Our New Home

Our New Home
Fall is in the air!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Rising to the Heights… pt 4

I’ll be honest with you… there have been a few times in the daily care of my wife that I have fought both exhaustion and discouragement.  But in those times something on the inside of me has given me a spark of life that regenerates my strength, determination and faith to press on.  I believe that this something else is the tangible anointing of all the Word of God that I have been faithfully pumping into my wife and I over the past nine years.  In the darkest of times that I have experienced throughout this ordeal, His Word has always been there to remind me of His love and compassion toward my wife and I.

As I meditated upon this thought over the weekend, I came to the conclusion that God’s Word is His love and therefore should always be the first and foremost choice to lead me in every action in my life.  Follow my thought pattern here… Since I John 4:8 and 16 tell us that God is love. (KJV)  and John 1:1 states that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (MKJV) then it only serves to understand that every time I speak the Word of God into Piper and my lives, I am actually pouring God’s love into us.

So, on the basis of all that love that is inside of me, I am able to rise up to the heights of His love and take the high road when I am faced with things such as discouragement, a questioning faith and/or persecution.   I am learning more and more that our true identities, our life’s foundation, our confidence, our success in our daily responsibilities and our ability to “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (English Majority Text Version) are all based on our individual love walks that are dependent upon our personal, intimate experiential knowledge of how much God loves us… individually!  

Let’s face it… It is Piper’s and my ever increasing, intimate experiential knowledge of God’s love for us that has given us the strength to carry on as we have walked this path over the last nine years.  Without that personal knowing of how much He loves us, I believe that we would have nothing to base our steps of faith on!  His Word wouldn’t mean much if I didn’t really understand that it is a carrier of His love for His children.

Without that intimate understanding of His love for Piper and I personally, I would NEVER be able to face the physical realities of what is happening with the most important person in my life with the daily sense of Godly expectation that rises up in me just when I need it the most… like during those ugly experiences of discouragement that try to lurk in the shadows of my mind.

So yeah… with that intimate experiential knowledge of His love, I am “able to take in the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love.  To reach out and experience its breadth!  Test its length! Plumb its depths! And rise to its heights!  How about you?

Have a great new week!  I encourage you to meditate on His love for YOU personally and then look at your life from that perspective… and as you do… keep asking yourself… “Are my daily expectations really based on my ever-increasing, personal and intimate experiential knowledge of God’s love for me?”

Friday, February 24, 2017

Rising to the Heights... pt 3

I think one of the many things that warmed my heart the most over this last weekend when our kids came home for a visit, was all the personal attention they gave to Piper!  Each of the kids spent time talking one on one with her, some sang songs to her, some told stories of their favorite experiences with her when they were young, others read to her and all spent time just holding her hand and sitting quietly by her side.

Piper was always a ‘hands on person’ who didn’t just talk about things but jumped in with both feet and did them!  Whether it was a homeschool project on the constellations, an art project, a walk around the block or a game of foursquare on our driveway, she loved to be right in the middle of the action.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the term “leading by example” was coined by someone who knew her!  So for me to hear all the stories about how her interactions with others helped to shape or enhance their lives… well, let’s just say that it fills me with joy!

One of the most difficult things that I have had to swallow with the onset of Alzheimer’s in her is the pain within me when I see people who have known Piper… folks that she has personally gone out of her way to minister to… ignore her when they are in her presence, and seemingly forget about her when they are away from her.  And on the other hand, it blesses me to the point of tears to see others go out of their way to make physical and emotional contact with her.

I believe that is one of the reasons that the paraphrase of Ephesians 3:17-20 in The Message Bible excites me so much!  It gives us a vivid picture of what it really takes to walk in Christ’s love by boldly explaining that having a firm foundation in love gives us the ability to “take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love (and) reach out and experience the breadth!  Test its length!  Plumb the depths! (and) Rise to the heights!” and by doing so, “Live full lives full of the fullness of God.”

Then, when we are actively involved and saturated in Christ’s love, “God is able to do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!”

You see… All those blessing come through and are God’s natural response to us actively living in Christ’s love in our daily activities of life.  Notice that the words that precede the conversation about knowing the breadth, the length, the depths and the heights of Christ’s love are all ACTION words!  In order to know and experience this kind of love we are told to REACH OUT, to TEST, to PLUMB and to RISE.

As I studied this verse over the last week or so I discovered that each of these actions cause us to make a decision to go beyond our comfort zones.  To go beyond the limits of our natural stretch or physical reach.  I have found that when I stretch myself beyond what I used to think were my limits that the Lord brings me into new and formally uncharted frontiers of my faith! 

