Thursday, March 31, 2011

Twenty five years down the road........

Facebook find #1

I met her at Jazzercise and we formed an instant connection. We loved working out, buying all the latest workout togs at the local dance store. We watched movies together and she and her husband attended church....the same church I went to. They had their problems, like any couple. They had an adorable little baby boy and moved into a nice home. It seemed they had a charmed life. She was a bridesmaid at my wedding and we had a great time selecting dresses and doing all the fun stuff that goes along with it.

After my husband passed away unexpectedly, we parted ways a bit. Maybe she didn't know what to say to me and  maybe I should have tried harder to approach her. Maybe my tragedy made her uncomfortable. I still saw her at Jazzercise, where she brought her new little girl, Jordan. She had golden ringlets and huge blue eyes. A perfect child for a perfect couple, in a perfect life. Things were no longer the same between us.

I found her again on Facebook just yesterday. I didn't "friend" her, I think some friendships are best left in the past. She is divorced and both she and her husband are remarried from what I could see. Her little girl is no longer innocent. Her profile page was loaded with a few shall I say, very colorful expressions. Nothing about God. Nothing about church. But she is beautiful, and my old friend still looks great too. But it saddened me. I know that with divorce comes sadness, pain. And we were close once.

A second Facebook find.......

Her Dad did my husband's memorial service. He was a wonderful and kind man, with a great sense of humor. I attended the church where he was a Pastor shortly before moving from California. I will never forget how often he used to stop by my folks house to see me after Jody died. He was softspoken and often emotional, a very sensitive man. He was not the best preacher but nobody cared, the love he and his wife had for the Lord shone through in their love for others. They had two daughters, and later, twin sons. Shortly before I moved, the daughter got married to a great guy, a youth Pastor. She borrowed my wedding veil which I was overjoyed to let her use.

Flash forward to now.......She is still married to the same man all these years later, and they have two or three kids. On the FB news feed I saw that her husband, Rick just finished another missions trip to Africa, where I guess they have been several times. When I read of her life, I was happy for her parents, because I know they don't have to worry about her life. She and her husband belong to the Lord. On her profile there was nothing you couldn't show anyone, including her parents. Things like camping, coffeeshops, scrapbooking, and no swear words.

Two lives, two reactions. One of sadness, one of joy and hope.

I know what I got was at best an incomplete snapshot of what is really going on......but I think it told me a lot. Only time will tell how it plays out for any of us, but with God's grace we do the best we can. We know who waits for us at the end of the road....

"Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." 1 Timothy 4:16

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Information Overload

"This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life." Psalm 119:50
I think it's good to have information, but sometimes you can just reach the point where you say, enough! You can read so many opinions and so many commentaries, and so many people expounding on other people expounding, that you can get literally worn out. That how I was last week after about 2 hours of surfing Christian websites. After awhile, all the words started to swirl around in my head. It was like they were all fighting for places to attach themselves. I like what my Pastor used to say, "Don't believe me, go and read the Bible for yourself!"

I really respected that. This was a very educated man, but he knew that the real teacher of the Word is the Holy Spirit. When you open the Bible and your heart at the same time, amazing things can happen. That evening last week I got in the car for the commute home, with my mind still swirling, and put in my Bible on CD. Driving in my car, listening to the rhythm of the road, and the rhythm of the Word, I felt the familiar warmth still the fluttering in my mind.

What I needed was the healing balm of the Word, and nothing else. It filled the cracks, made my desert soul an oasis once again.

Information and opinion are good, but nothing beats the truth of the Word. I don't want to be like these guys......

“May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.) Acts 17:19-21

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

One step at a time.....

My days off have become a bit different. They used to be somewhat free-form and abstract, now they are more task oriented. I had tasks before, but now they are oriented around someone else, not me. When you take on the role of caretaker that's what happens. At some point in life we all find ourselves in that role. I think there should be a Caregiver's Anonymous Club. Alzheimer's and Dementia needs a special group all its own.

Yesterday I was exhausted by noon, and all of it was mental. I lay down and slept blissfully for about 30 minutes in the middle of the day......It was wonderful.

If someone had seen the flowing dialogue in my mind as I went through the day they would have thought, "Surely, this is no Christian." I drove 60 MPH in a 45 MPH zone because I was so anxious to be home. I said swear words in my head at other drivers. I found myself tempted to lie about what day it was because I knew she wouldn't know the difference in order to get out of Bingo. Don't worry, I didn't. The truth of the matter is that some people expect you to act like Joel Osteen all the time if you are a Christian. Truth be told, I bet he has his moments too.

The difference is, we have the Holy Spirit to help us in those times where we feel out of control. Someone to help us in our weakness. So we pray, we take some deep breaths, we confess our sinful thoughts, and we go on. Step by step, task by task. My Mom once confessed to a friend that she loved Vodka Martinis.....She gasped and said, "But you're a Christian!" To which my Mom said, "Yes, but that has nothing to do with my taste buds!" Precisely why she has never kept it in the house. She has been a caregiver all her life, and I am sure there are times when she would have liked to pour a stiff drink in the middle of the day. That's reality. God understands that, and that is why He knew we would need the help of the Holy Spirit, and each other.

Because sometimes life just gets a bit overwhelming.

That's why I sent out the prayer SOS yesterday morning. Thank you to the absolutely wonderful responses I got, (you know who you are). One of the best things about being in the family of believers is the wonderful prayer support. The day ended up much better than it started.....So, thank you.

