Our New Home

Our New Home
I love all the summer greenery around our home!

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Simplicity of the Gospel


This morning as I went in to our bedroom to help my wife get up, I plopped down on my knees and began to speak softly to her.  About that time the dog came quietly into the room, walked up to me and sat down.  She seemed to be watching what I was up to with great interest.  As I reached out and began to pet her with my free hand, I began to consider the simple trust that she has in my wife and I.  While I scratched behind her left ear she tilted back her head with a look of satisfaction on her face that just sort of said Ahhh!
Then when I retracted my hand she reached out with her left paw, placed it on my arm and stared at me with what had all the signs of a happy but yet pleading smile!  That made me laugh and caused me think of the attributes of having a childlike, innocent and simple trust in the Lord.
A few nights ago just before bed the Lord put it on my heart to read from one of my favorite books that I hadn’t read for a few years.  I am sure that I have mentioned it in the past as over the years, I have read and re-read this book probably dozens of times!  It is called “Nine O’ Clock in the Morning” and was written by Father Dennis Bennett back in the late sixties and first published in 1970 by Logos International.
Dennis Bennett came to be recognized as one of the fathers of the Charismatic Movement that occurred throughout denominational churches in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s.  My wife and I found (or maybe better said “put!”) ourselves right in the middle of this move even before we were married in 1975!   Father Bennett was the Vicar over a large, successful and growing Episcopal Church in Van Nuys California, when he was introduced to a young couple who had become “fired up” after they received the “The Baptism of the Holy Spirit” and spoke in tongues.  Beginning as a skeptic and later as a believer, Dennis investigated the phenomenon through a careful study of the New Testament, his church’s doctrine and with an immense hunger to experience more of God as the early church did.
On Passion Sunday in April of 1960 Father Bennett went before his congregation and openly shared his experience.  As he put it, “The general reaction was open and tender – hearted until the second service.  At that point my second assistant snatched off his vestments, threw them on the altar, and stalked out of the church crying: ‘I can no longer work with this man!’  That ‘blew the lid off!’”
By the third service the small but vocal group of distractors had stirred up enough unrest that Father Bennett resigned his position.  Following this incident the story was picked up by the local TV stations in Los Angeles and eventually ended up with both Newsweek and Time magazines running national articles on it.  Father Bennett eventually ended up going to a small dying mission church in a suburb of Seattle, Washington and that is where his story really bloomed!  In this locale he had the full support of his Bishop and his congregation.  The church began to grow and Father Bennett became a national representative of the move of the Holy Spirit among a vast and diverse range of denominations across the globe.
I was first introduced to Father Bennett after receiving the “Baptism” in 1974 and was seeking a more studious explanation to what I was experiencing.  His book “The Holy Spirit and You” came to be known as the “text book” on the subject and to this day is still used as curriculum in many Christian Colleges.  After studying this book, I came across the story of his adventure in faith as related in “Nine O’Clock in the Morning.”
One thing that always impressed me with his story and did so again in my current foray into its pages, was his journey back to the simplicity of his faith in Jesus.  As a highly educated scholar in the Episcopal Church, he had developed a complicated doctrine of faith and religion that explained away the childlike love of God and the power that Jesus and the early church seemed to enjoy.  For some reason, our dog’s actions this morning reminded me of all that!
Throughout this journey with my wife’s health, I have continually found myself returning to the simplicity of the Gospel.  Many in their attempts to assist us have tried to draw us into their “rule keeping systems” similar to what Paul talked about in Galatians 5:3-4 (The Message)  And while I am a firm believer in the effect of what we say and do in line with the Word of God, I have begun to see that God is FAR more concerned with the attitude of our hearts than in how we keep up with a strict form of do’s and don’ts.
When I read of Christians who pray a simple prayer of faith for healing or any other need and receive what they are praying for, even though they don’t necessarily know what I know, nor do it the way my denomination says to do it, I am amazed and my heart is warmed with the understanding of how much He loves us.  His love goes beyond the confines of denominations, of methods followed, or of what our life may look like!  Our Papa God looks through all the external dressings and examines the real motives of our hearts. 
I personally believe and have come to experience that at the very bottom of all that we do and say, He is really concerned with the childlike, simple trust that motivates us and drives us to be and act like Jesus!  Those actions… His actions through us… will cause us to walk steadily and lovingly through the situations we face on a daily basis.  This simple trust is what encourages us to “be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated (or any other rule-keeping system's) existence.” (Galatians 5:18 – The Message)
So walk forth on this Labor Day holiday weekend empowered by a simple and loving trust in your Papa God… and see the miraculous of His kingdom encompass your life!  Have a great holiday.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Raleigh, NC


