Our New Home

Our New Home
Fall is in the air!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Love = Action


I was listening to the Southern Gospel radio station enLighten on Sirius Satellite Radio the other day while vacuuming in the living room.  I was actually sitting on my knees attempting to clean the dirt and dog hair from under the couch when I was suddenly taken captive by the lyrics of a particular song.  I’m not sure who the artist was or even the overall theme of the song, except I think it had something to do with God’s grace.

Since hooking up with this station a while back, I have come to see that Southern Gospel (in my thinking anyway…) tends to differ from the Contemporary Christian music that I’ve listened to since the mid-1970’s, in that most songs seem to tell a story, many times being a testimony of God’s love, grace, forgiveness, peace and/or His miracle working power in our lives.  The song I heard that day was no different. 

It began by the artist telling about a time that he had come home one evening from work only to find that his wife had left him.  Then he shares his personal pain with the experiences he had on the first Sunday Service that he attended without her.  Well, I kind of lost track of the rest of the song at that point as I began to picture what that would be like if it was me!

I was fighting some emotions that afternoon in the living room which I think made it easy for me to drift off in thought with that song!   Over the years I worked many swing shift schedules and could easily picture coming home at night to a darkened house.  My initial thought of the scenario of coming home to find an empty home was simply stated, “If she ever left me, I think I would die!”

A little melodramatic… ya think?  But nevertheless, it would be devastating to even consider such a notion… then I immediately broke into a smile, looked across the room at Piper who was snoozing in her chair and thought without ANY doubts… “That would NEVER happen!”  I can honestly say that any such thought NEVER had a place in our relationship… nothing even close!

And yes, I did work many swing shifts but normally came home to find her up and standing in the living room to greet me with a big smile and hug.  She even did that when I was managing the Receiving Department at The Home Depot in Tulsa and many nights would get home around 2:00 in the morning!  Then she’d go off to the kitchen and fry me a burger!  (We ate a lot of burgers back then!) 

The other thing that the song did that afternoon, was to get me to thinking about the last ten years of our lives and how our love for each other was not only put to the test but put to work!

I talked in my last blog post (Love and Faith, 6/13/18) about the important interactions between faith and love.  I sought to establish the point that just as faith works by love, (See Galatians 5:6) that the opposite also holds to be true… in that real Christian love works by or along with our actions of faith.  And that is what popped up in my brain as I began to think through the path that the Southern Gospel song had opened up to me!

I’ve mentioned in the past of how I took a lot of flack when it became clear that my wife’s fight with Alzheimer’s was at the point where she couldn’t be home alone anymore and we talked, looked at all the financial figures, prayed and then followed what we believed to be the Lord’s directions and I quit my outside job traveling with a merchandising team for The Home Depot.  To be perfectly honest… it was an easy, no-brainer decision for us.  When that time came we both KNEW, no questions asked, that I was to be the one… the ONLY one who was to take personal care of my wife’s needs.

As far as we were concerned it was time to ace the test and put our love for each other - - “In sickness and in health” – to work!  I went back to my side business caring for yards and lawns and was able to take Piper with me.  It was a win/win situation.  I got to keep an eye on her, keep her mind occupied with some of the tasks of the various jobs and get a lot of fresh air!  And sure, there were a few times when the finances got a little tight, but Piper’s well-being and my caring for her was well worth any of the difficulties we faced along the way.

I’ve come to learn over these years that real love is putting yourself out there on a daily basis giving totally of yourself for the benefit, safety and life-sustaining health of another… Not just in stating what I have come to see as “empty words” without any actions to back up those thoughts.  The Apostle Paul seemed to say it best in Ephesians 5:6 when he wrote, “Don't let anyone deceive you with meaningless words…” Then he made it even more succinct when he added in the very next verse, “Don't be partners with them.” (God’s Word ©)

I thought it interesting that the Greek word translated “deceive” actually means “to cheat, delude or beguile someone.” (Strong’s and Thayer’s)  I took that in reference to our experiences, to mean that meaningless words of love can actually be another’s excuse to cheat you from their personal assistance in the midst of your situation or to be deceptive toward you.  The Message Bible talks of not letting yourselves to be “taken in by religious smooth talk…”

That’s kind of a strong statement… but I get the definite feeling that Paul was trying to make a strong point concerning the way we interact with others.  Do we sometimes throw around Christian terms like “I love you” simply as some sort of “religious smooth talk” that we may think is an expected response to certain situations… without really meaning it?  Without putting some type of physical action in back of our kind words? 

