READ THIS!…Life with Mom

Originally posted 1-10-2017

My mom lives with frontal lobe dementia disorder.  Sometimes I wonder what she thinks about her days.  They are pretty much the same for her.  She stays in bed for longer periods of time now even into the afternoon.  When I turn her over to get her up she always begins to count the blades on the fan with awe.  She counts a lot.  What’s that about?  It’s always a little different when I seek to interact with her.  Perhaps I shouldn’t call it interacting but more like entering her lack of reality.  God, how can I better love my mom?

Yesterday was no exception.  It was an odd day for her because she was up and busy.  What I mean by that is she was wandering around opening cupboards.  She said she was looking for something but didn’t know what because she didn’t find it.  It sometimes takes me a while to decipher what she is saying.  I watched her reach into the silverware drawer and pull out a spoon.  Then she walked to the back door with it and then she took it and handed it to my dad.  While he was still looking at the spoon, she came back into the kitchen and picked up a bowl of cashews.  She took the cashews to him.  He said, “These are nuts, I don’t need a spoon”.  I wanted him to just say thank you.  She was doing her best to give him something to eat.

After a while she settled down at the kitchen table with a can of Dr. Pepper.  There was a paper towel on the table with which she was playing.  When I came into the kitchen she shoved it over to me and said, “Here read this.  You’re not going to believe it”.  I picked it up and flipped it over a couple of times and assured her that she was right I didn’t believe it.  She shook her head in a knowing fashion as if we shared some secret.  This was hard for me.  There are things that happen which cause me to cry and this was one of them.  God, how can I better love my mom?

Her life is an existence every day.  She exists because God wants her to continue to live and breathe right now.  Some people might think there’s a lesson to be learned by me but really my mom’s life is not about me but about God.  We are all here for Him.  So a better question is, “What can I learn about God as I love and care for my mom?”  This incident with the paper towel brought to mind my forgiveness.  You see when Satan accuses me, I hand him the blank paper towel and say read this!  Jesus has taken all my sins and there is nothing there.  There is nothing to read!  There is nothing to bring about accusation.  That too brings tears to my eyes, tears of gratitude for a Savior who completely and utterly forgives me.

“In him (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of his grace,”  Ephesians 1:7

You see I love my mom better when I understand my God and His love for me.  I want to see Him on this road.  I want to reflect Him.  I want to honor Him as I seek to honor my mom.  That’s what I want to learn in all of this.

So the next time you feel accused, pick up a paper towel and read it.  Then thank God that it says nothing because Jesus has washed you clean.

 

 

RUNNING ON EMPTY

Originally posted 10-20-2017

In 1978 Jackson Browne wrote the rock song, “Running on Empty” and it became a number one hit.  People could relate to going through life and not feeling like they had the energy to keep up with what was going on around them.  Reading through the lyrics brings about an understanding of the emotions Browne is trying to relate to his listeners.  The chorus is as follows:

Running on, running on empty…Running on, running blind

            Running on, running into the sun…But I’m running behind.

We have all been there. Maybe you’re there right now.  Life seems to overtake us with its twists, turns and road blocks.  We don’t know which way to turn; making us feel like we’re running with no purpose.  It can also make us feel like all we’re doing is running and we can’t catch up with life.  There’s always something more we have to accomplish or should be accomplishing.  So, how do we approach this as a Follower of Christ?

It may sound simple but we must believe the truth about God, others and ourselves.  Let’s look at four areas we can apply the truth to as we seek to keep going even if we feel like we’re running on empty.

