The new house!

The new house!
This is our spring and summer view from the kitchen of our new home in Oklahoma!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

It Just Didn't Feel Right...

We had quite the busy day yesterday!  After we hurriedly had our breakfast and got ready for the day we hopped into the car and headed off to downtown Durham.  We had a profitable appointment with another Physical Therapist and a Representative from a Safety Products company.  After asking a bunch of questions about our lifestyle we discussed the various needs and concerns that we would like met by a new chair for Piper. Then we tried out and decided on a custom fit chair that has a tilt seat that will best support her hips, neck, head and upper torso.  The chair will also have bigger and wider tires so that we can take it off paved walkways and be able to experience the great outdoor hiking trails again!  The chair can also breakdown easily and should fit in either of our car trunks!
On the way home we heard on the local news talk station that it was National Lasagna Day, so we stopped at the store and bought some Italian Lasagna with Ricotta cheese and some salad makings for dinner!  Hey… Lasagna is Italian and we’re Italian… so why not celebrate!  Then we went home, had lunch and promptly fell asleep on the couch!  Ah… What a day!
Later that night things got even better!  Just before I turned the lights out I was reading from a book about the power of the name of Jesus when I came across a mind-boggling statement.  The author made the point that: “Every new birth is a miracle; every answer to prayer is a miracle, every victory over temptation is a miracle.”  The next sentence made me sit up in bed and pay attention!  He stated: “When Reason takes the place of the miraculous, Christianity loses its virility, fascination and fruitfulness.”*
That last statement is something that my wife and I have believed and lived over the range of our entire relationship.  But hearing it presented in one simple sentence tended to take my breath away and definitely gave me something to meditate on throughout the night.  We have personally experienced that explanation of the truth of God’s modus operandi in our interactions with other believers, especially over the last six years.  I have seen some respond to my wife’s needs with natural REASONING that if allowed to, would have robbed Piper of the Gospel’s virility, fascination and fruitfulness.
As I explained this to her this morning over breakfast, I commented that when some folks talked to us with their worldly REASON and did not agree with our stand of faith and the approach we were taking, it was like something just did not feel right.  I couldn’t explain it at the time, but their REASONING had a certain stench to it!  I was then reminded of a story that our Pastor in the church we were ministering at back in the late 1980’s had related to us.
He told of a time many years previous when he and his small Holiness congregation were worshipping the Lord in their church when suddenly the sweet aroma of roses filled the room.  The peculiar thing was that there were no roses planted anywhere near the building or adjacent neighborhood!  He explained that the scent was the presence of the Holy Spirit as He responded to the praises of the people.
That memory gave me an “A-Ha!” moment as I realized that people’s worldly REASONING was a dead end and gave off the stench of death, while our stand of faith brought the fragrance of virility and fruitfulness!  As a Christian… putting our total trust in Him just feels (and smells) right!  Faith in HIS Word has increased our EXPECTATIONS and focused our fascination as well as our attention on Him.  And so far… He hasn’t let us down!
Do you have any similar stories about the sweet fragrance of the Holy Spirit in your life’s experiences?  I’d love to hear about them!  I need to take tomorrow off as we have another morning appointment, so I’ll encourage you to seek the sweet fragrance of God’s virility, fascination and fruitfulness this weekend as you pursue Him and His Word first in every situation you face!
Stay in tune to God’s Word and keep asking yourself… “What or in Whom am I expecting to experience the virility, fascination and fruitfulness with the sweet scent of life in today?”

* “The Wonderful Name of Jesus,” E.W. Kenyon, p 23, Thirty first printing, ©1998, Kenyon Gospel Publishing Society

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"On Alert!"

During the summer following my senior graduation, my parents and I took a trip to Michigan to visit my sister and her family.  Sue’s husband was a Captain in the US Air Force and they lived on base at Wurtsmith Air Force Base located in northeastern Michigan, a couple of miles west of Lake Huron.  The base was closed in 1993, but back in the Cold War days of 1971 it was a major instillation and home of the 94th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Strategic Air Command bomber units and aerial refueling air groups with the mission of strategic deterrence in the event of enemy attacks over that region of the USA.
If I remember correctly, we drove through the central states on the way to Michigan and then returned via the northern route enjoying the outrageous scenery of such states as North Dakota and Montana.  Once we arrived at our destination, we spent the first few days with them on base and then moved into a cabin they had rented for us on a nearby lake.
Living on base was almost like being in a different world for me!  There was the constant roar of the fighter’s afterburners as they flew over the neighborhood during their take offs, the seas of blue uniformed Air Force personnel everywhere you went, the incredible jets, huge B52 bombers and the KC 135 tankers maneuvering around and parked on the nearby runways and the special comradery that everyone seemed to share.
My brother-in-law was a navigator on the KC 135 tankers.  His unit’s responsibilities (along with bomber and fighter wings) included operation at full readiness.  In that capacity they had air crews “On Alert” 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 364 days a year.  The various crews rotated “On Alert” status.  When on duty they slept in special quarters, drove specially marked vehicles, flew specially located, prepped and ready to go aircraft and when the sirens went off, had to be in the air in a matter of minutes.  It was a job that everyone on the base yielded their utmost attention to and took very seriously.
I thought about the airmen being “On Alert” this morning as I read from Colossians 3:1-4 in The Message Bible.  Verse one begins by giving us the admonition “So, if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it!”  Then in the third verse we are told to “Look up, and Be Alert to what is going on around Christ --- that’s where the action is.”
While staying on that Air Force Base many years ago, I found myself constantly looking up as the booming sound and vibration of the low flying fighter jets naturally drew my attention to the skies.  I get the idea from Paul’s words in Colossians that this is exactly how we should be drawn to Christ as the sound, vibration and excitement of His love, His miraculous power and His undeserved grace causes us to want to look up and be where the action is!
Do you find yourself right smack in the middle of His action?  As an active Christian, I believe it is the place that we should all aspire to be… 24/7!  I believe that being active in His supernatural action should be a normal part of our daily responsibilities.  Is it for you?  Are you actively pursuing and finding yourself involved in His actions?  If not… then just maybe it is time for you to move on… To be “On Alert” and look up to where He is… and where He is, the action is not far behind!
Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His action by staying in the Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting to be 'On ALERT' for today?”

