Our New Home!

Our New Home!
The sun sets on our first month in Oklahoma!

Monday, October 30, 2017

PTL!


As we were worshipping the Lord yesterday morning with the live stream of our home church’s service in Oklahoma, the worship leader smoothly flowed from one worship song into the chorus of Fanny Crosby’s wonderful hymn “Blessed Assurance” singing:

“This is my story, this is my song,

Praising my Savior all the day long;

This is my story, this is my song,

Praising my Savior all the day long.”



And even though this song was written back in 1873, the words still ring true and powerfully in the heart of modern believers.  I’m not sure what happened as we began to sing that chorus in the dining room of our home as the music and singing from the church filled our home through the many speakers of our home entertainment system, but by the time we got to the last line, I found myself welling up in tears.  Suddenly it all became clear to me, and I turned to my wife and said “That really IS our story… isn’t it?”

Then I was reminded of the Second Chapter of Acts YouTube video from a concert in 1977 that I came across a week or so ago.  That video brought back Piper’s and my dating days and how from practically day one, we had set out to Praise the Lord in everything we did.  I was pretty ignorant of spiritual things back then, but was hungry to know more of God and followed my wife to be’s lead on just about everything!

It was an exciting time for both of us as we began to form a unique-to-us relationship with the Lord and the direction we felt that He was leading us into.  It didn’t come without some pushback from people around us though.  My folks thought for sure that I had jumped off a cliff and was being unduly influenced by Piper and her family’s “religion”… and Piper’s Dad, on the other hand, told Piper that he had concerns about our relationship because I was Catholic.

By the time we got to college though, most of the new friends we made seemed to accept us for who we were… or who we were developing into… and we got along well with just about everyone in our perspective dorms, classes and school activities.  We learned fairly quickly that the best thing we could say and do when difficult situations arose was “Praise the Lord!”

One of the first scriptures we memorized together was Psalm 100 with special emphasis on verse four where the Psalmist encourages us to:  “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” (KJV) 

As I thought about all this during the singing of that song yesterday, I understood how Thanksgiving and Praise has been our slogan for some 47 years now!  The Message Bible has a fun, more down to earth and modern slant on this verse saying:  “Enter with the password: ‘Thank you!’ Make yourselves at home, talking praise. Thank him. Worship him.”

This paraphrase makes me think about the personal, face to face relationship that Christians can have with the Lord.  It is about coming into His presence with thanksgiving on our lips and praise as a part of all our conversations with Him.

It is hard for me today to imagine a day without saying or singing the actual words: “Praise the Lord!”  I find it on my lips before I get up to face a new day, it’s how I greet my wife when I help her up for the day and it is the power behind those simple words that gets me through each and every day!

So how about you?  Do you think I’m a little strange with this?  We have had people imply that we might be just a little too “fanatical” with our lifestyle and choice of vocabulary… but it doesn’t move us as we KNOW that it works for us!  Do you think it could work for you?

Have a great new week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Am I expecting to Praise the Lord today?”

Friday, October 27, 2017

Who Are You?


“If you've never fed the hungry, or given clothes to the poor,

If you've never helped the stranger who came knocking on your door,

If you forgot to send some flowers to sick and shut-in friend,

well if you ain't helping none of these, then you ain't helping Him.

If you've ever seen some children, playing ball behind a school,

If you've ever watched an old man, plowing ground behind mule,

If you've ever stopped and listened, when you could not hear a sound,

then brother you have met Him, because Jesus gets around.

Would you recognize Jesus if you met Him face to face?

or would you wonder if He's just another one you could not place?



You may not find Him coming in a chariot of the Lord, Jesus could be riding in a "49 Ford.

You can find Him in your Momma's eyes, or in your Daddy's face,

You can find He's always there to help you win the human race,

You can find Him in the mountains, downtown, or by the sea,

And brother, here's hoping someone can find him, and you and me.

Would you recognize Jesus if you met Him face to face?

or would you wonder if He's just another one you could not place?

You may not find Him coming in a chariot of the Lord, Jesus could be riding in a "49 Ford”



Have you ever heard Country Music legend Johnny Cash sing the above song entitled “Would You Recognize Jesus?”  It has been popping up on my Pandora morning music shuffle over the last few weeks.  Every time I hear it, the impact of the words just sort of flash in my mind’s eye!  It conjures up memories of an early elementary school friend’s family car which might have been a ’49 (or there abouts…) Ford.  It makes me think of simpler times past, of a white country church in a Pollyanna-ish story sitting in an open field with a big old stately oak tree towering nest to it.

But most of all it causes me to think back about the faces of all the people over the last few years where I saw Jesus in them!  The people who have gone out of their way to open doors for Piper as I maneuver her chair through the opening, the blessed one’s who step out of their comfort zones and take the time to bend down on a knee to talk to her face to face in the middle of Walmart, the ones who encourage me with their kind words as we pass by each other or the ones who simply smile at us instead of turning away… as many do.

It is interesting to me, as the one usually reaching out to others in my role as Pastor, how much more I see Jesus in others now that the shoe is on the other foot… sort of say!  It has definitely made me more aware of the desire… and need for me to be more like Jesus for the others around me as well!

