Our New Home!

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

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

My Two Cents


I’ve always considered myself to be kind of a simple guy.  It doesn’t really take a lot to make me happy!  My wife was much the same way and that’s probably why we hit it off so well over the years.  Some of the best memories I have of our relationship was the easy, deep and enjoyable conversations we would have while taking a walk around the neighborhood, sitting at the kitchen table or driving together to the grocery store! 

I think the most pleasant of all of our “date nights” at least to me, was going to Jack in the Box, grabbing a couple of burgers and fries and then driving up the Fountain Grove Parkway to the edge of the parking lot near where the Home Depot is now located.  Once there we would sit and talk for hours, munch on our deliciously greasy burgers and hold hands in the Camaro while we enjoyed the view of the western part of city before us!  (That view must be totally different now as much of that area was devastated by the fires a couple of years ago!)

That description of us can be attributed to our faith as well.  A familiar scripture that the Lord has put in my thoughts before getting up over the last two days does a good job at explaining how we’ve tended to operate within our Christian walk over the years.  It’s found in I Peter 5:6-7 and is quite simple and straightforward in its presentation.  It encourages us to Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, (so) that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.” (NASB)

I think that this verse gives us another important step in our ability to be sensitive and obedient to the leadings of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.  The first couple of words say it all… “Humble yourselves!”  Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries tells us that that expression means to “to depress in condition or heart.”  So that’s pretty understandable right?  In God speak, that describes the condition that Christians are to have in relationship to Him… to place ourselves under or in submission to Him and His Word!  In other words, to put Him and His Word before what we may think or want to do!

I particularly like one of the definitions from Thayer’s Greek Definitions concerning the phrase “humble yourselves.”  It explains the action as “to have a modest opinion of one’s self; to behave in an unassuming manner.”  That to me, puts forth a very practical application of the Word!  I was telling my cousin just the other night, that it is kind of weird, but I have always been more comfortable getting up in front of a large crowd of people and making a presentation than with being an active participant in a small group… go figure, right?  I think that it is partially because I like to have my facts straight before entering into a conversation and therefore, I end up doing a lot more listening than I do speaking.

We probably all know “that person” who seems to think that they are experts on everything and have a quick reply or answer on almost any subject… do you know what I mean?  I’ll be honest as individuals like that tend to annoy me and instead of trying to correct them, I usually just stay quiet in the midst of the conversation.  Part of that response is because I’m either chuckling inside at what I think is the absurdity of what was said or am simply so shocked that I have no reasonable comment to make at the time!

That was a strong point of my wife though.  She had the most uncanny ability to rapidly collect her thoughts and reply in a sweet manner with an encouraging word that almost always brought peace and many times a gentle correction to any mis-truth that may have been uttered… without embarrassing anyone!

I firmly believe that her ability to respond that way was because she had taken the time over the years to humble herself “under the mighty hand of God,” submit, without question to His will as stated in His Word and become very sensitive and obedient to the voice of the Holy Spirit within her.  It was also an ability that I had to strongly pursue when it came to the care of my wife as the symptoms of Alzheimer’s increased in her.

I can’t tell you of all the times over the eight years that I cared for her 24/7, when it looked like an emergency situation was happening with her and I had to quiet myself enough to hear his voice and simply ask, “what do I do Lord?”  And you know… He ALWAYS gave me the right answer!  In those intense moments when my head was screaming: “CALL 911,” His peace always prevailed.  I asked, listened and then did whatever things in the natural/physical realm that I felt He was instructing me to do that would remedy the situation!

There were a few times when I did feel it was necessary to call the 24 hour on duty hospice nurse and I did call 911 here in North Carolina once (and a few times with the seizures she had in California), but most times the answer to the need was simple care procedures that I could do, which kept her calm, at peace and safe.

So, hopefully you see my point here…  By developing your sensitivity to the voice of the Holy Spirit, you will not only find help in understanding the things of God, but also discover His great assistance toward you in the daily situations of your life.  The last part of verse seven in our scripture portion above declares that “He cares for you.”  In the original Greek, the word “cares” is actually a different word than the same word used earlier in the verse (translated “anxiety” in our version) and it describes God’s caring for you and me by implying that we are “of interest” and “matter” greatly to Him!

And if you’re anything like me… then I think that’s the kind of “care” that you want to connect with!  All it takes is some hunger for the things of God, a good portion of HUMBLE pie in front of God and His ways (ie; keeping your mouth shut until you’ve sought out His thoughts on whatever is going on…) and then being obedient to His direction or leadings!  Simple right?  I know, I know… easier said than done… but the rewards far exceed the effort and discomfort!

Have a great rest of the week, and as you do, keep saying with me… “I am expecting to listen to God for His directions before giving my two cents on any matter!”

Monday, February 25, 2019

Be Sensitive!


Have you ever heard a song or advertising jingle in the morning and then have it play in your head all day long?   I think we probably all have right?  The first thing I do each morning when I walk into the front room of the house is to open the drapes in the dining room, push up the blinds in the living room and then turn on the home entertainment system to play my personal mix on Pandora.

My kids always joke about the eclectic selection of music types that I play whenever they visit.  What can I say, over the years I’ve come to enjoy a wide mix of music types and styles!  My Pandora shuffle includes Southern Gospel, 1970’s contemporary Christian classics, modern Praise and Worship bands, Christian Bluegrass and Gospel Choirs, to name just a few.  So, you can see how easy it is for me to catch a new song in my ear each day and then unconsciously sing it for hours.