PS:  One of the other fond memories I have of that trip is the day we returned home.  As soon as we got in the door I called my favorite girl (now my wife) who I had been away from for the incredible period of over two weeks… and stirred up some action!  I told her a little fib and let her think that we were still on the road and wouldn’t be returning until the following day.  Then I hoped in the family station wagon and zipped up to her house with the hopes of surprising her…
Well, it didn’t go off quite as I had imagined as her sister opened the door and in her usual blunt manner blurted out: “What are YOU doing here?”  That comment kind of surprised me and as I stood there trying to come up with a clever reply, I was saved as my adorable girlfriend peeked around from the hallway looking toward the front door with the cutest grin on her face and instantly brought peace and joy to the awkward situation!  To be honest, I don’t remember anything after that… but I am sure it was a wonderful reunion!
By the way, we have another early appointment with another Physical Therapist tomorrow, so I’ll be taking the day off.  But I’ll have a fresh new blog post on Thursday - See Ya then!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Opinionated People...

Do you know anybody that always seems to have an OPINION on everything?  I think we all have come across individuals like that.  I’ve sure met my share of them over the last six years as I’ve conversed with them concerning the course to follow when it comes to the battle for my wife’s health.  At times I have had to shake my head in disbelief as it quickly becomes apparent that many of them have very little basis of truth for their thoughts.
It just so happens that the very first meaning for the word OPINION in is “A belief or judgement that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty.”  I sometimes wonder if these folks really hear what is coming from their lips!  And like I have stated many times, it definitely throws me for a loop when some good Christian folks we know completely disregard what the bible clearly declares about God’s purposes, abilities and love for my wife and her chances at a healthy, long and blessed life and side with what medical science says about her future.
The King James Version states Colossians 3:2 as “Set your affections on things above…”  According to Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries, the thought behind this action describes someone’s ability “to exercise their mind, that is to have an OPINION.”  Here the usage of “OPINION would be consistent with the second meaning described in as “The formal expression of a professional judgement, as in the case of the Law where a judge or court defines the reasoning concerning the principles of law used in reaching a decision on a case.”
Following this line of thought we see that Paul is telling his readers to form an OPINION, in this case, that is always based on “things above,” according to the professional judgement of Papa God and His laws in the court room of the kingdom of God as plainly declared in His written Word.  Paul further describes our lives as being “hidden with Christ.”  In other words, when people see and hear us… they should be hearing and seeing Jesus… not us and our own personal (worldly based or personally experienced) OPINION on any subject, situation or need.
I got to test this course of action this morning right after reading about it in the Word!  When I sat down on the floor next to my wife’s side of the bed to start off the day by speaking His Word of truth over her and her needs, I found myself verbally confessing that we were lining up our OPINION of Piper’s health in agreement with God’s Word, and spoke out the scriptures with that declaration in mind.
Then a few minutes later as I was helping her to get ready, it was as if she was resisting my efforts the whole time!  When I attempted to remove some items she would hold onto my hand inhibiting my efforts.  When I went to slide her arm into the sleeve of her sweater she would spread open her hand to impede the process!  She would hold things down when I tried to pull them up… but you know… I had the Word and its understanding in me and I was not about to let the circumstances affect our stand on His truth.
So, how did I handle it?  I just smiled, laughed and kept reminding the enemy of our souls that we already had the victory because we were aligned with God’s OPINION on her health and on my ability to successfully help her get ready this morning!  (Although, I did rip a hole in the waistband of her old jogging pants when I got a little too exuberant in the process!)
After everything we’ve been through over the last six years, after everything I have seen going on in my wife, withstanding some very insensitive, discouraging words and corresponding actions from some I thought I could trust, and the painful awareness of what medical science says about my wife’s condition, I have come to the point that the only OPINION that matters to me is Papa God’s!
What about you?  What or Who’ OPINION matters most to you?  Who’s OPINION do you side with when the negative situations arise in your life?  Who’s OPINION do you share with others in need?  I would challenge you this week to consider that thought before you open your mouth in response to someone!  Have a great week.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Who’s OPINION am I expecting to share and receive today?”

Friday, July 24, 2015

Fear, Faith and Love...

