Our New Home

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

Monday, January 30, 2017

A New Song... in Me!



Over the weekend a neighbor who had just brought over a large bag of clothes and other items for Piper suddenly looked at me and said that I was amazing!  Well, that took me by surprise and I asked what she meant.  So, she paused, looked me in the eyes and said “Don’t you ever get bitter?”  

Well, I sort of laughed a nervous laugh and said that there are times that I do get upset with things like watching my lovely wife suffer the changes she has endured for many years now, the way people who were once close to us look at her and tend (whether knowingly or not) to avoid contact with us, and mostly that there isn’t more than I can do for her!  But then I quickly added that I can NEVER be upset or bitter toward Piper for it is the devil who has put this sickness upon her and that any personal righteous indignation is always directed toward him!

As I meditated upon that interaction this morning, I thought about what it is in me that causes me to keep a smile on my face and an encouraging word (most times that is…) upon my lips and instantly heard the words “It’s the New Song in you!”  And I remembered another one of my all-time favorite scriptures that has always held a central part in my life since Piper and I began to have a family in the late seventies and eighties.

Psalm 40:3 sings in my heart announcing the fact that “He placed a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see this and worship.  They will trust in the Lord.” (God’s Word ©)  Over the years that psalm has given me boundless strength in the easy and tough times alike.  It was the inspiration for a children’s song, a Christmas play, a family devotional that I published in the early 1990’s, and a home business that included a series of scripture confession cards that Piper wrote.

But mostly it is the song that has burned deep in my heart that has kept me focused on the promises in God’s Word throughout this most challenging time in my life.  It is what causes me to start Piper’s day off with songs that I sing to her the first thing every morning now for many years… which reminds me of the MANY times I had to look to her throughout our ministry times together and ask her to play or sing the right note for the right key for me to lead a song!  In fact I still do it now… only she doesn’t respond too much anymore… but that doesn’t stop me!  As it still causes me to laugh when I think about the embarrassing times when in front of a crowd where she saved my bacon by quickly getting me on the right track!

The one part of that special verse that always gets me is that it states not that people will “HEAR” the new song but “SEE” it!  In others words, that new song that only He can originate is something that others are able to “SEE” in you, in your daily life, in your attitude and in the way you respond to the good times and the bad ones that populate the minutes of your existence.  I believe that is what my neighbor was asking me about!  It is kind of like the old Timex watch slogan that “takes a licking and keeps on ticking!”

Piper gave all of our kid’s piano lessons when they were young and each of them now is very musically inclined as they have grown into adulthood.  Of course they probably didn’t have a chance as we always had music as a central part of our family life and church ministry.  They we involved with singing and playing instruments from a very young age at church, in the school band and with friends.  But more importantly is the song of praise that they have in their hearts and in their mouths.

I have to believe that it is one of the major factors that has kept Piper going through the trials and tribulations that this disease brings.  They might not come as often as before, but she still manages to smile and allow that glint of ZoĆ« life to shine through her eyes to those of us around her that take the time and effort to personally minister to her.

It is also the foundation that will keep each of you strong and rejoiceful when the circumstances of life take an unpleasant turn.  So I encourage each of you this week to make the time to allow Him to place a new song in your mouth, a song of praise to our God so that many will SEE it and give worship unto Him.

Have a great week, and as you do keep asking yourself… “Am I expecting others to SEE a new song in me today?”

Friday, January 27, 2017

Living Your Faith



Recently I found myself re-telling the story of one of the first things that drew me closer to my wife in the early days of our relationship.  The individual I was fellowshipping with had asked about my Christian testimony and I quickly realized that it would be remiss without this integral part of the story!  

What used to catch my attention and amaze me at the same time was the way she talked about Jesus!  It wasn’t forced.  It wasn’t like she was looking for opportunities to slip a mention of Him into the conversation.  It just came out as a natural part of who she was!  I know that I have shared this in this blog before, but it seemed like Jesus was her best friend.

In my seventeen years of life up to that point, I had never heard anyone else talk that way.  Whenever I had heard someone speak of Him it usually came at an awkward moment filled with anxiety and condemnation.  I always remember my good Catholic Dad joking about the “Protest-ants” in regard to those who attended a church outside the Catholic faith and I tended to put up a wall whenever someone tried to “push” Jesus on me.

Sure, I believed in Jesus as the Son of God, but other than that, He always had been kind of a mystery to me!  In Parochial school I would see the nuns making the sign of the cross, bowing their heads or even genuflecting every time His name was spoken, as a sign of deep respect, but I had no understanding of the why, who and what of who He was… until I met this spunky, full of life, laughter and joy-filled young lady name Piper Canevari!