  1. Looking back – We have a tendency to look back on our lives in a couple of ways. We’re either looking back saying “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” or we’re reliving hurts from the past.  These two ways of looking at our past are not helpful to us.  When we do this we are not filling ourselves up in order to run but quite the opposite.  To dwell on past hurts or bad choices we’ve made will only drain energy from us to live for today.  We have to believe the truth about the past.  It may be acceptance of the choices we’ve made and the realization that God has brought us to where we are regardless of those choices.  If our past has hurts in it, we have to evaluate them in truth.  It did happen but it’s not happening now and God has rescued.  We may need to exercise forgiveness even if only from our heart.  The truth is the past doesn’t determine our identity.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold the new has come.”              2 Corinthians 5:17
  2. Survival – There are times in our lives when we feel like if we could only survive another day. We are running but those trials and road blocks keep throwing us off our race as we face things we don’t want to face.  Just another day to be up and going can be a chore as we run and run but can’t seem to accomplish anything.  The dreams we had when we were younger are not happening and we are simply surviving.  What is the truth?  As a Follower of Christ my life is about Him, even the hard parts.  Am I surviving the day to day while focusing on Him?  “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21  On the days when we are running on empty, trying to survive, we need to remember God’s goodness to us even when we’re hurting.  He never changes.  On this truth we need to press on even when we feel empty.
  3. Community – People need people. We need each other to help us as we run this race of life.  The community of believers is necessary for us to survive.  The encouragement we receive from one another is vital to our race.  We are all people who are running on empty.  We don’t know what tomorrow will bring or maybe even what the next hour will bring.  It is helpful to hear from others how the Lord has helped them and then run on their encouragement.  Maybe we just need to know that someone will hold our hand or hug us in our time of empty.  The truth is we are needy people.  We need the Lord and His community to help us daily.  “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up,…” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
  4. Eternal View – The trials and the troubles of this life can blind us to the truth of our future as a Follower of Christ. We can be running blind to our eternity on a daily basis.  Our eyes need to be opened to what is ahead.  We know that this world is not the end.  As we are going through this life running empty, we must fix our eyes on the future prepared for us.  This is the greatest thing of all.  “…there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:11  Oh that will be the day when our song will not be “Running on Empty” but will be “Running Eternally Full”.

Are there going to be days when we feel like we’re empty, blind and behind?  Of course there are, but we can focus on the truth about our past, our survival, our community, and our eternity.  Jackson Browne has a line in the song that states, “People need some reason to believe…”  and as Followers of Christ we know our reason to believe is Jesus.  He ran this race before us and for us; so let’s follow close behind Him.

 

SINGLE WOMEN – PART 3 Single Women and the Church

Originally posted 4-10-2018

SINGLE WOMEN

You are not a victim of circumstance.  Your identity is either in Christ or in the world.  If you are a follower of Christ, then you have a charge from the Word of God.

“her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit” 1 Corinthians 7:34

You are to be devoted to the Lord.  What does that look like?  Does it mean that you will never marry?  How does the Lord want to use you?  How are you going to fit into your church?

Being devoted to the Lord is quite a concept.  We don’t really like to devote ourselves to anything because it’s hard work.  Being devoted is complete dedication.  This requires a commitment which is so hard to give…what if something better comes along?  That is how we normally think; but what could be better than God, himself?  If you are single you can be in complete dedication to God as the scripture says; your interest is not divided with a husband.  God is part of every decision at work, at home, at church, in your family, or with your friends.  This will only happen as you choose to seek his counsel from the Word of God regularly.  In doing this, you will begin to understand God.  As you understand who He is, your decisions will be influenced by what you know of him.  You will find yourself in devotion to him.

Does that mean you will never marry?  No.  Following hard after God opens many doors and behind one of them may be a wonderful Christian man who would make a great husband.  The priority is not the man but God.  That is where so many single women get hung up.  They spend so much time on desiring a husband that they lose sight of God.  Do you trust God to handle your life?  Do you trust God to help you in your singleness?  Do you trust God to lead you to a husband?  When you are devoted to God these questions have a simple answer and it is YES!  God’s plans and purposes will not be thwarted.  If he has marriage in mind for you, it will come about in his time and in his way.

If you don’t marry, God is going to use you right where you are.  You can fit into your church by serving in the areas where your gifts are needed.  Seek the Lord and the counsel of others to determine your gifts.  After you know what they are, use them for God’s glory.  Don’t let your singleness stop you from serving God.  You can be a part of many lives regardless of their position in life right now.  Look for ways to serve and then do it!  Join in the fellowship with other people from different places in life.  We can all learn from one another.  Don’t run and hide because you don’t have a mate!  This is not God-honoring.

Devote yourself to God! Seek to please him in all you do!  Live as a follower of Christ!  Remember Miriam…God used her and He will use you too.

THE CHURCH

The followers of Christ make up God’s family.  As God’s family, we are to contribute to, encourage, enjoy and spur-on one another.  The family of God isn’t a group of couples. It’s much broader than that.  We are couples, singles, children, widows, widowers, and divorcees.  Various backgrounds and experiences are represented by each member of the family of God.  We need to remember our job is to benefit one another.  “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” 1 Peter 4:10  Our gifts are for the benefit of others in the family.

In the church, we judge single people and find them lacking because of the place they are in their lives.  We are so wrong!  A single person can contribute wisdom in the body of Christ.  Marriage doesn’t equal wisdom.  God’s Word is wisdom.  Our single sisters study, pray, and meditate on the Word.  They are learning much that can be helpful to others.  Our judgments get in the way of reaching out and allowing ourselves to interact with our single sister, instead we dismiss her.

