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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

You Just Made My Day!

    You remember having one of those horrible days when nothing went the way it was supposed to? The coffee spilled on your last clean shirt and then the car wouldn't start. Or you got that awful phone call just as you were leaving for work but there was no time to process it. You had to quickly assume that plastic face and pretend you were on top of the world. You had a job to do and there's no way around it. The usual pep talk you recite didn't work this time. That's how my workday started.  In fact, the entire week had been like that.  
    Feeling physically and emotionally drained, I knew I had 20 residents to take care of and they all needed their morning medicine in the next few hours. I think I plowed along on auto-pilot for the first hour. Then it was time to enter Ms. Nester's room. Even on a good day, this was unpleasant. Her strong body and shrill voice belied the late-stage dementia her mind was suffering from. In general, it mattered how calmly you approached a resident and how soothing your voice was. Not so with Ms. Nester. When anyone crossed her line of sight, she began to scream loudly and gesture wildly. Usually she spat, bit, scratched or slapped at anyone within arm's reach. Inevitably, before you left her room she cried. Not softly, but in a sputtering, woeful screech that hurt your ears and heart to hear. Maybe once in a blue moon she would cooperate with a caregiver. She did not carry on conversations, but rather seemed to exist in her own world where everything was disjointed. I don't think I had ever heard her form a complete sentence.
    Knowing her as I did, if you told me what I'm about to tell you, I would not believe it. Forgive me for being brutally frank, but that's the truth. Holding my breath, I knocked on her door. I was greeted with the sweet sound of silence. Tentatively, I pushed the door open. 
    Sometimes miracles come because we've prayed for them. Sometimes they are much-anticipated and long-awaited. And sometimes, they catch us completely by surprise. Ms. Nester was smiling--no, she was laughing as she reached for me with both arms. Then she patted her heart and literally sang, "I heard somebody and I kept looking and there I saw YOU! Oh you look so good. I'm so happy to see you, come over here!" I was tempted to look behind me. Was she talking to someone else? No, her eyes were definitely focused on me! Dare I get within arms' reach? This was my best opportunity to administer her medication, if the mood lasted long enough. To my amazement, she happily accepted my offering, then reached out to gently hold my hand. Her exuberant salutation continued. "Oh, you look so good. Thank you, Lord. I'm so glad to see you, come sit down." 
    Was she looking at me but seeing someone else? I was not about to burst her bubble. "Oh, I just feel so happy! Praise the Lord; He is so good to me." Her face  lit up with the most beautiful smile. Sitting by her bedside, wondering if I should pinch myself, I assured her that I was so happy to see her, too. Then as she quieted, I patted her hand gently until she slowly let go of mine.  She gazed at me happily as I closed the door. Never had I seen her so calm and rational. Never before and never since was she glowing and ecstatic. Not once had she calmly let me leave the room, as she did that day. 
    Somehow I felt as if tender arms had hugged me. Tears filled my eyes, and I asked, "God, what just happened?" He replied softly, "I did that. That's my love for you that you've seen here today. I used her to show my love for you." A passage from the book of Zephaniah rang in my mind. "For the Lord your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will rejoice over you with great gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice greatly over you by singing a happy song" (Zephaniah 3:17 NLT). 



Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Guy Was a Scoundrel

    If I thought I would be the only person to ever tell you this story, there is much I would omit about the man. But I fear you will discover it anyway. First may I say that he was very good-looking, and although that is not a guarantee of character, it certainly makes the character a bit more interesting while we determine what his heart is made of. Suffice to say the ladies found him irresistible. His early life was not picture perfect and he certainly wasn't born to privilege. Just another common lad, outshone by his older, stronger, and even better-looking brothers. He was shaped, as we all are, by his experiences and his culture. Who would have dreamed that one day he would be one who shaped culture, that world leaders would seek him out and history would adore him? 
     In his heart, he plotted and ordered the execution of an innocent man, an honorable man who kept his word. A man who was in fact, committed to a life of service to this very scoundrel .How can this contradiction be?  When I tell you that the innocent man, the murdered man, had a very beautiful wife, perhaps now you understand. That man was Uriah the Hittite and his wife's name was Bathsheba. I would have omitted this chapter from King David's life. I would not have you know that the man God said was a man after His own heart, could be capable of such depravity. I would prefer to make David look better to the world. 
    Doubtless, he was the greatest king of Israel. Millions have been comforted by his prayers in the book of Psalms. From a heart only a grief-stricken parent can understand, he uttered the oft repeated words "My son can't return to me, but I will go to him."  This son was born out of wedlock but David could not have loved him more. David was the epitome of mercy, even to Jesus's day. When Bartimaeus cried out to Jesus, saying "Son of David, have mercy on me," he was reminding Jesus of David's mercy. Scripture records that God had mercy in a matter concerning David's descendants 300 years after David's death. What a legacy!.
   In the days of King Saul, modern psalmists sang the praises of David the victorious warrior as he came home from battle. God Himself whispered songs to David in the night, as he hid like an animal in caves from Saul's army.
   As a young shepherd boy, David composed songs of worship on his harp. These timeless songs not only comforted the restless sheep but have brought hope to millions through the ages.
    Yet how could he stoop to adultery and murder and still be God's man? What good could possibly come from such a life? Rejected and ridiculed by his family, David found refuge in a heavenly Father who would never forsake him.
   In today's critical culture of conformity, David likely would not be remembered for his anointed leadership, his incredible defeat of his nation's enemies and the prosperity of the nation under his rule. His detractors would not have us know that his government commissioned and salaried 24 hour worship leaders. As long as they praised and magnified God, not one enemy touched the nation of Israel. What a non-conventional Department of Defense!
  Why didn't God leave this part out? Wouldn't protecting David's image highlight his accomplishments? Or does God wants us to see the contrast; to see what David did when he followed his own way.
    But the world remembers King David for what he did when he surrendered to God's way. One thing we love about the Psalms David wrote is the heartfelt sincerity they express. David hid nothing; we see his fears, his hatred, his loves and his faith.
   Instead of asking how God would use a man like David, perhaps we should be rejoicing in the plans He has for someone like me and you.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

How lonely sits the city

9 Self-Defense Tips To Protect Against Complainers...Toxic Negative People Are No Fun To Be Around...They Suck the Energy Right Outta You "How lonely sits the city that was full of people." The time is 586 BC. The author is the prophet Jeremiah and the book is Lamentations. That title is a translation of the original Hebrew word, "alas!" or "how?" It sounds as though the nation was in shock at the sudden catastrophe that had come upon them, totally upending their lives. Lamentations by definition means wailing, complaint, mourning. The occasion of mourning is the capture of the nation of Israel, under Nebuchadnezzar's army, resulting in their captivity and the destruction of the center of Jewish life, their temple. They had supposed their temple to be indestructible. The book is a national and personal lament.
  But sorrow and woe is not what impressed me the most about this passage. The Jewish people were known to be quite demonstrative and I can just imagine the commotion. What stood out to me most of all amidst this tale of tragedy are several verses; Lamentations 3:22,23 "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness." In the midst of such a disastrous situation, how did Jeremiah find such peace and assurance? What was his secret? It can be found in Psalm 91:1 "He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." Some expositors say this meant to stay in the temple but I don't see that. Only priests could live in the temple and as we see from Lamentations, even the sacred temple was not safe from enemy attacks. Neither is the secret place something you stumble into or casually enter. It is like an "X" on a treasure map; a place that is diligently sought after and carefully guarded.
   What does it mean to abide under the shadow of the Almighty? Does God really have a shadow? Doesn't the Word say there is no shadow of turning with thee? (James 1:17.) This passage refers to the steadfastness and unchangeable nature of God. He is light and in Him is no darkness at all. So to be in His shadow is to snuggle up just as close to Him as is humanly possible. And do we dwell or live there, in His presence? Or do we occasionally go in and out?
  Once we're that close to Him, we will know that He is the Almighty; possessor of all might. One of my favorite scriptures is Isaiah 40. Verse 21 asks "Do you not know? Have you not heard? ..God sits enthroned above the circle of the earth. To who will you compare me? Or who is my equal? says the Holy One. Why do you complain, Oh Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, My way is hidden from the Lord? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom."
  Jeremiah rejoiced at the majesty and constancy of God, no matter the painful circumstances that surrounded him. And he knew that though the present situation was disheartening, it was not permanent. God, however, is all powerful and unchanging. His mercies are sure and eternal. Jeremiah lifted his eyes from his surroundings to the One who surpassed the temporary. The prophet's understanding was limited but his trust was not. The city would thrive again and the temple would be rebuilt. Because God's mercy and faithfulness were, and are, unfailing. In this we rejoice.
Lamentations 3:26 "It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord." And Chapter 3, verse 41 "Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens."
    Perhaps instead of lamenting all we have lost, we should, like Jeremiah, be celebrating all that forever remains.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Coronavirus aka Control, Alt, Delete