Yesterday my wife and I ventured southeast to Raleigh, the capital city of North Carolina. Our trip was not strictly for sightseeing but to meet with a lawyer so that I could obtain legal guardianship over my wife in order to conduct business in her name.  It is actually something I should have done years before, but to be honest, always put aside because I did not want to admit to the reality of the situation.  If I had done it in 2012 when I originally obtained the necessary paperwork from our doctor, I could have simply gone the route of getting Power of Attorney.  But now that Piper isn’t able to adequately communicate, the more comprehensive guardianship process is required.
I didn’t realize that the proceedure is much more complicated than signing a few papers, but entails a visit to the court in order to prove incompetence and the need for a legal guardian.  But it is time to complete the process and proceed we will!  It seems that North Carolina is much stricter in attaining some of the benefits offered to the handicapped than I found California to be.
I was pleasantly surprised when we came into the city limits of Raleigh.  Even though we did not go to the downtown area, but stayed in the northern section of the city, I still expected an experience closer to the San Francisco, big city feel than what we encountered.  Then again, one must remember that San Francisco is built on hills, has a population that is twice as large as Raleigh and is situated in a space that is close to one third as big as the approximately 144 square miles that incorporates the southern capital!  From what we saw, Raleigh is a charming city.  My mental picture of a multi-story high-rise and being greeted by Julianna Margulies of The Good Wife fame were quickly dashed as the Attorney's office was housed in a wonderful old brick two story home that would be at home in a Revolutionary War movie!
Our attorney is a wonderful young lady that made us immediately feel at home as she explained all the nuances of the process we were about to enter in to.  With great sensitivity she also talked of the parts of the process that many of her past clients have felt difficult to face concerning the declaring of incompetence.  I greatly appreciated her understanding and the concern and compassion she expressed to us.
As I mentioned previously, by this time in our journey, I have fought the emotional war of those facts, but am also strengthen by the truth and love of God’s Word that we are standing on in the face of all the natural steps we feel necessary to take.  In many respects I stand at awe at those who daily face this disease without the companionship of the Lord at their sides.  They must be very strong individuals to progress through the physical steps of the illness and handle all the turmoil that is incumbent to such a battle.  Then again, I also can clearly see the pain and utter hopelessness that surrounds them as I read the various Message Boards I occasionally look at on the Alzheimer’s Association’s national website.
Galatians 5:14 in The Message Bible bests summarizes the solution to the hurt and hopelessness that many in this world face every morning when they arise.  It says, “For everything we know about God’s word is summed up in a single sentence: love others as you love yourself.  That’s an act of true freedom.”
Freedom for what you may ask?  Freedom from the hopelessness that one regularly faces in the various situations in their lives.  Like I have repeatedly expressed in this blog, the depth and span of God’s love is the greatest asset I have learned to trust and hold on to throughout this life changing event that we are in the midst of.  The only thing that matters is His love for you and me!  In the last few years we have been through events, emotions and persecutions that one normally only sees in the movies!  But through it all, the ONE thing that has sustained us is the increasing knowledge of the love of Christ “which goes far beyond any knowledge,” (Ephesians 3:19 God’s Word ©) as Paul talked about in Ephesians 3:19.
Our dependence on His love opens the way for those situations to be “filled with God” through the spiritual and physical blessing He places along the way… like the Divine connection with our attorney in Raleigh.  I have come to see that God’s love is very flexible, unlimited and operable in all kinds of situations, beliefs and personal experiences, but in another respect, this love is also very black and white.  It is the ONLY alternative that is acceptable for us to follow.  I cannot find a single place in the Word where Jesus ever told us that are certain times or situations or even in the midst of persecutions that we can justify as an excuse to NOT respond in love!
His love is the answer!  It is His way, and as far as I can see… it is the only way for you and me!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Influence


Influence *
In-floo-uh-ns
Noun:  the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinion, etc, of others.
Verb (used with an object), influenced, influencing:  To exercise influence on; affect; sway.  To move or impel (a person) to some action.
As I continued moving through Paul’s dissertation in Galatians chapter five this morning, I suddenly stalled at verse seven where he questions his readers commenting, “You were doing so well.  Who stopped you from being influenced by the truth?” (God’s Word ©)  It wasn’t so much the question that was asked, but the thought that may have spurred the inquisition.  When I read this today I immediately said aloud, Paul is thinking that someone or something may have greater influence on them than the truth of God’s Word!
Immediately I brought that thought home and asked myself if I have had anything or anyone that had a stronger influence in my life than Jesus… and to be perfectly honest, a few years ago if I was true to myself, I would probably have to say that in many respects my lovely wife held that position!  Since we have begun this journey with my wife’s health though, my focus and the first and greatest influence has been Papa God and the truth of His Word.  He has become the ONLY one that I could trust to stay the same in His loving concern and care for my wife and I.  Where people may have fallen short, He has ALWAYS come through!
At the onset of this battle, soon after moving back to our hometown after our stay in Oklahoma, my mother-in-law made a comment to me that at the time, I did not realize how prophetic it would become.  After a visit at which I had brought Piper’s folks totally up-to-date on the latest medical information we had my wife, my mother-in-law looked at me and seriously stated, “Well, you’ll have to take the lead on this.”
I remember smiling to her and nodding my head while thinking a little sarcastically on the inside… “You got that right!  Especially after all the seemingly endless tests I had taken her to in Tulsa, the meetings with her doctors there, the traumatic events surrounding the visible changes we had been witnessing, the deep emotional upheaval, and then the latest set of hospital and doctor visits following her first seizure at home…”
What I didn’t realize was that “taking the lead” would not only incorporate working with the medical side of the situation, but also taking the lead in being strong and dealing with other people’s emotions, insensitive statements, neglect and the importance of protecting my wife from others who suddenly wanted to have a leading influence in the process.  Don’t get me wrong.  Many people have had a very positive influence as we have walked the paths of this journey, but there have also been those that as the Message Bible puts Galatians 5:7, have tried their best to “cut in on you, deflecting you from the true course of obedience.”
Those who have influenced us the most are the ones who earned it through their encouraging and loving words backed with actions of unselfish giving of themselves, their time and their prayers.  As a leader I have come to realize that I have to guard over my wife and choose who has the right or not to be an influence in her life at this critical time.  I think that this is the responsibility of every Christian no matter what personal journey they may be on at any given time in their lives.
Paul was very much aware that his readers had allowed someone or something to have a negative effect on them, which caused them to begin to draw away or dilute the faith that they had in Jesus Christ and the truth of His Word.  He knew that in order for them to be successful in their walk of faith, that they had to stay singly focused and determined to follow His Word and His directions, no matter what anyone else thought they had the right to influence them with!
I’ve learned that the greatest way to influence someone is to point them to Jesus instead of to a set of do’s and don’ts.  To find out where their faith is, swallow your own pride (another important lesson I learned early on) and support them where they are.  Let Jesus and His Word make any necessary changes.  Don’t try to force your influence on them!
Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting (to influence or be influenced by) today?”

