Friday, July 26, 2013


Throw them out? Store them? Use them broken? Mend them? Decisions about broken things become more difficult as years go by.

A quick inspection of our closets, basement, and garage, reveals an accumulation of broken things. If we have what we used to call an attic, it would be cluttered too. Some people, are obsessed with keeping such stuff in the event that they might use it someday. On the other hand, I tend to be a thrower-outer. Some things have sentimental value like family photos and scrapbooks of our children's or grandchildren’s refrigerator art. We'll probably keep those. But let's face it—most other things are space-wasters.

The older we become, the more broken things of the spirit and emotions we accumulate. Such intangibles hurt even more than a broken arm. Our past breaks up. People move and places change. Landmarks disappear. Our roots are severed—our parents are gone along with our childhood memories. When our children grow up and leave home, we feel that distance and time have broken off our branches.

Our roles in life change with the cycling years. Our self-worth and influence feel fractured. Can we afford to cry over such breaks? Is it worthwhile to waste today's priceless limited time gazing in the rear view mirror of yesterday? Why should we apply Band-Aids or splints to broken things in our past when God has brand new adventures available to us? 

Broken things are space-wasters of the spirit that clutter our heart-garages and mental-attics. The Holy Spirit is the Great Motivator, the Eternal Prompter; He draws us, pushes us, and impels us to keep moving on to new things instead of hugging broken things. "Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they spring forth, I proclaim them to you" (Isaiah 42:9). Jesus promised, “Behold, I make all things new!” (Revelation 21:5)

Sometimes the Lord deliberately severs our roots to pull us out of the hardened soil of the familiar that prevents us from stretching and growing to the full potential God planned for us. As chronologically maturing Christians, let's not allow memories, good or bad, to become ponderous anchors for our life ships to hold us back from sailing over the wide ocean of what God has prepared for us. The only reason to pay attention to our past is to recount God's blessings.

When we leave a broken relationship behind, precious though it may have been—or painful—just over the horizon may be a surprising new relationship. A broken job or broken health may motivate us to unfold wings we've never tried before. Broken things are part of God's intensive care for us. He intends them for our good.

God's marching order regarding broken things is, "One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13,14).


Lord, broken things hurt!
I have broken roots:
Places of my early years
have changed;
they don't look the same
and I'm a stranger there.
No one remembers my name.
I can't fit in anywhere.
Friends of my youth are gone,
displaced, or Moved On;
ties of the past
are broken by time
erased by circumstance.

I have broken branches:
Young ones are out the door
to live no more under my care
no longer needing me.
Starting another family tree.
They grow their own branches
which seem to me
even more fragile than mine.

I feel broken:
There was a time
when I was somebody
known in the gates,
called upon, leaned upon.
Now I feel fractured,
shattered, useless.
I don't rhyme with anyone and
I'm out of rhythm with the times,
with the new world out there
that doesn't care
who I was or am.

Lord, You too were broken:
Your heart and body were
broken for me like bread
that You multiplied
when many were fed.
You feel the same infirmity
that touches me.

Help me to learn Your ways:
Whatever You allow
to be broken now
makes room for the new
to spring into view.

You uproot the familiar
to reveal broader horizons.
You shift a relationship
to stretch my reach.
You change my role in life
to prompt fresh bonding.
Because You love me
You sever that which chains
me to the common,
the habitual, and accustomed.

Thank You, Lord.
I accept Your way
for with the broken things
You give my spirit wings!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Perhaps David the Psalmist checked himself out in a primitive mirror of that day or saw his reflection in a quiet pool. One look and he concluded the obvious, as above. Chronologically, I acknowledge the same. I have already been young once—been there, done that. 

Really, I don't think of myself as old, as in “ancient”! “Old” isn't a four letter word to be avoided because it is uncomplimentary. It's only 3 letters, but if you put a “g” before it and make it 4, you have “gold,” and these are supposed to be our most precious golden years.

