Sunday, September 25, 2016

AN INSIDE LOOK


During times past when I experienced surgery, the O.R. team of doctors, no matter how skilled, never found my soul by probing all that is within me with any of their instruments.

Nor can they accidentally destroy my soul by the slip of a knife. Nor will the technicians who administer the MRI, CAT scan, the X-Ray, or the ultra sound find my soul. But it's there—my eternal, nonphysical, immaterial soul--the real me! And it will some day separate from my body and leave with its identity, intellect, and memory intact to go to its forever destiny. For the one who is “in Christ” the eternal soul is going to God.

The doctors have no trouble seeing other inward parts and they go about fixing whatever is the disorder in all that is within me—all that can't be seen by friends and family and strangers who are around me because it is all hidden under my unable-to-see-through skin.

Have I ever thanked God that He didn't create my body with transparent skin through which everyone could see right into my insides, into all that is within me? They would have seen my digestive system working, my kidneys and liver doing what they do, my heart pumping 24/7, and all the rest of the awesome, possibly entertaining, but definitely not attractive stuff going on. What thoughtful, divine wisdom on God's part to respect our inside privacy! Thank You, Lord!

I have been focusing on and trying to unpack Psalm 103:1-5 throughout my summit years. It is a deep well from which to draw truth. These five favorite verses of mine are also self-talk instruction to my soul.Through my soul I can communicate with God and receive His blessing and guidance. My soul, in turn, can bless the Lord on behalf of my body. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name.”

That possability fascinates me. I understand how my soul can bless the Lord, but how can all those organs within me do that? I discover that as I name the various automatic functions and vital organs in all that is within me, I can let each one bless His holy name. I am doing what God wants me to do. This becomes easy as I repeat that praise-blessing like the litany of gratitude in Psalm 136. The following are a few examples. You can become even more specific and as creative as you wish:

My intricate nervous system sends messages throughout my body and tells it how to work. Nervous system and all of my complex network of nerves, bless His holy Name.

My digestive system breaks down food into smaller molecules and absorbs the nutrients into my body. Stomach, intestines, and chemical juices, bless His holy Name.

My waste disposal system is beyond awesome as the bowels and related logistics rid my body of all that is useless for building me up. Bowels and your functions, bless His holy Name.


My skeletal system provides shape and structure to my body. It allows for movement, protects vital organs, and produces blood cells. Bones and skeletal system, bless His holy Name.

My muscular system allows me to move my body, keep my head in position, and allows me to walk, reach, and use my hands. Muscular system, bless His holy Name.

My brain controls body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and breathing and lets me think, dream, reason, and experience emotions. It accepts a flood of information about the world around me and processes it. Brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves, bless His holy Name.


My endocrine system controls my body functions using chemical messengers called hormones. Endocrine system and all my glands, bless His holy Name.

My circulatory system transports oxygen, waste, nutrients, hormones, and heat, around the body. Heart and blood vessels, veins and arteries, bless His holy Name. 
 
My immune system is on the alert fighting disease that would take me down if it failed, and it is designed to function in an involuntary, reflexive manner. Immune system, bless His holy Name.

My respiratory system brings oxygen into the body and gets rid of carbon dioxide. Lungs and bronchials, bless His holy Name.

My urinary system cleanses my blood, rids my body of wastes, maintains salt and water balance. Bladder and kidneys, bless His holy Name.

My communication system with the outside world is complex and awesome.Voice box and vocal chords, tongue and mouth, bless His holy Name.

My five senses through which I involve myself in the world about me give me joy. Feeling, hearing, seeing, smelling, touching senses bless His holy Name.

The bottom line: “I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Thy works, and my soul knows it very well” *Psalm 139:14. How incredible that “all that is within me” has been functioning automatically for so many decades with minimal maintenance, very few tune-ups, and often with willful neglect and improper fueling on my part! So I do well to bless Your holy Name! 


* "I thank you, High God - you're breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration - what a creation!" (From THE MESSAGE paraphrase of Psalm 139:14)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

CHECKING MY BUCKET LIST




 (Encored from 3 years ago at the request of some new viewers who said they missed this.)

