Carried

Lately Al and I have been driving on Fridays. Not sure why, but maybe because three weeks ago, we bought a new car. So on April 5 we decided to take a road trip to our old stomping grounds in southern Indiana. There at Grandview Cemetery we decorated my parents’ grave vases with red roses from Dollar Tree.

Don’t fret! They would’ve approved the cost savings. Then we headed to Elnora’s Fairview Cemetery and blessed Al’s parents’ grave with bright orange and purple Dollar Tree specials. Again, his folks, who also grew up during the Great Depression, would have applauded our frugality.

This past Friday we headed west to Cox Plant Farm near Clayton, this time to spend money on real plants. On the way there, we listened to WGNR Moody Radio, specifically senior pastor Chris Brooks’ 1pm Equipped Radio segment featuring an interview with Dr. Rick Richardson, Professor of Evangelism and Leadership at Wheaton College.

Dr. Richardson said something hopefully I will never forget. Its truth is both radical and simple. “In all other religions, you need to climb a ladder to God. In Christianity, God sent Jesus down the ladder to carry us up.”

During this Holy Week, Christians all over the world will celebrate Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection that opened the door for everyone—regardless of nationality, social status, or skin color—to have eternal life with God. To confess that Jesus Christ is who he says he is, the Son of the living God, is to begin a fresh life of freedom, faith, and obedience.

What a blessing it is to know that the grave, even though embellished with Dollar Tree flowers, does not contain us!

 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”  John 3:16-17, HCSB

Best Yet

Last week my husband Al decided it was time to talk about my upcoming birthday. Thinking this meeting was going to be all about me, I was thrilled.

As we sat together at the kitchen table, a new reality trampled my expectations as he pulled out spreadsheets—never a good sign. Groaning, I immediately thought, “Oh no!  Budget adjustments for 2019.” Welcome to retirement world!

Instead my birthday tête-à-tête with my beloved delved into the amazing world of Medicare, where part and plan are not interchangeable. Supplements are not advantages and donut holes are not edible.

My first question: “Am I really going to be 65 this year?” Surely not!  I remember thinking my folks were old when they were in their mid-sixties. Father Time could not have thrown me into that future so quickly, could he?

In my mind, I’m mid-forties at the most. But I will admit that sometimes my body and mind don’t concur with that calculation—such as when I get out of bed in the morning and wonder how long it will take to straighten up and walk a straight line. Or when I walk into a room, look around, and wonder why I’m there. Or when I spend way too much time chasing down my phone. That little techie rascal plays hide-n-seek.

But wait a minute. I’m not complaining! I praise God that He has given me 65 years of a good life, a blessed life, in fact.  Born into a great family, being married to an amazing man, having healthy children and grandchildren. and a multitude of loving friends—I have no reason to complain. Ever!

The best part is that God sees my being 65 years old as just a blip in time. He made us to live forever.  All we need is to trust in Jesus Christ. After all, the Son of God conquered death on our behalf. Life everlasting is ours through Christ alone.

The best is yet to come.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self] is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18, ESV

Hang Ten!

Twelve days ago our son, along with our daughter, son-in-law, and their two daughters, enjoyed an iconic SoCal beach. Sunshine and brisk, wake-up wind greeted us as we stair-stepped toward the waves. The tide pushed unusually inland, making it possible to study the surfers.

With the high tide, experienced surfers charged and rode the “bomb”. Most didn’t make the “fade,” the most powerful part of the wave. But as they rode the top of the wave, even for a second, we could tell they were thrilled, ready to paddle back and try again.

Facing another new year, I sense life is reflected in those waves—seasons where we ride the bombs and hang ten to maneuver, accomplishing the fade. Yet other times the waves hold us in place, a gentle escort to shore.

To survive life’s waves, may we grip tightly, “hang ten” as surfers do, and stand firm in our faith in Jesus Christ, no matter how high the crest.

In like a lamb, out like a lion! Even if reversed, the March weather proverb describes our year, one that began with my partial knee replacement. That transcribes as lots of rehab and taking it easy. My end goal was to hike Utah’s amazing national parks with no pain in September. That prayer came true!

But what you might not know is that I sent a book manuscript, one that had been in the works for almost a decade, to CrossLink Publishing the day before my surgery. My thought process? I figured if they rejected it, I’d still be on painkillers and wouldn’t care. Strangely enough, the same day I quit taking the meds, the publisher emailed he wanted the book.

During this time, our daughter announced she was pregnant. A few weeks later, our son and daughter-in-law shared their same surprising news. So the lion part of our year began when our second granddaughter was born September 1, the night before we hiked the Delicate Arch in Moab with only four hours sleep. Our son and his wife gave birth to our third granddaughter October 23. Fifty-three days and 1,470 miles apart, the two girls entered this world, raising our grandchild total to 3.

Three is definitely a good number! Trinity: Walk in Love, Forgiveness and Peace was locally released two weeks later, November 9. In a way, it, too, was a birth, a labor of love chronicling how God had revealed Himself to me over the past decade. Through nature, travel, deaths, weddings and births, God, in His magnificent fullness, revealed Himself by ministering to my family and me.