Another judgment that is made against single women is that they are all out to grab a husband.  Because of this judgment women don’t want to invite single women over to dinner out of fear.  They’re afraid that the single woman will be a threat to their marriage.  This fear can cause suspicion, jealousy, and withdrawal.  This fear will lead to a missed opportunity for fellowship and enjoyment.  Be careful to not create this world!  We have to remember that not every single woman is grabbing for a husband.

As followers of Christ, we are all on the road of progressive sanctification which means ups and downs with many changes in our lives.  We have to realize that life doesn’t stay the same.  If we have been in community with all women, married and single, we will gain varied wisdom.  God wants to use every member of his family in many different situations.  We must remember that not only can the single community contribute to the church but the church is to help the single community.  It’s a give and take relationship. God has designed it that way!

Don’t judge the single community!  Embrace the single community!  Unite together to become a family of Christ followers which can’t be separated by role!

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  Ephesians 4:1-3

 

SINGLE WOMEN – PART 2 MIRIAM

Originally posted 4-5-2018

Let’s take a look at a single woman from God’s Word.  Her name is Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron.  It would be very difficult to call this woman a victim in her singleness.  God chose Miriam to be one of the leaders of the children of Israel as they left Egypt and their slavery behind.

The first time we see Miriam in scripture, she is following the instructions of her mother by watching her brother, Moses, floating along in the Nile River in a basket. “His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.” Exodus 2:4   Moses was in danger of losing his life.  Remember Pharaoh wanted all of the Hebrew male children killed but Moses’ mother hid him until she couldn’t do it anymore.  She put him in the basket which was prepared to be waterproof and placed him in the Nile.  Miriam watched him from a distance.  The daughter of Pharaoh saw him and knew he was a Hebrew child.  God uses Miriam here to provide a nursemaid for Moses. “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” Exodus 2:7b   Who does she get to nurse the baby?  Miriam brings back her own mother who is able to keep Moses until he is weaned.  God used Miriam to save the man who would bring the children of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt.  What a task for this single young lady!

In Exodus 15:20, we are told Miriam was a prophetess.  This means she was used by God to be his mouthpiece for the people.  God used a single woman!  She didn’t have to be married or have children to be used by God.  She was a lively woman who was not afraid to express her emotions as she praised the Lord.  She sang, played tambourine, and danced as she praised God for his delivery of the children of Israel from the Pharaoh and his army.   We are told other women followed her joining in with tambourines and dancing.  She was followed.  She was a leader.  God used a single woman to lead others who may have been married, mothers, or widows.

Why would God use a single woman to lead?  There were so many parts of the life of a woman she hadn’t experienced so what did she have to offer?  When God chose prophets or prophetesses, relationship was involved.  Miriam had a relationship with God.  She didn’t ride on the backs of her brothers.  She loved god and rejoiced in Him because of her own relationship with him.  She was a leader because God called her to be one.  It wasn’t based on her experience as a woman but on her calling by God.

One of the dangers of being a leader is falling into the sin of pride.  Miriam was not exempt from this temptation.  She and her brother, Aaron, began to grumble against Moses. 

“Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman.  And they said, ‘Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses?  Has he not spoken through us also?’  And the Lord heard it.”  Numbers 12:1-2

As we read this passage we can sense some jealousy between the siblings and also pride.  After all, the Lord had spoken to Aaron and Miriam too, why should Moses be the leader of the camp?  The talk concerning the wife was a smoke screen to cover up the real issue of their jealousy toward Moses’ leadership and relationship with the Lord.  The Lord dealt with this by giving Miriam leprosy.  Aaron intercedes on Miriam’s behalf to Moses who in turn intercedes on her behalf to the Lord.  She is confined outside of the camp for seven days and then returned to camp healed.  Miriam is not heard of again until her death in Kadesh.

Miriam was instrumental in the leading of the people of Israel.  She gave them hope through her music.  She gave them an excitement for praise as they followed God.  She was God’s mouthpiece to the people.  God didn’t allow the fact that she was a single woman stop him from using her for his purposes.

The identity of Miriam wasn’t that of being single but of being a God-follower.  She lived as a God-follower.  A God-follower is conscious of God and lives to please him.  She worships him in all her actions.  Being a God-follower is what sets her apart.  We learn from Miriam’s life that a God-follower isn’t perfect. When her eyes were not on the Lord but on herself, she sinned.  This is a warning for all of us because we too can fall flat of our faces as we trust in our own ability rather than in the Lord working through us.

