It’s too late, or is it?

To Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, beard and outdoormake a difference, that is. Again, that is.

We spent our lives in ministry, from ministering in the local church before we went to Africa and then in the decades since, in ministry on college/university campuses and in our local church. Then retirement yanked us into what felt like the sidelines.

Jim is new at this retirement thing, but I have been at it for just four years. Teaching writing classes at the local library has been a blessed bridge into this new life for me, and I am grateful for every one of my students and the ways they have enriched my life.

But I let that be enough, that and the occasional opportunity to do some counseling. Last night as I did my bedtime Bible reading, almost finishing the Bible again, I felt like God was poking at me to get back here, to make the most of this place where I might still have a voice.

So here I am, so grateful that it doesn’t matter that I cannot play the piano or guitar or organ, grateful that I cannot sing – publicly, but grateful too that I can still exercise the passion God gave me decades ago, write.

My message to you is this, God never runs out of use for us, bizarre as that may sound. And He tailors his job description for us in such a way that it fits us, who He made us to be, regardless of our time or place in life. What God gave me to do has varied over the years, from parenting and being a wife to my days in the nursery and Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, to years in the classroom, to this place, a quieter one to be sure, but honestly as exciting as it was fifty years ago. Now I am, trying to be patient and listen as He points out where I need to put my feet, (and behind) next.

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A bone to pick about The Act of Marriage

Back in the day, early in my counseling career, one book was recommended to me above all others for marital issues: The Act of Marriage: The Beauty of Sexual Love by Tim and Beverly La Haye. It was on every pastor’s shelf, well on most of the pastors or counselors I knew, and was given to countless newlyweds. And you can still buy it on Amazon.

BUT even back then I had a bone to pick with this book but figured I was the newbie, so I was very careful with whom I discussed it. And mostly I suggested, to the people who asked, that they not read it before their marriage or at least until after they got back from their honeymoon.

Now, hear me roar! Among many points this book missed, here is a key one: There is NO one act of marriage. There are loads of acts of marriage, and I am not talking about incidents of sexual activity. Sexual activity may be one act of love, but it surely is not the only one.

For my husband, getting up with my him in the morning, no matter how early, and preparing a hot breakfast is an act of love. For him, browsing the pages of cookbooks and internet URLS for recipes that are healthy and appetizing for us is an act of love. For him, keeping the laundry done and put away, and making sure he has suitable clothing for whatever is an act of love. For him, doing the nitty-gritty of planning trips and keeping in touch with our families is an act of love. Well, I could go on and on about ways I show or make love to him that are appropriate here….but….

For me, knowing that he is taking care of us financially by working a job is an act of love. For me, his faithfulness in taking care of the garbage is an act of love. For me, his keeping a stock of walnuts and fixing me two shelled walnuts every night is an act of love. For me, knowing that he is taking care of the car and the bills and our future needs is an act of love.

And for both of us, holding hands when we take walks (and taking walks) and holding hands when we are in the car is an act of love.

I remember an old saying that love-making starts in the kitchen, and that may play a part in it. But I think love-making is a 24/7 kind of thing, thoughtful demonstrations of your affection for your spouse every day…..and the day may conclude with sexual intimacy in the bedroom, but it may not.

The intimacy you may share in your bed may be altered by all kinds of physical limitations – I think of Joni Eareckson Tada for one, but that shared intimacy, (even without what the La Hayes refer to as the act of marriage) the acts you share with no one else in each other’s arms, is no more significant or powerful than the many other acts of marriage or love with which you might fill your days.

I do not mean to diminish the “marriage act” as they call it. God designed it, and it is to be pleasurable for both partners. But I do mean to spread the wealth. I do mean that recognizing that there are countless ways that we can “make love or show love” to our mates, and doing so just might improve the whole marriage.

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So what have I learned?

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I have wrestled with a lot of things as we stand on the brink, not both swimming in the pool yet, of this next stage of our lives – retirement. This blog entered into that conundrum: in this last year of my seventh decade of life, what have I learned and what am I doing with it? Just wasting it, or is there some way to pass at least some of it on.

And as I thought of that, God brought to my mind, this neglected space. So here I am, and I think I am going to try sharing things I have learned – maybe the mundane, like recipes. And maybe a bit more serious, like how we have remained married and deeply in love after five decades. Or maybe even places that nourish or have nourished us, from conferences to sandy beaches.

So here is my first word of wisdom, and unfortunately one I still have to think about – “Don’t listen with your answer running!”

First of all, it is normal, I think, as we listen to people to begin processing their words before they have finished speaking. The problem is, then we miss perhaps the most important part of what they were trying to say, not just the words, but the heart behind it. So let me encourage you, in all of your relationships, to listen until the speaker is finished before you respond. Then, even if you have to ask them for a couple of minutes to process it, consider how you should respond.