  

*Dictionary.com

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Freedom!


I received a phone call from a young man representing a ministry that my wife and I have followed and supported for years.  He wanted to thank us for our gifts to the ministry and asked if there was anything that they could come into agreement with us in prayer.  Well, let me tell you that this phone call could not have been timed better!  With a laugh of joy I proceeded to tell him about the stand of faith that we have taken for my wife’s complete healing.  And it was almost as if you could feel the faith pouring through my cell phone as he wholeheartedly agreed with us, shared some familiar verses of scripture and then prayed a short but direct and powerful prayer.
After the prayer we talked for quite a while, shared some pertinent information and he listened with rapt attention while I told him of the scripture sheet we confess from daily, the healing books we continuously read and of our recent move across the country.  It was like a breath of fresh air as this young man fully supported our course of action, encouraged us and then felt led of the Lord to send us a set of books and CD’s concerning God’s plan for healing, at no cost to us.
As I disconnected the call and looked with a beaming smile and a fully recharged attitude at my wife, who was actually dozing next to me on the couch, I could not help but think how refreshing it was to have someone really understand where we have been coming from as we walk through the paths of this journey.  I realized over the weekend how frustrating and straining it has been to me to talk to individuals you want to support you, only to have them continually remind you, through their words and actions, that they haven’t retained a word you’ve spoken!
On Saturday we received a fat envelope from a close relative back in California that contained numerous articles concerning medical insights on Alzheimer’s.  Across the bottom the relative had written a note asking me to look over the information and encouraged me to talk to Piper’s doctor about any of the info that might be pertinent to her situation.
At first I was truly encouraged that the individual was showing concern and had taken the time to research some things about Piper, but on the other hand, I was overcome with a sense of disappointment as the information in the articles was very elementary to the place we now stand in the development of this disease in my wife.  The articles spoke of rudimentary tests and procedures that we had already done beginning as far back as 2006 and of which I had shared on numerous occasions with this person as the medical reports of the tests came back.   The diet and exercise suggestions in the articles also highlighted the lifestyle that my wife already pursued for the majority of her adult life.   And this type of incident has been repeating itself over and over again since the diagnosis of my wife’s condition first came to light a few years back.
I don’t know… but I was thinking that the things that we have done over the past 40 years, the truths that we have believed in and the courses of action that we have taken were never considered as trustworthy enough for them to ever take notice of or be important enough for them to remember.  Does that make sense to you?  Have you ever felt that way concerning others who regularly forget what you’ve said or even have put into print with the hope that a visual aid would help them to retain the pertinent information?
As I read Galatians 5:1-2 this morning from the Message Bible, I was reminded with a great sense of comfort, why the Lord called us to put some space between ourselves and a few groups of well-meaning folks during some of those tough initial periods of change in my wife’s body.  This paraphrase of the scriptures tells us that “Christ has set us free to live a free life.  So take your stand!  Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.  I’m emphatic about this.  The moment any one of you submits to circumcision or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ’s hard-won gift of freedom is squandered.”
Even though these two groups were coming from different directions, they were both attempting to get us to buy into their beliefs which contained a very evident system of do’s and don’ts that they strongly (and in one case, angrily) encouraged us to follow.  It was clear to us, at that time and even more so today after the fact, that these systems left us with a limited course of action to follow.  According to Galatians 5:1-2, in my understanding, agreeing with either of them would have squandered our freedom to the limitless, “exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think or request in our wildest dreams!” (Ephesians 3:19 – NKJV/MSG)
Once again, the greatest lesson I have learned throughout this journey has been to listen and yield to the over-abiding, all-encompassing love that God has for you and me!  His love – His way – His kindness and grace will always prevail…  And this love will never hurt, frustrate or let you down!  I have discovered that it opens the doors to His limitless possibilities and freedom for one’s life… especially when everything you see with your natural eyes projects a well-defined picture of hopelessness.
So, have a great day that you can explore and live in the freedom Christ has provided for you… and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Spilled Soup...


I hope that all of you had a great weekend.  Mine was a bit rough as I am still dealing with this ear infection.  So with that in mind… or more literally throbbing in my head, we experienced a low key and quiet couple of days.  In many respects Saturday was one of those few days that I would just as soon forget!  I would consider myself a pretty “up” person and it takes a lot for me to get “down”.  But by Saturday afternoon the pain on the left side of my head was getting old, my strength was zapped and Piper was having a weak day that really stretched my patience (not with her mind you, but with me!).
Then as I was preparing lunch everything fell apart.  Since it hurt to chew I had warmed up some soup for my lunch.  As I was pouring the soup from the container I heated it up in to a bowl, the container slipped out of my hand, plopped into the bowl and sent hot soup all over the counter, the stove and the floor!  Miraculously it missed me!  Needless to say I was NOT a happy camper!  Cleaning up the mess all around me did not look like fun, and as I was about to lose it, the Lord quickly intervened and helped me to praise Him instead of the devil’s ability to ruin my day!
Okay, so between the dog and I we got everything wiped up (or in Mandie’s case… licked up!).  With the final swipe of the sponge I wheeled around to the sink and in doing so knocked over a tall Mother’s Day mug that the kids had given Piper many years ago that I had been using as a container to hold any silverware I rinsed off during the day.  Well, you guessed it… it went flying through the air with the greatest of ease, the silverware like projectiles shot off in all directions and the ceramic cup landed in pieces across the floor!
And yes… that did it!  In total frustration I squatted down on the floor, put my head in my hands and screamed, “Oh God HELP ME!”  And you know what?  He did!  As I sat there trembling for a few moments I slowly felt a distant peace begin to prevail in my being.  I’m not implying that I had an immediate sense of calmness and well-being, but a quiet peace began to enter into our kitchen.  After a while I opened my eyes and had to crack a smile as my wife was staring at me with eyes as big as saucers, and I think that there was even a little glint of a smile in them.  It was as if she was trying to do what she always would do in a heated situation like that and begin to sing the simple little ditty she had written for our children’s ministry many years ago,
“Praise, praise, praise… praise the Lord!
    Praise, praise, praise… praise the Lord!
    Praise, praise, praise, I will praise the Lord,
    Praise – the – Lord!”
So once again, even if she couldn’t verbally or physically lend me a sweet little hand, her spirit stood strong and raised me up (literally!) from my depth of despair and got me back on track!
And what does all this go to show?  To me it is the simple fact that I have learned over the last five or six years… that the LOVE OF GOD is all that matters!  No matter what happens, no matter how awful you may feel, no matter how awful someone may be to you… the best medicine is always God’s love!  I may not be able to always control what happens to me, or how people think or act toward me, but I can control how I act or think in any situation, under any persecution… and I choose Godly love!
My personal response of love honors Him.  An opposite response of anger, nasty words and actions or even just giving up honors the one who caused the problem in the first place!  AND “as for me and my house, we will (do our best) to serve (and honor) the Lord!” (Joshua 24:15 KJV – parenthesis mine)
How will you respond?  Have a great week.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting (to serve) today?”

