Our New Home!

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

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

WWJD?


I’ve been spending a lot of time on my knees lately but before you think that I am getting all pious on you, let me explain that in preparing the house for sale in the spring, my first project has been to clean up and repair the floorboards, doorframes and doors in the hallways and room entrances.  I quickly became aware that this type of cleaning is very similar to washing and waxing your car.  I’ve always said that you definitely learn the shape and condition of your car’s body when you are working a few inches away from it!  I can now say the same thing about the walls and floors in our house!

Under closer observation, I discovered that former occupants may not have been as particular with their painting and repair skills as I like to be.  So, I have spent a little extra time cleaning up other people’s mishaps.  It also means that I’ve had a lot of time to think about a lot of things as sanding and painting isn’t exactly rocket-science… if you know what I mean!

For some reason yesterday afternoon, I suddenly found myself on the subject of my time spent in the Bible.  And I began to wonder aloud if Piper and I were just normal Christians or were seen as a little bit over zealous with the strong emphasis we exemplified in our dependence on what we considered to be the finite truth we’ve always been increasingly hungry to dig out from the 66 books found in what Christians call the Holy Bible.  To us it was just a normal lifestyle that we never questioned.

Let’s face it, as I have mentioned many times before, just hanging out with Piper Canevari in High School caused me to develop a hunger for the Word of God that I had felt before but never understood until she lived her Christian relationship with God before me.  She just seemed to have an innate, childlike, personal and very practical understanding and application of her Bible.  It was just who she was… and I quickly fell in love with that… and every other part of her! (I know… this is beginning to sound like a Hallmark movie… but it is true!)

To this day, I still am not sure where she picked it up either.  Her family seemed to have a good knowledge of the Word, but it was nothing like the way Piper simply lived it every moment of her life whether at church, with the family, at school or alone with me on a date.  When the WWJD* slogan became popular in the 1990’s, I used to laugh every time I heard it, because that pattern of behavior was just standard issue in our life since the beginnings of our relationship in 1970. 

Our dependence on the Word really exploded in the mid-seventies when we began to learn about the authority of the believer and the teachings of who we as Christians in Christ.  We were excited to live Scriptures that tell of Jesus yielding His authority to believers like those found in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 when Jesus told His followers that "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (EMTV).

Then there are those that tell of our legal standing in Christ including Ephesians 2:6 where Paul explains that with our salvation we have been “raised us up together, and seated us together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus” (EMTV) or in Mark’s rendition of the Great Commission where Jesus declared that “these signs shall accompany those who have believed: In My name they shall cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall pick up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it shall by no means hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall be well." (Mark 16:17-18 EMTV)

And then as if to prove that what he had just written was accurate, Mark concluded his Gospel saying, “So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.  And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with (them**), and confirming the word with signs following.” (Mark 16:19-21 KJV)

So, what else can I say but WOW!  I guess you can see why we chose to live our lives with such a dependence on the Word of God.  And if I were to answer my question that I asked while massaging my aching knees yesterday, I would smile, think about ALL the circled and underlined scriptures throughout Piper’s two Bibles that I keep handy, one on her nightstand and the other for quick reference on the dining room table, and answer that for us... the time spent in God's Word was... just normal!

Looking back at our lives today, I would declare that I think that we did just fine… and state unequivocally that I am NOT about to start spending less time in my Bible now in this new chapter of my life.  I believe like the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 119:160, who most think was David, as he wrote to lend wisdom to his son Solomon when he was about to take over the throne professing that: “There is nothing but truth in your (God’s) word, and all of your righteous regulations endure forever.” (God’s Word ©)

So… what about you... enough or not enough time?  Have a good rest of the week, and as you do, say with me… “I expect to continue to take God’s Word as the final truth in my life today!”

  

*What Would Jesus Do?

**The word “THEM” is not actually in the original manuscripts and was added by the translators.  Therefore, when you read the statement correctly, the verse describes how it is the Lord Who is working with and through His Word… through us on this earth!

Monday, January 28, 2019

How Do You See It?


It dawned on me over the weekend, that I might see the Word contained in my Bible a little differently than some other people.  To me it is God directly speaking to me just as if He was standing before me.  That’s what makes it so special to me.  I’ve heard many members of the various congregations we served, talk about what they would do if Jesus suddenly appeared before them.  Well, to me, that is exactly what happens every time I open up and study my Bible!

I remember watching a Christian western many years ago where in one scene, the bad guy tossed a Bible, that was just handed to him by the arresting US Marshall, to the ground with careless disgust.  The Marshall immediately bent over and picked up the Bible, dusted it off and said, “Don’t do that, that’s the Word of God!”  And I clearly remember turning to Piper sitting next to me and whispering… “See he gets it!” and she, of course, nodded in agreement!

I look forward to studying the Word every morning.  In fact, I rush to get the coffee on, take the dog out in order for him to care for his morning needs, and then pour a steaming cup of my morning brew, so that I can finally sit down and fellowship with God in His Word.  As did my lovely wife, I tend to take a Bible with me most everywhere I go.  Piper always had a green Gideons New Testament in her purse and kept another one in the glove box of her green Suburban (hummm… I wonder if she color coordinated them on purpose?).  I have a red God’s Word © New Testament in the Equinox and like most others have a Bible app on my phone with multiple available translations!