As another year closes, let’s take the time to reflect upon the One who loves us enough to be our Father, our Savior, and our Counselor.

To Listen and Love

Guilty as charged, I am a word junkie. I enjoy looking up words and checking out their nuances and meanings. Today’s word is conviction. Maybe it’s because my husband and I have been binge watching the law series Suits on Amazon Prime. Or perhaps I’m curious about how people are convicted of their beliefs about God. Mesmerized I listened this past weekend when Mount Pleasant Christian Church’s senior pastor Chris Philbeck interviewed a panel of nonbelievers as to why they don’t believe in the God of the Bible.

Merriam Webster gives three meanings for conviction. The first one listed—“the act or process of finding a person guilty of a crime especially in a court of law”—appeals to my strong sense of justice and my love for law and order TV shows.

The second one is more generic: “a strong persuasion or belief; the state of being convinced.” People’s convictions drive their actions. This afternoon I finished reading Bill O’Reilly/Martin Dugard’s book Killing Kennedy. Even though I lived through November 22, 1963, my nine-year-old, fourth-grade self didn’t quite understand what was happening.

When Mrs. Noel came back from lunch, our class couldn’t grasp the gravity of why our President had been shot and why she cried all afternoon. Then I had no idea why someone would do that. After reading this book, I begin to understand Lee Harvey Oswald’s convictions and his assassin Jack Ruby’s contrary beliefs.

My takeaway? Erroneous convictions can cause a great deal of pain, suffering and needless tragedy.

Finally comes the 3a definition of conviction: “the act of convincing a person of error or of compelling the admission of a truth.” Here is where we Christians sometimes dangerously park. Too often we forget that conviction cannot be forced upon someone, even if it’s based on truth.

After hearing the panel explain how Christians come across in their beliefs, I was convicted of not listening and loving enough. God gave us the freedom to either choose or reject him. Our God relationship is not an arranged marriage. It’s a union of choosing to love, with listening and loving being the best pathway in sharing our convictions about God.

“A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. . .”

2 Timothy 2:24-25, NLT

In His Arms

Last night Al and I were watching Anderson Cooper on CNN’s 360 interview with Tia Coleman, the wife and mother of the family who drowned in the Duck Boat accident near Branson, Missouri. Her tears and agony filled the screen. She described that when the boat was pulled from the bottom of the lake, her husband Glenn was found embracing their three children.

Listening to her tearfully talk of her love for her husband, Cooper, with tears, could hardly respond. She had nine family members die in the accident. Compassionately he concluded the interview by telling Tia that all of America will be thinking of and praying for her.

In times of tragedy, prayer is our lifeline to God and to healing, isn’t it? Remember 9/11? The entire nation came together to pray. In tragedy, we cling to God. In easy times, not so much.

We need to pray for this family and all who were involved. Yes, the Colemans are grieving now and rightfully so because death is ugly, not at all what God intended when He created mankind. And God Almighty is grieving along with them. Through Jesus Christ, He has provided a glorious Plan B, one that rests on the fact Jesus Christ, as both God and man, overcame death, was resurrected, and lives forever in Heaven, now inviting us to follow him.

Even in her grief, Tia Coleman testifies hope. The pastor of the church she grew up in marveled at her strength during Saturday’s press conference: “She came forth as a witness. Every third or fourth word out of her mouth was giving glory to God, and that is where the rubber meets the road. In situations like that, you’ve got to have it down in your heart.” (Bishop Thomas E. Griffith as quoted by Justin L. Mack, Indianapolis Star, 7.23.18, p.6A)

The father of the Coleman family huddled his children—Reece (9), Evan (7), and Arya (1)—near his heart as they left this world to enter eternal life. Missed by those who loved them deeply, they live on in the arms of Jesus and will be reunited, together again someday.

 

Impatiently Yours

Dear God,

One of your Midwest daughters, who happens to enjoy golf and gardening and considers herself a four-season-kind-of-girl, reporting in! I’m writing to request that you remove the snow and sub-par temperatures from our spring, soon to be a month old.

On behalf of my fellow Hoosiers, I am boldly requesting that the gray days, chilly mornings, and snow flurries disappear until Thanksgiving. Even though You’ve resurrected my perennials, these plants would appreciate more sunshine. I could use some, too. I like winter, but it has its place. Now is the time for April showers, rainbows, and sunshine. Especially sunshine!

While I’m mature enough in my faith to understand this world is not my forever home, I’m still here. Looking out my front window, I see gray clouds and asphalt patches filling caved-in concrete—a poor substitute for streets of gold and Your glorious light!

Now I don’t like to compare myself with others because that gets me into trouble, but my children, one family who calls Houston home and the other one residing in San Diego, occasionally taunt their father and me with reports of sunshine and temperate weather. Please make them more sensitive to their parents’ frame of reference. While they’ve invited us to visit, the minute we leave, our grass will grow a foot tall and the 13-year-old kitties will decide it’s time for a hairball contest.