Have you ever stopped and thought about how much fear there is in the world?  I’ve been noticing lately how the news media, much of the product promotions we see on TV or online, and many of the popular series that people watch are based on the premise or pretense of things that we might be afraid of.  I was pleased to see that the Fox news program “Happening Now” concluded yesterday’s program with a good news event concerning the heroic rescue by a Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer of four fishermen in the Northwest whose ship was sinking in rough weather.
As I become more and more aware of the advertisers practices, I find that I now tend to smile when I see the ads playing off the consumers fears of hair loss, weight gain, lost investments, home security, car accidents, damage by bad drugs, being left behind in your job or from the “in-crowd” because you are still using last week’s old cell phone technology, or that you’re just plain boring because you are not driving a hot new car, taking expensive vacations in exotic locations, drinking the right alcoholic beverage or going back to college to finish or get another degree.
As I perused the headline news on my Yahoo home page this morning, my attention was drawn to the article on the latest information on the shooting in the Louisiana theater last night.  When I finished the story I looked down through the attached comments that other readers had left.  Many of them expressed the individual’s concerns for their personal safety and how it was getting to the point that everyday folks can’t go anywhere anymore without fear of bodily harm.
I have to admit that I even felt a twang of concern at the weight of that possibility.  Then I remembered Papa God’s promises to us like when Paul told the young Pastor Timothy when he was dealing with concerns of his youth in the face of his first pastorate.  Paul basically told him to “man-up” and stand tall in the revelation that “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind,” (MKJV) or when he told the Roman Christians that “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (God’s Word ©)
When I turned on my bible study program this morning it opened right back up to where I left it yesterday at Colossians 2:7 and Ephesians 3:17-20.  I was immediately drawn back into the bright light, reality and power of the effect of Papa God’s love on, in, for and through me!  These defining scriptures should cement in us the ultimate plan of the Gospel of love that Jesus brought to the world.
In these verses Paul prays that God’s agape love would be the good ground that we sink our roots into and is that on which we have our life’s firm foundation.  Then he goes on to say something that totally astounds me…  In Ephesians 3:18-20 he basically declares that our ever increasing, personal and intimate experiential knowledge of Christ’s love opens up and expands our EXPECTATIONS to the limitless, boundless possibilities of seeing the fullness of God working in our daily lives!  - WOW! – Talk about being “satisfied with a long life and being wowed by all the redemptive processes of our salvation!”  (literal modern translation of Psalm 91:16)
And according to how I read, understand and have personally experienced the written Word of God, I firmly believe that it is Papa God’s intention that this life style is to be the norm in a Christian’s life and not just a distant hope or a hit and miss proposition!
What do you think?  Absurd or possible?  It was the norm in the book of Acts… why not for us today?  Now that’s definitely something that will spark your weekend!  Have a super weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I EXPECTING to cause me to conquer fear, move mountains and be the head and not the tail today?”

Thursday, July 23, 2015

His Love and My Expectations...

Have you ever had one of those days where things are going great and then suddenly take a turn for the worse?  I sort of had one of those yesterday.  I had been working on a plan for quite some time to lower the ridiculous amount of money we were paying for health insurance premiums.  The final key was to make some adjustments to our monthly income and then after a lengthy conversation with an insurance specialist yesterday morning, we were finally able to come up with a solution that enabled us to keep our current plan with a greatly reduced monthly expense!
Needless to say I was very happy with the outcome of my efforts and found myself wearing a big smile for most of the day… until about thirty minutes into our dinner.  As I was biting into a delicious Rainer Cherry one of my back teeth suddenly split in half!  I was a little stunned at what happened but was relieved that there was no pain.  But after a few moments of quietly sitting there, I began to have to fight off some sarcastic thoughts like: “Now what?” and “What’s next?”
It was like everything I was not particularly happy about over the last six years came flooding into my mind.  I was reminded of all the fun things I miss and would love to be doing with my wife during this time of our lives and can’t because of her health needs.  It had all the makings of a big pity party! 
But suddenly in the midst of all those complaining thoughts, I began to see all the time Piper and I have spent in the Word of God.  Those twice daily confessions at her bedside that begin and end our days together, the countless books we have and are currently reading outlining God’s miraculous power to heal and turn the world’s impossibilities into His possibilities for us, and the many times He has quietly spoken to my heart to confirm His unfailing LOVE for Piper and I.
All of a sudden those negative reasonings did not seem to hold much power or influence over me.  The intimate knowledge of His LOVE that we have repeatedly experienced began to flow and the complaining was silenced while joyful praise began to flow from my lips and His peace took its place!
That incident reminded me of Paul’s words to the Colossians and Ephesians that I’ve been studying all week.  He initiates the main subject of chapter two in Colossians declaring: “Because they (the Christians he was writing to – including you and me) are united in LOVE, I work so that they may be encouraged…” (God’s Word ©)  It would seem that the people’s Agape LOVE for God, themselves and each other motivated Paul to work diligently to encourage or increase their EXPECTATIONS of God’s best for them.
Then, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, a few verses later he directed them to “Sink your roots in him, and build on him.” (Colossians 2:7 God’s Word ©)  He goes a little deeper in explanation of this instruction in his similar letter written to the Ephesians (which most scholars agree that he wrote at the same time as many of the verses are almost identical) explaining “that (His) LOVE may be the ground which you sink your roots and have your foundation” and that “you will know Christ’s LOVE, which goes FAR beyond any (natural) knowledge.”  (Ephesians 3:17 & 19 God’s Word ©)
So again we see him pointing out that our personal, intimate, experiential knowledge (which is defined by the use of the Greek word translated “know” in verse 19) of Papa God’s LOVE is that which acts as the springboard into or our foundation of Christian maturity and the ever increasing EXPECTATIONS of His best, of His LOVE and of His Word working in, for and through us!
And that points us all back to Jesus’ reply to the question He answered concerning what the greatest of Moses’ teaching was.  Without any hesitation Jesus declared: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and most important commandment.  The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:36-39 God’s Word ©)
So, just like almost everything else in the Bible, our EXPECTATIONS are based on our personal, intimate, experiential knowledge of God’s LOVE for Him, for us and then for others.  Sounds pretty simple to me, doesn’t it?  God’s Agape LOVE is the foundation, the guide and the power behind our EXPECTATIONS of God’s best.  If you don’t really know how much He LOVES you then your EXPECTATIONS will always fall short of what He can and is willing to do for you, no matter what everything or everyone around you might say that is contrary to His Word! 
Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Who’s LOVE am I EXPECTING to increase in my intimate experiential knowledge of today?”

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Expecting the Impossible!

