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12 Days of Prayer

12-01-12 ... 12-12-12

December 1 to December 12,
these twelve days could jump-start your prayer life and set the tone for your Christmas celebration. 

12-12-12 is the last unique date of it's kind in this century, consider making this day especially memorable.

To join me in this season of seeking the Lord go to
12 Days to Pray


Clean

Everyday I wash away the grime...

I shed layers that cover and hide,
and stand before God as I came into this world.

"Naked I came from my mothers womb, naked I will return..." (Job 1:21)

no hair-ties, ear-rings, or wedding-ring...

"For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it."  (1 Timothy 6:7)

I take everything off as I recite...

"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."  (Hebrews 4:13)

 I step into the shower as into His presence.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."  (Psalm 139:23-24)

Head to toe, I ask the Lord to examine me and cleanse me, inside and out. 

"REVIVAL" - couldn't resist trying this shampoo and cnditioner

A bed-time routine began many years ago when my grandma gave me a face cleanser called, "Daily Revival"Washing my face, I'd pray, "Lord, lifter of my countenance, I need 'revival', fill me with Your abundant life!  May others see Your glory shining through me and know that I have met with You and have been changed."

It wasn't long before I added a prayer as I brushed my teeth, "Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips.  (Psalm 141:3)  Forgive me for the harsh words (lying, exaggerations, gossip, angry and bitter words, etc) I have spoken.  Use my mouth to bless.  May my tongue only praise you and encourage others."

Quickly this evolved into a shower routine:

Washing my hair:  "Lord, renew my mind.  Forgive me for anxious, wandering thoughts.  Fix my mind on You, and inspire me with greater understanding of who You are."

As I wash my arms, "Lord, forgive me for the selfish way I keep people at arms reach or push them aside.  Help me to have open arms for my family and those that You bring into my life that need to be held and served."

I love to use an apricot scrub when I wash my hands and feet and pray about tenderly serving others and going where the Lord would lead me.

I confess my sins and pray for a pure heart as I suds up my body; smelly arm pits are a great reminder to confess stinky sins that hinder intimate fellowship with others.

You get the idea...

It is a wonderful thing to see the sudsy water swirling down the drain and remember that confessed sins are gone, long gone"As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us."  (Psalm 103:12)  I could not get them back if I wanted to.  I am forgiven.

I love to sing in the shower, starting my worship-set with:
"Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole... wash me and I will be whiter than snow."
and
"Purify my heart... Your holiness is my desire."

As I dry off, I usually end with,
"Clean before my Lord I stand, and in me, not one blemish does He see..."

This verse once hung in the bathroom:
"Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart."  (1 Peter 1:22) 

A reminder that,
"Now you are clean through the word..." (John 15:3)
changes the way I live! 

TIP - Try laminating a copy of your favorite chapter of the Bible.  With a bit of water, the plastic will stick to the shower walls.  I memorize a verse while I shave my legs. Then while the conditioner soaks, I close my eyes, let the hot water beat down on my back, and meditate on what I have been reading.


 FYI - I have an entirely different tub routine focused less on confession and more on relaxing in His presence, praying for creative inspiration, and asking for a greater ability to soak in and understand the scripture.

Use these ideas as a spring board to make your Tub-Time a spiritually cleansing experience.

"things too difficult for me"

the twins and their mother died in delivery


and I sat on the floor of a closet of "double" outfits and shoes...

 grieving for baby girls

I was mourning, and who could understand?

I had never held them; yet I lost them.

searching, waiting, getting the adoption referral...
hoping, praying, shopping,...
the bumpy wave of emotion had crashed, again

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick."  

after too many closing doors,
this final disappointment was too much

I must have been wrong.
God had not lead us here.
It wasn't "meant to be".

Questioning, second guessing...

Was God in this?
How did I misunderstand?
Where is He now?
Why is He silent?


And then, this Psalm...

O LORD, my heart is not proud, 
nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.

O Israel, hope in the LORD 
From this time forth and forever.


Brief Psalm of Ascent ... 3 verses.