On Sunday morning I was listening to the Sirius Satellite Radio’s Southern Gospel station enLighten and their regular Sunday morning program of older hymns, while studying the Word and enjoying a hot cup of coffee.  All of a sudden, my focus on what I was reading was broken when I heard one of Piper’s and my old favorites coming from the speakers in the ceiling near the dining room.  At that moment my heart skipped a beat and I sat back in my chair full of memories of a very special service back in 1975 when the congregation gathered on that Saturday afternoon in July sang:

“There’s a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place,

And I know that it’s the Spirit of the Lord;

There are sweet expressions on each face,

And I know they feel the presence of the Lord.

CHORUS:

Sweet Holy Spirit, Sweet heavenly Dove,

Stay right here with us, Filling us with your love,

And for theses blessings we lift our hearts in praise;

Without a doubt we’ll know that we have been revived,

When we shall leave this place.” *

That was Piper’s favorite hymn before we got married and there was no question when asked what the congregational hymn would be during our wedding service.  It was not just a beautiful and meaningful hymn to her… but it was everything that was her!  Like I’ve said on many occasions, she had a sensitivity to the voice of the Holy Spirit like none other that I’ve ever known.  It’s also that song that got stuck in the ear of our hearts from day one of our marriage… literally!

The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 119:130 that “The unfolding of Thy words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.” (NASB)  The word “unfolding” in the original Hebrew describes “an opening, entrance or a doorway,” while that word “understanding” means “to separate mentally, to discern, perceive or to be discreet

When I read a verse like this one it stirs me up with expectation and excitement because it’s talking about the abilities that the Word can have in yours and my daily existence.  But there is an important caveat that goes along with verses like this one.  The entrance or doorway that it talks about, along with the accompanying understanding of what is being said in the Word, cannot be perceived without the help of the teacher, the Holy Spirit in us.  And the Holy Spirit can’t come to live in someone until their spirit is born again in the Christian conversion experience. (See Romans 10:9)

Once saved, the real work begins as we need to develop our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s voice and leadings.  This development process is a lifetime learning experience.  Our sensitivity to Him grows daily as we spend time with Him in His Word, in prayer, in being quiet and listening for Him as well as by walking in faith.  I truly believe, as I know Piper did as well, that that the most important thing for a strong Christian is to develop and stay increasingly sensitive to the voice and the leadings of the Holy Spirit. 

Some of the toughest situations that I had to work through with Piper’s illness was with other people’s insensitivity to our needs and situation.  To be “discreet” as the Hebrew meaning to the word “understanding” stated in our verse above, means to be “careful and circumspect in one’s speech or actions, especially in order to avoid causing offense or to gain an advantage.” (Oxford Online Dictionaries)  What made it tough was that while I wasn't too surprised by those who didn't really know us, I was shook by those who I thought did and should have... but their words and actions proved otherwise.

To me, that’s where being sensitive to the Holy Spirit is a necessity in our daily Christian walk.  Piper almost always had the sensitivity to quickly ascertain the Spirit’s leading in a situation and then respond with the right encouraging and healing words and their gentle and appropriate actions.  But like I said above, that is just what was in her that she continued to develop throughout her lifetime!  It goes back to my toothpaste tube analogy of what comes out of us when we get squeezed by the situations of life!

I got a little frustrated when I tried to squeeze some paste out of an empty tube of toothpaste yesterday morning, but was quickly put at ease when I remembered that I had a full tube in the drawer under the bathroom counter… then I burst out laughing and proceeded to spray toothpaste all over the mirror in the middle of the laugh, when I remembered the time a few months before Piper passed, when in my exhaustion, I squeezed hair conditioner from a similar sized tube onto my tooth brush and brushed my teeth with it… YUCK!

It’s in those delicate, stressful and sensitive times of need, that we definitely want the right stuff to come out of us… wouldn’t you agree? And that stuff isn’t going to be right until you’ve developed and continue to grow in your sensitivity to the voice of the Holy Spirit in you.

Have a terrific week, and as you do say with me… “I am expecting to grow in my sensitivity to the Holy Spirit in me today!”





*"There's a Sweet, Sweet Spirit"  Doris Akers, 1965  (there are two more verses to the hymn as well)

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Turn Up the Volume!


Over the past week I have enjoyed participating in the live services via my laptop and iPhone from Piper’s and My home church and Bible College in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.  The yearly event called “Winter Bible Seminar” invites attendees from all over the world and while it is open to anyone, it is specifically centered around Rhema Bible Training College and all those who have attended the accredited Bible School.  The event is advertised as “Homecoming” and is a gathering for the over 70,000 individuals who have graduated from the Rhema USA campus in its 45 years of existence, as well as the graduates from the over 200 Rhema schools overseas.

I had to laugh this morning as I recalled a comment made to me in the late 1970’s by a friend who was attending the Baptist Seminary I had originally planned to attend.  He spoke to me after church one Sunday advising me that the “Faith Message” taught at Rhema (that Piper and I had discovered a few years earlier and had seen it change our lives, electrify our faith, and give us an insatiable hunger for the things of God) was a limited message that could only be applicable in the United States.  But alas, his concern has proven to be untrue.  During the previous night’s service that highlighted the foreign schools and attendees, our Pastor read some recent statistics from a nondenominational source that discussed how the Rhema organization has grown across Europe and Asia faster than any other Christian denomination in recent years.

