Wood and Nails, Audrey Assad and Josh Garrels

Friday, October 20, 2017

A Landmark in Time and a Carton of Milk on the Floor.

Next Friday, a week from today, is the one year anniversary of my mom's death.  My dad (and I) have been considering how we should honor that day.  (my dad calls the day mom left us, "mom's graduation" ).  I just got home from 5 days at my dad's and didn't know whether or not he would want to honor that day with me or by himself.  Yesterday I was delighted to get an email from him inviting me to his house, on the day marking Mom's home-going, and then the  Sunday following we will attend a concert given by the African Children's Choir and then the next day, (Monday) he will take me to a CT scan I'm having on my hip.  I do not know how we will actually make the 27th special but we will think of something I'm sure.

One evening, when I was at my dad's, he invited me to sing accompanied by himself on the guitar.  Learning to play the guitar has been something he has been working on since mom died.  I was thinking maybe we could sing some of mom's favorite songs. And maybe we could buy two roses to leave on her grave.

Please, friends, pray for me.  I have been in terrible pain for weeks now. It seems that most of the joints in my body are stuck in "flare mode" and I cannot get any relief no matter what I do. Tomorrow (Saturday) is the fair at my church and I'm supposed to be helping to man the "prayer tent."  I think the only way it will be tolerable is if I bring my gravity chair and recline in between prayer assignments.  This morning I cannot even tolerate my recliner.....but my bed is now hurting me too. :(   I know sometimes people with RA and PsA go to the hospital and are either admitted for pain management or at least treated in the ER with a morphine drip.  I'm really close to the point of deciding to do that.  But I want to get through tomorrow first.  I think it's important for me to be there.

Yesterday I was on a scooter at Walmart doing my shopping and I picked up a half gallon of almond milk...and my hands are so weak  I could not hold it and it slipped from my hands and burst on the floor.  What a mess!  I felt so badly for the employees who had to clean it up. Still, I'm grateful that I did not do that in my house.  There would have been no way for me to clean it up.

Well, vaya con dios my friend.  Please, keep me in prayer. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Back in the Game

It's been a while since I've written.  I want to tell you about a night out that I had the other day.  I belong to the C&MA (Christian and Missionary Alliance) denomination and some months ago I learned that the president of the denomination, Dr John Stumbo, was going to be in our area and speaking.  I determined way back then, based on something (Someone) inside me that compelled me and told me that it would be important for me to attend this meeting.  It turned out that the Pastor of my church extended an invitation to the congregation to carpool and make the hour long drive to the meeting...so I told him I wanted to go.

Now, it was not an easy commitment to make.  It would involve, you see, a number of hours being vertical.  Why is that important?  I have severe spine and neck problems and being vertical after about an hour, causes me a lot of pain.  But I left that in God's hands because  I felt that it was God impressing on me the need to attend....and therefore had to trust that, somehow, he would make a way.  

It turned out that there were four of us attending that night.  The meeting started at 6:00.   There was a worship team from one of the local Alliance churches and I have to say that it has been a LONG time since I'd experienced anything like that.  If you do not have a relationship with Jesus,  I know that you have nothing in your realm of experience to be able to understand the power of what I'm talking about...so just humor me when I say that it was simply awesome.  

And Pastor Stumbo's talk that night was extremely interesting.  He talked about the things that have been happening globally in regard to political upheaval and natural disasters.  And his main message was: we do not have to fear these things.  God will use them to further his purposes for this planet.  And it is in times of hardship when the Gospel and God's Kingdom is advanced.  He talked about his recent trip to Puerto Rico and the devastation he witnessed there after the hurricane a month or so ago.  He talked about churches who had lost everything, still working to serve others.  He talked about people taking notice of this and the fact that it pointed them to the God whom these churches and individuals served and God's Kingdom advances.

Pastor Stumbo is no stranger to suffering. Although some mention was made of his history, no one went into any detail.  Well, yesterday I purchased his two books on my Kindle (links to his books are provided at the end of the post) and read from morning until bedtime, his account of a horrific illness he'd had which almost claimed his life numerous times.  Doctors have not ever determined exactly what strain of bacteria or virus it was that was behind this but it was a dramatic story of his YEARS of illness and slow recovery....However, even after he'd gotten a bit better, he was unable to swallow and had a feeding tube inserted into his stomach into which they poured a formula three times a day in order to keep him alive.  Now I have not  yet reached this point in my reading but I knew from my pastor, that God dramatically healed him, after years of not being able to swallow his saliva or any liquid or food for years.  

The thing which really compelled me to read his story so eagerly was the parallel between his story and mine and perhaps also between any other person who has suffered chronic illness and pain....the depression...the perceived alienation from God...and then the amazing sweetness of discovering that God has not abandoned us, and this discovery can come even  if healing does not.  God will not abandon the work of his hands, and even if it seems like he's taken a vacation, there comes the assurance of his constant presence and attention.