On Saturday night as our family sat around the dining room table after dinner chatting away, the subject turned to Piper’s skills on the piano.  When I mentioned how much I loved to watch her tiny hands flying across the keys, one of the kids mentioned that her Mom definitely had the ability to stretch her fingers way beyond her natural reach in order to hit some of the notes that she was able to play.

To most of us in the family, stretching across the keys to hit those notes seemed rather impossible, but Piper had been practicing for years and that stretch was no longer difficult for her.  Kind of like everything else in her life… She had no problem whatsoever stretching out of her comfort zone to try something new, to minister to someone that nobody else wanted to, and to make everyone feel welcomed and comfortable wherever she went.

I think Piper had that ability because she was always confident in her intimate experiential knowledge of how much her Papa God loved her… so to share that love was easy for her.  I also think that the reason some folks aren’t comfortable around her today is because they have their eyes more on themselves and their needs than they do in reaching out to minister to her in her time of need.  They don’t seem to know how special they really are in God’s eyes which I believe makes it awful tough to stretch beyond their own comfort zones to bless others.

Hummm… is that too direct of a statement?  Well, weigh it out for yourself and see where you stand when it comes to walking in the fullness of God by reaching out, testing, plumbing and rising within the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love.  You know, throughout this adventure in faith that Piper and I have been walking for quite a few years now, I have known some folks who say a lot of very nice and loving words to us but… that’s about as far as it goes because there has been a very noticeable lack of physical ACTION to go along with those words… and I have come to learn that these are the folks that I cannot depend on when the rubber hits the road!

The loving folks that I have come to depend on are the ones who have physically reached out to us and put aside their own discomfort with the situation as they’ve tested their own abilities, plumbed the depths of their love for Piper and I, and in doing so have risen to new heights in Christ’s love.  Where are you in your personal experience of Christ’s love today?

Our fantastic weather is continuing out here, so we’ll be outdoors a lot!  Have a great weekend and as you do, keep asking yourselves… “How am I expecting to stretch myself into new frontiers of Christ’s love today?”

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Rising to the Heights… pt 2

Today was one of those days that just started out pretty well!  I had a strong sense of the love of God filling the atmosphere in our bedroom as I confessed our morning healing scriptures over my wife and was able to help get her changed without any hiccups… a couple of days ago I mistakenly shoved both of her legs into one leg of her jogging pants… then I couldn’t figure out why it was so hard to get them pulled up!

Once we got to the breakfast table she consumed her meds and a bit of breakfast without much difficulty and my first sip of coffee tasted like I had made it just right!  So when I saddled up the dog (ie; put on his lease…) to take him out for his morning responsibilities, I was feeling pretty happy and rejoiced at the goodness of God!

As Fiver did his thing, I stood in the quiet of the warm morning and took a slow panoramic view of our yard as the sun began breaking through the clouds that had covered the skies when I first got up.  Once again I could not help but thank God for His faithfulness and love that He demonstrated to us by our ability to find the land we now own.  

As my gaze went upward toward the amazing shade of deep blue that was pushing away the overcast, I was reminded of something I read the other day from one of my all-time favorite books on the subject of healing, “Christ the Healer” by F.F. Bosworth.  The author of the book, which is basically a collection of sermons that he preached and put together into a manuscript in the mid 1920’s stated that “the Bible doesn’t say that God is power but thatGod is love.’  (Therefore) It is not faith in God’s power that secures His blessings but faith in His love and in (the knowledge of) His will.” (pg 74)

The reality of that statement was nothing new to me as learning about the love that Papa God has for my wife and I has been one of the greatest foundations that we have come to intimately understand and depend on during the 9+ years of this journey with my wife’s health.  But it was the way that he stated the remark that caused me to stop and think… and then break into a long session of praise and thanksgiving unto God.

So when I look at my wife’s tormented body, I am not hoping for God’s power to deliver her, but find myself full of expectancy in His love for her having the final say-so in her life!  I find that when I dwell on His love for her and for me, that the anger of what the devil has done to her and the very real fear of losing her tends to melt away in the warm embrace of His intimate compassion for us.

Therefore, when I look around our property, like I did this morning, I do not just enjoy the scenery, but I cannot help but break forth into praise and thanksgiving as I see that this is all a part of His divinely perfect plan for us right now!  So, as I began to break out in praise while Fiver and I climbed up the three steps to our deck, I suddenly had to stop and smile when I looked up over our roof and spotted the place where two recent contrails from passing jets crisscrossed making a rather large white X over our home!