As I am sure I have mentioned before, that once we started dating we would hang out together at school and then talk to each other for hours at night after work, homework and dinner.  I guess you could sort of say that she and my conversation with her was my nightly desert!  I couldn’t (and actually still can’t) get enough of her!  Whatever she had… I wanted… and it seemed that it just oozed out from everything she said and did.  Many years later in my Personal Evangelism class in Bible College, I learned that what she unknowingly was doing was the best form of Christian evangelism known to man… and it is called: “simply living your faith!”

I quickly recalled all this as I was looking at Joshua 1:8 from the various Bible translations that I have on my digital Bible Study program.  In particular it was the beginning of the International Standard Version that sent me down memory lane.  My attention had been peaked when I noticed that some of the newer translations left out the first and I think very important part of this verse when the Lord is telling Joshua that “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night…” (KJV) These modern translations kept the meditation part of God’s command but totally dropped the verbal part of the equation!

Then as I went back through many other translations I stopped at the ISV where it states: “This set of instructions is not to cease being a part of your conversations…” and with that I looked over at Piper sitting to my left at the dining room table and exclaimed: “That’s you!”  Over the years as we have traveled in many Christian circles, I don’t think I have ever seen anyone else talk about Jesus like she always has!  

He really was and still is a vital and intricate part of who she is and He just seems to flow through every conversation she participates in!  And to be honest, I can’t recall anyone who ever got upset when she mentioned him… Okay… there was that one cashier at the grocery store… but other than that… Oh yeah… then there was some of my family who didn’t quite get her at first… but really, that’s about it!

Piper has always lived her Christianity through her actions, encouraging words, helpful hands and that great big lovely and engaging smile!  It’s almost like you can’t help but want to know more about Him after you’ve been engaged in a conversation with her!

Do you know people like that?  Are you like that?  I think that our lives should portray the greatest living picture of who Jesus is.  It is easy to talk a good religious or pious story, but without having the other areas of your life in line with it, it just doesn’t work too well!  In closely observing my wife over these last 46 plus years, I have learned that it is not necessarily something that she has had to actively work on in her life.  It just comes out as a natural part of her unfaltering love of our Savior, her encouraging and uplifting attitude about life and her joyful disposition.  

You know… as I was saying to our older daughter yesterday… I could probably count on one hand the number of times I have heard Piper say something negative about someone else over the many years of our close relationship… and Jamie emphatically agreed!  

I wish I could say that about myself!  Can you?  Maybe it is time to make some changes in life!  Have a great weekend, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting my life to advertise today?”

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Dog Days of Summer



Are you familiar with the old saying that talks about “The Dog Days of Summer?”  Well… it is not summer but we did spend the whole afternoon yesterday on dog business… so I guess that’s close enough!  With everything going on with my wife over the last few weeks, I kept putting my desire to get our dog checked out at the Vet aside.  But I finally took the time to call in and set up an appointment for Fiver for yesterday afternoon.

I had planned to find a new Vet closer to our new home, but I really like the Vet we started going to when we first moved here which is literally around the block from the apartment home we first lived in.  So we decided the extra time (a 45 minute ride) to get there was worth it!  And once again I was not disappointed.  The only down side was that we left  home around 2:00 pm and drove back up the driveway around 5:30 pm.  We we’re at the Vet for over an hour and then hit some traffic slowdowns on the way home.

As it turned out, all of Fiver’s tests came out negative.  So we are trying a non-steroid type medication to see if it helps him to stop scratching.  It seems like the issue is most likely caused by an allergy.  If need be we may try a special diet.  I’ve also had him taking an all-natural nutritional supplement over the last month and while it has helped the health of his coat I really haven’t seen the progress over the scratching that I would have liked to have seen.  So, we’ll put that on pause for a while in order to give the new plan a chance.  We also discussed a few behavior traits that need changing and ran some other tests.

The phrase “The Dog Days of Summer” originates from ancient times and describes “the sultry part of summer supposed to occur during the period that Sirius, the dog star, rises at the same time as the sun: now often reckoned from July 3rd to August 11th.” (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/dog-days)  Many times it also refers to “a period marked by lethargy, inactivity, or indolence.” (ibid)

That description doesn’t really match our day yesterday as we actually had a lot of activity going on, although it was also interspersed with long periods of inactivity while we sat in the car traveling to and fro and in the Vet’s examination room talking to the Vet, watching her examine our pooch and then awaiting the results of the various tests!