One grows older gradually and that is a gift in itself. One doesn't suddenly get old. One becomes older simply by living longer. It's our human condition, no exceptions. So I'm quite used to the idea. An email came to me listing some of the pluses of advancing age. I didn't identify with them all, nevertheless I felt an affinity with the spirit of most. I'll just venture a few observations.

I'm now becoming the person I've wanted to be. Well, not necessarily, certainly not my body! Looking in the mirror I sometimes despair over the wrinkles, the gravity pull, and the “adipose tissue” (abdominous excess, i.e. fat.) In contrast, where did the collagen go when it disappeared from my arms and other mostly hidden places? Often I'm surprised to look closely at that elderly person who lives in my mirror. But I don't agonize long over such things. I would never trade my amazing friends, my fulfilling life, my loving family, and my hopefully acquired wisdom for less gray hair or a flatter belly. 

Some things get better with age. Yes, perhaps wine and cheese. As I've aged, I've become kinder to myself and less critical of others. I've become my own best friend. I no longer feel guilty for eating that extra cookie, for not always making my bed, or for buying something silly that I don't really need but that gives me pleasure. Within limits, of course, I'm entitled to be messy if I wish and leave dishes in the sink overnight occasionally. I've given myself permission to stop and smell as many roses as I want to. 

I've seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon before they experienced the great freedom that comes with being elderly. Whose business is it if I choose to read all night, spend hours on the computer, and then sleep until--? No one sees me when I dance with myself while reveling in a joyful serendipity moment the Lord brought into my life. Or if in private I wish to weep over a past hurt or disappointment. I'm not envious of young friends with smooth bodies and boundless energy. They, too, will get old (if they're blessed). I know I'm sometimes forgetful. Then again, some things in life are just as well forgotten. I eventually remember the important things, but if not, they couldn't have been that important anyway.

Sure, over the years my heart has been wounded. I don't say broken, because God keeps my fragile heart from fragmenting completely. How can I not grieve deeply when I or someone else loses a loved one, or feel keenly when a friend suffers, or even when someone's beloved pet gets hit by a car? Such experiences give me strength and understanding and compassion. If I kept my heart to myself, it would be sterile and cold. 

I'm so blessed to have lived long enough for my hair to turn gray and have my youthful laughs forever etched into my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair turned silver. 

Becoming older has set me free. I can now say "no" and not feel guilty about it. I can say "yes" when something fits into my more leisurely schedule. As I advance in years, it's easier to be a bit more outspoken. I don't care as much now about what other people think. I've even earned the right to be wrong—on very rare occasions, of course!

I'm no longer concerned about what could have been, nor do I worry about what will be. I try to emulate the Proverbs 31 woman, “She smiles at the future. She opens her mouth in wisdom.” After all these years, I've finally made peace with the person I've become. I'm not going to live forever on Planet Earth, but while I'm still in my mortal “earth suit” I won't waste time lamenting what it looks like now. It has served me well. God has designed a fantastic and fashionable “space suit” for me to wear in my eternal life-to-come that is wrinkle-proof and ageless. 

Today I'm going to appreciate every one of God's not-so-ordinary miracles of life and breath and what's left of my diminishing five senses. I will greet the day with thanksgiving, joy, and anticipation. I will live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly, appreciate my blessings and leave the rest to God.

I've decided to accept growing older as a generous bonus gift from our loving God Who is called “The Ancient of Days.” I doubt that He minds that praiseworthy chronologically-slanted title!

In the Church calendar we commemorate Ash Wednesday annually with its somber reminder of our mortality, “Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). The priest traces a cross on our forehead with ashes from the previous palm fronds we received on Palm Sunday. It is a reminder that we are human and only living temporarily as pilgrims on Planet Earth.

Paul reminds us of the same thing. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels...” (2 Corinthians 4:7). In clay pots, that is. They are breakable, fragile, delicate, flimsy, weak, short-lived, and ultimately and inevitably end up as dust. But within them, within me, is a “treasure” which is Christ indwelling my undying, immortal soul by the Holy Spirit. My body, the clay pot, is destructible but the Treasure is imperishable.

