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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

What in the World?

Visiting with my daughter, I asked, What in the World am I going to write about this week? She said, “Exactly, that is what you will write – What in the World?

Somewhere in my memory, I can hear someone saying – What in the world? -- in a tone of wonderment.  I have long ago forgotten who or what the event could be. Yet, as the words echo in my thoughts, I look around this world and wonder -- What in the world, indeed? 

Even the wonders of technology do not hold their usual allure.  Man has created unimaginable edifices and bridges, created technology that makes our world small.  All of these can be destroyed.  I wonder why it is that the indescribable beauty of waterfalls, mountains, field of flowers, rushing rivers, towering trees and the stars fill us with joy and capture our imagination and joy?

We are in this world, yet our hearts are elsewhere, always looking up.  Up in the sky.  A cloud rides by so high in the sky, and I remember another time…another cloud.  After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him.  As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”  Acts 1:9-10

What in the World is not high enough or wide enough or deep enough for the joy of the Lord!  Then another verse comes to mind.  Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.  Ecclesiastes 3:11

This world is not ALL there is.  In all of us there is the understanding part of the scope of what will be.  A longing or inward yearning is deep in our spirit.  We are living day to day with a sensation of anticipation – with our hearts beyond the world – looking up into the clouds, watching for Jesus to come again.  Each time I see a cloud I remember the return of Jesus and wonder, is this the time?

I take a deep breath – for I know there is joy in hungering and thirsting for righteousness. and I change my question….What is Out of This World?  Heaven.  Is it real?  I find 622 references to Heaven in the Scriptures.  The first two books with the most references to Heaven are Psalms with 76 and Revelation with 45 references.

What does this mean, this anticipation of the second coming of Jesus?  Is it a futile exercise?  Is this a time of debating how and when it will occur?  No, indeed!  It is a time of waiting, believing, trusting and knowing God.  It is a time of righteous living.   Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  Matthew 5:6.

Righteousness is the ‘reality living’ in this world’s darkness.  It is the ‘cutting edge’ of living with loving and forgiving.  These two qualities beget peace and joy by practicing kindness, gentleness and patience.  It can only come through faith in God and living for Jesus.  We choose faith in God.  We choose to live for Jesus.  It is not forced upon us.  God has given us the choice.  On the other side of the coin, C.S. Lewis statement pinpoints this truth: The question is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what He intended us to be when He made us.

God is love….For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17

What in the World?  God is saving us because He loves us.  Have you watched a young mother with her son in her arms…and imagine her willingly let him go to be reviled, beaten, misunderstood and finally be crucified on a cross.  God loves more than any of us can ever conceive or imagine.  Yet, He loves us so much, He did this for each one of us.

How can we not believe, trust and obey?  Some would tell you that if you cannot see God, He does not exist.  Perhaps they haven’t seen the power of the Holy Spirit or the answer to prayer.  Perhaps they are blind to moments of pure joy, not pleasure, but pure joy and contentment.  I am always amazed how steadfast my husband’s faith continues, no matter how much he has forgotten in Dementia. His faith in God is alive in a deeper way than I have ever seen or heard him express in our 63 years together.

Can you imagine preparing for a trip and not know what your destination is?  We surround ourselves with maps to make choices whenever we travel on earth, to find our way and not get lost or take a detour.  Indeed, that is exactly what we are spending a lifetime doing here…we are preparing for our destination.  We study The Bible and search for the guidelines of living in His love and forgiveness.  This journey has an eternal importance.

Randy Alcorn wrote a book called Heaven.  Here are some quotes…from his book.
• “For the Christian, death is not the end of adventure but a doorway from a world where dreams and adventures shrink, to a world where dreams and adventures forever expand.” 
• “Our minds are so much set on Earth that we are unaccustomed to heavenly thinking. So we must work at it.” 
  “What God made us to desire, and therefore we do desire, if we admit it, is exactly what he promises to those who follow Jesus Christ: a resurrected life in a resurrected body, with the resurrected Christ on a resurrected Earth.”

What is Out of this World?  Heaven.  Where is it?  What is it?  When is it?
Ponder these words from John in Revelation 21:2-3….I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Open Door

What is it like to move into a home where just older people live?  My Grandmother Suderman learned, and brought her sweet and sunny disposition with her.  Ed and I, with our four children went to visit.  She smiled and greeted us as we came to her Open Door.  She had many friends there.  People we didn’t know often looked in the open door of her room, and told her, “Good Morning!” with a smile on their faces.  As I think about Grandmother Anna, I reminisce and decide that she must have coined the phrase, Love is an open door.