Had it always been there?
tucked away,
blurred into the other psalms,
until
August 8th
when tears washed my eyes to see...

at the end of myself,
 not understanding this... or God,
"great matters", "too difficult"

cried all my tears, now quiet, spent
without strength or thought, I rest in the Lord.
who is old enough to know You?

still a child, I come as a child
with a whisper, "O LORD, You know."
yet, even now, and always 
"I will hope in the LORD."

He is my hope,
my only hope.

Desperately seeking, I find...
because He is leading, ...drawing me.

A partial view.  I did not know what God was doing.  I still do not know... "why?"
But, even in the moment of my emptiness and deepest grief, my future was still pregnant with hope.

As I was aching over death, a new life was waiting to be brought forth.

What if we had given up?  ... Our greatest joy was still yet to be.


Even after time had passed and we had our daughter's referral, my heart ached, my mind flooded with questions of:
"Why did you put us through that?",
"Did their lives matter?",
"Why were they even conceived if you weren't going to let them live?",
"Why do I still ache for those babies?",
and "God, what were You thinking?"... 

Questions that could only be drained away with, "Yet, I will hope in the LORD."  The "too difficult", "great matters" were too deep; no one had answers... just
"I'm sorry."
and "That's too bad."

In that lonely window of waiting, the Lord sent one friend to comfort me with merciful understanding words, not answers, but... her story.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God... through Christ our comfort overflows... our hope for you is firm, ...share in our comfort."  (see 1 Corinthians 1:3-7)


"Eternity is set in our hearts."
Every life, beginning to end, long or brief, is too short.
We are made for more.

No one can compare grief ... for a husband, a brother, a parent, a friend, a child?
"Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy"...except God.  He knows.

If you are facing "things too difficult",
"hope in the LORD".
He is still good.
He still has a plan.
He has never stopped loving you.
Rest against Him.
Let Him comfort you.
He will.

This was the first Psalm of Ascent that I set to tune, a mournful Jewish lullaby for myself:

video

Choose Your Addiction

One tiny, beautifully captured droplet of transcendent cocoa-bliss,
and like an addict, I'm craving more, More!, MORE!!!!!

rich, creamy
bitter, sweet
oh-so-smooth
velvety delicious

I love it all!

Yet, sadly, I have significant health-motivated reason to use moderation...
or rather, avoid it altogether.

*sigh*

While living in Europe, land of the world's most famous chocolatiers, I tasted some of THE BEST CHOCOLATE EVER MADE!!!

On the first day of ninth grade my English teacher did not begin with "Hello, my name is Mr. Miller.", but with chocolate!  (tiny shavings of  gourmet chocolate!)

When the sliver of divinely blended cocoa and sugar melted on my tongue, he had me.  I wanted more, and I hung on his every word:

a healthy addiction
"Reading is a drug,
with a habit forming addiction you can freely indulge in for a life time.  It will take you on trips beyond your wildest imagination.  This year we're going to sample the 'good stuff', and as you acquire a taste for the great literature, you'll never be completely satisfied by anything less."

John Keats
I didn't know about craving books. Till then, I hated reading!  But, by the end of the year,  I was hooked.  Mr. Miller became my favorite teacher and Literature my favorite subject.  From U2 lyrics, to Wilfred Owen, to Shakespeare, I learned to appreciate the best of poetry and prose.

Some how, this girl, who once teased her sister for spending her allowance on books, transformed into a woman who annually spends more on books than clothing for the entire family.  As bizarre as it sounds, I genuinely enjoy "the classics" and have a serious weakness for poetry anthologies,

La Belle Dame Sans Merci - Frank Dicksee (public domain)
(FYI - art is my other healthy addiction) 

 but if fiction is the milk chocolate of literature and poetry, white chocolate, my absolute favorite is the richest dark chocolate, non-fiction.



and NOTHING is richer
than MY GREATEST LITERARY ADDICTION:
"SCRIPTURE"
 
In secret every morning, every night, and in stolen moments throughout each day, I indulge on words that are sweeter than honey.  The more I feast, the more insatiable my hunger.

Knowing that in many places this healing drug is illegal, I treasure every word and stash away bits and pieces in the hidden places of my heart.   

Even if you hate reading, taste a little of the "great-est stuff".   
Try just a sliver, savor, meditate on one verse.
Bet you'll be coming back for another, then a chapter, then a book...