It has made me become even more aware of my sensitivity to “Listen for GOD's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go” (Proverbs 3:6 The Message) so they just might see Jesus in me.  I have heard it said many times that as Christians, we might be the only Jesus that some people will ever see!  So whether I am driving a 1949 Ford or a 2015 Chevy Equinox, I hope to be Jesus to those I interact with on a daily basis.  How about you?

Would you recognize Jesus if you met Him face to face?  Would the people in your life recognize Jesus when they come face to face with you?

Have a marvelous weekend, and as you do keep asking yourself… Am I expecting to be Jesus to someone today?”


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Are You Listening?


Once I helped my wife to bed last night and got her all snuggled and tucked in, I sat down on my bed next to hers and just quietly looked at her while I reminisced in my thoughts about our past together.  With a hint of fascination I slightly turned my head to the side and gently stated… “You know Honey, it is kind of uncanny that you and I seemed to have had an almost instant trust in each other from day one!  It was like we really ‘knew’ each other from the start and were not afraid to share our most intimate and private thoughts with each other.”

I learned pretty quickly that Piper’s ‘voice’ was one that I could always depend on for encouragement, knowledgeable insight in just about all the natural situations we faced as husband and wife as well as with the raising of our kids, a good laugh, sound Biblical wisdom and anointed spiritual discernment.  But let me explain what I mean when I talk about her ‘voice’.  It is not just the physical tone and pitch of her heard voice, but in particular the inner ‘voice’ of a strong and loving women of God whose very presence in a room could turn an uncomfortable situation into one of peace and restoration.

Sometimes she wouldn’t even have to actually say anything before I knew her answer, her thoughts, the scripture she would share and then experience the peace and joy that she has always brought to me.  I guess you could say that this is how we communicate today with the advance of Alzheimer’s.  Do I miss hearing the unique intonations of her sweet voice?  YOU BET I DO!  I went into our study yesterday afternoon and played back the message we had recorded together many years ago on the old answering machine we used before the onset of voicemail… just to hear her wonderful sound again!

But just because she doesn’t talk through her lips anymore (at least for now) that doesn’t mean that we don’t communicate.  I still hear that ‘inner voice’ that I just mentioned.  I’ve heard it said that when people lose the use of one of their senses that they learn to develop and trust the other senses to make up for the loss.  Well, I guess that is what has happened in our case!  Like I’ve said over and over again, she and I have come to intimately know each other so well that we don’t even need to verbally communicate in order to meet the other’s needs or do what we know is best or most pleasurable for the other.

Our now familiar scripture in Proverbs 3:6 in the Message Bible talks about how we need to Listen for GOD's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track.”  When I read this I immediately realize that the writer is encouraging us to continually “give ear to him.” (Bible in Basic English)  I would think that it could be likened to a well-trained soldier who goes into enemy territory on patrol and stays alert and in constant awareness of the sights and sounds around him (or her).

Over the last ten years I have become very in tune to my wife’s current health baseline.  Even at night I can tell when her breathing changes or any other noises or movements that may signify a change and/or a potential need.  I hope that I can say the same thing about my hearing the ‘voice’ of God at any point be it day or night. 

The new hospice Nurse Practitioner was asking me the other day if Piper still recognizes me and I reported how on most days I can still recognize the signs of acknowledgment in her eyes and/or slight changes in facial expressions.  I told her how it really seemed strange to me when family back home in California would say that she didn’t recognize them when I could clearly see the glint in her eyes, or the subtle change in her facial expressions when she looked at them.  But as I look back now, I understand it was because they didn’t ‘know’ the ‘inner voice’ of Piper as I do!  They were dependent on her physical voice and even though they were family to her, they never took the time to develop a line of communication with her ‘inner voice’.

And that is my thought for this post today.  How well have each of us developed that line of communication between God and ourselves?  How well do we hear the ‘voice’ of God in the midst of the various moments of our lives, “in everything you do, everywhere you go;”

I’ve learned that it first takes our personal desire to want to know His ‘voice’ inside of you.  Then it takes a long term commitment to find and spend quality time alone with Him on a daily basis.  For some this may mean that you’ll have to take an inventory of your daily priorities and maybe make a few changes so that daily quiet times with God becomes a part of your schedule.  I also have to admit, that this will be a change that will make a most positive impact on your life!

So what do you think?  Are you ready to hear voices… in particular HIS VOICE?  (You really don’t want to hear just any voice!)  There is no better time than TODAY to make whatever changes might be necessary to develop the ability to communicate with the ‘voice’ of God in your daily lives.  Have a great rest of the week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Who’s VOICE am I expecting to hear inside of me today?”

Monday, October 23, 2017

Tracks...


Proverbs 3:6 in the Message Bible tells us to “Listen for GOD's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track.”  As I studied this particular verse over the weekend and again this morning, I was continually drawn to the last phrase in the scripture.  Many pictures pop into my mind when I consider the idea of staying on ‘track’.  I think about my HO scale slot car set that I enjoyed as a kid when I would switch to larger rear tires on my little white Mustang car to make it look even hotter, but always be dismayed as it would usually jump the ‘track’ as soon as it came to a corner!

Then there’s the thought of coming to a trail junction while hiking in the Sierra’s and having to decide which path or ‘track’ to follow next.  I read this morning of a train that hit a garbage truck somewhere and derailed off the railroad ‘tracks’.  Then I really took a detour down memory lane and recalled the eight ‘track’ players that played Piper’s and I my favorite tunes in my car and in our home during our dating days and early marriage years!

