GOD USES OUR PRAYERS

 

How many times have you said, “I’ll pray for you”?  How many times have you walked away from that conversation and forgotten to pray?  If you’re like me, you have forgotten far too often.  One of the ways to prevent that is to pray right then and there with the person.  Another thing you can do is write it down immediately to be added to your prayer list.  You could also ask the Lord to bring people to your mind so that you can pray for them.  The bottom line is we need to be praying for others whether they ask us to or not.  God uses our prayers.
“…The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16b
As we think about the above verse, we need to realize that it isn’t our prayers which have great power but God who works through our prayers.  When we pray, we are calling on God to release his power and grace in a situation.  It is God who will do the work as we bring our requests before his throne of grace.  In the last month, I have experienced many prayers given before the Father on my behalf.  I have lived in the midst of the power and grace of these prayers.  God has used your prayers.
On May 19th, I received a call from my dad.  The tone didn’t sound anything like him.  He was hallucinating about a great prison wall being put up around the neighbor’s house.  That was the beginning of the end of my dad’s life.  During the days that followed he became aggressive, combative, and inappropriate.  This was not my dad and I knew that, but it was hard to live through.  My sister and I endured long days and longer nights with dad.  When I look back at the whole time, I wonder how we did it!  But the truth is, I know.
I described that time to someone as a time of sentence prayers to God.  My quiet time which I’ve enjoyed with my Father for many years was non-existent.  Although I wasn’t sitting to enjoy the Word, learn more about God, and prepare for my day, God had prepared me.  The past study and prayer gave me the truth that was part of what carried me through this hard time.  I could remind myself of what I knew to be true.  Spend time with God!  You never know when you’ll need it!  What a great foundation for times of trouble.
The truth I knew wasn’t all that carried me.  In fact, I think the prayers of others on my and my family’s behalf were vital to our survival.  They were the glue that kept us from falling apart, gave us strength to endure, and peace with our decisions.  People were praying for me and I didn’t know it.  They took the initiative to intercede on my behalf.  God used each of these prayers to carry me along in a difficult time.  God’s power was felt because he was working in response to their prayers.  How valuable are the prayers of the righteous!
Prayer was being offered around the clock for the pandemic situation by our church.  I was signed up for a spot on Mondays at 6:00 am.  There was a sweet sister who knew this and took my spot.  She prayed for my half hour so that our prayer chain would not be broken.  Her sensitivity to my situation was very overwhelming.  This gracious giving attitude helped to hold me up as I cared for my dad.
Dad left this earth on June 10, 2020.  My sister and I were there with him as he breathed his last breath.  Even that was an answer to our prayer that he wouldn’t be alone. We made the decision to bring him home in order to serve him and be with him during the last weeks of his life.  The decision to do that was made through prayer, ours and yours.
Do you pray?  Have you promised to pray?  Have you felt the prayers of others given on your behalf?  Do you take initiative to pray when you hear about situations others are going through?  We NEED to pray for one another.  God uses our prayers to display his power, grace, and love to others.  Thank you to all who have prayed for me.  I couldn’t have lived through this without your support.
“…The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16b

TRIBUTE TO RICHARD PRINGLE

Richard Pringle came into my life as a man my mom began to date.  I remember how he would come over to the flat we lived in and bring a carton of Squirt and a ½ gallon of vanilla ice cream.  This was quite the treat for my brothers, Keven, Mark, and me.  We rarely had a snack like that.  He introduced us to many things we never knew existed. Things like hockey, ice skating, and wrestling on the living room floor.  He could handle all three of us. There were times when mom would say that she thought he loved her kids more than her.  That wasn’t true of course. On October 4, 1963, Richard Pringle became my dad. At first, I was very jealous of him taking my mom away from me, but it wasn’t too long until he proved how much he loved and cared for mom and us.  It takes a special man to take on the responsibility of three children who were not his, but he did it without hesitation.

 

A few special memories of Dad:

When mom was in the hospital and had just given birth to Don, I had a 6th grade concert that evening.  Somehow, someone got me to the concert.  The most important thing I remember, is I looked up and there standing in the back of the room was Dad smiling.  He didn’t have to be there but he was.  Proof he was my dad.