Better yet, why not read the best selling, most addictive literature of all time from cover to cover? 
"Taste and see that the Lord is good" Ps. 34:8

Check out The Listener's Bible, an audio book, only
77 hours for the New International Version
75 hours for the English Standard Version
and 80 hours for the King James Version
You can read along or just listen!

The Reality of Comparison

I tried my hand at mini-pecan-tarts today... and they did not look like these...


These are the tarts that a friend made the other night, and they tasted every bit as good as they look.

aaah, culinary perfection, ... perfect mini tarts pulled from a toasty-warm oven

and

mine were...


just as delicious,
after I chiseled them out of the baking tin.

It was a "Simple Recipe".
They looked so easy to make!
 And, they were...

They just weren't easy to take out of the pan.

"Oooooh, where did I go wrong????" sob, sob. 


Actually, all was not lost, 11 of the 24 came out sort of nice, and since 13 weren't suitable to give away, we had even more yummy-ugly treats to eat.  (We had to get rid of  the embarrassing evidence that we are not professional bakers.)  

Have you ever peeked into someone's world, compared, and found yourself  "lacking"?  -- I have.

WE ALWAYS
SET OURSELVES UP FOR FAILURE
WHEN WE COMPARE.

It might be possible that someone has looked at this blog and thought, "wow, she sure has it all together"... haha, well, not if they've read too many posts, but you will never know which photos I conveniently cropped to remove school books, dirty dishes, over flowing laundry baskets, etc.  And, you won't find me posting "feeling-fat-pictures" or "bad-hair-day-photos"... well, not unless that's what the blog is about... hmmm, maybe I'll do that once just to make you feel better and to "keep it real".

My dad told me too many times for me ever to forget, "You will always be able to find someone who seems to be better off and someone who seems to be worse off than you."  ("seems" is the key word, We need to be careful in judging; because we only see a cropped-glimpse from our limited perspective.)

There will always be people richer and poorer,
more athletic and less coordinated,
more beautiful/handsome and less attractive than you...

(continue with any area of pride or insecurity:   
better/worse dressed
more/less popular,
neater/more cluttered house
healthier/unhealthier, etc.)

And you can always find someone more "saintly", whether genuinely righteous or just self-righteous, and someone more "pagan", whether totally immoral or just less legalistic, than you.

So who will you compare yourself to?
One will make you feel great about yourself and the other will make you feel like a failure, but both will leave you self-deceived.

Don't compare yourself to anyone except Christ.  He alone is perfect.  We are all sinners.  We all need forgiveness.  We all need a Savior.  None of us measure up to God's standard, until Christ gives us His righteousness.

"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."  2 Cor. 5:21.  Jesus is the only standard, and He is most gracious and humble to encourage us where we are.

One last thing...  
When you see someone doing something well, rather than comparing, just ask them how they did it.

I asked my friend, "WHERE DID I GO WRONG?" She said, "...make sure that the filling stays IN the little cup of dough.  If you drip or it oozes between the crust & the pan it’s a disaster.  Also, make sure you remove them right away or the filling becomes like a glue. "And, now I know why I had an oozing, gluey disaster!  Live and Learn.
Stay humble, and keep seeking.

time for you

One tiny flower on the side of a hill, in the middle of no-where,
and I was not too busy to notice.

I am only human, and I have time for a buttercup. 

How much more your Heavenly Father has time for you!


 "See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  So do not worry"  Matthew 6

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4

This evening, as I was tucking in one of my kiddos, I heard this prayer.  "God, if I were in heaven right now, I'd run over to you really, really fast and hug you."  (and then)  "Mom, I bet God hugs a lot like Daddy hugs me when he comes home from work."  (I bet He does!)

Prayer is simple,
"Dear God,..." and just talk.

He loves you, and He wants to hear from you!

Heard several prayers of innocent little children read on the radio the other day.  (Lord, help me to walk away from all the distractions of "stuff" and talk with you without the "religious-grown-up" verbiage I've learned.  I want to be still and just enjoy You!  Love you, Amen.) 



Find Rest

Your day of rest,
did you miss it?