Over the past few years, I’ve become increasingly more and more aware of how the enemy of our faith, the devil, thinks oppositely about the Word of God than I do.  I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately and realizing that most of the adversity that Piper and I faced, especially at the beginning of our stand of faith for her health starting back in 2009, was not as much against us personally as it was against the Word that we had chosen to stand on!

Jesus tells us in John 10:10 that, “The thief (ie; the devil) does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…” (EMTV)  In the parable of the Seed and the Sower,* Jesus tells us just what it is that the devil comes to steal.  He compares the seed sown in the ground to the Word that we sew in our hearts and explains how that the devil immediately comes to steal (kill and destroy) that seed, or the Word, that we plant in our hearts.  He also teaches how that sufferings and persecution are the tools which the devil uses against us as a means to destroy the Word we are standing on.  He declared that “When suffering or persecution comes along because of the word, he (the believer without deep understanding of the Word) immediately falls from faith.” (Matthew 13:21 God’s Word ©) 

In his Gospel and letters in the New Testament, the Apostle John tells us a lot about the power and significance of the Word of God for our lives.  In John 1:1-5 he begins by establishing the fact that God and the Word are one and that God’s Word is not only responsible for the creation but continues to be the life and light of each one of us who believes.  He tells us how the light of His Word shines in the darkness that is all around us in this world and how “the dark has never extinguished it.” (John 1:5 Gods Word ©) 

All of this explains a lot to me.  It helps me to remove the frustration I have had with people and gets me to focus on the real source of the persecutions we faced!  It also deepens my daily resolve to “be strong in the Lord (ie; in His Word), and in the power of his might.” (Ephesians 6:10 KJV)

So yeah… I not only see the words in my Bible(s) as words of encouragement, peace, comfort and strength, but also as my lifeline in my daily steps!  His Word is my source of love, life, light, and abounding joy, as well as my direct connection to His will and power!

Is that how you see your Bible?  Think about it!

Have a great new week, and as you do, say along with me… “I am expecting God’s Word to empower me today!”



*Matthew 13:18-23, Mark 4:14-20


Friday, January 25, 2019

Legal Documents


I was talking to God in the shower this morning when the word “transitions” popped into my head.  And without missing a beat I began to consider how life is all about a series of transitions from one chapter to the next.  After getting myself put together for the day, I pulled up my trusty Bible Study program on my computer* and began to search for scriptures that talk about transitions.  The verses that stood out to me the most were from Hebrews 9:16-17 where the writer discusses the benefits of Jesus’ death for us.  It declares:

“Like a will that takes effect when someone dies, the new covenant was put into action at Jesus' death. His death marked the transition from the old plan to the new one, canceling the old obligations and accompanying sins, and summoning the heirs to receive the eternal inheritance that was promised them. He brought together God and his people in this new way.” (The Message) 

The idea of transitioning from the old plan to a new plan caught my fancy as I thought about how I am currently preparing our house for sale while I transition from one chapter of my life with Piper, to the new chapter without her. (Ouch!  You know that even hurts to write it!)  And talking about that preparation, I don’t know what I did but my left shoulder was really hurting yesterday!

I’m thinking that it may have started when I was working in the guest bath on Wednesday afternoon.  Besides other things, I was cleaning the walls and the cabinet under the sink.  When I opened the doors on the cabinet, it hit me like a brick when I observed all of the items we used for Piper’s personal needs.  I fell back against the wall and began to sob as everything we went through came flooding back to my consciousness. 

I sorrowfully acknowledged the fact that one never thinks that they’d be taking care of all those necessary and at times messy, very personal needs with the one you’ve always considered to be the most beautiful, precious and yes, even sexiest woman in the whole world!  But yet, I am glad that it was me and not someone else for I know that Piper would be more comfortable with that as she trusted me more than anyone else in this world.  And yes… I would do it all over again, in a heart-beat, without a second thought!

I had to stop and cry on my cousin’s shoulder (or better said, cry on her phone via text messaging!) after that unexpected experience.  I am so thankful for my cousin as she has been closer than a sister throughout all of this.  We talk pretty much every day.  Thank you Laura!

I’ve noticed, that every time I’ve had one of those physically emotional episodes, I awake sore in the morning!  I guess that kind of emotional release is hard on the joints.  And when you put that together with all the sanding and door removal and re-hanging, I imagine that my shoulder had finally had enough!  It does feel much better today though… Praise the Lord!

That verse talks about a will going into effect when someone dies.  When we first moved here, I had some serious concerns from some things that were said and done back in California that caused me to feel it important enough to obtain legal guardianship over Piper, draw up a will for us, as well as a trust for Piper in case I was ever out of the picture.  The lawyer we went to in Raleigh confirmed that these documents would assure a smooth transition for all of my concerns. (and our kids were quite thankful for my efforts!)