 

For the first year after the wedding, I called dad, Richard.  Sometimes it was with an attitude.  I was in the back seat with my two brothers when I heard Keven call him Richard.  At that moment, I was filled with conviction.  I should have been a better example to my brothers.  We stopped for gas, I think, and I got out of the car and called Richard, Dad.  His face was filled with emotion at that.  Proof he was my dad.

 

Dad was a hard worker.  He worked overtime a lot.  Then August would come, and he would be off the entire month.  There was no such thing as a staycation with my dad.  He made plans each year to take us many places to see many things.  The first year, I remember how he couldn’t wait for us to see the entire state of Michigan.  He loved Michigan.  He also took us all over the U.S.  We’ve been to almost every state and seen many things. We could only afford to do this because we camped.  Dad worked with canvas and made his own tents.  It was always an adventure every August.  He thought of us as he worked so that he could provide and take us places.  Proof he was my dad.

 

Dad loved my mom.  He cared for her as her mind began to slip away.  He was always conscious of being there for her.  It was his desire to outlive her so that he could care for her; he did just that.  There were many times in the last couple of years when he would tell me that marrying mom was the best thing he ever did.  He would reminisce about how he gained not only mom, but three more children as well.  Mom was a priority.  Proof he was my dad.

 

Dad loved kids.  We know he loved us, but he loved all children.  When he had grandchildren, he was very happy to hold them and spoil them.  He loved the kids next door, down the street, and across the street from him.  One of the hallucinations Dad was having at the end was that of kids.  He was always giving them candy and smiling at them even though they weren’t really there.  There would be candy on the floor where he had dropped it thinking he dropped it in their hands.

 

Dad lived a long time.  94 years old is nothing to take for granted.  What did this man leave behind?  He left behind neighbors who will miss seeing him on the front porch swing. He left behind people who are the children and grandchildren of those for whom he put up an awning in years past.  He left behind a family who loved him dearly.  This family loved him so much, they were willing to come from Colorado, Texas, Pennsylvania and Tennessee to honor him.  Some were willing to come and care for him to give Don and I a break.  This family he leaves behind loved him well and will continue to remember him in the years to come.  We will all speak of him in fondly to the generations after us.  And this is the real proof that he was my dad.

MY OPINION VS. MY IDENTITY…WHAT THAT HAS TO DO WITH “FINDING NEMO”!

During this time of pandemic, there have been many blogs written which have been great and point us to Christ.  There have been other ones written which are not so great!  This will probably one of those.  Even as I think of what I’m about to write, I realize I’m writing my opinion. It’s maddening!  Let’s talk opinions.

The word opinion has many meanings listed on dictionary.com, but I want to focus on the first two:  1. “A belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty.”  2. “A personal view, attitude, or appraisal.”  The two words that stick out to me in these definitions are insufficient and personal.  If something is insufficient then there’s not enough of it.  If something is personal, then it’s mine.  We all have brains given to us by God and have the privilege of using them to form opinions and conclusions.  There should be the effort to educate ourselves on what is happening in our world.  We should do research on subjects and come to conclusions that will best suit our lives.  As we use our brains, we have to remember that others are using theirs too.  They may come to different conclusions than we do.

If we have an opinion, we consider it right.  Because we believe our opinion and value it, we want others to hear it and get on board with us.  Honestly, that’s what we want but that’s not how it works.  The truth IS we have a hard time when people don’t agree with us.  It usually starts with a heated discussion, leading to anger, leading to ugly words, leading to bitterness, leading to a split relationship.  This is not how it should be.  We have to remember the difference between opinion and truth.  Remember the words from our definitions-insufficient and personal.  We don’t always have all the facts, and even if we do, we process them in our own personal way.  We are different, and that’s a good thing!

Our identity in Christ is more important than our opinions.  If you are a follower of Christ you know, “…You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a)   Christ paid the price for our sins on the cross, and God accepted that payment.  So we belong to him!  As his children, he calls us to be the body of Christ, the church.  “…so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12:5)  The body of Christ consists of many individuals who have different gifts and different opinions.  This is important for us to remember as we strive for unity.  Our unity is not in our opinions but in our position as a follower of Christ.  So we are called to “Be at peace among yourselves.” (1 Thessalonians 5:13b)  How do we do that when we have so many opinions?