So…If as the scripture declares “faith which does nothing is useless?”  Can we also deduce that LOVE which does nothing is also useless?  (James 2:20 God’s Word ©) 

Hummm… Having gone through what has turned out to be the roughest situation in my entire life with the deterioration of my sweet wife’s health, I have come face to face with many mistakes that I was guilty of before having actually gone through such a gut-wrenching ordeal.  And one of the biggest was going through the motions of saying what was seemingly the right and expected thing to say in the situation without getting personally involved in the individual’s need!

Now that I am on the other side of the equation… I can see and feel how nice it is to have people come by your side and call and talk to Piper even though she can’t reply, or others like the hospice folks or one of our neighbors who come by and just sit next to her, hold her hand and love on her.  And I’ve mentioned before how much it means to me when someone takes the time to stop in the grocery store aisle, bend down and actually say a few nice things directly to her!  Now in my book… THAT IS WHAT CHRITIAN LOVE IS ALL ABOUT!

What do you think?

Have a great weekend, and as you do keep asking yourself… “How am I expecting to put action to my kind words of LOVE today?”

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Love or Faith...


I had another one of those “Oh, WOW!” moments the other night as Piper and I were listening to a long-time Christian ministry on TV.  It was a relaxed setting where the couple was sitting outside in garden chairs in front of their old prayer cabin somewhere I believe in Arkansas.  The husband was talking about doing something in love when he paused in thought for a moment and then without missing a beat, they rather extemporaneously both clarified his thoughts declaring the action as “a faith-filled love!”

Well, that surely caught my attention and I immediately began to recall I John 4:18 where the Apostle of love taught about “faith which worketh by love” (KJV) and I wondered if you could actually turn around “faith” and “love” in that statement and still have the truth.  I don’t think that I had ever really considered the work of “faith” in a Christian’s actions of “love.”  Have you?

I thought that if that was true then it would explain a lot of things!  I mean I have had different people tell me that they “love” me or my family but yet something just didn’t feel right about the comment.  It is like an oft-times quoted saying of the man of God who started the Bible College that I attended who in describing a similar situation would say it felt like one who “takes a bath with their socks on!”

So, the next day I began a search through the Bible looking up incidents that discuss any interaction between “faith” and “love.”  What I discovered was a multitude of scriptures that define the close working relationship between those two fruits of the spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22-23.  Ephesians 1:15 associates our faith in the Lord Jesus with our ability to love the brethren when Paul said that he “heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints.” (KJV)  I Thessalonians talks about “putting on the breastplate of faith and love…” (KJV)

Then there’s one of my most-often-go-to Biblical prayers found in Ephesians 3:17 where Paul prayed for us declaring “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faiththat you, being rooted and grounded in love,” (ESV)  (And the list goes on and on – SEE: Colossians 1:4, I Thessalonians 1:3, and Ephesians 6:23 for starters…)

After looking up a large number of verses that definitely put “faith” and “love” together as a working team, I suddenly felt a little silly for it dawned on me that the writer of Hebrews in chapter 11 verse six made it rather believable when he (or she?) wrote that “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (KJV)  I mean think about it for a moment… acts of Christian love please the Father and that scripture declares that we can’t please Him without faith!  So… it only makes sense that actions of love have to be connected with and energized or empowered by our faith!

But that brings up another whole discussion on the Biblical measure of faith or in our case…LOVE… for James taught “that faith without works is dead.” (James 2:20, 23 KJV).  Can Christians really talk about “love” without backing their words with actions of “faith?”  Hummmm… We’ll tackle that subject next time!  But for now, I would encourage you to study out some of the verses I listed and think about it the next time you tell someone that you “love” them.