"We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thessalonians 1:2,3

Monday, March 28, 2011

Prayer Request

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

I have a special prayer request from my blog family today. My best friend Elaine is struggling under a heavy load right now. She just started a new job, which was a very good opportunity she didn't feel she could pass up, but now she is wondering if she made the right decision. She also has what feels like another full time job, taking care of her folks. She is wondering now whether she should have taken the job at all.......and also wondering how long she can do both without it adversely affecting her health, which is it already doing. Today she cut off her unemployment, and it feels final. No more safety net.

She thought she would be able to ease into her new job, but they loaded her up the first day, knowing she had experience. The prayer she needs most right now is to learn to let go. To learn how to leave work when things are unfinished. To let it all go at 5:00 and not carry it home, where the other job, the other stress  starts.

I feel helpless. I can help, but only so much. It is the internal struggle and burden she alone carries that I can do nothing about. But I know One who can. And she has prayed about it, over and over. What do you tell someone who is carrying this kind of burden and has no clue how to unload it? It is all too easy to speak platitudes: "Just give it to God...." I know she already has. I wonder why God doesn't just do a miracle inside her and fix it. I ask myself, "Doesn't He know all the things she is doing?" But I know He does. It just seems to me He is biding His time. She needs help now.

And yet, I see all He has brought us through since all this started.

And I know He has been there, and will continue to be.

The statistics of caregivers dying before the ones they are caring for are way too high. I have heard it over and over again. I don't want her to be one of those statistics. She doesn't want to be either. She has too many others who depend on her. God knows that.

Thank you in advance for praying. I breathe thanks for all He has brought us through today. And for what I have learned from this thus far:

That maybe I am more of a caretaker than I thought I was..... that I am doing things I thought I could never do......that in spite of it all, there is still joy and laughter to be had....... for extra leaning on the Lord for our strength.....for noticing beauty in the midst of quiet moments of rest......for appreciating even more the support of good friends.....for the prayers going up from dear friends and family......for extra physical strength and steady attitude.....for hope to see what God will do through this.....extra understanding for others going through the same struggle....and for the Lord who holds my friend and me in His palm......#656-667

When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the LORD is the One who holds his hand. Psalm 37:24

holy experience

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Wading through Job......

“A word was secretly brought to me, my ears caught a whisper of it. Amid disquieting dreams in the night, when deep sleep falls on people, fear and trembling seized me and made all my bones shake. A spirit glided past my face, and the hair on my body stood on end. It stopped, but I could not tell what it was. A form stood before my eyes, and I heard a hushed voice: Job 4:12-16

I wonder, what would the ancient trees of Gethsemane tell us if they could talk.........there are whisperings there I believe even now, sometimes I imagine how it would be there in the twilight of evening. There where Jesus prayed, disciples dreamed in slumber, Angels comforted, and Satan hovered over it all.
And when it was all over.....Jesus rose again, spirit, body, soul.....death was swallowed up in victory

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 1 Corinthians 15:54

I am wading through Job now. I am going slow so that I don't miss anything. I have read it and listened to it many times, but I somehow missed this verse. It reminded me of something out of Charles Dickens and the Ghost of Christmas past. Sometimes the Bible surprises me.....

Friday, March 25, 2011

5 Great Reasons to Believe

"Come to me, all of you who are weary and loaded down with burdens, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

When I was wide awake this morning at 3am, I was thinking about how grateful I am that I can turn to the Lord at any time and He is always there. This started a mental list of reasons why I love being a Christian and wouldn't trade my relationship with the Lord for anything in the world. As the cats blinked at me in puzzlement at the sudden light flooding the room, I wrote the first two down. The rest came a bit later.
We have a friend to turn to in our best and worst days..........He loves the part of me that no one sees. Yesterday I was feeling a bit irregular, like I wasn't fitting anywhere. Every now and then those days come and I feel much like I did back in high school, like I want to hide in the bathroom stall. Like I want to avoid people, like I don't like this version of me. But God loves even the part of me that no one sees. I can take all those strange feelings and He knows exactly what to do with them!
Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested. Hebrews 2:18

We have an instant family.......Many people given the choice, would not have picked the family that God picked for them. But through that family we got here. However dysfunctional it may have been, (or still is) it made you what you are today. Through that family we have the opportunity to become part of God's family! God has adopted us as sons and daughters, how cool is that? It always amazes me that when I talk with someone in God's family, conversation never seems to run out.

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. Ephesians 1:5

We have a purpose, we no longer have to wonder why we are here or how it all got started.........Suddenly we have new eyes to see with. We are seeing things through the Spirit that we never saw before. We have an assignment, a task, a mission, above and beyond what we do for money. God becomes our life-coach.
For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Romans 1:20
We have abundant life now, and eternal life later.........We no longer have to fear death! The Bible is clear that the instant we die, we are with the Lord. We have a taste of it now, in the Holy Spirit who has been given to us as a deposit, a guarantee of what is to come.
The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. John 10:10

We can always find that place of rest.........Whenever I feel burdened and stressed and I long for the ocean or that retreat in the mountains, I can take these feelings to the Lord and I get the true refreshment that only He can give. I can go into my closet and pray and He refreshes my soul. He knows what I need. It is a bit like taking a power nap in the middle of the day. I feel like I can go on again.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Finding God in the Landscape

Man's heart away from nature becomes hard. ~Standing Bear

"Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds....." Psalm 148:7-10

Last evening I went for a walk, I just had to get out.....see a bit of the mountain silhouette against the sky. The Lord originally placed us in a garden, I believe we were meant to gaze on vistas, sit beside still waters. I think when we forget our place in the landscape we go a little bit crazy. We wonder why we get so angry at little things, like when something gets stuck on a clothes hanger and we break the hanger trying to remove it.