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Love Show!


Let me start today’s blog with a simple question.  When you go to the movies what do you expect?  Most of us expect to see a movie!  The same phenomenon happens when we turn on our flat screen TV’s!  We are expecting to view something, not just hear the audio part of the show.  The iconic picture of families huddling around the big Philco radio in the living room soon became a thing of the past with the popularity and advancements of the new TV medium following World War II.  Today’s modern world of technology has made us to be a very visual world.  Laptops, Tablets and Cell Phones give anyone the availability to instantaneously see and communicate with others the world over!  We want to see it, and we want to see it now!
The Apostle Paul seemed to understand the importance of seeing things and in particular, in seeing the love of God.  In Romans 12:9 he set the stage for his comments concerning “The Love Show.”  He stated, “Your love must be without hypocrisy…”  The Popular Commentary on the New Testament explains that “This brief clause is the title of the entire section.”  Hypocrisy can simply be defined as saying and doing two different things.  Or as I heard it said, it is performing a role in the drama of life, of a person that you are not! 
Albert Barnes commented, “Let love be sincere and unfeigned.  Let it not consist in words or professions only, but let it be manifested in acts of kindness and in deeds of charity.  Genuine benevolence is not what merely professes attachment, but which is evinced by acts of kindness and affection.”  
Last week my wife received many greetings for her birthday.  In fact through the connections of this blog she received birthday blessings from at least six different countries around the globe!  One card was from a close relative that expressed much love and affection for Piper and professed thankfulness for the blessing of their close relationship.  It was a short but sweet note and while we were was tremendously blessed that they wrote, I had to chuckle a bit and shake my head because the endearing words written on the page did not match the individual’s actions when we lived near them.
As Barnes wrote, the profession was not evidenced by like actions.  My personal definition is “empty words.”  In all our years of active ministry I never thought much about this, but once the tables were turned I truly began to appreciate the few who backed up their kind and thoughtful words with actions of love toward us in the physical realm.  Many folks said a lot of nice things and felt free to give all kinds of suggestions, but very few simply asked and followed through with their sincere words of “what can I do to help?”
I heard a minister recently call those acts of kindness “The Love Show.”  He also went on to say that “kindness is the kind of love that you can see.”  It is the show we expect to see in times of need.  Like my example above, the audio part of a movie show is nice, but it doesn’t have much affect without the visual part!
Adam Clarke’s commentary on this section of scripture seemed to give the key to Paul’s teaching.  He said, “Do nothing at any time but what is to the glory of God, and do everything as unto Him; and in everything let your heart be engaged.  Be always in earnest, and let your heart ever accompany your hand.”
One of the local Christian radio stations in our area broadcasts a couple of nationally syndicated Christian talk show segments each afternoon.  Both organizations were formed to assist families in their daily walks of life.  While most of their suggestions are solid and helpful, there have been occasions where, in my mind, they seemed to try and fit daily life into tidy little compartments where most family situations can be handled by following an organized list of dos and don’ts.   Please don’t get me wrong.  Their advice is good, but one thing I have come to see in over 35 years of ministry with children and youth is that everybody and every situation is different and while it is good to have the knowledge of the dos and don’ts, the most important tool we as Christians have is a heart that is in tune to the Holy Spirit.  What works in one situation may cause problems in another.
Paul’s advice as explained by Clarke to make sure that your actions give glory to God and that your heart is engaged will see you successfully through any situation!  This same advice also works when you come into contact with those in need.  He will show you what to say, and more importantly, what to do each time.  Jesus told us that “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:30 KJV)  We don’t have to be afraid to put ourselves out there for others because He is with us and will help us from start to finish!
So… don’t just be a radio show in this world, be a life size flat screen TV so that people can see your good works of kindness and grace as you become God’s actor in “The Love Show!”   Have a great weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Diving Board

I have never really had much fear of water… except when it came to jumping off the diving board!  I always remember one time when I was in elementary school when I was at the municipal pool located behind Santa Rosa High School.  I really don’t remember the circumstances but for some unusual reason I decided that I was going to jump off the high dive.  Once I got to the top of the ladder I knew that I had made a bad decision, but since there were people behind me, I had to go through with the leap.  The only thing I remember is that I never thought I would reach the water and when I did, I just knew that it was surely going to kill me!