Have a great rest of the week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Am I really expecting my words of “love” to be truthful and backed with faith?”

Monday, June 11, 2018

Good Medicine


I recently came across a picture of my wife that I had taken during our Junior College days in the early 1970’s.  It was part of a series of pictures that I had taken of her around her parent’s property wearing different outfits in varying poses.  You have to understand that my love for photography and growing love for this special young lady fit perfectly well into the scheme of things for many of the photo projects that I was assigned in the multitude of photography classes I took in High School, Junior College and later on at Sonoma State College.

In this particular picture she is sitting on the edge of her parent’s old deck, dangling her legs off the side with her head tilted slightly downward and her eyes upcasted toward the camera.  Piper is one of the few people that I have photographed in all the years when I did portraiture and wedding photography who is a natural in front of the lens.  Most subjects tended to freeze-up and I had to jump through hoops to get them to relax, but not Piper!  She is as calm and happy as-can-be with or without a camera being pointed at her!

If she didn’t just naturally fall into a pose, she was free to move any-which-way I suggested to find the “right” look I desired for the picture.  What I immediately noticed with this pose was that she had that “patented Piper” mysteriously sweet glint in her eyes that told me that she was having a good time and was doing her best to get me to start laughing!  What I also realized was that smile was just for me!  There was no one else around at the time and her smile was specifically meant to be an endearing moment for me… and me alone!

With everything that we have been through with her declining health over the last few years, I now find that I actually search for that special look in every picture I find of her from our past.  I understand that this might seem a little weird to some of my readers, but when the one you love can no longer communicate her special feelings to you, you’ve got to look at the remembrances where she demonstrated those intimate feelings toward you.

As I looked at that picture I also realized and before I knew it said out loud that “I really miss being able to make her smile!”  One of the greatest joys of my life has always been to put a smile on Piper’s face.  To make her happy and to encourage her sweet, joy-filled spirit.  And you know… even though she is unable to respond at this time, I still make every effort throughout each day to say and do things that would normally cause her to smile or be encouraged.

And speaking of smiling and being happy… I came across a scripture over the weekend that spoke directly into my thoughts about that picture that I found in one of the boxes of family photos that our older daughter had organized for me.  In Proverbs 17:22 the author expresses his understanding that “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” (KJV)  This verse has been a favorite of Piper’s and mine for many years and as I began to study it a little deeper I looked it up in some more modern translations to see if it brought forth any added revelation to me.

Well, a look at The Message paraphrase version immediately spoke to my heart, especially in the light of many of the personal experiences we’ve had when it came to different folks and the ways that they have handled my wife’s dramatic changes.  This version bluntly declares that “A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.”  The God’s Word © translation says that “A joyful heart is good medicine, but depression drains one's strength.”  While the Contemporary English Version simply and succinctly states “If you are cheerful, you feel good; if you are sad, you hurt all over.” 

One thing that we’ve learned over the years is the importance of maintaining an atmosphere of joy in our home.  Proverbs 17:22, among many other scriptures in the Bible, makes that charge absolutely clear!  An environment of joy helps to ford off bad attitudes, dis-encouraging words and/or thoughts, complaining, hopelessness and as this verse states, weakness and the encroachment of sickness.  And as far as I am concerned, if sickness does breakthrough in my home, then it is imperative for us to double the amount of joy in the Lord as found in His Word on a regular and reoccurring basis!

We’ve been to people’s homes where fear, faithlessness, and depression was so thick that you could almost cut it with a knife!  And that seemed to be the same way that they handled Piper’s situation.  If you’ve been a regular reader of this blog then you know of the many things that I do day-in and day-out in order to provide a strong and continued sense of joy in our home for Piper’s needs as-well-as for mine! 

I sing scriptural songs (and some dumb but uplifting nonsensical tunes as well), I confess God’s Word on healing to her throughout the day and evening, and I find myself laughing a lot… especially when things get extremely rough!  At times like yesterday, I’ll even gently take hold of one of Piper’s hand and dance her and her wheelchair around the room when an especially upbeat and swinging song is played on the Southern Gospel satellite radio we’ve come to enjoy since we moved to the Southern States!