 Whenever I approach a birthday...and I've had 91 of them...I take a peek at what's still on my “Bucket List."

     Of course, when I was a child, my little toy pail was full of trivial childish wishes. In youth, with stars in my eyes, my bucket held dreams. In adult life it was full of goals and hopes and plans. In prime of life, out of the bucket began to come some concrete achievements.

Now in my summit years, I would do well to examine what remains on my bucket list. Is my bucket empty because I've been there and done everything? Or have I given up on some things that were there from the beginning but I thought were impossible? Should I still press on to accomplish what's left in my bucket?

I was curious about the origin of the bucket analogy and did some online research. “The Bucket List" was the title of a movie about two terminally ill men and what they set out to do before they died. It came to mean a list of however many things one might want to accomplish before mortality closes the door.

That is, before you “kick the bucket,” which is a slang term that has come to mean dying. In short, it’s a list, actual or imaginary, of what you hope to accomplish or do or be in your lifetime. But where did the bucket aspect come from? One source traced it to the Middle Ages when hanging was a common form of capital punishment. The victim would be taken to an elevated scaffold with a noose around his neck. He would stand on an overturned bucket or pail. When the bucket would be kicked out from under him, his body would drop, the rope would tighten, and voila, he would be hanged.

In a sense, since a bucket list is a list of goals to achieve or roles in life or places I would like to go, or things I would like to do, I should ask myself, “Just who put those items in my bucket? Did I? Or were they the expectations of others?” As a Christian I should ask at any calendar season of my life, “Have I consulted God for the contents of my life bucket? Or am I simply on an ego trip? Are there things that should not even have been on my bucket list? Are there important things I have omitted?”

In rural China, I have seen two heavily loaded buckets being carried by one person. A long pole is suspended across the shoulders and two buckets in balance are hung on each end of the pole. It might take two buckets to contain all that some of us would like to accomplish in one lifetime.

There is nothing wrong with having personal goals and wishes and desires and dreams. It is good and right to fill up one bucket with that kind of list. Nevertheless, I should balance it in the other bucket with a list of God’s priorities and purposes for creating me and calling me to become His child. One bucket may contain temporal desires; the other, eternal values and desires in sync with the will of God. 
 
God isn’t about the business of raining on our parade or taking all the fun out of life. The Scripture declares, “God has given us richly all things to enjoy.” God created the world and everything in it for man and called it “Good.” In the Psalms we read, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Faithful to His promise, the Lord has given me a long lifetime of the desires of my heart.

God’s storehouse of goodness and mercies has overflowed to me. Among His many blessings, I have traveled the world, I have served the Lord with gladness throughout the many decades, I have lived to delight in my children, my grandchildren, and my great-grandchildren. I couldn't even count His blessings to me by the bucket—more like by the barrel! 
 
 The bucket list of how God wants to favor His children is a lot weightier and richer and a greater treasure than anything we could think of to put on our own bucket list of “to do’s or to be’s.” The nature of God is generosity, always giving us more abundance than we can ask or imagine. The question I ask myself is not, “Have I accomplished all that I want to do from my bucket list?”  

I can’t go wrong with continually praying, “Lord, I want Your will to be done in my life on earth as it is in heaven. If there is still anything left on my life bucket list that would please You, show me how to fulfill it!”

Friday, September 23, 2016

DESTINY DECISIONS


Which road should we take? Decisions face us no matter what our age or state in life. 

We are like children in need of God's help in every single daily decision. We don't know the implications of our choices because we are finite. Only our eternal God and Father knows where each road will lead

Isn't it reasonable that we should ask Him which road to take even in our minutia choices many times each day? Often our choice is between an easy, smooth road, an ordinary one for ordinary folks, a crooked one, a rough one, a road with many ups and downs, a more difficult but right road. One road may be a detour. Perhaps there is a road less traveled but one which carries great joy and blessings.

Some choices are determined for us by virtue of the road we chose early in life or by our present constricting circumstances. Our youthful choices put us on some roads from which there is no turning back. Our direction and destiny is largely determined by previous choices and carries with it more detailed subsequent choices until the end of life.

