I’m Back

The last month has been pretty challenging for me.  I’ve started working at home so I can spend more time with my dad.  The transition hasn’t been without its fair share of bobbles.  Technology is a wonderful thing except when it isn’t working and then it can be so frustrating I want to give it all up and quit.  Of course, that’s not going to happen but feelings sometimes want to push out logic and reality.  I said “want to”.  We can never allow ourselves to lose sight of the bigger picture.  A hiccup in our day doesn’t have to define the entire day or the plans we have for our future.  When’s the last time you had a hiccup in your life?  It happens to all of us.  If you say it doesn’t happen to you, you are the exception.

There are different kinds of life hiccups.  Some we have no control over (that’s an involuntary spasm) but others are deliberately instigated by yours truly (say you drink a soda a little too fast).  Those hiccups are called sin.  When my internet’s not working up to speed and keeps me from connecting to my office, I have no control over that.  I have to depend on a technician or repairman to work out the problem.  In the meantime I want to throw up my hands and quit but I don’t.

Sin hiccups are different.  We know we’re sinning but we move forward with the sin and as we’re faced with the consequences we think about quitting.  We feel unworthy of the gift we’ve been given by a Father who loves us more than we can imagine.  If we continue to feel that way, it becomes easier to hiccup again and on and on it goes until we’re in a full-fledged hiccup episode and we don’t know how to stop it.  But wait!  Take a deep breath!  Hold your breath for a minute, relax and pray to God.  He’s there waiting for you.  He can restore you and give you hope again.  There’s not a single case of hiccups that God can’t handle, uncontrolled or controlled.

Now the best thing to do is to steer clear of those things that cause you to hiccup but that’s not reality either.  We’ve all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  I didn’t make that up!  Never give up.  You’re forgiven.  You’re covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.  He can help you.  Don’t ever forget it.

God Bless America

While we’re residents of this earth we’ll never fully figure God out.  One of the things I wonder about is just how much he participates in our daily lives.  Don’t get me wrong, I know He’s in control.  I know he has the power to do anything He wants but how often does he actually utilize that power?  I refuse to think of God as a mighty gamer in the sky who’s got His hand on every single move we make.  He created us in His image and that means we have the power to make a lot of decisions and choices on our own, all by ourselves, good or bad, right or wrong.  We get to make mistakes and then figure out how to fix our messes.  Yes, He’s always there and His spirit is in us to guide us along the way but sometimes we aren’t in touch with the spirit.  Sometimes we just refuse to listen.  God could step in and fix everything but does He?  And when He does, are we able to recognize it was Him who made things work out the way they did?

As we approach Independence Day I can’t help but wonder about our founding fathers.  Was it just an accident that seven above average men just happened to be born in the same period of time and get together to establish this great country of ours?  Seven men who seem wise almost beyond belief.  Personally I don’t think so.  Of course, I can never know definitively but we are the greatest, most powerful country ever known to man.  We were founded on Christian principles but we have welcomed all manner of religions to our shores and lived peacefully with each other.  That’s what Christians do, or at least that’s what they should do.  We can’t expect to win the world by isolating ourselves from those who believe differently than we do.  We must win the world by showing them Christ living in us.

It would appear that God had a plan for this great country.  As man has a tendency to do, we have botched it up many times and we continue to struggle.  We will always struggle.  Christianity is. not. easy.  We shouldn’t expect it to be.  We have no promise of complete protection here on this earth.  In fact, we are told over and over again in the New Testament just how rough it will be.  How did we ever get the idea that God would put a magic shield around us and keep us from suffering for the cause of Christ?  Is that a part of the American dream, because that’s exactly what it is, a dream?  Wake up America!  We are blessed.  We are strong.  We know the end of the story for the world and we have work to do.

There are things going on in our country right now that we don’t like.  Sometimes we aren’t very Christlike when we deal with the things we disagree with.  The first century Christians didn’t live with a government that supported and protected them.  They didn’t even have a say in the matter.  We do have a say but be careful how you say it!  We are being watched by all the people we disagree with.  We are not only representing Christ but we are representing the principles on which this great country was founded.

In conclusion I repeat that I believe (or at least have a very strong feeling) that God just may have had a hand in the founding of the United States of America.  He entrusted us with opportunities that no one else in the world has ever known and as it’s been said, to those who are given much, much is expected.  Take pride in this great country of ours.  Accept the responsibility that comes with being a citizen of this country.  Accept the responsibility that comes with being a Christian.  Someone is watching!

GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!