So yes… we have seen what a lack of a cheerfulness and fear can do to an individual… even a Christian who yields to the pressures that attack all of us at times.  As we now enter the tenth year of dealing with this attack on my wife’s health, I find that I have to fight the negative temptations of fear and discouragement more and more.  But that just means that I have to increase all the things that I mentioned above that I do and trust in the Lord and His love, His joy, His peace, and the strength and truth of His Word more and more… and will continue to do so until we come to His conclusion of this chapter in our lives.

So, what will it be for you?  A life filled with discouragement, bad attitudes, sickness and fear OR one that is empowered by his cheerfulness and joy that according to the scriptures, are filled with Good Medicine?  Hummm… easy choice for me!

Have a great week, and as you do keep asking yourself… “Am I expecting to have a CHEERFUL attitude or allow sadness and sorrow to fill my soul?”

Friday, June 8, 2018

Figuring out the Clues!


After attending the local Junior College in our home town, Piper and I transferred to Chico State University in Chico California, about three hours from our home town.  Piper was majoring in Early Childhood Education while I was seeking a degree in Recreation Administration with an eye toward youth Ministry in the local church.  One weekend we decided to do something fun so we signed up for the “Mid Term Break Car Rally.”  It was the type of rally where each car was given a set of CLUES that would direct you, turn by turn, around the mystery course to the finish line.

So along with our tall friend Leonard, we gassed up my MGB… with Piper folded up like a pretzel in the back behind the front seats (no back seat, just a very small flat place that housed the duel batteries!)… and headed downtown to the start of the Rally.  Well, our expectations were met on that Saturday evening and we all had a really good time. We also realized that we were actually pretty good at figuring out the CLUES that progressed us rapidly around the course! 

If I remember correctly, we only got really stumped with one step but had a bit of good luck as we spotted some other cars we recognized to be in the rally take a turn on a side street that none of us even knew existed.  So, on a hunch, we followed them and soon discovered that it was the right direction.  All in all, it turned out to be a good night as we ended up winning third place in the overall rally and received a plaque for First Place in the “First Timer” category!  I still have that plaque and proudly display on the wall it in our study!

What was especially rewarding and fun with that rally was that each CLUE led you on a specific course toward a particular goal.  I have come to realize that God tends to do the same thing with certain subjects within His Word.  Lately I have found myself studying a multitude of scriptures that all have to do with JOY.  We’ve shared a few of these in past blogs for your edification as well.  Then, a few days ago, as Piper and I were driving into town, I began to share some of the JOY scriptures with her as we traversed the countryside where the fields with their rows and rows of tobacco were all sprouting up with their rich green hues and big leaves.

I mentioned Philippians 4:4 where Paul encourages us to “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, Rejoice!”  (MKJV)  Then I confessed James 1:2 as the Pastor of the Jerusalem Church wrote “My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into different kinds of temptations,” (MKJV) and l wrapped up my mini-sermon to Piper declaring the words of Nehemiah as he attempted to build up the saddened people of Israel as they stood in the midst of the ruins that used to be their spectacular capital city, saying “let there be no grief in your hearts; for the joy of the Lord is your strong place.” (Bible in Basic English)  

And then it hit me… right then and there in the midst of the tobacco fields no less!  I figured out the CLUE to where the Lord was leading us.  Do you see it as well?  I was so excited that I almost had to pull over, but I gained control of the wheel, got us centered back in our lane and declared to my wife… “Do you see what the Lord is doing in these verses of scripture?  He is leading us to our ‘Strong Place.’  He wants us to ‘REJOICE in the Lord’ at all times and to stay in an attitude of JOY when we come upon tough times… ALL BECAUSE IT LEADS US INTO HIS STRONG PLACE!” 

You see, the JOY of the Lord is our strength and when we are strong, we are better equipped to do the right thing, say the right thing and end up being an encouragement to others… even when WE may be the ones going through the hard times in our lives!