I’m not really sure on how those high tech, for their time players worked, but in my mind’s eye I could see the different ‘tracks’ stacked up on each other like the various stories in a skyscraper.  You could be listening to a song and then right in the middle of the tune it would pause for a moment and you’d hear an audible “click” as the player switched to the next ‘track’ on the cassette.  Then after another pause the song would continue where it left off on the previous ‘track!’

There is a funny scene in the 2001 Billy Graham World Wide Picture’s comedy entitled “Road to Redemption” where two of the characters are riding in an old, but well maintained 1970’s Cadillac on the road from Los Vegas to Arizona.  I won’t take the time to explain the plot but would suggest that you watch it sometime (It is available on Amazon).  It is actually a pretty funny and mostly well-done movie, with a great message.  Anyway, in the scene they are driving on the highway through the desert listening to an old David Cassidy album on the car’s factory installed 8 track player.

Both of the men are reminiscing their youth and are belting out the song together when the player suddenly stops and switches ‘tracks’.  At this point the actors simply freeze and look at each other while the player goes through it clicks and pauses and then immediately continue belting out the song, without missing a beat, when the music finally continues!  You’d probably have had to have an 8 track to fully understand the humor behind the scene.  If you had one and were like me, you most likely knew where the breaks were and simply paused your brain while the player switched ‘tracks’ and then subconsciously turned it back on when the song continued… as if nothing happened!  Hummm… you know… I probably still have the home player I had somewhere in a box around the house…

Well, the idea of our trust in God and His Word keeping us on ‘track’ got me thinking that in our experience through the years, His plans for us usually have many different layers or ‘tracks’ in them that are not always evident or visible to us at the beginning of any stand of faith.  We also learned that once you yield to the Lord’s plan for any situation that you may be dealing with in life, that you begin to see things differently than other’s around you who may only be looking at your circumstances with their natural eyes and understanding.

Hebrews 11:1 informs us that “Faith assures us of things we expect and convinces us of the existence of things we cannot (yet) see.” (God’s Word ©)  So according to this verse, when in faith, we begin to see things through the eyes of faith which are filled and empowered by Godly expectation!  Once in that mode of operation, it makes sense that we’ll see things that other folks simply miss, because we have ‘clicked’ to another track!  And we’ll keep ‘clicking’ onward and upward to all the ‘tracks’ that are a part of His particular plan for our particular situation and need!

What I do find interesting is that sometimes I hear the ‘click’ bringing us to another ‘track’ within His plan, and sometimes I don’t.  There have been many times that I’ll look back in hindsight and see when we ‘clicked’ to another track, but didn’t necessarily know it at the time… kind of like my 8 track player could switch ‘tracks’ on a song I knew like the back of my hand and I wouldn’t even hear the audible ‘click’ anymore… even though I knew it was coming!

I have come to like, enjoy and look forward to seeing and experiencing the various ‘tracks’ that are a part of God’s individual plans for our lives… what about you?  I may or may not always know when the ‘click’ is coming, but I am assured that it will come as He continues to hold my life in the very palm of His hand with a love and caring that only He can provide for us!

When is the last time that you switched ‘tracks’ in God’s plans for your life?  Have a wonderful week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Am I knowingly expecting God to ‘click’ me through the various ‘tracks’ of His plans for me throughout my life?”

Friday, October 20, 2017

What'd You Say?


When I stepped out onto the front porch this morning in order to water the Trailing Vinca that we have hanging from the edge of the porch cover, I noticed a white Harnett County truck idling at the side of the road a few houses down from ours.  After a few moments the driver got back into the vehicle and proceeded to slowly drive through the neighborhood past our home.  As I watched the truck I was instantly brought back to a memory of our family camping days when the white State Park Ranger’s truck would slowly motor through the campground in the early morning hours as the campers were beginning to stir for the new day.

The sight and sound of the truck coming through the campground was always a warm and comforting sight for me as far back into my childhood as I can remember.  In the early days up until the first few years of Piper’s and my marriage, the trucks were painted a deep forest green and stood apart from any other vehicle in the camp.  I remember being very disappointed when budget cuts finally forced the State Parks to save money by not having the trucks painted green and went to the nondescript white trucks!

Those same budget cuts eventually reduced the number of actual Rangers that you would see in the parks.  The last time we went to our favorite campground in the northeastern Sierra’s back in 2005, I don’t remember if we ever saw a full-fledged Ranger and were told that one Ranger now covered all the parks between our camp and Tahoe about an hour and a half away! 

I have fond memories of Piper and I spending time with lead Ranger Paul at Plumas Eureka State Park the first few times we went there beginning in 1976.  Back then they actually had the time to talk and get to know the park’s visitors a little bit!  When Piper and I returned to the park for our 30th anniversary camping vacation, we were pleased to see that they had erected a memorial bench in honor of Ranger Paul who had spent some thirty years in service and was semi-retired when we met him.

The sound and sight of that white county truck this morning served as a caveat that sent me back to other fond memories that I have due to the sounds and sights around me that have had special impact on my life.  Proverbs 3:6 in the Message Bible tells us to: “Listen for GOD's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track.”  Other translations say to “acknowledge him” (God’s Word ©) or to “make her (Godly wisdom) known” (Apostolic Bible Polyglot).  And while they may sound different they are all actually relating to the same activity.