Choices are needed because God is so generous to have created us with free will

We are not robots to perform at His command or puppets on strings whom He controls without our will. He apparently created myriads of angels specifically to fulfill His assignments regarding His people. They assist us “in all our ways,” but we still choose our ways. Nor does God demand that we love Him—He wants us to love Him with our free will, although He first loved us while we were yet sinners. 

Why is it that our choices are tainted and bent in the wrong direction? We suffer the result of Adam's sin and are born with wills that are prone to make wrong decisions. So, how to resolve this clash of wills? Ultimately, God wants us to freely choose to do His will, then our will melds as one with His will. We freely obey Him and find magnified joy in doing His will.


By the time we are toddlers we are already good at practicing our free will choices. Our flawed original nature rears its ugly head even in an innocent, tow-headed, sweet child. We want to do things “our way” and are prone to do things to please our own ego. We start on life's journey with a blemished capability to choose the right road by ourselves. 
We are just as likely to take off running down a road not knowing at all where it leads (as did my great-grandson Kyle in the photo).

We have momentous choices to make in our youth—friends, education, marriage, child raising, career, religious faith—each of those decisions catapult us in permanent directions. Mid-life carries its own specific decisions—possible job loss, marriage breakup, financial decisions, declining health, wayward children, eventually the trauma of retirement. Advanced years bring many excruciating decisions which are often made for us by others—health issues, accept chemo or not, financial insecurity, relocation to care facilities, divorce or abandonment after a lifetime together, death of spouse, neglect from family members, hospice care, dementia.

How shall we make the right decisions? Which road shall we take? One never-fail spiritual choice overrides all other principles and applies to wisdom even in the details of daily choices: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5,6). That applies to the Isaiah 45 inevitable rough roads being made smooth too.

And to the ones where we made wrong choices and took the wrong road? Yes! God can write straight even with crooked lines.



SELAH Reflections


My next book has undergone some tweaking as to title and theme. This is a sneak preview to give my blog viewers a heads up on what is forthcoming. 

The title is now SELAH REFLECTIONS: Press the PAUSE Button.

The contents is a compilation of “the best of” my blog topics for the past two years—those on which my blog viewers commented most and found the most meaningful in their own lives.

To edit them into print version still takes considerable time and focus. My projected time line? I'm working toward having the book off the press and released before the end of this year. 

I believe God would have me prepare it to go directly into a book-in-print rather than, as I initially thought, to offer it temporarily as an e-book because it would cost less to produce. I'm making this decision by faith whether I have funds in hand or not. I'm doing so at my viewers' urgings that it be available at least in a limited edition paperback for the average reader who seems to prefer reading a book in hand. It will still be available in tandem as an e-book.


I had a delightful time exploring the “Selah” factor as a carryover from Davidic psalmody to apply to what I am offering my readers in this book. The fruits of my research on that curious word follow:

SELAH [see-luh, sel-uh] seems to be a mystery word in the Hebrew language. Its exact meaning is obscure. Even noted biblical scholars admit to only guessing how it was used in the context of the Psalms at the time of their writing.

Selah occurs 71 times in the Psalms and 3 times in the book of Habakkuk. Some believe it might have been a musical term since many of the Psalms were sung to the accompaniment of instruments. Most versions of the Bible do not even attempt to translate selah but simply transliterate the word straight from the Hebrew. Habakkuk’s prayer in chapter 3 inspires the reader to pause and praise God for His mercy, power, sustaining grace, and sufficiency.

An alternative meaning might be that selah is a musician's notation, perhaps indicating a pause to take a breath, perhaps lifting one's hands in worship. It might signify a rest to the singers and/or instrumentalists who performed the psalms, or perhaps an instruction to sing a cappella or let the instruments play alone. The pause could also have been to praise the One about whom the song was speaking, perhaps even lifting hands in worship. We'll really have to wait and find out in Heaven when the Choirs on High will sing the Psalms as they were originally written!

Perhaps the best way to think of selah is a combination of all the following meanings: pause, be silent, think about, ponder over, meditate on - then put into action. When reading Scripture and spiritual writings, think about what you just read, roll it over in your mind and spirit. 
 