The Jews observe it on Saturdays.
Most pastors observe it on Mondays.
And, if you can't wait till Sunday, ... why not squeeze in a few moments of rest today?

Not just "sleep", but REST!

Grab a blanket, Bible, journal, and pen.

Find a quiet place,
and
quiet your heart.

Read a bit,
write a bit,
and listen.

"Be still and know that I am God."  Psalm 46:10

Be still.
Be silent.


Too busy?
What are your burdens?

On the day I wrote this and took the picture above, my pressing concerns were portfolios to finish, papers to edit, a mounting pile of laundry, preparing for a conference, a basement still needing to be cleaned, ...  but, it was Sunday, a day of rest for this household.  So, I set aside the cares and enjoyed the 4th commandment.

"Remember the Sabbath day; keep it holy."

(In every command, God offers a gift, only found when we keep it.)

If you missed it,
don't worry; it'll come around again.

There will always be distractions and things to do, but the Lord blesses those that choose to rest in Him.

Rediscover Sabbath, and you'll find rest.

More of the Deeper Things

Wooed by the Creator of mountains, waves, and sunsets,
I've experience His presence on the heights and the waves.

LORD, You are irresistible.


He whispers of "deep things"
scriptures echo in threading themes,
unmistakeably guiding,
warning.

Deep calls to deep.
Calling me to more of His love, by day;
to another verse of His song, by night.

I have seen, and I have known 
and can not bear to live 'having a form of godliness but denying its power'.

Today, I made a personally significant discovery as I studied, reminding me to marvel again every word of the WORD is perfect.

Every time God speaks, what He says and when, is both inspired appointment and divine message.  In the broad view and details, I am blown away!

It is in staying focused on God's calling 
and being determined to live deeply
that there is something of value and depth to share.
I am sobered to the danger of being spread too thin 
as to not be of any real potency.

Sour Grapes

Poor, sad Republicans.  They lost, and they look like they have a mouthful of sour grapes.


Some have turned off the news and tuned out of politics completely to avoid being depressed.  Others have set their sights on 2016, with an unspoken, "there's no hope for the next four years... maybe it will pass quickly... let's just hope the damage isn't too bad". 

(I'm not trying to pick on the Republicans.  I had even more Democratic friends posting on Facebook that they would be in tears, of joy or sorrow, when the results came in.)  

So, dear friends, those who are disappointed and those who could have been disappointed, with the 2012 election results, thinking "What will become of our children?"... and ...

"The parents have eaten sour grapes, but their children's mouths pucker at the taste."

Why do you quote this proverb concerning the land? 

As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, you will not quote this proverb anymore.  For all the people are mine to judge - both parents and children alike.  And this is my rule:  The person who sins is the one who will die. 

(If you're totally confused by this proverb, from Ezekiel 18, PLEASE take the time to read this.  I promise to keep this concise.)

Suppose a certain man is righteous and does what is right.... and is faithful to obey my decrees... Anyone who does these things is just and will surely live, says the Sovereign LORD.  

But suppose that man has a son who grows up to be a robber or murderer and refuses to do what is right.... does evil... worships idols... commits adultery, oppresses the poor...  Should such a person live? No!  He must die and must take full blame.  

But suppose that sinful son, in turn, has a son who sees his father's wickedness and decides against that kind of life... refuses to worship idols... does not commit adultery... is fair... gives food to the hungry and provides clothes for the needy... helps the poor ...

'Doesn't the child pay for the parent's sins?' NO!  For if the child does what is just and right and keeps my decrees, that child will surely live...

Even in the Old Testament, before the fulness of grace had come, we have these words of a merciful God...

Do you think that I like to see wicked people die?  says the Sovereign LORD.  Of course not!  I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live.

If wicked people turn away from all their sins... and do what is just and right,... their past sins will be forgotten, and they will live...

However, if righteous people turn from their righteous behavior and start doing sinful things... all their righteous acts will be forgotten, and they will die for their sins.

...You say, "The Lord isn't doing what is right!"   O people..., it is you who are not doing what's right, not I.

I love these last verses! 

Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.  For why should you die, O people...?  I don't what you to die, says the Sovereign LORD  Turn back and live!