Likewise… Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection along with His willotherwise known as the New Testament - also confirms our smooth transitions from not only this life to the next, but also from stage to stage during our physical lives on this earth!  That absolute truth is what continues to fortify me since Piper’s homegoing in September!

What is it that fortifies you to transition from the various chapters in your life?  You might not be going through the emotional stresses of the roller-coaster ride that I’ve been on, but let’s face it… change for most people is not easy!  God’s legal documents found in the New Testament can give you the reassurance needed for your smooth transitions… and it is a lot cheaper than what I had to pay for our legal documents in order to assure the right results for Piper’s care!

What do you think?  Have a great weekend, and as you do, say along with me… “I am expecting smooth transitions in my life as I seek out and depend on the legal documents Father God has written just for me in His Word!”



*I’ve used e-Sword ever since being introduced to it in Bible School.  The basic program with many Bible translations, commentaries, dictionaries, books and maps is free and you can purchase additional translations as desired. 

https://e-sword.net/downloads.html

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

"Can-Do!"


I’ve been finding myself thinking a lot about my wife and the countless memories that are near and dear to my heart from the 48 years of our time together. (Big surprise right…)  I’m not sure what it was, but it seemed liked we just loved to talk to each other since day one in High School!  I am surprised that we didn’t get in trouble (too much) for talking in the few classes we had together!  Even when she lost her ability to talk, I still couldn’t stop myself from talking to her… just like nothing had changed!

As I have stated over and over again, she was always such a positive person.  She was comfortable in her own skin, sort of speak, and was confident in the faithfulness of God and His Word.  She was also a fairly adventurous individual.  There weren’t too many times when she wasn’t open to new ideas, unusual plans, changes and my sometimes seemingly crazy dreams and ambitions!

I remember her telling me of a vacation that her family had taken along with the family of one of her father’s friends from the SRJC.  If I am not mistaken, they went to the Ponderosa Ranch theme park located on Lake Tahoe near the town of Incline, California.  The park which finally closed its doors in 2004, was a duplication of TV’s second longest running western show Bonanza, which ran from 1959 – 1973.  From what I understand, it was a staple Sunday night show that Piper’s family would watch as they gathered around the fireplace hearth and the little black and white TV they owned well into the 1970’s.

Her Dad always like to have T-Shirts or Sweatshirts custom printed to commemorate various family functions and this time around he had white sweatshirts silkscreened with the phrase “Can-Do” on the front in black ink.  The phrase was a combination of parts of both family's last names.  Well, I am not sure if he really knew what he was doing or not, but that phrase of “Can-Do” seemed to become the rallying call for his oldest daughter throughout her lifetime!  Like I’ve said, she didn’t shrink back from just about any challenges.  I’m not talking about potentially life-threatening activities or things that were not safe, but more in line with challenging the status quo of thought or natural reasoning… especially if it contradicted something clearly stated in the Bible.

There were times when I loved to sit back and watch her quickly figure out something that was new to her.  She had an uncanny sense of thinking fast on her feet.  For some reason I also enjoyed observing the way she used her hands.  I was telling my cousin the other day that Piper’s hands were so small but yet she could do things with them that seemed almost impossible to me… like stretching them across the ivories on the piano in order to play incredibly complicated pieces of classical music! 

Watching her camping with our three-month-old son for the first time was a kick!  She would just make up things as we went.  Grabbing the plastic wash tub for the dishes to give Josh a bath in, lining a section of the ground in our campsite with plastic sheeting so he wouldn’t get dirty… and then quickly realizing that it worked best to just let him get dirty on the first day as he stayed somewhat cleaner after that! 

Then there were all the fairly big productions we did with our youth and children’s groups at various churches with various budgets over the years, like the pancake breakfasts and spaghetti dinners, Family Fun Nights, community outreaches, camping trips with the youth… and the list goes on.  She just had that “Can-Do” attitude about her… it seemed that scriptures like Philippians 4:13 where the Apostle Paul stated: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (KJV) were an integral part of her DNA!

I was studying this morning from the book of 2 Timothy and couldn’t help but center in on chapter one verse seven where Paul replied to Timothy with a similar statement that he wrote to the church in Philippi stating: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (KJV) And I couldn’t help but chuckle as I thought that God must be reading my mind in my thoughts about Piper!  For that verse seems to perfectly encapsulate the “Can-Do” attitude she lived by!

It also dawned on me that as a born-again Christian, that scripture tells me that I have absolutely NO sense of natural fear in my spirit-man… the real me on the inside!  Do I get tempted with fear?  You bet… especially over the last four months since Piper passed!  But do I give in to it?  NO!  I may have to wrestle with the temptation for awhile but my faith in God and His Word always wins out! (Hint: memorize I Corinthians 10:13)

Let’s face it.  We had people trying their best to put fear on us throughout the last eight to ten years of Piper’s life when it came to her diagnosis… but we learned (we HAD to learn) to reject their fear and put our trust in what God’s Word said.  Otherwise, as you know by now… we would never have made it!  2 Timothy 1:7 lists a lot more things that God has given us instead of fear… mainly His power or ability, His love nature (which casts out all fear-See: I John 4:18) and a sound mind (ie; a mind that thinks on the truth of God and His Word)!