Well folks… as you can tell by my writing today, I made it, although I have never climbed a high dive again.  For years I made a point to stay away from the low diving board as well.  Then as a sophomore in high school things changed!  There was a small private swim club near the high school I attended and as part of PE our class would walk over to the pool for swimming lessons.  The end of each class was always given to free time.  On one particular day some of the guys were playing a rough game that included pushing people’s head underwater.  So in order to stay clear of that activity, I decided that I would spend my free time in the diving section of the pool.
Once there I pulled up my trunks, gathered my courage and jumped off the low diving board… and you know… it wasn’t half bad!  Before you knew it I was jumping and diving off the board like a fish.  The old adage of “practice makes perfect” proved true for my diving skills that day and for the rest of the semester long class.  The more I did it, the easier it became and my repertoire of jumps and dives increased, both from the board and from the deck of the pool.  It actually turned into a fun activity!
Titus 3:4-5 tells us that “when God our Savior made his kindness and love for humanity appear, he saved us…” (God’s Word ©) Adam Clarke in his Commentary on the Bible states that “by the word Kindness (in the original language) we may understand the essential goodness of the Divine nature; that which is the spring where all kindness, mercy and beneficence proceed.”  In other words, kindness is the springboard or diving board (in my previous example) from which all the mercies, goodness and benefaction of God originate!
And like in my experience, the more you practice it, the better and more varied you become in extending kindness toward others.  It just becomes a part of who you are… no matter where you are… no matter what is going on or being said around or to you!  God’s nature becomes your nature and His mercy, goodness and benefaction will flow from you!
I think that is pretty cool, don’t you?  That’s how I want to be used and it is also how I want to be treated by others.  But again, even if I’m not treated like that, I still keep the door open to God’s grace by my response of kindness.  I’ve learned some tough lessons over the past few years and believe me, I definitely do not want others to experience what I did.  And I also want to be assured that my words and actions do nothing to perpetrate unkind and angry responses in others.
Have a wonderful day!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting to bless with KINDNESS today?”

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

It's Amazing!


As I continued my study on the kindness of God this morning, I read again from Titus 3:4-5 from the King James Version.  I don’t know how you do it, but I still tend to go back to the King James Version as the foundation for much of what I read in the Bible, especially when translation questions arise.   And today as I looked at this particular scripture translation I was overwhelmed by the goodness of Papa God!  Here Paul explains, “But after that (our failures, disobedience, and servicing all sorts of desires and pleasures as explained in the previous verse) the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”
Sometimes I am just amazed and almost dumbfounded at the love that God has for us!  It simply goes way beyond the confines of our human understanding like Paul described in Ephesians 3:19 when he prayed that the church would intimately “know Christ’s love, which goes far beyond any knowledge…” (God’s Word ©)  God loves us to the point of extending limitless kindness and mercy even when we do or say dumb things!  He forgives our failures and all the other messes in our daily lives that we have a hand in.
Paul told his protégé to teach this to his congregation so “that those who put their trust in God will concentrate on the essentials that are good for everyone.” (The Message Bible)  He also told Titus to tell the believers to stay away from quarrelsome individuals for “that gets you nowhere.” Titus 3:9-10 MSG)  Then he makes an interesting comment saying, “It’s obvious that such a person is out of line, rebellious against God.  By persisting in divisiveness he cuts himself off.” (Titus 3:11).
To me, that is another reason to not waste your time by responding to hurtful and divisive statements.  I saw this scripture first hand as the individuals who talked against us ended up separating themselves from regular contact with us, as well as unknowingly causing those they spoke with to become cautious and guarded in their presence and to this day are less trusting of them.  In modern vernacular… they kind of shot themselves in their own foot!  But… the love, kindness and grace of God isn’t done with them!  He wants to love on them and remove the root cause of their actions and their personal hurt so that they too are free to be all that He has called them to be.  That is another thing I admire about Papa God.  As we are willing… He is always working to perfect us to be more of a humble and loving example of Him!
And like I have said before… I am dumbfounded and amazed at how He continually pours His love out to me, forgiving me over and over again for the stupid things I have repeatedly done!  If He can and does this for me, then I have no right to want to strike out in anger to those who might have a slip up before me.  What do you think?  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

No Matter What They Do...


We have a couple of blue La-Z-Boy ® recliner chairs in our living room.  Over the last year or so our pooch seems to have taken ownership over one of them.  The chairs are on opposite sides of the room, one near the kitchen and the other nestled between the two large windows at the far right back corner of the room.  We keep Mandie’s chair covered with a blanket so that the material on the chair doesn’t soil.  I keep a pillow on the other one to thwart any attempts by the dog to lie there.  In her position near the corner windows Mandie has a commanding view of the kitchen and living room as well being able to be a sentry over the side and backyard of our apartment.
Since we have moved here, she has developed the funny habit of slowly exiting the chair by first placing her front paws on the floor and arching her back (still up on the chair…) to stretch before she gets down all the way.  It is a humorous process to observe, but gets even more hilarious when her front paws begin to slide across the hardwood floors.  This happened so quickly a few times that she actually slid right off the chair into a pile on the floor… complete with the silliest look plastered on her face!  To me it was like she was already committed to the action and could not reverse the process even if she wanted to!
Well, believe it or not, that commitment to an action got me to thinking about KINDNESS again this morning!  In Titus 3:1-2 the Apostle Paul instructs his young pastor friend Titus that believers “must always be ready to do something helpful and not say cruel things or argue.  They should be gentle and KIND to EVERYONE.” (Contemporary English Version)  He then went on to explain that we “used to be stupid, disobedient and foolish, as well as (be) slaves to all sorts of desires and pleasures… But after that the KINDNESS and LOVE of God our Savior toward man appeared…” (Titus 3:3-4 CEV/KJV)  And on top of all that, He declared that we had nothing to do with it.  It was strictly an act of God driven by His mercy, KINDNESS and grace. (Titus 3:5)
Mandie’s commitment to her get-off-the-chair routine… whether it works smoothly or not, has not stopped her from repeating the process day in and day out.  Most of the time it seems to work seamlessly and the few times it doesn’t go quite as planned… well, she just shrugs off the personal embarrassment and ignores the laughter from the two humans in the room and saunters off like nothing ever happened!
I have come to learn that this is the same commitment to the process of walking in God’s KINDNES even when people may say or do ugly things to you.  Titus 3:2 tells us to be gentle and KIND to EVERYONE.  It doesn’t stipulate whether they are fellow Christians, friends, family or the meanest person you know!  Depending on the translation you use, the Word is talking about EVERYONE or ALL men (ie; the race of man)  As far as I know, ALL means ALL!  I can’t find anywhere where Jesus gave us a list of certain situations or mentioned a particular group of people where with we can NOT do this.
My job and yours as ambassadors of Jesus Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:20) is to always respond in love as demonstrated in KINDNESS toward others, whether they are doing the same or not.  I know that I was shocked when close family members openly criticized and complained about me concerning some of the decisions I have made in the care of my wife, but you know, their lack of KINDNESS and love shouldn’t have affected my response to them.  And in reality it didn’t change my outward actions toward them, but I sure thought of a lot of ugly things that I am now ashamed of!
I believe that Paul is telling us that the bottom line here is that other people’s words and actions should not change the way that Jesus has instructed us to think and act - ALL THE TIME!  My trust and my self- worth should be so deeply rooted in the love of Christ for and through me that the weak places or failures in other people’s responses to the things of life do not bother me.
I have learned that my steady response of KINDNESS keeps the door open for Christ to work His change in other people’s lives… as well as in mine!  Our acts of KINDNESS will draw people to the message of Christ’s love, but only HIS actions can perform the changes in them.  Our job is just to love without judgment and condemnation and trust HIM to work in people’s hearts.  That brings us back to the truth of LOYALY, but then, I’ll share more on that tomorrow!
As for today… Live your life as an ambassador of Christ as demonstrated by your continual KINDNESS toward others whether you think they deserve it or not!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”

