A willing spirit

“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from thy presence,
and take not thy holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of thy salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.”

Psalm 51: 10-12 (RSV)

Throughout scripture, there are many examples of the Spirit of God calling people to do something. He cleanses us, corrects us, and restores our joy. Then He calls us to do something and to work with Him, in some way. It’s a call deep in our heart, and if our spirit is willing, the desire to answer His call grows. Whatever He calls us to do, He will wait patiently until we respond.

There is nothing that God cannot do, since He is all powerful, and yet He chooses people to work with Him, to further His kingdom. In the last line of this scripture, we are invited to have what the inspired psalmist calls 

“a willing spirit.”

God needs no one. He invites us to participate with His plans because He loves us. He doesn’t need us but He wants us, simply because we are loved by Him. 

God asked Isaiah who He should send, as a messenger to His people, and Isaiah volunteered himself, saying, “Here I am, send me!” 

He called Samuel, but waited for him to respond, by saying “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”

If Mary hadn’t responded positively, the Holy Spirit would never have forced His entry into her womb. She is the prime example of someone with a willing spirit. She chose to cooperate with God’s plan of salvation, bringing Jesus to all of us. 

Throughout scripture, the Spirit of God politely asks, invites, and gently beckons. He never forces His way upon us, He waits for us to respond positively, and with honesty to Him. 

Just as we wouldn’t want someone to befriend us under compulsion, God is looking for a positive, but truthful response to Him.

When my mother once had a small stroke, she was admitted to the hospital where I worked. I knew the neurosurgeons in that hospital, so when the surgeon on call that day arrived to the ICU to see my mother, he was surprised to see me there.

He told me that her scan showed a  very small bleed in her brain. He didn’t recommend surgery, saying that the bleeding would eventually be reabsorbed. I remember having only one question to ask him, and I said, “If this was your mother, what would you do?”

He looked directly at me and said, 

“If it was my mother, I would not recommend surgery.” That was all I needed to hear. An honest response leading to the right treatment was enough. She did recover and was able to speak and walk again without a problem. 

There is comfort in knowing we have received an honest response. A positive response is valuable, but more so, when we believe it to be truthful. The examples in scripture show us people who had both a willing and truthful spirit. A willing spirit is also referred to throughout the Old Testament regarding free will offerings to God and His temple. 

Therefore, a willing spirit leads us to service as well as to giving. When we open our heart to give in every way to God, He will restore the joy of our salvation. 

Lord, open our hearts and uphold in us a willing spirit. Lead us to respond in any way that you have been calling us or patiently waiting for our response to your invitation. Amen

IMG_2669.jpeg

Reaping in due season

“And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.”

Galatians 6:9 (RSV)

My family is from Chicago, but after my widowed mother, retired, she relocated to Huntington Beach, California. My brother was already living there, working for Boeing, and she decided that it would be a sunny, warm place to spend her retirement years. She lived there for 29 years, made great friends, and we had many enjoyable visits over the years. 

She enjoyed a 90th birthday party, in her California home, joined by family and friends who flew in to celebrate that day with her. She continued to live independently and in good health. 

She was doing so well until one day, she tripped and fell, while walking to the nearby grocery store. She broke her wrist and then became fearful and hesitant to venture outside after that. It wasn’t long after that injury, that my brother and I noticed a change in her mental status, and  she was starting to become confused. 

For some time, she was a recipient of a daily meal from “Meals on wheels.”One day, on a minor holiday, no meal was delivered to her, since they don’t deliver meals on holidays. In her confusion of not receiving a meal, she dialed 9-1-1, urgently reporting to the dispatcher that no one brought her meal that day. 

The Huntington Beach police department sent two officers to her home. I learned afterward that those officers came to her door, and asked her what she would like to eat. Taking note of her requests, they left and returned minutes later with a cheeseburger and french fries. 

(She declined a beverage, because she had cold beer in her refrigerator.)