One thing that continually caught my attention during the week was the child-like faith that seemed to overflow from the leaders that spoke from the international schools.  I couldn’t help but want to jump and shout when they would talk about the miracles that they see almost daily in places like Kenya, Columbia, Venezuela, the Pacific Islands, Peru and throughout South America, in Europe and in many of the former Communist nations.  It reminded me of the excitement that my wife and I saw and were involved with during the latter days of the Charismatic Revival in northern California in the 1970’s and ‘80’s.

It seems to me, that we in the USA have gotten a little too refined and or intellectual in the state of our Christianity since then.  Sure, we have the occasional revival that pops up here and there around the country with signs, wonders and miracles along with displays of the Holy Spirit’s fire, but it’s definitely not the norm for the Christian church in our country today.

The first speaker yesterday morning, who is an American but has spent over twenty years overseeing one of the Rhema International Schools, caught my attention when she taught on our relationship with God and our need and ability to hear from the Holy Spirit.  She spoke of the night a number of years back, when her husband passed away and of her experience with hearing the Holy Spirit which, as she put it “turned my darkest day into my greatest day of victory.”  She recounted an incident that occurred as she laid on the floor trying to get some rest (explaining that she hadn’t slept for two years – to which I yelled out loud without thinking… “I can attest to that” as I haven’t slept soundly through the night for over eight years since Piper got sick!) when she suddenly heard a command from God.

As sleep evaded her in the midst of the pain she was suffering over the loss of her mate, she said she clearly and distinctly heard the voice of the Holy Spirit from deep inside her say: “You’re winning, Get up!”  So, she obeyed that now familiar voice and declared that she got up and has been winning ever since.  Her story hit a chord with me for within the sorrow, I also have felt a sense of peace and victory at the passing of my wife almost six months ago.  When Piper moved on to glory, I was happy for her, but I was also happy that we never gave up on our stand of faith since those first ominous medical reports in 2007. 

Yeah, we had lots of opportunities to toss in the towel.  We received plenty of unsolicited advice that tried to point out how stupid (their words, not mine) we were for listening to what we believed were the Holy Spirit’s directions for us.  But it quickly became obvious to me that His plans contrasted with what their natural senses and intellect were telling them.  And then of course, there was all of the physical evidence we faced on a daily basis that looked to be the opposite of God’s promises.

But looking back today, I can see the faithfulness of God repeatedly over the years that followed.  Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to “Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own.  Listen for GOD's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; (for) he's the one who will keep you on track.” (MSG)  The speaker made the point that “Faith is not blind” and just because it doesn’t line up with what some might consider to be “common sense,” it doesn’t mean that God has you working in the dark, but instead has given you a clear plan through His Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit… which He continually did for us each step of the way!

Examples of Moses and the splitting of the Red Sea and Joshua crossing the Jordan River and taking Jericho, were sighted as proof of this spiritual reality.  As a Christian regularly seeking the truths of the Word and staying sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, you’ll quickly discover that God always gives specific instructions to specific people for specific things (ie; tasks and or assignments etc…), for specific times.  Doesn’t that just send thrill chills down your spine?  It does to me!

That excitement that the speaker felt, that I felt along with Piper in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s and recently revived again, is what I saw over and over again in the faces, voices and actions of the groups of people who traveled to Oklahoma to be at the home church and campus from all over the world.  That is the excitement I want to see around me here in North Carolina and throughout the USA!  What do you think about that?  Let’s get back to the place where we follow the Psalmist’s suggestion to “Trust the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5 God’s Word ©)

So what do you say?  Let’s turn down the volume on the intellect and voice of our natural reasoning and rekindle and turn up the sound of our reliance on our child-like faith in God, His Word and with our sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit!

Have a wonderful weekend, and as you do, say along with me… “I am expecting to exhibit an ever-increasing child-like faith in God!”

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

RESPECT & FAITH


I was listening to a live stream presentation of a seminar at my home church/Bible school yesterday morning where the speaker was discussing a Biblical timeline.  He began by reading parts of Genesis chapters 1-3.  When he got to verse six of chapter three my attention was suddenly peaked.  In this chapter Moses writes about the serpent’s temptation to Eve and then tells of her decision saying: “The woman saw that the tree had fruit that was good to eat, nice to look at, and desirable for making someone wise. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” (Genesis 3:6 God’s Word ©) 

I was on my knees working on the molding in the dining room while playing the session on my computer when I took note of the meaning of that verse and smeared some spackle wildly across the wall.  It kind of felt like someone snuck up behind me and slapped me on the shoulder!  Hummm… could Piper do that from heaven?

The revelation immediately hit me that Adam was standing right next to his wife the whole time that the serpent was tempting her and failed to protect her… or the domain that God had placed in his care.  That hit a sensitive spot with me because I have always taken the responsibility of protecting my wife seriously.  Looking back, I can see now that there were times where I could have done a better job at it, but I never slacked in my attempts to look out for her.

For whatever reason, Ephesians 5:25 made an indelible mark on my life early in Piper’s and my relationship.  In this verse Jesus matter-of-factly told us men to “love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it.”  And if anyone ever protected his bride, the church, it was Him.  When Piper got sick in her later years, I never thought twice about my responsibility to care and protect her.  It didn’t always make me popular with people around us, but I really didn’t care what THEY thought, my only concern was what Piper thought!