That is always a clue to me that I need to go out and get back in touch with a bit of nature......remember my place in it, remember how big God is and how constant. I just get a bit lost sometimes. It strikes me again that the life that most of us are living is unnatural, I really don't think we were meant for all this chaos.
Our world today is filled with noise, movement, activity and stress. Sometimes it just all sneaks up on us,  
like it snuck up on me last night. I saw the cars whizzing by the freeway between the houses, but beyond that was the mountain......

Nature is the compass that God uses to set me right. Sometimes it doesn't even take a very big dose. I think when we forget to notice nature, we forget to notice God.

photos from public domain pictures

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Happy Birthday Mom!

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
Psalm 139:15,16

Today you will be getting up early as you do every morning, at 6 AM, your mind already on others, and how many lawn chairs you can fit into the living room for your friends. On this, your second gathering in two weeks. You will be fretting about the rain, but no matter, there will be so much light and laughter in that room you won't need any.

Your nativity is still up because you have been too busy to take it down, but as you said, Jesus is still here, so why not leave Him up? You will light the lights on the mantle, have a fire in the fireplace and everyone will tell you how warm and inviting it is.

Eighty two years ago today God made a wonderful person and I can't begin to tell you how glad I am that you were born. Your life is a celebration of our Savior, and you are the person I always want to grow up to be. You know where your strength comes from....You walk with God......You live your life for others, and in return the Lord has blessed you tremendously......I celebrate you today!

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well. 13,14

You are the rock, the glue, the backbone.......our world spins because of you Mom!

I will see you soon.......Love, your daughter.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

God loves the unloved........

"Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were delicate, but Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance." Genesis 29:16,17

Some translations say that Leah had "weak eyes." Maybe she was nearsighted or farsighted, maybe she just had small eyes. We don't know for sure. I can relate to this right now. About 3 weeks ago I got new progressive lenses. I noticed about a year ago that I was having a hard time reading. For a book addict like me, this was a problem. So I went to Big Lots and got a three pack of readers for five bucks. They work great, but I still needed my others for distance. I was tired of constantly taking glasses on and off. I was constantly misplacing them.

About $500.00 later, I walked out the door with two shiny new pair. The first thing I noticed that the ground rose up to meet me. For three weeks I felt like I was walking on a slanting sidewalk. I didn't know where to put my eyeballs. I am used to just looking through glasses in one place. Now I had to put them one place to see, and one place to read. After battling with taking them back, I was on the way to the Mall to turn them in and I suddenly felt like they were do-able.

I identify with Leah. I think we all do. She was overshadowed by Rachel the beautiful. She probably felt very average and unremarkable standing next to her sister, the one everyone wanted to be around, the one everyone complimented. Furthermore, she knew that Jacob loved her sister, not her. But God took notice of her. I love that: "When the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren. So Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said, “The LORD has surely looked on my affliction. Now therefore, my husband will love me.”

I have to admit, when I read that passage I want to pump my fist in the air and say, "Yeah, Leah!" "Yeah, God!" I say it for every girl that has stood in the background at the dance, for every girl picked last in the Sports lineup. For every girl who has felt unremarkable and unloved.
While Rachel still could not conceive, Leah had four sons. What is more, the lineage of Jesus Christ our savior comes through Judah, Leah's fourth son. "And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Now I will praise the LORD.” Therefore she called his name Judah.Then she stopped bearing. Genesis 29:35

I like what this all says about God. He notices the one everyone else doesn't. That is the small part of what I noticed when I read these passages, and that is the part I rested on in my meditation. Who wins in the end? It is hard to say. Jacob probably loved Rachel the most, and also did favor his two sons by her.
In the end, we all win, we all got a Savior!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Eternity in our hearts

"Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end." Ecclesiastes 3:11

Jesus first, humbled Himself. He descended to our earthly estate. In this "lower" life, we are all tempted constantly to live according to the flesh, tempted to base our thinking and actions only on what we can see and hear and feel and know with human senses. This is the lower estate into which Jesus came. By His obedience to the Father and His own suffering He entered into our "valley of tears." Only when we take the same position--obedience to God, patience in all the He leads us through--do we begin to "ascend" in Him. In lowliness we find our heights. Those who want to ascend to spiritual heights without passing through the valley of humility find themselves turned back. Augustine, Homilies on the Psalms:1 
Last night I sat outside and watched the moon come up. I was talking to my Mom on the phone. She had  been going through drawers, sorting out memories. She found many the words of my sister in law, now in Heaven, found the recording of my husband's funeral. In the remembering she went through all the emotion.....heard their voices again, felt their presence, held them close. As we talked, we felt the curtain between this life and the next lift. It didn't seem so far away.......We talked of Heaven, and I said, "Do you think that when we are all together once again there in that place, enraptured in the joy of knowing that it will never end, that we will remember this night?"
She said, "I don't know."
I think that when we are there in that place looking around at the faces, feeling the expansion of joy and love that we never dreamed possible, that maybe our minds will brush lightly against the memory of it as something we once held dear. Then we will rejoice all the more, for the absence of the sorrow we left behind.
"Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness." Isaiah 35:10
Picture from public domain pictures by Barb Ver Sluis