So, what’s my point?  Well, while it may be true that Piper just sort of had the natural disposition about her to easily think out of the box, you and I can have that same “Can-Do” attitude she possessed by our study of and trust in the faithfulness of God to His Word.  Is it easy to attain and maintain?  Well… let’s be real here, you’ll definitely have to stay on top of and keep feeding your faith!  To be honest, Piper’s ability to think out of the box with a “Can-Do” attitude wasn’t always excepted by those who couldn’t or wouldn’t want to see like she did.  She didn’t always see eye to eye with a few of her bosses, or even with members of her own family… but it never stopped her from pursuing the things in life that she felt God was calling her to do!  And we were always a team… side by side, supporting and uplifting each other!  Ah… for those good times again!

So, the question is… What will your response be when God suggests something seemingly impossible to you?  Will you answer How? Or Why Not!

Have a good rest of the week, and as you do, say along with me… I am expecting to do all things through Christ Who is strengthening me for today’s tasks and responsibilities!







Monday, January 21, 2019

The Cold, Prophecy and Communication!


I got a text alert earlier this morning announcing that today was the coldest day in the Triangle area of North Carolina (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) in 368 days!  That official temperature of 17 degrees was taken at the Raleigh-Durham Airport which is about 40 minutes away from our home.  When I took the dog out around 8:00AM the thermometer on my deck read 14 degrees.  So, I guess I beat the record today!  We are actually located slightly outside of the official Triangle area, southeast of the airport, so that may account for the difference.  Anyway you look at it though… It is COLD today!  It is about 10:30 EST now and the thermometer has only gone up about three degrees with a breeze blowing!

We are supposed to get up to whopping 31 degrees by late afternoon!  So, needless to say, I’m wearing my long pants today!  But that’s okay for me as I’ll continue to be working on cleaning walls and filling and sanding gouges on the door frames in the house where I was a little less than gentle when pushing Piper’s wheelchair through! 

The worst spot was the guest bathroom that we used pretty much exclusively for Piper, as I couldn’t get her big chair through the doorway in the master bath.  It is funny out here, but I’ve noticed that many houses have doorways to the bathrooms that are narrower than the other door frames in the house… including with ours!  The only reason our guest bath worked for Piper’s chair was that the door opened barely enough to squeeze the front wheels of the chair through and then I had to pick her up and carry her the rest of the way!  The extended size of the jacuzzi tub in the master bath didn’t allow for a wide opening of the door!

So, if I didn’t position the chair exactly right… I rubbed the door frame… and considering how tired and sore I was at times, the wood frame was in better shape than I thought when I got down on my knees to sand, putty and sand again!  Hopefully I can get to the painting today.

I have had a very difficult time getting the oomph for the vision of this planned move to Oklahoma in the spring.  Like my wife Piper, I had always been a forward thinker with a strong vision and plan for our future.  With her departure though, all those hopes and dreams kind of went up in smoke.  It’s a bit difficult to catch the vision when you have no idea of what it is and all you can see ahead is a hazy fog!

But thanks be to God for His encouraging Words to me!  The one thing I HAVE known to do is to continue filling myself up with God’s Word.  As most of you know, that practice is what I believe gave me the strength, peace and emotional fortitude to take care of most every need of Piper’s during the last eight years of her life.  And I believe that this is one habit that I most definitely need to continue with!

I recently got a couple of boosts as well.  At the end of his sermon yesterday, the Pastor of our home church in Oklahoma (that I continue to live-stream each week) suddenly paused for a moment and then looked into the camera saying “this is for those of you watching online” and proceeded to declare in prophecy saying “I know you’re facing some major changes in your in your life, but it will all be okay!”

Now, I have to say that Piper and I have been involved in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles since the mid-seventies and I have developed a pretty good sense of picking up when a word of prophecy is right or not… and that particular word spoke directly into my heart!  The minute he said it, tears filled my eyes and I couldn’t help but stand up at the dining room table where I had been participating in the service, shoot my hands upward and thank and praise the Lord!

It was like my whole being was suddenly filled with hope for a positive future.  But it didn’t end there.  This morning while studying in the book of Jeremiah, I turned to chapter 29 and zeroed in on verse 11 where Piper had circled in her old and well-worn NASB Bible that I’ve been keeping on the table as a reference guide and read: “For I know the plans that I have for you declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”

From there I looked it up as per my study style, in a few other translations in order to catch the best overall idea of what the Lord was trying to convey though the Prophet.  It was when I looked up the original Hebrew for the words translated “welfare” and “calamity” that caused me to have almost the exact same reaction as I had yesterday to the Pastor’s words of prophecy.  “Welfare” or “peace” as the KJV states is defined as “completeness, soundness, happy, tranquility, contentment and friendships.”  “Calamity” or “evil” in the KJV talks of something that is “disagreeable, bad, unpleasant, unhappy or displeasing.”