At some unavoidable point, we all must face, I too must face, The Ultimate Change, the Crowning Celebration, the Launch from our particular summit into the Eternal Life To Come. God is preparing us throughout our lives for that day through the transitory aspects of life, the changes, and the instability of human happenings. He keeps us in transition for that Changeover.


No life structures last; all will pass.
Adjustments and change
transitions and turning points
crossroads and crises—
nothing stays the same.

It seems that as soon as I’m serene,
God shifts the scene.
He kaleidoscopes my life
upsets my comfort zone
and my settled world
shattering and fragmenting it
into a totally new pattern.

God quicksilvers my human securities
not in careless caprice
but with Divine purpose.
He is in pursuit of my transition
pulling up my temporal, earthly roots
to replant them in a heavenly climate.

So I shall embrace that which deviates
from my comfortable place!
I will ride the wave and joyfully
let Him rearrange my life
and not estrange myself from change:
It is my angelic friend
conducting me along the road
of ultimate transformation
sandpapering me, abrasing
my inclination to petrifaction.

God is intentionally keeping me in motion
preparing me for The Great Change:
my transfiguration
into the person I shall be
when I exchange my mortality
for His image in Eternity!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


  (Musical terms in italics. From Leona's book-in-progress, chapter 10 "Singing on my Summit")

Sometime I sing a capella without accompaniment. Advancing age brings with it inevitable lonely experiences. However, I will never sing alone. God will be with me always, never leaving or forsaking me.

My summit season is for singing in F#. I amsharpening my focus” to value things that are eternal, not the things of this world which are temporal.

The Holy Spirit is like the little harmonica that our choir conductor blew to start us on the right pitch for the next song we were to sing.

God's limitless graces are like a bulging repertoire. God has prepared them for me so I could perform for His glory when called upon.

At times I live my summit life con dolore with sadness, sorrow, plaintively doloroso. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Life inevitably has grieving times but there is singing after the Lord dries my tears.

Life also has allegro times, serendipity moments, when life still moves briskly and I am cheerful and joyful. God has given us richly all things to enjoy at every season of life.

God guides me tenderly con amore, with love, as I stumble over life's rough terrain, through dark valleys, and up steep mountains.

I must maintain the proper perspective that this life is only a prelude, an introduction, a proving ground to prepare me for what is to come in God's eternal presence.

There are times when I am called upon to give a solo recital, to give witness to what I have learned personally through the life experiences the Lord has brought me through.

Always there is an audience to my life's performance, even in my chronologically advanced years. I cannot let them down. I must take care to persevere and present a strong, joyful song for the Lord for my finale.

Sometimes God composes a medley of my life. Everything looks mixed up and there are only parts of existing pieces, sometimes overlapping. I must remember that He plans each piece for my good, whatever it looks like at the present moment.

I have many monotone days—ordinary, routine, and common. But they all count with God, all are a part of my life classroom experience.

Often I must repeat the lesson God has patiently been trying to teach me, singing the same refrain when I'd rather go on to the next verse of my life song. 

I sometimes pout under the necessity of still practicing scales when I think I am ready for performance. Becoming older does not necessarily mean I am becoming more mature.

The longer I live the more frequently I listen to requiems. I'm singing sad songs for the friends and loved ones who are leaving this life ahead of me.

God gives me “songs in the night,” nocturnal melodies, when He has my ear and my attention in the silence of the night. 

In my faith and practice, I must try diligently to stay on pitch and live in balance, offering melodious praise not an uncertain sound.

On my summit it is inevitable that I have down-tempo experiences, slow in pace, cast down and dismayed. Sometimes I am laid aside and suffer downtime. God wants to teach me through both the highs and lows of life, my “downsittings and my uprisings.”

Too often my life seems made up of muddled melodies, when everything seems harsh, discordant, lacking harmony. Dissonance does not come from God and needs to be replaced by His peace.

God provides happy times of singing in unison, together times of fellowship and camaraderie, praising Him in chorus, sometimes in chant sung in unison in free rhythm because Christ has set me free.