As the weather becomes warmer, I open my front door and think of my Grandmother and wonder if I share her open door desire.  I remember my mother’s description of Gerhard and Anna’s first home, a dirty one room shack, after their marriage in March, 1900.  There Grandmother made her first home – with lye soap, she scrubbed the ceiling, walls and floor to make it livable.  She used wrapping paper to cut lace-like curtains.  Grandmother battled field mice with traps, rags soaked in lye, nailing tin on the many holes.  When a skunk tried to move under the floor of their house, Grandmother said they must move.  They did – to the next section with a three-room house.  The tax assessor must have thought it was impossible to farm with their few possessions – two horses, one cow, a wagon, a top-buggy and a sulky plow. 

Whenever we visited Grandpa and Grandma, I remember open arms, and an open door and a loving welcome.  There was never a doubt or a cross word when we went to Grandpa and Grandma’s house.  When they came over, the love continued to grow stronger.  We did nothing to deserve their love.  We simply returned their love.  I will add, Love is an open door to the heart.

A door opens to love.  A door opens to sharing.  A door opens to fellowship.  A door opens to living life with joy…  “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.  Revelation 3:20.

One of the ‘open door’ scriptures I found is this:  for they did not believe God or trust him to care for them.  But he commanded the skies to open; he opened the doors of heaven.
 He rained down manna for them to eat; he gave them bread from heaven.
Psalm 78:22-24

God is love – Love is God – God personifies love.  Even when we do not believe God or trust Him, God is Love.  The children of Israel are his, and he continues to meet their needs.  Opening the door of heaven, God gave them the bread of heaven while in the wilderness.

When life seems bleak and tenuous; overwhelming darkness envelopes us, God still loves us.  He meets our needs.  He opens the doors of heaven and rains down His Blessings, His Manna.  Just as the Israelites had to gather the Manna each morning, we must choose to love and trust God.  Is this too difficult to trust God, the Creator of all that we see about us?  You say you can’t accept what you can’t see? You just shut the door to Light and Life.

The Open Door only happens with God in our lives.  The Door is Closed when God is removed from our hearts.  It is our choice.  What follows?  Fear and distrust enters our hearts.  We fear when we doubt those around us.  Why is it that insurance suggests two locks on the door?  Why do businesses flourish that sell security?  Why do we need a gun to protect ourselves?  Why does road rage escalate into aggressive behavior?  Why do countries need to wage war?

 We have the power to not choose God, to not choose Jesus. We have the power to close that open door that stands between God and us.   I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.”  Revelation 3:8 

It takes strength to obey the Word of God and not deny Him.  For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:13.  And that strength comes only from God when we trust Him.

How often when we moved to a different home in our early married life, I thought a new coat of paint would make things new.  I did not understand that transformation is also available for the mind and heart that leads to Open Door living.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:2

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

This is God’s promise to us…And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.  I am not waiting until the last minute or a dire need before I knock on the door.  I keep seeking, asking, and knocking for the promises God has for me.  It is not what I do for Him, but what He has done for me that counts.  Jesus died on the cross for me and for you.  We can only give Him our hearts. 

Do you remember the song that is taught to little ones?  It is for grandparents and parents, too.  Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.  Little ones to Him belong – they are weak but He is strong.  Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.”

The open door for me…the open door for me…You are the Way, You are the Truth, You are the Life, You’re the open door for me…(Circleslide – Echoes of the Light)


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

In The Wilderness

Wilderness – an uncultivated, uninhabited and inhospitable region of wastes, bush, or wild area. A ‘no man’s land’ where it is difficult to survive.  A wild and uncultivated region – a waste land. A place where one goes or is placed due to circumstances.

Joseph’s brothers threw him into a pit in the wilderness when he was a young boy.  Imagine the thoughts of the young boy of 17 as he sat in the pit with no water.  For how long was he in the pit?  The Bible does not say.  Joseph heard the Midianite traders as they approached, strangers, who lifted him out of the pit.  They sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver and Joseph was taken to the land of Egypt, a strange place. And the separation from his father grew in years from the pit to the second in command of Egypt.  Did he forget Yahweh during that time?  He was faithful and Yahweh had plans for Joseph in this strange wilderness. 