After learning that, you can most likely understand why I jumped up from the table again and began to shout and cry (startling the dog who was resting comfortably on the couch!) Wow! Wow! Wow!  According to that word of prophecy from the Word of God, I have little to worry about concerning my future!  I may not YET know what it is, but I have the peace, the hope and the earnest expectation that it will cause me to end up content, tranquil and sound and not disagreeable, bad or unpleasant.  In other words… It’s gonna be okay!

But you know what really clicked for me?  And I know this might sound a little selfish, but I have often found myself over the last four months since Piper’s passing, wondering aloud to the Lord if I would ever be happy again… And Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries makes it pretty clear that one of the thoughts behind the word “welfare” is that of being “happy!”  Enough said!

God has good and perfect plans for each of us who actively believe in Him and His Word.  By “actively” I mean regularly seeking Him through prayer, the study of His Word and fellowship.  I have seen many who consider themselves to be Believers but fail to receive of the goodness of the Lord in their lives… simply because they don’t spend time with Him.  What will it be for you?

Have a great new week, and as you do, join me in declaring that “I am expectant of the goodness of God in my life because I stay in regular communication with Him!”

Friday, January 18, 2019

SAD, GLAD, JOY, PEACE… HUH?


I have had a love for camping for as long as I can remember.  I have a multitude of fond memories of camping with my family throughout my childhood years as well as my adult years with Piper alone and then with our own growing family!  To me, summer is not complete without a camping adventure in the great outdoors.  And if I have my choice, camping would always be first on my list as the answer to the yearly question of what to do for vacation this year!

My Dad also had a love for the outdoors and seemed to be happiest when sitting in the middle of our campsite reading a paper in a folding chair!  My Mom not so much!  I think she put up with the camping adventures for the sake of my Dad and us kids, but longed for the day when they could finally afford a trailer so she didn’t have to sleep on the floor again!  But she made sure that it was fun for us youngsters.  She always had pre-planned camp activities set for us and did seem happy when cooking up some special delicacy over the propane stove for our evening meals.

Piper on the other hand seemed to love camping from the first time we did it alone together as a part of our honeymoon.  Her only camping experiences that I know of before that, was summer camp at Christian conference grounds (in cabins) and a campout or two that she and I organized for our college-career group.  Her family was definitely not into camping although her paternal Grandparents owned a ranch where Piper spent a lot of time as a child. 

Piper was a lot like my Mom in that she also always planned activities for the kids to do while camping, along with the regular mountain hikes and swimming that was a normal part of our camping adventures.  As the kids got older, I began to put together interactive programs like I wrote for our various youth groups that we could participate in as a family, complete with treasure hunts around the campgrounds, personal Bible study and related activities, crafts and group sessions.  Every-so-often I still find a project or vacation summary booklet that Piper would have the kids put together while at camp or as a “What I did for summer vacation” project for school the following September.

I vividly remember waking up in the mornings when we would be leaving to go on vacation as a kid and even as an adult, full of excitement and anticipation of all the fun we would have!  I felt that same excitement when Piper and I packed up our trailer and headed off to our favorite spot in the Sierra’s for our 30th Wedding Anniversary vacation week alone together back in 2005.  I felt like a little kid again!  It was also the first time in our then 30 years of marriage that we would be alone together on vacation (and not at a ministry conference) for more than a couple of nights!  As it turns out, it was also our last vacation alone together as Piper began to exhibit the early stages of dementia just a couple of years later and life took a drastic curve!

Now that I am in the process of closing out that chapter in our lives by actively preparing our house for sale and then a move to Oklahoma to be near the kids, I think a lot about waking up with that excitement for the pleasurable activities of life each day.  Sometimes it takes quite a bit of prayer, the Word and the knowledge that God “will never neglect you or abandon you” (Joshua 1:5 God’s Word ©) to get me going in the morning with the barest tinge of a smile on my face and some hope in my heart! 

But get up I do each day since Piper’s moving on to glory.  Sometimes I just think about what a pleasurable time that she must be having in heaven and how beautiful she must look now that she is totally set free from all the devastating changes that the disease brought upon her body… and that makes me happy and somehow gives me a positive hope for my immediate future.

I also think on scriptures like Palm 118:24 that tell us that “This is the day the LORD has made. Let's rejoice and be glad today!” (God’s Word ©)  Most of the commentaries that I read agree that the “day” spoken of in this verse is a prophecy for the Gospel age that you and I are a part of right now.  But why does it tell us to be glad?  Well, as I study my Bible, which I fully believe to be the anointed and truthful Word of God, I see that scriptures like 1 Corinthians 15:57 and 2 Corinthians 2:14, Romans 8:37, 1 John 2:14, 1 John 4:4, I John 5:4-5 and Colossians 2:14-15 (to name a few) emphatically describe the VICTORY that Jesus Christ has ALREADY provided for us to have in our daily lives! 

All we have to do is reach out and appropriate it!  But one can’t do that if he or she doesn’t know what the Bible says is theirs for the taking!  Hosea 4:6 informs us that “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (KJV)  In this particular case, WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW CAN HURT YOU!