In some other respects, I feel like we are going through an overall period of inactivity where we are not seeing the Lord work as actively as we have seen at other times.  Have you ever experienced times like that?  I think that we probably all have at various times in our lives.  Our trip and stay at the hospital a few weeks back seemed to have started off a time where the Lord’s hand has not seemed as visible.  In fact for a while there it was as though we were seeing someone else’s hand other than Papa God’s!  You know what I mean?

So what do you do when it seems like you have all you can do to just keep your suddenly flooding boat of life afloat by bailing out the difficulties with your bare hands and a prayer or two?  I’ve found out that the best thing to do is to stay constant in your stand of faith.  To not move away from your confessions and their corresponding actions of faith just because it seems like it’s not working at any given time or place.

I will warn you though… this is easier said than done!  After seeing how frail and pale my wife looked in the hospital and talking with the various medical experts during and after our hospital experience over the last few weeks, I initially found it very difficult to not let what I was observing and hearing to affect and possibly change the direction of my faith!

But you know, I am very thankful for family, a few close friends, a new Chaplin friend, and the trusted word of some ministries that we have been supporting for years to help get me back on track!  Yes, I do feel that it is important to know all the natural facts of the situation and to do whatever I need to do to be prepared for the worst… but the key factor is that the worst is NOT what I am expecting!

My hope continues to abide in the truth and promises of God’s Word… and that dear reader is what I am ultimately expecting!  So while it may seem like a time of inactivity during these “Dog Days” and that the heat of life’s current experiences has the thermometer of our lives rising… I am going to stick with what I know… or maybe better said… with “Whom I Know!”

I can’t help but to keep remembering and reciting God’s Word to us in Joshua 1:5 where He affirms that no matter what season we are in, no matter how hot or cold the experiences of our lives become, He faithfully confirms to us that “I will never neglect you or abandon you.” (God’s Word ©)  That is the Word that I am taking to the bank!  What about you?

Have a great rest of the week, and as you do keep asking yourself… “Who am I expecting to see me through my ‘Dog Days of Summer’ today?

Monday, January 23, 2017

An Infectious State…



This weekend was a time of deep reflection, strong emotion and prayer for me.  On Friday I initiated a couple of brutally honest discussions with Piper’s hospice nurse and then later in the day with the social worker on the case.  Then throughout the weekend I talked with our kids to update them on their Mom’s health and seek out their all-important-to-me counsel on the situation.  And in-between all of this, Piper and I would slip out into the backyard and frolic with the dog!  

Fiver had a busy day on Sunday as he had to keep track of the next door neighbors who had a house full of guests with lots of kids playing in the front yard!  Then there was the feisty little grey squirrel on the fence that got surprised when the dog came bounding out of the dining room sliding door, caught his scent and quickly chased him across the yard and under the back fence.  It was funny to watch the dog as he seemed to not be able to understand how the squirrel could squeeze under the fence and he couldn’t! 

So this morning as I stood on the back deck watching the sun as it broke over the tall trees in the distance and lit up the trees and shrubs that line our yard, I sipped from my hot cup of coffee and sought the Lord’s wisdom, deeper insight and the confidence and expectation required to walk the walk He is calling me to walk in the days ahead. (See: Ephesians 1:17-18)  At one point the silence was broken by the song of a bird perched high in the trees off to my left.

When I scanned the tree tops I spotted the little bird with his orange and white breast sitting near the top of one of the tallest trees in the yard.  I was amazed at the majesty that seemed to capture the moment.  There was just something magnificent about that little bird triumphantly sitting at the top with a commanding view of his surroundings throughout our country neighborhood.

With all that in mind, I couldn’t help but think about the commanding view point that God must have over the world and especially those of His children and the directions they walk each and every day.  It gave me great peace and a special confidence in knowing that He could see well beyond what my limited understanding and view could deduce from any given situation.  I was also filled with an heavenly warmth as I considered the words of the prayer I prayed over Piper and I first thing this morning that is taken from Colossians 1:11 saying: “Father, Piper and I ask you today to strengthen us by Your glorious, miraculous might with all the vigor and dominion we need to patiently endure everything ahead with joy.”  (Personalized from the God’s Word © translation)

I was especially blessed as I noticed that the manifested exercise of that joy according to Strong’s Concordance is expressed as a “calm delight, cheerfulness and a gladness of heart” that, through my personal experience, eventually prevails over one’s whole countenance.  So no matter what turns up these next few months, I will continually find myself seeking and abiding in His peace, in His strength and in His “calm delight!”

You know… that sounds like it just might be good advice for any of you… no matter what you are facing!  What do you think?  Go ahead… Give it a go today and let God’s kingdom nature be yours each and every day.  Have a good week, and as you do keep asking yourself… “Am I expecting to stay in an infectious state of God given joy that expresses itself in ‘calm delight’ today?”