One thing about Piper is that she always demanded respect from me and our children.  She trained up our kids to respect their parents, elders, each other and people in general.  If I ever got a little stupid in some of the things I did with her or with remarks that I would make to her in private, she would let me know in a nice (but you definitely knew that she was serious about it) way.  There were certain lines that I knew not to cross.  And I admired her for that stand.  She would get upset to the point of almost feeing physically hurt when she saw a child disrespecting their Mother with their careless words or actions, or a husband being less than respectful of his wife… especially in a public setting.

So, when she was not able to care for herself, I made a point to make sure that she was always cared for with respect and dignity.  I was VERY cautious as to who I would let touch her and would not stand for careless remarks directed to her as well.  While all the aids with our hospice group were wonderful folks, there was only one care-giver that I ever allowed to minister to my wife’s needs without me in the room with them.  That might seem like a little over-kill to some, but I was not going to take any chances when it came to my Piper.

As I thought about Adam’s response to the deception of the serpent in comparison with my responsibilities toward my wife, I also began to see that my faith played an important role in protecting her in her deepest time of need.  In order for me to do the best job possible for her, I needed to keep my personal faith STRONG and ACTIVE.  I had to keep the goal of our faith clear and focused at all times, keep myself physically healthy and strong and stay sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

For me that simply meant that I had to keep ACTIVILY BELIEVING just like I shared in my last blog post (2/18/19 “Walmart and Believing”).  If Piper and I were going to see this through with the authority and vigor that Jesus Himself detailed in His Great Commission to us in Mark 16:14-20, then our faith… and mine in particular… needed to not be stale but fresh and ACTIVE!  Which as I have stated over and over (and over) again, only comes to us believers through “hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17 KLV)  I know that I probably sound like a broken record, but this might be one of the most important (and basic) lessons in yours and my Christian walk.

I discovered the other night while praying in bed, that one of the strongest reasons for the loneliness and confusion I feel at times, is because I now find myself with no one to care for or protect.  When Piper and I began our relationship in High School, I suddenly found a purpose in life… HER!  So, now without her, I have to discover a new purpose for my life.  And while I know in my heart that it will come in God’s timing… it just doesn’t make the pain and void go away!  Sometimes I wonder how someone can miss another individual so much as to the point of feeling great pain.  But then again, I guess that just confirms what a special relationship we had!

Have a great rest of the week, and as you do, keep your faith STRONG and ACTIVE and say with me, “I am continuing to expect God’s best today!”

Monday, February 18, 2019

Walmart & Believing


Well, emotional Sunday started early yesterday, but with much less intensity.  It was actually kind of interesting the way it unveiled itself throughout the day.  From the moment I walked into the master bath to take a shower, I began to have random thoughts of various humorous incidents that Piper and I experienced together and couldn’t help but giggle a little and tear up at the same time!  And that’s the way it seemed to roll all day long.  Almost every time I saw something or someone, it reminded me of funny banter we enjoyed or that daring look of hers complete with the quiet smile that said to me “You didn’t think I’d do that did you?”

I think she enjoyed surprising me with different words or actions that seemed to come out of the blue… just as much as I did with her!  One of my favorite things in life from my teenage years on was to make her laugh… and if you knew her, then you knew it wasn’t a difficult thing to accomplish!  So, when I walked into Walmart a few hours later, I couldn’t help but be both enthralled and emotional when I heard the friendly banter between a couple walking in behind me.

The couple looked to be around my age and with the closeness they demonstrated, I imagined that they had to have been married for a long time.  I was about ten feet in front of them so when I got to the side door near the vending machines, I stepped aside and held the door open for them.  They both giggled and looked a little embarrassed as I smiled back at them.  Then the wife joked with me saying, “Oh, we’re just walking so slow today.”  To which I replied, “Hey, it’s Sunday, it’s supposed to be a relaxed day!”

We conversed a little more and then went our own ways into the store.  I hadn’t been shopping on a Sunday for a while and had forgotten how packed the store can get after the church crowd flocks in!  It seemed like there were people and carts all over the place.  At one point in the produce section, I slid my cart in close behind another and walked over to select a few of the very large artichokes the store normally stocks. 

When I turned back around, a Hispanic gentleman walked past me and casually placed a large bag of apples in my cart as he talked to a woman, I supposed was his wife.  I thought the whole incident to be a little funny and I gently tapped the man on his right shoulder and softly said “excuse me”  And as he turned I laughed and told him that he had put his apples in my cart.  Well, he and his wife immediately turned red and started to laugh a little sheepishly and apologize, to which I just continued to smile and told them that it was no problem and that I wanted to make sure that they got their apples… especially since apples are not on my diet.

And it didn’t end there, the friendly conversations seemed to continue throughout almost every aisle I went down.  Like I said, the store was packed and we were all juggling our carts around to get by each other.  But everyone I talked to seemed to be in a jovial mood, and for me it was a very pleasant experience! 

I was thinking today though, that the people I see in the stores now, seem to be a lot more relaxed and friendlier toward me than when I pushed Piper through the store in her wheelchair.  It’s easy to see that people in need tend to make some others very uncomfortable.  This realization got me to thinking about how Piper and I regularly faced unbelief and confusion as the negative symptoms of the Alzheimer’s increased.

My study in Jeremiah 33:3 gave me some hints about why this happens.  In The Message paraphrase this scripture is stated as: “Call to me and I will answer you. I'll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.”  The word “wondrous” is translated as “mighty” in the King James Version.  According to Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Definitions it is defined as “secrets, mysteries and inaccessible things (with or in our natural understandings.)”  John Gill describes it as “designs such as are difficult of understanding which exceed human belief and which reason cannot comprehend and take in.”