A few evenings ago, my husband and I were watching Finding Nemo.  Why?  I really don’t have an excuse!  If you’ve seen the movie, I hope you will remember the seagulls.  We all know that in real life, seagulls are annoying.  I really liked the way they were portrayed in this movie.  They were always shouting, “Mine, mine, mine!” at the top of their lungs as they tried to take any scrap of food they saw.  They claimed it and wanted everyone to know they claimed it.  Here’s what came to my mind:  my opinion is mine, and I need to keep it to myself. I don’t need to be running around shouting, “Listen to mine!”   That doesn’t mean that there won’t be times when I can air it because I’m asked and then discuss with another person civilly. The key here is that I will be asked, not that I will force my opinion on others.

As a follower of Christ, I need to speak with the other person’s best interest in mind, not my own.  We need to live out our identity during this time when so many opinions are floating around out there.  This is a time to be like the seagulls.  We can shout and should shout, “Mine, mine, mine!” when it comes to Christ.  “I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  (Galatians 2:20)   That’s truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth!  It’s not insufficient data!  It’s not my personal opinion, but it is personal!  Christ saved me! “Mine, mine, mine!” forevermore!

 

“I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD”

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have tribulation.  But take heart, I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

These words were said by Jesus to his disciples to prepare them for what was to come.  He was going to be arrested and crucified.  This was going to be very difficult for them, and Jesus wanted them to know peace in spite of the difficulty.  We, too, need to know the peace Jesus brings us in the face of difficulty.  These words can be a comfort to us.  Here are a few things to meditate on to give us hope in this troubled time.

  1. Peace is in Christ – Jesus doesn’t tell us to find our peace in health, wealth, or possessions.  Notice that he says, “that in me you may have peace.”  What does it mean to have peace in Christ?  Our peace is tied into what we believe.  What do you believe about Jesus?  Do you believe that he is the Son of God who came to the earth in human form to live a perfect life for you?  Do you believe his death on the cross was the perfect payment made in your place for the sins you’ve committed against a holy God?  Do you believe God accepted this payment, and that Jesus rose from the dead?  Do you believe Jesus is who he says he is?  If so, then you are a follower of Christ and are in Christ.  There is where the peace is!  You know that this life is temporary and eternity awaits you. You can have peace knowing that the Holy Spirit walks through these difficult days with you.  The internal is at peace when the external is in chaos.
  2. Tribulation in this world – Jesus always tells the truth. He tells us that we will have trouble in this world.  Sometimes it’s trouble with a capital “T.” We all face troubles in our lives, whether it be with our families, friends, neighborhoods, health, finances, or, at this time, the whole world.  The warning Jesus gives about trouble is to prepare us to face it.  He wants us to face it by exercising peace in him.  We can’t change the mandates that are being given to us all at this time, but we can certainly follow them in peace.  Our peace comes from the fact that our God is bigger.  We don’t have to complain or argue, but we do have to trust him as we walk through it.
  3. Take heart – Jesus tells us to “take heart.” This is an interesting phrase and we need to know what it means.  The literal meaning from Strong’s Concordance is to “have courage, to be of good cheer, take comfort.” This definition certainly does shed a little light on this, doesn’t it?  We must have courage in the face of troubles.  It’s not always easy to be courageous.  When the word courage is mentioned, we think of battlefields or great rescues of people.  In our current situation with the COVID-19 virus, we can also think of courage as being willing to trust God and persevere in the trouble.  Having the courage to homeschool your children, share your food, shop for the elderly, live meagerly, and encourage, encourage, encourage others who may be struggling with some fears.  Notice that the word courage is part of the word encourage.  You are helping others to have the courage to get through this with your encouragement.
  4. Jesus has overcome the world – These words are so comforting to us, especially now. There is victory in these words!  Victory over the world system, which is against God.  Victory over all the troubles we’ll face in this world.  We can raise our hands in victory because of what Christ has completed on the cross for us.  This was victory over Satan and all he can throw at us.  More importantly, it was victory over sin.  We, as followers of Christ, are no longer ruled by our sinful nature.  We are now free to live our lives in Christ without being in bondage to sin.  We are free to rejoice in Christ and what he has accomplished for us, regardless of the restrictions of the world around us.  We are free to follow the restrictions as we think of others and trust in Christ.