I told you about my experience the other day when I was in the midst of an attack of discouragement after Piper had an unusually rough morning (See: “Another Tool” 6/4/18) when I finally fought if off with some vocal confessions of REJOICING which not only made me feel better, but worked to strengthen me spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally.

It’s like when Hannibal Smith used to say on the old “A-Team” TV show in the eighties, “I love it when a plan comes together!”  Although, in this case it might be more accurately stated, “I love it when GOD’S PLAN comes together!”  I think that God probably teaches us some important truths through a series of CLUES that we have to figure out on our own so that it will be more personal and important to us… because we’ve had to work for it!

What do you think about that?  I like it A LOT better when I am feeling strong than when I am fighting physical, mental, emotional and even at times spiritual fatigue.  How about you?  It looks to me that the big CLUE that God gives us throughout His Word points directly to JOY and REJOICING as the pathway to His strong place… and you know?  It’s a place where Piper and I have learned to pitch our tent!  Hopefully you’ll join us!

Have a terrifically JOYFUL weekend, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “How am I expecting His JOY to bring me into His STRONG PLACE today?”

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Full Strength!


Have you ever heard that annoying knock or ring of the doorbell in the middle of the afternoon right in the midst of a project that your working on… and really don’t want to be disturbed?  Then when you swing open the door there stands a nicely dressed, college age young man with a squirt bottle in one hand and a leaflet in the other.  You say hello and the salesman, if he’s been doing this for a while, will return your greeting with a big smile and hand you the leaflet that explains all the wonder-working attributes of the cleaning product that he wants to personally demonstrate on your toughest carpet stains in the house.

Does any of this sound familiar?  This event seemed like a regular activity when the kids were growing up back in California.  Come to think of it… we still get them occasionally in our country neighborhood out here as well!  The difference between then and now is that we have a storm door between us and the porch and a 67-pound, exuberant Australian Shepherd who has a very deep and ferocious sounding bark… and stands close to five feet tall when he jumps up and leans his front paws on the door.

Most times he only wants to greet them and have them play with him… although there have been a couple of times that he definitely was not playing around when someone came to the door!  His bark changed tones and he meant business… as he must have sensed something not quite right with them and wasn’t going to let them near the inside of the house!

But in the past, Piper would always smile at the interruption of her homeschool class and answer the door with her perky, upbeat personality that could charm a fresh caught salmon away from a black bear.  I think her upbeat approach to those interruptions during her day came from a word from the Lord right after our first child was born.

One of Piper’s biggest concerns when we decided to homeschool or kids was that she would no longer be working out in the community where she had daily contact with unbelievers (she had played the piano for the Santa Rosa Ballet Company while attending Jr College, worked as a preschool teacher for almost four years, spent some time working in an office at the Santa Rosa Junior College and then was working at Hewlett Packard when she had our first son).  The church that she was raised up in was strong in their teachings about evangelism and over the years she came to take her responsibility to help others come into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ very personally.

As she began to plan for Joshua’s education she also prayed diligently about her desire (mixed with a little guilt, I would say) to minister to others.  Then one day in prayer the Lord clearly told her that our neighborhood was her ministry grounds and that He would bring people in need of Him right to her front door… So, I think that she saw everyone who came to our home as an open opportunity to share the JOY of her life with them.

So yeah… much to my chagrin, she tended to invite most of the salesmen in to demonstrate their products… unless she spiritually sensed something wrong and then NO-ONE would get passed her into our home!  She would give the folks a fair shake at giving their sales pitch and tended not to purchase anything unless she really felt it had some merit and could meet a need in our household.  I do recall one cleaning product that really caught both of our attentions years ago.

I happened to be home when the young man came in and cleaned a few tough spots on the carpet that I had never been able to remove.  Both Piper and I were impressed and we bought a container of the “highly concentrated” mixture.  Supposedly it only took a few drops of the product mixed with water to clean any tough job.  Well, you know… I tried it according to the instructions and had no-where near the results that the young man had.  So, I kept increasing the amount of product mixed with water and it still didn’t clean as well as demonstrated. 