In our church today we have single women who, as followers of Christ, can have an impact on our community.  God can use our single sisters to encourage, confront, help, rescue, lead, and walk alongside other women of the church regardless of their role.  Don’t discount advice from a single woman!  Don’t disregard rebuke from a single woman!  Don’t take advantage of a single woman!  What should we do?  We should see our sisters as followers of Christ and as family.  We can trust God to use each of us for his purposes.

So pick up your tambourine and let’s dance together in celebration of the gospe

SINGLE WOMEN – Part 1

Originally posted 4-4-2018

Sharon was a single young lady in the church.  She was in church every time the doors were opened.  She was part of a class of people her age but most of them were beginning to pair off and get married.  It was obvious that she was out of place many times at gatherings being one of the only ones who was not married yet; in fact she was not even dating.  Sharon wanted to be involved other’s lives but it was getting harder and harder for her because she didn’t have a wedding gown to talk about.  She began to think of herself as “single” with no place to belong.

Jane was in her fifties and still single.  She had endured many years of not fitting in with the couples’ classes at church.  What she found was that as she grew older she was becoming friends with women who were divorced or widowed.  However, she did not have a lot in common with them.  She had not lived the same life so she couldn’t relate with some of the things they would talk about.  Jane had not really dated in her lifetime.  She, therefore, had no experience with men with the exception of saying hello in the hallway at church.

Debbie was also single in her thirties.  The one thing she could always count on was the invitation to baby-sit for the couples in her Sunday School class during a fellowship program.  There was an assumption made by her class that she really didn’t want to attend the fellowship.  They didn’t want her to feel left out of the group, so they would ask her to baby-sit for them as part of the fellowship program.

Mary was a divorced single mom.  She wanted to be part of the church but felt judged and out of place in group activities.  Her life was hard as she had to work full time while juggling her children and their needs.  Mary had a need to be with other adults but it was hard to pay sitters to watch her children.  There were so many times she felt like a charity case or a fifth wheel.  The church was trying to help her but didn’t understand all that she faced on a daily basis.

Sharon, Jane, Debbie, and Mary represent single women in our churches today.  They don’t always feel like they belong.  They are identified as single by others in the church.  This identity can become cause for people to feel sorry for them as if being single is some kind of curse.  The people of the church may think of these lovely women as victims.  There are many statements people make concerning those who are single.

“Surely they aren’t complete without a family.”

“A single person can’t possibly be happy.”

“She has a lot of time on her hands because she’s single.”

“I have to set her up with my cousin’s cousin.  I think they’ll hit it off.”

“I’m so sorry for her.  She must be so lonely.”

The truth is the church hasn’t handled single women very well.  There has been such an emphasis on marriage that the single woman can feel left out or less than.  We’ve made “single” an identity.  It becomes the thing that these women are known as until they believe it themselves.

What needs to be different?

We, as part of the church of Jesus Christ, should be focused more on our sister’s identity in Christ than we are on the role God has called her to fulfill.

“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”  Romans 12:4-5

The church is one body made up many members.  These members are different from one another.  We all have different gifts given to us by God through His Spirit.  Our identity in Christ doesn’t depend on whether we are married or single but only on Christ’s finished work on the cross.  We are put together within the church so that we can learn from one another and encourage one another.  Our personalities and roles need to be different in order to make a complete body of Christ.  Why is it that we want to put people in a box?  Why do we think everyone needs to be married?  What makes us think that being married gives us more to offer the body of Christ than our single sisters?

Our job is to look at our hearts and evaluate how we view our single sisters.  If we aren’t focusing on their identity in Christ first, then we have a problem which needs to be solved.  We are to be united in Christ not separated by the roles to which God has called us.   Our single sisters have something to offer the body of Christ.  Let’s be part of the solution by, in unity, following Christ together whether married or single.

 

Sometimes you just need it!

Originally posted 1-18-2017

“O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!”  Psalm 39:4

It’s so good to know that our days have already been measured out for us.  Some days are very hard to live through and yet by God’s grace we survive.  When time seems to stand still, we’re reminded that our life is really fleeting or passing swiftly away.  How do we get through the days that are hard and yet in view of eternity are fleeting?  We need each other to help us to take the next step even when it hurts, even when it’s hard.

“…encourage one another and build one another up…” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

When life is hard, we need encouragement.  We need someone to hold us and let us cry.  Our ears need to hear the truth spoken to us and we need to listen. Relationships are so very important when the day is hard.  It’s so helpful to know you can turn to someone who will listen and then encourage you.  God in His infinite wisdom gave us the church to be our family, His family.  He knew we would need one another to help us as we follow Christ.