We learned early on that we would have to continually feed our faith through the Word of God (See: Romans 10:17) in order to stand strong and keep up our confession whenever we went out and about… just about everywhere we went.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining here.  Many of the folks that we came across just didn’t understand the faith stand that we were committed to.  They were either not saved or believers who might not have been familiar with all the promises of God.  Most of the reactions were expected… although a few took us by surprise I must admit!

In Jesus’ Great Commission in Mark 16:14-20, He clearly states in verse 17 that “And these signs shall follow them that believe;” (KJV)  As I’ve stated in other posts, the word “believe” is an action word.  It is not something you do once and forget about it.  NO, it is an action that needs to be constantly pursued, built upon and confessed.  So, just because we met folks who might not understand what we were up to, didn’t mean that we weren’t going to stand strong and openly share the results we were believing for… results that were based on the Word of God and not necessarily what medical science declared.

Well, this is getting a little long, so I’d better sign off for now!  I’ll continue my thought next time.  But until then, think about it… What are you actively believing for today?  Is that belief active and strong enough to stand up to the crowds at Walmart who may not have any understanding of what and why you are doing what you’re doing…  people who may not understand the power and love behind God and His Word.  Think about what a blessing you can be to those folks when you share the truth from your heart…

Have a great week ahead, and as you do, say with me… “I am expecting my active belief in God’s Word to be a blessing to others… today!”

Friday, February 15, 2019

READ, WATCH and LISTEN!


For as long as I can remember, I have always been one who learns primarily through READING, WATCHING and LISTENING.  My mother instilled a love for reading in me at an early age with regular trips to the county library.  She even forced me to read some different styles of literary writing that became favorites of mine… can you imagine that!  That was very much like Piper and the way she fostered the love of reading with our kids.  One of the many things I learned while studying within my college major of Psychology was the ability to properly perform, study and decipher research.

When Piper’s situation was first coming to light, I immediately hit the books, reading everything that I could get my hands on concerning the scientific research that had been and was currently going on with Alzheimer’s.  And I didn’t just scroll through the internet either, but first dove into the University research papers that had been posted on the various medical websites.  

Along with the scientific findings I also did a fairly thorough amount of research on many of the “natural cures” that I had read about or those suggested by people I talked to.  What I quickly discovered to my dismay though, was that the majority of the so-called “natural miracle cures” were all based on some pretty shoddy experiences with questionable research and in most cases resulted in very limited success.  I have to admit that it was a great source of annoyance to me when people would throw out unproven information as if it were fact, and then end up upset with me when I did my research and didn’t act on their suppositions.

The same could be said about the way I learn of the things of God.  There was a popular saying among the leadership at our Bible College that declared “Half of what you receive at Rhema is what is taught, the other half is what is caught!”  That truth perfectly reflects the way I’ve grown throughout my Christian life.  I have always taken copious notes at church as I did at school (I just counted 14 full notebooks from Bible School on my bookshelf!), I constantly watch what the Pastors, staff, teachers and other Christian leaders say and do, and as you know, love to spend time in the Word on my own.

Recently it seems like the Lord has been majoring with me on the subject of Spiritual Discernment.  Romans 8:14 instructs us by stating “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (EMTV)  So, by His leading I have had my eyes opened to a lot of the spiritual activity that was going on all around us over the last 10 years with the events concerning the attack on Piper’s health.

It’s bothered me that I was still having a difficult time trying to understand why some things unfolded in the manner they did with the way different folks responded to our situation.  Then I began to see that while I can’t seem to reason it out it with my natural understanding, that the light began to come on as I studied the spiritual workings that are clearly discussed in God’s Word and clarified through prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit in me.  And again, I am learning through READING, WATCHING and LISTENING!  I was disturbed because I heard certain words being spoken but witnessed actions that did not correspond to those words.

Some of the insight came just the other day as I broke down the original Greek meanings behind Jesus’ words in John 10:10 where He taught that: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. (but) I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (EMTV)  The idea behind the actions of the words Jesus described as to steal, kill and destroy demonstrate EXACTLY the actual intent (whether known or unknown by the individuals) behind many of the negative statements and actions that were made against us.

I was amazed as I studied the Word and compared it to what I had seen and heard.  It was like all my questions were answered at once!  So, what have I learned?  Well, first of all, there is a lot more going on around us than we can see, hear or feel with our natural senses.  But as a Christian our spirits are born again, and infilled with the Holy Spirit, which gives us a definite advantage over everyone else who simply cannot understand the things of God.  We see this everyday in the political environment of our government today.  I find myself wincing and laughing at the same time as I see and hear people without the spiritual knowledge of God’s ways attempting to set the moral standards for our great nation.

Secondly, and most importantly to me, I have witnessed first-hand, the tremendous anger, fear and deception that the enemy of our souls will employ in order to stop anything good, wholesome and of God that threatens his destructive agenda.  I am totally aghast at the lengths that he will go, the sources he will employ, and the unsuspecting people he will deceptively influence in his attempts to try and stop you and me from following the Lord’s directions and righteousness. (See: John 8:44 & Revelation 12:9)

Like I said early on… there is a lot more going on around us than meets the natural eye!  When things begin to look crazy around you, don’t just try to figure it out in your mind, but look inside.  Begin to READ and deeply study the Word for God’s insight on the matter, pray and then WATCH and LISTEN to the clues that are abounding all around you.  If you can’t understand it with your head like I couldn’t… then look into your heart!