According to Thayer’s, the phrase used in the Apostolic Bible Polyglot, which is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, which encourages us to “make her known” is a derivative of the related word ‘ginosko’ which, once again, speaks of a very intimate and closely personal “knowing” of God and His Word.

While I took some time to think over all this during my Bible Study today, I wrote down the comment that “This means that you’ve got to take the time and effort to ‘hear’ what God is saying – To take whatever time and effort is necessary to fully understand the message that Papa God is trying to relate to you.”  Then I looked up the definition of “listen” in the Oxford Dictionary and discovered that it says the same thing!  It also said that “to listen” means “to give one’s attention to a sound and/or to take notice of and act on what someone says.”

One of the things that has frustrated me the most over the years is when Piper and I have set aside and taken whatever the time necessary to actively seek the Lord in prayer and through His Word in order to confirm a direction we believe He spoke to us and then have someone we begin to share our good news with take two seconds to completely blow away our diligent and hard work with negative comments and reasoning without ever waiting to hear the complete story... or even get the correct facts behind whatever argument they are setting forth.

But like I stated in our last post, after you really take the time and effort to ‘listen to' and ‘hear’ what the Lord is saying to you, the other people’s discouraging responses will not move you EXCEPT to strengthen your faith and resolve to move forward with God’s plan.  Just remember though, that the key to success is to really HEAR what the Lord is saying!  This step takes commitment and the kind of attitude that says: “I’m not going anywhere until I KNOW that I KNOW what Papa God has told me to do… ‘and the gates of hell shall not prevail against me!’” (Matthew 16:18 KJV - personalized)

So… how well do you listen for God’s voice?

Have a wonderful weekend, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “How well am I expecting to hear the voice of the Lord today?”

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

I have an Attitude,,,


We had a new Nurse Practitioner come to give Piper her three month recertification examination yesterday afternoon.  Although the gal was new to us, she told us that she has been with Liberty Hospice for about six years.  Since they are on the road most of the day, the organization had done some reshuffling of their staff so that the nurse’s coverage areas could be a little closer to their homes.  I believe she said she lives about 20 minutes away from our home. 

While she was checking out my sweet wife she asked about “our story” of how the situation with Piper’s health began and progressed through the years.  It is a story I have told many times since 2007, so I started at the beginning and brought her up to current times!  At the conclusion of my comments I told her that I have learned many personal lessons and seen the different sides of many people including myself.  I also told her that I should actually thank the folks who gave us some of the hardest times, especially at the beginning when it seemed like we needed the most physical, emotional and spiritual assistance.  I related how their vehement resistance to us and the courses of action that we felt led of the Lord to follow, in effect, only caused us to be stronger and more resolute in our faith. 

As I re-read Proverbs 3:5-6 from the Contemporary English Version this morning, I was immediately drawn back into our conversations with the Nurse Practitioner.  This modern translation states:

“With all your heart you must trust the LORD and not your own judgment.  Always let him lead you, and he will clear the road for you to follow.”

And again, like I mentioned in my last post, what I saw and wrote down in my notes actually differed a little from the way the words on the page were composed.  My notes this morning spoke to me in a more personalized manner as I wrote down: 

“With all our hearts Piper and I MUST trust the Lord and not our own judgement.  We choose to always let him lead us, for we know – by repeated examples through the years – that HE WILL clear the road for us to follow.”

As I meditated on my personalized version of this verse, I began to think about “our story” that I had shared with our new compassionate friend when suddenly the word “predisposition” popped into my brain.  I quickly looked up the definition of the term and discovered that it means to: “to hold a particular attitude, or to act in a particular way.” (Oxford Dictionaries) And then… Walla!  The light went on and I turned to my wife sitting next to me at the kitchen table and almost shouted: “That’s what we did at the first sketchy report on the original MRI that was taken of your brain back in 2007!”  Following the initial emotional reaction to that report from the nurse on the phone while I was standing alone (thank God!) in the power accessory aisle in the Garden Department at the South Tulsa Home Depot in Oklahoma and my subsequent run to the outside soils storage area so that I could be totally alone, I immediately KNEW that our only answer to this devastating news was GOD and the truth of His Word!

When I got home a little while later and told Piper the negative information I had received, we immediately took hands without any thought or conversation and gave it all to God.  Why?  Because we were PREDISPOSITONED to trust God for this and any other similar situation.  As the dictionary definition states, from the very beginning of this life-altering situation, WE HAD AN ATTITUDE!  And just as today’s translation of Proverbs 3:5-6 says, we knew that we knew that we MUST act in a particular way.

In our minds we immediately KNEW that we had NO OTHER CHOICE but to seek, obey and then follow through on whatever Papa God in His Word and confirmed in our spirits told us to do!  Following that prayer in the late evening hours of that first night, it didn’t matter what or who came against us as we KNEW that we MUST follow God’s plan for us.  This may sound a little harsh, but I firmly believe that if we had rejected what we believed to be the Father’s directions for us and followed some of the contrary “advice” given to us that my sweet wife would not still be alive today!

Have you ever considered the things in your own lives that you have a PREDISPOSITION about?  When things turn south… where is the FIRST PLACE that you automatically turn to for help?  Is it 911, your family and friends, your Pastor or Papa God and His Word?  Over the years since that first report concerning my wife’s health, I have called and/or counselled with all those I just listed… but only after I have sought the Lord and His immediate directions for us.