      First I must say that as a nurse, I understand and support the precautions to contain this mysterious threat and I believe the concern for possibly overwhelming our entire health care system is very real.   This "bug", called a zoonose, has hopped from animals to humans and carries much uncertainty. I'm sure by now you have learned more about this malady than you ever wanted to know! Like you, I was amazed to watch our nation screech rather abruptly to a standstill, crippled by something that's only visible under a microscope. Something unseen is causing very obvious, painful, and life-altering events.
     Its easy for me to talk to you about ways to prolong your life and well-being. Healthy diet is right up my alley, along with aerobic/ anaerobic exercise and mental health. I got your homeostasis and Terminologia Anatomica. Basically the care of the human machine. But computers hadn't been invented when me and my dinosaur first went to school so I am still slightly intimidated by them and their unique language. So please give me a pass if I am not up to speed on algorithms and programming verbiage. But three words really lit up in my spirit in regard to the present state of our country as we deal with this unprecedented virus. More on them in a moment.
    Sometimes as I'm working on my computer, I notice that the system is slow to respond to my commands. I check my internet connection and find that it is humming along. What could be slowing me down? I glance down at the bottom of my screen and see that I have too many applications running. Pages I thought I had closed are siphoning power in the background and draining my speed. Things I had relegated to history were popping up to drag me down. So I need to close all unnecessary tabs as soon as possible in order to complete the pressing task at hand. This seems to be a waste of my time but it will actually enable increased efficiency. If that fails, I may have to execute a total reset. Shut the whole thing down. This is a bit more time consuming but it is amazing how much faster my computer will respond after the shutdown.
     The word that came to mind as I watched our societal system freeze was Reset. Can it be that in this uncomfortable time of inconvenience, financial loss, anxiety and scarcity that we need to take a step back, catch our breath and evaluate our lifestyle? Hopefully this is forcing us to rethink our priorities. Are we more upset at missing a sporting event than we are at the thought that our fellow-citizens may be in need? Are our worries predominately about ourselves? Our lifestyles have become so busy and loud that we seldom stop to listen to God or to our own hearts. Maybe this mandatory shutdown is an opportunity to refocus.
    You may remember when Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989. We had no electricity, no gas for our vehicles and most stores and banks were closed. This went on for up to two weeks in some neighborhoods. But the majority of folks checked on their neighbors, shared their supplies and actually enjoyed being outdoors. A friend who suffered with insomnia confided to me that she was sleeping well, without medication, for the first time in years. After 911, we forgot who Republicans and Democrats were and all of us were just Americans, thankful to be alive. Church attendance soared and there was a resurgence of the display of American flags. Unfortunately, when troubles eased, we regressed back to selfishness and lost our attitude of gratitude.
    I mentioned earlier that three words came to me. They are Control, Alt and Delete. What do they have to do with the Coronavirus? I'm so glad you asked. The control key is in actuality a modifier, which performs a certain action when its pressed in conjunction with another key. It rarely performs any function by itself. The Alt key means option, or alternate graphic. And delete means to obliterate or wipe out.
     Our finger on the key doesn't actually mean we are in control. Sure our choices are important but there are so many aspects of our lives outside of our control. Our Creator does still rule and has the inherent right to do as He wills with this "little blue ball" that hangs suspended on His word alone. Maybe not consciously but we have made every attempt to wrest control from His hands.We prefer to make our own rules.
       The Bible says He laughs because men call their property by their own names. We are here such a brief few moments in the grand scheme of eternity, that from Heaven's viewpoint, its pointless to record our property at the courthouse. In the blink of an eye, our lives are over, as are the few minutes of our descendants' lives. David asked God to teach him to realize the brevity of life so that he would grow in wisdom. In other words, to use wisely the time we have. Can this event help us realize that the one who dies with the most toys, still dies?  Will we wonder if our frantic lifestyles to obtain stuff and security should really be our goal?
     Remember the Alt key? It can present a different option or picture. Is it possible that we have focused our attention on the wrong graphic? This is a great time to ask if the carrot dangling before us is truly worthy of our attention and energy. Is it of real and of eternal value? Does it benefit someone besides me? Does it glorify the God who put me here for His particular purpose at this precise moment in history? 
    Thankfully, we have the last key; Delete. We have the power to wipe out incorrect choices and habits from our lives. Some things we thought we couldn't live without have been obliterated, at least for now. Its certain that our lives will change and we will be changed by this experience. Could it be that we emerge from this with a greater sense of purpose, gratitude and clarity about who we really are?
   The Coronavirus will soon be a thing of the past. Meanwhile, its a great time to power down, shut off draining processes we may have running in the background.  So that when we're up and running again, we will be sure to run in the right direction.