No, for the moment, we’re staying home—indoors—in Indiana. But I know this can’t last forever, so I’m simply asking for a quicker turnaround than what perhaps You’ve planned for our state and state of mind.

Impatiently yours,

Joyce

 

An Eyewitness

In this era of fake news, history told by an eyewitness—someone who lived during a treacherous time—stimulates our minds and tugs at our hearts. Last week we experienced the 1930s and 1940s made relevant and alive when 97-year-old Walter Sommers shared his story. Al and I, along with our friends Anne and Larry, visited Terre Haute’s CANDLES Holocaust Museum where Walter is the docent on Wednesdays and Fridays (www.candlesholocaustmuseum.org).

Born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1920, Walter saw firsthand how Adolf Hitler rose to power. His parents witnessed their rights as citizens and business owners implode as the Nazis destroyed Jewish-owned businesses and homes November 9,1938, during the “Kristallnacht” or “Night of Broken Glass,” after which his father was imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp.

According to Walter, Hitler had developed his hatred for Jews during his teen years when a few Jewish youth were accepted into a Vienna art school while he was denied admission. Even though young Adolf didn’t have a high school diploma, which the school required, he still despised his Jewish counterparts for being admitted. That hatred grew as he did.

A month after his father was imprisoned, he was released with the condition his family would sell their businesses to the government and leave Germany. And so they did in January 1939, sailing to America guarded by Nazis. Ironically a few years later Walter would serve in the U.S. Army’s 77th Infantry.

Besides learning more about Holocaust history, I came home with a broader principle. An eyewitness verifies truth. Hearsay can easily become fake news. Because he experienced it, Walter’s story painted the truth about Kristallnacht.

Truth can be verified when it’s lived.

I’m asking myself what that looks like when being a witness for Jesus Christ.

 “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21 NLT

 

 

Turning Right onto Main Street

If you know me well, you know that eggs are one of my food favorites. They also bring back great memories of backyard Easter egg hunts where our children, even when they were too old for it, enjoyed racing each other around, digging through mulch for the “money” egg or looking in tree branches for the Tootsie Roll-filled plastic egg. From such memories comes our daughter’s infamous line, which we will never let her forget: “It’s only a race if I win.”

So it makes sense now that I’m retired, I seek out farm fresh eggs. Perhaps it’s because of my amazing omelet reputation or because they remind me of growing up in the country, but whatever the reason, I love stopping at Walker Eggs off of Main Street. Usually I buy two dozen of their jumbo-sized eggs.

Before leaving home for my bi-weekly egg run, I had already planned to turn right when leaving Walker’s. Making a left turn without a traffic light is almost impossible, especially on Main Street. After turning right, I planned to cut through a nearby housing addition and then proceed to a roundabout, adding ten minutes to my journey home. However when turning right, I realized there were no oncoming cars. I could have made the left turn and saved myself the detour.

Preconceived assumptions are like that, aren’t they? We prepare, plan and pre-determine what to do in case of whatever. Too often I neglect the now moment, which would allow the Holy Spirit to navigate, as God would like. I make the right turn out of fear instead of taking the risky but open route. The easy turn causes me to follow the longer way home. Perhaps you can relate.

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25

In Faith


Yesterday afternoon Al and I visited a dear Christian woman who had recently discovered no more medical treatment could treat her cancer. Hospice is her new reality. Yet, in the few minutes we chatted, prayed, and held her hands, she radiated God’s peace. She knew beyond any doubt her final resting place is not a realm of nothingness. Eternity with Jesus Christ and his saints await her.

Spending time with her reminded me of when, as a child, I wanted Jesus in my heart and life and decided to accept God’s free gift of salvation through his death, burial and resurrection. Yet I remember coming to Jesus out of fear.

If memory serves me correctly, I was a child who was afraid of a lot of things—the unknown; the dark; shadows made by car lights infiltrating my bedroom—the only one facing the highway. The Wizard of Oz and the Wicked Witch of the West scared me so much  I spent most of the movie wrapped in gray and chartreuse floral floor-length curtains, occasionally peeking out to catch glimpses of Scarecrow, Dorothy, and Tin Man.

Fast forward life.  I’m living my seventh decade. Jesus is not simply my gateway from fear and passport out of hell into heaven. My Savior has become real and personal through prayer and meditation, other people and life circumstances. Amazingly, I’m rarely afraid unless random thoughts creep in regarding my family’s safety. Fortunately I’ve learned to pray those away, giving them to God whom I know loves them more than I do.

Still, when it’s my turn to die (and yes, our finite bodies do indeed experience death no matter how many green smoothies we drink), I know Jesus will be there to comfort and guide me through “the valley of the shadow of death where I will fear no evil.” I’ve witnessed that confidence in both the living and dying.

Yesterday I saw that same assurance in my Christian sister’s eyes.

In faith, fear cannot reign.