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Invite Yourself

"For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son," Colossians 1:13
"If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning... Face it, friend. He is crazy about you! " Max Lucado
Have you ever uninvited yourself from an event, a party, a rest? Deemed yourself unworthy? Maybe you thought you wouldn't fit in, so you mentally crossed yourself off the list. You came up with all kinds of reasons....
I don't have kids or grandkids to talk about.....
I am not in that social group.....
I'm not smart enough.....
I can't make witty conversation.....
I am not attractive enough......
I don't have a great career....
I am marriage is rocky.....blah blah blah
God says you are royalty. Jesus thought you were worth dying for and even now, He is interceding for you before the Father. The Holy Spirit makes His home within you. God says you are all that!
So, give yourself a break today. Invite yourself to the party. Carve out an hour or so of rest. Get dressed up and wear the hat. Know that you are worthy of going to Buckingham Palace. Envision yourself waiting to meet the Queen at the Garden Party. I bet if you think hard enough, you can find someone in your life who thinks you are just wonderful the way you are, perfect in fact......God does.
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17

all pictures from google images

Friday, March 18, 2011

Pets in Heaven?

“God will prepare everything for our perfect happiness in heaven, and if it takes my dog being there, I believe he'll be there” Billy Graham

I have heard people get really sideways about this topic. If you tell some people you think your cat or dog will be in heaven they start getting all puffed up and theological on you. My friend will never forget the time she mentioned how she missed her cat of 18 years and expressed the hope that he would be in heaven. She was sitting next to a Pastor and family friend. Instead of acting in love and sensitivity, he bristled and looked at her sideways with a cold look and said something to the effect of: "Pets do not go to heaven...." She will never forget it.

As a result an opportunity to act in love and reconciliation with a fellow believer was lost in that moment. A kind and otherwise compassionate person  lost sight of what God wanted him to do right then, just like we all do at times.

In every topic of theological debate there is one thing that must be perfectly clear. We must always act in love. The book of Titus says we are: "to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone." 3:2 In every exchange love must be the backdrop surrounding our conversation, especially between fellow believers.....
"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."  

Of course we know that animals don't have the ability to choose right from wrong, and they can't respond to the Gospel message of salvation either accepting or rejecting Christ....Duhhh! But God loves animals and thought they were an important part of creation as well as wonderful companions to the first man and woman, just as they are to us today.

The truth is, we really don't know all the details about heaven and what it will be like. We do know that it will be perfect, and there will be everything there that we could ever hope for. God has given us as much information as we need to know, and there are some things He has left purposefully out.

I realize in this era of goofy theology that we must stand our ground about what the Bible says and be responsible about it, and I don't think we should ever take liberties with Scripture and add something that isn't there. We must however, be careful about what the Bible doesn't say. If God wants to add my cats into the new created heaven, then He has that right. If it turns out they are not there, I think I will be so overwhelmed with everything I see that it won't matter!

"That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him." 1 Corinthians 2:9

That's my story and I'm stickin to it!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Different Kind of Lent

"Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies." 2 Corinthians 4:10

A couple weeks ago I was praying and speculating about whether to give up something for Lent. Being raised in a Baptist church, we didn't do Lent, but I have always liked the tradition. Coffee, books, sugar....those are the things that came to mind right away. I was keeping my heart open......Soon after that, events transpired that made it necessary for my best friend's mother to move in with us. Suddenly we had to figure out how to make a two bedroom house big enough for three.

My self-sacrificing friend is now sleeping in the Arizona room, which the cats had previously taken over. She gave up her room to her Mom. At first the cats gave the bed a wide berth, a bit apprehensive when they saw it being wheeled out to "their" room, but they are now thrilled at having another place to sleep.

She has a tough job. Her folks are not easy to care for. They are not positive people and never have been. They have taken much and given little. There is one consolation when all is said and done, she will know that there is not one thing more she could have done for them.

There are times, however, when this is not much consolation, especially when your own sanity is in question.
In spite of everything, she remains positive, gracious and a joy to be around. I don't know how she does it, but then again I do.....loads of Grace, and Prayer. Did I mention her Mom has Alzheimer's?

In the midst of insanity, and chaos, and stress, there was some humor yesterday.

The remote control was ringing

Lipstick seemed like a good idea on cheeks

She lost her pants, which were in plain sight on the dresser

She programmed the microwave for 1 hour and 55 minutes to heat coffee

And this was all within the first hour of the day. When she saw her Mom furiously scrubbing her face at the bathroom mirror she figured out what she did. And then they both had to laugh.....Grace. Life and death side by side. Things like Alzheimer's have a way of making death more visible and just when you think it is gone forever the old life comes back......that's what makes it tough.

And every time we give up something and make room for His grace we wear a bit of the sacrifice of Jesus.

"But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." James 4:6

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Keeping a proper focus

"You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains." Matthew 24:6-8

There will be a "Super moon" on March 19th. The moon will be closer to earth than it has been in 18 years. Some say this will cause earthquakes and strange weather. Scientists have disputed this in many reports I have read. And then we have 2012 coming up, according to Nostradamus that is when the world will end.....that is also when the Mayan calendar runs out.

There has always been speculation about when it will all end. Many believe it can't go on this way forever and they are right. One day it will end. The disciples came to Jesus privately one day and asked Him: “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”  Jesus told them many things, but He stressed these three main points:

Don't be alarmed
Don't be deceived
Be ready and watchful

We see so many terrible things happening in our world today, and we long? We turn our eyes heavenward because it seems as if everything is out of control, but those of us raised in church should not be surprised by any of this. I remember hearing sermons about eschatology and the end of the world ever since I was old enough to sit in a pew. I know one thing, we are nearer now than we were before. I like how Paul breaks it down for us in 1st and 2nd Thessalonians: (my paraphrase)

Be prayerful
Be watchful
Be encouraged
Keep loving each other
Get right with God
Live your life

"May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones." 1 Thessalonians 3:12,13

Its all about focus, and balance, and keeping our eyes on Christ, who is our living hope.