As we meditate on these things, the fears of this world dissipate in the light of Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior.  Let’s focus on him today and all he’s accomplished for us, that we may live an abundant life.

“…I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd.”  John 10:10b-11a

Who is she again…Life with Dad

There are many who are caring for their aging parents.  It was my privilege to care for my mom for many years until she died two years ago.  Now my efforts are spent in caring for my dad.  I’m beginning to see some similarities in their behavior, even though my dad doesn’t have frontal lobe dementia like my mom did.  My dad, at 93 years, is starting to display some old age dementia.  He often gets confused and current conversations involve asking the same question multiple times.  These things are hard, but they are things I can deal with without too much stress.  There is one thing that distresses me, the loss of my name.

Many years ago, my dad had knee surgery.  The day at the hospital had been a long one as I had to keep my mom in one place.  She loved to wander off and talk to anyone she met.  What lay ahead of me that evening was a sleepover with mom as dad was to remain in the hospital.  I wasn’t looking forward to it because I knew mom wandered during the night too.  I was really surprised when mom looked at me at 8:00 p.m. and saw not me but my stepsister.  I know this because she was referring to those things related to my stepsister.  After I finally got mom in bed, I went to bed and cried.  It was a hard thing to know that my name and actually my face was gone from her brain.  It hurt and left me aching inside.  The rest of mom’s life she knew me and then she didn’t.  God gave me the grace to accept this was the way it was going to be with mom.

I never expected to deal with the same emotions with dad but there isn’t any never, is there?  My brother told me about his talk with dad concerning me.  When I went in on Tuesday evening, dad hadn’t eaten enough food for the day.  This was following him not eating enough on Monday so I was firm and made him eat before I would leave him.  My brother called him on Wednesday and their conversation was something like this…

Dad – She was very upset with me yesterday.

Brother – Who was upset with you?

Dad – You know, Barbara.

Brother – Was Barbara over yesterday?

Dad – No, you know the one who comes over every day.

Brother – You mean Denise?

Dad – Yes, Denise.

I laughed at this when I heard it, but you know how it is when you think about something, your emotion changes.  Yes, I do go over there every day both morning and evening.  He sees me all the time and yet he forgot my name.  I know it’s not purposeful and God will give me grace to endure.  It is just another milestone in this care of him.

The whole name thing reminds me of what the scripture says about my name.   As a follower of Christ, I know my position is secure because of Jesus dying in my place as the payment for my sins and then rising to life again on the third day which sealed my pardon.   Jesus referred to himself as the Good Shepherd.  In John 10, Jesus lets me know my position as His sheep.  It’s all so encouraging.

“…The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”  John 10:3-4

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me…” John 10:14

  “…I lay down my life that I may take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”  John 10:17b-18a

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”  John 10:27-28

My name is never forgotten by my Father God.  I can’t be lost or taken away from my Father God.  All of this is because of Jesus and his willingness to lay down his life for me.  It’s not about him visiting me twice a day, but about his presence with me always.  He never leaves me or forsakes me.

Yes, dad forgot my name but he remembered my presence.  I rejoice in that and know that the days ahead in caring for him, I will be drenched in the grace of God.

 

 

 

WOMEN IN STEP – PART FIVE – PEACE

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…” Galatians 5:22a

 “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”  Galatians 5:25

Peace is something we all strive for in our lives.  The slogan from the 60s of “give peace a chance” was sung, put on posters, and became graffiti art on walls in downtown areas.  When we think of peace, what are we really looking for?  In the world’s view, it would be no wars.  At the end of a long day at work, it would be alone time with perfect quiet.  As a young mom, it may be the crying to stop from a child’s bedroom.  We think of a lot of different things when it comes to peace.  Because we desire it, we can easily fall for a false peace in our lives.

What is false peace?

