Label Me Not

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Ours is a thrifty family.  We are huge fans of yard sales and second hand stores.  Even if I could afford to buy the moon one would still find me in places with the permeating scent of storage.  I thrive on the the thrill of the hunt for finding that unique item that screams my name or the name of someone I love.

I’ve noticed an irritating thing as of late.  People hosting yard sales are beginning to point out brand name items.  Much to my chagrin, stores like Goodwill have been doing this for years and charging ample fees to go along with the name–despite the fact that it’s used.  But, at yard sales?  Look, it’s your business if you want to pay $100 for your purse but I’m not paying more than $5 for it, brand name or not.  I  don’t care what label it bears.  The question is, Do I like it?  I don’t buy names.  I buy style–mine.

Years ago we had a friend who had brothers.  One was diagnosed with cancer.  Ever since requesting prayer for him, when our friend would speak of his brothers, he’d say, “You know, the one with cancer.”  It didn’t sit on me quite right then, but links to people such as this have become even more aggravating to me.  With negative diagnosis, bullying, harsh criticism, and the like seeming to be more and more prevalent, so are the relationships between people and labels.  It’s maddening.  I mean, who wants to be known as, “The brother with cancer”?  Why not the one with the great personality?  The wonderful sense of humor?  Or even, the one that’s older than me?  Why, “the one with cancer”?

Listen to people talk.  Hear them tell of their relationship to others.  My friend who suffers from depression….My aunt who committed adultery….My father the drunk….As a follower of Christ, am I not adding to spiritual chaos and people’s demise, and perhaps my own, by participating in unholy labeling?

The LORD really began talking to me about this some months ago.  I could hear Him saying, “Don’t let that become your identity.  My people have got to stop letting certain things become part of their identity.  You’re giving too much away.”

As if to reiterate this, while this phrase was strong on me, I was watching a Christian program that I often view.  A woman was sharing her story of how she was diagnosed with, you guessed it, cancer.  Do you know what the LORD told her?

“Do not let this diagnosis become part of your identity.”

To obey, she posted scriptures all over her home and saturated her mind, her mouth, and her heart with what God said pertaining to her.  She battled and she won.

Our enemy has sunk his claws in even deeper.  At Bible study one night, someone mentioned grandparents living here in the United States who were anxiously awaiting the birth of a grandchild in Canada.  When the blessed event came, the couple refused to tell the grandparents what sex the child was because they wanted “it” to decide.  That’s so much better, letting a child be an “it” until “it” can figure out what “it” is.  That’s right, leave it to adults to cause mass confusion in a child’s life from birth.  Let me help you out: if “it” has certain equipment and/or certain chromosomes, “it” is male or female.  “It” may be confused, most likely thanks to you, but “it” most assuredly has an identity.

I feel sorry for people who truly struggle with this type of thing due to circumstances beyond their control.  Maybe they were born with multiple sex characteristics.  (However, scientists state that despite multiple sex characteristics, children will naturally gravitate toward the sex they were created to be).  Or maybe they were abused in such a way that they feel they are shielding their identity by changing it.  That pain is real and my heart goes out to these people.

What I can’t wrap my mind around is adults, parents, doing this to babies whose sex organs and chromosomes are clearly evident.  Doing this to a child, made with a distinct identity and purpose by God, is like telling a watchmaker that he built a rowboat.  You can say what you want all you want but it won’t change the truth.  A boy is a boy.  A girl is a girl.  A watch is a watch.  A rowboat is a rowboat.  Each destiny will never wholly be fulfilled if the purpose has been distorted.

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.  Genesis 1:27 NKJV

We are playing right into our enemy’s hands with this mentality and we’re doing it to another human being from birth.  Isn’t life confusing enough, hard enough, without trying to figure out what sex you are?  Did we have to add something absolute onto the pile of unknowns that they are going to face?  What if this child is diagnosed with cancer like our friend’s brother?  Like the woman on the t.v. program that I watch?  With what will they fight when it took them so many years to decide what sex they are and perhaps they aren’t sure even now?  Where will they get their clarity?  From what will they draw a solid identity?

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Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like:  He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock.  But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.”  Luke 6:47-49  NKJV

We are to derive our identities from the Word of God because it is a solid foundation.  We are to hear His sayings and do them so that we will not be shaken.  So you come from a family of alcoholics, does that make you one?  So you were abused, does that mean you will be an abuser?  So you were plainly born a female, are you suddenly a male?  So you grew up “poorer than dirt”, as we country folk say, does that make you poor?  Not necessarily, not according to God’s Word.  If we hear His Word and do His Word we won’t live in alcoholism, abuse, confusion, or poverty.  We might have visited those places, but we don’t have to live there.  Those places might come to visit us, but we don’t have to let them stay.

I remember inquiring about a home years ago.  The woman asked where I live.  I told her.

She said, “No one living there could afford my house.”

My spine immediately stiffened as she judged me simply by my address.  “You have no right saying such things,” I said in rebuke.  “You don’t know me.”

“You’re right,” she acquiesced, “I don’t know you.  I guess someone living there could afford my house.”

Guess what, even if we could have afforded that place 😉 I wouldn’t have given her the pleasure of selling it to me.

Aren’t ya tired of being put down?  Aren’t ya tired of doctors cursing you with your family’s medical history every time you see them?  Aren’t ya tired of satan, your accuser, going before God saying he has a right to you because of something your ancestors did a 100 years ago?  Aren’t ya fed up living according to the world’s system, accepting their distorted ideas, when you could be filled with the Truth?   I am.  We must listen to God.  What is He saying about us?

Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy.  He is looking to label us.  Ultimately, he has come to steal our identities.  And he is doing it through: grim diagnosis, unjust words, past mistakes and/or outright sins, family history, ignorance, political correctness, the list could go on.  How do we combat that?  Listen to God.  He came to give us life and life more abundantly.  Say that rather than anything else.  And post it all over the house until you get this:

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”  Romans 12:2  NKJV

Do what the lady with cancer did, dig through the Bible and post the words He gives to you.  Meditate on them, say them, believe them.  Let them become your identity.