Finally, I used it FULL STRENGTH and experienced better success than when watered down.  The product actually worked really well on normal everyday stains in the carpet and marks on the walls and we had it around for a few years until it finally ran out.  But there were still a couple of dark stains… like the time our sheltie ate a whole bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips while we were out and then proceeded to throw it all up on the carpet, right in front of the front door!  I guess she wanted to make sure that we saw her mistake as soon as we opened the door to come in that day!  To this day, we are still not sure how she got the bag off the back of the counter where Piper had put it for safe-keeping!

My point of all this reminiscing is the lesson we learned from that particular cleaning product.  Mainly that most times, in order to do the job right, you have to use the FULL STRENGTH of whatever product your employing for the task at hand!  And you know what?  We’ve also discovered that the same goes for our Christian walk in this life!

I think that Pastor James was also aware of this natural and spiritual fact.  He told his congregation and all the other Christians that his letter reached to “count it all joy when you fall into different kinds of temptations,” (James 1:2 MKJV) I would think that his advice here might easily have been taken as a typo or some similar slip of the tongue when the young church first read his words.  Who in their right mind sees troubling times as a joyful situation?

But James was a gentle and wise shepherd to his flock and knew what they would be thinking, so he explained what he meant in the following two verses.  He told them that we could respond in this way because we know that God has a plan for each of us.  He said “that the trying of your faith works patience” and that we need to “let patience have its perfect work, so that you may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing.” (James 1:3-4 MKJV)

You see, when we act out in JOY according to our trust in God and His Word, in difference to the way we may be feeling and/or the hopeless way in which the situation may look, we come through in a better, more fulfilled, perfect and entire place… lacking nothing!  But let me point out the measure of JOY that Pastor James speaks of in these tough situations…

He specifically says “to consider it ALL joy…”  Not just a little bit, not in a sarcastic manner, not faking it so that people around you will think that you have it all together, but with EVERYTHING you’ve got.  I think you might even be able to say FULL STRENGTH!

As far as I am concerned… why mess around with a diluted measure of JOY that is not going to get you in the right place to build your patience that will make you stronger, more complete and lacking nothing?  When problems arise, jump into the FULL STRENGTH of JOY which gets you into the place of God’s refuge much faster and on the road to recovery!

A perfect example of this is found in 2 Samuel 6:14 when King David “danced before Jehovah with all his might…” when he and his army were finally able to return the Ark of the Covenant to its rightful place in Jerusalem.  He was so excited about the events of that day that he wanted to express his trust in and thankfulness for the Lord… and he didn’t care who saw him or who might criticize and/or judge him for the FULL STRENGTH of his actions toward Jehovah!

A few verses down the story relates that David’s wife was one of those who complained about his outlandish behavior in front of the crowds.  The Word says that she “saw King David leaping and dancing before Jehovah. And she despised him in her heart.”  She was rather blunt in her open disdain for his actions and declared without reservation, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, who uncovered himself today in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” (2 Samuel 6:16 & 20)

David was unflappable though and simply related that He did it in honor of the God who chose him over her father and his family to be ruler over Israel and that “I danced before Jehovah.”  In David’s eyes, his response was between him and God and that other people’s thoughts or concerns didn’t really matter to him… although I bet that most of the folks in attendance that day were blessed by his reverence and commitment to God’s wisdom for their nation. 

So, what will it be for you?  Will you try a watered-down approach to your expression of JOY to see if it is good enough for God and not to offend anyone… OR will you go with the FULL STRENGTH of your effort and dedication to our heavenly Father and the truth of His Word?

Have a great rest of the week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “What measure of JOY am I expecting to give to God when times get tough?”

Monday, June 4, 2018

Another Tool


I learned something this weekend… and it began bright and early on Saturday morning!

When I got my wife up for the day at the beginning of the weekend, she was very week and stiff.  Sometimes her arms are so tightly held against her sides that it makes it extremely difficult to get a sweater on her without injuring her weakened body… and Saturday was one of those days!  But with lots of joyful singing and gentle patience we persevered and completed the task at hand and then rolled into the kitchen for breakfast.