For example in Psalm 44:7-8 when we read and think over what God has done, pause, think about what the words say. We are exhorted to boast on Him all day and praise His name. When we put this into action (talk about what He has done) for us – and praise Him, then we will see the result in our own lives. In short, pause, meditate and practice. 
 
The paraphrased Amplified Bible adds “pause and calmly think about that” to each verse where selah appears. When we see the word selah in a psalm, we should pause to carefully weigh the meaning of what we have just read or heard, lifting up our hearts in praise to God for His great truths. “All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing the praises of your name. Selah!” (Psalm 66:4) It is often a sort of substitute for Amen, so be it. A forever term. 
 
The meaning I use in this book combines the several similar concepts: being silent, pausing and praising God, calmly thinking about that, weighing the meaning of what you have just read, rolling it over in your mind and spirit, and putting into action what was said: go practice it now.
The short pieces of thought-reflections that I have written in this book are not Holy Writ nor inspired in the sense of Scripture, of course. But I do offer them as something to Selah, PAUSE and think about, to glean whatever Christian truth they may reveal. I hope some of them may qualify for the “whatever things are true ….[and the rest of the whatevers Saint Paul listed]....if there is anything worthy of praise, [pause] and let your mind dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Putting it all together, I'm applying selah in the sense of accentuating the importance of what I'm sharing with my readers: to “press the PAUSE button” of our busy lives, collect our scattered thoughts, and be silent. Allow what is written to impress the reader in whatever ways the Holy Spirit is working in his or her life.

 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

LEAVING LEGACY FOOTPRINTS

One of the most satisfying experiences of my life has been to assist others in leaving a legacy of their lives to their families and friends. 

To date, I've helped personally about a dozen friends not only to think about writing their life story and firing them up to get started, but to aid them all the way through the process to the excitement of holding their finished book in their hands.

They've told me that it's something like birthing a baby from conception to delivery—and it does take struggle and sometimes pain, overcoming obstacles, intense work and prayer, and always patience. But difficulties are forgotten when you finally see your “baby!” It is worth it all!

Most of those happy campers who wrote their life story are not writers in any professional sense. They simply write in a home-style way what they want to say to their families as a historical record and heritage keepsake. They finance their own production and printing. There is no thought about making money selling their book because it turns out that they generously give away most of the copies as their Christian witness. It's not a heavy financial burden since their press run for a first printing is often only about a hundred copies. If the demand is greater, reprints take only a few weeks.

I published a book THIS IS YOUR LIFE! WRITE IT! to walk you through the entire process of writing your story from idea to where and how to publish it or even simply duplicate copies.


I'm offering to any of my blog viewers in the U.S. a FREE copy of my $10 paperback of 115 pages just for the cost of postage ($4.00) only from now until October 15. Don't miss this offer even if you are just thinking about it. Contact me leonachoy@gmail.com. and send me your mailing address and postage.Or...do you know a friend who should be thinking about writing their story?

Pictured here is the most recent book I had the joy of helping to its birth. And it's loaded with family photos! The author is my childhood friend, Sue. Both of us are great-grandmothers, and this was her first book released on her 90th birthday. You can do it too! To inspire you to write your story, I'll quote from her introduction:

“Today as I looked out of my bedroom window, I saw a small lacy Japanese Maple leaf clinging tenaciously to a thin branch moving in the breeze. It is late winter. The deciduous trees have long shed their leaves. I saw small bulges in the branches indicating where new growth is waiting to sprout to take their place. Much like a relay runner it is waiting to pass the little “baton” on to another. But this little weathered leaf was the only one to remain on the tree outside my window. I kept watching it swing back and forth, still clinging to its life from the limb. Very soon, it too will slip away as did other leaves. It's just not time yet.

“As I watched it swing in the breeze, tears started rolling down my cheek. “Hang on there, little leaf,” I kept telling it. “Please don't give up yet.” Once strong, deep red, and beautiful, it was now showing its age and beginning to get smaller. It reminded me of old age—this “late winter” stage of life that I was now experiencing. Old age is like that. Once we were strong, physically attractive, and vibrant, exciting! But gradually the sap in our energy starts giving out, and we begin losing the strength and energy that once was ours.