This was a pastor of a church of thousands and,later, the president of an entire denomination of hundreds (or more) of churches....and he was sunk into despair for quite a time as God laid him aside and apparently took his ministry away as he had to resign from his job as head pastor of Salem Alliance Church where thousands worshiped weekly. He questioned God....and for a long time...received nothing but silence.  I can understand this.  While I did not minister to thousands, I did have a ministry in my church and had to be put on a back burner so that people could take over who were able physically (and mentally) to do the work I'd been forced to abandon.

Recently, after years of absence, I've decided that pain is not going to win this "game"....I've begun to attend church again despite the crushing going on in my spine and the throbbing pain in my ankles, hands, hips and wrists.  This night out was, for me, a first. It was the first activity I'd been to and the first time I'd been out after 6 PM in many years.  I've had to stand by while other women went on retreats, on trips to Lancaster County, and met for ladies' Bible Study.  Church-wide events passed without me.  And it has gotten to the place where at least half of the congregation are strangers to me....

My church annually holds a Family Fall Fun Festival in our neighborhood...where the public is invited to a day of autumn fun: hay rides, cider pressing, a bounce house, dunking for apples, face painting, candy and more.  The entire event is free, including hot dogs and more to eat.  We've had about 600 people attending from the community and it is a great way to get to know our neighbors.  Well this year, I've been asked if I would be willing to man the "Prayer Tent"...which is a tent where anyone attending who has a need for prayer may go and be prayed for.  I'm a bit nervous about it. I can tend to be tongue-tied and anxious when I speak.  But I agreed without any hesitation because I know that God is calling me to do this. I know that 'what he brings us to, he will also bring us through.'  I know that it will be a painful day.  The Festival is 4 hours long and while I know that if I have to leave, that will be okay; I'm pretty determined to stick it out.

This is the beginning of a new season for me.  It is my decision to participate as much as possible in the life of my church.  I do not drive any longer so I am limited by that---But as much as I am able, I plan on being in the game.  I've seen about enough of the sidelines, it's time to uniform up and start getting on to the field once more.

DR. JOHN STUMBO's books:


Saturday, September 30, 2017

And without Love, we have Nothing

I did it.  I sank to the levels of popular tide.  If you have come here looking for the blog I posted earlier today, you will not find it.  I adjured others to love, without being loving myself.  I "analyzed the situation" but I did nothing to improve it.  In short I was doing exactly what "everyone else" is doing and that is precisely why I am not happy with myself right now. 

I apologize to Dr Katz--who is a friend and who deserved better treatment.  We may disagree on some things, but the fact that we are friends should have flown right over those bumps in the road.  I still consider him a good friend and I hope he can over look and forgive someone whose mouth sometimes gets ahead of her brains and heart.

And to everyone else that I blasted, I'm truly sorry.  More of the same will not right the wrongs or problems in our society. More analysis, more accusations, more defensiveness etc. It will take something else to stem the tide and safe society from itself. Only the love of God is powerful enough for that.  And if we don't bring that to the table first of all and end with it last of all, we will not accomplish anything but to kick up more dust.  

Sometimes when the problem is diffuse and widespread it is hard to know how to LOVE others - especially others that we believe to be at fault.  And we can stop right there because if we have not spent time on our knees for our country, if we have not spoken in love in discussions with others with whom we may disagree...if we have not refused to sink to the level of accusation and finger pointing...then we have failed the acid test of loving others and treating them the way we would like to be treated.  Why not get out of bed with the motivation of loving 5 people or groups of people that day.  Be creative.  Think of how disarmed they will feel when they see you reaching, not for their jugular but for their hand...to shake or hold.  And love like that is contagious ...it will certainly accomplish more than more rhetoric.

So I confess.  I failed to love.  Even while having the nerve to tell OTHERS to love.

Thus, I pulled my article and started a new one.  I hope you will take my "Love 5 ways" challenge.  And remember, it has to be aimed at people with whom you take issue...not your kids (they should be getting lots of love already, right?)  The expression "Pay it forward " is popular....but the fact is we are not merely investing in building up a base of people who "owe us one"...the best love is like God's : Free. Unconditional.  Eternal, Unshakeable.  

I challenge you --children of God, and those who might like to know more about what that means--to ask God to open your heart to his Love and to show you how to put it into effect in your daily life.

Behind the Mysteries of our TImes

I know I had said that I was pulling this article...I have reassessed it.  It is not filled with anger, hatred, or put downs....and no real accusations. I think it has some valid things to say.  So I'm re-posting it...Sorry for all the confusion..writing posting, pulling and  now reinstating.   I do tend to be impulsive and here you get a good glimpse of that unfortunate character trait. Please comment on this article or the one preceding it. (which actually was written AFTER this one was.)