We are supposed to have a wet but fairly warm weekend, so I guess I’ll continue to work on the many in-house projects that await my attention!  I hope you have a great weekend no matter what the weather in your neck of the woods presents, and as you do, keep saying with me… “I am expecting to know what’s going on around me as I continue to READ the Word, pray and WATCH and LISTEN to the activities around me!”

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

My Eyes!

Like I mentioned in my last post, you never know when a memory or a particular point is going to come to mind…  This morning I stood at the kitchen counter putting the cover back on a can of dog food as I had begun to add a teaspoon of soft food in with Fiver’s Pro Plan hard dog food in order to enhance his appetite just before Piper passed.  He must have sensed the upcoming change in her and stopped eating a few days before the event and then afterwards I just continued with the added treat.  But anyway, while I fumbled with the Saran Wrap it suddenly hit me that the last person that Piper saw before she left this realm was me!

I had been absentmindedly thinking about her eyes and how although the rest of her looked pretty ragged on the last day of her life because of the terrible effects of the disease on her body, that her eyes continued to shine bright and were full of life.  I also recalled that she left her eyes open when she moved to heaven.

I am not exactly sure how, but I had a strong sense that she was going to leave us that day.  Her breathing had begun to become irregular and strained the day before and by the next day we were increasing the dosage and frequency of the morphine.  I had pretty much spent the entire day in her room at her side with the kids and then that night around 12:30 after the kids went to bed, I sat down on the floor next to her, drew close, put my head on her hand and talked gently to her while I gazed into her eyes.

I don’t remember the exact timing now, but I sat there until around 5:00 AM when I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer and felt that it was okay to lay down for a few moments.  I left the lights on and the classical radio station playing softly in the background because I wanted her to know that she was not alone.  I stretched out on our bed next to her hospital bed for about 20 minutes to a half hour and awoke with a start.  When I rolled over to look at her, I noticed immediately that she was gone.  The bright light and life in her eyes was glassed over.  And I had perfect peace and joy about it.
It wasn’t until this morning at the counter that I realized that she must have left her eyes open for a reason.  With heartfelt pounding within my chest I understood that she did it for me!  You have to understand… We all realized pretty quickly (including the hospice team) that Piper and the Lord were in complete control of the timing of when she would leave us.  I was pretty certain that she was going to be gone when our two older children arrived a little over a week before she actually passed.   They were on a plane and at the Raleigh airport within a day of my call to them.  But as I sat next to Piper in the living room awaiting their car to drive up, Piper’s breathing became very shallow and in fact, I thought she stopped breathing on more than one occasion.

But it became obvious that she had other plans as she rebounded back many times in the days that followed.  It seemed like she had a plan and was going to see it through… just like she did throughout her life as wife, Mom, teacher, musician and minister of the Gospel.  And I believe that she left her eyes open and locked on me to let me know that she loved me until the very end of her existence in this realm.  I also believe that it was her way of thanking me for taking care of her in her greatest time of need.
What more can I say except, when you think about it, it is very similar to the revelation that Jesus always has His eyes on those of us that He loves!  The writer of the book of Hebrews encourages us with the assurance of God’s words to us saying that, "I'll never let you down, never walk off and leave you, (so) we can boldly quote, God is there, ready to help; (therefore) I'm fearless no matter what. Who or what can get to me?” (Hebrews 13:5 The Message)

And where should our own eyes spend their time you might ask… Well, the Apostle Paul answered that one for us when he bluntly wrote, “Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that's where the action is. See things from his perspective.  Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life.” (Colossians 3:2-3 The Message) 
So… even though she’s been gone for 5 months and 13 days… but whose counting… Piper is still leaving lessons behind!  I get the impression from the Word of God (& my wife!) that where we put our eyes is of utmost importance in our lives… as well as to that of the lives of those around us.

Okay, I get it.  I know where my eyes are going to focus!  How about your eyes?
Have a great rest of the week, and as you do, say along with me… “I am expecting my eyes to be in the position of looking up and alert to what is going on around Christ!”

Monday, February 11, 2019

I May Not Understand It...


I still do not understand why, but Sunday’s continue to be a tough day for me to get through.  They normally start out very strong with a great personal study time in the Word, a power-packed and right-to-the-heart sermon from our Pastor and then… it tends to all fall apart quickly late in the afternoon!

I was watching something on TV to accompany the late lunch I was enjoying when all of a sudden, without warning, everything heartfelt about my wife came back with a vengeance!  It was really something… I had all I could do to jog into the bedroom and collapse at the side of the bed… hugging my pillow!  And of course, my faithful big white and blue merle companion followed me right in, jumped on the bed and immediately commenced to lick my face!

It was quite an emotional experience and very physically draining.  After a period of time, I’m not really sure how long, I finally pulled myself up on the bed feeling exhausted, and fell asleep.  But I have to admit… when I woke up about 45 minutes later, I felt much better!  This grief stuff is quite amazing.  It seems to come upon you all of a sudden, blows through like a hurricane and then it is like the sun (Son?) comes out and all is peaceful and calm!

I laid there for a few moments thinking about what had just happened and then got up and took the dog outside for some fresh air and exercise!  While out there in the barely 40 degree, overcast weather (what a change from a day ago!), I finished cutting up the branches left over from my pruning adventure on Friday, placed the debris in the garbage, put a leash on the pooch and rolled the can out to the road.  The activity out in the cold helped to refresh my outlook and gave me some determination to make it through the rest of the evening without incident.