My mother was unaware that she received a service that was far beyond the norm of a 9-1-1 call. In her dementia, she had unrealistic expectations of her local police department, but they came through anyway. When I later heard the whole story, I was so touched by their kindness, that I wrote a letter to the Huntington Beach police department, thanking them for the thoughtfulness of those officers.

As her health worsened, we moved her back to Illinois, where she lived with my husband and me. We gave her a 92nd birthday party in my home, and four months later, she passed away peacefully in her sleep. 

That was eighteen years ago, but I will never forget the kindness of those police officers who went the extra mile that day, far beyond their job description, for a total stranger. As today’s scripture says, those who do not grow weary in doing good, will reap in due season. I trust that those officers reaped a blessing for their kindness to my mother, and to many others.

Throughout her nine decades of life,  my mother never missed a chance to serve or care for others, because she was also a person who routinely went the extra mile. I believe she reaped her blessings in due season. 

God establishes these natural laws of life, the sowing and reaping of acts of kindness, for rewards in this life as well as in Heaven. It’s beautiful to see it manifested in such a simple example, as this one. Stories like this, teach us to push on, not to lose heart, since we all have moments of growing weary in doing good. There will be a day of reaping for all, in due season.

Lord, thank you for going far beyond the extra mile for us, by offering yourself for our salvation. Reveal to each of us how we can sow seeds of kindness and not grow weary, that we may reap blessings later in life, as well as in heaven. Amen

New wilderness, new treasures

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

Matthew 13:44 (NAB)

The children of Israel went through extensive humbling while they wandered through the wilderness. They were hungry, thirsty, hot, bitten by snakes, missing all the comforts of home, like their own bed, their favorite foods as well as the lack of abundant drinking water.

Despite being freed from the oppression of slavery in Egypt, they thought the wilderness was the worst thing they ever went through. God separated them from their familiar environment, because He was setting them apart for a new purpose, but they lost sight of the promised land ahead of them. They were inwardly focused, missing the treasures hidden in that wilderness.

The wilderness was only part of their journey, not the final destination. Everyone goes through some kind of wilderness, through a trial that separates them from the comforts of their familiar lifestyle. About five years ago, I went through a stage of feeling completely isolated. I became a widow and the following year was the Covid pandemic. My church closed for months, I was furloughed from my job, and I didn’t see much of friends or family at all. 

During that time, I started asking God if I had any gifts and how to use them during this downtime. I read scripture each morning, wrote down what I learned, and then I started writing daily meditations. I never sent them to anyone, but one day I mentioned to my friend Laura what I was doing, and she asked me to send the meditations to her. I did, and it gradually spread to many more people. Until then, I never even knew I loved writing. 

The most important lesson I learned in that wilderness of isolation, was to develop a relationship with the Holy Spirit. I began to ask Him specifically for direction, wisdom, gifts and inspiration. When I asked, He answered, by using a friend, and I discovered hidden treasures as new adventures began. I constantly need to remind myself to stay in that relationship with the Holy Spirit. 

I recently entered a whole new wilderness last year, when my adult son, Jon, had a serious motorcycle accident.

He went through brain surgery, two weeks in a coma, lying in intensive care and is now living in a long term care facility. In addition to his traumatic brain injury and unknown prognosis, I often feel pushed to the edge with the ongoing frustrations of dealing with the State and my legal guardianship. I have to constantly surrender every situation to Jesus, asking Him to take care of everything.

That’s when the Holy Spirit opened my eyes and I found the treasures hidden in this new wilderness. As I looked around, I saw people in that Nursing Facility who are completely alone, they have no visitors, no hope and no attention from anyone. The treasure I found is in becoming a friend to the friendless, to give a bit of hope to the hopeless, and simply sharing small gestures of kindness with each of them.

We need to remember that we are journeying through a wilderness, but it’s a journey, not a final destination. As I ask the Holy Spirit to show me the hidden treasures, I look around and He points out people with souls, and their needs. As long as I am visiting regularly, I focus on what I can share with those souls at the Nursing facility. For some, it’s a hug, or listening to their story, having conversations, or sharing a tin full of butter cookies and just playing music for them.