Join me today in getting the Word of God concerning us personally in our heads, seal it in our hearts, and speak it from our mouths.  That’s the only way we’re going to triumph over the enemy of our souls.

I’ll close with a song from Lauren Daigle pertaining to what God has to say about us.  LISTEN.  Have a blessed day.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.  John 10:10 NKJV

Stand Fast

 

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My jaw fell open.  It stayed that way for so long that a colony of flies could have taken up residence.  I felt frozen, standing there in front of my canned foods, cradling the phone to my ear.

Another Christian down, two of them.  One known only in our circle, the other is well known.  No longer Christians.  No longer followers of Christ.  Two things immediately came to mind:

Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons.  1 Timothy 4:1  NLT

A falling away from the church was my first thought.  And the second, a picture.  A picture of Jesus at the Last Supper, telling His disciples one would betray Him.  They all asked, “Is it I, LORD?”

Whenever I am tempted to elevate myself in my self righteousness, yes the temptation does come, I think of this statement based on 1 Corinthians 15:8-10: But for the grace of God, there go I.  There go I to the brink, the abyss, the precipice, that place of precarious balance where I find myself when my heart is melting within my chest because of the crushing blows that life sometimes brings upon me.  If not for His hand…there go I…to the bottom….

Judge those who leave the faith?  No.  I’ve walked on what felt like hot sands with no shoes.  I’ve been put to the fire; I expect it will be thus for as long as I live.  So deal another blow to one who already hasn’t the strength to pick up their head?  No.

I couldn’t wait for the morning to come after the devastating news, the loss of more followers of Christ, to sit and talk with Jesus.  I needed comfort and wanted to comfort my LORD.  I sat with a cup of tea, the Word open upon my lap, tears streaming down my cheeks.

“I’m sorry, LORD.  I’m sorry You’ve been wounded yet again by someone turning away from You.  I’m sorry for all of the times I have been angry with You when You have only had my best interest at heart.  You have always loved me even when I have been angry and faithless and so incredibly bound by selfishness.  Forgive me!  Forgive these ones who have gone away.  Turn them back to You, LORD, and keep me from turning away.  I could, You know.  But I don’t want to.  I don’t know how to live without You and I don’t ever want to know.”

I’m still crying.  I feel the loss as if they were my own.  And aren’t they?  Aren’t we, who have accepted God as Father and Jesus as Savior, brothers and sisters in Christ?  Uh, the anguish….

It is in hearing these things that I begin inspection of my own spiritual life.  How am I doing?  Am I sinning?  Am I unrepentant?  Am I hurting and unwilling to talk to God about it?  Have I quit being vigilant where the Word is concerned?  Have I allowed false doctrine to enter in?  Am I rejecting Truth in any way?

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Listen, this is not an introspection as unto condemnation.  Christianity was never supposed to be about condemnation.  It’s about a God, a Father, Who gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.  Christianity’s foundation was and is meant to be love for God is Love.

People forget that He is a Father with laws.  Guess what?  I’m a mother with laws.  I forbid my children to cross the street alone when they were little.  Do restrictions make me unloving?  No.  It is because of my love for my children that they were and are not permitted to do certain things.

People also confuse God with people.  He is not a person that He should lie.  He is faithful and true.  It is not His fault that people commit horrible acts.  “Oh, but He could stop them.”  Can I prevent my children from using illicit drugs?  No.  “But God can do anything.”  He will not go against the will of man.  Will He protect me from the will of some men?  Yes, and He has.  And I believe we have been spared from things that we will never know about ’til the other side of glory.  But will He go against His own Word?  His character?  No.

All He ever wanted was to be loved.  All He ever wanted was a family.  In the quiet of the evening, He walked and talked in the garden with Adam and Eve.  I believe He looked forward to that fellowship more than they did.  I say that because I know my own heart.  I know how busy I can become, how easy it is to say, “Later, LORD…Tomorrow, LORD…  Not now, LORD.”  Then I realize days have passed since I have sat in the quiet and listened.  How long has it been since I sat in His presence and breathed?  Thanked Him, adored Him, worshiped Him, appreciated Him?  How long?  See?  See how it goes?

We would have God be the villain of all.  How soon we forget that we have an adversary who hates mankind simply because we are made in the image of God. He’d have us all for lunch it weren’t for God’s staying hand.  Look around, satan is eating more and more of humanity everyday.  Why are we surprised?  We don’t need God anymore, at least that’s what we told Him.  Despite the heavy traffic, we’ve decided to jeopardize our safety and cross the road without Him.  What’s so hard to understand, then, as to why there is so much evil in the world when we are rejecting the only One Who was/is truly good?

That is why when news comes of someone leaving the faith, and it comes more frequently than I care to hear, I re-evaluate myself–get myself a spiritual check up.  I’d rather get it all done on this side of Heaven than the other side.

So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols of your ancestors… Serve the Lord alone.  But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors….? Or will it be the gods… in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”  Joshua 24:14-15  NLT

Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!  Deuteronomy 30:19 NLT

If you have not chosen Jesus, if you have not chosen life, I sincerely pray that you will.  Warning: Living for Christ is not a cakewalk.  You will be persecuted.  Promise. However, God will never leave you nor forsake you and you’re in good company–no one was persecuted more than Jesus Christ.  Life’s hard anyway, you might as well travel with the only One who loves you unconditionally.

If you have chosen Jesus and you’re on that precipice, please let Him hold you.  Please.  Please do not forsake the One Who has never forsaken you.  I know it feels impossible, but it isn’t, because with God all things are possible.  No matter  what you’ve done or what’s been done to you, you are loved and you are not alone.

