of you who know my story, you will know this is the memory of the brutal death of my friend. For those of you who don’t know my story, this refers to a time when I trusted, really trusted, that my prayers for mercy would be answered in a way I could understand.)

I expect some of you are thinking, “This happened a year and a half ago. Why is she still talking about it?” For this I don’t apologize because it is my honest experience. Last week the grief I thought I had processed came crashing back. That’s my reality.

So, Sunday in corporate worship, I engage in my internal mental dance. I try to push myself into celebrating that God is good and never lets me down. When the picture of this 36 years of unrelenting suffering, that led to a brutal death, comes crashing into my consciousness ,I say to myself, “ I have to choose to trust what God says about Himself and not what I saw happen.”

I surrender my understanding, laying it on the alter, and in its place, embrace His promises. I’ve done this for a long time and it works, to a point, but it is a lot of work.

Then, this Sunday, my spirit encountered a new question. “When you question My goodness (the question was asked gently, knowing I knew that my questioning His goodness was a secret I didn’t even want Him to know), are you measuring in the right place?”

Suddenly, I realized that my struggle to celebrate His goodness was located in the blood stained mobile home where it felt like He left me. Together we moved to the blood stained cross, and He asked me to do my measuring there.

New Reading: My friends Victory was won before her struggle began.

Where do you go to measure God’s goodness?

 

Advertisements
Posted in Issues, Prayers and Devotions, Stories, Thoughts and Reflections, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

May I Listen In?

It seems like a bold request that I am making directly to all three Persons of the Trinity.

I am risking this question because of a comment where prayer was described as joining a conversation that is already taking place between the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. So then, my asking to listen in is not an original idea but it is a new step for me.

It’s not that I don’t daily enjoy intimacy with God. I  know that Jesus is interceding for us. It’s stunning to realize that the Designer of the universe is talking to His and our Father about you and about me. I know that the Holy Spirit prays for us in ways that are too deep for us to understand. The very words I am writing are too deep for me to understand but I am taking a step of faith and asking the Trinity if I can listen in as they talk.

I have postured myself in a quiet place and am simply being still; listening intentionally with awe, respect and expectation.

I don’t know if I will actually hear words. I’m wondering, if I do hear words, what language they will be in. I suppose our Father speaks uniquely to each of us in ways he knows we will understand.

My listening now is interrupted by God’s “voice”.

But what I am hearing is not coming to me through words but rather it is a gripping awareness. I am being given a view that I know is through God’s lens. The picture is wrapped in gentleness and intimacy.

He is confiding to me that the people that I love are very precious to Him. Yes, he deeply loves the people that I love.

As I process this I realize that this is all I am going to hear right now.

I feel free to amplify it to mean that the people that I hold close to my heart are also close to God’s heart.

I don’t love you randomly. God has orchestrated our relationship and we are walking together by Divine design.

That means I treat you as a rare and priceless piece of art; a one of a kind creation. It means I treasure you, am careful with you and am grateful to you.

It means I recognize that you are gift from God and I am a channel through which He can love you.

 

 

Posted in Prayers and Devotions, Thoughts and Reflections, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do YOU like it?

For the past few weeks I have been on a mission to make curried butternut squash soup. My passion to do this was launched when my friend, from India, brought me some that she had made.

After tasting it, I knew I would need to have more, but I didn’t want to ask her to keep making more so I decided to learn to make it myself.

This learning process has been grueling for me, but I am also sure that this mentor friend would have found it easier to make more herself than to answer my relentless questions regarding the recipe.

My first batch was a disappointment but not a game stopper. Having “failed” at my first attempt prompted an even greater passion to master the art of making this soup.

I’m proud to say that in addition to learning from my mistakes, I have watched you tube videos, researched the meaning of words that only cooks know, and persisted in texting my teacher/friend about such basic things as how do you split a butternut squash and still have ten fingers.

Well, to my delight, my second batch of curried butternut squash soup tasted as I had dreamed it would. Yes, I had made it myself. Yes, I liked it,

Now, the only other thing I needed was the approval of my teacher.

She came to see me today and before she could get her coat off, I had heated a small dish of this soup and shoved it toward her, asking for her opinion.