“As I looked out the window I saw that other “leaves” had long departed, much like other dear friends and loved ones whom I have known. Gradually, one by one, they slipped away, giving way to the next generation to take their place. Now they were gone. New life began for them.

“This morning I too saw myself much like that single leaf, still attached to the living branch, and tenaciously hanging on. I love life! I love living! I long for that vibrancy and energy of what I once did and felt. It hurts to grow old. It's hard to keep clinging, but I'm still hanging on the branch. Maybe, however, it is the Branch that is holding on to me. “It” is my Source of Life. Yes, the Lord Jesus Christ is my Branch. He alone is my “All sufficient strength”--my El Shaddai. Only He will know the right time to bid me, “Come Home, little leaf.” Only then will I fly away! Until then I will cling to the promise He has made: “My grace is sufficient for Thee; My strength is made perfect in your weakness.”

“But look! Those little tiny nubs of promise are already forming on those winter branches. Soon there will be new life coming in the springtime of resurrection. God promises hope and life everlasting to all who claim Him as Savior and Lord. The best is yet to come!”


Coincidentally, my next door neighbor Doug, a budding novelist and poet in his retirement, penned a vivid, sensory poem recently that goes right along with Sue's theme. I share it below:


A Single Leaf Falling

Watching for wildlife
on my forested ridge,
I espied instead
the falling of a single leaf.

The unhurried dropping
of one oxygenating remnant
caught my attention,
as though a yellow-brown
raptor were plummeting.

Looking downward and around,
summer's leafy green
canopy still sheltered the foothill --
with only a hint of autumnal
changes peeking out from tree to tree.

Strange that just one contribution
to September's offering plate
would evoke a sense
of pending transition
from Pentecost to Advent.
On this, I'd now meditate.

Pausing, I realized
that one hint of camo-color
harbingered so much more.
Did I hear bells tolling a new season?
Did I feel the wind stirring
something stronger than a breeze?
Did I taste the tang of a crisp morning?
Did I smell the drier air inhaled with ease?

Affirming responses
sent echoes of happy resonances
bouncing off my soul as I sat here head askance,
noting a few chords of nature
(that each moment await our watchful ear).

I love the literary reproduction adventure of inspiring my friends to release their own writing gift. It is my joy to showcase their writing to bless others.

Monday, September 19, 2016

REFORMED HAT HATER


Or may I say “Reformed Mad Hatter” with an allusion to the book Alice in Wonderland?

I grew up in the 1930-40's when children and teen girls were expected to wear hats and gloves on more formal occasions. That included wearing them to church.

 I'm not a hat person! I truly hated hats. I didn't think I had the right kind of hair that you could squish under a hat, nor the right shape of head for a hat. Hats looked silly. I was a spoiled only child and a sullen, complaining teen, overly sensitive because I was a shy introvert. I felt that people would laugh at me. So I refused to wear a hat!

Who knew that in the many decades of my long life, in the various roles I played in life, I would wear many hats?

They would be in different styles according to my respective relationships, in the assorted positions I held in missions work and ministries, in broadcasting, in writing and publishing and public speaking of which I was privileged to be part throughout my life. I would be quite overwhelmed at times with how many hats I was obliged to wear—and usually several at the same time.

I admit to struggling against some of those hats (roles in life). Certain ones didn't seem to fit me. I was sure they belonged to someone else or that someone else could wear them more comfortably. But God handed them to me anyway, saying, “I designed them for you myself so I'm trusting you to wear them willingly and with honor.”

In prime child bearing and child raising years I complained that the wife hat and the mother hat were enough, that while I was giving my all to that appointed task, I couldn't wear any ministry hats. God shook His head, so to speak, and gently said that the blessing of serving would still be mine in tandem with holy homemaking. It was.

At times in my life I was expected to wear hats on top of hats, all at the same time although the extra hats should have been worn by several people. Why did I have to do the work of so many who should have been pulling their own load? But God smiled and assured me that His grace was sufficient for any task He would call me to. And it was.