Join me today for quiet, personal reflection and prayer for the weary and the lost.

 

Rainbows, Fairy Dust, and Unicorn Poop

 

As our goodly priest said up above, marriage is what brings us together today.  If you’re single, perhaps take today’s post and consider it thoughtfully and prayerfully.  There’s a lot of good nuggets here for the taking.

I was in a thrift shop last year and happened upon a hand full of women who I would guess were aged 50-60.  They were grousing about their husbands/exes.  I was tucked away between shelves quietly listening.  One woman, obviously a divorcee, said, “And good riddance!  The best thing that came out of that (marriage) was the kids.”  The others assented.  I felt so bad that these women had such animosity toward marriage.  Then again, I did sympathize.  Marriage isn’t all rainbows, fairy dust, and unicorn poop.  Sometimes it feels like a lot of poop.

Two statements come to mind when I contemplate marriage.

  1. I remember visiting a newly married, nearly fresh out of high school friend in her first home.  Hubby’s at work, baby’s doing what babies do.  She says to me, “My dad tried telling me that marriage isn’t all peaches ‘n cream.  He was right.”
  2.  I was sitting in a side room at a great aunt’s funeral, newly engaged,  when my Aunt Valerie gave me some sage advice: “Just remember, Christi, the grass isn’t greener on the other side.  You’ll just be trading one set of problems for another.” I don’t know what made her tell me that, but I never forgot it.  I think of it often when the peaches ‘n cream run out.

It’s funny now to look back and see how naive I once was.  I figured with God’s grace and the strength of our love, Bob and I would surpass all other couples–including Princess Buttercup and Westley.  Boy, was I dumb!  By the end of the second week of marriage, I was thinking how nice it would be to go home when the stark realization that my home was now with Bob smacked me full in the face.  I want to make it clear that it wasn’t anything that Bob said or did, but the plain shock of it all.  This is not an argument to advocate shacking up before one gets married.  Want to complicate marriage further?  Throw that into the mix and see how far it gets ya.

Sometimes I wonder what God was thinking by ordaining marriage.  Take two willful, selfish, totally different, broken people and yoke them together for life.  I might add, that any spouse that won’t confess to being these things needs counseling right away.  They might need counseling anyway, but if you’re a man you won’t get it because you don’t have a problem–or so I’ve heard from reliable sources–men 🙂 .

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Marriage is hard work, harder than giving birth.  At least labor pains eventually end.  The pain of being married, because it is intended to last a lifetime, does not.  That’s why we make commitments in front of God and everybody, to anchor us.  That’s why we say things like, “For richer or poorer, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, ’til death us do part”, only we’re supposed to mean them, too.  Being willful can have its perks, especially when it wills you to do something you don’t feel like doing, like staying when everything within you wants to go.  Marriage can feel like quite the grind when it’s mostly the will involved instead of feelings.  Sometimes I like to feel a little.  Sometimes I do.  Sometimes I do not.  Face it, there’s nothing romantic feeling about dirty dishes or dirty underwear.  Most people live lives where the thought of romance is as far removed as sunshine is from a cave.

Romance takes time.  It takes effort.  It takes remembering.  It takes action.

Remember what drew you to your mate in the first place?  Okay, I’m going to get real here.  I loved Bob’s eyes.  I called them cat eyes and the shade of blue, gray, or green reflected whatever color shirt he wore.  They still do.  Oh my gosh, when he wears denim blue does his eye color ever pop!  I need not mention that he was a tall, lean-muscled machine.  I need not mention it, but I have anyway.  That is not what drew me to him at the first, though.  On the contrary, it would be some time, and some comments from relatives and friends before I would notice how truly handsome he was.  I’m serious.  I think God ordained it to be so that I would not be led by my emotions.  That’s a flat out dangerous way to make decisions.

Back to remembering….The initial thing that lured me to Bob?  His tenderness toward God.  Bob didn’t know Jesus when we met but he didn’t object to me talking about Him.  Bob’s lifestyle was far removed from godly.  He would later confess to me that he was well on his way to being an alcoholic by the age of 15.  Yet he still possessed tenderness and had a sensitivity about him even though he experienced a lot in his young life that could have hardened him.  He was sincere.  He defended and literally fought for the nerds, the overweight, the outcasts.  I admired that.  Personally, he made me feel beautiful.  He made me feel safe.  He was a one-woman man.  And I don’t know that I’ll ever forget Mum telling me, “Bob loves you, Chris.  He truly loves you.”  And he still does…even when I’m mean…or so he says 🙂 .

Romance takes acting.  Now that we’ve remembered, let’s do something.  Write a note,  whisper sweet little nothings, give a massage, bake that favorite dessert.  Without spots of romance here and there, marriage is drab.  So is life in general.  We all need romance.  We all need a feeling of mystery, surprise, and excitement outside of the mundane whether we admit it or not.  Then, too, none of us could live in a state of euphoria (especially the one we have before we are married); it would kill us.  Ergo, commitment.

Marriage is hard work.  Some days it can feel like there’s little pay for the intensive labor it calls for.  Payment may not always come in ways I desire, it may not come by way of romance, but it is worth it.  I have a good husband.  He is faithful.  He would die for me and the girls.  He goes to church and worships with us.  He works hard.  He’s providing for our retirement.  He can be quite humorous.  His knack for repairing things is astounding.  He’s a wonderful heater on cold winter nights.  Despite how he feels about himself, he’s still wildly handsome and desirable to me.

Make the time.  Make the effort.  We need to remember.  We need to take action.  We need to remain committed.  Life’s too short to let little inconsequential things build up and pile up until we can barely see the things that really matter.

Join me today in setting aside unrealistic expectations and appreciate the spouses we have for who and what they are.  Marriage may not always resemble the vision we had before we were wed.  But I’ve got a notion that if we let it, it will be the best, blessed reality that God designed it to be.

I leave you with our wedding song.  Hope you enjoy it.