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:25

I pray today for those suffering terrible losses from the devastation in Japan. I can't imagine how terrible it would be to have everything you have worked for washed out to sea, but even worse, the loss of friends and family members. I pray for recovery, healing, and rescue for those still lost. Amen

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Its all about Grace......

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." Ephesians 2:8,9

What I keep noticing as I read through the Bible is that thread of grace that runs like a river all the way through it. I have only done this once before, read it all the way through. I am reading slowly, wading through the current carefully, taking my time. I stalled out trying to pick one of the sophisticated plans online. There are so many to choose from.......You Version, Logos, Daily Bible.....God knows me so well, that my indecision renders me useless at times. The Spirit breathed into my heart......"Just pick it up and read from cover to cover." So that is what I'm doing.

I have reached the story of Jacob and Esau, where Jacob cheated Esau out of his rightful birthright. I think in my own mind, I am wondering why God would continue to bless Jacob and choose him as the heir, especially after what he did to Esau. But when I study further, I find that Esau had many character flaws as well. And Jacob did not get off scot-free. Here is what it says in the notes to my study Bible:

Jacob the trickster gets his due. After pulling off the ruse, he has to run for his life and spends 20 years in exile with his Uncle. Uncle Laban then gives Jacob a dose of his own medicine by planting an unwanted sister in his wedding bed and by repeatedly changing his wages as head shepherd......This reads a bit like a TV reality show.

When I read all these stories, I am deeply affected by how God uses us despite our many failures, flaws and imperfections. It's all about Grace.....unmerited favor. None of us deserves what God has done for us through Jesus Christ, but He did it anyway. That's how much He wants to have a relationship with us......

My Father, how thankful I am that you are always active in "good works" towards me. I can never repay your goodness to me. And all that you ask is that I not tire of doing what's right, no matter how unresponsive the heart of some whom you've called me to serve. Only You can give me strength and courage today, because You know where the way is rugged. Fix my sights on the coming harvest of joy! David Hazard......."Early Will I Seek You"......40 days in the company of Augustine.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Best Offering

"It was by faith that Abel brough a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel's offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith." Hebrews 11:14

The question was posed to me, "How can a loving God send a person to hell when all their life they have done good things, maybe living a better moral life than a believer?" Many people have grappled with this question, and it has become a major stumbling block. It has caused some to question their faith, and it has kept some from seeking a relationship with God. The problem is, they are looking at it from the wrong angle. They are thinking that the works themselves are what makes a person righteous, when in fact, works by themselves can never save anyone.

The person who counts on their own good works to get them into God's good graces, rejects God's plan and provision for salvation. They are saying in effect, "I think my offering is good enough." Look at what Isaiah says: "We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind." 64:6

And it's not only unbelievers who can fall into this trap, many in the church today are trying to do good works apart from the Holy Spirit, and as a result they are burned out, discouraged, and ready to quit. We were never meant to do anything apart from the Spirit. Sometimes we try to go back to doing things through our own efforts we fall flat on our face. And God lets us!

It's kind of like what happened to Cain. He thought his offering was good enough and then was mad when it wasn't accepted. Abel, however sacrified from the choicest of his flock to give back to God. Somewhere along the line, Cain held back his best. He rejected God's plan, and then sulked even when God came to him:

“Why are you so angry?” the LORD asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? 7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” Genesis 4:6-7

God never intended anyone to go to hell, in fact He is not willing that any should perish......and all we have to do is reach out and take God up on His offer of salvation. Jesus sacrificed Himself for us so that we might become righteous. He is our righteousness!

The best offering.............
Blessings of this past week.......continued strength and humor inspite of difficulty and challenge......the joy of the Spirit in the midst of joyless company......good conversations about God......fellowship and shared commiseration with friends.....knowledge that we are in the midst of Grace at all times......fruitful quiet times that carry me through, and enable me to help others go through.....questions from others that renew my faith....the support of a best friend who understands.....continued good health......furry ones who give comfort....#647-657

holy experience

Photo by Brunhilde Reinig: public domain pictures

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The ways God speaks......

...."But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds." Psalm 73:28

I love this verse, because David is not speaking about God, but actually to God......God's nearness is something we can actually experience. The book of James says, "Come near to God and he will come near to you." Imagine, a God we can actually have a personal experience of nearness to. The beauty of how God speaks to us is revealed in the many different ways He speaks to us as individuals.

The personal ways.........

I have written before about the robin appearing at dawn on the awful day after my husband died, and the snow white dove appearing on my parents window sill as they were praying.

I have been lamenting the loss of my little cactus wren. When the cactus came down, "wrenny" flew the coop. Cactus wrens are very industrious and fun to watch. They are always busy, always working. I would see him hopping up and down the sidewalk, collecting nest material, finding food.

They have a very interesting call and I have missed seeing him perched on top of the Saquaro. Usually I wake with the mourning doves, their soft cooing has become my morning "collect." I have grown very used to the sound of them accompanying my prayer. Yesterday I had a different visitor. He was perched right above my neighbors door and sang there non-stop for about 30 minutes. I have no idea what kind of bird he was, but he was there, singing God's praises to me loud and clear.

I heard him this morning also, a good distance away.

But yesterday he was there for me, and so was He, in the lowly form of a little bird.

