The new house!

The new house!
This is our spring and summer view from the kitchen of our new home in Oklahoma!

Friday, July 29, 2016

16,790 Times...

Every morning when I help my wife up from bed, I begin by placing my right hand under her left arm and my left hand under her shoulder on the same side (as she normally sleeps on her left side).  Then I gently lift her into a sitting position on the edge of the bed.  I always tell her what I am about to do and sometimes add a few silly phrases along the way, like today…  As I got into position I laughingly told Piper that I was lifting her up with my big strong arms!  Then I had to pause and ask her, “I wonder how many times I have put my arms around you over the years?”

If you figure that we have embraced at least once a day over the 46 years of our relationship, that number comes to 16,790 times!  Of course there were a few days when we weren’t together due to work or church retreats, conferences and the such.  But then there were also LOTS of occasions when we embraced more (many more…) times than just once a day as well.  So I would conservatively have to say that the number of our embraces is at least double the minimum 16,790 times!

Now, you might be wondering where I am going with this.  Well, when I am assisting my wife in the morning as well as any time that I help her to get up, move about or simply stand, I have to put my arms around her and support her.  I guess you could say that I am acting as her foundation to keep her upright and steady!  Over the last seven years I have never lost my grip or accidentally dropped her!  (Although… I did do that the very first time I foolishly picked her up and attempted to carry her up her parent’s front steps when we were in high school…  I have to laugh now, because she was never real comfortable with me carrying her after that initial – and only- mishap!)  Her legs may occasionally collapse on me and I have to let her gently go down to her knees so that I can get a better ‘handle’ on her… but she knows that she is safe and that I am still in control of the situation!

My example with Piper goes right along with Paul’s petition for us in Ephesians 3:17 when he prayed that we would be “rooted” and “GROUNDED” in God’s love (KJV).  The word “GROUNDED” is an architectural term referring to the foundation on which buildings or houses are built upon.  Without a strong and solid foundation a building would shift and eventually fall down in the face of many of the natural storms and disasters that occur around the world.

I come from California where most residents have come to realize the utmost importance of the foundation upon which their home is built.  In my home county, most home owners will shy away from a cement slab foundation as it is very inflexible during an earthquake and can easily crack and cause havoc to the house.  In San Francisco, architects have developed a type of roller foundation that actually flexes with a quake and helps to keep the building intact and its residents safe. 

I have to admit that I got a little annoyed at the various inspectors that checked out our new home here in North Carolina during the escrow process of the purchase.  Every one of them went to great lengths in explaining the type of crawlspace foundation that the house has and to clarify with me that the brick enclosure had NO weight bearing function but was simply for aesthetics.  But it did get me to thinking about how any other foundation but God’s love is simply aesthetics in the life of a Christian.  When our lives get shaken, the aesthetics won’t hold us up for long, and will quickly cause us to take a great fall!

I have said it time and again how Piper’s and my ever increasing intimate knowing of God’s love for us has been the solid foundation that has held us up throughout the earth quaking, tornado spinning, tsunami flooding that has come upon the home of our lives since she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2009.  His love has given us the strength to get up each day with a smile of expectation, an underlying dependence in His grace to see us through, and the unshakable faith in her total and complete healing based on the truth of His Word!

Over my years in ministry I have seen those whose foundations collapsed when faced with the storms of life and the result was not pretty!  It is also not the results that Papa God has planned for His kids!  He has given each and every one of us the tools and material in His Word to build a strong and solid foundation… but it is up to us to take what He has provided and become “GROUNDED” in His love and truth as found in the Word of God.

Have a great weekend, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Whose or What kind of foundation am I expecting to hold me up and keep me steady when the storms of life come my way?”

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Those Tall Trees...

One of the things that immediately caught my attention… and my heart, when we first cast our eyes on our new home was its location set back in a field of green grass and surrounded on two sides by an expanse of green shrubbery and tall trees.  Now that we are in the house, I find myself looking out our bedroom window the first thing every morning and being somewhat spell bound and in awe at the sight of those tall wonderful statues of nature that tower over our property.  