 

 

 

Again with the Hamster Wheel

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“SHUT UP!!!”  I exploded.  “If you don’t be quiet, I’m pulling over and you can hitchhike the rest of the way home!”

The silence between my husband and myself the rest of the way home was deafening.  I don’t normally drive when we are together but he had an appointment with the surgeon and it was doctor’s orders that I drive.  Driving Bob after a surgery isn’t bad.  He’s whooped and doped up from the procedure so has little to nothing to say.  He obviously had clarity of mind and most of his strength back on the day of his follow-up because his regular, horrible passenger self turned up.  I’m not one usually given to explosions, I internalize more.  I’d rather not speak until I can think things through.  And I rarely utter “shut up”.  I don’t like it.  It seems incredibly rude and just, well, rude.  I don’t want to hear it so I refrain from saying it.  But that day, oh, that day, I had had ENOUGH.

Poor Bob couldn’t know that his grousing would be the cause of my tipping point.  Unfortunately for him, it was.  I had stuff, lots of stuff, weighing me down. He didn’t know it, or forgot it, or simply didn’t think much of it (since, naturally, his only and main business was recovering) but they were stresses to me.

For one, he had his surgery.  The stress of sending a loved one, no matter the procedure, to unconsciousness and the knife is bad enough.  Add to that some old fart in the waiting room condemning your loved one’s recovery because she had a bad experience.  I rebuked her out loud in the name of Jesus, by the way, told her Bob was covered in prayer, and got an “AMEN!” from someone sitting behind me.  Still, that was an upset.  I’m certain satan sent her.

For two, our family had appointments of one sort or another every single day but one of the week of Bob’s surgery.  Run, run, run.  And in the midst of the running, I was planning/preparing extra healthy meals to aid him in healing and giving instructions to whoever was left with him as to what to do while I was gone.  Then I was right back to caregiver as soon as I returned.  The girls were great nurses.  And I applaud Bob.  He may be a horrible passenger for me but he’s actually not too bad a patient.  The fact is, I rarely know anything’s wrong with him unless he seems exceptionally irritable for no apparent reason.  I’d rather he just told me he didn’t feel good.

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For three, I was not feeling quite well myself.  Probably stress wearing me down.  Physically, blah, but it was the emotional, mental crap that really dragged me down.  My reflection has not been my friend as of late.  I caught sight of myself in a full length mirror  recently and I was shocked.  The added pounds, the long, frizzy looking hair–just who was this run-down woman staring back at me?

On top of that were my feelings of inadequacy.  We’d had a chance meeting at a relative’s office (long story).  Witnessing her in her “place” punched me in the gut that I’m not in mine.  At least, I don’t feel like I’m in mine.  I love my role as homemaker, wife, and mom, but nothing I do helps pay the bills.  Nothing alleviates the financial weight my husband alone bears.  And my “place”, my writing, I love it but I don’t know what to do with it.  And tell Bob all of this?  No.

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As of late,  he’d been an incredible source of pain to me.  I’d been feeling like I couldn’t do anything right by him.  It wasn’t because of anything particular that he said, it rarely is.  Maybe because of how he speaks at times, but it’s mostly because of what he doesn’t say that I feel ground to powder.  I admit that I  wonder, if I should die before him, what he’ll say then.  Will he utter the words that I ache to hear now, while I am alive, but he won’t say it because he’s “not like that”.  Not like what?  Not capable of being the man he was before we were married?  The one who talked with me for hours about random stuff?  The one who wasn’t afraid to bare his heart?  The one who made me feel like the most sought after woman in the entirety of the world?  Yeah, sometimes I wonder if he’ll wait ’til I’m dead and that makes me sad.

Bob’s back to work.  My place is restored in my glider rocker chair in the corner of the living room.  I had a sit-down with the LORD.  I dumped on Him.  I poured out my judgments, anger, and resentments against various people.  Some of what I prayed kind of surprised me as it had been hiding in a dark corner somewhere.  Nothing surprised me more than unearthing some anger that I had towards God.  I’ve encountered this before.  I admitted and repented of a lot of garbage and our relationship had been running pretty smoothly between us for quite some time.  I honestly don’t know when I started collecting rocks again concerning Him.

I heard a minister say he doesn’t understand how anybody can be angry with God.  That could bring condemnation, but I don’t let it.  Here’s the thing: Is not this a relationship that I have with Him?  How many people cruise through their relationships totally anger free?  I don’t.  My anger is not a reflection on Him, it’s a reflection on me, and my need to let Him cultivate the kind of love that He has inside of me.  I am hoping and praying that I mature to the place, and my love is perfected in such a way, that I no longer become angry with my Creator, but apparently I’m not there yet.  And you know what?  He knows that.  So why pretend?  All it does it create chasms between us.

After confessing, repenting, and crying, I felt better.  But there was still poor Bob.  The stuff he puts up with.  Then, of course, the record starts playing in my head about what an awful wife I am, yada, yada, yada.  Then I remind myself that he’s no peach to live with all of the time either, blah, blah, blah.  Then I wonder why, Why, WHY, can’t I permit myself to be human?  My efforts to live in the divine make me crazy sometimes.  I try too much in my humanity to do what only God can do spiritually.  If I’d just let Him do His work life would be so much easier for me.  For Bob.  For everyone in my sphere.  There I go, trying again.

Know what’s encouraging?  I’m catching these things earlier.  I’m becoming more pliable in God’s hands as I loosen the grip of my own.  I’m forgiving myself and others quicker.  Offenses are becoming less and less as I look at others through eyes of compassion.    What have they suffered?  What have they gone through?  How would I like to be treated when I am hollering, “SHUT UP!!!” on the highway?  Do I want grace?  Absolutely!  And I’d like the luxury of having a melt down periodically while someone comes afterward to tell me that they love me anyway.

Join me today and be soothed while listening to Jonny Diaz’s “Breathe”.