God speaks, we only need to have hearts and ears to hear.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." James 1:17

In your time of worship and reflection today, please take a moment to pray for the people of Japan......

Friday, March 11, 2011

Peace Be Still.....

"He said to them, "Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?" Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, "What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?" Matthew 8:26,27

The people of Japan are experiencing the horrific effects of a massive earthquake. The footage is heart-breaking. To see homes, buildings, streets washed away is devastating. It was unexpected and there is never any preparation for something like that....It happened around 2 PM right in the middle of a work day. The fear is resulting Tsunamis up and down the coast.....

The truth is, there are all kinds of Tsunamis in life. My best friend feels like she is standing in the midst of one right now. She is under so much stress she actually forgets to breathe. She has the burden of taking care of both elderly parents, neither one of whom can get around, one suffering from Dementia and one from Alzheimer's. Most of the time, they don't talk, they bark orders.

She feels like her world has stopped, and it pretty much has. Life is going on normally without a hitch for others, but hers has stalled out. There is no time for herself. And it is affecting her health.....Life can feel very much like you are standing in the middle of an earthquake that is still going on. Nothing feels stable, nothing can be planned, because the job is never over.........Whether it is a natural disaster, or a family problem, the symptoms are the same. Stress is stress, and the body doesn't know the difference. It screams, fight or flight.

She longs to hear the words of Jesus, "Peace Be Still." Oh, how she wishes she could be still, just for a moment. How she longs to be in that boat with Him.

Hear the wind cease.....feel the torrential wind die down......hear the sound of the waves lapping gently against the boat.....

But she can. As believers we have the assurance that He is keeping us. That He is here with us, this He has promised us. His peace is for us. And we have help....."But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid." John 14: 26,27

Know right now........He is keeping you. You may not feel Him there, but you know He is. You have not blown up, hit anyone, exploded, and you are still laughing at times. He is keeping you.....and He will continue to keep you. Sometimes it just boils down to that. And one minute, one hour at a time.

When I was writing this post I remembered this song that was popular back in the seventies....

"Put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water
Put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea
Take a look at yourself and you can look at others differently
By puttin your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee...."

(As recorded by Ocean) GENE MACLELLAN 1970

I am so glad I know that Man, and so glad my friend does too.......Please pray for those in Japan today and all others affected by stress of all kinds. If you can, help them carry their burden today.....

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lesson by the sea

That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea.........

........And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach. And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, "Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.
"Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. "But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. "Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out.

And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear." Matthew 13:1-9

If you have ever planted a garden, you know the importance of getting all the elements right. Way before you plant the seed, you meticulously mix the soil. You add everything you think it needs, just the right balance of every chemical component you can think of that might help turn seeds into plants. You plant the water, you pray for sun, then rain, you go out every morning and if you are like my friend, you speak encouraging words to them....

Then, magically the first green shoot appears and you feel an exultant joy, you are the proud parent of a little sprout! They really do begin to feel a bit like your children! But here is what every farmer or gardener knows. Sometimes no matter what you do, they don't make it. I know this feeling of helplessness. I recently babysat some little sprouts while the master gardener was gone. I took it personally when some of them died. I asked myself, "What did I do wrong?' "What could I have done to save them?"  

Sometimes we beat ourselves up because we think we could have done more, said something different, but the truth is, we can only lead them to the living water, we can't make them drink.

There is not one thing more Jesus can do to save us. I think when He went out into the wilderness for that forty day test, He was thinking of us. He was already praying for those who would accept His message joyfully, but He also knew not everyone would.

"Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you'll have it forever, real and eternal.' The Message

all photos from

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ashes to ashes......

Yet even now, says the Lord,
Return to me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
Rend your hearts and not your clothing.

Today I will wear ashes not on my forehead, but I will be wearing them on my heart. I wasn't raised in the tradition of ashes, in fact I can't remember ever seeing someone wearing ashes on Ash Wednesday. My own denomination didn't do that, but sometimes I wish they had. This morning though, I realized something about myself when I was meditating on everything this season means. I was thinking of my habits. How much do they control me, my little rituals?

I am one of those people who love the little things. By the time I get up, my coffee is done. I would never buy one without an auto-setup. That first cup is eagerly anticipated, coveted. It gets me up  in the morning.....And my books, my piles of books. I have them organized, the ones I am reading now in a stack by the bed, and the ones next on the list on another pile in my bookshelf. I am riddled with habits, rituals.

When did they start controlling me? How easily could I let them go? Lent starts all these questions for many people. What should I give up? I tend to want to control that too. I am going about it all wrong just in the question itself. "What should I give up?" As if it is my decision!.....I am worse off than I thought.

I realized it is an open heart He wants. A pliable, yielding He can work with.

Return to the Lord, your God,for he is gracious and merciful,

slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,

and relents from punishing.

It saddens me that we don't see people wearing ashes anymore. It seems we are too cool for that. I hear the lament all the time, "Nothing is sacred anymore." It does seem to be true. We used to close businesses on Sundays. Then we stopped selling alcohol on Sundays. Then it was changed to selling it after noon. When nothing is sacred anymore, everyone loses.

I admire Chick-fil-a for sticking to their guns and remaining closed. I am glad they are so successful. They understand that when you do things God's way, you will be blessed. And even if you are not, you did what you knew to be right.

Today I will be wearing ashes on my heart, the ones God put there. I will try my best to keep it open and soft.....and to release all those little things I hold so dear.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

God's early light....

I do love Your dawn Lord,
I feel as if I am partaking in somekind of miracle.....
something just between You and me.
And the birds.