I’ve learned that finding treasures,  requires looking outside of myself. 

If I only look inward, I would dwell on my own frustrations and problems, and feel only despair. Jesus gave us His Spirit to comfort us and to reveal a mission within our own personal wilderness. We were meant to surrender everything to Him and then look around us. The treasures will no longer be hidden once we look in the right direction, which is outward.

I heard a story about an older man who always remained in church looking at the altar, praying long after services were over. He was asked one day by his pastor, “What are you praying for?” He answered, “I just look at Jesus and He looks at me.” 

What a sweet spirit of adoration. Prayer doesn’t always have to be filled with frantic requests. If we look at Jesus, and let Him look at us, He shows us what to look at next, and it’s always going to be something outside of ourselves. That’s the Spirit of Jesus. He went to the cross, looking outside of Himself, and the hidden treasures of His wilderness are each one of us, who abide in Him. 

Whatever kind of wilderness we are in, by looking outward, instead of inward, His Spirit is speaking to us about what we can do for others.

Holy Spirit, as we surrender all of our stressors to Jesus, open the eyes of our heart and show us who or what you want us to see, so that we can find the treasures hidden in our own wilderness. Amen

IMG_2648.jpeg

Acknowledging Him

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.”

Proverbs 4:5-6 (NASB)

My favorite word in this scripture is “acknowledge”. Amazing things can happen when we acknowledge God in every area of our life. When we acknowledge Him, He acknowledges us.  I heard someone once define devotion to God as “the vibrant personal conviction that God knows me, hears me and cares about me.” If we live with this conviction, we can go through anything. Acknowledging God, is to open the eyes of our heart and take Christ with us in every part of our everyday lives. 

There is no greater satisfaction we can have, than knowing we are in God’s will. He never promised to make our path easy or super joyful, but it’s satisfying to know that we are where He wants us to be, according to His plan, not ours. That can only come by acknowledging Him as we start each day. Devotion to God can only grow when we realize that He is lining up the people we meet and the places we go, all in His timing and according to His good purpose. 

I used to regularly attend Zumba fitness dance classes at my local Fitness center, but since my husband died five years ago, and Covid changed the scheduling, I slacked off in attending any classes. Recently I have been feeling that I should return to those Zumba classes, so I looked up the fitness class schedule, found the day and time, and saw it was led by a teacher who I never knew, but I made the effort to return anyway. It turns out I loved the class and planned to attend regularly. 

I was on my way to my second class one morning and I asked for God’s perfect timing throughout the day. After arriving, I saw a lady in my class, who I hadn’t seen since I had been to classes five years ago. During our small talk, I told her that I recently retired, but then the music started, so we stopped talking. 

In between songs, she asked me how I liked retirement, which is always a question I think long and hard about, before answering. I don’t always feel like sharing the story of Jon’s accident, with just anyone, so I usually just smile and answer “It’s fine” and leave it at that.

As we kept chatting in between songs, she asked me how I now spend my time, so I decided to tell her about Jon’s accident and brain injury, and how it happened one month before I retired. She stopped and looked intently at me and said, “I’m an expert in brain injury!” At first I thought she was identifying herself as a doctor, but then she went on to share that her own son also had a serious skull fracture and brain injury from falling off a balcony in college 25 years ago. He survived it, but had been through seizures, speech therapy, and learning to walk and talk all over again. Today, he lives with her but is fairly independent, with some physical and mental deficits. He has come a long way, and survived in more ways than the doctors had expected. 

As I listened to her, I was stunned to find all this out, wondering how I never had this conversation with her years ago. Needless to say, we had a lot in common, and our sons are even the same age. We remained talking long after the class, and exchanged phone numbers. She had every right to call herself an expert in brain injury, after caring for her own son for the past 25 years. 