Galatians 5

Galatians 5:19-20 – The acts of the flesh are obvious:  sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  Is anything missing?  Why do we concentrate on these “acts of the flesh” so intently while seemingly ignoring hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy?  These acts of the flesh are not divided into two groups by Paul.  They are all lumped together and that says to me they are all equally sinful.

As Christians we are good at pointing out the sins of the world such as sexual immorality.  That’s not to say there’s no sexual immorality in the church but we make such a big deal of the first sins I listed while downplaying the second list.  As Christians we may manage to avoid the first list and that makes us feel better about the shortcomings in the second list.  When’s the last time you participated in an orgy?  That’s a worldly sin.  We wouldn’t even consider it.  So then why would we consider any of the other acts of the flesh?  I’d wager a guess that all of us have been guilty and are guilty of at least one and probably many of the sins on the second list.  We are doing God a disservice to ignore some of the list.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. – Galatians 5:24.  We need to keep in step with the Spirit by acknowledging our own sins and then practicing love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control so the world can see Jesus through us.  If they are blinded by our hypocritical ignorance of the sins we are committing, how can they ever be convicted to acknowledge the sins they are committing?

 

Light vs. Dark

It’s been a long weekend.  Last Sunday we had to admit our dad to the senior psyche ward because of his agitated behavior.  He was released on Friday.  He wasn’t ready.  I mentioned last week that I didn’t think he was comprehending “home” when we told him we’d be taking him home as soon as he got better.  I was right.  Aside from other paranoid and agitated behavior on Friday afternoon, by Saturday afternoon he was telling all of the other residents to get their **** together and get the **** out of his house.  Anyone who knew my dad knows this is not my dad.  Once again we admitted him to the senior psyche ward where he’ll be evaluated.

Part of this journey is getting to know and becoming family with a lot of people who are experiencing similar problems with their loved ones who have Alzheimer’s.  I say similar because no two cases are the same.  There are similarities but each person presents differently making it very difficult to keep up.  But this family of people encourage each other and lift each other up during the tough times.  Such was the case this weekend.

On Friday afternoon we lost one of our family.  Lela was a resident at Oxford Glen.  Lela was a sweet, sweet lady and she loved my little dog, Hazel.  Lela fell several weeks ago.  After rehab she returned to Oxford Glen and we watched her as she faded away.  Her daughter, Anna, is such a strong woman and was so dedicated to the care of her mother.  I know Lela instilled that virtue in Anna.  We will miss Lela.  She and Anna were and are a part of our family.  It is a bond that won’t ever go away.

The experience was absolutely beautiful.  We were gathered in Lela’s room for her last breaths.  She got to hold Hazel one more time.  I don’t know if she was aware that Hazel was there but I hope so because I know if she was, it made her happy.  The people at Oxford Glen were absolutely amazing.  I didn’t call them “staff” because that sounds so cold and professional.  They were people.  They were family.  They loved on Lela.  They loved on Anna.  They really cared.

Yesterday, many of the Oxford Glen family were quick to follow-up with me when they found out I had to take Dad back to the hospital.  They really care and I love them for their caring hearts.

I end this by saying, don’t ever let yourself be consumed by total darkness.  In every dark situation there is light to be found.  As bleak as this weekend was, a light was shining brightly at Oxford Glen.

Goodbye, Lela.  We won’t forget you!

No Control But Not Out of Control

How many times do we find ourselves in situations over which we have no control?  Life is full of those times.  A loved one may be sick and you want to do everything you can to make them better but you have very little control over their recovery or lack of recovery.  You may be working with someone who is behaving in a way you don’t appreciate or approve of but you have no control.  Most of the time when you’re driving a car you have control but you have no control of the people driving around you and if any of those people do something wrong, you may lose control.

When we find ourselves in situations that we determine we have no control over, do we need to get out of control?  There are many reasons why we can’t change the situation because we don’t have the power or authority to but we don’t have to get out of control because we don’t have control.  An experienced driver is much more capable of maintaining a semblance of control when something unexpected happens than an inexperienced driver.  The more you practice trusting God in the matters of life which you have no control over, the more experienced you become.

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you get out of control but bear in mind, there is another way.  Worrying needlessly and damaging relationships over things you can’t control give you very little satisfaction.  Proverbs 25:28 says, “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.”  There’s no satisfaction in being broken.  Proverbs 16:32 says, “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.”  Being a warrior who is battling the thing over which you have no control isn’t the answer.  Patience is the answer.

This is a lesson I’m still learning and sometimes I don’t think I’ve made much progress.  I’m determined this next week to work harder at accepting the things I have no control over but not getting out of control.  With God’s help I can do it!