Once in the dining room we enjoyed the view of our bright, sun-lit back yard and attempted to settle into the morning routine of helping Piper to partake of a good portion of the juice/medications and protein drink that I prepared for her.  Well… let’s just say that it wasn’t going to be as easy as I had hoped!  It was one of those times where she was just not very receptive to easily swallowing her breakfast and we had to work at every swallow and seemed to get more on the napkins under her chin than we did in her mouth.

By the time we got as far as I felt she could go, I leaned way back in my chair and simply sat there a little exhausted, a little weary, and a little lost as to what to do next.  So, without giving into the many negative thoughts that were pounding in my head, I dragged myself out of the chair and headed to the guest bath to get a wet cloth in order to wash Piper’s face… and my sticky, chocolate covered hands!

When I got a few steps down the hallway I reached out to steady myself against the wall and stood there for a short while to figure out what to do next.  I have to admit that there were more than just a few thoughts of discouragement racing through my mind.  But once again, I knew that it was important for me… and Piper… that I not give voice to those negative words.  Instead I reached out to the Lord and asked what HE wanted me to do… and within a flash, my thoughts zeroed in on God’s Word in Philippians 4:4 were Paul encouraged his readers during one of the toughest occasions in his own life to “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, Rejoice!” (God’s Word ©)

So, what did I do?  Yep, despite the awful way I was feeling at that moment, I opened my mouth and began to repeat the powerful phrase, “Praise the Lord!  Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!”  And did it do any good… Well, you know… IT DID!  Surprisingly, by the few moments it took me to wash my hands, get a wet cloth for Piper and return around the corner to the dining room, I was feeling stronger, uplifted and hopeful despite what we had just gone through!

Then on Sunday morning our Pastor taught a wonderfully insightful and encouraging sermon centering around James 1:2 where James, the Pastor of the church in Jerusalem, tells his congregation “My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into different kinds of temptations,” (MKJV) And while there was a lot of depth to the sermon I want to center in on one word in the verse that the Pastor defined from the original Greek that I had never heard before.

Most translations define the word “count” as meaning “to consider.”  But when one looks at the original Greek definitions you’ll see that it can also be defined as “to go before; to be a leader; to rule or to command and have authority over.” (Thayer’s)  Strong’s says that it is “to command or lead with official authority.”  Now think about that for a moment.  That puts another whole different twist on the trials, tribulations and temptations that we all go through in life.

By looking at it this way, we can understand that we are being told that we can actually take command or legal authority over the different hard times in our lives THROUGH the expression of and therefore faith in the Joy of the Lord!  Just like what I experienced on Saturday morning when things were looking pretty bleak to me.  My verbal confession of rejoicing in the Lord completely turned the situation around for my wife and I.

I was thinking this morning as I further studied James 1:2-4, that the confession of JOY or action of REJOICING is actually a tool… or better yet, a weapon that we are given when we place our trust in God and His Word… and actively demonstrates to ourselves and any other individual around us that we steadfastly believe that HIS vision of our situations in life is greater than what we may be visibly witnessing at any given time.

WOW!  Kind of makes you want to start REJOICING right here and now doesn’t it?  Well… go for it!  Rejoice aloud and then watch HIM change the situation, or the way you feel right before your eyes!

Have a great new week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Am I actually expecting to verbally REJOICE in the midst of a trying situation today?”

Friday, June 1, 2018

Whose VISION?


Can you believe that it is June already?  Where did this year go?  As a kid in school I can remember dreaming about and beginning to plan for the coming of June and summertime frolic and freedom right after the Holiday Season was over!  How about you?  Now that I am older and have a lifetime of experiences behind me, the coming of the summer months are still exciting… but NOTHING like I thought they were between the ages of six and eighteen!

Our church honored all the graduating High School Seniors a few Sunday’s ago, and the pastor spoke a word of congratulations and encouragement to those in attendance in the congregation.  At one point in his sermon he spoke of how we have most of our needs and major decisions met or made for us throughout our school years, but once we graduate High School, life and the decisions we will make become our own responsibility.