Our conversation and my return to Zumba classes was no coincidence.  God was acknowledged in the start of my day, and He brought together two mothers of adult sons, the same age, with a similar injury, at the right time and place. I thought I was being led back to Zumba classes because I needed the exercise, but it was slightly more than that. 

If we ask for God’s perfect timing, He works out His divine providence so that we meet exactly who we are meant to meet. It’s just one example of how God connect us to others who are going through a similar situation.

God is all knowing, and He knew five years ago that she and I would have that conversation one day. He knows all that we are going through today, and who He has lined up for us to meet tomorrow. His thoughts are far above our thoughts and His ways are unfathomable, but one thing we can be sure, that God knows us, He loves us and cares for us in every aspect of our day.

Lord, we acknowledge you in all our ways, knowing you care for us and want to be involved in every aspect of our lives. Whatever we are going through, we devote ourselves to you as you lead us in your perfect will and in the straightest paths. Amen 

IMG_2634.jpeg

Our hands are His hands

“Enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

Acts 4: 29-30 (NIV)

I think a lot about our hands and how  we use them in simple gestures or in acts of kindness. We are all God’s servants, and as we speak His words of comfort to others, He touches others through our hands. It’s what being the body of Christ is all about. 

It means so much to some people to receive affirmation through a touch. We acknowledge people through a simple wave or a handshake, especially in laying a hand on someone as we pray for them. These are ways that our human hands can briefly become the hands of Jesus.

Last week Jon’s uncle visited him. He pastors a church in the Grayslake area, and has visited Jon every month since his accident. He came last week, while I was there and we prayed for him together. As he prayed, he placed his hands on Jon’s shoulders, but Jon tried to remove his uncle’s hand from his shoulder. We just looked at each other but he finished praying anyway. I’m not sure if that was Jon expressing resistance to prayer, or just an expression of his current state of confusion. It really doesn’t matter because we will pray for him anyway, and then leave him in God’s hands.

Whenever I visit, I usually sit with Jon for a while, but routinely mingle with the other residents in the day room, since most of them never have any visitors. I’ve learned everyone’s name and they know mine as well. 

One day, I arrived to see Amber sitting all alone at a table on the other side of the room. Tawana wasn’t there that day and since no one else was sitting with her, I went over to greet her but she was quiet and withdrawn that day. 

I put the music on for her and she briefly smiled at me, but still said nothing. I felt the urge to stay beside her for a while and listened to music with her. Suddenly, there was a loud outburst of anger, and an altercation across the room from where we were. Two male residents were shouting at each other, about to get physical, as several staff persons rushed over to to try and de-escalate the tension. 

As we watched the tense encounter from across the room, I wondered how Amber was perceiving the whole scene. I put my hand on her shoulder and quietly whispered to her, “It’s okay, Amber.” I kept my hand on her, and she didn’t resist my touch. I was relieved since I wasn’t sure how she would react to touch, with her complicated history. I kept my hand on her shoulder telling her everything is okay and then there was peace in the room again.

While I was alone with Amber on that side of the room, I took the next step, and said a silent prayer for her, with my hand still on her shoulder. I think God was separating us from all the others that day, giving me a chance to privately pray for her. The timing was perfect, and I’m glad I felt compelled to stay with her and pray. 

Most people want to be touched, to be acknowledged and to be prayed for. Some people, like Jon, might resist a hand on their shoulder for whatever reason, but there are countless others who actually hunger for it. We can only do what God leads us to do, with those who are open and receptive to it. We offer our hands to God, and He does the rest of the work, within a person’s heart.

Peter and John did what God led them to do, and as they touched people, God healed many of them miraculously.  After Jesus ascended to heaven, all believers are now His hands and His voice, speaking to and touching  anyone who hungers for Him. We simply make our hands available, and Jesus does the rest.

I’m already thinking of a few others at the Nursing Facility, and wonder what God has in store for them. He stretches out His hands through us, if we make ourselves available. Our hands are the only hands He has to use in this world. He uses us to touch and heal others, and He also sends other people to touch us at the perfect time in our need as well. 