I was talking with our youngest daughter on the phone from Oklahoma last night.  She was very excited as she is about two weeks away from the birth of their first child, a little girl whom they have named Sarah Piper!  We covered many different subjects during our conversation and at one point she shared how she was a little nervous about being a mom as she had never done that before.  I immediately countered explaining how she is very much like her Mom who never seemed to be afraid to conquer any task set before her.
JoAnna has already shown herself to be following in Piper’s footsteps for she has already set out and completed many activities that others would only talk about from beginning a small ballet school, writing and publishing her first novel and learning not only to ride but also own her own motorcycle!  I proceeded to tell JoAnna about a conversation that her Mom and I had on the previous day…
While Piper and I were walking around the neighborhood I began to think about and share with her how Papa God has always seemed to lead us in a different way or into new and in many respects, uncharted lands than the rest of our extended families.  I guess you could say that we have been pioneers in many areas of our lives!  I could easily see Piper and I on a covered wagon in the mid-1850’s trudging across the wilds of the great plains on our way west with excited EXPECTATIONS and visions of new lands and new adventures.
I think the only one in either of our immediate families that understood us and the passion that has driven us over the years was my Mom.  She never questioned our ideas and plans but stood by us with a smile and words of encouragement, offering to help us wherever and however she could… even when things may not have gone exactly as we thought they would!  Most other relatives usually met our adventurous ideas with a raised eyebrow or with words that betrayed their thoughts of what they considered to be our irresponsible behavior!
As we talked on our walk, I began to realize that the Lord was trying to encourage me that nothing had changed.  Sure our situation with Piper’s health is different, difficult and trying, but He still has plans for us and that we should be EXPECTING Him to lead us in the same unconventional ways that He has in the past!  Over the years He has repeatedly demonstrated to us that the impossible is possible with Him… as long as we keep our focus on Him and as Colossians 2:7 says and Ephesians 3:17 clarifies, that “ (His) love may be the ground which you sink your roots and on which you have your foundation.” (God’s Word ©)
I get so excited when I watch JoAnna and her husband as they seek to experience their relationship, soon coming family and their future under the guidance and love of Papa God!  I firmly believe that they also will continue to experience the impossible possibilities of life that only their faith in Him and His love for them, their EXPECTATIONS of His best and a sensitive ear that stays in tune to His leadings… no matter how unconventional they may be… can give.
Psalm 5:2 caught my attention this morning as David implored the Lord exclaiming: “Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you.” (NLT)  In modern vernacular I believe David was saying that when He thought of and came to the Lord in prayer, that he considered no one else or of nothing but Him and His ways and His answers.  In other words, David fully EXPECTED God to be His director, His comforter, and the only provider of the requests that he brought to Him each day.
Over the years my wife and I have come to the place where we have placed our EXPECTATIONS in the same ONE that David did.  I am also confident that our children are doing the same.  How about you?  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “In What or in Whom am I expecting to depend on today?”


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Enabling Your Deflector Shields...

One of the best things I have learned since I took on the role of Piper’s 24/7 caretaker is to always put things back where they were!  Over the last few years I have gained a whole new appreciation for people who take care of others on a regular basis.  I have come to understand it as one of the most taxing jobs in the world!  I worked for many years in management in a couple of large electronics companies, in supervisorial positions for a major retail chain, ran my own business and have served as an Assistant Pastor in five different churches and although I have had some stressful times there, it dulls in comparison to my loving 24 hour care of my wife!
As a 24 hour caregiver you’re always on!  You don’t get to go home and forget about the job when your shift is over.  Don’t get me wrong… I am definitely not complaining here… I am so blessed that I was able to quit my outside jobs and be the special one to see to her care.  But if you don’t watch it, you can easily turn it into a grueling, thankless and exhausting position!  Besides keeping a joyful and good attitude, staying built up in the Word, singing a lot and getting outside for daily walks, the other practice that has tremendously saved my patience is to know and EXPECT to find the things I need to do my job where they are supposed to be!
That’s why I always wash the dishes and put them away right after we eat our meals, put Piper’s hair brush back in the same spot after brushing her hair throughout the day, wash, dry, fold and put away her clothes on a daily basis, put the various remote controllers down on the table next to the couch, hang up the car keys on the ceramic key rack in the kitchen, return our hats, coats and the dog’s leash to the coat rack near the front door and so on!  I discovered that when I am tired, it is way too easy to get upset, loose focus and have to fight off tinges of discouragement because I can’t seem to put my hand on the tools that I need at any given time!  It is just one less thing that I have to think about because I always EXPECT them to be where they are supposed to be.
I think that this is a very good illustration of having a similar excitement and earnest EXPECTATION of God’s Word working for us!  As I studied the Word this morning I had to pause and smirk a bit at the question of “If you’re not going to EXPECT what you are asking and believing for in prayer to happen… then why pray at all?”  In Psalm 5:3 the New Living Translation records the Psalmist as saying: “Listen to my voice in the morning Lord.  Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait EXPECTANTLY.”
I can’t tell you how many times I have found myself beginning to be anxious for something concerning Piper’s health and then been reminded that I already prayed about that potential emergency and need not worry about it at all!  Most times I don’t even consider the potential of any negative symptoms or of the possibilities of her not reaching a complete and whole recovery.  I’ve already prayed God’s will over her and am EXPECTING her body to respond accordingly.
To be perfectly honest, it usually stuns me a little when someone says something sad about her situation or (thinking that they are being helpful) encourage me to be realistic and prepare myself for and accept what medical science says is the inevitable conclusion of this disease.  It especially blows me away when Christians side with the limitations of the medical field.
We were watching the Star Trek series reboot movie from a few years ago over the weekend and I was impressed at how much they depended on the ship's electronic shields to protect them from all harm.  Most times they didn’t even consider the damage that might be inflicted upon them by an enemy attack because they knew they were protected.  Well that got me to thinking about how much I depend on my EXPECTATIONS to see my Biblically based prayers and requests come to fruition.  I usually don’t consider any other possibility and am surprised when other Christians don’t respond the same way!
John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible states that the Psalmist was “patiently expecting it till he had it, and the ground of his confidence were the nature and perfections of God…”  In other words, David’s intimate knowledge of Papa God gave him the unshakable confidence in his EXPECTATIONS of God hearing and positively responding to his morning prayers.
Do you have that same unshakable confidence in your prayers?  How well do you really know Papa God and His will as clearly explained in His Word?  Once you put up your EXPECTORS do you ever doubt that God’s Word will work for you?  Or do you, like Captain Kirk on the Star Ship Enterprise, just sit confidently in the Captain’s chair and EXPECT to sail through to victory?
Have a good day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What Biblically Based prayers am I EXPECTING to happen for me today?”