 

I close with this:

It’s going to be all right.

I don’t know why, but that calms me.  Maybe it’ll do the same for you.

And because nothing has clout like God’s Word, I leave you with these scripture verses:

Isaiah 40:28-31 English Standard Version (ESV)

 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
 He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.

We may be struggling now, Friend, but there’s coming a day when we will soar.  ‘Til then, just breathe.

 

Battle Scars

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It was a beautiful evening.  I had just exercised on our outdoor trampoline and was stretched across the large mat staring through the green canvas of black walnut tree leaves into the blue sky beyond.  Since surgery, my husband had occupied the living room thereby disrupting my corner space where I spend time with the LORD.  The trampoline had become my new space for quiet and meditation.  And I had A LOT to think about.

The Monday following Father’s Day was when I noticed my first spot of poison ivy.  By that Wednesday I was wrapping both of my wrists.  From there it appeared under my breast, my lower back, both thighs, and had nearly swollen one of my eyes shut.  I also had stray blisters on my face, neck, and upper arms.  It was a nightmare.

I remember waking one morning and wailing, “How long, LORD?”

He said, “Seven days.”

At first I was put out.  Hadn’t I suffered long enough?  As the days began to tick off, and I realized I’d be healed in time to enjoy a much anticipated visit from Floridian friends, my spirits buoyed.  But then I woke on a Tuesday, the 7th day, still carrying the marks of the ivy.  That day on the trampoline had been nearly a week past my day of prophesied healing and my body still bore the marks.

I gazed at my dry, scaly wrists and glanced at the discoloration and the bright pink circles that stood out on my thighs.  I heard the girls’ sad voices in my head timidly asking, “Will the scars go away?”

I again stared through the leafy green canvas to the blue beyond and whispered, “I don’t understand, LORD.  I know I heard You.  I expected this to all be gone.  What’s up?”

He was quick to remind me that, as Mum pointed out, I had no new outbreaks and there were no blisters remaining.

“The war in your body is over, Christi, but healing takes time.”

Flashes of pictures of war-torn countries, complete with bombed out buildings, filled my mind.  “Rebuilding takes time even after a war is declared over,” He said.

Time.  A peaceful quiet settled over me.  It wasn’t the answer I wanted, but I like answers no matter how distasteful they are at times.  One of my favorite t-shirts is white with a beautiful print on the front of a Thomas Kinkaid painting and this equally beautiful scripture verse:  “He hath made every thing beautiful in his time…”  Ecclesiastes 3:11a KJV

In His time….

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I made mention in one of my prior posts that I wholly relate to dear Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride who impatiently stated, “I hate waiting.”  I’m beginning to think that my trials aren’t necessarily trials of faith, but trials of patience.  And God leaned forward from His throne shouting, “Hel-lo!  My girl’s finally got it!”  And all of the angel choir shouted, “AMEN!”

Seriously though, faith and patience are related, aren’t they?

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”   James 1:2-5 NKJV

Romans 5:3-4 NKJV is like unto it:  “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;  and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”  

Only thing is, sometimes in the midst of fiery trials, I find myself being a character instead of having character.  There is a vast difference; just ask those around me when I am in tribulation 🙂 .

I don’t pray for patience.  I learned a long time ago not to.  I kind of figured that just by virtue of my being a believer in Jesus I’d have ample opportunity to grow in it.  Unfortunately, I was right.  Opportunities to mature in patience happen organically, frequently, and sometimes in triplicate.

I have, however, prayed for unwavering faith.  I might as well have been praying for patience all along according to these scripture verses!  That was abundantly confirmed to me when I read a page from Mrs. Charles E. Cowman’s compilation in my all-time favorite devotional, Streams in the Desert.  The reading basically boils down to this: Just as the strongest trees do not grow in sheltered places but in the open, where the elements beat upon them, so it is the way with spiritual giants.  They do not grow alone in joy, healing, and victories, but in sorrow, hardships, and persecutions.  Life is a bittersweet mix of both and I am only now coming to realize the painful necessity for them.

Have you, like me, found yourself going ’round the same mountain?  Would you take into consideration that your trial may not be as it appears?  It may look physical, financial, relational, etc., but at the bottom of it may be a lesson in patience.  Just refer back to our scripture verses to see the value God has placed on this virtue.  It’s wonderful…and also comes at a dear price.  What is encouraging to me is verse 5 in James 1 If you need wisdom, ask. God will not let you do this on your own.  He may have an instruction or comforting word for you.  Mine concerning the poison ivy was comfort: I did hear right.  The war in my body is over.  I simply need time to heal.

I truly believe that as I let patience have her perfect work, I will see answers coming quicker and in succession.  But for now, these lessons are my school.  Join me today and see if the trial you face is one of patience.  If so, go in faith believing that all will be made right…it may just take some time.

Hope you enjoy this “Darling” of a song featured on The Andy Griffith Show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Woe-Go-Round

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This spring/summer has been a string of woes.  We lost a dog and a cat; Laura had all 4 wisdom teeth removed; I had a wretched case of poison ivy with blisters bigger than peas; my husband was violently ill on the day we were scheduled to depart for a much anticipated, much needed, family weekend away; and he had surgery–not related to his being ill.  Besides what was going on in our house, prayer requests came in for other people I know and care about.  Seems a lot of people are currently on a woe-filled ride.

It was while I was wondering if the poison in my body would ever cease and desist, and the fire and need to scratch would ever end, that I cried and poured my rampage out in my journal.  I had prayed.  I prayed for myself.  I prayed for others.  I tried petitioning,  proclamations, and praise–I tried until my trier was broke.

Healing is still somewhat of an enigma to me.  I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve studied it too much.  I don’t approach God with child-like faith near often enough.  Instead, I go armed with the teachings and experiences of others and their “formulas” and expect it to “work”.  When it doesn’t, I am crushed and fall into unbelief.  I know God heals.  I know Jesus paid a horrific price and took every disease known to mankind upon Him.  I know satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy and that Jesus came to give us life and life more abundantly.

But during these times, when the suffering sets me on the precipice of breaking, I wonder if God truly loves me.  The reality of His love is too often like a butterfly to me, flitting here and there, instead of the immovable cornerstone it is meant to be.  Mostly, these insecurities arise when those I love or myself am facing physical crises.

 “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead?  Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not!  So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”  Matthew 7:9-11 NLT

There’s the crux of it all.  I’m led to believe that my Father will do better for me than I can do for my own children.  Where are the good gifts–the salvation, deliverance, provision, healing, miracles– they’re already paid for.  Where are they?  When they don’t come quickly, the frantic want begins and the frenzied application of formulas ensues.  Nothing changes.  Nothing happens.  I must have misunderstood.  I must have done something wrong.  Let me try something else.  I try until my trier’s broke and I have no more strength to seek.  Why bother anyway?  He doesn’t answer, at least not quickly.  Life seems to run its natural course and goes on until the next crisis occurs.  How sad it would be if I remained in this place.  But I will not.  I can not.  Why?  Because God does love me, immeasurably, eternally, recklessly.

Another scripture came to mind:

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Matthew 22:39 NLT

Some time ago the LORD told me that He made me tough, not hard.  There’s a vast difference.  I must guard against being hard on myself, not loving myself, because it spills onto others.  And part of being hard on myself is thinking if I’ve not done everything “right” I am not worthy of healing (or other God-benefits).  How silly!  Jesus already purchased that gift for me.  I’m no more healed 10 minutes from now than I was 2000 years ago when Jesus paid for it.

Encouragement can also be found in Matthew.

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV

Rest.

Rest.

It’s worth repeating.

That scripture went over me like salve.  Then came a God-thought too wonderful for the human mind to create on its own.

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Rachel’s birthday was fast approaching.  As I had this journal time of contemplation and Holy Spirit applied God’s Word, He deposited the most wonderful thought: Rachel doesn’t have to try to receive birthday gifts.  Some of her gifts had been purchased a couple of months prior, and all of them had been wrapped for weeks; she didn’t have to try to receive gifts.  She simply had them, all tucked away, waiting for the appropriate time, her birthday.

Remember the man who had been blind from birth?  The disciples wanted to know who sinned, him or his parents.  But Jesus said,

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”  John 9:3 NLT

The miracle was available, but it was for a set time, when God would receive the most glory.

These thoughts bring peace to my weary soul.  I can’t say I’m totally done with formulas and trying to receive what God has for me, old habits and thought processes are hard to break.  But I expect to do a lot less and receive a lot more as I rest and realize that I don’t have to try to obtain what Jesus already bought for me.  I already have it.  It’s wrapped and will be given in His time.

Join me today in resting in His Word, leaning into His love, and confidently waiting for our appointed day.  Rest, Beloved, just rest.  His Word will all be fulfilled in due time.

Hope you enjoy this song by Mercy Me.  It’s how I felt when the LORD told me that I don’t have to try--it’s already been done.

 

Chaotic Peace

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Ever have one of those seasons?

Years ago, while I was changing a morning diaper, I noticed a little spot on Beth’s leg.  Until I had cleaned her, changed her, and put her back together, she was covered with what we assumed to be hives.  I was terrified that her throat would eventually close.  We quickly loaded up the family and went to the e.r.  By the time we got there, there was nothing to see and nothing to do.  Thank God…kind of.  I was relieved but perplexed about the mystery.  What caused it?  Would it happen again?  Was it life threatening?

It was these thoughts that swamped my brain while we traveled home.  On a long stretch of highway not far from home is a little restaurant.  At the edge of their parking lot were two vehicles with teenage drivers idling side by side.  One driver, view of the highway blocked by his friend’s vehicle, not knowing why his buddy wasn’t pulling out, shot out of the parking lot and t-boned us.  As soon as we were parked, we jumped out and checked the girls’ status.  With all of the excitement that morning, the wreck barely jarred the sleeping babies.

I, however, was a mess.  I began to cry.  I wish I had refrained, but stress had gotten the better of me.  Now I was concerned for that boy who had to deal with my very well built, very large, very strong husband, whose very lovely babies quietly dozed, while his very petite wife was having a melt down in the restaurant’s parking lot.  Bob handled himself quite well, by the way.  But our day didn’t end there.

When we came home, there was a message on our machine.  Bob’s paternal grandmother, with whom I had shared so many fascinating conversations and laughs, and loved her like my own, was dying.  As you can imagine, many more tears followed.

Life is one big bulldozer bucket-full of awful sometimes.  And that’s how I’ve been feeling off and on for several months due situations that are beyond my control.  Then again, as I’m fond of telling the girls, we don’t have the power to control or change anything but our attitudes.  So, I guess what I really needed was an attitude adjustment…and lots of prayer…and release through lots of tears.

To tell you the truth, not much has changed at all except for my attitude.  What brought the change?  A relinquishing of what ails me to God’s capable hands.  I realized I had to cast away some cares when my youngest said she wanted her mum back.  She said it was like I was in a depression.  I myself felt like I was under a dark cloud.  I could not continue that way when the Hope of Glory lives within.  Some care casting away was in order.

The time following the casting away was most precious.  In the quiet one morning the LORD whispered to me, “I’ve been waiting for a while now for you to calm down.  We need to talk.”

He proceeded to tell me some things that are coming and how I am to handle them.  He gave me a time frame.  He cautioned me.  I can’t ever remember a time in my life when He laid so much out in front of me like that.  Is it fearful?  Yes and no.  No, because I know that He’s in it.  Yes, because there’s always fear in the unknown.  I still don’t know the details.  It’s kind of  like when Jesus hopped in the boat with His disciples and gave them an edict to go to the other side.  They didn’t know what it was all about, they simply obeyed.  Despite Jesus’ presence, the storm still came.  But because of His presence so came the peace that calmed the storm.  That’s Who’s living inside of me.  So even though I don’t know the details, I know He’s in my boat and we’ll safely get to the other side.

There is perfect peace even in the storms of life.  His name is Jesus.

This song from Sanctus Real brought peace to me through a time of transition 10 years ago.  Maybe it’ll do the same again for me and for you.

 

 

Though the mountains be shaken
    and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
    nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you.   Isaiah 54:10  NIV

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.    Isaiah 26:3  NKJV
If you’re going through “one of those seasons”, I want to comfort you and remind you that: This, too, shall pass.   The storm will calm.  You will get to the other side. 
Join me today in committing the known and the unknown into His capable hands.  After all, it’s technically all unknown anyway and He is able.  So very, very able.

Super Capacity Plus

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Several Fridays ago, for no apparent reason, my shoulder began to hurt.  Hurt is an understatement.  If there was a pain chart, the pain would have been off of it.  I cried.  Then, the laundry came.

My children, who rarely ever care to do so, were suddenly inspired to change their sheets.  Not just their sheets, but their comforters, too.  I could barely open my arm enough to apply deodorant and I was suddenly staring down the barrel of 4-5 loads of bedding.  Plus, I had been inclined to do some spring cleaning the week prior and therefore let the laundry fall by the wayside.  Ten loads of laundry all together.  Probably.  And I couldn’t raise my arm to save my life let alone do 10 loads of laundry.  Yes, my children do help with the laundry, but at the time, they were helping spring clean other areas of the house.

After a very hot shower Saturday night and a massage with liniment following, I felt considerable better by Sunday morning…at least compared to Friday.  A friend from church laid a hand on my shoulder and prayed for me during meet and greet.  We both felt the heat of the Holy Spirit while she prayed.  Was I 100%?  No.  But by the time I saw the doctor on Tuesday to see whether I should rest it or exercise it (as I got conflicting reports as to how to speed up the healing process), my shoulder was feeling pretty good.  Sore, weak, but for the most part, pretty good.

Thursday following was to be a gorgeous day, so said the forecasters.  Prime time for clothes hanging.  I had contemplated dragging the bedding to a nearby laundromat then bring it home to dry.  I didn’t know if my washer could handle the comforters and survive.  I scowled as I thought of a trip to town, coins, time away from doing other chores that had fallen by the wayside…and my shoulder which was still slightly sore and weak, but so much better.  Thank You, Jesus!  I stared at the baskets, hampers, and overall mass of dirty clothes and debated.

I found a tag on what I thought was the largest comforter.  I read the instructions and found that it should be washed in a “large capacity washer”.  Something tripped through my memory.  I scoured the writing all over the underside of my washer lid and then pulled it down to read the fine print written around and underneath the knobs.  And there it was:  “Super Capacity Plus”.  Not just “Super Capacity”, no, “Super Capacity Plus“.  The comforters were hung and 4 loads of laundry, easily and quickly followed.

Think about this: God is not a large capacity God.  He isn’t even a super capacity plus God.  He is an endless, bottomless, measureless, God.  Need salvation, deliverance, healing, wholeness, prosperity?  Done!  He’s got it.  And He’s got enough for you, me, the entirety of all mankind, pressed down, shaken together, running over.  I’m telling you, eye has not seen, nor has ear heard, nor has any of our minds been able to imagine what God has prepared for those of us who love Him (2 Cor. 2:9; Is. 64:4).  We can’t conceive it.  We get glimpses.  Sometimes we get a torrential downpour.  But we can’t contain it all.  We can’t contain Him all.  Nor should we want to.

I want a God that’s bigger than me.  I want a God Who thinks outside of the box, performs radical miracles, and does unbelievable stuff.  Is this the kind of God that we serve?  Or have we unknowingly set up perimeters due to unmet expectations and unanswered prayers?  Let’s take time today to ask God if we have unwittingly placed restrictions on Him and ask Him to invade those places.  Life’s too short to serve a god that can be confined.

I hope you enjoy this timeless song by Rich Mullins.

“I will be great.  My Name will be made great.  I will be lifted up.  You have been looking for My hand.  You forget that I Am awesome, mighty, and wonderful.  I have not forgotten you.  My eyes and My hand are still upon you and your land.  I will be exalted.  I will be exalted.  I will be exalted.  Whosoever will let Me work in them and in their land I will do mighty, fierce, and wondrous things.  I will be exalted.  ~God

 

 

A Prayerful Song for a Holy Day

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May you be blessed today as you contemplate all that was purchased for us so that we might be saved, healed, delivered, preserved, protected, prosperous, and made whole.

Hope you enjoy this song by Keith Green.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:2 Berean Study Bible

Thank You, Jesus!  Holy, holy, holy!

The Dreaded Finger

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Photo by Magda Ehlers

An older, fellow coworker approached my brother at the machine shop and began quizzing him about his age.

“Just you wait,” the elder prophesied, “won’t be long until you’ll be gettin’ the finger when you go see the doctor.”

Mark replied, “Oh, I got that when I went to see the dentist last week.”

“Uh-ha, ha, ha, ha!”  The man laughed and fell backward into Mark’s gigantic tool box on wheels.

Mark grabbed him by the shirt front and tugged him forward and upright.  The old man laughed and laughed.  “You need to get another dentist,” he slung over his shoulder as he walked away.

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Photo by Digital Buggu

When I was in my 20s I never gave 40 much thought.  It’s odd now to think that while 40 never seemed “old” to me, it must not have seemed young, either.

Thirty came and went without much fanfare.  Even if there was, I wouldn’t have noticed because I was chasing 1 1/2-year-old twins around the house.