Lord, consecrate our hands and use them to extend your healing touch to others. Let your Spirit speak through us, and help others to know how much you love them. Amen

IMG_2631.jpeg

In all our ways

“Manoah then prayed to the Lord, “Please, my Lord,” he said, “may the man of God whom you sent return to us to teach us what to do for the boy who is to be born.” 

Judges 13:8 (NAB)

When God sent an angel to the mother of Samson, to announce that she would soon have a son, who was to be consecrated to God and live under a special Nazarite vow, she quickly told her husband, Manoah. Only two people in the old testament lived according to that Nazarite vow, Samson and Samuel. In the New Testament it was only John the Baptist.

Manoah apparently was a person of details, so when a heavenly being appeared to his wife, explaining the consecrated life of a Nazarite, he wanted more information. Manoah prayed and asked God to send the angel back to better prepare them in all their ways, to raise their child according to the Nazarite vow.  

God is in all the details, evidenced by pages of instruction to Solomon of how to build His temple. Everything that God plans, involves many specifics, although He doesn’t always choose to share all those specific details with everyone. In this case, Manoah prayed and requested more of those details and God granted his request, by sending the same angel back a second time. 

It’s probably the only biblical example of a person requesting a repeat informative visit by an angel, and receiving it. The couple had been childless for so long that they were nervous parents to be, but God was patient with them.

It was as if Samson needed to be born with a special instruction manual, and these were some of the instructions given by that angel:

“No razor shall touch his head, for the boy is to be a Nazirite for God, from the womb. It is he who will begin to save Israel from the power of the Philistines. Your wife must be careful about all the things of which I spoke to her. She must not eat anything that comes from the vine, she must not drink wine or beer, and she must not eat anything unclean.” 

(Judges 13:5,13,14)

Any of us can relate to Manoah’s request for extra instruction. Anytime we are going through a situation that feels like an unfamiliar frontier, we could benefit with an instruction manual from God.

It kind of reminds me of my own current situation in becoming a permanent legal guardian for my disabled adult son. I’m living in a different world these days, learning my responsibilities and all the legalities that come with being his guardian. The State of Illinois even requires that all permanent legal guardians take a course on line within a year from the date that their guardianship began.

It’s not something that I crave learning about, and I can think of much more enjoyable ways to spend my retirement, but God is constantly leading us into new frontiers, where we have no choice but to learn many new things.

All this learning can be overwhelming and I can certainly relate to Manoah, requesting that the angel return. The angel did return and re-explained everything to both Manoah and his wife, and then he disappeared. The couple bowed to the ground, knowing that they received what they needed from God. 

In my own experience, even with the expertise of an attorney, and a document signed by a judge, some things do not go as smooth as they should. Not every problem is solved by a professional, and I still have to rely on God, saying, “I surrender all of this to you, Lord, please take care of everything.”

We all need endurance, patience  and wisdom, but more than anything, we need to surrender every problem to God. I am reminded of the scripture in Proverbs 3:6, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”

God’s prescription for every difficult situation is a continuous surrender to Him. 

When I start overthinking something, worrying, or feeling overwhelmed, I stop and say to Him, “In all my ways, I acknowledge and surrender this to you, Lord.”

Sometimes I just shorten the prayer, look up and say, “In all my ways …Lord,” 

and He knows exactly what I mean.

God loves us, and He knew from the day of our birth, everything that we would be facing today, and He wants us to cling to Him, as His Spirit is our instruction manual. He is the one who keeps us from becoming emotionally derailed by every new demand placed upon us, as we acknowledge His presence is with us. We can only submit ourselves to an all powerful God, who dwells with us and in us, and helps us one day at a time.

Lord, while we are walking through unfamiliar territory, seeking your path in the new and challenging frontiers of our life, we surrender everything to you, trusting that you will guide us through each and every day. Amen

unknown.jpg

That Sunday morning

“They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom. Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by.”

John 19:40-42 (NAB)

Lent is only a few weeks away, and as we take extra time to remember the events of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we first focus on His suffering and His passion, which reminds us of our atonement and forgiveness. It better prepares us to appreciate His Sunday morning resurrection.

 During the first nine months after conception, Jesus occupied Mary’s womb. For three days after His death, He occupied a new unused tomb, donated by Joseph of Arimathea. Jesus went from a virgin womb to a virgin tomb. It was all part of the plan of God’s love for us. 

It felt like the world stood still for the disciples during those three days. They forgot what Jesus said to Martha when they stood with Him at the tomb of Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die. (John 11:25)

The prophets foretold everything that the Messiah would suffer and Jesus knew all those prophecies, but He also told His disciples that He would rise from the dead. (Matthew16:21)

Jesus knew that His suffering and death was part of the plan, and He shared it with His disciples, but it didn’t resonate, and they seemed to lose heart after He died. It’s difficult to focus on infinite truths when we are thinking in terms of the finite situation.

God’s purposes and plans are eternity based, and in His love for us, all things work together for our good. No one is a mere victim of circumstance. That’s why Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done.” 

At the end of the day on that Friday, Jesus was laid in a sealed tomb. His disciples no longer saw Him, or heard his voice, and were uncertain of what to do next. Like frightened sheep without a shepherd, their hearts were filled with a lot of disappointment, but only a small amount of hope. 

Sunday morning changed things and that hope was fulfilled through the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Whatever challenges and sorrows we face on the Fridays of our lives, Sunday is still coming, and that’s why Friday is good. Hope kept the disciples from Friday through to Sunday morning, when Jesus rose from the dead and walked out of His tomb.

With all our hope in the infinite God, we believe that Sunday is coming. It’s coming for all of us who have survived the difficult Fridays of life. Hope is what keeps us through all our disappointments, our faith shaking trials or the silence that makes it feel like Jesus is separated from us, and still buried in a sealed tomb.

We are trusting in His love for us and every promise that Jesus spoke through the gospels. Friday is good because Sunday is coming. God promised us that weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning.  (Psalm 30:5) 

Lord, thank you for Sunday morning hope. Refresh and comfort all who are grieving any kind of loss today, and assure their hearts and minds with the hope that brings us all to Sunday morning joy. Amen

IMG_2579.jpeg

Resilience in clay jars


“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.”

2 Corinthians 4:7-10 ( NLT)


Although the word “resilience” is not mentioned in these scriptures, everything written in them, certainly implies it. Webster’s dictionary defines resilience as the ability to recover, bounce back or recoil after some sort of compressive stress. 

This translation refers to us as fragile clay jars, that are pressed by stress. Compressive stress can be any kind of loss, illness, strained relationships or a stressful situation that we never planned for. It can cause us to feel stretched or pressed beyond our capabilities, yet by God’s grace, in time, we will recoil and spring back. 

I believe that we are all more resilient than we admit to. We don’t always feel like we are going to recoil and spring back when we’re in the eye of the storm, but resilience has a way of emerging within us, over time. 

If we stop and think about what we have overcome over the years in our lives, we will admit that a strength has somehow developed in us, and that strength comes from Jesus. Paul says, “This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”(2 Corinthians 4:7)

The beauty of resilience is that we have it, yet don’t always recognize it within ourselves. Like David, we will each face a Goliath of some sort, at some time in our lives. We humbly face our giant with a little faith in our heart and a simple stone in our hand, and as we put one foot in front of the other, moving forward, God does the rest. The power comes from God, not ourselves.

Then one day, someone tells us how strong our faith must be, to handle what we are going through, but we never thought of it as strength at the time. We only know that there’s no other option than to keep moving forward, trusting God, as we go. We may feel like our clay jars are going to break, but God always steps in and resilience emerges from deep within us.

This resilience from God is placed within all of us, whether we face a Goliath in the form of a medical diagnosis, loss of a loved one, unexpectedly becoming a caregiver, suffering a financial loss or going through intense emotional anxiety. 

Even though we feel fragile, Jesus is within us, building our resilience through every trial. The scripture says that we are being pressed against from every side, but we are never crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We might be briefly knocked off our feet, but we will rise and stand up again, because there is an enduring light that dwells within us. It shines through our frail clay vessels, and it’s the Spirit of Jesus. He is the one creating the quality of resilience within our fragile clay jars. 

 Peter wrote, “And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”(1 Peter 5:10)

In other words, we may suffer for a little while, but we will recoil and find restoration, because God doesn’t allow us to be tested beyond our endurance. He makes us resilient, and we give Him all the gratitude and all the glory.  

Lord, thank you for making us resilient, despite how fragile and  weak we may feel. Continue to strengthen us, as we face giants and overcome all things in the power of your name. Amen

IMG_2617.jpeg

Small signs, great love

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.”

Matthew 10:29-30 (RSV)

I ask God for His perfect timing before leaving the house each day, and it never fails that something always happens to confirm that whatever I do, or wherever I go, the timing has been perfectly prepared. 

Yesterday, I arrived at the Nursing Facility, a little later than usual. My son, Jon, was sitting in the day room, next to the usual table of residents, I’ve come to know each week. As I greeted them, I noticed that Amber was also sitting at the table, which was unusual. She ordinarily sits on the other side of the room. A new nurse assistant, named Michelle, was spending time with both Jon and Amber that day. 

As I sat down I noticed Amber was softly singing, even though no music was playing. The other residents at the table told me she was singing like that all day. We were all so amused, watching her sing and respond for a change. When I commented to Michelle about it, she told me she spends extra time with the non verbal residents, and can often get them to speak. I thought, what a blessing Michelle will be for Jon one day in the future. 

As I watched Amber singing softly, she turned to Martin, who was sitting next to her, and said, “I’m having a good day.” I couldn’t believe my ears, to hear Amber talk was astounding. She usually sits by herself, looking at the floor or ceiling and doesn’t answer anyone. 

I quickly searched my phone for the songs that she was already singing and started playing those songs on my phone for her. I turned up the volume, playing hit songs by James Taylor, Cindy Lauper, Bon Jovi, The Bee Gees, Beatles, Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, Neil Diamond, and the Beach boys. We all sat watching her, amazed as Amber sang every single song, knowing all the lyrics of each song. She sang with animation and performance quality. She was so cute, and all residents at her table joined with her on the chorus of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.”

It’s a small thing, but a huge breakthrough, because God is in all those small things. When I left to go home and said goodbye to everyone, I even heard Amber answer me, saying, “Goodbye”.

If God cares about the smallest sparrows, how much more does He care about non verbal people like Amber and Jon. God speaks to us through small signs, and then He sends special people like Michelle, to help others find their way of expression. 

It reminds me of a story told by a young priest, when he once boarded a plane to Boston for a speaking engagement. Flying is not within his comfort zone, and as he found his assigned seat, he silently prayed for a safe flight, and then he curiously felt like he was being watched. 

He looked to his right and to his left, and turned around, but only saw people staring at their cell phones. Then he looked out the window next to his seat, and on the wing of the plane sat a tiny sparrow, looking at him. He thought of the scripture that says, as God watches over the sparrow, He is also watching over us as well. He felt that God sent him a sign of comfort through that small sparrow, perched on the wing of that plane.

When he arrived at his destination in Boston, the host led him to his room, and as he entered the room, a plaque on the wall instantly caught his eye. It was a picture of a sparrow with today’s scripture verse on it. It may be a small sign, but to him, it was huge, because God used a sparrow to speak comfort to his heart that day. 

When we wholeheartedly rely on God, He will reveal Himself through small signs. Whatever doubts or fears we may have, He sends us a sign of comfort just at the right time, to connect and confirm to our hearts that everything will be okay.

Signs from Heaven are all around us. We only need to ask Him and keep our eyes open. It may be through nature, like a sparrow looking at us, or a person we encounter at the right time and place. Timing belongs to God, and when we ask for His perfect timing, we end up in the right places at the right time to meet the person we were meant to meet that day. 

Yesterday, God showed everyone how He is working in Amber, who found her expression by singing hit songs for hours. As we take notice of the small signs, it helps our faith to grow so that we can believe God for bigger things tomorrow. 

Lord, as you care for every sparrow, we know how much you love and care for us as well. Help us to take note of the small signs you send us each day, to remind us of your great love for us. Amen

unknown.jpg

Happy dog

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.”

Matthew 5:3-5 (NIV)

God has a business, which He is working throughout this world. It’s a “not for profit”business, because He gains nothing from it, but our friendship. If God is our Father, and we are His heirs, then we are in the family business with Him. We partake of His goals, doing our part, to show others His compassion. We labor in our Father’s  business, in various ways, to a world of the poor in spirit, the meek and those who mourn. 

Jesus worked in His father’s business by befriending those groups first. He went to the home of Matthew, the tax collector, and called Zacchaeus, to have dinner with them. Jesus first showed them dignity and later they became believers. They didn’t instantly convert from hearing Jesus preach.

Each person has a unique way of showing God’s compassion and dignity to others. It might start with a conversation and giving them respect. Relationships in the Nursing Facility start with respect, by visiting the sick and the lonely.

It has taught me so much about enjoying people in a present state of being. I’m learning to find joy in the present, instead of mourning for who they were prior to, or could become after a healing from mental illness, stroke, trauma, or a chronic disease. It is helping me to see Jon as he is here and now, not looking at him and always wishing he could be more. 

Everyone needs the dignity of being appreciated in the state of being they are currently in.

I enjoy my time spent talking with the residents in that day room. I routinely greet them, especially Amber, who is usually non verbal. Yesterday, as I walked over to greet Amber, she looked at me and said something, but I couldn’t hear her, so I leaned in and asked her to repeat what she said. She said, “Hi, you happy dog.”

I was so amused to hear Amber form a sentence, by not reciting song lyrics. She called me a happy dog, and I took it as a compliment. Then I played music for her and watched her come alive. She didn’t sing as much yesterday, but the rest of the people at her table were singing. 

So many residents are poor in spirit, which simply means acknowledging their spiritual poverty. Some residents seem depressed and in a state of mourning, but most of them have a meekness about them. Jesus blessed the poor in spirit, the meek and those who mourn, and I’m certain He desires us to bless them as well.

Tawana, who sat at the table with me and others yesterday, talked about her dependence on God and His goodness. She is the one who had a brain tumor removed a few years ago, and is still recovering. We talked previously about both having twins, but yesterday we talked about our mutual faith in God. In all that we discussed at that table, Amber sat quietly listening as well as another lady, I met for the first time, named Sherry. God’s perfect timing always places the right people at the right table for His good and perfect purpose. 

Sherry listened as Tawana and I were talking, and I casually mentioned how Jesus tells us to take one day at a time, not to worry about tomorrow. Sherry, asked “ Really, did Jesus say that?” She was absorbing all the hope that Tawana and I were sharing about the Lord. I believe Amber was quietly listening the whole time. 

I am delighted to be the happy dog that Amber sees a few days a week. God has a place and a purpose for all of us to labor in His family business. I just retired three months ago, but I’m sure I’ve found the place, while I’m still learning what my purposes are there. 

God wants to touch the poor in spirit, with His compassion. I would never have known I could feel such a connection to a Nursing facility, if it wasn’t for having a son who resides there. It has opened my eyes to a harvest field of souls. I have been able to see people through the eyes of a happy dog, according to Amber. In thinking of what that means, a dog is happy in the present moment, they are never thinking about the past or the future. They live in the joy of now. Thanks Amber, for reminded me to find joy in the moment. 

Lord, we pray you will bless others through us, and help us to touch their lives as they touch ours. As we labor to show compassion to the poor in spirit, meek and those in mourning, fill us with your joy to share with others. Amen