This morning I woke up a little restless as usual, around 5:30 and began to meditate on some scriptures that came to my thoughts.  One that kept repeating itself is another favorite found in Philippians 4:6-7.  In Piper’s and my NASB Bibles it reads: “Be anxious for NOTHING, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I couldn’t get the idea of being anxious about absolutely nothing out of my mind as I laid there in the dark in my bed.  I kept thinking that NOTHING means just what it says… NOTHING!  That’s kind of a tall order wouldn’t you agree?  But like Piper always told me when we talked about a potential faith project… “If God said it in His Word, then it must be possible!”  And after a lot of years together with a grand multitude of faith stands… I tended to believe her without much question!

Verse seven is the litmus test for verse six.  Various other translations declare that the PEACE that should follow our decision to NOT BE ANXIOUS in life by our yielding every concern over to God, is that which is “deeper than all knowledge” (Bible in Basic English), or is that “that no one can completely understand.  And this peace will control the way you think and feel.” (Contemporary English Bible)  The Weymouth New Testament says this peace is the thing “which transcends all our powers of thought.”  That makes God’s peace to be pretty strong stuff, wouldn’t you say?

The Lord’s been showing me lately that the different individuals that Piper and I came across over the last eight or so years that didn’t handle her situation and or needs very well, were NOT allowing themselves to dwell on the PEACE of God that we’ve been talking about today.  It’s pretty obvious that they read things very differently than we did… through a different influence in their understandings.  We discovered early on that God’s PEACE just causes you to see things from a different, more positive perspective.

Piper always had that PEACE that surpasses understanding about her… even when she couldn’t express her thoughts anymore.  I’ve told of all the occasions when different medical personnel, patients sitting along with us in the waiting rooms of doctor’s offices in Oklahoma, California and out here in North Carolina, as well as strangers that passed us in the store, and how they would go out of their way to comment about the PEACE and sweet spirit that she had about her!  

I don’t fully understand when the emotions of Piper’s absence overwhelm me like they did yesterday, but through it all, I am thankful for HIS PEACE that always accompanies me before, during and especially afterwards.  I can’t explain HIS PEACEI guess I don’t even have to… I just know that it’s there and that I aim to not do anything that would allow it to depart from me.  How about you?

Have a fantastic fresh new week, and as you do, keep saying with me… “I’m expecting the PEACE of God to lift me up and over the troubles in my life today!”

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Memories


Sorry about the non-blog post yesterday!  I wanted to take advantage of the last warm day before the next cold front moved in.  Yesterday it was in the 80’s and today is supposed to get up into the high 40’s.  So, I got an early start yesterday and tried out my new 10” pole saw attachment for my variable head gas trimmer.  And you know… it worked pretty well!  I was able to prune some of the overhanging branches along the fence line, cut off some large broken branches hanging on since the last two hurricanes and clean up all the scrub growth around the Bradford Pear near the front gate.  It was good, hot work… and I enjoyed it all… except that my shoulders and elbows are talking to me a little today!

I was thinking as I worked around the yard that Piper and I never really had a lot of opportunities to make some long-lasting memories in the yard of this house.  I mean… I always took her out with me when I mowed the lawns, planted the various fruit trees, and built the raised bed garden frames.  But it’s not like she was really interacting with me due to her growing inability to talk.

But that didn’t stop me from remembering all kinds of other fun times that we had outdoors over the years together.  We tended to enjoy and explore the great outdoors from very early on in our relationship.  An incident the other night when I took Fiver out for his before-bed-ritual outback and spotted a large grey owl sitting on our burn barrel by the shed stirred my memory.  I hadn’t seen one around our property since we’d been here and realized in fact, that I hadn’t seen an owl in the wild for a long time!  But yesterday while pruning the Poplar Tulip tree, I remembered the last owl we’d seen while Piper and I were on one of those early explorative adventures during a church camping trip on the Mendocino county coast in northern California in the early 1970’s.

The College-Career group (“Faith Action” as Piper named it) went on a weekend camping retreat to a State Park that was located on either side of the coastal highway.  It was in a gorgeous location and Piper and I decided to take a hike and do some exploring in the Redwood grove amongst the hills on the east side of the park.  So we stole away alone and hiked through the woods… okay… if you really must know… if I remember correctly… we did sneak a kiss or two along the way… but don’t write a letter to the church to rat on us please!

Anyway… in the middle of the dense and kind of dark forest we suddenly came a cross a gorgeous pure white owl perched in a tree.  Piper and I just stood there for quite a while, staring in awe!  It was a sight that we’d remember for a long time.  The bird the other night was rather plain looking but was outstanding in his own right.  The way that he blended into the night was kind of outrageous!  I would have never seen him if I hadn’t done my customary sweep of the yard with my tactical flashlight.  But the bird didn’t move at all.  He just sat there calmly until we went inside.  When I returned a moment later with fresh batteries in my flashlight… he was gone!

But the memories of Piper, as you know if you’ve been following this blog, just keep flowing along.  It doesn’t take much to trigger a remembrance.  I realized the other day that a good care-giver tends to always put the one under their care first in their actions, thoughts and concerns.  I’ve mentioned before how it used to bug me to no end when people would call to inquire how things were going and invariably ask “What about you?  How are you doing?”  which I appreciated but some at times, would go on and on about how important it was for me to “get away from Piper” and spend some time alone or with others.

The thought of “getting away from Piper” was the furthest thing from my mind!  I wanted to spend as much time as possible with her… just like I always did!  And while I understand that most callers had very sincere and positive motives for their encouragement, I got the idea from a few, that they were more concerned about me than for Piper.  For these it was almost as if Piper had become a non-entity!  And some of that has increased since her passing, with her memory being as if it were a very distant memory.