She wanted to know if I was wondering how close I had come to the recipe.

No, I said, I just want to know if you like it.

With the grace I have come to expect from this friend she said it was even better than the soup she, herself, made.

As I reflect on my day, it’s not so important to me that I followed the recipe and created a “by the book” product.

What I really wanted to know is if that my TEACHER liked it.

 

 

Posted in Issues, Thoughts and Reflections, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cancel the Dementia Screening

One of the “companions” of aging is the unspoken question, “Am I starting to forget things that I should be remembering?”

This question is a bit comical to me in that, having worked as a pastor in a church, I have observed that “forgetfulness” or “distractedness” is not owned exclusively by any age group.

Children come with a knitted hat and leave without it. Parents of toddlers can’t remember the number of the room their child is assigned, and neither adult women nor adult men can remember what the date is for a seminar they have chosen.

For each of the above, forgetfulness is either taken in stride or used as a reason to laugh at yourself. But, for a Senior, this same level of memory loss points toward a fear of pathology.

For example, I have recently learned to make curried butternut squash soup.  This has been a steep learning curve because I have had to look up the meaning of many of the words from the recipe. I didn’t even know what a butternut squash was. I imagined something the size of a softball. So, when the friend who did my grocery shopping asked what I needed from the store I told her I wanted four (4) butternut squash (as well as the other ingredients that were required for the soup.)

The squash, which I’m sure all my readers already know, is the size of a small baby. My friend, who had done the shopping, assured me they last a long time so I should just keep them all. After putting the other groceries away, I noticed I only had three (3) squash. I assumed I had put the fourth one in the pantry or somewhere.

Since that day, maybe three weeks ago, I have searched everywhere I could imagine for the fourth squash.

I asked myself, on several occasions, “How is it possible to lose a squash the size of a small baby”.  And when I reminded myself that there is no real reason to look where I have looked many times I looked again.

Not willing to leave any stone unturned, I finally asked my grocery shopping friend if when she had brought me the four (4) butternut squash she might have taken one home with her. She casually responded by saying that she had only brought three.

I left the story right there and called in a cancellation for dementia screening.

Posted in Issues, Stories, Thoughts and Reflections, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

End of the Third Quarter

In a few days I will be 75 years old. Another way to say it is that I am beginning my 76th year.  My husband always adds 9 months to his age as he believes life starts at conception. But, however I state my age don’t matter that much.to me. More importantly, I have a desire to mark this event in some way.

I want to find a way to express gratitude for a life of grace and favor. I am aware of being blessed with provision and protection. I am aware of being trusted with the fellowship of suffering. I stand in awe of God choosing me (as He does all believers) to host his Holy Spirit.

There is much to write about that has eternal significance. Knowing that is. in and of itself. too profound for words.

But tonight, I want to write about time. I have often taught that our bodies are tents designed for temporary use.  Unlike perishable food from the grocery we are not stamped with a label that reads “Best if used by…”. In fact, since our spirits do not get old or sick, I know that my most powerful years, spiritually, lie ahead of me.

As I have pondered this next stretch of my journey I am remembering the advice I was given when, at age 70  I prepared for a 70 mile hike: “Fill your backpack with only what you absolutely need; things you could not do without. Then, take half of that out.”

So, I have been asking God to show me what I am carrying that I don’t need. Asking for guidance as to what activities to continue, what relationships to nurture, what spiritual experiences to pursue. How can I posture myself in a way that will lead to an event where I encounter Jesus in a deeper way?

This morning, He tenderly told me I was asking the wrong questions.

Yes, I am beginning the fourth quarter but that doesn’t mean the end is in sight. (There may be an overtime played). It also doesn’t mean that God is suddenly going to provide me with a paradigm for me to follow.

I hear the old familiar advice:

Seek My face, Hold My hand, Follow My footsteps, Hear My voice, Lean your head on My shoulder and listen to My heartbeat.

But, Abba. That’s what you’ve been telling me for the past three quarters.

Then He pulls me closer, “Don’t seek an event”, He whispers, “I am your event”.