What do you think about it?

Have a great rest of the week, and as you do, keep asking yourself…  “Am I expecting to follow my PREDISPOSITON when times get rough?”  … Hummm... maybe you also have an ATTITUDE!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Discouragement


dis·cour·age·ment

           [ˌdisˈkərijmənt]

NOUN

    1. a loss of confidence or enthusiasm; dispiritedness:  "do not give in to discouragement"
    2. an attempt to prevent something by showing disapproval or creating difficulties; deterrent:  "the discouragement of crime"*



I would imagine that most of us have had to deal with times of discouragement in our lives.  I heard a story yesterday about a leader named David who returned to his hometown with his faithful and devoted army of 600 men only to find their town burned to the ground and all their families and stuff gone.  The tale goes on to tell how David was beside himself with sorrow and regret and then to make matters even worse, his men began to turn on him as they blamed him for their loss and wanted to stone him!

Talk about fighting discouragement!  In that particular set of circumstances, I think I can relate to how he must have felt… and I’m sure it wasn’t too positive.  So what do you think he did?  Did he go off into a corner and feel sorry for himself?  Did he jump on his horse and skedaddle?  (Did they even use horses in battle back then?  How about camels…)

Well… this story which is recorded in the Biblical book of I Samuel 30 tells us in verse six that David resisted the fear and anger that was plaguing his army and instead “encouraged himself in the Lord.” (KJV)  And you know what happened?  Let me tell you… after getting built back up in the Lord, he sought the Lord’s directions, gathered up his troops and went after the enemy where they found them “scattered all over the place, eating and drinking, gorging themselves on all the loot they had plundered from Philistia and Judah.” (I Samuel 30:16 MSG)  The next verse says that David and his army “pounced” on them, defeated them and got everyone and everything taken from them back safe and sound!

Now that’s the kind of ending to a story that I like… how about you?  Hearing this story at church really encouraged me yesterday and confirmed what I believe the Lord had shown me during my personal Bible study before my breakfast.

I always help Piper with her morning meal before I feed the dog, study the Word and then feed myself!  Well… yesterday’s breakfast for my wife did not go too smoothly.  From the onset, she was not real interested in swallowing anything I gave her.  For a while there it seemed like I was getting more on my hands than in her mouth!  But I persevered and even though it took quite a while, she was finally able to consume a satisfactory amount of her breakfast drinks.

To say that I was tempted to be more than a little discouraged would be putting it mildly!  By the time we were done I was feeling frustrated, upset and almost ready to throw in the towel.  I sat at the table next to her for a while rubbing my tired eyes and considered all the thoughts going through my head, but you know… I deliberately chose to not say a thing.  Instead I slowly got up, put the lease on the dog and took him outback for his morning constitutional.  

Once out in the cool of the mid-October morning, I listened to the songs of the birds in the trees, watched a squirrel run up the side of our fence and reflected on the blue skies surrounding the puffy white clouds overhead.  Once Fiver was done, he jerked me back to reality as he pulled me up the stairs to the deck so he could get inside and have his breakfast!  After I got his food prepared in his special bowl and placed it on his mat next to the refrigerator, I poured a hot insulated cup of Starbucks Carmel flavored coffee and sat down at my computer Bible Study program and began to pray for directions.

During this whole time since feeding my wife, I felt like I was in a fog.  I was fighting through a sense of hopelessness which is normally quite unusual for me and dealing with a strong desire to give into the discouragement that seemed to be screaming at me from all directions!  As my attempts to quiet myself down began to succeed, I heard a soft voice inside of me encouraging me to turn to Proverbs 3:5-6.  So I clicked a few keys on my laptop, highlighted the God’s Word © translation, clicked the mouse to the correct scripture address and read:

“Trust the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths smooth.”

Now, what you see above are the words that were visible on my computer screen, but what I actually saw was:

“Trust in ME Jim with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge ME, and I will make your paths smooth.”

You talk about the effects of a cool drink of water to a hot, exhausted and worn out body (soul and spirit as well!)  Yummmm…  with those two sentences, I flopped back in my seat and quietly began to thank the Lord for just the right WORD at just the right time!  I think at that moment in time, David and I were like two peas in a pod!

Instead of giving into discouragement, Papa God helped me to keep my mouth shut until I could turn to Him and seek His support and guidance in my time of need.

What about you today?  Are you feeling discouraged about anything?  It could be your health or like me, the health of someone very close and special to you.  It could be a financial need, a situation at work or in your family… or it could be just about anything no matter how outrageously large or ridiculously small in size and effect in your life.  Whatever it is… it matters big time to God!

And let me tell you… He does not want you to give into discouragement because He has and IS the answer for your need.  He loves you SO much that He doesn’t want you wasting even a second of your life being discouraged when He can be your uplifting support, comfort and strong fortress!

The King James Version of David’s story says that, “David encouraged himself in the Lord.”  The Hebrew term “encouraged” means “to fasten upon (the Lord), to be strengthened, made courageous, to be cured, fortified, repaired and/or become obstinate (in your unwavering trust in the Lord for your life).”  Just reading that definition makes me feel better… how about you?  Just think about it for a moment.  All those attributes are what our heavenly Father wants us to be in and through our connection with Him!  Wow… so when you and I are weak, He is strong!