  1. If we feel superior because of our knowledge of God, then we become dependent on our own knowledge.  This does not bring about peace with God or the peace of God.  This is arrogant.
  2. If we reject God’s Word and embrace our own standard and understanding, it brings about a false peace. This is arrogant.
  3. We treat sin as trivial by making excuses for sin, whether it be our own or someone else’s. Sin always brings about separation from God. To trivialize sin is to live in a false peace with God.  This is arrogant.
  4. If we allow our hearts to be hardened concerning our sin, then we will feel no shame or guilt for it. No shame for sin can bring about a false peace. This false peace is pride.  This is arrogant.

There is a connection here between false peace and arrogance.  We can deceive ourselves into believing that we are at peace out of our own pride and arrogance.

We need to know the God of peace.

“For he himself is our peace…” Ephesians 2:14a

Jesus is our peace; therefore, without him, we can have no peace.  The peace we seek to bring about ourselves is not real peace.  We can’t produce the peace we need in our lives.  We can seek it however.  We do this by bringing God into the circumstances of our lives rather than trying to do it all in our own will.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

The peace of God has to do with our inner being.  It’s a tranquility that results in a close walk with Jesus.  This peace of God is beyond man’s understanding.  We don’t get it because, once again, we can’t produce it ourselves.  We can sit in a quiet closet for hours and not have peace.  Our reach needs to go beyond ourselves to the Word of God, prayer, and counsel from a wise believer.  This is how we experience God’s peace in our circumstances and decisions.  The peace of God is a guard that protects our emotions and our thoughts.

“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:9

We are called to practice the Word of God by walking in the Spirit.  This is practicing practical ways of living out the Word.  We don’t have a God-life and a Me-life.  It is all a God-life which means that everything we do or say is a reflection of our Savior.  When we practice walking in truth, we enjoy the peace of God.  Even as we practice our faith, God is giving us the ability to do it.  He wants us to enjoy peace with him and gives us the strength to practice.

We need to offer peace to others.

“…Be at peace among yourselves.” 1 Thessalonians 5:13b

As followers of Christ we are to live at peace.  We are NOT to be divisive or combative.  Our heart’s desire should be to put others before ourselves.  The tendency we have to want our own way goes against peace.  Selfishness usually results in broken relationships.  We have to remember who we are in Christ at all times in order to live at peace.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceable with all.” Romans 12:18

There will be times in relationships where someone doesn’t want to live at peace.  They may insist on their way, be unforgiving, or desirous of vengeance.   The two words in this verse, “if possible” tell us that there are times when peace in a relationship is not going to happen.  However, we can have peace with God by doing what we know to do is right in the relationship.  Sometimes we need to trust God to take care of the other person’s heart, always remembering to guard our own heart from bitterness.

Let’s keep in step with the Spirit by not settling for a false peace, which is contrary to the real peace of God.  Our hearts need to be checked often for this.  May we seek to enjoy God’s peace as we yield to his leading.

WOMEN IN STEP – PART FOUR

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,…” Galatians 5:22a

 “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”  Galatians 5:25

The word, joy, is said a lot in Christian circles.  We throw the word around without really taking  time to realize what we’re saying.  Our steps will be more in line with the Spirit if we know what real joy is.  Joy is finding contentment and delight in any circumstance.  In other words, it’s the godly response to life.  Joy can be gladness, pleasure, or a peaceful rest.   Let’s take a look at some of the areas where we should find joy.

  1. Joy in God

“More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”  Romans 5:11  We are reminded here to find joy in God because of the reconciliation that is given between us and God through Christ.  This guarantees us a future in His presence.  Shouldn’t we find joy in that?

  1. Joy in Salvation

We should never get over the saving grace bestowed on us through what Christ did for us on the cross.  In Romans 5:6-10, Paul uses a group of words to describe our condition before salvation.  These words include the following: “still weak”, “ungodly”, “sinners”, and “enemies”.  Because we’re followers of Christ, these words no longer describe us. In Ephesians 1:3-7, Paul uses different words: “blessed”, “chosen”, “holy”, “blameless”, “adopted”, “sons”, “redeemed”, and “forgiven”.  Can you see why we should have joy in our salvation?