OK,  I know this may not always work with kids. Sometimes you know the answer when they get two words into it, but give them the dignity and respect of listening all the way through. Think about how that might improve your relationship.

Well, those are my thoughts this first day of my new endeavor. What do you think?

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Please, Notice Me!

Do you want, even need encouragement, or am I the only one? I couldn’t figure out how to navigate the biblical instruction for humility and my desperate need for someone to say I was doing it right. That encouragement didn’t have to be about something in particular, just anything I did. I wanted acknowledgment and input, not necessarily praise, but someone to say either what I did was good, or not, and how to fix it.

Certainly any kind of encouragement is welcome. Encouragement motivates us, whether it should or not, and it makes us feel better about life in general. I used to think humility was all about being satisfied with being completely unrecognized for anything. Used to think that is the important part of that last sentence. And when I looked for encouragement, I was somehow sinning as though God was not enough.scale

Now, I have come to think you are supposed to put humility on one side of the scale and encouragement on the other because God seems to think both are important. God shows what He thinks about encouragement in lots of ways and in lots of places, but here’s just three of those passages where He speaks about encouragement:

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build sone another up, just as you are doing.
Hebrews 10:23-25 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,           all ESV

I think the point is we are not to toot our own horn, but we are to toot the horns of those around us. That does not mean that we overlook errors or problems. It does mean that we communicate to others in a way that helps them, that we package our help in palatable dress. I have known some people, and I have probably been one of them over the years, who felt more strongly the responsibility or place to point out others’ faults and less strongly about doing so lovingly.

And there’s the rub, who will make any changes if they feel criticized and judged and as though they could not to anything right? They very well could feel as though it won’t make any difference whether they make changes or not because nothing good that they do will be noticed. So, if we live humbly, allowing God’s recognition to be enough, and we make it our responsibility to be an encouragement to others, then we might discover the encouragement that God is sending to us.

Hmmm, I wonder if this might be a helpful way to parent….

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So when did hate become the order of the day?

First things first, this is not about a writer and his book. It is about love.

They put him up in the balcony with the rest of the misfits, my friend Torry, the actor and writer. Of course this was back a few years when he was in Alaska, a Carhart-wearing Alaska-wilderness living adventurer. Maybe I should add a poor Carhart-wearing Alaska dweller before he was in a lot of movies and wrote for Adventures in Odyssey, and before his own book, Of Moose and Men came out.

Anyway, he showed up for his first day at this big church in Alaska, they do have them there, and he was directed up to the balcony, despite the good seats available on the main floor. He looked around, as we all might, to see who else got these good seats in the balcony, and those people all looked sort of like him, and not like the masses sitting downstairs in their suits and ties and dresses.

You see, there had been a sorting process, and not a loving one. The ones who would look good on TV were seated downstairs where the TV cameras would capture them, not upstairs with those in “unusual” dress were directed. Torry is no dummy, and within moments knew he was not welcome there.

Sometime later he found another church where he was welcomed just as he was, in all his Carhart-wearing, shoulder-length flaming red hair glory. His unsaved glory! And it was there that he was loved right to a relationship with Christ.

To be honest with you, I have been deeply troubled by words of judgment and derision coming from the mouths and pens and computer keyboards of those who claim to be Christians. Especially so when I read and reread the following passages:

Let all that you do be done in love. Or Do everything in love. I Cor. 16:14

Jesus replied, “Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all ours soul and with all your mind…..And the second is like unto it, Love your neighbor as yourself. Matt. 22: 37-39

A new command I give you, Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35

John 17:1-2 Jesus said to his followers, Things that cause people to sin will happen, but how terrible for the person who causes them to happen! It would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to sin.

As I try to make sense of this conundrum, God’s Word calling us to be a people known by our love and the unloving, even hateful behavior of some of those who call them His children, the following question echoes in my mind: Do you want to be someone who is an excuse to walk away from God and the Body or do you want to be someone who draws people to God and the Body?

I understand that we live in an age that embraces, even promotes behaviors Christians are taught are sinful. But therein lies the rub and the question I struggle with: how does love fit in? Can we love people to Christ, like that church in Alaska did for Torry? Because honestly, I am not sure how judging, condemning, and avoiding people who are different from us makes anyone want to know our God.

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Sibling Day

Siblings’ Day

Sunday was National Siblings’ Day, or so Facebook said, and that day Facebook was filled with photos of sibling groups. I even contributed to allTome, Peggy, SUe and me that with this picture I posted of the four of us back when I was five or six.

My parents had two families: one before WWII and one after. Maybe you can tell which one I belonged to.