Thank you Lord!  Have a great new week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting to turn to for strength and support when discouragement rears its ugly head around me?”



*Powered by Oxford Dictionaries · © Oxford University Press · Translation by Bing Translator


Friday, October 13, 2017

Plump Up?

One of the many symptoms that has demonstrated itself with my wife’s health concerns has been a constant fluctuation in her weight.  It was our concern over her inability to gain weight that led us to the initial physical examination she had back in 2006 before we left for Oklahoma.  The physician at that time thought that her weight was well within the normal range and gave her a clean bill of health.  So we proceeded forward with our plans to move.

After being prescribed a seizure medicine in 2009 she almost immediately gained 38 lbs.  Then about six months later I asked the doctor if there was a liquid form of the medication as she was not always consistent in swallowing the rather large pills.  Well there was and we switched over to the liquid form.  For some reason though, she lost the 38lbs in a few months and returned to her normal weight.

A funny side note happened during this time… Following Piper’s original diagnosis in 2009, I had different people tell me all about the negative reactions that they witnessed or ever heard about in a parent, spouse or friend in order to “warn” me about potential changes in my wife’s demeanor.  Let me tell you flat out hereDon’t do that to a person who is facing a lot of unknowns and attempting to deal with all kinds of things from a personal, emotional, financial and spiritual stand point!  It definitely was NOT what I wanted or needed to hear at that time.

Most times I smiled kindly at the individual relating the story to me and told them that I KNEW what was in my wife’s spirit and that anger or violence would NEVER occur in her… and it hasn’t in the eight years since then!  In fact, my wife has never exhibited negative or any self-destructive tendencies… but just the opposite!  She simply got funnier and a little less reserved in the way she responded to others.

One time when we went over to her parent’s home, she went up to her Dad upon entering the living room and gave him a big bear hug.  Then without a second thought she laughed and said: “Whoa Dad… you’ve gained quite a bit of weight haven’t you!”  Well, without having to say, every eye in the room went to her Dad following her broach of the sensitive subject.  Her Dad became flustered and a bit taken aback and immediately replied: “YOU’RE the one who has gained weight!” His retort upset me but not my still spunky wife.  She continued laughing and soon everyone in the room, including her Dad was laughing along with her!

Since that time her weight has gone up and down… usually down.  I had talked about it with her neurologist at the time and she gave me some information on a variety of foods and liquids that could help to put the pounds back on.  Our oldest daughter and I agreed that it was probably best to get her weight up to about 110lbs in order to put a little more cushion on her in case she should fall as her coordination was beginning to wane.  But Piper would have nothing to do with that decision!  In her mind, her perfect weight was always 105lbs and she would not budge!

I often joked about that in the years to come for even when she lost the ability to verbally communicate and I tried my best to get her weight to the 110lb level… I could not get it that high!  I now believe that it was due to her bull-dog like determination in keeping her weight at the level that was comfortable with her!  Since the beginning of this last year she has lost even more weight and I would love to be able to see it just get close to 100lbs again!

In Psalm 143:9 the Psalmist cries out: “Deliver me, O LORD, from mine enemies: I flee unto thee to hide me.” (KJV)   As I studied this verse earlier today, I came across a link between the above story of the ups and downs of Piper’s weight and a point that David was trying to convey to his readers.  The word translated “hide” in the original Hebrew not only means “to cover” but also leans to the idea of “to plump or to fill up.” 

So as I have been attempting to “plump up” my wife (Geez… Don’t EVER tell her I used that term for her as she has almost always been slim and trim… and proud of it!) David is telling us that when we “flee” to the Lord for deliverance that we can not only “hide” or “be covered” up by Him for our protection… but also… while we are in His presence, to take advantage of the moment and “fill up” and/or “plump up” our spirit man or women with His Word of truth!

As far as I am concerned… when in the presence of the Lord it is NOT the time to be reserved, but to dig in to the spread set before you at the table that He has prepared for us “in the presence of mine enemies” (Psalm 23:5 KJV)  In this case, spiritual calories are a GOOD THING to have!

I have mentioned it repeatedly in many other posts and in fact, told the gal cutting my hair yesterday at Great Clips, that filling up, plumping up or stuffing us with His Word on a daily basis has been the KEY to keeping my wife and I strong, focused and (mostly) at peace in the midst of everything we have been through with the battle we are fighting for her life!  Let me tell you again… HIS WORD WORKS!  But you’ve got to hear it before you can act on it!

So… what do you say?  Are you ready to attend a FEAST this weekend?  To go to a place where the table set before you is overflowing with luscious, delicious and mouth as well as spirit-man watering dishes?  Where the sign on the door says “Eat All You Can!”  I SURE am!

Have a wonderful weekend… even if the circumstances around you might not look too promising.  Get into His presence, pull up a chair at the table and enjoy yourselves!

And… as you do, keep asking yourself… “Just how much am I expecting to EAT today?”

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Santa Rosa


When my wife and I returned home from our three year stay in Oklahoma where I attended Bible College, we felt that we would never leave California again.  It’s not that we didn’t enjoy our stay in the Sooner state.  The people were wonderful, the church was terrific, and the job was good.  The only thing that tended to drive me bonkers though, was the extreme weather and the flat countryside!