  1. Joy in Trials

“Count it all joy my brothers, when you meet trails of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2-3  Whatever trials we face we can face with joy in the sovereignty of God.  This joy is not a happy cartwheel type of joy but rather one of patience and endurance.  It’s characterized by a reliance on Christ as we go through the trial.  The results are peace in the midst of calamity and confusion; peace in our hearts as we focus on God and his oversight of the trial.  We can trust him.  It is possible to find this type of joy in our trials!

  1. Joy in the Word

“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.”  Jeremiah 15:16  Jeremiah, being a true prophet of God, loved God’s Word.  As followers of Christ we should find joy in God’s Word.  How do we do that?  First, we must accept God’s Word.  We must embrace it as our own.  We find joy in the words we read and accept the instruction it gives.  This acceptance can lead to a delight in the Word of God.  This means we are extremely satisfied with God’s Word, not just the words, but what they teach.  We can learn from it.  Next we need to speak God’s Word.  Speaking the Word of God should bring us joy as we share the things we are learning.  Is reading the Scriptures a joy or a chore?

Now that we’ve looked at some of the things we should find joy in as we keep in step with the Spirit, we need to consider how to be joyful.

Sing – Do you like to sing?  I do.  There are those who think I sing too much, but singing brings me joy.  Did you know that singing helps us remember?  That’s the way so many have memorized the books of the Bible.  Singing to the Lord gives us the opportunity to praise him but it also gives comfort.  In the midst of a difficult circumstance, we can sing to the Lord, reminding ourselves of who he is and find joy in his presence.  “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” Psalm 98:4

Shout – Do you shout very much?  Probably not.  We have a tendency to shout to get someone’s attention or at a sporting event or in fear or excitement.  Joy to the Lord is a great reason to shout. “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!  Shout for joy in the Lord…” Psalm 32:11-33:1a 

Leap –  When was the last time you leapt?  It’s been a long time for me.  Picture a happy lamb in a pasture skipping and leaping for joy. The lamb is content with where he is and skips about to show his enjoyment.  Even when people treat us with hate, rejection, or insult because of Christ, we can leap for joy because of eternity to come.  “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!  Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven:…” Luke 6:22-23a

Are you keeping in step with the Spirit by displaying joy?  Is your joy evident?  Are you full of joy?  Do others see your joy? What makes your face light up? Our growth in joy may be in having joy for the wrong things – joy in our job, joy in our family, joy in money, joy in health, joy in the things of the world, the pleasurable things.  These joys are idols, and we spend more time worshiping these joys than we do Jesus.  These worldly joys will only lead to sorrow, but that sorrow can turn to joy when we repent and destroy these idols of our heart.  We must see that compared to Jesus, these things are NOTHING!

 

I’m Seeing Things…Life with Dad

In my care of my dad some new things are beginning to develop in his life.  These things have to do with what he sees.  My dad was diagnosed with macular degeneration when he was in his early 60s.

“Macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe, irreversible vision loss in people over age 60. It occurs when the small central portion of the retina, known as the macula, deteriorates. The retina is the light-sensing nerve tissue at the back of the eye. Because the disease develops as a person ages, it is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration.” (Quote from WebMD)

This condition has literally left him basically blind.  It has been a progression.  He lost his license to drive when he was in his 70s.  He wasn’t happy about that but it was best for him and everyone else on the road.  I’m not sure exactly how much he can see but I know that in his own home, he can navigate fairly well.  However, it’s unnerving when I’m sitting across from him and he speaks to the right as if I’m standing there.  He just doesn’t know where I am.  It has to be extremely hard to live with this.  I know it’s his major complaint most of the time.

There is so much that he misses.  He can’t see the flowers in bloom or the tomatoes on his vines.  He doesn’t get to appreciate the sunrise or sunset.  If someone has a new car, he can’t see it.  The expressions on faces are lost for him.  The smiles of others given to him are unaccepted.  My heart breaks for him in the losses he experiences because of his condition.  But now he seems to be experiencing sight of things that aren’t there.

He shared with me the other day that he was seeing people.  It’s not the first time he’s seen people that aren’t there.  He had an elaborate story about dancing people in the street with fireworks a couple of weeks ago.  My thought is that he sleeps most of the day and his dreams are becoming very vivid.  So much so that he believes them to be true.  When I correct him and tell him there’s no one else around, he hangs his head.  How hard for him!  He says, “I’m seeing things.”  His mind is playing tricks on him and I wish I could make it stop for him but I can’t.