 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Loyalty


I spent a lot of time over the weekend studying, thinking, and praying about Kindness.  On Saturday evening I heard someone make a passing point of how “Loyalty” and “Kindness” were many times mentioned together throughout the Bible and especially in the Old Testament.  That thought immediately hit pay dirt in my mind and got me to thinking of how that was true in many of our experiences.
Proverbs 19:22 in the God’s Word © translations says “Loyalty is desirable in a person, and it is better to be poor than a liar.”  The King James Version calls it “kindness” while other translations call the desirable trait “mercy, grace, steadfast love, or charity.”  My immediate recollection was that the individuals who were less than kind to us were folks I considered to be loyal family members and church friends.  Seeing it from this angle helped me to understand that the reason I was shocked was because of their lack of loyalty to us in our time of emergency.
When I expected, hoped and really needed comfort and support, I felt criticism, judgment and neglect.  I think what really stung the most was not the vengeful words toward me, but the way they suddenly avoided Piper!  I suffered through a lot of angry, frustrating and confusing emotions when individuals that my upbeat, gentle and loving wife had ministered to through the years, suddenly ignored her when we walked through the hallway before and after church, or when close family members hardily called, neglected come by to visit, or even offer to assist her.
One of the many things I have learned through all of this and by looking at my own past behavior is that Kindness and/or Loyalty take a risk!  The people involved have to risk stepping out of their comfort zones to do things they may not be comfortable with, to make other people’s needs a priority in their own busy schedules, and to put aside one’s own ideas just to love on someone else without any strings attached, without any judgment, criticism and complaining.
Many folks want and for some reason think that they have the right to give their opinion for the situations in others lives, but never give an actual helping hand!  These same folks are the ones who want to receive the benefits of Kindness and/or Loyalty without taking any of the responsibility of it.  Kindness and/or Loyalty is another one of those action words.  It is not just empty words spoken on the phone or written in a card.
So what do you think?  Are you ready to take the risk with acts of Kindness and/or Loyalty this week?  Are you brave enough to step out of yourself and reach out to someone without having a personal agenda in mind?  I think that some of those that have blessed me the most are those few individuals that have exhibited extreme acts of Kindness and/or Loyalty to my wife by just sitting there quietly, holding hands with Piper and not saying a thing!  Sometimes, just taking the time to be there is the best medicine of all!  We don’t have to have all the answers or be able to say all the right things… just knowing that you are there for the one in need is the best gift ever!
Have a great week.  Be Kind and be Loyal to those you love, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”

