The new house!

The new house!
This will be our view from the front porch & kitchen!

Friday, March 29, 2019

HAPPY PEOPLE!


I awoke this morning after a restless night feeling a little anxious about things.  What things you may ask… Well, to be honest… I have NO idea!  So, I laid there in bed for a few moments and concentrated on calming myself down.  Then I arose, made the bed, petted the dog, brushed my teeth and went into the kitchen to get the coffee going.

But by now you know me!  I wasn’t about to let a physical feeling of anxiousness get me down.  (notice I said “physical sense”… as this was not an inner spiritual sensing of any kind)  So, what did I do?  You guessed it!  I immediately began to be joyful in the Lord.  As I walked down the hallway, I began to speak out my faith by simply repeating from my heart, “Praise You Jesus, Praise You Jesus!”

I’ve been recording and watching some older episodes of NCIS Los Angeles on ION TV and one common phrase that the two main characters say repeatedly after helping each other out of another life and death situation is “That’s what we do!”  So, I guess I would have to make the same comment after this morning’s situation fizzled out… Praising the Lord in the midst of trials and tribulations is what I do!” Especially after some 48 years of experience doing just that with Piper at my side!

In a matter of a few dedicated moments, I went from feeling anxious to being quite HAPPY!  And you know what?  I like being happy!  Don’t you?

I came across an article the other day on “The Secrets of Happy People.”*  It purported that HAPPY PEOPLE tended to be more successful in life, have better health, are more social, have a more philosophical view of life using laughter and humor, relate better to others in need, engage in meaningful pursuits and live in a more positive environment.   That sounds like the life I want to live… In fact, it sounds a lot like the life that Piper and I carved out for ourselves and our family.

As our anniversaries began to add up, it seemed like we always had someone ask us what was the key to our longevity together.  And besides the normal comments like teamwork, strong communication and lots of giving and taking, we always centered around our foremost trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and the truth of His Word.  We discovered early on that our unfailing trust in Him and his Word gave us a joyful, peaceful and confident outlook on life… in the midst of ANY situation!

Psalm 126:3 in the Message paraphrase perfectly sums up our personal statement of faith by saying, “GOD was wonderful to us; we are one happy people.”   Another portion of scripture that reads our mail is found in 2 Corinthians 8:2.  When the Apostle Paul was writing about the resiliency and faith of the churches in the Macedonia province he stated, “Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts.” 

I had to shout at the table when I read that verse in 2 Corinthians 8:2 this morning.  It was so loud that I startled the dog right off the couch!  As a former boss used to say at Hewlett Packard, “I’ve been there, done that and won the T-shirt!”

I also realized as I thought on Philippians 4:4-5 again, that a joyful response in the midst of trials and tribulations causes one to respond more appropriately to the needs at hand.  That’s why the scripture tells us to, “Always be joyful in the Lord! I'll say it again: Be joyful! Let your gentleness be known of all men. The Lord is near.” (God’s Word ©/Darby Bible)  As I tossed a couple of sausage links onto the hot griddle, it suddenly dawned on me that this is exactly what Paul is trying to convey to his readers.

I’ve seen it unfold that way on numerous occasions in my life and especially during the last eight years with other folk’s responses to Piper’s declining health.  The ones who were sad, depressed, fearful or just plain angry did not always respond to our situation and the way we were handling it with the appropriate behavior.  The Message Bible tells us that with our joyful response to people’s troubles we should “Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them.” (Philippians 4:5)

Those lacking a joyful attitude made it pretty clear from their words and actions that they were against us and not for us.  Who do you think that we wanted or needed to be around in our deepest time of need?

So, I said all that to say, that the choice is up to you and me… and as for me… I continue to choose to “BE HAPPY!”  My day is going down a completely different path right now than it could have gone had I not decided to put on a JOYFUL ATTITUDE and proclaim it throughout my house.  In fact, when I opened the front door and looked out the glass storm door across my freshly trimmed front yard to the neighborhood before me, I began to shout “It’s a PRAISE THE LORD kind of day today, neighborhood!”

Don’t worry, the streets were deserted and I doubt that anyone actually heard me… no one but meand it made me feel a whole lot better!  Have a good and HAPPY weekend dear friends and as you go out into your world over the next couple of days, take a JOYFUL ATTITUDE with you and say with me… “I am expecting my HAPPY, JOYFUL attitude to influence my world today!”

  

*https://www.verywellmind.com/secrets-of-happy-people-3144868

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Inner Circle


I was running some cross references yesterday, looking for scriptures that talked about the “hidden” or “secret” things of God.  One in particular hit home with me as it really spoke to my heart.

Jeremiah 23:18 asks the question: “Who is in the LORD'S inner circle and sees and hears his word? Who pays attention and listens to his word?” (God’s Word ©)  The thought of God’s “inner circle” or “secret counsel” as the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Definitions puts it, brought back quite a few memories for me.