I can be like dad and see things.  How many times do we see what we want to see?  We color our world with our own perceptions instead of truth.  Our desire is for what we want and we’ll seek to see it happening.  We can even put words in God’s mouth by saying things like, “this is what God told me” or “this is what God wants me to do”.  When we look at our world and see what we want to see, our world is revolving around us and not God.  This world was created by God and is his, not ours.  So how are we to look at the world or our circumstances?

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and the 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 NIV

Do you see the terminology here?  We are to fix our eyes on Jesus.  What does that mean?  This is all about concentration on Jesus and what he’s accomplished for us.  As we move through this life we need to always remember that the gospel of Jesus is truth.  There’s our lens for life.  It’s not about what we want to see or think we see but about the truth of what Jesus has done for us.  This is so helpful because frankly, life can be very hard at times.  We need to fix our eyes on Jesus, not on the circumstances of life.

Another great reason for concentrating on Jesus is so that we’ll be able to rejoice in all the things the Lord is doing around us.  We get to see the blessings when we concentrate on Jesus.  By doing this we’ll develop a heart of gratitude rather than a disappointed heart when life doesn’t go our way.  Even in the difficult things of life God is at work and we can trust the work he’s doing on our behalf.

We need to be aware that we can have spiritual macular degeneration.  Our eyes can become accustomed to seeing the dark side of everything rather than the light of Jesus in everything.  As I care for my dad my desire is to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus.  I’m not always successful in my endeavors but God is always successful in his.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for god, for those who are called according to his purpose.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first born among many brothers.”               Romans 8:28-29

WOMEN IN STEP – PART THREE

“And he (Jesus) said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”  Matthew 22:37-39

We have established as followers of Christ we need to imitate God by loving.  The first one we are commanded to love is God.  We must love him with all that we are.  Then we’re to love our neighbor.  Who is our neighbor?  Jesus answers this question in the parable of the Good Samaritan.  (Luke 10:25-37)  The conclusion from this is that the one who was an enemy actually was the one who acted like a neighbor.  So what can we learn about how to love others from this?

We need to have the heart of a neighbor.

  1. We will meet another person’s needs.  It means getting out of our comfortable chair and stretching our spiritual muscles to someone else.  This may come at a cost.  The action we take is loving to our neighbor.  In doing this, we need to remember the action of love God had for us.  “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8  This love came at a great cost to Jesus; his life.  But, we needed his sacrifice and he knew it.  He fulfilled the payment for our sins.  What a loving neighbor!
  2. We will show mercy to others. This is hard for us.  We want to see someone “pay” for their sins.  We compare their weaknesses to our strengths.  Our judgment of them follows.  God has great mercy for us.  This mercy shows up in the compassion shown for those who are perishing.  “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, bit that all should reach repentance.”  2 Peter 3:9  We see God is patient and compassionate.  He treats us that way and expects that we, in turn, will treat our neighbor the same.  Love shows mercy and compassion not judgment.

We need to see strangers as neighbors.

“Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”  Deuteronomy 10:19  The word used here for sojourner is a word that means foreigner, temporary resident, or a newcomer.  God is reminding the people of Israel that they were foreigners in Egypt so they can relate to the position.  This is true of all of us.  We have had times in our lives when we were the newbie or the odd one out.  We didn’t feel like we belonged.  How encouraging it is when someone reaches out to us with loving kindness. We need to be aware of people who fit this category.  We use so many excuses to get out of being involved in the life of a stranger.  These may include embarrassment, fear of rejection, or not knowing what to say.  These all come from being focused on self rather than others.  There are no excuses.  We must love within the church by reaching out to the strangers who walk through our door.  We should see strangers as neighbors who need to be loved well.

We need to love our enemies.