So we came back to the mild weather, beautiful hills, and mountains and nearby seaside draws of our home in Santa Rosa, California.  But you know… after a short while we took notice that things weren’t the same as before we left.  As I’ve mentioned in other blog posts, our former network of family and friends had drastically changed and somehow the city itself seemed to be different.  Then a few years later when the Lord clearly spoke to me about moving to be near most of our kids on the other side of the country, it just felt right!

So here we are a little over three years later and we’ve never looked back for this is home to us now!  But then something happened that served to evoke in me some feelings that I never knew were there.  I received an early morning text from my sister on Monday morning asking how Piper was and if we were going to be okay with the approaching hurricane Nate coming up from the gulf.

After texting back and forth a few times she asked us to pray for them out in northern California as she said they were surrounded by fires.  Well, I didn’t get too concerned as that isn’t unusual for that area of the country this time of year.  At least that what I thought until I went online and starting perusing through some north bay area websites…

I have to admit that I was horror struck as I began to see pictures of areas of our hometown where we used to live.  Where we raised our kids.  Stores, hotels and longstanding local landmarks that we frequented and/or passed by on a daily basis were totally burned out!  I told my cousin whom I immediately sent a text that it looked quite apocalyptic!  I thought that this couldn’t really be true… could it?

I can’t fully explain the shock, hurt and emptiness I have felt as I’ve looked at all the horrific pictures and read the news updates.  It’s been a little difficult to get current news out here, but I seem to have enough contacts through Facebook, email and texting to keep me in the know! 

I guess that the old hometown still holds a prominent place in who Piper and I are.  We may be 3000 miles away, but we’ll always be Santa Rosen’s at heart!  All those places that we simply took for granted when we lived there are all a part of our personal history.  It is hard to see it gone and more importantly, it is very difficult to see many of our friends from our old homeschool group and church having to go through the personal hardships of losing their homes and belongings.  Our hearts and continued prayers continue to go out to them and their situations.

My sister, her husband and two dogs have been evacuated from their home since Sunday night.  I just spoke with her and as far as she knows their house in the Oakmont area is still safe.  I haven’t heard from my brother as yet today.  I did hear from my cousin though (whose home is safe in Bennet Valley) and she reported that his neighborhood in Sonoma is now under mandatory evacuation.

So… we continue to keep watch and we continue to lift the entire situation to the One with the ability, strength, peace and love to carry each of them through until the morning of the new day.  For each of you in the midst of this situation, I encourage you to lift your voices to the Lord and let this be your prayer:

“Hear me speedily, O LORD: (for) my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.  Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.” (Psalm 143:7-8 KJV) 

Know that none of you are alone nor in a hopeless situation.  You have friends surrounding you in prayer and the Lord who is holding you close to Himself.  He will carry you through this and you will see His lovingkindness in each new morning!

Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might… and as you are, keep asking yourself… “Who am I expecting to carry me through today… as well as in the days ahead?”

Monday, October 9, 2017

What's Hidden In You?


Back in the latter end of the 1970’s, the pastor of the Baptist church that my wife and I were attending and where I was also serving as the Youth Minister, assembled a group of men in the church for a special Bible Study group.  I felt very honored when he also asked me to participate in the study sessions.  Most of the men were a minimum of ten plus years my senior.  I was still pretty new in my Christian walk and didn’t know much about the Bible… but I definitely was hungry to find out!

We started out by reading, studying and discussing a book put out by the Navigators.*  I don’t remember what the title was or even what it covered!  But what I do remember though, is how great it felt to be surrounded by a group of supportive individuals who were all there in order to grow in their faith as men, husbands, dads, employees or employers and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It was also the first time that I began to internalize the importance of memorizing scripture. And since I already had the visible reference of one who possessed a wealth of the Word hidden in her heart through the example of my young wife, it was easy for me to grasp the reality of this truth very quickly!  In this regard, the Psalmist in Psalm 2:1-5 declares:

“My son, (& daughter) if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;  Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;  If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;  Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.”   (KJV)                                                                                        

I can’t tell you how many times throughout the early years of our marriage that I would turn to my wife, when in the midst of ministering to others, expecting her to have the right Word for the discussion at hand… and you know?  Most of the time she did have it and shared it gracefully, expectantly and with a sweet smile!  My problem was that for some reason, it was very difficult for me to memorize the specific location of individual scriptures and then be able to recall them when needed!

On the positive side, I seemed to be able to remember the book in the Bible where the verse was found and the approximate location within that book, so after reading a few books by and/or about the great evangelist Smith Wigglesworth (1859 – 1957), I began to follow his example and tended to keep a Bible nearby or in the car whenever I went out so that I could easily flip through the pages and find the verse I wanted! 

For years, the first thing I did whenever I got a new Bible was to put a small tab on the page with the table of contents so I could find a particular book with rapid success.  My little cheat tab made it look like I knew my Bible so well that I could get to any book with a simple flip of a few pages!  (Shhh... don’t tell anybody I told you this!)

Through the years of ministry and life in general, I have learned that is important to not only share scripture from the heart, but to also let the receiver know where he or she can find the verse in their own Bibles.  Piper always had the knack to stop in the middle of ministering to someone at the church in order to assist them in finding the verse in their own Bible, so that they could follow along with what she was sharing.  This technique seemed to help the individual take more ownership of the scripture and to help them put it into work in their own lives in a more meaningful way.