I first recalled a time in the mid-1990’s after I had returned to work at Hewlett Packard as a temporary employee, with the task of assembling high frequency connectors on an assembly line.  I had left the company three years previous to this time to pursue some ministry dreams that ended up not going quite as I had intended them to.  So, I went back to the company I had worked at for eleven years and started at the bottom… again!

At first, I thought that this was so much better than the management positions I had held before.  I could just do my job without a lot of added responsibilities and then walk out the door carefree at the end of each day.  But after a month or two I found out that I was totally bored and needed additional challenges.  I discovered that I didn’t like being on the sidelines at work… that I liked to be "in the know!”  I enjoyed being in all those meetings during the day where we discussed company business like financial plans, daily production goals or was involved in mediating employee problems and or giving out employee incentives.  I liked being in the “inner circle” where decisions were made!

The same could be said for the ministry.  I have always enjoyed being involved in the inner-workings of a church.  I love planning activities that will enhance people’s lives, ministering to them through both the good times and the bad, and watching the face of a young person (or adult) as they personally embrace the realities of the kingdom of God.

But with my enjoyment in leadership comes a certain privilege and an even greater amount of responsibility.  I’ve always taken it as a great privilege to lead individuals in life, to have the honor of being accepted into a part of their lives that they’ve opened up to me.  But with that honor I have also taken seriously the responsibility of respecting them and striving to give to them the very best of what I believe that God is releasing me to share with them… whether it be in the church or on a secular job.

In our verse above, I sense the same excitement as I hear Father God wanting you and me to become members of His “inner circle.”  I quickly discovered in both my church and worldly management positions, that my success depended on how well I heard from and obeyed His daily directions to me.  And in order to receive His wisdom, I had to become a faithful member of His “inner circle” of influence.  In other words, I had to spend some regular time each day in close communication with Him!

So, as I’ve written on many occasions, daily quiet time in His Word is just a part of what I do… and have for many, many years, at home, on vacation or just about anywhere.  I always make time alone with Him a priority.  So… don’t come to me with the excuse that “I just don’t have the time!”  Yes, you do!  It is all a matter of personal priorities.

For me, missing time with Him would be like missing out on being "in the know!"  I guess you could say that I’m kind nosey when it comes to finding out what is going on in God’s plan.  Especially when it concerns my life or that of my spouse, my family and the other ones in this life that I have some level of responsibility for.  And why not?  That information is all there… FREE… for the taking!

Once again, this verse talks about three actions that one must take to achieve what God wants us to learn from this discussion.  The King James version says, “For who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD, and hath perceived and heard his word? Who hath marked his word, and heard it?"  So first, we have to take the time to STAND in His presence in order to discover what God has to say.  Secondly, we have to PERCEIVE and HEAR what He is talking about.  This means we have to dig into His Word.  The word “perceive” is defined as “to inspect closely.” This entails taking the time to find out what John Gill describes as “to see what was in His (God’s) heart and what He purposed and designed to do.”

And the last step, as is the norm in following the things of God, is to MARK, heed or give attention to His Word.  In simple terms, that means to obey and DO whatever it is that He is telling us to do!  It all involves participation within His “inner circle!”

In looking back over my life, I can see that I have always been sort of an “inner circle” type of guy!  Like I’ve repeatedly said, Piper and I never really enjoyed being on the sidelines… we always preferred being in the middle of the action.  Back when we first met in high school and were part of a group of friends, it seemed like we were always the ones to make the plan for the weekend activities and then be right in the thick of the softball game at Howarth Park, beach football game at Portuguese Beach, volleyball, sandcastle building or chasing each other through the freezing waves on the northern California beaches near our hometown!  Maybe that’s what drew her to me… and definitely me to her!

What are your thoughts on being in God’s “inner circle?”  With God, the door to His secret conference room is always open to one more… maybe today is your day to walk on in!

Have a great rest of the week and as you do, say with me… “I am expecting to hear from the heart of God as I sit within His ‘inner circle’ today!”

Monday, March 25, 2019

Status Quo


status quo

Status quo is Latin for "existing state." When we talk about the status quo, however, we often mean it in a slightly bad way. When people want to maintain the status quo, they are often resistant to progress.*       Vocabulary.com



There is a scene toward the end of the 2004 movie National Treasure when the father/son archeologist/treasure hunter team are leading a group of impatient and increasingly more violent bad guys deep underground, searching for what could prove to be the largest lost treasure ever found.  At one point when tempers were rising, the father looks over to his son and says something akin to: “Status Quo son, we’ve got to keep the Status Quo!”
And that is exactly what I have been thinking a lot about lately!  I’ve come to realize that staying in the “existing state” or within the current parameters of life is NOT always in the best interests for us Christians!  Let me explain
If I understand the basic meaning of “status quo” as “the existing state” then I understanding it as describing things around me as staying as they have always been… without change.  Well... that may sound fine and dandy to some folks, but I have to admit that it sounds pretty BORING to me! 
Like I’ve said many times before, my wife and I had always been pioneers who loved to discover and explore new ideas and activities… especially within our faith!  When I took my first delightful sip of the new coffee that I had recently purchased this morning, I had to walk over to the cabinet to catch the name of the coffee.  When I turned the bag around it was from Folgers new “1850” family of brews and was named “Pioneer Blend.”  I almost spit the coffee in mouth out as I burst into laughing thinking, “Well, of course I would like it!”
The characters in the movie I mentioned above were telling each other that they needed to not change or shake things up for it might cause the bad guys to react in a negative way.  Within our faith walk though, I believe that we HAVE to actively change the “status quo” in our lives on a regular basis in order to grow, be successful at and fulfill the callings of God that each of us have been given.
One of the hardest lessons that I learned with the journey we took for Piper’s health was in seeing some of the folks we loved, fight as hard as they could to keep their status quo as Piper’s symptoms, lifestyle and connection to the family increasingly changed.  It was pretty obvious from the very beginning that they really didn’t want to be too involved in all the changes that were occurring.
I was following a rabbit trail during my Bible study this morning when I happened across the story in Luke 1:57-66 describing the events following the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah and Elizabeth.  Verse 58 tells of how their neighbors and family responded to the unexpected news declaring that: “Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very kind to her, and they shared her joy.” (God’s Word ©) What caught my attention here was that idea that “they shared her joy.”
One thing that I endeavored to do for both Piper’s and my sake (especially for her’s) throughout our ordeal, was to keep the joy of the Lord flowing in our lives… even as things seemed to get worse through the years.  The further we ventured into the untraveled roads of the disease that ravaged her body, the more important it seemed to “Always be joyful in the Lord!” (Philippians 4:4 God’s Word ©) 
I knew my wife.  I knew of the vital importance that Piper put on living with a joyful attitude and I also knew that according to God’s Word, that being sad was the WRONG thing to do when you’re trusting in the Lord and on top of that… that “the joy you have in the LORD is your (physical, spiritual, mental and emotional) strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)  Even as her facial features changed and she could no longer demonstrate her joy through them, I could still see the effects of His joy through the glistening in her bright brown eyes. 
Sure, there were times when her eyes clouded over, but you know… it happened a lot more often when we still resided in California than when we moved out here… Once here, it seemed like more people excepted the changes in her and then chose to change their “status quo,” and reach out to her by allowing His joy to guide their emotions about her as well.
When Piper’s symptoms began to make themselves physically known, as far as we were concerned, we had NO choice but to CHANGE the status quo in our lives.  I firmly believe, and this has been backed up by numerous members of our hospice team, that if we hadn’t changed the status quo and GREATLY upgraded our regular intake of God’s Word and thereby increase our faith… which gave us more reason for His joy, then Piper would have passed many years previous to when she actually entered heaven’s gates.
So… STATUS QUO?  Well, I am not even sure that I like that term anymore… especially when it comes to my faith walk!  Let’s face it… I am in a place right now in my life where I have NO status quo… to fall back on and to be honest… I’m kind of excited about that! 
To my way of thinking, if you always strive to keep the status quo and resist change, then life will just pass you by!  And if you never change… well then… your faith is NEVER challenged and you’ll NEVER move on with God.  I sure don’t want to be left behind!  DO YOU?
Have a great week ahead, and as you do, keep saying with me… “I am expecting to change the STATUS QUO in my life as I actively trust in the Lord and choose to keep and exhibit His JOY as being strong in me!”

Friday, March 22, 2019

Back to Your Roots


It is interesting to see how some of the first scriptures that I ever memorized have become a vital part of the foundation of faith and strength that I have stood on in the most difficult times in my life.  After dating and then marrying Piper Canevari, it was only right that I became intimately acquainted with verses like Philippians 4:4-5 that encourages Christians to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice!  Let your forbearing (considerate, gentle) spirit be known to all men.  The Lord is near.” (NASB)

I not only had the immense delight of living with a woman that loved the Word of God but one that also encapsulated its very essence in just about everything she did and said.  I discovered early in our relationship that I too was drawn to God’s Word, but didn’t know much of anything about it!  So, for many years she became my mentor, not necessarily by classroom teaching but instead by her personal words, actions and her very evident spiritual sensitivity to the things of God.

And throughout our 48 years together… almost to the day... it seemed like we always tended to find ourselves returning back to the basics of Philippians 4:4-5.  Rejoicing in the Lord just came to be a part of who we were individually as well as a couple.  Even when Piper’s cognitive abilities and speech became limited, she still walked into a room… any room…with a smile on her face and an encouraging word coming from her lips.

I recall the time we went over to visit her folks after she had gained quite a few extra pounds as a side effect of the new seizure medicine she was on.  When we went into the house all was quiet and sullen and she immediately began to smile and make jokes in order to lighten things up.  That’s just who she was!  Even in the last months of her life she would quietly brighten other people’s lives.  One afternoon she suddenly looked up at a neighbor who would regularly come over and just sit with Piper and talk to her while she brushed Piper’s hair, and gave her a big smile!

Now that Piper is gone on to her heavenly reward, I often find myself feeling quite lonely and looking at one of the many pictures I have of her around the house.  And as I find myself lost in my thoughts of how beautiful she was to me and of how she greatly enriched my life, I sometimes wonder what she would do if the roles were reversed and it was she that was left alone.  And you know… the first thing that almost always pops into my mind is the familiar sound of her voice speaking directly to me (as she often did) saying: “Jim, relax… and just begin to rejoice in the Lord!”

So that is exactly what I usually do… many, many years after I first became familiar with that powerful scripture.  I’ve repeatedly sensed the Lord instructing me to return to my roots since Piper left the earthy scene.  Even though I’ve had different offers to attend churches in my area, I’ve sensed the importance of staying connected to the services and teaching of my home church in Oklahoma.  It is one of the few foundations in my life at this time that hasn’t been disturbed.  I’ve also gone back to re-reading many of the books from Bible College.  I believe that the Lord is wanting me to stay close to the foundation that made Piper and I who we were… and to remind me of who I still am during this time of rollercoaster change, emotional upheaval and new directions.

As I studied Philippians 4:4-5 from various translations over the last couple of days, I was drawn down a little further to verse nine where Paul instructed the church in Philippi concerning the things he taught them when he was last there saying, “The things you have both learned and received and heard and seen, practice (or do) these things: and the God of peace shall be with you.” (NASB/KJV)

When I began to meditate on many of the meanings of the various words Paul used to make his point, I realized that there is a mental (or intellectual), physical and spiritual application to what he was sharing with the church.  I thought that it was interesting the way he emphasized the conjunction “BOTH” to connect the ideas of “learned” and “received” and then “heard” and “seen.”  The Oxford Online Dictionaries describes the conjunction “BOTH” as “increasing or increased in quality, degree or force by successive additions.”  In other words, Paul is admonishing his readers to actively practice both of each of his commands in order to gain the fullest effect from his teachings in their personal lives.

He is training the church to go beyond the intellectual aspect of his teachings and to put them into active use in their daily lives while they continue to develop their spiritual sensitivity to the things of God happening all around them.  That kind of describes where my life is right now!  I may not be able to clearly see or understand where I am going as of yet without Piper at my side… but my heavenly Father sure does! 

So, what do I do?  I continue to do what I have done for the last 48 years… only without her.  Because, even though my circumstances have drastically changed… He hasn’t!  My job is to keep taking what I have both learned and received and heard and seen by our spiritual mentors over the years and continue to practice and/or do them!  The Lord has made it abundantly clear to me, that with everything else changing around me… I need to stick to His truth that has worked for me in the past and will continue to work in my present and future!

What do you think about that as far as your life goes?  Is it time to get back to the roots of your faith?  Is it time to put Him first?  Or maybe it is just time to find a quiet place and have a long talk with Him…

  Have a great weekend, and as you do, plug in with Him and say with me… “I am expecting to experience great things with God this weekend!”

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Whose Team?


team player

noun   
-       a person who willingly works in cooperation with others.*  
-       a person who plays or works well as a member of a team or group.**

 

I always considered myself a team player, but recently I think I finally learned what being a team player really entails.  By recently I mean over the last twelve years and in particular with my experiences in caring for someone diagnosed with a terminal disease.
When we were back in Oklahoma, and the symptoms of dementia were beginning to take center stage with Piper, it was pretty easy to know whose team we were on.  For at that time we were surrounded by faith-filled Christians at church, school, work and even in the stores we shopped at!

The confusion started to arise once we moved back home to California.  During the first year after our return, I rapidly found myself in a tailspin as we moved into a new home, I started a new job that took me out of town for as many as twelve hours a day and went back to our church that had undergone many changes since we moved away three years previously to attend Bible school.

After about six months of that we knew that somethings had to change.  It was getting obvious that Piper couldn’t stay home alone much longer and I felt like I was getting to the point of a nervous breakdown with the mounting stress, lack of sleep and overwhelming amount of activities and changes going on all around us.  So that’s when we began to pray over, sort out and make decisions concerning whose team we were wanting to end up on!

I won’t rehash all the decisions and subsequent changes we made over the next three and a half years, but suffice to say, when we landed at the Raleigh-Durham Airport in May of 2014, things settled right down and we found ourselves totally focused and in full participation on God’s team. 

What we had learned previous to the move was that there are many competing voices and or teams out there who will do just about anything they can in order to get you to sign on with them and their views, their fears, their expectations, their life experiences and their distractions… The point being… that they want you to be like them and do things the way that are comfortable to them.  And let me tell you… it took a while for me to figure it out… but trying to make everybody happy does not work… especially when you are fighting for the very life of a loved one!

I can clearly remember the day when it finally hit home in my understanding and I realized that I didn’t want to… nor NEED to play other people’s games anymore.  At that point, for us, the decision was made!  We were going to back away from anyone and anything else that differed from the direction we felt led to follow and join what we believed to be the winning team… God’s faith team… and only play under the coaching of His plans, His purposes and His pursuits when it came to Piper’s health.

Philippians 4:6-7 emphatically tells us to, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  Then God's peace, which goes beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ Jesus.” (NASB/Gods Word ©)

We discovered that in order for this verse to work for us, that we needed to focus our attention TOTALLY on God, His Word and His leadings and not be distracted by any other “word” or “advice” or even the false accusations that someone (almost always) seemed to have for us all along the way!  Joshua, the great leader of the Jewish people, told the Israelites shortly before his passing to “choose today whom you will serve.” (Joshua 24:15 God’s Word ©)  And I think that this is the same question that is relevant for each of us today…

Who are you and I going to serve today?  Whose team are we going to play for?  I noticed that in professional sports you very seldom find a player that successfully plays two sports at one time.  It is just too hard to excel at either one with your attention and loyalties split between two teams or two sports.  We had to make some hard decisions along the way, but it was well worth the difficulties we faced in separating ourselves away from pressure and differing game plans of the other teams.

Our scripture in Philippians 4:7 teaches us that when we fully focus on God and His team that He will GUARD our thoughts and emotions.”  I especially like one of the Greek definitions for the word “GUARD” in Thayer’s Greek Definitions that likens it to the protection “by military guard either to prevent hostile invasion, or to keep the inhabitants of a besieged city from escape.”  When I read that I had another “WOW!” moment as I thought of it as the Lord guarding us from the outside attacks and/or distractions of others who are plying ideas and thoughts contrary to those that we are standing on in faith, while not allowing our faith to escape from the safety of our hearts!

When we commit to play on God’s team and not be moved by other things, then He has always got our backs… just as Piper and I discovered along our final twelve-year journey together and as I am continuing to trust in during these awakening hours of this new chapter of my life today!

So, what do you think?  WHO’S TEAM ARE YOU ON?

Have a good rest of the week and as you do, keep saying with me… “I am wholeheartedly expecting to play and stay fully committed to God’s team today… and forever!”



*Dictionary.com

**Oxford Online Dictionaries

Monday, March 18, 2019

It’s a New Season!


One part of my morning routine that I usually don’t mention is putting on my shoes.  Now, I know that this is not a mind-boggling event so I tend to skip it when I describe my daily schedule, but while it may not be real exciting to you, it is always a poignant moment for me at the beginning of each day.

After getting ready for the day, I shuffle down the hallway in my socks, grab my shoes that I kicked off the previous night when I sat down to watch TV and sit down on the coffee table.  Now that butcher block coffee table is a story in itself as I believe it is the last original piece of furniture that I still have from the d├ęcor we bought with some of the money we received as wedding gifts!  It is built like a rock and is still in great condition as I have tenderly cared for it over the years.  It was also the most expensive piece of furniture we purchased back then, opting to go to a fancy natural wood furniture store for it instead of Sears, where we got just about everything else… with my 10% employee discount. (who ever said that we weren’t smart shoppers!)

So, I grab my hiking shoes, slip them on and tie the knots.  Then without fail, I lean to my right and pick up the hard-bound illustrated history of cars book that Piper bought me many years ago and lovingly read the inscription she penned inside the cover.

“Dear Jimmy,

Hope you enjoy this book as much as I have (HA! HA!)

Love always,

(your pitstop girl)

Piper ---------"

Underneath the note is a PS that tells me to check out page 47 in the lower right-hand corner which is a picture and description of the same model of MGB that I had at the time.

The notation is dated December 25, 1973.  We had been engaged for about 5 months at the time after dating for three years previous to our engagement.  Whenever I read her words in the book, I can’t help but flash back to that special time in our lives.  Today I looked up at the dog sitting across from me on the couch and sort of absent-mindedly said, “Who would have known that some 46 years after she gave me that book as a gift, that she would be gone and I would be sitting on the couch in our living room… alone… without her?”  Then I began to ponder the idea of the different seasons of life that each of us go through over the course of the years that we spend on this earth. 

As I listened to another sermon on seasons yesterday morning, I wrote in my “Piper’s Story” journal that “I’ve just got to face it… Piper was always my past, present and future, but now, she is only my past!”  And I had a peace with the revelation that she has most likely, whole heartedly accepted that fact as she is abiding in the glories of heaven and is blessed to have the full picture of our new relationship.  I, on the other hand, am still hindered by my physical residence here on the earth and fail to grasp the full understanding of it all.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” (KJV)   And I get it… although I don’t quite understand any of it, but I am in a new season of my life.  I believe it is my winter season of life and while it may be a time of cold and extreme weather events with grey skies and windy days, it is also a time when the soil is at rest and receiving new nutrition for the coming spring planting, summer growth and fall harvest.

So, like I did sitting in my La-Z-Boy chair yesterday afternoon, I am concentrating on the fact that I am in a time of rest, rejuvenation and re-direction for the coming spring where I am expecting new life to break forth from the ashes of what was left in me following the death of my loved one.

I liked the Hebrew definition of the word “purpose” in our scripture.  It means “pleasure, desire, a valuable thing, that in which one takes delight, an accomplished fact.”  That gives me a solid expectation that God still has a strong purpose for me and that it will be a delight for me to accomplish for Him.  So even though the current season may be cold and dark (although it’s been very spring-like out here for a few weeks now!), I am looking forward… according to my trust in the truth of His Word… to new seasons that offer new opportunities, new frontiers of ministry, new relationships, and a freshness of life that I never before could have expected!

And you know… His new seasons are the same for you, when you seek out His directions and promises for you that are hidden within the pages of His Word, as found in your Bible!  Go ahead… take a deeper look and find out what surprises and treasures that He has in store for you!

Have a great new week, and as you do, say with me… “I am expecting fulfilling new seasons ahead in my life… as I follow Him!”

Friday, March 15, 2019

Land Ho!


I am happy to report that I made it through my first birthday without my wife in almost half a century with hardly any difficult emotional upheavals!  And I would like to thank each and everyone of you that shared a birthday greeting with me, be it on Facebook, by text, phone call, Facetime call or greeting card.  For most of the day, I didn’t have time to think about the void in my life as I was overwhelmed with everyone’s outpouring of love toward me.

I started out the day with a drive into town for a haircut, followed by a stop at Home Depot for some floor tile adhesive/grout and to check out a few landscaping ideas I had and ended it with a trip to my local CVS to pick up a couple of my prescriptions.  Piper and I went into that store so often that the employees there feel like family to us!  When the Pharmacy Tech asked for my birth date like they normally do for security purposes, I just sort of blurted out “today!” and she immediately broke out into singing Happy Birthday to me… right in front of everyone!  It was actually very cool – it made me feel special… which is something I really haven’t felt since Piper’s passing.

Once I got home the phone calls, texts and Facebook posts started pouring in, so, like I said, I felt like I was surrounded by family and friends all day.  Then after I’d retired for the evening and was reading in bed, I received a final phone call from our youngest son.  After we talked for awhile and finally said our good-byes, I laid back down on the pillow and kind of felt like the Walton’s TV show when everyone would say goodnight at the end of each episode… I had that warm feeling and my day was complete!

One thing I did think about later in the afternoon yesterday, was that after being almost inseparable from someone for just shy of 50 years, life from this point on looks to be VERY different then it was before!  I realized that Piper and I first began to get to know each other, along with a group of 10 or so friends that hung out together, at the beginning of our Junior year in High School back in 1969.  Piper would have just turned 16 a few weeks before the beginning of that school year.  I was exactly 5 months older then her… and obviously much more mature…. I’m kidding of course!  I always thought that Piper was very mature for her age.

Sure, she had an actively adventurous side in her, but she was wise and even at her tender age was already very spiritually discerning to things going on around her.  That’s not to say that we didn’t do a bunch of silly and maybe even stupid things together, but God always protected us and managed to teach us through our mistakes.

I will admit though, that Piper never lost that adventurous side of her.  As I’ve mentioned before, we were both “pioneers” and tended to be on the lookout for new adventures in life, in our personal faith and in our ministry calling.  That is an important part of us that I always felt that some in both our families never quite understood.  Some of us are called to be “settlers” while others are “pioneers” with a fire in them to forge new trails through the great frontiers of life and faith.  Shhhh… listen…I can hear the call now“Land Ho!”

As I’ve mentioned many times before, we always had a simple faith.  If God’s Word said it, we believed it and when led to do so, we acted upon it.  God’s Word always had the first and final say-so on our decisions.  To us, God’s Word had even more power and say-so in our lives than what our eyes, ears and other physical senses might be telling us that was contrary to the Word we were standing on.

I have awoken every morning over the past six months since Piper’s home-going with the words of Psalm 118:24 on my lips before my feet ever hit the floor saying: “This is the day that the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it.” (KJV – personalized) Then with my first steps across the carpet I begin to proclaim that “I can do all things today, through Christ who is strengthening me.” (Philippians 4:13, KJV-personalized)

After I take the dog out and make the coffee, I usually find myself in the shower remembering the words of the great turn of the century evangelist Smith Wigglesworth and taking them for myself saying:  “I don’t go by the way that Jim Berruto feels or thinks today, I choose to go by what the Word says about me… for I am who the Word says I am and I can do what the Word says I can do!”

Lately there are many days… okay, most days… where it is very difficult for me to see beyond the horizon into tomorrow.  But I am thankful for the compass of the Word that gives me the steady and faithful support and directions to carry me through the unchartered lands ahead.  Even though I can’t feel it or explain it, I know that as I trust in the Word that I will make it through okay!  After allI’m still a PIONEER, right?  There is just a whole new frontier out there to be explored and I might as well be the man to do it… with God at my side… if I remember correctly, Proverbs 3:6 tells us that God will direct my paths!  See, He’s got it all covered!

Have a great weekend, and as you do, continue to say with me… “I am continuing to expect God to lead me through each and every day of my life!”


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

New Concepts


Yesterday was beautiful out here in the northeast central region of North Carolina in the USA.  I took advantage of the pleasant high sixties degree late afternoon weather and sat in a chair on the patio watching and listening to the birds in the trees, while Fiver frolicked around the yard.  After a while I became lost in thought and sadly reckoned that it is just not fun anymore to sit here in our lovely backyard without Piper at my side!  Even when she was not able to communicate, her presence was all that was needed to spark the joy that always seemed to flow whenever we were together.  Besides, even though she couldn’t speak or express much emotion, we could still understand each other spirit to spirit.

In Mark 10:7-8 Jesus tells us, “That's why a man will leave his father and mother and will remain united with his wife, and the two will be one. So they are no longer two but one.” (God’s Word ©)  In many respects, I think that Piper and I were a living, breathing illustration of that scripture.  We were very close throughout the years and in many ways and situations acted as one individual.  So to say that we could communicate spirit to spirit, to me, is not a stretch at all!

I was thinking as I stepped out of the shower yesterday morning, that Piper and I seemed to be “wired” differently from the rest of both our families.  You think God plans stuff like that?  I have to admit that I do.  I believe that He has perfect plans for each of us, but yet the responsibility lies on US to seek Him and then obey His leadings in order to enter into His best for us… throughout our lives.  It doesn’t just come automatically… and like one of my professors in Bible School said in many of her classes, we are Christians but we live in an imperfect world where the prince of this world, the devil, lives to try and mess up God’s plans for us!  (See: John 12:31, Ephesians 2:2)

It seems like I must have been doing a lot of thinking yesterday!  While preparing dinner and half listening to “The Five” on the Fox News channel, something was said that got me to contemplate the thought, that I now have NO CONCEPT of so many things in my life without Piper.  Like standing in the kitchen and preparing meals together, holding hands as we travelled just about anywhere in the car, simply embracing her tightly against me and mostly above almost everything else, just experiencing her smile and sparkling and encouraging personality.  I have absolutely NO CONCEPT in my life now, of anyone besides her looking deeply into my eyes and calling me “Jimmy.”

When all the preparations were complete and the food was cooking in the oven, I plopped down on the couch next to my big white fluffy dog who was comfortably resting on his blanket and began to write an entry into my journey entitled “Piper’s Story” book 2, that I began a few days after her passing.  I took a longing look at the picture that I had inserted into the journal a few days a ago and wrote as if speaking to Piper, “Do you realize how many roles you played and or filled in my life?”

I am discovering in my grief process, that one of the negative (if you could call it that???) results of having an extremely close and intimate relationship with a departed loved one, is the tremendously emotional and many times physical pain you experience when your other half moves onto to their joyful place in heaven.  So now, as I am processing through those very real symptoms of a broken heart, I am also learning how to begin to see things differently than I did before.  Each day becomes a brand-new learning experience as vacant roles in me present themselves and beg to be filled and or replaced by someone or something else than Piper.

Ephesians 5:25 literally jumped off the page of my Bible yesterday and again this morning as I read, “Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church - a love marked by giving not getting." (MSG)  Each time I absorb that scripture into my soul I have to almost automatically reply, “Well, I did that!”  Of course I did, for I loved her more than anything else in this world.  When it became evident that Piper could not safely stay home alone anymore and needed someone with her 24/7 back in 2010, there was never any question from each of us as well as from our heavenly Father as He interacted with us, that it would be me.

In talking about the Old Testament wives who cultivated their inner beauty, I Peter 3:5 states: “The holy women of old were beautiful before God that way, and were good, loyal wives to their husbands.” (MSG)  The King James Version explains that they could be loyal to their husbands because they trusted in God for them.  And that is why I stepped up without hesitation to take the ultimate care and responsibility for my wife in her deepest time of need.  We were as one and I was not about to betray her trust in me when she required the most of me. 

So husbands and wives, I implore you to step up and fulfill your roles in becoming one together in Christ.  Wives trust in the Lord for your husband and pray for him and his abilities and Godly desires to care for you with all his heart.  And men, step up where needed and “go all out in love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting.”  You just can’t go wrong when you do it – TOGETHER – God’s way!

Have a wonderful rest of the week, and as you do, say along with me, “I am expecting to trust in the Lord to help me fulfill my daily responsibilities.”

Monday, March 11, 2019

DISTRACTIONS!


I’ve been hearing a lot about “seasons” from within various Christian circles lately.  And with everything new going on in my life lately, combined with the fact that the leaders of these Christian circles are highly respected individuals from a wide array of denominational backgrounds… I’m taking what I’m hearing very seriously! 

One of the definitions that Dictionary.com relegates to this word is: “a period of the year when something is best or available.”  But yet, I can think back on past “seasons” in my life, where things on the outside did not always seem to be presenting the best availability of life for me and my family.  Do you know what I’m talking about? 

Over the last six months since Piper’s homegoing, I have done a lot of thinking about when we really started to notice changes in my wife and then examine that beginning in relation to what was happening in our lives at the time.  I’ve mentioned before that in looking through the various notebooks that Piper always kept over the years, containing her Bible study notes, personal prayers, Church sermon or special service notes as well as her weekly grocery lists, that she had been quietly praying about her cognitive abilities since the early 2000’s.

When I look back at what was going on in our personal and family lives, I can see a “season” that was full of the stirrings of some radical changes that were to come in our lives.  I had been laid off from my 20-year stint of employment with HP and then their spin-off Agilent Technologies in 2001 when the electronics industry took a nose dive and most American firms began to shift their manufacturing divisions from the US to overseas.

From there I went to work for a professional photographer’s store in which I had done a lot of business with over the years and knew the manager.  Well, that lasted 2 years until the new owner finally shuttered the doors when the store experienced financial difficulties as the photo industry switched from film to the digital world.

Now, if that wasn’t enough, our church was experiencing some changes as well with a slightly declining congregation and a Pastoral change, not to mention a reduction in my monthly income from my position at the church in order to help with the reduced income.  On top of all that, our older daughter was getting married, I turned my side-business doing yard work into full time status and we also began to plan our upcoming move to Oklahoma and Bible School.

So yeah… life was a little busy for the Jim and Piper Berruto family… ya think?

The other thing about that time was that finances were a little thin as well!  But you know, throughout it all we did not allow everything that seemed to be turning upside down, the definite reduction in our checking account balance and all the new activity that we were pressed into service for, to captivate our focus.  Sure, we had to deal with the physical turn of events but we continued to focus in on God and the truth of His Word and not at how things looked in the natural.

As I look back today at that time, I can see that much of the parade of changes were simply DISTRACTIONS caused to dilute our focus from God’s plans and purposes.  The Oxford Online Dictionaries defines a DISTRACTION as “that which prevents someone from giving full attention to something else.”  We had a couple of very important tasks ahead of us at that time, mainly being our daughter’s wedding and then preparing to move 1800 miles away to attend Bible School.  Once the wedding was complete and we turned more of our attention to the move, we began to get some strong negative pressure against our obeying God’s call to Oklahoma.  I’m sure that Piper received much more of that pressure than I did and didn’t relate it to me as it mostly came from her side of the family.

But Piper was unflappable when it came to obeying the voice of the Lord in her life.  I’m sure that it just caused her to set her heart and determination more than ever toward obeying His will.  One result that Dictionary.com describes of the action of “DISTRACTION” is the “division or disorder caused by dissention or tumult.” I often think today though, if that pressure wasn’t there… if it would have allowed her more opportunity to hear from the Lord and talk with me about the changes that were beginning to cause her great frustration with her confusing and increasingly more prevalent dis-ability to finish her sentences and thoughts.  (Even with the results of a complete physical in 2006 which determined that all was fine with her???)

I’ve come to learn that DISTRACTION is a favorite tool of the enemy of our souls as he attempts to disrupt us from obeying the callings of God in our lives.  I see it very much trying to operate in my current situation as I am dealing with all the personal emotions and pain of losing the love of my life while trying to stay focused on preparing our house for sale and then another cross-country move, some 1200 miles to the Tulsa area in Oklahoma.  There are many, many things out there that vie for my attention, time and energy.  But there will be plenty of opportunities for all the other things… many very worthy… at a later date and place.

Proverbs 4:25 teaches us to Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions.”  And I think that this simple truth is one of the best pieces of information that all of us can learn.  If we had allowed all those DISTRACTIONS to hijack our attention back in the early 2000’s, we might never had gone to Oklahoma and received all the training, experiences and most of all… the saturation in the Word that put us over in the following years up to and including right now!

So, I encourage you to take a look around you and discover any and all of the various (and many times sneaky) DISTRACTIONS that may be trying to take your focus, attention and prayers away from where they really need to be!  The more focused we are on Him and His purposes, the better off we will be!

Have a wonderful new week, and as you do, say with me… “I am expecting to NOT be distracted by things that will keep me from focusing in on God’s will for my life!”