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Matthew 5:44

  1. The word used for enemy in this verse means one who is hateful, hostile or opposes us. This definitely sounds like someone we don’t want to be around much.  Jesus doesn’t stop with the love of this type of person, but goes on to say that we should pray for those who persecute us.  The word “persecute” means to harass, trouble or molest.  We are called to love and pray for this type of person! What good will this do for us?
  2. Loving an enemy puts Christ on display. He is the ultimate example of what it looks like to love the unlovely.  We were all the enemy of God, and yet He loved us enough to sacrifice his son for us.  When we love those who are enemies to us, we are displaying Christ’s love.
  3. Loving an enemy can be part of the means God uses to draw someone to himself. God uses us to accomplish his purposes.  He uses us to be witnesses of his great salvation.  How humbling that he uses us, who were once his enemies, to draw other enemies to the cross of Christ to save them!

If we are going to be women in step with the Spirit, we are going to have to love our neighbors.  In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis says this about love.

“Love, in the Christians sense, does not mean an emotion.  It is a state not of the feelings but of the will; that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people.”

Let’s keep in step with the Spirit by enacting our will to love God and others!

TO BE NEEDED…LIFE WITH DAD

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”     Galatians 6:9

God calls us to do many different tasks in our lives.  These tasks have been designed for us in order to bring God glory.  One of the tasks that I have is to take care of my dad.  I know that many people are caring for elderly parents, grandparents, or other relatives.  It’s not always easy, but God works on us in the hard times of life.  Sometimes we just get tired.  Perhaps I shouldn’t speak for you, but I just get tired.  When we’re tired our thinking can go awry.

The thing that is so tempting to do when we’re tired is to give up.  When we give up, we stop.  We stop pursuing good.  We stop being involved in the lives of others.  We stop being who we know we are.  As followers of Christ, our identity is Christ!  Our lives SHOULD reflect this identity in order to point others to Christ.  Our minds need to recall how Christ didn’t give up on us.  He went all the way to the cross in order to pay the penalty for our sins.  In repenting of our sins and accepting his payment for us, we become one with Christ.  The memory of his sacrifice should spur us on to make our own sacrifices, but we get tired.  We need help in order to not give up.  Our help comes from the Lord in the form of the Holy Spirit within, the Word of God, and the people of God.

When I’m tired, I don’t always remember the help God has provided for me.  The fact that Jesus said the Holy Spirit would be our “helper” doesn’t really come to my mind.  The verses I know are hard to remember when I’m tired.  My mind doesn’t want to focus on verses but instead focuses on the fact that I’m tired.  I don’t seek out people to help either.  The all-consuming thoughts of being tired are just that…all-consuming.  Let me tell you what God used to get my attention off myself and my tiredness and onto him.

Each day, I see my dad in the morning and in the afternoon after work.  I check on his food, put out his medication, and help him with his teeth.  In the afternoon, I cut him a piece of pie and sit with him while he eats it.  We have a conversation; at least as much as you can converse with someone who can’t hear you.  That’s the routine and it’s not an exhausting one.  It’s a habit I have and will continue until the Lord decides it’s my dad’s time to leave this earth.  The weekends are a bit different.  On Saturdays I visit once instead of twice but Sundays are twice again.  It was on a Saturday when the Lord got my attention.

My brother, Don, was at dad’s  house on a Saturday morning when I pulled up on my bike.  Don and dad were in the garage so I just went into the house and worked on my regular tasks.  They came in as I was just finishing up.  I asked if dad had eaten his lunch.  He hadn’t so I heated it up in the microwave for him.  At that point, I prepared to leave because I wanted to give the guys time to talk.  As I always do I asked, “Is there anything else you need before I go?”  This is when God got a hold of me because of my dad’s answer.  He said, “I just need you.”  Then he grabbed me and gave me a big hug.

“I just need you.”  God spoke to me in my tiredness that day and every day since.  His words were plain to me.  This is the place God wants me.  My dad needs me but God needs me to do what he’s called me to do without reservation.  I can’t do what I need to do without the help of God.  Instead of allowing myself to give into my tired thinking, I need to remember that my dad needs me and God has given me the Holy Spirit, His Word, and the people of God to help me.  Who needs you?  Is it a chore for you to serve someone?  Do you get tired?  Welcome to the world of humanity.  The truth is we need each other to accomplish the tasks God has prepared for us to do.

When was the last time you expressed to God, “I just need you”?

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:10