There is ALWAYS hope for us and for our children!

I am thankful for the election results.  Not only because I've learned to give thanks in everything, but because I think that a Republican win would have been a pacifier for the church.  Romney could not meeting our real need, our nation's soul hunger.

We cannot blame anyone for the condition of our nation any more than our children should blame us.  We and they must soberly take responsibility.

Instead of posting red and blue maps of post election results by county and being angry that the cities are "godless" and "immoral", recognize that the cities are our mission field.  Too many of us look at the city as our grandparents looked at Africa.  "Lord, I'll go anywhere for you.  Just don't send me to THE CITY."  

I am amazed how many Christians talk about, pray for, send money to, and even go the mission fields of Africa!  It is a wonderful thing!  But, maybe we should also look to a closer field that is ripe for harvest that is even more "foreign" to us:  our cities.

So, what are you going to do for the next for years?   (My last post Sunrise / Sunset  sums up what I'm going to do.)

Lord, reawaken our hearts for HOME MISSIONS!  Let us bring hope, light, and truth to the rich and poor of New York, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Las Angeles, and all the major cities of America.  Amen. 

Sunrise / Sunset

Every generation in history passes down a combination of privileges and challenges to their descendants.  As they each die away, every nation, family, and individual chooses for themselves what they do with that legacy.


The fall of a nation can come through a slow slide of apathy or a drastic driven descent, but so too, a rise to righteousness may appear through a long hard climb or a sudden radical repentance.  We pray for the instantaneous but are often unwilling to persevere in what is required to achieve what may only come through dedication and sacrifice.

This was a concern of the founding fathers for our nation's future as they mutually pledged "their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor".

inside Independence Hall
Referring to the sun carved on the president's chair, James Madison quoted Benjamin Franklin as saying, "I have often looked at that behind the president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting." 

The early leaders of our nation faced many divisive issues:  state rights, restriction of power of the national government, terms for writing and interpreting laws.

the rising sun chair

platform at Gettysburg Cemeter
Eighty-seven years later, America's leaders were divided again on state rights and power of the national government, along with legislating morality, rights for minorities, and the value of human life.  Lincoln expressed that instability in his address at Gettysburg:

"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure."
monument to commemorate the dedication
With the political disunity in those early days, it would have been easy to become discouraged about the future. 

Like them, we have much at stake and every reason to persevere with a stubborn optimism.   We cannot afford to be proud or grow complacent after a victory; nor we should allow ourselves to grow discouraged and despondent when disappointed.  Instead, we must resolve to be ever vigilant.

painting of the signing of the Constitution

It is futile to blame the generations before for what we are facing.  It is also unproductive to become angry and bitter with those have mistakenly put their hope in a person or political party, however good intentioned.

We must choose, as must those that follow us, to forgive and turn from the mistakes of those before us and to give thanks for any advantage they have provided.

So what can be done?

Pray for your leaders, but pray more for the people:  yourselves, your neighbors, for misguided Republicans and Democrats who have put their faith in men rather than God.

 Open your eyes to your circle of influence.  "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us."  (1 pt. 2:12)  Live in such a way that you look like Jesus, not proud, superior, religious and legalistic, but full of mercy, generosity, and grace, live a life of integrity.  Then, ask the Lord to show you where to expand your reach to touch people with His love.

In America, the government reflects the will of the people.  So, if you want to change the nation, don't look to the government, look to the people.   And, "We are the people"; so look to yourself first.  Remove any "logs" from your own "eyes", and then love your neighbor, help your neighbor, and teach your neighbor what the scriptures say concerning these things.  (Keeping in mind, we are "blind" to our own faults until we ask God to reveal them to us.)

Oh, righteous ones, remember, the Lord was God both when King George was the monarch over the colonies and when President George was sworn into office (just as He was when David was on the throne of Israel, when Cyrus was expanding Persia, when Nero ruled Rome, and when Alexander, Napoleon, and Hitler were expanding their empires across the continents).

It was at the end of a life well lived and a revolution that Franklin said, "Now I know that it is a rising sun.", but, Lincoln was in the midst of great conflict with no end in sight when he said, "It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us... that this nation, under God... shall not perish from the earth.".