Forty seemed exciting…at first.  Then it hit me like a sledgehammer.  I thought I’d be one of those lucky, brave souls who didn’t waiver with numbers; I’m not.  I had an aunt who said 40 didn’t bother her a bit but 50 nearly knocked her out.  I have another aunt who won’t even celebrate her birthday anymore.  I don’t know if she stopped after 50 or 60.  The point is, she has stopped counting her years and we had better not remind her of them either.  Kind of makes me wonder what 50 and 60 have in store for me.  Hmm…

Some people handle age with flare.  When I think of  people like that I think of Betty Leonard.  She had a style all her own and she didn’t apologize for it.  She had dyed black hair that she kept in a hip hair cut, wore fashionable clothes (some cheetah printed), lots of gold jewelry, and painted her nails and lips vibrant colors.  You’d a never guessed her age.  I liked her.  She was personable and good-humored and seemed to celebrate life and live it to the fullest.

I remember traveling on a four-lane highway years ago.  Bob was watching the mirrors.  A car approached,  burning up the pavement between us.  He was doing the speed limit +5.  It wasn’t long before the sedan was at our side and then passed us by.  We burst out laughing when we realized the car was driven by 83-year-old Betty.  She didn’t let anything slow her down.  What a way to live.

I don’t know if any of us are groomed to survive to old age let alone thrive.  Actually, I’m pretty sure we’re not.  I recently heard a d.j. say that he was 45 and figured he’d be spending lots of time in the hospital so he would like a hospital gown of his choosing.  It is odd, that, how medical technology has grown by leaps and bounds but no desirable dressing gown has been designed.

If we do survive old age we are certainly not supposed to live it the way Betty did.  Don’t believe me?  Haven’t you seen a doctor since turning 40?  That is, if you’re blessed enough to be that age.  If not, heads up.  You will immediately be cursed.  Make a complaint, any complaint, and you’ll get a smug smile that you’ll want to slap off your health care provider’s face and a pat answer of: “That’s what happens when you’re 40.”  Add to that, every genetic disease and disorder that has ever been in your family line is bound to invade your body beginning at 40.  There are plenty of health screens and tests to take to prove that you are sick.  And if you’re not, they may just help you along on your journey toward disease.  Don’t believe me yet?

Haven’t you watched t.v. lately?  Haven’t you noticed that most commercials are for some drug you can take for some ailment that you have?  And you can supplant that drug with this drug.  Don’t fret the drugs.  They may cause dry mouth, cramps, headache, constipation, and the like, but you’ll live.  Then again, maybe not.  Some of them cause blood clots, liver problems, internal bleeding,etc., and death.  But we need drugs to survive to old age…Don’t we?  No fear.  Even if the drug fails and you have suffered because of it, or perhaps have died, a lawyer will help you sue.  Lots of commercials for that, too.

According to statistics I could find, the life expectancy for the average American is on the decline.  One can expect to live to be about 80ish.  However, no one wants to live to be that age if they “aren’t healthy”.  What hope do we have given the fact that we are to begin feeling the effects of old age at 40?  If we look to the bulk of the healthcare industry and our society in general, we are to officially begin our decline halfway to our checkout.  Who wants 40 or more years of increasing vision impairment, hearing loss, weakness, aches, pains, and disease?  Can you tell that I’m fed up with this world’s system and their take on it?

I’ve made a grave decision concerning old age.  I’ve decided not to participate.  At least not the way it’s currently accepted.  I’ve decided to fight the doctors and their grim prognoses concerning 40 and beyond, the drugs and the harm they cause, and my elders who try to curse me with, “You wait!”  That’s what started this mess in the first place: words, words, words–vile, destructive words.  If I’m going to fight then I’m going to have to do so with the Word.  Here we go:  

Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.  3 JOHN 2 NLT

 

Let all that I am praise the Lord;
    with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
 Let all that I am praise the Lord;
    may I never forget the good things he does for me.
 He forgives all my sins
    and heals all my diseases.
He redeems me from death
    and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
 He fills my life with good things.
    My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!               Psalm 103:1-5  NLT

 

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.  Isaiah 46:4

I really like this:

But the godly will flourish like palm trees
and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.  For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house.
They flourish in the courts of our God.
Even in old age they will still produce fruit;
they will remain vital and green.
They will declare, “The Lord is just!
He is my rock!
There is no evil in him!”    Psalm 92:12-15

Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.  Does that sound like the old age that our society has embraced?

Let’s try this scripture on for size:

Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not put up with humans for such a long time, for they are only mortal flesh. In the future, their normal lifespan will be no more than 120 years.”  Genesis 6:3   NLT

The LORD said, “120 years.”  !!!

My husband blew my mind when I asked how old he would live to be if he could.  He said 400 years. !  He said, “Imagine all of the inventions and stuff you’d get to see.”

And wives, said I, ’cause I ain’t plannin’ on bein’ here that long.  Of  course, that’s if health is not an issue for him.  That’s what we all say.  We’d all live to grand old ages if we could but be healthy.  Moses was.

Moses was 120 years old when he died, yet his eyesight was clear, and he was as strong as ever.   Deuteronomy 34:7  NLT

Is that our average senior citizen’s expecatation?

The scriptures don’t present old age like something to dread, but a blessing, something God carries in His hand–if we let Him.  I’m rather partial to the idea of aging according to Moses’ version; I think it’s heavenly, so I’ll do the best I can to follow along those lines.  Is it going to be a battle, living this way?  You betcha!  All uphill with a river flowing down it.  But I think it’s worth it.  Don’t you?  With God, ALL things are possible…even avoiding society’s laundry list of old age woes.  Join me in fighting old age as our society has come to accept it.  I’d love to have the company.  

 

 

 

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Ken Davis’ comedic routine,  The Confused Stage of Life, sounds like someone I know and love.

This one’s for you, Dad.

Happy Birthday!

 

 

 

 

Have fun with this song from Tom Rush.

 

    God knows no age.  He has no expiration.  He has no limits.