Friday, August 15, 2014

Kindness and Truth


We had a good day yesterday.  In celebration of my wife’s birthday and in order to take advantage of the beautiful weather, we took a walk around our newest discovery, Morrisville Community Park.  While the park itself is not that big, it is attached to the Hatcher Creek Greenway which is a paved trail that meanders through thick groves of trees along the namesake creek.  For a few moments there it felt like we were transported back into the thick forests of some of our favorite State Parks in California.  And needless to say, Mandie our Australian Shepherd had a blast!
As I have mentioned before, my wife turned out to be quite the lover of the great outdoors and has always enjoyed spending time outside playing with the kids, going for walks or when we first returned to California after our stay in Oklahoma, puttering around the garden and flowerbeds in our large patio.
My Mom was always a strong proponent of getting outside and doing something whenever you felt lazy, bored or depressed.  On the other hand, my wife’s family has tended to rely on naps to meet that need.  Piper shed that tradition from almost the first moment we started dating.  It continues to amaze me how a quick jaunt around the neighborhood can revive and totally uplift her, even when she is having a weak day.
I was re-reading Mathew 7:1-7 this morning from the standpoint of a study of KINDNESS and TRUTH that we have been following each night this week on a TV ministry.  One of the young minister’s foundational scriptures is Proverbs 3:3-4 where we are instructed to “not let mercy or KINDNESS and TRUTH (ie; our reliance upon Christ) leave you.  Fasten them around your neck.  Write them on the tablet of your heart.  Then you will find favor and a good reputation (or a good report) with God and man.” (God’s Word © and International Standard Version)
This has been one of those foundational scriptures in my life and one that I repeatedly have stood on as I have reached out for assistance, resources and direction as I deal with the attack on my wife’s health.  At times I have been overwhelmed with the way complete strangers, people within governmental agencies and medical personnel have responded with such love, comfort and surprising agreement to our stand of faith.   I am ashamed to say that I have also been overwhelmed by some family and Christian friends who took an opposite approach and became an additional part of the problem whose actions did nothing to add to the solution!
It is very interesting to me how the scriptures can tell you exactly what was going on in the various experiences of your life.  As I read from Matthew 7:6  I threw up my hands and plopped back in my chair when Jesus talked about not giving what is holy to the dogs or tossing pearls before swine, “Otherwise, they will trample them and tear you to pieces.” (God’s Word ©)
I broke into laughter and looked at the dog, who looked up from her comfortable perch on the couch when I slid back in the chair, and said, “Oh… that’s why!  That’s exactly what happened to me.”  I am not inferring that the family members involved in this event were dogs or swine, but their actions did leave me very confused, and to be honest, quite angry when they seemed to take the heartfelt concerns I shared in confidence with them, turn it around into something negative and throw it back in my face in argumentative conversations with my kids later on.
At the time I felt very alone and vulnerable especially when I believe the Lord instructed me to start being very watchful as to what I share with them.  As it stands today, I only share the positive things that Piper is experiencing and stray clear of the potentially negative reports or my personal emotions.  I still fight thoughts though, that I am not being honest with them and that since they are her family that I should be totally open with them.  But you know, since following the Lord’s directions, peace has prevailed and they seem to be more appreciative and respectful of my care for Piper.  They also seemed to be more comfortable in her presence.  I guess it comes down to the wisdom of not feeding people’s fears.
I just love the Word of God, don’t you?  It’s all there!  Within its pages (when studied under the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit, with a humble and open heart) are all the answers, all the explanations and all the directions we need to successfully navigate everything that comes before us in our individual lives on this earth.  I also like the thought of keeping His KINDNESS and our reliance upon the TRUTH of Christ as visible medallions hanging as a necklace around our neck everywhere we go.  It just sort of sets the stage for His favor to prevail in our daily affairs! 
It’s kinda of like the other day when we were leaving the local Buick dealership after having our car inspected so we could get our North Carolina license plate.  There was a group of adults conversing a fair distance from the door but one gentleman quickly broke away from the group, ran across the sales floor to the door and held open it open so I could easily push Piper and her chair through.  That kind of stuff has been happening quite a bit!  I believe it is what Proverbs 3:4 calls the rewards of obeying the previous verse.  It is “favor… in the sight of God and man.” (English Standard Version)
Have a great weekend.  Wear your necklace of Godly KINDNESS and TRUTH with boldness, honor and love and experience His favor.  Keep in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Happy Birthday!


8-14, 8-14, 8-14.  Ah, that is a date that I have come to know better than my own birthday!  It is the day that my lovely wife, confidant and best friend was born!  The question of “what is her birth date?” has become common security protocol and seems to be the first thing that is asked of me whenever I conduct business in her name.  In some places like CVS where we get her prescriptions filled on a regular basis, I automatically answer all the questions about her ID before they even ask them! 
It has gotten to the point that I normally fumble with my thoughts when I am asked for my birth date!  We were actually born on the same day five months apart, so the confusion is a little inherent!  And even though I tend to forget most everyone’s birthdays, the date similarity is the one thing that helped me to always remember hers… Thank God!  We even tried to get married on the 14th of the month but were foiled by the unavailability of the reception hall on that day in June of 1975!
I have talked about the love of my life enough times in this blog that my regular readers probably know Piper as well as I do!  What more can I say?  From the moment I saw her walking through the crowed cafeteria toward me during that first school dance (and our first official date) as seniors in High School, I was hooked!  Her bubbly personality, her strength powered by her joyful spirit, her compassion, her intelligence, her personal commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ, and her “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” attitude, along with her love for me has been a major foundation for my life, and the thing that has countless times, given me the ability to go on when all seemed hopeless!
Whenever I have been asked to tell her story, as I have a lot lately while we establish new doctors and care networks, I immediately share how she had (and still has) the ability to light up any room that she walks into.  Her bright smile and loving acceptance of anyone, no matter what they looked like or may have done, would make all be at peace in her presence.  She also seemed to possess a sixth sense that drew her to those in need. 
In our many years of youth work, while I directed the programs and was sort of the “front” man, she would quietly “work” the room ministering love, hope and joy to those who quietly sat in the corners alone and many times forgotten by the others present.  I can’t even remember all the names of the countless individuals that she persistently ministered to and eventually built up their self-confidence to become vital members and many times, leaders in our groups of young people!  And that gift followed her around the various neighborhoods we lived in, the stores we frequented and with family, friends and acquaintances.
So to my lovely partner in life, I salute you and rejoice in the blessing and honor I have to hold a very significant place in your life!  And even though we may be going through a valley at this point in time, I am assured that it is but a bump in the prosperous and Holy Spirit, power packed life that the good Lord has called you to live!  It is with a confident confession that I stand in agreement with the personal word that the Lord has given you declaring that “You shall not die but live and go on to tell what I the Lord has done for you!” (Psalm 118:17 – God’s Word © personalized from the Lord)
Happy, blessed and joyful birthday Honey!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