Consecrate yourself this day, as an American "Holy to the Lord", and dedicate yourself to the great task God has predestined for you. 

Is the sun rising or setting in your life, in your home, in your marriage?  Every new day, is a dawning opportunity.  Let US be before God the kind of people we want our nation to become.

Rest Your Weary Head On This

Looking for the perfect gift for the person who has lost everything?

What can you give to a mother that has lost a child?
... the woman with a  husband in prison?
... someone who is seriously ill or dying?
... a friend who is desperately depressed or suicidal?
... a lonely teen or college student?
... an exhausted and overworked single mother?

a Prayer / Promise Pillow
When I heard how a young widow was crying herself to sleep each night holding on to her husband's dirty clothing, unable to wash them, afraid to loose the "scent" of him, some friends and I made her a flannel quilt, a "blanket of love".

The scraps from that quilt seemed "sacred".  I didn't want to toss them or just use them in another quilt.  So, I sewed the pieces together into a pillow, and the rest is divine inspiration.

I dated a zillion tiny envelopes and filled them with notes of encouraging verses, prayers, and promises from scripture.  Then, each night, she could wrap-up in her soft blanket, open the envelope for the next day.  She'd read a promise, slip it into her pillow, rest on the hope-filled words of God, and wake the next morning to reread the promise of the Lord's mercies that are new every morning.  (Lamentations 3:20-24)

each pillow is made with soft, coordinating flannels
It only takes me 15 minutes to whip together a pillow.  It takes me hours and hours to fill envelopes with personal prayers and applicable promises, but I know that the words of God, my prayers, love, and time
are priceless gifts that can bring healing.

It can be nice to make a coordinating "goodie bag" with teas, a candle, a gift card, nail polish, chap-stick, hand lotion, etc...  but, in the end, it is the word of God tucked into that pillow that I have been told time and again is the "greatest gift anyone has give me" during a time of grief.

Prayer Pillow, sleep mask, and goodie-bag for teen-spa day
If night falls and you cannot sleep, write down those concerns that are troubling you, lay your head upon reminders of God's love and faithfulness, and rest your mind.

"Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall."  Psalm 55:22

"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7

"Praise be to the LORD, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises..." 1 Kings 8:56

"The LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations"  Deuteronomy 7:9

A "Prayer & Promise Pillow" is a pillow with a pocket to be filled with prayers or concerns that weigh heavy on your heart and encouraging verses or promises from God to claim

No matter what we face, we can trust God, our God, the One True God, who keeps His promises. 

Only Assume the Best

"It may be cancer.
We will send you to a specialist in Philadelphia."

Cancer of the eye?

Not a hint of panic was in her voice when the aunt I have admired all my life cheerfully said,   
"We can only assume the best." 
And she meant it!

"Well, we COULD assume the worst,"
(You know, "cancer", blindness, death?)
I thought as I marveled at her optimism and bit my tongue.

Instead, I said, "I'll meet you in Philli, and we'll make a holiday of your trip."

map from our hotel, to the hospital, to popular sites (all in walking distance)



view of City Hall from outside our hotel
Her first response was faith.
Mine was fear.

My life had been relatively easy;
hers had been pretty difficult.

Yet, she was light hearted,
and I felt too serious.

During those hours, as she flew north and I drove south, I thought about what made us so different.


Known for her infectious laughter, she found humor in everything.  She even laughed at situations I would have thought humiliating.  Rather than shriveling up and dying of embarrassment, she chose to go on living, to laugh and tell the tale.  And, tell it she would, to anyone who needed a good laugh.

our oh-so-comfortable hotel
At family gatherings, she'd be in some back bedroom telling a story to one person.  Her laugh would carry through the house, and before long, the room would be filled with women of all ages huddled on the bed and bent over double with laughter.  What happy memories!

Her life had not been an easy one, but she had chosen JOY! 

I concluded, I wanted to be more like her.

Wills Eye Hospital, world renowned in ophthalmology
Her doctor told her to come prepared for an extended stay in case after her appointment they needed to admit her for surgery. 

When I asked her how it was possible to be so calm and light-hearted while waiting for such serious news, she told me she had learned to trust God for everything and chose to fill her life with things that made her laugh. 