When I was asked to wear a widow's hat, I dug in my heels and said, "I can't do it; it is too difficult an adjustment." The Lord comforted me and said that there was a special place in His heart for widows and orphans—and that He knew I was an orphan, so I had a double portion of His loving care and provision. His grace was sufficient.

When God handed me the hat of a cancer survivor, I asked Him three times, "Please take such a painful thorn out of my flesh." I couldn't understand how such a thing could be in His perfect plan. He promised me that when the burden grew heavy He would provide even more grace. Later, that I would understand the reasons for my “whys.” Eventually, I do have some answers.

When the Lord handed me a rather tattered, out-of-fashion hat, I recognized it as a symbol of the elderly. I said, "It's too soon, I'm not ready—the limitations, the weaknesses...." He said it was one of His choicest pleasures to satisfy His beloved children with long life. I held back a tear, nodded, and accepted the hat. “Thank You! I don't deserve such a precious gift.”

He immediately gave me two more head pieces that looked more like crowns than hats. He said they were “goodness and mercy” and they had always been mine, following me in the paths of righteousness all the days of my life.

Just when I finally realized that I was truly blessed and privileged to have been given so many hats by the Lord to wear on into my nonagenarian years, He surprised me by pulling out of His hat box two more hats that glistened and glittered and glowed like polished silver and gold. “These are your reward: One beautiful hat is because you are honored to be called “Grandma.Inside the hat are 10 smaller hats; and the other hat is to honor you by being called “Great-Grandma.” In it are 11 still smaller hats. All meant to 'satisfy your years with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle.'” (Psalm 103:5)

That final touch of God's loving favor really melted me to shed tears of joy and gratitude for His abundant grace-shower of Hat Blessings for this original Hat Hater with a "Hattitude!"

SELF-TALK

I take issue with some who might say that talking to yourself is a sign that you have some mental problem. 

Don't we all know men who talk to their cars or to their computers (sometimes not very nicely!) and to other mechanical and technical non-human objects? Women may talk to their mirrors or their wardrobes or even their bodies. We have every reason to talk to ourselves, when we need to. Especially talk to our souls to remind ourselves to pay attention to what we know to be right and true.

I believe there is good biblical precedent to addressing oneself. In Psalm 42 David talks to his soul, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.” In other words, “Come on, soul, you have no reason to be despondent. Why be upset? Look at the big picture from God's side, Of course He will never let you down!” 

David obviously talked to his soul a whole lot because his soul so often needed shoring up and support when he was dragging. As we read the Psalms, the great and mighty king David seemed to be in one distress after another and having an on-going pity party. Maybe his soul needed a scolding, as in the above passage. How about our souls?

On another occasion Jonathan, David's good buddy, “encouraged David.” But there will not always be a Jonathan around who will encourage us or lift us up or perhaps correct us. In a time of heavy duty trouble when all seemed lost and everyone turned against him, David “encouraged himself in the Lord His God.” That's when self-talk is critically needed.

In the New Testament we can find a number of occasions when people talked to themselves. The rich businessman used self-talk to convince himself that he needed a mega-building program for storage warehouses for his overflowing prosperity so he could be secure in retirement, not realizing that his soul would be required of him that very night. Then in Luke 15 the prodigal son gave himself a stern tongue lashing when at last he hit bottom in the pig pen. That talking to made sense to him and led him to get up out of the slop and go home to his father's house.

In the book of Jude he exhorts us to “build yourselves up” on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, “keeping yourselves” in the love of God. We aren't supposed to be coddled all the time, expecting to be spoon fed our spiritual nourishment when we should be the mature ones. Let's grow up.

We need to take responsibility for our own nourishment by building ourselves up. Body building does have a little value, writes Saint Paul, but taking responsibility for building up our own spirits is what reaps eternal results. And if that takes a good talking to ourselves, taking ourselves in hand, and shaking ourselves to sober up and obey what we know to be God's will—then so be it!

How long has it been since you or I have taken a good look at our spiritual selves in a mirror and given ourselves a good talking to? If we can't see ourselves clearly enough to talk straight to ourselves without any excuses, God may have to send along a Nathan to tell us a little story with a very sharp personal moral. (2 Samuel 12:1-13)