Proverbs 10:7 in the Contemporary English Version of the Bible declares that “Good people are remembered long after they are gone, but the wicked are soon forgotten.”  This verse gave me an extra boost of peace this morning as I considered Piper’s memory in my heart.  I can rest assured that the precious memory of her good and sweet life with its countless accomplishments will be around for quite some time.

Isn’t God good that he enables us to remember the good times in our lives?  I know that we are not supposed to live in or through the past, but those fun memories of some of the very special times have definitely acted as the booster cable when the engine of my life is overcome with sorrow and pain.  Those memories of life’s experiences along with and empowered by the memories of the Word of God that I have placed in my heart, have proven to be the foundations that are moving me into the next chapter of my life.

How about you?  Do you have any exciting memories you’d like to share?

Have a wonderful and hopefully restful weekend, and as you do, keep saying with me… “I am expecting the great memories of life and of His Word to stimulate me to greater things today!”

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

What's Behind a SMILE?


Smile [smahyl]  (Dictionary.com)

   verb:

1)    to assume a facial expression indicating pleasure, favor, or amusement,

2)    to regard with favor:

 noun:

1)    the act or an instance of smiling; a smiling expression of the face.

2)    favor or kindly regard:
                                                         

It didn’t take long for me to start having “I miss you Piper” twangs this morning.  It’s been five months now and I usually do pretty good during the day, especially since I have been working on getting the house ready for sale.  The last two days were spent sanding the peeling paint off the wooden sections of the front porch and then applying the first coat of paint.  It’s felt like the northern California summers I grew up with out here lately, so that also helped my mood.

But today while I sat on the bed and pulled on my socks, I couldn’t help but look at all the Piper pictures I have on the wall and think about the pain that her absence in my life brings to me.  It really got a little unbearable last night while trying to watch TV, but I thought that I was through all that this morning… I guess I was wrong.  Among other things, I began to hone in on the hard truth that in reality… I lost EVERYTHING when I lost my wonderful wife.  

And that all came back this morning when I looked at the memories that the photographs caught of her smile, her laugh, her touch and the sound of her voice.  I couldn’t help but pause and smile to myself though, as that children’s poem that describes girls as “Sugar and spice and everything nice…” suddenly materialized in my mind, and I had to agree that it described her very well!

What captured my attention the most this morning when I looked at the array of black and white and color photos that I had taken of her over the years, was her smile.  That gorgeous expression of joy that formed with the framing of her lips and front teeth, along with the dimples it produced on either side of her lips is usually the first thing that I picture whenever I think of her... without fail!  The powerful medicines that she was taking over the last years of her life did quite a number on her front teeth, even though we tried our best to save them with daily brushing, rinsing and regular dental appointments.  But you know… it never stopped her from smiling up to the point when she lost the ability for most facial movement.

Dictionary.com describes a smile as a facial expression that indicates pleasure, favor or amusement.  I especially liked the thought that it can demonstrate favor toward another individual as well a kindly regard.  That was what Piper brought into just about every room and or situation she walked into.  But was it just an outward motion with nothing behind it?  Well, if you knew her, then you know that was absolutely not the case.  Her smile was a direct link to what lived in her heart… Love, JOY and peace.

It took me a couple of years after I quit my outside job in order to take care of Piper 24/7, but I finally came to the realization that an environment of JOY was very important to Piper’s well-being in her weakened state.  It became very apparent to me that if she spent too much time in an atmosphere of quiet depression and sadness, where a lack of faith prevailed, that it physically affected her afterwards, for up to a couple of days!

As I walked out of the bedroom this morning in the comfort of my clean socks… I drooped my shoulders downward and began to morosely think “I’m not sure I can make it through another day without her” but the thought hardy had time to roost as another thought instantly popped into my mind saying… “But, I can… and I will… through HIS strength!”  And the picture of one of the first and most used scriptures I’ve ever memorized from page 1795 in my NASB Ryrie Study Bible that I purchased in the early 1980’s at a Christian bookstore in Rohnert Park, California profoundly read: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

A little while later as I sat at the dining room table doing my morning Bible study, I turned to that verse again and meditated on the idea of what it is of His that gives us the strength You and I need to make it through the rough patches in life, and without a beat recalled Nehemiah 8:10 (which was probably Piper’s most favorite verse in the whole Bible…) which declares “Today is a holy day for the Lord. Don't be sad because the joy you have in the LORD is your strength." (God’s Word ©) 

So, there you go!  It looked like at that moment, that I had just gone full circle since putting my socks on an hour or so before.  According to God’s Word, it would seem that His JOY gives one the STRENGTH to do what needs to be done… which many times might just seem impossible to us in our human strength… and then there’s the SMILE which serves as our outward expression to prove that we GOT IT! 

Got what?  Well, we got HIM Who has got our back in EVERY situation and need in our lives!  Pretty sweet wouldn’t you say?  It is sure enough to make me smile… even when life has seemingly played the dirtiest trick in the world on me.

I’m continuing to face each day with the truth of HIS Word in my heart, my mind and in my mouth by the words I speak and by the smile it forms!  For me its all a part of Piper’s legacy.  It’s also the way I believe, God wants us to live.

Have a wonderful rest of the week, and as you do, continue to smile and say with me… “I’m expecting to smile all through the day because I know that HIS joy is my strength!”