There is something about when the first light of pink
touches the sky, earth's first waking.
Something in me grieves when I miss it,
when I am somewhere I can't see it.

It's like I've missed something important,
like a miracle.
Today I heard the first mourning dove,
which was answered by another close by.

Maybe that is why I feel a kinship
with the birds, they wake up singing.
They know it's a miracle too.

Lord, I thank you because everyday
is resurrection day after all.
The earth turns, wakes.
And it will not happen just this way

Taken from my iphone, Lodi, California.....

Monday, March 7, 2011

You can't outgive God

"Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." Malachi 3:10

There is much talk and debate about tithing in the church today. I grew up with the idea of tithing. People say now that we are in the "church age" we are no longer under the Old Testament law of "tithing." People go back and forth about how much we "should" give. But I think that is missing the point. Giving is all about the heart. This is how Paul put it: “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

The New Testament is full of verses about giving.......

When we take the obligation out of giving, everything changes. It liberates us to give out of the abundance and gratitude of our heart.  We give because God has given so much to us. We can never outgive God, He has already given all He has. He gave us His very treasure, the thing that was nearest and dearest to His heart.

God gave His Son.....
And Jesus gave Himself.....

Out of our tremendous gratitude, we give ourselves.

This is not easy sometimes. Especially giving that calls for a sacrifice. Giving that hurts, costs us something. But God attaches a blessing to that, when we do it......"Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to." Deuteronomy 15:10

He knows it is not easy. All her life my Mom had to budget. Before computers and online banking, which she has never used, she knew exactly how much money she had in the bank. She still does. My Dad worked two and three jobs, always. He hardly ever took sick time. Mom did childcare in our home. They saved. We didn't go to fancy restaurants, didn't go to Disneyland......but they always gave.

They are a testimony of what happens when you spend a life giving........My Mom says: "I told your Dad how much money we had in our checking account and he just laughed!" She says, "The money just keeps coming in." And my Mom keeps giving it out! To friends, neighbors, everyone with a need.......She always runs it by Dad, who says, "Don't tell me how much, just do it." He has learned you can't outgive God.

There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want. The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered. Proverbs 11:24-25 NAS

Here is the same verse in the Message....."The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller."

So don't worry about how much you should give, just give and you will be blessed!

Today I give thanks for all who have sown seeds of giving in me:

the blogging community for contributing their time and talents back to parents, who went without themselves to give me braces and send me to a dermatologist among many other many friends who over the years, gave me time, support, kindness, laughter, prayers and shoulders to cry and lean on.....relatives now gone who went above and beyond to pay medical bills when I was born, teachers who stayed to visit after school, giving encouragement....Pastors who rightly divided the Word of truth all along the way......And lived it....God, of course, who gave all He had so that I might live.......#639-646

holy experience

Saturday, March 5, 2011

"Thar's gold in them thar hills...."

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—

where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—

he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121

I get to have this view every evening when I come home, the beautiful and mysterious Superstition Mountains. Their presence comforts me somehow, they are so strong, so steadfast, so solid. I always think of this Psalm when I gaze up at its beauty, especially when the last rays of the sun turn it a deep magenta.

Somewhere up there, the legend says, the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine is hidden. It was named after German Immigrant Jacob Waltz, and said to be the most famous lost mine in the U.S. Many have looked for the mine since the late 1800's and so far it has never been found.
Moses found treasure one day on a mountain. He didn't find gold, but something much better, he found God. When I look at these mountains I always think of Moses coming down with those tablets, his face glowing like the sun.....

I can always find God on the mountain.

One particular evening when the sun was doing its magenta magic, I was standing in our community clubhouse. I approached the door because from there you get an unblocked view of the mountain range. Standing in the doorway was a sweet elderly lady who is very sick. She was going home early because she didn't feel well that night. She paused at the door way, looked up and caught her breath at the magnificent view and said in a hushed voice, "I think God lives up there."

I said, "Yes, I think He does too!"

Friday, March 4, 2011

If you can't say anything nice

I have really resisted this. I am still resisting this. I really want this blog to be a place of peace, and rest. A place where you can leave the cares of the world behind as we look to God as our true source of everything good. I need to go to my happy place. I do not want to rant about our current Government. There are plenty of people ranting and raving out there. So I will just post some of my favorite things instead, like Seagulls.

I will dream of the sound of the sea, and warm breezes. I will dream of vacations I have taken, and quiet moments of joy in my yard, and in my place of prayer.....

It all started last night when Elaine informed me that she had to go through the infamous TSA screener. I thought I was over that, but I guess I am not.  This woman, my best friend looks like anyone's favorite Aunt. She has a face you can trust. Old people and children flock to her. So why does our Government insist that scanning ordinary law abiding citizens, children and handicapped  people keeps us safe? Because it is one more thing that has happened since our President has taken power. It is all about control. All about giving the Government more power. The scanners are not the issue. Just my opinion. The issue is I can no longer travel freely in my own country without being unlawfully searched..... go to places like of my favorites, in Carmel, California. The Normandy Inn. Happy place, happy place. Now the President is saying that he will not give U.S. officials guns for protection in Mexico. He is also saying that he is doing all he can to make the border safe. I think he should move his family to El Paso. Once again, he was on TV apologizing for America, just like he has been doing all over the world since he came into office. Sometimes I wonder if he really likes his own country. This is just my opinion.