So, underneath it all, that is the main hope or expectation that gets me up in the morning and causes me to put on a happy face!  Because with the knowledge of the victory that Jesus has already provided for me, I have the peace on the inside that allows the JOY that strengthens me (Nehemiah 8:10) to overcome the sorrow that surrounds me.  So yeah… This IS the day or better said the AGE that the Lord has made for me to rejoice and be glad in… because its HIS age and HIS joy that gives me my strength to move into the next chapter of my life!

What do you think?  You understand of course, that if it works for me, it will also work for you for God doesn't have any favorites! (See: Acts 10:34)  So, don’t be SAD but choose to be GLAD in and through Him and His promises to you!  Have a great weekend, and as you do, say with me… “I am fully expecting to be GLAD in the JOY that HIS victory has already provided for me, today!”

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

SAD or GLAD?


I mentioned in our last post (“Train Watching” – 1/14/19) how Paul and Silas’ songs of praise, while in the deepest dungeon of the prison, directly affected everyone around them.  If you recall, the scripture reference was found in Acts 16:25-26 where the incident is recounted by Luke when he wrote, “But at midnight as Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God, and the prisoners heard them, then suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed.” (Jubilee Bible)

Well, I couldn’t get that thought out of my mind and woke up this morning thinking about it.  I remembered the story in the book of Nehemiah in chapters seven and eight when the prophet Nehemiah led a contingent of the Children of Israel back to the now decimated city of Jerusalem after a time of captivity.  It should have been a time of great rejoicing and merry making but instead the people began to cry and wail as Ezra the priest read from the book of the law to them.

Nehemiah knew that this was not a time to be SAD but GLAD and spoke to the people saying:Go, eat rich foods, drink sweet drinks, and send portions to those who cannot provide for themselves. Today is a holy day for the Lord. Don't be sad because the joy you have in the LORD is your strength.  So the Levites calmed all the people by saying, "Listen. Today is a holy day. Don't be sad."  (Nehemiah 8:10-11 God’ Word ©)

One important lesson I have learned over the years is that there are definite times to be GLAD (or full of expressive joy) and a few times to be SAD.  Believe me as I have been fighting that battle extensively over the last four months since the passing of my wife.  I also know that the SAD times should be on the temporary side of life while the JOYFUL times should be more of a lifestyle among those of us who trust in the Lord.

Scriptures like Psalms 28:7 and Proverbs 17:22 along with a plenitude of others, give credence to that statement.  The Psalmist declared: “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices; and with my song I will praise him,” while the writer in Proverbs boldly stated: “ A joyful heart shall do good like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” (Jubilee Bible) 

Now, as far as one’s JOY affecting those around you goes… Well…I had to learn this the hard way!  I’ve written on many occasions of how that JOY was an active part of Piper’s and my relationship and lifestyle.  It was an automatic default that we fell back on whenever the tough situations of life came upon us.  But… When we first came back from Oklahoma and the devastating diagnosis of Piper’s health began to become clear, everything in my life seemed to spiral downhill in almost an instant… and I found myself alone, without the discerning wisdom of my lifelong partner to help me make the difficult decisions and stay full of JOY, for the first time in some 39 years!

During those first three or four years I tried my best to keep up my JOY.  I did figure out real quick that my level of JOY depended upon our level of the Word that we put into us on a daily basis.  But it was still hard!  I discovered that it was a lot easier to be JOYFUL around strangers out in public and with the many new doctors we began to visit than around some close to us.  I mean, we had a checker at our local Safeway that went out of her way every time she saw us in the store to come over and talk to us, and Piper in particular.  There was also a Pharmacy Technician at CVS that did the same and spent literally hours helping us on the phone with our doctors and insurance company in straightening out all the new prescriptions that Piper needed to take.

But some close to us found it a lot easier though, to be SAD instead of GLAD when it came to dealing with Piper’s condition.  And I admit that I didn’t help the situation much in those early days.  I just expected things to be different, was frustrated, confused and hurt and it took awhile to understand the situation and what I needed to do to not only keep up our JOY but to protect my wife from the way the SADNESS physically affected her.  I did finally learn to keep a smile on my face, and a positive and JOYFUL attitude.  I also figured out that in order to help alleviate the pressure, I needed to be very selective in the information I shared.

Once we moved out here though, it was different.  In a new place, with new friends and acquaintances (along with a lot of personal growth, understanding, and trust in the Lord and His Word) it was easier to be JOYFUL, even during the times when Piper’s needs were greatly multiplied.  I also began to realize how my JOY came with an anointing of peace that quickly helped others in our presence to relax and lean toward the faith that we were projecting.   

The Hebrew definition for the word “SAD” in Nehemiah 8:10 is “to fabricate or fashion something in a bad sense; to worry or to be angry or to grieve.” (Strong’s)  That explanation helps us to understand why SADNESS can have such a devastating effect if left to continue.  As I read that in my study time yesterday, a light went on in my head and I suddenly understood why the SADNESS we encountered was so overwhelming toward us… especially in the early stages of our battle when we were still sorting things out and just beginning to fold in specific elements of God’s Word into our daily stand of faith and action plan.