Monday, July 20, 2015

Personal Expectations

I noticed a few years back, that our now eleven year old Australian Shepherd was beginning to lose her interest for breakfast.  Sometimes she would wait by my side as I filled her bowl while at other times she’d just sit next to my wife near the screen door and observe what I was doing from afar.  My immediate thought was she didn’t like the fancy food we were giving her, so I began to try different varieties.  By the time we got here to North Carolina it was a regular routine with her.  She usually looks at her bowl, walks away and might return within a few moments or a few hours later to consume it.
I finally talked to the vet and after a thorough exam and various tests without finding anything wrong with her, we tried some professional feed and saw no change in the dog’s eating habits.  Following that we came to the conclusion that the dog is just a picky eater!  This morning we played out the game again!  I filled up her bowl, topped it with some meat drippings, called out to Mandie… who was resting in her chair about four feet away… and watched her slowly step off the chair, stretch out and then casually walk to her bowl where she simply looked back at me and then sauntered off to the area rug in the living room!
Her tune changed rather quickly though (as it normally does), when I placed a piece of breakfast sausage into the frying pan.  Instantly she was sitting at my side with a pleading look upon her face!  Well, I guess I am just getting soft in my older age because I flipped her a small bite which she devoured.  After consuming the tasty snack, Mandie jumped on the couch, rolled over on her back and began to roll back and forth and bark!  Her antics caused me to burst into laughter for she had the funniest look as she glanced my way, while upside down on the furniture.  At that point I exclaimed to my wife, “Do you see that?  She looks like she’s expecting something!”  Then after a couple of minutes the dog jumped off the couch, went over to her bowl and gobbled down her breakfast!
That look of EXPECTANCY got me thinking about my preaching classes in Bible School.  As I began to study in preparation for my first practice sermon before the class, I sat alone in the living room of the duplex we were renting, and came across Hebrews 11:1 in my newly purchased God’s Word © Version of the New Testament.  That one little verse set my life on a power charged journey that continues to grow in me today… some six years later.
As a born again, Spirit filled Christian, active since the mid- 1970’s in a denomination that stresses the importance of faith, I was quite familiar with and had memorized Hebrews 11:1 but I had never seen it in the light of this modern and in many places, amazingly accurate translation.  My little red leather bound copy of The God’s Word © translation, which has a forward written by the Reverend Billy Graham, explains that “Faith assures us of things we EXPECT and convinces us of the existence of things we cannot see.”
On that day in that funky little duplex, the revelation of the power of our EXPECTATIONS set my faith aflame with excitement, hunger and a new found love for Christ and His Word.  That teasing look of fun, excitement and challenge in our dog’s eyes while lying upside down on our couch this morning rekindled that revelation of the question that I heard myself asking on that day and every day since: “What am I expecting today?”
Looking back now, I can see how it had to have been part of God’s plan to prepare us for and help us through the journey we are in concerning the attack on my wife’s health.  That one single question has caused me to really investigate and come to terms with all my beliefs and acknowledge whether I really believe and am committed to what I have been teaching to others for the last 40 plus years or not! 
And while I am still looking at what’s inside of me, I have come to the conclusion that I have been around the truth, love and power of God and His Word and have witnessed too many miraculous signs and wonders… beginning with the healing of a teen’s broken arm at the very first snow camp we brought our group to when we were young Youth Ministers in the mid-1970’s… to not excitedly EXPECT God’s best in the face of ANY negative situation, any need, any sickness or disease as well as anybody’s words of doubt and unbelief!
What are your thoughts on this subject?  Better yet, what are your EXPECTATIONS when it comes to God’s Word working in your life?  I would encourage you to think on that for a while this week.  It very well might be the catalyst that will turn your life and your “world upside down!” (See: Acts 17:6)  Have an astonishing week!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, July 17, 2015

Breaking News!