I love this country. I know it is not perfect, but I also don't think we have anything to apologize for. The memories are still alive for many, memories of those who lived through unbelievable evil in Nazi Death Camps, hoping against hope, and then grabbing the hand of an American soldier who brought them freedom, and a second chance at life......

I will not watch the news today......I will retreat to my place of peace. Read some Scripture, get my balance back. Realize that God is still and always in control and His is the real Government and the only lasting Government. I will count my many blessings today and try my best to help and uplift those around me, in word and deed. I will realize that disagreement with certain things in our Government is a freedom and a privilege others fought and are fighting for. And any problem I think I have pales in comparison to most other people in the world.......

This is as close as I get to a rant. And it is the first and last time I will post anything about politics. As for something nice to say, he is just about the best I have ever seen with a teleprompter, and he has a very good smile.

"Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this." Isaiah 9:7

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Which type are you?

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." John 3:8

Today I am continuing my thoughts and reflections from John 3. Yesterday I came to rest on this section of verse 8: "you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." I stopped....... It seems that Jesus is saying here that I have to be ready at a moments notice to go where He sends, where He leads. This verse was somewhat convicting to me.......I am not crazy about spontaneity, I only like planned change, when I decide!

I am a person who likes to dig in, settle down, burrow in, put down roots. I don't like uprooting, moving, or picking up stakes. I lived in my hometown for the first 30 years of my life. Then I moved to two different states.....but I wasn't crazy about it. I did it for work. I am a long term person, I was at my first job for 14 years, and the one I have presently for 15. If I were a vegetable I think I would be a potato, very comfortable and secure in my warm happy place until final harvest. It takes a lot to make me move!
When I was a kid, whenever we would come across a dandelion that had gone to seed we just had to blow it. That is just what we did. We didn't have all the sophisticated games we have now so we had to invent our own. The challenge was to not leave one seed attached left after just one puff.......I was thinking how this relates to God and me and John 3:8. The Holy Spirit, working in me will blow those seeds onto whomever I am rooted next to. Sometimes He needs to help me along by a powerful gust, and sometimes He needs to do something drastic and rip me out by the roots and blow me another direction. This can be a very painful process......and yet, I can see why it is necessary.
The truth is, God needs both kinds of people, movers and shakers, and those who like to stay put. He is able to work equally well with both types of personalities. Sometimes I beat myself up for not being more willing to move, to go where He sends, and I am sure others beat themselves up for not being more stable, for always bolting at the next opportunity. He works patiently with each of us, in all of our glorious individuality moving us this way and that.

I think the key is to be listen with an open heart, to hear and obey when He speaks. To be ready. And He won't hate me if I don't, He will lovingly keep prodding me along.

I think a good writing project would be to describe what kind of vegetable you are and why?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

On being Born Again.....

 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:5-8

In our culture it is somewhat acceptable to be a "Christian," or "Religious," or "Church-going" and it seems everyone is "Spiritual" now. But just tell someone you are "Born-Again," and see how their expression changes. But after all, that is what Jesus said we have to do to enter His Kingdom. This term "born-again" illicits some very interesting reactions from people at times. Someone I know used to say "those born-agains." There was some derision in the tone. I think they thought we swung from the light fixtures in church.

I can't honestly say that I blame them, especially when I watch some of the "Christian" programming on TV, some of it really does make me cringe.

I will say that it was the best thing that has ever happened to me! And so far, I have never heard anyone say, "Oh, I wish I hadn't done that."

Further thoughts on John 3 tomorrow.........

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bear one another's burdens

"Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,  for each one should carry their own load." Galatians 6:2-5

At first glance I was confused by these verses because they seem to contradict one another, first it says to carry each other's burdens and then it turns around and says for each to carry their own load. But after some online study I found that it does not. The key is in the meaning of the words burden and load.

The word for burdens is baros, which means "heaviness, weight, burden, trouble" In verse six the word for load is phortion and means, "of burdensome rites." While the first speaks of helping one another through troubles the second speaks of the responsibility each person has for their own troubles and sins.

Helping someone to carry a burden is a very good thing. But, actually taking the load on yourself is much different. It is like two people walking, one carrying a very heavy pack. They make it look easy so you say, "Here friend, let me take that awhile".....WHOA! once you strap that pack on yourself you realize just how heavy it is. I got a picture of Frodo and Sam this morning while I was thinking about this. Sam was always supporting Frodo as he carried the weight of the ring, but there were times when Sam actually wore the ring himself, and immediately he felt the montrous weight of the burden Frodo carried.

What started this whole train of thought was yesterday. I felt just a tiny bit of the load that my very best friend carries dealing with a Mom with Alzheimer's and a Dad with Dementia, that is, Dementia with quite a bit of meanness thrown in, I might add. I was on the way to get them groceries for them, as a favor to her. It's the least I could do since she actually got to get away for a bit. I stopped at a red light. Just for a second, I felt just a bit of what she must feel all the time..........Tears sprang to my eyes. She has dealt with the loss of both of them this year, but still they hang on.

"God, there but for the grace of You go all of us......" 

I thought of how you have to put your own mind in a very strange state to deal with people who aren't in their right mind. I am sure she wonders at times if she is losing her own sanity just trying to deal with them. She does amazingly well. She knows who her God is and that He is a very Big God. He can handle it when she cannot.

And behind it all, one thing stands out......

There was One who took our burden for all time. A very awful burden. One that only He could carry, and He did it willingly for us. He didn't want us to have to. He knew that we couldn't carry it, not even for one moment. I think, in light of that we are "more than conquerors in this life."

When all the dross of this life is burned up, there will be one thing left.

Endless Gratitude.

pictures from google images......