I also realized that SADNESS can affect those around it in a negative way just as does JOY in an uplifting and positive manner when projected through an individual or group.  But you know?  If I understand the Word correctly, then I know that JOY is part of the fruit or nature of the Spirit and is a vital part of the born-again Christian. (See Galatians 5:22)  Therefore, JOY contains the life and light of God and according to John 1:4-5 this light “shines in the dark, and the dark has never extinguished it.”

Now, don’t get me wrong.  There are times in our lives to be SAD, (as I have been dealing with concerning the pain of losing of my wife), but it is not to be a lifestyle and/or a defense mechanism or default setting in order to not have to step up and deal with the situations of life. Trust in God and His Word is the answer to the SAD times.  It is that trust and the JOY in the hope and expectation that it develops in us is that is the key to making it through the hard times of life successfully.

Is it always easy?  I would say emphatically NO!  But from my personal experience, I would say that it ALWAYS does seem to work!  So, go for it!  Don’t just TRY IT but DO IT!  Turn that frown upside down, put your TRUST into HIM and His Word and let His JOY begin to percolate in and through you unto others today!  Have a great rest of the week, and as you do, laugh with me and say… “I am expecting the JOY of the Lord to be my strength today!”

Monday, January 14, 2019

Train Watching


I was flipping through my recent photos on my phone last night when I came upon some pictures that I had taken while waiting for a train to pass through the intersection in one of the historical downtown areas of Fuquay-Varina the day before I left for Oklahoma for Christmas.  I’ve been infatuated with trains for as long as I can remember.  To me they symbolize exploring the untouched beauties of God’s creation, the vast vistas of the prairies, breathtaking mountain views and the working backsides of cities that are hardly ever viewed by the town’s population or visitors alike!

It turns out that our little town is somewhat of a hub for trains coming and going to the coastal areas of our fair state.  And while there is not a lot of activity, there’s always a pretty good chance that you’ll see the local train on the tracks in the center of town, right across from the CVS we frequent!  There is even a spur line to Fayetteville and the large nearby Army base that runs right in front of our country neighborhood.  So, if you’re into trains, this isn’t a bad spot to live!

One thing that impresses me about trains in general, is that they are big, powerful and loud!  Even though I can’t see the tracks from my house which is located in the back of our neighborhood, I can hear and feel it coming well before it sounds it’s whistle in preparation to crossing the road directly in front of our street.

And as I read from Acts 16:25-39 this morning telling the story of Paul and Silas in prison, I couldn’t help but compare their heartfelt praises unto God with that of a passing train!  Verses 25-26 tell us that “at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.  And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed.” (KJV) 

Can you imagine what that must have felt like!  My house will literally vibrate the closer the train gets, but it definitely doesn’t shake to the point of jarring doors open or triggering any of the safety devices that keep the cabinets closed.  I’ve been through some fairly strong earthquakes in California that did that, so I have a slight idea of the impact described of their praises!  It kinda makes one seriously think about what could happen if and when they personally engage in some powerful and prayerful praises to God, doesn’t it?  It sure does to me!

The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary explains that the literal translation of these verses is that they were “praying, were singing praises”; that is, while engaged in pouring out their hearts in prayer, had broken forth into singing, and were hymning loud their joy.”  So, you can see that it all comes back to a verbal expression of the joy that filled their souls!  I continue to be assured that our joy is a powerful tool in the life of the Christian man or women.

Looking back over our recent personal experience only serves to confirm this truth to me!  I can clearly see how our joy was an important ingredient to the strength and perseverance in our stand of faith.  I believe it is one of the reasons the Lord had us to move out of California.  It was imperative for us to be in as constant an atmosphere of joy that we could be in and there were limiting factors back home.  Out here we had the opportunity to establish and somewhat control a regular environment of praise… which I believe we took full advantage of.

I went into our bedroom a few moments ago and found myself unconsciously singing out the words to the simple song of praise that Piper wrote many years ago saying:

♪ Praise, praise, praise, praise the Lord,

Praise, praise, praise, praise the Lord,

Praise, praise, praise, I will praise the Lord,

Praise – the - Lord! ♫

And I couldn’t help but laugh and suppress a tear at the same time as I exclaimed aloud, “Boy, I sure sang THAT song a lot in this room over the last 3 years!”  I think I sang it to Piper almost every time we walked into the room… for sure the first thing in the morning and the last thing before we went to bed at night!  For praise was always an important part of our relationship and it was vital for me to keep it up throughout her time of need!

According to Paul and Silas’ documented experience, their JOYFUL PRAISE was more powerful than that of a passing train.  It not only set them free and totally turned around the situation they were faced with, but it directly affected everyone around them as well!

WHEW!  Think about that the next time you find yourself in a pickle!  My first reaction in times of need is usually that of PRAISEwhat about you?  Have a terrific week, and as you do, think about saying with me, “I am expecting PRAISE to be the new power in my life… today!”

Friday, January 11, 2019

Roof Top Experienes...


Back in the summer of 1979 I took a temporary job at a local furniture store in order to earn some extra cash for the family budget.  My wife and I were trying to start our family without much success so in the meantime, we thought it would be good to have some extra padding in our savings for what we were hoping was going to come about. 