After he mentioned this, I suddenly found myself translated back to 1971 as I stood in the hallway of my parent’s home the morning after my High School graduation services.  I remember that time in my life very clearly.  I recall feeling a little lost and intimidated at the thought of what lay ahead for me.  Like our Pastor had spoken of, I remember thinking how different things were going to be from that point on! 

At that moment in time I had no clear VISION for my life… EXCEPT that I was most likely going to spend it with the cute, intelligent and wonderful young lady that I had spent everyday with since September of the previous year.  And while I can’t say that it was even a conscious thought or that we had talked about our future together, I believe that Piper would tell you that she felt the same way.  No matter what was ahead, I… or better said WE, subconsciously knew that we would experience it together!

Later on, during that same Sunday evening, I found myself standing in the hallway of our home 3000 miles away from the other hallway I found myself standing in some forty-seven years ago on the opposite coast of our country, thinking very similar thoughts as I did back then.  But the big difference in this situation was that I found myself fighting against my faith in wondering IF I would be facing the future with that same, now beautiful, mature, wise and Godly women.  At that particular moment, I began to realize that the possibility of her NOT being at my side TERRIFIED me!

But before that terror could take hold of me, I had the sudden understanding that this fear is in direct opposition to all the Word of God that I have been pumping into Piper and I over the last ten years… So right there and then I was faced with a major decision! 

What VISION was I going to follow?  The one of fear and defeat that I see on a daily basis every time I lay my eyes upon my dear wife, or the one that I see and have been confessing over her from the Word of God?  Put into rather simplistic terms… Is my VISION one of DEATH or one of LIFE? 

Moses told the Israelites (and modern-day Christians as a type and shadow of Old Testament Israel) to choose life.  In a matter-of-fact statement he declared: “I call on heaven and earth as witnesses today that I have offered you life or death, blessings or curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants will live.” (KJV)  Jesus clarified to us what Moses was talking about when He told His followers in John 6:63 that “the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (KJV)

Well, that makes it pretty clear to me… wouldn’t you say so?  So, whose VISION are Piper and I choosing to follow and live by?  You guessed it… We have decided that the VISION that we choose to have for Piper is the VISION that the Word of God casts forth!

After breakfast the following morning, I was reading to Piper from the current book we are reading together entitled “In His Presence” by E.W. Kenyon and I saw something in an old familiar scripture that I had never realized before.  Jesus told John in a vision on the Island of Patmos that we Christians can overcome the devil, whom He named the “Accuser of the Brethren” (See: Revelation 12:10).  He gave the “secret sauce” to the recipe for a Christian’s long and prosperous life saying: “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony…” (Revelation 12:11 MKJV)

What I had never noticed before was that the word Jesus was speaking about was the LOGOS of God.  It wasn’t just any word that we Christians are to be speaking, but specifically THE WORD of God… that same Word that we find within the pages of our Bibles!  Think about it, Jesus also told His disciples that the words that He spoke were not His own but those of His Father. (See: John 14:10)  So if Jesus… the Son of God… spoke not His own words but those of the Father… wouldn’t it behoove us to speak the same words that Jesus spoke?  I’m thinking here, that if it was good enough for Him then it is good enough for you and me.  Wouldn’t you agree?

So, what is Piper’s and my VISION for our future?  Well, it lines up with… and in fact IS exactly what the Word of God says it is.  I believe that I Peter 2:24 sums it up perfectly when it comes to my wife’s health.  It declares that: “He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that dying to sins, we might live to righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed.” (MKJV) And I know of at least another 100 verses that agree with that statement!

So, I don’t stop and think too much in my hallway anymore.  Instead I rejoice and speak out God’s (and our) VISION for Piper’s and my future.  What do you think?  Does God play favorites?  Does His Word work for just a few, or for anyone who steps out to read it, believe it, speak it and receive it by faith?  Well, that answer is also pretty obvious!  He is on your side just like He is on mine or any other Christian!

You know… With His Word in your heart and in your mouth… you can’t help but have a bright outlook on your future! 

Have a great weekend!  And as you do keep rejoicing, keep believing in and speaking out His VISION for you as found in His Word.   Then you can’t help but answer yourself when you ask… “Whose VISION am I expecting to have as my VISION today?”