In the cool of the late afternoon shade, both my wife and I love to sit on the deck in the solitude of our backyard (thank God for the new QUIET A/C unit located near the deck) and simply stare at the trees and the naturally forested areas to the side of rear of our ¾ acre lot.  There is something very peaceful and medicinal about this daily experience!  At these special times I can understand EXACTLY why God had us move out here and purchase this particular home in this particular rural county of North Carolina.

When the first storms of winter blew in after our first few months in the house, I had a tinge of concern as I realized that one of those tall majestic trees could come down right on top of our house… right on top of our master bedroom!  At that point I had a decision to make.  I could either give into fear of what might happen, or place my trust in the Lord God of heaven and earth and have the peace in knowing that He not only could but WOULD protect us from any calamity caused by any kind of natural or man-made destruction.  Guess which one I chose?

I figured that God put us here for a purpose and it wasn’t to be living in fear of those tall gorgeous trees!  Being an avid gardener and long-time owner of a yard and garden care business, I also understand the tremendous root systems that those trees have!  The roots go deep into the depths of the earth and spread wide as they seek to nourish, support, and stabilize them.  I can recall a summer back at the first home my parent’s owned in our home town when my Dad had a large tree cut down in the backyard and then spent the rest of the summer digging out the roots that went out and about throughout the whole yard!

In my Christian walk I have also learned the vital importance of having our spiritual roots growing deeper and wider into the good soil of God and His Word and His love!  Psalms 1:1-3 tells us of the individual who delights in and reflects on the teachings of the Lord.  He is described as “a tree planted besides streams- a tree that produces fruit in season and whose leaves do not wither.  He succeeds in everything he does.” (God’s Word ©)  

Jeremiah 17:5-8 says that this individual will not be afraid when the heat comes, won’t be anxious in times of drought and will NOT stop producing fruit!  That tree (or person) will not come a’ tumbling down when the winds, rain, snow, sleet,  ice storms or lightning’s (of life) come upon it!

Ephesians 3:17 tells us of the importance of being “ROOTED and grounded in (God’s) love.” (KJV)  The God’s Word © translations talks of this love as being “the ground into which you sink your roots and on which you have your foundation.”  That is the good soil from which we gain our strength, our stability, our nourishment and our joy to triumphantly face every day… no matter what may be waiting for us around the next corner!

So… when you see a beautiful tall and majestic tree, what is your first thought going to be… that it might fall and cause havoc to everything in its path, or that it is strongly rooted and grounded into the earth and will not tumble down in any storm or catastrophe?  That is the same decision that you have to make in your own life!  Will you tumble at the first touch of rain… or grow down deep and withstand any storm to the glory and praise of God?

and speaking of healthy trees, I have to go out and fertilize our new Fig and Pear trees this afternoon!  I want their roots to grow deep and wide and be able to produce lots of fruit… Yum!  Have a great rest of the week, and as you do keep asking yourself… “How deep am I expecting my spiritual roots to go into the good soil of God’s Word and God’s love?”

Monday, July 25, 2016

Come On In!

I had kind of as funny flashback this morning…  I was in the kitchen getting something for Piper when I heard the dog shifting his feet under the table in the dining room and heard the familiar clicking of his nails as he most likely was coming in to see if I had any tid-bits for him.  The funny part was that without much thought, I was expecting to see our old black dog come around the corner - only to be surprised to see a big white paw step into the room instead!  I had to laugh when I caught myself and realized how easy it is to fall into old familiar patterns of life!

And in speaking of old patterns… I was thinking as I studied from Paul’s prayer in Ephesians three earlier today, that in many respects, this portion of scripture has been an “old familiar pattern” in my life that has given me much strength and confidence over the years.  Paul seems to be centering the entire prayer on the important need for us to have an ever-increasing, intimate knowing of Christ’s love for us.  This intimate knowledge of His love for me has been the overwhelming force that has carried me through the thick and thin of the attack on my wife’s health and all the… shall we say “color and commotion” that has accompanied it!