By this time Piper was working in an office at the Santa Rosa Junior College while I was the Youth Minister at our church and the owner of a fledgling photography business specializing in weddings and outdoor portraiture.  Neither one of my positions were shall we say… “cash cows” so we figured that a little extra income couldn’t hurt.  Especially since I was going to be gone on a two-week long ministry trip taking six of our youth back to Wisconsin for a national youth conference planned toward the end of the summer.

So, I took the job doing whatever they needed me to do at the contemporary furniture store located in downtown Santa Rosa.  This meant that I spent most of my day unloading trucks, unpacking and moving furniture in and out of the store, dusting (and re-dusting multiple times a day…) the displays, and making deliveries.  One day the owner asked me to go up on the roof of the two-story building and cover the skylights with some of the thick, transparent packing material which came in long rolls. He figured that it would cut down on the heat coming in from them that made the temperature uncomfortable in the store.

I didn’t realize when I dragged that huge extension ladder across the parking lot… as there was no roof access from within the building… that I was about to experience an event that I would remember for the rest of my life!  To make a long story short, after almost toppling the ladder a few times, I finally got it situated and steady and slowly started up… one haltering step at a time!  I actually did okay until I got to the top and had to transition from the ladder, over the two-foot ledge and back down to the rooftop.

You have to remember that I was still pretty young in my Christian walk even though that I’d been in the ministry for almost four years by then.  I didn’t know a lot of the Word as of yet, but did have a rudimentary understanding of scriptures like 2 Timothy 1:7 where it declares that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” and the encouragement of Philippians 4:13 that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (EMTV)

And while I am fairly certain that those two scriptures came into play at some point while I found myself precariously frozen at the top of the ladder with a birds-eye view of the downtown area, the first thing I clearly remember was PANIC!  I thought that if I go forward, I’m going to fall to the ground while trying to get over and onto the roof and if I went back down, that the ladder would probably move and I’d end up with the same result… a blob in the empty parking lot!

I have to tell you… many things crossed my mind in that moment of time!  After what seemed like an hour but was probably not more than a minute or two, I finally began to calm myself down and thought… “Get it together here Jim!  You have a job to do, so put your faith into practice, put aside the fear, trust the Lord and get it done!”  And somehow… and to this day I do not remember how… I found myself standing on the roof and unrolling the packing material that I had previously tossed up there.  I also don’t remember going back over the ledge and down the ladder but I did it… and when I walked into the store the owner simply thanked me as he knew nothing of what I had gone through… although he probably noticed my bright red and sweaty face!

So, what happened up there?  Well, to begin with, James 1:3 tells us “that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (EMTV)  Therefore it was a test and (hopefully) the results produced another measure of endurance or patience as some of the other translations say, in me!  But as I look back at that experience (which I actually have many times throughout my life), I realize that it wasn’t necessarily my instant dependence on the power of God’s Word that got me passed the fear attack, but FAITHFULNESS! 

My first thought was that “I HAD A JOB TO DO” and that it was important to me to finish the task that had been entrusted to me.  My foremost desire was to be FAITHFULL to the responsibility and to the one who gave it to me.  If I was totally honest with you… I was not always real fond of the boss.  He was usually pretty calm and helpful until any pressure arose… then he tended to get nervous and scream and yell directions along with a few comments thrown in that were not always very encouraging.  And if I continue to be truthful here, I was the target of some of those tirades on more than one occasion.

So yeah, it wasn’t the easiest job in the world, but I did my best to stay faithful to it.  When I left that position to accompany the six students to their conference and the separate leadership sessions that I was to attend, the boss and I left on good terms.  One positive thing about the job was that I rode my ten speed to work almost everyday and got myself in fairly good shape before taking on Amtrak, six youth and two weeks of adventure, alone without my wife!  And when I returned, it only took a few weeks before we came back from the doctor’s visit telling her folks that their first grandchild was on the way!

Galatians 5:22-23 teaches us that the fruit of the Spirit, or the “spiritual nature produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, FAITHFULNESS, gentleness, and self-control.  (and that) There are no laws against things like that.” (God’s Word ©) Therefore, you see that it not only is a mark of the Christian character in you but when acted upon has no law that can come against it!  In other words, FAITHFULNESS almost always produces favorable results!

I somehow sensed from practically day one of Piper’s and my relationship, that I could trust her for I just knew that she would always be FAITHFULL to me.  Then in her greatest hour of need there was never a doubt (on our behalf) that I would be FAITHFUL to her and at her side in caring for until the very end… no matter who or what tried to take me away from that responsibility.

FAITHFULNESS to me is like a badge of honor.  It is also a God-given gift of blessing to the responsibility and to everyone you are FAITHFULL to.  It takes personal commitment, unquestionable follow-through and at times great physical, emotional and spiritual strength, but the rewards far exceed any amount of effort and or discomfort that one puts forth.

Have a wonderful weekend, and as you do, say with me “I expect to be FAITHFUL to my responsibilities and to those I love today!