God doesn't tell me in advance how many verses there are in the song of my life as He has planned it. I am only to trust Him.

I must keep my eye on the conductor, God. He has the final say for the tempo of my life, the phrasing, the dynamics and style of His original composition—me. I must heed His facial expressions and gestures as He interprets the concluding opus of my life.

Grace Notes from the Inspired Hymnbook

“I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise [make music] to my God while I have being [while I live]. May my meditation [thoughts] be pleasing [sweet] to him, for I rejoice [find my joy] in the Lord....Bless the Lord, O my soul!” (Psalm 104:33, 34 Amplified version)

“Let all who take refuge in Thee be glad, let them ever sing for joy” (Psalm 5:11).

“Sing to him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy” (Psalm 33:3).

“Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful singing” (Psalm 100:2).

“I shall sing with the spirit and I shall sing with the mind also” (1 Corinthians 14:15).

“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

“Is any among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises” (James 5:13).

“And they sang a new song saying, 'Worthy art Thou to take the book...” (Revelation 5:9).

“But the righteous sings and rejoices” (Proverbs 29:6b).

“I made the widow's heart sing for joy” (Job 29:13b).

“Then Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and said, 'I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted....The Lord is my strength and song...” (Exodus 15:1 and 2a).

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


But not always. 

In fact, at times I haven't felt like singing. I've been impatient, frustrated, and rebellious. Inwardly I stamped my feet like a pouting child. I didn't always sing a happy song while walking through some dark and fearsome valley or through a fiery trial or while nearly drowning in some circumstantial flood.

Like the captured people of God who were carried away to Babylon in ancient days, I have sometimes asked how I could be expected to sing when my heart aches and my tears flow. I've “hung my harp on a willow tree” and no song crossed my lips.

Sometimes I've been confused when God is silent to my prayers and seems to overlook my urgent needs. When His hand doesn't seem to be moving on my behalf even when I've called out to Him in desperation. Nevertheless, through long experience, I perceive that God doesn't blow trumpets to announce His plans in advance for the life agenda of His children. He promised once for all that His plans for me are good and not evil, to give me a future and a hope. 

Without fanfare His plans simply unfold like the petals of a beautiful flower—silently and fragrantly and according to His perfect timing—for His pleasure and for my happiness too. With the patience of His eternal Fatherhood, Abba God has put up with me through the long life He is generously granting me. He comforts and assures me with His eternal, unchanging, unconditional love when I misunderstand His guidance. 

Hindsight is revealing. It is as if I were blindfolded and yet walking with my hand in God's hand, trusting Him to guide me over the rough places, avoid the detours, and draw me on to reach His predestined goal. In my latter years I haven't wanted to keep walking uphill; it is too tiring. My feet drag and my energy flags.

I've even suggested to the Lord that it might be time for me to retire. But His loving silence seems to remind me that "retire" rhymes with "reach higher!" He encourages me to press on the Upward Way, to desire More, to stretch my spirit, to seek to draw closer to Him.

Looking in life's rear view mirror now, I'm beginning to understand how all the experiences the Lord brought me through were meant to position me step by step into the place and circumstances in which I find myself now at the summit of my life. I would never have dreamed where God's guidance would take me, but it has been all good! 

A hymn familiar to me from my youthful years as a Christian by Fanny J. Crosby, the famous songwriter of a past century, expresses it well:

“All the way my Savior leads me; What have I to ask beside? Can I doubt His tender mercy, Who thru life has been my Guide? Heavenly peace, divinest comfort, Here by faith in Him to dwell! For I know whate’er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well...This my song through endless ages: Jesus led me all the way!”

When I first sang that song as a teenager looking dreamily down the misty and idealistic corridors of time to seemingly endless years of unknown adventures, I could not imagine what “all the way” and “whate’er befall me” could involve. With youthful trust I simply put my hand in the hand of Jesus to “lead me all the way.”