 

Fear of the Unknown

Visiting my dad each day at the hospital and watching him slowly fade away is disturbing, devastating, heartbreaking, and a sundry of other emotions.  He is scared.  He doesn’t know where he is.  He wants to go home.

Home.  Where is home?  For my dad it’s a place called Oxford Glen, a memory care facility in Owasso, Oklahoma.  But when we tell him he’ll be going home soon, I know he thinks we’ll be taking him to the house where he and Mom lived in Skiatook.  Or perhaps he thinks I’ll be taking him home with me or my brother will be taking him home with him.  It’s hard to know but I’m very much convinced that he doesn’t consider Oxford Glen home.

And where is Mama?  We are asked this question over and over again.  He doesn’t remember she died last year.  He doesn’t understand why we didn’t tell him.  He doesn’t understand why we didn’t take him to the funeral.  And then for a brief moment a light comes on and he wants to go to the cemetery to see her grave.

The situation is sad.  We talk to him about going to Heaven to be with Mom.  He has a hard time grasping that reality.  He knows he’s going to die and he believes sooner rather than later but heaven is just out of his mind’s reach.  He only thinks of where he’ll be buried and wants to be assured there is a plot next to Mom.

He has a hard time grasping that reality, emphasis on reality.  Heaven is real.  Yes there was a movie named Heaven is Real that depicted a little boy who  claims to have visited Heaven during a near death experience.  Many people have had these experiences and some walk away more convicted about Heaven while others chalk it up to an anomaly of the brain.  I won’t offer an opinion.  I don’t think we’re meant to know.  Our belief in Jesus Christ and the afterlife is based on faith.

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.  Being afraid of the unknown is common.  The uncertainty of the unknown makes us anxious.  Going into a job interview is hard because you don’t know the person you’ll be interviewing with.  But a young couple walking up the aisle toward the unknown future of marriage are excited and looking forward to a life of bliss.  If they’ve done it right, they’ve prepared in advance for their marriage.  They’ve spent time getting to know each other.  They’ve probably gotten some premarital counseling.  They think they know what they’re getting into but all of us who have been married for a while know that they have no idea.  So doesn’t it make sense that the more you know about the unknown, the less scary it will be when you face the unknown?

Heaven is an unknown to us.  Some may think that’s blasphemous but let’s face it, we have no idea.  There are descriptions in the Bible that leave us confused and in awe.  And that’s where we get back to faith.  Do we really believe there is such a place?  Doesn’t it make sense that the more we study about it, the more we’ll believe?  The more we immerse ourselves in the word of God, the more faith we’ll have that Heaven exists and we don’t need to be afraid of death?  We are the bride of Christ and we need to keep ourselves in continual counseling so that someday rather than facing death with fear, we can face death with anticipation, anticipation of a place that we can’t even imagine but a place that we believe in with all our hearts.

I know my dad is a Christian man and I know he believes in Heaven but his capacity to draw on his faith has been stripped from him.  That is unfortunate because this could be a time for him to rejoice in the belief that he’s going home.  A home where Satan has no power and diseases like Alzheimer’s don’t exist.  Won’t it be wonderful there!

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Do you respect others?  Are you respected by others?  Are there people who show disrespect to you?  Respect is an interesting subject when looked at from a biblical point of view.  I think we’ve all shown disrespect to someone at sometime in our lives.  I don’t think there’s a person on earth who didn’t disrespect their parents at some point as they went through adolescence.

It seems people feel justified in showing disrespect to someone if that person has a different opinion from the opinion they hold.  I’m not talking about those voices in your head that wonder how someone can think or act the way they do.  Even those we need to keep under control or they can consume us but I’m talking about an outward showing of disrespect toward someone like ignoring their authority or speaking unkindly to someone.  They may deserve it but are you justified in acting on it?

1 Peter 2:13 tells us to “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority”,  every human authority, not just the ones you agree with.  I really fall short on that one and I’m not sure how to overcome it but I must try.  For instance, I wasn’t a big fan of our last president.  I’m sure I said some things during his years of service that weren’t respectful.  Shame on me.  I’m not a huge fan of our current president but with my raised awareness I plan to make an effort to do better.  With God’s help I can grow in this area.

Another hard situation is when you’re being disrespected by someone.  Showing respect back to someone who is deliberately being disrespectful to you is one of the hardest situations you can face.  But 1 Peter 2:18 says, Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but to those who are harsh.  Why should we have to do that?  Verse 19 answers that question.  “For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God.”  That’s brilliant!  When you’re disrespecting someone, are you conscious of God?  If you’re honest, the answer to that question is a resounding NO.  Being continually conscious of God is a vital part of our growth as Christians as we mature to be more and more like Jesus.  Verse 23 says, when they hurled their insults at him he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.  Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.  We must entrust our lives “to him who judges justly”.  God is responsible for the just punishment of those who wrong us.  Leave it in his hands and never lose consciousness of God.