Over the past twenty years or so, it has become much easier for me to recall particular verses and the address were they abide in the Bible!  Of course the addition of Bible School definitely aided my ability to know where the verses I may need at any given time are.  One of the most interesting results of my journey of memorizing or maybe better said, hiding the Word in my heart, has been during some of the more difficult moments of this battle for my wife’s health that we have been involved with full time since 2009.  I’ve discovered to my pleasure, that in the neediest times, when things seem to be sky-rocketing downward… the Word that I have put inside me has seemed to just pop up and help me through whatever is happening at the moment!

In times of greatest need, at the side of my wife in the different Emergency Rooms, in the midst of a scary negative physical reaction that is happening before my eyes, when the doctors or nurses have given me negative reports, or when I am just looking into the eyes of the one I love more than anything else in this world and seeing the trauma residing there, it has been His Word that has come up from inside me and given me the comfort, the peace, the confidence and the strength to carry on… and then share that Word with her as well!

So, my suggestion?  Take the time today… and every day to study and then hide His Word in your hearts… so that when your times of need arise, you’ll discover His Word coming up from the hidden places of your heart to minister to you when you need it the most!  Have a great week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Am I expecting to hide God’s Word in my heart today?”                                                               



*https://www.navigators.org/mission/navigator-church-ministries/

Friday, October 6, 2017

Ears!


I was watching a news program the other evening where they were discussing the recent passing of musician Tom Petty.  At the conclusion of the segment the commentator turned to his panel of “experts” who had participated in the conversation and asked each of them what their favorite Tom Petty song was.  And without any hesitation each panelist named a song and took a moment to reminisce as to why this was their favorite.

I was a little surprised at how fast they each answered the inquiry and turned to my wife and stated that I couldn’t answer that question!  While I was familiar with the musician I could not name one single song as I haven’t really listened to secular music since the mid 1970’s.  I had discovered back then that the secular music on the radio that I had saturated myself in since elementary school and covered many of the songs in a couple of garage bands that I was in through Junior and Senior High just didn’t have any meaning to me anymore!

My growing hunger for the things of God and the breakthrough of good contemporary Christian music opened up a whole new world of musical expression that was easy for me to set my ear to!  The lyrics in this genre of music had a strong meaning that effected my entire being and touched my very soul.  Then with the new twelve string guitar that my wife bought for me on our first anniversary (I believe that was the occasion anyway – it definitely was during our first year as husband and wife!) the new songs seemed to just pour forth from inside of me!  That gorgeous red guitar and I became almost inseparable for many years up and through the 1990’s!*

Proverbs 4:20 in the Old Testament Greek translation found in the Apostolic Bible Polyglot, the Word of the Lord says: “O son, to my sayings take heed, and to my words set aside your ear.”  As I read this translation this morning, I thought about the story I shared above and it made me think of the importance of setting our ears to the truth of God’s Word.  As Christians, I believe this is a decision that each of us have to face at some point in our lives. 

The literal meaning in the Greek for the phrase “set aside” is “to put oneself into a place or to a person.”  For us that would simply mean to put ourselves into the place of God’s Word.  Into a position where we seek, listen to and obey the teachings and directions that He gives us through the pages of our Bibles.  I made the purposeful decision way back when to stop listening to most secular music as I felt it no longer met a need in me.  My focus in life had changed and I needed to “set” myself into a place where I was being enriched by the things I listened to.  It is a decision that I have never regretted.

The God’s Word translation of our verse today declares: “My son, pay attention to my words.  Open your ears to what I say.”  Every time I read from that version the “I” seems to enlarge itself and jump off the page at me!  It is like the Lord is trying to emphasize the point that what He has to say is of much more importance than to what the world is trying to yell into my ears.

Piper’s and my heartfelt and determined decision to glue our ears onto God and His Word at the very beginning of the ordeal with her health that we continue to deal with, has saved us much discomfort and error from all the other voices that have vied for the attention of our ears since 2007.  The next verse in Proverbs 20 warns us to “not lose sight of these things…” (God’s Word ©)  I have discovered over the path of our journey that other voices many times, come only but to bring doubt to our stand of faith and act as a distraction to what the Father is trying to do on and in our behalf.  For us the need is to: “Focus – Focus – Focus” on God and His Word… for what He has to say is of MUCH MORE importance than any other voice!

So… to what have you “set your ear” to?  What are the things that you listen to when the needs of life come to light?  For me and my house, our ears are firmly glued onto the truth of God and His Word!  Just think about it…

Have a great weekend.  After a week of fantastic fall weather we are supposed to get a bit of rain this weekend, but that’s okay as our lawns could use it!  As you go about your daily activities this weekend, give a thought to where your ears are set and see if any changes are in order… and in the process keep asking yourself… “What voice(s) am I expecting to be listening to today?”



*Lately though, it hasn’t seen much action!  With everything going on with my wife’s health I just haven’t had the inspiration to play.  I even purchased a new guitar a couple of years ago and keep both out in our living room so that I can see them, hoping that it would give me the desire to play again… but alas… it hasn’t happened yet!  But I fervently believe that those two instruments and Piper’s piano as well, still have lots of years of music in them!  My faith won’t let me give up!!!