I have not written for quite a long while.   I see from my blog stats, that many have given up on my ever posting and have gone elsewhere to read.  I have been hesitant to write.  Everyone, from everywhere, has been spewing their opinion about current events ... From NFL kneelers/sitters, to whether or how we should bail out Puerto Rico.  Seems like everyone wants to air their take on the political questions of the day...and what was once called faith, built on a foundation of love--is now being called "Extremist right wing fascism."  Suddenly seminary graduates and Christian scholars are being piled on the pyre along with men in sheets, and hate-hardened men with lots to say--and little thought--and NO love for anyone but themselves.

And the press joyfully lights fires or dumps gasoline on fires already smouldering.  And every single celebrity has their own take on reality and thinks that every single American needs to hear it.  I have been hesitant to say anything. I don't think it is cowardice that prompts my reluctance....although I'm sure there are those who would list my name in the "Hate list" comprised really of people who do not agree with or spout the "wisdom" of the current popular philosophy, but I do not hate.  I do not hate people.....but I hate the fact that those preaching tolerance, tolerate no one but those who share their particular ideology.  I hate the fact that, rather than seeing each other as people sharing this peculiar slice in time and country, we see labels and we have no fear of slapping them on each other or on other people who post comments on blogs or articles that we disagree with.  The rampant hatred I see shocks me and breaks my heart.

Where is this taking us? Jesus did not promise us to be accepted by the rest of the populace or to have our ideas embraced. Rather he said he comes bearing a sword and would divide daughter against mother, brother against sister and son against father. Years ago that seemed like an extreme statement to make--but now--heartbreakingly, it has come to pass.

So I have not felt compelled to add my voice to the fray. It would not be heard anyway.  Not in any good way. But rather as the Miranda rights say "what you say, can and will be held against you in a court of law" ..I'm not afraid to make unpopular statements.  But I just want to be sure that, before I speak them, I am understanding the situation, and that I have something worthy to say --rather than pouring lighter fluid on the bonfire for no good reason except to watch the fireworks.

I would adjure the Church --at this particular point in history-- to love one another.  It seems that hatred and vituperation are the only forms of communication permitted.  I'm here to tell you not to sink to the depths of common opinion.  Do not hate--either those who are your brothers in Christ, or those who are not.  Let no word cross your lips to excoriate anyone.  But DO NOT FEAR TO SPEAK TRUTH.  

These days truth has become unpopular.  I read today an article by a high school friend, David Katz ...one of the leading gurus of health in diet and exercise of our times..and he wrote in these days, when there IS NO knowledge that can be ascertained as factual apart from our faith in our perceptions and our observations, that there is no fact or reality or truth to our scientific investigations apart from that. (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/science-sense-post-truth-world-how-do-we-know-what-david )  I don't know about you but I want something with more reliability to depend on than my observations or insight can give me. As a person with schizophrenia, I would be the first one to admit that my perceptions and observations are decidedly unreliable.  Where does that leave me? Knowing nothing?  No, we are only as sure about what we know as far as we can trust that which we are believing.  We cannot rise above the worthiness and reliability of that which (or in "Whom") we are trusting.

I was struck by this.  Now I'm not talking about some dietary heresies that have cropped up of late as formed the impetus behind Dr Katz's article. No, I'm talking about the realities all around us that can only be rightly ascertained by the proper use of our faith. It is not our faith that forms reality.  The Truth will stand whether we believe it or not. Which is, I believe a divergence from what Dr Katz's article is staying, unless I am misunderstanding him, which is entirely possible. (And thank you, David, for your article which formed some of the basis of my thoughts in this direction....)

Faith is mysterious but our every interaction with the realities around us, is intimately dependent  up on what it is that we believe.  The most rock solid statement or fact can be mis-perceived completely if we are not willing to believe it.  Hebrew 11:1 says "faith is the evidence of things unseen; the substance of things hoped for."  We believe the things we want to believe in and that can lead us to some pretty muddy waters...But the fact is, that Truth can only be rightly construed by Faith.  And it is not that "what you believe in is your reality"; it is that there is a rock solid TRUTH in this world and it will either be the bedrock foundation of your life or it will be something you trip over and by which you will be knocked flat.

I read a quote by John Bunyon today that I want to close with here. 

"In prayer it is better to have a heart without words, than words without a heart."

I would extend that to say that in society as well as in prayer, we need to have love couching what we say.  When you are about to lambast somebody in a blog comment, make sure that love is behind your words and if not, better not to speak or write.  And if you, like me are unsure of what to say, then take that up in prayer. Ask God to reveal what really is truth...and then pray for each other in love and in that truth.