 

 

Posted in Issues, Prayers and Devotions, Thoughts and Reflections, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

We Know Each Other

I knew I would be walking on Holy Ground as I prepared a brief Memorial Service for my friend who has just learned that her daughter has taken her life. There is no such thing as routine circumstances for the acknowledgement of a suicide. In this case the mother is 82 years old and is at the end stage of an eleven year old battle with aggressive Parkinson’s Disease. Her daughter, who died by her own hand this week, was 55 years old.

I have always felt the tension of ambiguity when talking to a grieving family about suicide. If someone comes to me and says they want to take their own life, I boldly state that life, when it starts and when it ends, is a decision that God reserves for Himself and is, therefore, not ours to make.  On the other hand, when the family struggles with the eternal state of a loved one who has committed suicide, I look for evidence of faith in the deceased ones’ story and focus on the goodness and grace of God.

For this service. I chose some verses that incorporated the concept of “always” in reference to God’s unfailing presence and love.

Psalm 73:21-24New International Version (NIV)

21 When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.

Matthew 28:19-20New International Version (NIV)

 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 I Corinthians 13:7  

(Love) It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Psalm 16: 8

I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

As we read these verses, I asked the grieving mother to read the word “always”. Then I presented her with this little box and the stone that she could symbolically place in the box when she was ready. I encouraged her to keep it near her and use it to answer the inevitable question: Was God faithful to my daughter?

IMG_4620

Our focus and our memories were precious.

Those of us in attendance prayed fervently.

AND THEN. this grieving mother prayed: “Father, I have no words, but we know each other.”

A hushed silence fell over our little gathering. Now we knew we were on Holy Ground.

How can a prayer be more powerful? A simple acknowledgement of knowing and being known with such intimacy that words are not needed.

May we live in such intimacy with God that when we have no words we can simply look into the eyes of Jesus and say, “We Know Each Other”

Posted in Issues, Prayers and Devotions, Stories, Thoughts and Reflections, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus Rescues Broken Worship

I knew I wouldn’t be joining a group for corporate worship today, although that is what I usually do on a Sunday Morning.

But just since last Sunday, I am looking at life through a new lens.

My husband, (age 90 with the limitations that have come with stroke and heart surgery), had been able to care for himself independently.

Now he can’t.

On Monday, a dramatic loss of strength led to this man having a number of medical assessments, a short hospital stay, and then a discharge with Home Care Support and the need for 24/7 supervision.

Since I have not been given time to process this, I am doing so as I write. It seems major changes in life come without forewarning and then the realization that some preparation should have been made.

This applies personally to me in that I am a community health nurse and have helped hundreds of families through the dilemma in which I now find myself.

Yet, it’s always different when you are the subject of the story rather than the observer.

Even the routine of morning hygiene for a bed patient, which as nurses we do without cringing, feels like punishment when the patient is your husband.

So, it is from this “in process” frame of mind that I make the determination that even though I will not be a part of corporate worship, I WILL worship personally.

I find a place to sit where I can be quiet but still see my husband’s bed. I gather my Bible, ITunes, and paper, finding myself writing words that gradually become this poem.

This is the day You have made for me                                                                                             And I WILL give you Praise!                                                                                                                 I lift my eyes oe’r the mess I see                                                                                                          and gaze into Your face.

I’ll watch ‘til Your eyes tell the story                                                                                                    Of Your hidden design in these days.                                                                                                    I trust that the trash most important to you                                                                                                Is stashed in the folds of my ways.

So, pull me deeper to Your heart                                                                                                          and do the work I need                                                                                                                             I’ll try to be still Neath the scalpel                                                                                                      and move only as You lead.

I’ll try to sing You a song of Praise                                                                                                         I’ll try to make the song new                                                                                                            “Relax, my child”, You then gently say,                                                                                           “Today, I’ll sing over you”.

I ask that you not focus so much on the poem, itself, but look for the tender way that Jesus Himself enters our broken worship and leaves us with effortless praise; calling friends to tell them God had met with us!!

Ephesians 3:17 “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” NIV

 

 

Posted in Issues, Prayers and Devotions, Stories, Thoughts and Reflections, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment