Friday, February 27, 2009

Yes to God Tuesdays, Chapter 8

I'm a few days late, but I didn't want to miss another week of Lelia's ongoing study of Jennifer Rothschild's Self Talk, Soul Talk: What to Say When You Talk to Yourself. Chapter eight advises us, "Look Back: Forget Not His Benefits, O My Soul."

Looking back has always been an integral practice in my thought life. Sadly, for many years, the sole purpose of looking back was to dwell on my mistakes and on the hurts I experienced at the hands of others. I could look back, alright - I'd look back and find an excuse for behaving badly today. Somehow, I don't think justifying ourselves is the kind of looking back that Jennifer and the psalmists are calling us to do.

Studying God's Word is the kind of looking back that brings joy and comfort. The entire Bible reviews the story of God's love and His unfailing provision for us. God repeatedly reminded the nation of Israel to remember His great deeds on their behalf, to teach the history of His faithfulness to their children and their children's children. How often in the lives of the early fathers do we see stone monuments erected to mark the places where great signs and wonders have occurred? These were cues for the people to look back and remember all that God had done for them.

Through the grace of God and a lot of hard work on both our parts, looking back today is a source of wonder and promise for me. A few Christmases ago, my daughters constructed a "This Is Your Life" scrapbook for me. It traced my journey from childhood through adulthood, into marriage and family, professional milestones and our reconstruction after Mr W's death. It reminds me of the Old Testament stories of how God worked in His people's lives. There is sorrow, there is joy, there is stiff-necked disobedience and there is redemption.

But underneath it all is the grandest, most glorious love story of all - of my being pursued with passion and of my finally having the grace to stop running. Today, I invite you to look back on your story to see God's thumbprint, to rejoice that through good and bad, bitter and sweet, He always has been and always will be there.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that You have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in Your sight, O Sovereign Lord, You have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. For the sake of Your Word and according to Your will, you have done these great things and made them known to your servant. How great you are, O Sovereign Lord! There is no one like You, and there is no God but You.
2 Samuel 7: 18-22, NIV.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Good News

For lo, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth.
The time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
Song of Songs 2: 11, 12, NKJV.

These yellow crocus appeared in my garden yesterday. In this part of the country, crocus always signal the coming of spring. They erupt from the barren winter ground before any of their spring companions. I am certain God chose this weekend for my crocus to appear.

On Thursday, I shared about the anniversary of Mr W's death and new fears for my daughter's health. Many of you have been in prayer and blessed me with your words of love and encouragement. With joy and trembling, I can report my daughter's tests all came back benign. The irregular heart beats are a fluke. They are neither dangerous in themselves or indicative of other problems. Glory to God in the highest!

Today, I rejoice not in the good report (although I am eternally thankful), but rather in the knowledge we would have been alright with or without a good report. I am always uncomfortable when believers ascribe positive outcomes to their faith. Does that mean that those who did not have a positive outcome did not have enough faith? Such a belief would mock the very Word of God. It is blasphemous ground I don't care to traverse.

Instead, we rest in the sovereignty of God and the power of His love, even when we do not understand. As a wise elder once said to me, "I don't know what's good for me, so I just thank God for everything." Today, I thank Him for the unseen purpose of Mr W's early demise and the gift of a teenager left to resume shopping for just-the-right-dress for prom. I also thank Him for the beautiful friends who rushed to my cyber-side in my hour of need.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
I delight to sit in His shade, and His fruit is sweet to my taste. He has taken me to the banquet hall, and His banner over me is love.
Song of Songs 2: 3b-4, NIV.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Memories and Mayhem

Two years ago today, I received the call. "Mrs. W, this is Detective Jones with the Winchester Police Department." I knew instantly. The detective didn't even have to say the words. I just started wailing. Mr. W was in Winchester to attend a special outpatient physical therapy program for folks with his specific medical problems. He had been staying at a local hotel for the six-week program. The hotel staff saw him on Sunday; Monday morning they found him, gone, presumably from a heart rhythm problem.

Two days ago, I took my seventeen-year-old daughter to the doctor for a sinus infection. They found a potentially dangerous heart rhythm problem. So in addition to the cement in her sinuses and the pain of her father's death anniversary this week, she was suddenly swept up in a frenzy of tests and dour-looking adults all around her. Of all times for this to happen - it put me in a "when it rains, it pours" frame of mind. You can cut out a few organs on me while I watch, and I'm fine. But when my child is in great pain . . . it's a completely different story.

"Next Thursday (as in the 26th) is the earliest we can get her in with the cardiologist. She needs to stay quiet, no sports until she is seen." Are you kidding me? Ten days away? But God had another plan. Once the doctors cut my girl loose to "take it easy and wait", she headed straight to school. At this age, Mom is essential but not primary in the commiseration process. She needed to see her peeps.

She went to class, her biology course with Mr. C, a "Mr Chips" sort of teacher who has always taken a special interest in my girl. When she went on meltdown, he pulled her out of class and got the story. He called his wife. He called me and said to call his wife. The upshot of those calls was that my girl and I were sitting in the office of Dr. T, a premiere cardiologist at 8:30 the next morning. Dr. T was doing her residency training eighteen years ago when a certain pregnant nurse took the frightened resident under her wing in the intensive care unit. Now Dr. T is known nationally, her office nurse is married to a certain "Mr. Chips" sort of teacher at my daughter's school and the once pregnant nurse is on the receiving end of needing care for her child. Dr. T was not supposed to see patients at all that morning. She came in just to see my girl.

As this cardiologist soothed and explained everything to my daughter, I felt a heavy load fall from my shoulders. This was going to be manageable. More tests would be needed, perhaps medication, worst case scenario a medical procedure to calm her twitchy heart. But everything was going to be alright. Another storm would be weathered.

This lead me to my new thoughts on "when it rains, it pours". What began as a week of, "I can't believe all of this is happening right now" became one of "I can't believe how thoroughly God has provided for our every need this week." Our hearts still hurt tonight for Mr. W. There is more to do to protect my girl's health. We are all exhausted. But we are safe; we are well cared for. We are happy to think of God's provision - to know with all certainty that when it rains, it pours.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today."
Exodus 14:13, NIV.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

When It Rains . . . .

Thanks for stopping by! Life took an unexpected turn this week, keeping me from our online study of Jennifer Rothschild's Self Talk, Soul Talk going on over at Lelia's.

I have lots to report as soon as I regain consciousness. For now, I leave you with a thought that occured to me as events swept along this week:

"When it rains, it pours" doesn't apply only to bad things happening. My week has shown me once again that this same phenomenon applies to God's blessings. When He rains, He pours. Stop by later this week for the inside scoop!

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
Listen, O heavens and I will speak; hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.
Deuteronomy 32: 1, 2, NIV.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Grace by Which We Stand

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
Isaac Newton (1643-1727)

Newton's quote stopped me in my tracks today. It reminded me of the spiritual giants on whose shoulders I now stand. Most prominent of these is my Nanny, my maternal grandmother.

Nanny's life was a lesson in perseverence. Raised on a farm, she understood trusting God and working hard in order to eat. She married a gentleman she met at a dance held in her father's front parlor. They had one daughter, my mother who was three years old when my grandfather suffered an aneurysm and died in the yard. Nanny never remarried but lived on in the house where she grew up. To live, she carried mail and helped her brothers on the farm.

At the tender age of eighty-three, Nanny fell and broke her neck while hanging clothes on the line. After she regained consciousness, she crawled into the house and called for help. She underwent surgery, recovered and lived several more years. I was in my forties when she finally got her coveted trip to Beulah Land.

Today, I treasure the Holy Bible: Red Letter Edition that sustained my Nanny. Tucked within its brittle pages are yellowed tracts by a young evangelist named Billy Graham, as well as her "Certificate of Marriage", dated December 27, 1932. Dearest to me, though, are the highlighted Scriptures that map her journey of faith. Over and over, she turned to the passages that speak of God's provision and of His faithfulness through trying times.

Many times, I have picked up Nanny's Bible and felt my strength renewed by both the Word of God and the certainty she trusted Him when life seemed just too hard to bear. I stand on her shoulders today and glimpse eternity. What about you? Who are the spiritual giants on whom you stand? I would love to hear your heart on the matter.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.
Genesis 17:7, NIV.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"Yes to God" Study, Chapter 6

Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.
Okay, maybe I borrowed these words from Gabriel come to rock the virgin Mary's world, but they apply to each of us. Today, we look at Chapter Six of Self Talk, Soul Talk entitled, "Look Up: Hope in God, My Soul". Jennifer focuses here on choosing hope above despair.

Hope as a choice - that's a thought worth savoring. My natural tendency is to think of hope as something that happens to me (or does not). What a grown-up notion, that I can choose my attitude! I have options about how I feel and react to the world around me. Jennifer poses the excellent questions, "Do I think with my feelings? Do my feelings serve me well or am I their slave?" (p. 87). Ouch.

Hope is the linchpin of my existence. It is the faithful peg where I hang my hat when life gets messy. When I get discouraged, the Word of God oozes hope in every chapter and verse. But as the apostle Paul reminds us: Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? If we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently (Romans 8:24, 25). Did he really use the words, "wait" and "patiently" in the same sentence? ((Sigh)). Thankfully, God looks for progress, not perfection.

Be sure to visit our hostess for this study, Lelia at Write From the Heart to see what other travelers had to say about this week's chapter on hope!

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him.
Deuteronomy 30: 19, 20, NIV.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

This Bud's For You, Angie

Many of you follow our girl Angie over at Knightly News. Recently, she has been sharing events in her life from this time last year. On February 12, 2008, Angie's beloved sister, Wanda, slipped into the waiting arms of Christ after a lengthy illness.