I flipped on the TV in the bedroom to the Fox News channel yesterday as I was helping my wife to get ready for the day.  And as you would expect, they were devoting all their resources to cover the unfolding story of the shootings in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  It was still in the early stages of the event and not a lot of confirmed information was yet available, so the reporters and analysts were trying to give some reason to the traumatic situation.  It was a little eerie in that the shooter was reported to be driving a silver Mustang convertible and at that point was still supposed to be at large.
My wife and I were planning to go grocery shopping as soon as we were ready and I had planned to take our silver Mustang convertible as it is easier to help Piper in and out of that vehicle than our Buick due to its larger doors and contoured seats.  But even though we were a state away from the incident, I reconsidered when I thought about the frenzy that the news might be stirring up in people!
We ended up tuning into the Fox News channel at various times throughout the day to stay current on the tragedy.  At one point I became aware that, as with most of the shocking events that are covered on a national level, after a while it seems that the main message that the news programs are unknowingly or possibly knowingly conveying is FEAR.  Later in the day I took a peek at some of the Christian social networking groups that I belong to and read a little bit of everything from arguments on gun control and our rights to bear arms in order to protect ourselves, to calls for prayer for the families of the loved ones killed or injured in the shootings in Chattanooga.
This morning as I thought about yesterday’s events in light of the Word of God that I was reading, I actually found myself getting quite excited about the state of our world.  When you look at the troubled times that the countries across the globe are experiencing and cross reference with what the Word says about it, you find out that it’s all there and referred to as the Last Days!  And like I’ve said many times before, when you read the end of The Book you discover that WE WIN!
We have friends and even some relatives that are very keen to the last day’s events and can’t wait for Jesus to come and get us!  They seemed to be highly focused on His return and the relief it will give us.  I on the other hand can’t help but find myself focusing on the opportunities that we believers have for the plans and purposes of God RIGHT NOW – RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TROUBLED TIMES WE ARE READING ABOUT IN THE NEWS!
I can’t help but get excited when I read about the many revivals complete with signs, wonders and miracles that are going on in churches and Christian gatherings from coast to coast here in the United States and all across Europe.  The organization that my wife and I have been a part of for over 35 years is reporting these events happening in many of our affiliated churches all over the world!  My old home church back in California has been having almost continual revival meetings since we moved to North Carolina a year ago.
People are hurting and hungry for answers and Jesus is the answer that they need, complete with the miraculous solutions that only He and faith in His name can supply!  Now granted this isn’t the news that you’re most likely to see reported on the national TV news, but it is the news that you and I can willfully and joyfully proclaim from the mountain tops of our homes, our neighborhoods and all the other places that we frequent in our daily lives.
So, don’t allow yourself to get sucked into the fear that is being broadcast over the airwaves, newsprint and online.  The Message Bible tells us: “Don’t tolerate people who try to run your life… They’re a lot of hot air, that’s all they are.  They’re completely out of tune with the source of life, Christ, who puts us together in one piece, whose very breath and blood flow through us.  He is the head and we are the body.  We can grow up healthy in God only as he nourishes us.”…” (Colossians 2:16-19) 
And don’t get so focused on Jesus’ return and how great it will be, but spend your time in the here and now… For that’s where the REAL ACTION IS!  How exciting is that!  Don’t you just want to be right smack in the middle of what God is doing in your city?  I know that I sure do!
So when you see the tragedies hitting close to home, like the events of yesterday that happened just a few hours away from where we live, don’t panic but get excited and expectant of the God things YOU and GOD can accomplish because of it!  Have a great weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Who am I expecting to let guide my emotions and my actions?”  (… and what am I going to do about it!)


Thursday, July 16, 2015

What's in Your Safe?

I went into our bedroom this morning to grab our Kindle so that I could continue reading from Kenneth Hagin’s classic edition book “The Name of Jesus” that we have been studying for the last few weeks.  As I picked up the eBook, I glanced up at the large framed picture I have hanging on the wall near my side of the bed that was taken of Piper when she was twenty one years old.  I stood there a little spellbound for a couple of moments as I thought about how pretty she looked and then began to consider how much things have changed in our lives over the last forty years.
That frame also has two rather recent pictures of Piper attached to it.  One taken in the kitchen of the house we lived in just before we moved to Oklahoma, and one while on a family vacation in the Sierra’s.  I may be slightly prejudiced about this, but to me she is one of those women that just seems to get more beautiful as she ages!  In a quick flash of time I recalled the years between her at twenty one and today and asked the question: “Who knew how different things would be exactly forty years later from the date of that 11”X14” print?”
It is not like the change came overnight, in fact the specialists say that Dementia is one disease that usually is working, unseen inside those with whom it attacks, for up to twenty years before any visible signs are apparent.  Looking back now, we can actually remember seeing some telltale signs in her as far back as the early 2000’s.  So it is not like we woke up one morning with all the symptoms suddenly present!
Then on the other hand, there are times when change can happen in an instant.  Yesterday morning at breakfast I was looking out at our patio and mentioned to my wife how nice our potted plants looked, and in particular the various Petunias’ I had planted.  They had taken over the long narrow planter that was sitting on the railing, and were blooming quite profusely! 
I went out about an hour later to water the plants and decided to trim some of the old blooms from the two hanging geranium pots over the deck.  So I climbed up our little step ladder to work on the first plant, reached out with my shears and began to trim, turning the pot as I progressed around it.  Then without any warning the sturdy hook holding up the heavy plant snapped, the pot fell and knocked over the long planter with the Petunias on the railing.
Well, let’s just say I wasn’t the happiest of campers at that particular moment in time!  I had to go through the house, out the front door and around the building to get to the other side of the railing because the plants fell outside of the patio.  Once there I was horrified to find both plants lying in various piles with many broken branches, roots exposed and flowers torn away from their supporting vines.  By the time I got everything back together, both planters looked a little empty and sad! 
This morning’s check-up showed that we lost about half the plants in either pot!  One moment everything looked wonderful and healthy and the next it looked like a hurricane had blown through!  Have you ever had an experience in your life like either of these examples?
In yesterday’s blog I mentioned a few of the tough situations that we had to deal with when Piper was first diagnosed with Dementia.  But as I thought about it this morning, I also realized that our decision to do the things we did… and are still actively pursuing… in choosing to trust in and follow the Word of God, were actually quite easy to make!
I’ve told of how things had changed when we returned to our hometown after our three year stint in Oklahoma and Bible School.  Just about everything we had depended on as foundations to our life was different, from our church, to our extended family’s lives and reactions to us (some predicated by their disagreement to our move to Oklahoma in the first place), my job and even the location in town we choose to live in.  Even though I had been raised from third grade through high school in that area, the actual neighborhood we moved into wasn’t even there when I was a kid!  It was part of a cow pasture that we had to ford a creek as kids to get to, in order to chase Jack Rabbits around!
But we knew ahead of time the path we would go as we entered into the battle for Piper’s life.  We arrived home super-fortified with the Word of God after Bible School and our involvement with the church community we were a part of in Oklahoma and were immovably certain of His will and way for us to follow.  The ups and downs we faced, the persecution from loved ones and the questions and frustrations they provided may have shook our faith in man, but it only worked to strengthen our resolve and faith in Papa God and His promises to us.
After the Apostle Paul told his followers that “God has hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ,” (Colossians 2:3 God’s Word ©) he challenged them saying: “I say this so that no one will mislead you with arguments that merely sound good.” (Colossians 2:4 God’s Word ©)  Evidently there were people in the city and in their church that were attempting to water-down the Gospel message that had been taught to them by members of Paul’s ministry team.  He knew that their walk of faith was dependent upon their sticking to the solid truth of God’s Word and not being swayed by the reason of man… no matter how good that worldly reason seemed to sound.
When we came home we received a lot of man’s reasoning from many good meaning Christians.  Most of it was based on unsubstantiated information or was simply the way that the individual would do it based on their beliefs, their background and their life experiences… and according to them - was the ONLY way to go!  Some was scripturally shaky and some was just plain weird!
What we learned and have come to depend on is knowing and following the Word that is inside of us, depending on the truths we have been taught and lived successfully through the years and to stay ever sensitive to the leadings of the Holy Spirit ,for He knows us and what is best for us… more than anyone else!  Paul summed it up best in Colossians 2:7 when he said: “Sink your roots in him and build on him.  Be strengthened by the faith that you were taught, and overflow with thanksgiving.” (God’s Word ©)
It is great to be surrounded and encouraged by good Christian mentors and friends, but when push comes to shove, when the pressure is on, when you find yourself alone in the middle of the night needing support and direction, it is the Word you’ve put inside of you, the personal relationship you’ve developed with the Lord and your unflappable trust in Him that you must depend on.  I believe that is why they call Christianity a relationship instead of just a religion.
I heard a gold investment commercial a few times yesterday that ended with the catch phrase, “What’s in your safe?”  I think as Christians we should regularly ask ourselves the same question, “When times get tough, what or Who is in the safe of your heart?”  Have a good day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or in Whom am I expecting to TRUST IN today?”