“My heart overflows with a pleasing theme…” Psalm 45:1a

We all need to be ready to encourage one another when the day is hard.  We can’t be ready unless we are filling our hearts ahead of time with the Scriptures, who God is and who we are as followers of Christ.  The pleasing theme comes from the knowledge of the truth.  We need to continually fill our hearts, then when life is hard for our friend, we are ready to encourage.  We should want to overflow with truth and encouragement.  This filling will also help us when we are on the receiving end because we can accept the encouragement.  It removes that pride which so easily gets in the way.

What does it look like in practice?

The day was hard.  Tears were just under the surface.

 “How are you?”  “Not so good.”  Tears…he held her.

Later… “I need a hug”  Tears…she held her and then cried while speaking the truth.

Tears…a hug  “I understand.”   “I know you do.”

“Would you like to have lunch?  I knew this would be a hard day for you.”  Tears…control and lunch.  Much laughter and then the friend ordered her a hot fudge sundae.  “Do you want me to get fat?”  The reply was precious as she said, “Sometimes you just need it!” 

Yes, sometimes we just need it!  We need encouragement without judgement.  We need grace upon grace.  We need pointers to Jesus.  At any time we can be that encourager, the one providing grace or the pointer to Jesus.  God uses us in both positions.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Be on the lookout for the person who can benefit from your comfort.  It may be a hug that’s needed.  It may be truth spoken.  Or it may be a hot fudge sundae because sometimes you just need it!

SUPERVISOR??…Life with Mom

Originally posted 6-23-2017

Each day with mom is one with new challenges.  At this point in her life, she is losing the ability to use the bathroom.  I have been using Depends with her but up to this point there has only been slight wetness after a couple of days.  All has changed.  I have to check her and change her once or twice a day now.  If I don’t then I have more to clean up.  It is difficult to get her to the bedroom to get changed because as far as my mom is concerned, she is fine.  She likes sitting in her chair.  She doesn’t want to change because she doesn’t realize her need to be changed.  It is a bother to her.  I was so surprised this week at the combativeness I faced while seeking to do what’s best for her.

There are days when I walk into the house; I can smell that a change needs to happen.  This was one of those days.  I spoke with dad for a few minutes and then peeked around the corner at her.  She was sitting quietly on the couch tracing the pattern on the upholstery while she watched a game show from 1978.  I said, “Mom!” and then waved for her to follow me.  She responded well and pushed her way up from the couch as she moved forward slowly.  She followed me down the hall into the bedroom.  I pulled the shade and turned to remove her pants.  She slapped my hand and told me to leave her alone.  This is hard for me as I know what I’m doing is best for her.  She walked around the bed and began to look at her stuffed animals on the floor.

The animals sit on a pillow that mom cross-stitched many years ago.  It has a face of a man and woman on it with Richard and Donna printed underneath.  She said, “Look, me and Richard.”  I smiled at that while shaking my head.  Then she lay down on the bed.  Great, I thought, right where I want her.   So I began to remove her pants.  As I was in this process, she yelled at me, “I’m going to call your supervisor!”  It was all I could do to keep from laughing.  My reply was for her to go ahead and do that.  I was able to complete the change that day with a smile on my face.

After this happened, I began to think about the God application.  My mom doesn’t know she needs to be changed.   She wants to stay in her mess because she just wants to do what she wants without being bothered.   Isn’t that just like us?  It’s certainly just like me.  There are areas in my life that need to change but I don’t want to be bothered to change them.  I want to stay as I am because I like it even if it is messy.  My desires to remain unchanged are greater than they are to follow God by being obedient to His desires.  When convicted I scream, “I’m going to call your supervisor!” but God is the supervisor.  I want to take the place of supervisor over God because I think I know better but I really don’t.  I begin to think my standard of life is better than His but my standard is a mess!!

My supervisor, God, wants me to lie down and rest in Him.  He wants me to pursue His desires for me.  He is the supervisor and I need to surrender my will to His.  This road of progressive sanctification can be hard but our supervisor walks it with us.  He doesn’t send us a memo or an e-mail. He is right in the middle of whatever we are going through.  We need to lie down and recognize Him in the trial.  He walks with us.  We need to lie down and recognize Him when we sin.  He forgives us and walks with us.  Our supervisor is perfect and His desires for us are perfect.  We can trust Him.  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

As I work with my mom, I have to depend on her cooperation to keep her clean.  As I live my life, I must depend on God to help me to change where I need to change in order to follow Him in obedience.  Even in working with my mom my dependence really isn’t in her cooperation, my dependence needs to be on God.  My focus needs to be in the right place.  Thank you God for teaching me total dependence on you.