I wonder in awe at Joseph’s faithfulness to the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob was so strong that even when he was away from them, Joseph continued to obey and follow the LORD of Hosts through out the time in prison in Egypt.  His faith and trust in God can only be described as exemplary.  Separated from his family, he continued to believe and trust God.  In today’s world, at that age, the ‘freedom’ from parental restrictions and beliefs are expressed with rebellion against their teachings.  Their choices often lead to a ‘wilderness’ of their choosing – drugs, the ‘bad boy’ syndrome and companions who are less than desirable.

The fear of the unknown is a ‘wilderness’ all its own.  Somehow we want to be in control of our lives and the times when suddenly we cannot count on life being the way it has always been, we are shaken at the reality of change.  It can be a separation, a catastrophic loss – a fire – an earthquake – a job – a death of a loved one.  We are plunged into the depths of a deep pit without any sustenance or resources.

Why?  A series of questions follow.  What did I do?  What didn’t I do? After awhile, the direction of the questions change focus – God why did you allow this to happen?  King David wrote My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.  Psalm 22:1-3

The WHY word seems to be emblazoned not only on our heart, but across the vast sky that is filled with darkness.  There is no answer.  A cold chill travels down my spine.  Suddenly, without volition, I begin praying to the God who seems not to answer, there is no other resource in this ‘wilderness’ of fear and doubt.

Maybe God isn’t really there?  Satan begins to whisper the same words as Elijah when the followers of Baal tried to raise their God to send fire down on the altar.  Maybe he is asleep, or he is musing, or on a journey… (I Kings 18:26-28)  Being ‘in the wilderness’ is more difficult when you don’t know you are in one.
How do you know you are ‘in a wilderness’?  When you feel you have lost control and when you feel you have been separated from God.  For those who have already denied the existence of God, you will have no notice of the Wilderness Experience.  The Wilderness experience is for believers in God. 

Feeling alone in a dark pit is a sure understanding of being ‘in the wilderness’.  It is a time when there is no joy or peace – just unrest.  The fear that is felt at that time is paralyzing. It is a time when a Christian doubts his or her faith in God.  This is when one cuts ties with close friends and relatives, and retreats.  The dark Pit seems to shelter one for a time, but the echoing emptiness of life makes one reach out to others.

So what do we do when we are in the depths of a personal Wilderness?  Reach Out!  First, reach out to God and then to God’s Followers.  Believe!  Trust!  Pray! 

April 2012, began my Wilderness Experience, with the diagnosis of my husband’s Dementia.  The doctor ushered me in a small room, too small for the words that were to come.  “Your husband has Lewy Body Dementia and there is no cure.  He will only grow worse.”  When the words stopped bouncing around the room, I smiled calmly and said, “Thank you.”  I found my husband and walked into the bright sunshine.  I didn’t know why the sun was shining.  The world was the same as before I heard the doctor’s words.

Then came decisions and preparations for what was to come.  I knew that we would need family.  We made the decision together, although my husband cannot remember it now.  We would move to Illinois to be with our 3rd son.  All of our four children, from four states, came to help us prepare to sell our home of 38 years, pack and move.  As we drove away from our home, I did not look back.

In preparing for the move and cutting ties, I found the peace of God.  He was with me every step.  There was not a silent time.  There were too many blessings to count.  The prayer partners continue to pray after three years for us.  One of our three sons died – another wilderness, and yet God sustains us. 

In June 2014, I began searching for scriptures to post on Facebook…and they led to writing daily journal-snippets of what these verses mean to me.  In our new church home, I found friends, Bible Study partners and another way of living in a place that was new.  God gave us our son and daughter-in-law, with servant-hearts, who prepared a place for living and faithfully make life easier.  Even the selection of doctors has been of God. 

It continues in 2015, and like most Wilderness experiences, I can see no end. As the Dementia erodes my husband’s memories, God continues to increase my faith as I trust Him for each step we take.  My heart is filled with thanksgiving and His Joy and Peace.

The sun comes up - It's a new day dawning - It's time to sing Your song again - Whatever may pass - And whatever lies before me - Let me be singing - When the evening comes - Bless the Lord oh my soul (Matt Redman)