So whether you’ve been showing disrespect for someone or being disrespected by someone and feeling the need to get even, bring your consciousness back to God and never lose sight of the race marked out for us.

An Angel’s Experiment

An angel came to earth to perform an experiment. The first place he went was to a food bank funded by the government. He explained that he was hungry and he was fed.

His second stop was the local welfare office. He explained that he was poor and unable to work. They made arrangements for him to receive a monthly check and sent him on his way.

His third stop was a government housing office. He explained that he had no roof to shelter him from the elements. His housing needs were met.

His next stop was a hospital. He was feeling sick and they took him in and cared for him until he was well.

Finally he went to a church where he was given clothing, food and directions to all of the government agencies that were available to him.

When he returned to heaven, he was asked how his experiment had gone. He explained that all of his physical needs had been met. “Then why are you so sad?” was the next question he was asked. As tears streamed down his face he replied, “No one took time to care for my broken heart.”

Hebrews 13:2

2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

Love on someone today.

Music

I’m exposed to the horrors of Alzheimer’s/Dementia on a regular basis because my dad is living in a memory care facility and suffers from this debilitating disease.  One of the interesting effects of the disease is that a person has no short-term memory but can remember things from their younger life.  This happens because the old memories are encoded in the brain and have been recalled over and over throughout the years.  In other words, practice makes perfect.

Music also has a powerful effect on a person’s memory.  I’m not a scientist and I don’t claim to understand how powerful the brain is but I am always amazed when I sing hymns with the residents where Dad lives and they sing beautifully and know every word.  It borders on a miracle.  These are people who are barely able to communicate verbally but they sing with all their hearts.

Music has been shown to help shift moods, manage agitation, stimulate positive interactions, improve cognitive function, and aid motor skills.  Once again I am in awe and wonder of a God who created the human brain and created music to work together in such a beautiful way.

I’ve known for a long time that music is powerful.  I love music.  But sometimes a light bulb comes on and suddenly I seem to have a better understanding of something.  This week has been one of those times.  I’ve been listening to a radio station playing music from my younger years.  A song will come on and I’m mentally transported to the exact place I was when I heard that song.  I may have heard the song many times but for whatever reason, there’s one particular place that my brain associates that song with and “boom” I’m there.  I love it, my own time travel machine!  Sounds crazy but I know you’ve all experienced it.  This isn’t a new thing for me but it’s the first time I’ve really stopped to be amazed by it and compare it to the effect music has on people with mental disorders.

To summarize I am living through a rather difficult time of my life as I watch my Dad slowly fade away but…  I am learning.  I am growing.  I am developing.  Granted there are days I don’t know if I can go on but God will see me through and when I come out on the other side, I will be stronger, more compassionate, and better able to make a difference in areas I could never have imagined.

God is good.  God is faithful.  My future is bright.  Heaven is waiting and the music is always playing in heaven.

Joy

I hate this feeling of dread.  I have a task ahead of me and I’m not looking forward to it.  Some people love and thrive on garage sales but I’m not one of those people.  Over the past year I’ve given a lot of things away but I still have lots of stuff.

Our preacher reminded us Sunday that you should strive for joy not happiness.  Happiness is derived from getting something just a little better than what you already have.  What you already have is perfectly fine but wouldn’t it be nice to have something even better?  And when you get it, you feel happy…for just a little bit…and then you want something even better.  It never ends and you end up with lots of stuff and some happiness but not real joy.

Money can’t buy joy.  Joy resides in your heart and is derived from love.  Paul wasn’t kidding when he said the greatest of these is love.  Loving others and being loved brings joy that is stored in your heart for those times when you’re just not sure where life is taking you but you can reflect on the joy in your heart and feel peace.  Joy is a gift from God that no one can take away from you.  Satan will try.  People around you may try but if you are a Christian, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  With the Spirit alive and well in you, you can overcome the unpleasant things in life and live a life of joy.

I’m not trying to paint a rosy picture and say it’s easy.  Sometimes we allow life to get in our way and rob us of the joy that is ours to claim.  We have the Holy Spirit living in us.  We need to claim what is rightfully ours.

My challenge to everyone this weekend is to draw on the gift of joy that God has given us.  Whatever your current situation, let the Spirit bless you with unspeakable joy that has no barriers other than the ones we put in place.