And all I could think at that moment was “X marks the spot!  The spot where the love, faithfulness and grace of God resides!”  Wow!  He not only reminded me of His love this morning, but He also marked it with a giant X in the sky for all to see!  I like the BIG way that God thinks… don’t you!  After all if you remember, Ephesians 3:20 announces that “God can do anything, you know – far more than we can ever imagine, or guess, or request in our wildest dreams!” (The Message)

So I encourage you again today to focus your attention on God’s love and not be distracted by anything or any other thoughts… for who knows… you may walk outside sometime and see His giant X of approval over your home!  Have a great rest of the week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “What or Whose LOVE am I expecting to dwell on today (and every other day as well!)?”

Monday, February 20, 2017

Rising to the Heights… pt 1

As most of you know, Piper and I had all four of our kids along with Jamie’s husband and Jeremy’s bride visit us for four days which concluded at about five in the afternoon yesterday when the last of the kids, Jeremy and Aubrey, pulled out of our driveway and commenced their road trip back home to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  This gathering was the first time we have all been together since Jeremy and Aubrey’s wedding a few years ago.  But it is the first time that our family has been able to fellowship alone with each other for a prolonged period of time!

If you caught any of the pictures that most of us posted on Facebook over the weekend, it will seem as if all we did was eat and talk!  And you know… that about sums it up!  We purposely didn’t plan many extracurricular activities as I really wanted it to be a time when the kids and I could spend some quality time alone with their Mom.

I have to admit that we were blessed with some fantastic weather and spent most days and early evenings sitting on our back deck and/or tossing the ball to Fiver in the yard.  It dawned on me on Saturday that it was so special to see our adult children working together and taking charge and preparing the meals.  I saw many special qualities in each of our four kids.  Jamie our oldest daughter, who lives out here in NC near us, took the role as host.  As she worked in the kitchen, laughed and joked with her siblings or ran outside to assist our oldest son Josh with the smoker, I saw a bit of my mother and a lot of Piper in her!  I told her that I believe that she has assumed the Piper mantel!

Not real surprising, but I also saw a lot of me in Josh our first born, in his interactions with Jamie and the other kids.  His friendly personality, wisdom and charisma always fills the room when he is around!  For a moment there, I thought I was looking at a picture of Piper and I while they got the ribs into the smoker!  My heart swelled as I watched JoAnna spend time helping Piper with her meals, talking to her or just sitting quietly at her side holding her hand.  I was also amazed at seeing the compassion of our youngest son as he would talk with his Mom and look into her eyes.  Jeremy wrote a beautiful, heart-tugging personal tribute to Piper that he read to Piper and I before they left on Sunday afternoon.

Then of course there was the heartfelt and sweet interactions between Piper and Aubrey, Jeremy’s new bride.  It felt as if she has always been a member of our family.  And don’t let me forget Jamie’s husband David.  Because of work responsibilities he was not able to join us until Sunday (although a couple of the kids bunked at their house and got to fellowship with him and Jamie at night), but when he walked in the door with a big smile on his face, it felt like we were complete and ready to have some real fun!  

It was rewarding and a pleasure to watch all of our kids sitting on the deck or around our dining room table talking, laughing and enjoying each others company.  And while Piper may not have said too much, I know that she was also having a great time simply enjoying the family “noises” and the strong anointing of love that filled our home.

Ephesians 3:18 in The Message Bible encourages us to “Reach out and experience the breath!  Test its length!  Plumb its depths! (and) Rise to the heights” of Christ’s love.  As I looked around our table on Saturday night, I could see those particular expressions of action in full swing in the faces of all our kids.  The next verse tells us to “Live full lives that are full in the fullness of God.”  And that dear reader is exactly what I saw unfolding itself throughout the last four days!

What I observed was the heart and soul of God’s love that Piper poured from her own life into our kids throughout their childhood as their Mom, homeschool teacher, chauffeur and most times as their children’s and/or youth co-leader at church!  What I saw was a big part of her in each of our kids.  How fantastic is that!  (okay… past the Kleenex…) She may not be in a place right now where she could have physically or verbally interacted with them this weekend, but you know… she didn’t have to.  It was pretty evident to all that she was interacting with all those present through all of herself radiating through the lives of each of them!

Have a great week everybody, and as you do, think about what it would mean for each of you to “Rise to the heights” of God’s love in your daily interactions with others!  And as you do, keep asking yourself… “How am I expecting others to see Christ in me today?”