Those days with my aunt are among my most precious memories!  We laughed A LOT!  And, though she has had to travel to Philadelphia every few years to keep watch on the spot in her eye; assuming the best and trusting the Lord has allowed her to enjoy her days without fear.


Remember:
"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."  (Proverbs 17:22)
and
"A heart at peace gives life to the body"  (Proverbs 14:30)

So trust your God, know His word, and rest in His promises.  Then, fill your world with laughter!  Regardless of the news, you will have peace and a lot more fun.

150 years ago / 150 years from now?



Eleven score and seventeen years ago "our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation..."

 

Next July, it will have been 150 years since the battle of Gettysburg,
and 237 years since our nation declared our independence from England.


The total U.S. military casualties during the American Revolution is estimated to be as high as 50,000.

The casualties of the Civil War in just 3 days, July 1-3, 1863, surpasses the entire Revolution with an estimated 51,000.  (23,000 for the Union; 28,000 for the Confederacy)


Seminary Ridge,
Cemetery Hill,
Culp's Hill,
Cemetery Ridge,
Peach Orchard,
Wheat Field,
Little Round Top


These battle fields look similar to my own fields, my own woods and my own back yard, and they were someone's fields and back yard before those fateful days.

Most of the time "History" seems far away, almost fiction.  I tend to feel removed from the timeline of the world as I sit in my comfortable home with wireless technology, absorbed in a purely academic interest in the story of the world.

Until I learn the names of Generals and Colonels, see their faces staring back at me from old photographs, read snippets of their personal biographies, and retrace their steps across maps of hallowed ground. 


Watching a small band of men hike up three quarters of a mile across an open field where Pickett led his charge, I finally began to grasp the enormity of the Civil War.  I was unmoved by the numbers until I imagine these vast fields, rocky hills, and forest, littered and piled with the bodies of the dead and dying.

The casualties were men, ordinary men like my father, my husband, my brothers.

They were hundreds of miles from home, at a time when people rarely travel more than 20 miles from home in their lifetime.  Many of those that fought at Gettysburg had already been away for years, and if they survived, it would still be years before many of them would return.

 As I capture moments with my camera, I am stuck by the thought that the world was never black and white. 

 

These men, and all men through out history, lived in color and bled in color.


  

The pain was real.  The sounds were real.  The smells were real.

The days I spent at Gettysburg transformed my view of all of history.

All history happened SOMEWHERE to SOMEONE.   The people "way-back-when" felt about their circumstances the way I feel about mine.  They didn't know how things would turn out, who would win.

All stories are filled with questions until the final chapter is read, except to the author.  Only he knows everything that lies between "Once upon a time..." and "...happily ever after."

southeastern view of the Jezreel Valley taken from top of Mount Carmel
The fields of Gettysburg are insignificant when compared to enormous valleys spreading out before Meggido, the setting of the "end", or at least the "end of the beginning" and the "beginning of 'ever-after'",  but when I stood overlooking what Napoleon called "the world's greatest natural battlefield", a valley that has been fought over since the time of the ancient Egyptians, I didn't know how to take it in.  The miles were so vast; the expanse of open plains is as unfathomable as the number "billion" or "trillion" is to grasp.

To help you grasp the overwhelming plain, all I can do is compare.


view across the field of Pickett's Charge looking towards Cemetery Ridge
Pickett's Charge:
3/4 mile of open field
(a little over a kilometer)
with 12,500 men in nine infantry brigades advancing


eastern view from tel Meggido
Armageddon:
roughly 240 square miles
(or 380 square kilometers)
with all the armies of the world gathered

The future final battle of this world at Armageddon is no more fiction than the historical battle of the American Civil War at Gettysburg.  As comfortable as I may feel reading my Bible in my cozy armchair reading black and white letters, I cannot forget having read about this war to end all wars as I overlooked the battlefield.

As patriotic and committed as I am to remembering those that fought and died for freedom and to preserved the union, I am even more committed to my citizenship in heaven and remembering how the bigger story ends.  I will not allow myself be lulled into believing that truth is fiction.  Christ is coming, and the people of this world are already choosing sides.