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

United in Love

I have mentioned many times in this blog that I am a San Francisco Giants baseball fan.  Since our move east we have subscribed to Directv’s Extra Innings package so that we can watch their games out here.  One of the perks of the package is that we can watch any Major League Baseball game in both leagues.  And while we haven’t really watched many games besides those in which the Giants are participating in, it still has opened my eyes to the different nuances of the various teams and the cities and regions they play in.
Due to contract rights and other reasons that to be honest I am not really sure why, we are not always able to get the Giants broadcast of certain games.  At those times we have to watch the opposing team’s broadcast with their team’s TV announcers.  The first thing I realize is how much we take the renowned Giants broadcast team of Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper for granted.  To many folks around the league, they are known as the best broadcast team in the business.  I think the thing that makes them so good is the way they seamlessly flow together.  Not only are they former professional players and use that experience and knowledge to enhance their play calling, but they have a great sense of humor, and have good relationships with the current and past players on the Giant’s team as well as with the workers, managers, owners and leaders in the organization.
Most of all, I think the thing that clinches it is that they are also best friends and from what I understand, have been since their playing days with the Giants in the early eighties.  That unity is the glue to their unique broadcast style and is what draws the listener into their antics and keeps them on the edge of their seats throughout the game… whether the team is winning that day or not!
As my wife and I have gone through the battle for her health over these last years, I have also come to realize the importance of unity, not only between the two of us, but with those who have come along beside us in this fight for life.  As I have mentioned on various other occasions, one of the hardest parts of this situation has been to deal with close individuals who have not been in unity with us. 
I can’t tell which was more difficult for me in the early stages of the diagnosis and our first steps to deal with the attack of Alzheimer’s… the utter confusion, emotional turmoil, frustration, anger, and the inner struggle going on as I was trying to handle a new job that took me out of the house for up to twelve hours a day, help my wife in an ever-increasing manner, set up and attend the many different doctor’s appointments, apply for financial aid programs, and at the same time try to keep our home life in some level of order and peace… or the anguish at having people disagree with almost every step we took, talk about us behind our backs and then distance themselves from us when we needed them the most.
The Apostle Paul relates all the positive things he is talking about for the believers in his letter to the Colossians to their unity in love… God’s love, which is a love that takes a person beyond themselves and causes them to take extraordinary actions without concern for their own lives and the limits of their comfort zones.
That unity is what caused that church to stand out in his mind.  It was what caused the teamwork that I wrote about in yesterday’s blog post.  The King James Version talks about “being knit together in love.” (Colossians 2:2)  According to Strong’s, that expression literally means “to force or drive together; to unite in association or affection.”  To my surprise, the opposite of that happened with some close individuals that I counted on to lift us up and support us in our greatest time of need.  And you know… a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, but I still feel the disconnect or lack of unity with them as they continue to stay out of touch with my wife’s current status and needs as well as with our stand of faith for her healing.
I think it is interesting when you consider the way a knitted garment is put together. explains it as “interlocking loops of one or more yarns.”  When those different yarns are intertwined together they make a strength that far exceeds a single strand.  When Christians come together in an intertwined garment of God’s love, they create a force that is very difficult to break!  When we step in and become unified with those in need, we do more than just lift them up, but we also help to lessen the strain on them, assist them in their daily activities and give them a tremendous boost that energizes their emotions and their determination to see what they are going through all the way to victory!
One of the most difficult lessons I’ve learned through this chapter in our lives has been encountered when I looked at my own actions in the past and seen how they were not always focused on unity with those in need.  Those who have been a shock to me have caused me to shock myself out of my selfishness of the past and reach forth to a place of selfless giving to others in their times of need.  Have you gotten to that place yet?
Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What, Who or How am I expecting to UNITE myself in love with other believers today?”