My commentary on the book of Ephesians points out four requests that Paul asks of the Lord for his readers in this prayer.  “He prays that the inner man might have spiritual strength, which in turn, lead to a deeper experience with Christ.  This deeper experience will enable them to apprehend God’s great love, which will result in their being filled unto all the fullness of God.” *

In describing a deeper experience or depth for the believer, he paints of picture through the use of three words: dwell, rooted and grounded.  Today I would like to get us thinking a little bit on what it means to have Christ “dwell” in our hearts.  Dr. Kenneth Wuest in his New Testament – An Expanded Translation, explains the idea of “dwell” in this part of the prayer in Ephesians 3:17 by saying “that the Christ might finally settle down and feel completely at home in your hearts…”

After reading that I had to quickly stop and honestly ask myself if I thought Christ would feel completely at home if He walked through the front door of our home.  Would He feel out of place… uncomfortable with the décor, embarrassed by what He saw on the TV at the front of the living room, or just feel uneasy due to the tension in the air?  I can remember many years ago when I walked in the door of a co-worker and friend’s at the first apartment complex my wife and I lived in back in 1975.  

As I took my first step into the living room, I immediately felt uncomfortable.  The room had a strong, sweet overpowering smell about it, there was a box of drugs on the coffee table and various girlie magazines strewn about the room.  The surprise on my face must have immediately triggered my friend into action as he began to nervously laugh and run around the room frantically shoving the offending items under the couch!  Is that the way we would react if Jesus walked into our front rooms?

On the other hand, I have enjoyed watching our new dog Fiver as he has rapidly become more and more comfortable in his new home.  As time has gone by, he is more confident in checking out the various rooms of the house on his own and in not having to be in our presence 24/7!  This morning he actually stayed on his pillow in the bedroom with Piper when I got up early to spend time in the Word.  Up until today, he always jumped up with me and stayed at my feet anywhere in the house I went.  He is also more comfortable investigating the large expanse of our backyard by himself… although he does still keep a watchful eye out to make sure he knows where we are!

In reading Paul’s prayer, I decided that I strongly desire Jesus to always feel at home in our home no matter what is going on in our lives at any given time.  Our youngest daughter made the comment when they visited us from Oklahoma a few weeks back, declaring that even though we were in a new house, in a different state, with some new furniture, that our house still felt like home to her due to the familiar décor around the rooms and the old family pictures on the walls.

That’s exactly how I want Jesus to feel in my physical home as well as in the home of my heart.  I want Him to experience some of those old familiar patterns of the Godly life, a life that is solely dependent on Him and His Word that are always visible and present in and around me!  Those aren’t items that I want to shove under the couch when someone comes over, but items that I am proud to say and display of who (or whose) I am!  What about you?
Have a great new week, and as you do keep looking around and asking yourself… “What am I expecting God to see when He walks in my front door?”

*”Be Rich” A Commentary on the book of Ephesians by Warren W. Wiersbe, chapter 7

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Good Lookin' Feet...

Dis-com- bob-u-late

To confuse or disconcert; upset; frustrate; to throw into confusion*

I’ve told the story in past blogs about the elder member of our church board back in the 1990’s who would always begin his monthly meeting comments by giving a testimony of the Lord working in his life.  I will always remember the time he related when the devil physically manifested himself one night at the foot of his bed many years prior to that particular night.

I don’t recall much of the content of the story except that he rebuked the devil and he left.  But one point I do remember is what Brother Chester said he looked like. He described the enemy of our souls as a human form whose head and face were green and slick like that of a mallard duck.  That picture created a lasting imagine in my mind… most likely intensified by the fact that I have never (even previous to this) been a fan of ducks!