But today, though Siblings’ Day is once again history, I have been thinking a lot about the siblings I have that don’t show up in this photo: my siblings in Christ.

As I look at this photo of my big sister and big brother and little sister, still after all these years it comes out that way, I am reminded that I have the rest of the family to love, the ones not in this photo.

I remember my first communion in France, real wine, gulp, gulp, and thinking that day about the reality of all those people in that room being my brothers and sisters. Then the same thought occurred to me when I first took communion in Africa, the juice made of some berry found in the bush,the bread torn up French bread from the market. These people are my brothers and sisters. We share a Father. It happened again in Ecuador, communion high up in the Andes, a new group of relatives.

But today I was challenged with how I really related to the rest of the family. I would do anything for my physical siblings. But what would I do, what have I done, for the rest of the family, my family in Christ?

Maybe I need to start right here, at Square 1, just thinking about them, acknowledging their existence and our relationship, actually giving that some thought.

Then maybe I need to be more diligent about thoughtfully praying for them. I am thankful for Facebook as a prayer reminder tool. Certainly it has allowed me to pray more meaningfully about a lot of people. And honestly, there are days when I am weighed down by the burdens so many face.

In Joni Eareckson Tada’s book, A Lifetime of Wisdom, she writes this: “

Sometimes I’m amazed that from my bed (she is paralyzed from the neck down) I can help set in motion the cogs and wheels of God’s workings in the world. Through my prayers, I may change the destiny of a life – or even a nation. Lying on my bed, I can hasten the day of the Lord’s return. I don’t move a muscle in those hours,. But I can help move the hand of God here and abroad.

So, though I may not see the faces of my brothers and sisters in Christ, I do need to be active on their behalf before God, praying for them as I would my blood siblings.  Just as I would give any of my time, talent or material belongings for my blood family, I must ask God to show me how He wants me to handle those same possessions in light of the needs of my faith siblings. Now that takes more thoughtful time.

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Catching up! From facebook to my blog

April 5, 2016

Over the 24 years I worked at BBC/Summit University, I went to a lot of chapels.

This morning I was browsing through some notes taken in chapel back in 2007 and noted these encouraging words from Jim Jeffery, then president: “The hands pierced for you will never be closed to you.” Notes from a message on suffering; then I find that I wrote down his reminders from Romans 8:31 and 33: “If God is for us, who can be against us….and Who/what shall separate us from the love of Christ?”

I am reminded not to pray that God will be with the suffering believer, for He is already there. My prayer is and always should be:

“Help those who are hurting, suffering, grieving to notice your presence, to be mindful of your everlasting love, and your gift of grace sufficient to endure the present and to glorify you through the journey.”

I fear too often we get sidetracked by our present circumstances and forget who is there to guide us through, to support us through them, and who had filtered them according to our ability and God’s sufficiency (I Cor. 10:13) This does not mean things won’t hurt, or hurt for a long while, but it does mean we will not be overcome as we lean on Him. At least, I know I do forget all of that sometimes.
Thanks Jim James Jeffery

April 1

OK, maybe this shows what a shallow person I am, but I used to think heaven would be so boring, just praising God all day…but as I have grown and aged maybe, I am thinking about what it would be like to be free of my humanity, that part of me that is tempted, that is lured to sin.

Now that is an amazing thought, to be able to think and embrace all of God’s thoughts after Him with no regrets or maybes or temptations to think another way.

I have been listening to Brooklyn Tabernacle’s More Than Enough and it occurred to me that maybe that is a taste of heaven, to see God through clear and untainted by self eyes,,,how could I want to do anything but please Him, and how it would seem like singing praises to Him would only be the starting place. I’ve come to think that heaven is never going to be boring.

If I can trust a loving God who knows all of me to get me there, I can certainly trust Him to make it a wondrous place, a place of inner peace and joy, and if praising Him eternally is all there is, it will not be enough…because He has designed me to appreciate all that He has for me.

Amazing thoughts this April Fools’ Day…maybe I am beginning to outgrow the fool in me.

March 29

I used to struggle with the concept of fearing God, but someone wrote the following and it helped me: The fear of the Lord leads to a life of meaning. The love of God leads to a life of joy. Understanding and acknowledging Who God is guides one to make right choices, to choose His Way.

It is in understanding the cost and consequences of our choices, our disobedience, or living for self that directs one to seek to please and honor God. It is in the exercise of the sense or wisdom He has given us to choose His Way that keeps us from evil and sorrow.

We cannot blame God for our choices; He warned us of the consequences of disobedience, our own and that of others, not that He would get even or punish us. However, like a loving parent, He has warned us of the dangers and given us the map to the way to peace and joy.

And He waits to love us and heal us and bring us back when we see the error of our way, when we have taken our eyes from His face.

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