First Responders


We had a whooper of a storm blow through last night!  They had been predicting a increasing chance of Thunderstorms as the day progressed, but the day ended up being partially cloudy and rather pleasant… until around 8:00 pm.  We were watching a movie on TV when we noticed flashes of lightning through the windows and realized that it was pouring outside.  A quick glance out the patio confirmed that it was probably going to get worse before it got better.
A little while later the lightning and thunder intensified with one pop of thunder actually shaking the room.  Then without much notice a bright flash of lightning enveloped our living room as if someone opened the door and shone in a bank of high intensity lights and whoosh… the power went off and the thunder boomed!  It all happened so fast that all I could say was, “Did you see that?”  My wife simply looked at me with a smile on her face while the dog who had nestled earlier at (or rather ON) my feet looked up with wide-opened eyes!
Piper was probably remembering the time back in Oklahoma when we were home alone in the middle of the afternoon one day, huddled around the computer paying bills when a terrific blast of thunder hit and shook the room and rattled the glass so surprising loud and hard that we literally jumped!  Then we laughed so hard that we almost cried!
What was so surprising last night was the way it came through the patio windows and lit up the whole room!  Well, the power was only out for a few moments, but we lost our satellite connection for the rest of the night!  Afterwards I peeked outside to make sure the building was okay and watched the water cascading down from the heavens and the little stream that had formed in our backyard.  All was fine for the rest of the night and the rain finally subsided around 10 pm.
As has become our habit, I turned on the local classical radio station in our bedroom as we prepared for bed.  Then in between the National Weather Service’s emergency flash flood warnings that were being broadcast, I read from our healing scriptures confession sheet to my wife.  When I got down to the bottom of the first page, I thought of Romans 8:1 and stated aloud: “There is therefore NOW NO condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (KJV)… and a revelation hit me!  As my wife nodded in agreement, I heard myself saying to her that “those who had come against us should have known that they could not speak out condemning words because this verse says that we NOW cannot be condemned!”  These were mature Christian people who were well-versed in the scriptures and that basic truth should have registered with them!
At that moment it became even clearer to me that they had spoken from a false foundation of fear that allowed their spiritual (and physical senses) to be clouded.  What really confused me at the time was that their accusations were so blatantly incorrect that I was aghast in unbelief that they could reasonably accuse me of such atrocities!  After the shock finally wore off, I was actually embarrassed for them.
This morning as I awoke to a beautiful day complete with bright blue skies, I turned in my Bible to Romans 8:1 and continued to study where I had left off when I tuned the lights out last night.  As I read I came to two conclusions about the revelation I had received.  Most importantly when the accusations began, I too should have immediately realized the fact that my wife and I could no longer be condemned due to our present tense position in Christ Jesus.  And secondly… not only did the accusers have NO right to condemn us, but that I also had NO right to RECEIVE their false judgments or condemnation!
Romans 8:2 clearly informs us that “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made us free from the adverse sentences and convictions of the law of sin and death.” (KJV- personalized using the Greek definitions of the words in the verse)  Therefore you and I have been set free and should walk in the freedom that Christ has provided for us!  That freedom allows us to respond to the atrocities in the world with a rapid response of God’s love and grace!
During the storm last night I heard, sporadically through the night, the sirens of the First Responders as they responded to various emergency situations around the city.  As First Responder’s in the kingdom of God, we too should immediately respond with the love and grace of God when involved with those who should know better than react in the adverse way they do in certain situations.  According to Romans 8:1, not only do we have the right to do that, but it is also the RIGHT thing to do… no matter who or how another responds to the fear that suddenly comes upon them.
Many individuals who respond heroically in stressful situations will tell you that they didn’t even think about what they did… that they just automatically responded to the need.  As believers, I think that we should be so steeped in the truth of God’s Word that we too just automatically respond in the way that His Word dictates us to follow!  I sure like it when I do it that way… and while I may not do it right every time, I am working toward that goal!  What do you think?  Are you First Responder material?  That’s the way God sees you.  He sees you as fully equipped in Christ!  Give it a try!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting to RESPOND LIKE today?”

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Best is Yet to Come!


As I read from Matthew 7:1-6 earlier today, it was as if the Lord was reading my mail!  It felt like I was reading a history book that contained the story of my recent life!  It brought back the memory of some very painful times, but also impressed upon me how much I have grown and learned since then.  That look back in time helped me to see the motivation behind the verbal attacks that my wife and I had endured and gave me the grace and strength to continue to move forward within the relationships that were affected.
I have become a firm and relentless believer in ALWAYS responding to the unreasonableness of people, no matter how close or mature in Christ they may seem to be, within the guidelines of God’s grace and love.  I have come to learn that a quick smile and a closed mouth is better than an immediate and angry retort uttered in self-defense.  When unrightly judged… judge not back and thereby keep the door open for God to calm the storm that has erupted from the mouth of the other individuals!
My wife and I were listening to a young minister last night who talked about the importance of people seeing more of the grace of God in your life than hear your personal wisdom and insight.  I quickly learned that my attempts to straighten out false assumptions and accusations were immediately deflected by a wall of fear and total disregard for what I had to say!
In the long run of things, it was the graceful smile, patience and the passing of time that allowed the physical proof of the manifestation of our various faith-filled actions that quieted the naysayers!  I’ve learned that no matter what is going on around me, no matter what others are thinking, saying and/or doing about me, what matters the most is my personal connection and unyielding obedience to the Lord’s directions.
I’ve always been a people pleasing type of person, and believe me… This has NOT been an easy lesson to learn!  I was talking to our youngest daughter last night and she was encouraging me by telling me of her firm belief that God still has special plans for my wife and I.  She clearly sees us in the pulpit ministry again and while there is ZERO indication of that in the current place and time, I KNOW that God isn’t done with us yet.
I am sure that the hard lessons learned within the last few years are in preparation for things to come.  God has a reason for and in everything!  Understand, that I am in NO WAY implying that God caused any of the hard places in our lives, but He definitely uses those things to fine tune us for greater service unto Him!
So today I encourage you.  If you are in the midst of hard and or difficult times, NEVER GIVE UP on God.  Continue to seek and obediently follow His guidelines and loving care for you.  Put a smile on your face and allow His grace to intervene.  Learn your lessons and know that His best for you is yet to come!  Have a wonderful day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom are you expecting today?”