Now, while I have not experienced a personal face-to-face interaction with the devil like Brother Chester’s vivid recollection, in the current journey that my beloved wife and I have been walking over the last few years, I have been through some of the most personal, harsh, eye opening and difficult persecutions in which he clearly stood behind the scenes as the instigator and architect of the words spoken and the actions taken against us and our family. I have seen him work through unsuspecting, usually loving and very-close-to- us individuals as pawns of his handiwork… and let me tell you, that any way you look at it, it has been quite ugly… just like Brother Chester’s description of what he saw that night!

In my morning Bible study today, I was looking at what the Apostle Paul said about the “mystery about Christ” and “how God gave me the responsibility of bringing his kindness (or grace) of this mystery to you.” (Ephesians 3:4 & 2 God’s Word ©)  As I contemplated this “mystery” and thought about the devil’s role in the persecutions that we endured, I had the urge to jump to my feet and shout glory! 

It suddenly hit me that at the very beginning of our journey, when lots of pain, confusion and important decisions were needing to be made, that the devil immediately came on the scene to discombobulate (yes, that’s a real word!) everything, in his attempts to “steal, kill and destroy” the abundant life that the Lord has so graciously provided for us through Jesus’ finished work on the cross. (John 10:10 God’s Word ©)  The reason I wanted to shout was that even though I was blown a little off course at the onset of the attacks, we ultimately KNEW the mystery of the Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ and through it all, have been able to set our anchor firmly onto the Rock of our salvation!

I had to laugh when I read a story that the author of the commentary I am currently using related about a missionary friend of his.  It seems that the missionary was taking a lot of persecution from local detractors in the midst of his missionary work.  One of his key irritations was their continual attacks on the missionary’s physical features.  The man of God finally faced his distractors and told them that they were right… up to a point.  

He boldly declared that yes his looks were unsightly.  Yes, he was bald, yes he had needs with his dental care and with other areas of his physical features, but one thing he could brag about was that he had beautiful feet!  And he went on to share the Lord’s picture of him in his missionary work as stated in Isaiah 52:7 declaring: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion; Thy God reigneth!” (KJV)

So yeah… I had a good laugh as I had heard some pretty absurd, negative and false things said about me to my face or to our kids and family friends.  But you know… according to this verse… at least my feet are beautiful as I have continued to publish abroad the good tidings and good news of all that Jesus has been doing for us (and through us) in our stand of faith on Him and His Word...  in the midst of everything we have been going through!

So my point?  What the devil has meant for evil, Papa God, in his great and intimate love, wisdom and power that far exceeds any natural understanding for us, has turned it into GOOD!  

 As my wife and I drove home through the fields flowing with beautiful green crops (would you believe tobacco!) surrounding our country neighborhood yesterday, I couldn’t help but come to tears as I recounted ALL THE BLESSINGS He has sent our way due (I firmly believe) to the unmovable stand of faith in what we believe to be His directions for us over the last six or seven years.

And that would include our recent acquisition of what is turning out to be the perfect dog for our particular needs… For example… Piper had a particularly rough morning today as she was experiencing some hard jerks.  I was comforting her and giving her the Word on the subject when Fiver came up to her and began to gently lick her hands.  Well you know… Piper looked over at the dog, smiled and then relaxed while the jerks lessened and then stopped!  Hummm… I did pray that the new pooch would take a liking to her…

So yea… The devil is real!  Just look at all the negative activities going on around the world right now!  I think the Sheriff of East Baton Rougue Parish put it eloquently on Sunday at the press conference following the shooting of 6 police officers, by stating that the incident “wasn’t about gun control, but about what’s in a man’s heart!”

What do we do?  We put on our sandals and show off our beautiful feet by going out and telling about the Good News, the good tidings of peace that only trust in Jesus Christ can bring.  We engage the enemy with the Word of God and watch as Papa God turns the enemy’s direct attacks into good!  Like He told Joshua, “Be strong and courageous!  Don’t tremble or be terrified, because the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 God’s Word ©)

Have a great week!  Don’t give in to fear and keep asking yourself… “What part of the Word of God am I expecting to stand strong in and tell others about today?”