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Ultimate Tensile Strength

I have often times commented that that greatest moments of ministry for me has been when I have seen the smiles of joy, freedom and love infused peace on the faces of the youth and children that we have ministered to over the last thirty plus years.  I can remember one of the first VBS programs that we had when Piper and I knelt down to receive some hugs from a couple of sisters who had been attending the week long adventure. 
We were aware of their home situation, and let’s just say it wasn’t a very uplifting or encouraging environment.  But when they were getting ready to leave on that Thursday afternoon and rapped their arms around us in anticipation of the Parent’s Night program that evening, their faces literally glowed with the love of God.  For a moment there, I wasn’t sure if they were ever going to let us go!  Piper has always been very sensitive to kids who have special needs and had spent a lot of extra time with those two girls.  When the week was finally over, they knew the love, peace, joy and comfort of Papa God.
Then there were the times at regional Youth Camp’s or at the yearly camping retreats that we had, when we saw youth with personal needs and/or troubled backgrounds turn their lives over to Jesus.  It is at times like that when you realize that the countless hours of preparation, the lack of sleep during the actual course of the multiday events and the one-on-one times with those precious young men and women were worth every minute of our time!
The main reason we liked to go to the multiple overnight camps, and retreats, have the students put on all-church breakfasts and dinners (even though some chided us due to the lack of sizable contributions we usually received) and have the special fun activities for the youth and kids, was to teach them teamwork and as Colossians 2:7 declares, because we wanted to have them “united in love.”
The more I read the Pauline Epistles, the more I am convinced that Paul saw God’s Agape love as the cement that held EVERYTHING together in the individual and corporate lives of the members of the body of Christ.  In Colossians 2:7 the Apostle declares that Because they are united in love, they will be wonderfully blessed with complete understanding.  And they will truly know Christ…” (God’s Word © & CEV)
It seems that he feels that it is God’s love working in us as well as through us that enables us to have the power of God flow from us into the world each of us encounters on a daily basis.  I John 4:18 informs us that “No fear exists where his love is.  Rather, (his) perfect love gets rid of fear…”   Then the very next verse tells us how or why this works saying: “We love because he first loved us.” (God’s Word ©) 
You see, He set the example and then gives us the opportunity to personally fill up on His love so that we can go and share it with others… especially to those who don’t necessary do things that deserve that kind of response.  His love is what makes us Christians a unique breed!  It is what sets us apart from the world.  When the world and those who follow its dictates seem to go off the deep end, our response shouldn’t be to get angry or afraid, but to increase in His love and then let that love ooze out to others!
I could give you example after example of the lives of children and youth that I have seen radically changed simply because they got loved on through thick and thin!  God’s Agape love has a power within its actions that is equal to none other.  It has an ultimate tensile strength that overcomes and far exceeds any other authority, power or level of resistance.
Remember, 1 John 4:16 tells us that “God IS love” (KJV), therefore when you act in His Agape love you are not just employing a power that is infused with His strength… you are working directly with Him in that situation!  Think about THAT statement for a while!  It puts a whole new slant on the idea of us walking in His love!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Who’s LOVE am I expecting to take action in today?”

Monday, July 13, 2015

Gold Fever!

We had the pleasure of talking with all four of our kids over the weekend as they called to congratulate us on our 40th wedding anniversary.  As I thought about those conversations while preparing to brew a fresh pot of Starbucks “Kati Kati” Blend ® whole bean coffee this morning, I marveled at the reaches of modern technology.  (Kati Kati means ‘between’ in Swahili, and this blend strikes the delicate balance between vibrant tangy notes from Kenya and the multilayered flavors and aromas of Ethiopian coffees – as per the description on the bag!),
From our home on the east coast I spoke with our youngest son in Oklahoma City, text back and forth with our youngest daughter in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, talked and text with our oldest daughter as they walked around their neighborhood a few miles north of us and then used the speaker phone so my wife could hear the conversation with our oldest son as he and his family were driving the winding terrain along California State Highway 49 in the midst of the Gold Country heading to a camping adventure near Downieville, California.
Downieville is located at the confluence of the Downie River and the north fork of the Yuba River where gold was discovered in the late 1840’s.  Our family had been through that area on a couple occasions in the past as we headed to different camping vacations in the lush green mountainous area.  It is not uncommon to still see small operations set up on the banks of the rivers as they mechanically pan for gold which still shows up in sparse but regular discoveries.  I asked Josh if they planned on doing any panning and he said that his father-in-law did pack some equipment in order to try their luck!
I thought more about panning for gold when I read from Colossians 2:3 during my Bible Study time today.  Here the Apostle shares with his readers that “God has hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ.”  The idea of hidden treasure got me to recollecting the stories I had read about the miners who plied the rough terrain of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California as they searched for the hidden treasures of gold that were secreted along the many river and creek beds and in veins throughout the tall mountains.
Those who made the initial discoveries had it relatively easy as they many times found gold shimmering in the pristine streams or visible on outcroppings along the sides of the mountains.  The crowds that followed had to work hard to find anymore as they had to literally dig miles of tunnels through the hard rock geography.  Many worked for years in the rain, mud and winter snows only to come up with very little or nothing at all.  The area known as the Gold Country is also dotted with cemeteries that mark the graves of those who died while searching for the hidden treasures.
The Word tells us that there are hidden treasures to be found in Christ.  In fact, Paul says that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are hidden in Him!  I’ll be honest with you here… I know very few individuals who search for that hidden treasure with the same dedication, frenzy, or enthusiasm that marked the hundreds of men who filled the ships that were literally left to rot as they clogged the harbor in San Francisco as their point of departure to the gold mines in the mid 1800’s.  Do you know that they still find remains of those ships when they dig for modern construction projects in San Francisco near the bay that was since filled in around those ships!
What kind of hunger do you have for the hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge that can only be found in the Word of God?  Do you have gold fever?  The fever that draws you ever closer to the gold of God and the life that He has planned for you to live and share with your world?  I know that I’ve felt it at different times throughout my Christian life, but the everyday activities, responsibilities and cares of the world tend to dull its edge.  Do you know what I mean?
The battle that we have been engaged in over the last six years for my wife’s health has certainly increased my hunger for the treasures of God, because I know that it is the ONLY answer for her… but I’ve still got a ways to go.  How about you?  Where do you think that you stand in the search for His hidden treasures?  Keep that question in mind this week… and have a good week as you draw closer to and more in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Who's FEVER am I expecting to have today?”