Under Angie's faith-filled pen, a subject that could bring you down becomes an uplifting tale of faith, hope and love. If you haven't checked out this series, I promise you'll be blessed by doing so.

In the account of Wanda's final hours, Angie mentions an ill-mannered nurse. My hair stood on end at this part of the story. For years, I taught nurses about family care in the patient's final days. Angie's experience reminded me of a poem I used in those classes.

In honor of Angie, who latched onto me early in my blogging days and has blessed me ever since, I'd like to share these words penned by Thomas Hood. It's an old poem, but its message is timeless. God bless you, Angie; I am with you in thought and prayer this week and always.

Thro' the Night

We watched her breathing thro' the night,
Her breathing soft and low,
As in her breast, the wave of life
Kept heaving to and fro.

So silently we seem'd to speak -
So slowly mov'd about,
As we had lent her half our powers
To eke her living out.

Our very hopes belied our fears,
Our fears our hopes belied -
We thought her dying when she slept.
And sleeping when she died.

For when the morn came dim and sad -
And chill with early showers,
Her quiet eyelids clos'd - she had
Another morn than ours.
Thomas Hood (1799-1845)

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.
Photo Credit

The last Word:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
Hebrews 12: 1, 2, NIV.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Seven Times Seven Hundred

Seven hundred and twenty-one times. According to CNN, that is how many times a South Korean woman has tried to pass her driving test. Attempt #722 will take place today or tomorrow.

I ask myself, "Is there anything I would try seven hundred times without giving up?" Losing weight comes to mind. Getting my teenager to clean her room. How about keeping my mouth shut when I don't have anything constructive to say?

The tale of the licensee-to-be cheered my heart today. It reminded me there are some things worth trying for and trying for and trying for. What does my heart desire enough to persevere so greatly?

Only one thing truly fills that bill: salvation for the people I love. I think about the friends and family who haven't yet found the Truth of the Gospel. I think how untethered I would be without a granite faith in God. I think of those who prayed for loved ones for years on end and finally saw their dreams come true.

Yes, there are some things worth revisiting over and over again. What about you? What goals pull you back again and again, no matter how bleak the landscape? I would love to hear your heart on the matter.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.
Photo Credit

The last Word:
Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him night and day? Will He keep putting them off?
Luke 18: 7, NIV.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Self Talk, Soul Talk: Chapter 5

Reference: Rothschild, J. Self Talk, Soul Talk: What to say When You Talk to Yourself, Chapter 5, "Tune In: Awake My Soul".

This chapter talks a lot about distractions and complacency. Now, there's a pair of plagues! Quotes that hit me between the eyes include:
  • "We become sleepy and apathetic toward some of our poor choices and negative attitudes" (p. 65).
  • "We grow so accustomed to the distractions around us that we barely notice their influence" (p. 75).
  • "Keeping something clean is easier when you tend to it daily" (p. 64).

One danger that stalks me daily is the willingness to grab hold of the "good" before I can see God's "best". We face many opportunities to invest our time and energy in good things. But is it God's will for me to say yes to every good thing? Hardly.

Even Jesus Christ prayed to the Father, "I have brought You glory by completing the work You gave me to do" (John 17:4). He didn't say by completing everything that would ever need doing. If the Son of God had a finite mission on earth, what makes me think I can do everything without disastrous results? Yet, that is my default tendency.

Jennifer's right about that daily maintenance plan. When I assess my priorities and listen for God's leading, life flows - even when difficulties come my way. When I go too fast to think about what I am doing, things get skewed quickly. I find myself in a maze of unconscious choices, unclear of how I got where I am or which way is out.

The Good News is that God's "reset" button is always close at hand. I need that button every day, many times a day. Do you?

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
Everything is permissible - but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible - but not everything is constructive.
1 Corinthians 10:23, NIV.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Breaking Free

"We found the jail securely locked and the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside." Acts 5:23, NIV.

This verse reminds me of the prison doors Satan has locked securely against each one of us. The doors may be a painful betrayal, physical problems, financial distress or the seeming hopelessness of an unsaved loved one. For many years, I lived in the cell of a deep self-loathing. The jail was securely locked; the key had been thrown away decades earlier.

But like the apostles, one day I miraculously found myself on the outside of the cell looking in. I was unsure of exactly how I had escaped, but I was certain of Who was responsible. And just like the apostles, I got my marching orders: "Go, stand in the temple courts, and tell the people the full message of this new life" (Acts 5:20). The angel's instructions are what I've chosen to memorize for February 1's Scripture challenge.

I don't know what prison doors have been securely locked against you. But I know we serve a God who longs to miraculously set us free. He is not bound by space or time or the will of another. What prison do you long to be free of today? Take it to Him. He is waiting on the outside, completely unaffected by how secure the lock may look to you.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to Your Word.
Psalm 199: 28, NIV.