He has been faithful! He has never left me or forsaken me. Now at the summit of life with the mature trust of years, I put my hand in the hand of Jesus to “lead me the rest of the way.” 

And that is a good reason to “take my harp off the willow tree” and sing!

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Women are usually the chief "food processors" and servers in their families. Food preparation was a high priority throughout my lifetime, not only for my family of a husband and four sons, but for the hospitality ministry among international students to which we were called by God. I've been expected to make things happen in the kitchen. 

In the summit season of my life, cooking for large gatherings of family or a great deal of formal entertaining take a lesser place in my job description as a mom-grandma. The focus is rather on drumming up enough energy to cook for myself, select nourishing food, and avoid the pitfall of fast food and junk food. Going out for lunch with friends assumes more importance. I've put in the chronological time and earned the right for a senior discount. Besides, it saves cleanup, and I often bring back a doggie-bag for another meal.

Since our human bodies constantly need “our daily bread” to sustain ourselves with sufficient strength to carry on our responsibilities in any season of life, it isn't surprising that the Scriptures have a lot to say about food. It seems obvious that Jesus loved to eat. He always seemed to be going to dinner parties! Many of His parables revolved around food. He even invited himself to dinner at Zaccheus’ house. 

I’ll bet that Jesus' Jewish Mama Mary was a good cook and so was His grandma Anna! He said of himself, “The Son of Man comes eating and drinking….” (Matthew 11:19) Many events in His life and His divine declarations took place in the context of food. Jesus declared that He is the Bread of Life. (John 6:35) The Eucharist is the sum and source of our spiritual food. We look forward to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in Eternity. After His ascension to the Father, we have a glimpse in Acts 2:46 of how His apostles ate: “…they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God….” What a good model for us! 

These days even promos in the media remind us that to have a happy family we should eat our meals together! So this is new? Past generations took that for granted and thrived. For Christians, to share food expresses fellowship, celebration and thanksgiving. What an incongruity that most of the world beyond our shores prays for enough food to survive, and we pray for God’s help to limit our food intake because we are overweight!

The following is not a prayer to use verbatim in our family before diving into the food served so abundantly on our tables—Cries may come forth, “The prayer is too long! The food is getting cold!”
I offer it instead as a thought-provoker for private meditation.

Dear Lord of all I am, including my mortal body which belongs to You, (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20) I want to eat and drink to Your glory. (1 Cor.10:31) May every meal I prepare for myself or for my family be a truly spiritual event.

Heavenly Father, You declared that everything You created is good, (Genesis 1) including food, and nothing is to be rejected, if we receive it with gratitude as those who believe and know the truth. (1 Timothy 4:3-5) Thank You for providing the food which I prepare. Bless and sanctify it by Your word and by this prayer. I offer to Your Lordship my appetite, the good digestion of the food, and its nourishment for my body and for the health of my family. (Romans 12:1)

Scripture declares that Your will for me is to prosper and be in health, even as my soul prospers. (3 John 2) Help me to wisely keep my body, soul, and spirit in the best condition so that I can daily walk in health to please and serve You. (Ephesians 5:10) You said that man [and woman too!] does not live by bread alone, that the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink but righteousness, peace, and joy. (Romans 14:17) 
Teach me to watch and pray when I choose foods; show me how to eat only food that is nutritious and needful for me (Proverbs 30:8) lest I yield to the temptation of the flesh. You know, O Lord, that my spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak. (Mark 14:38) Nevertheless, I can do all things, even to control my food selection and portions, through You who promised to strengthen me. (Philippians 2:13) Help me eat only as much as I need for my body’s health. (Proverbs 25:16) In order to be a better witness for You, if I need to change my poor eating habits that "so easily beset me," (Hebrews 12:1) may I grow the Fruit of the Spirit in temperance and self-control. (Galatians 5:16, 22-25)
Whenever I eat, may it be with joy and gladness as a celebration because You, gracious Father, have given us richly all things to enjoy. (1 Timothy 6:17) Give me a merry heart so that I may have a continual feast. (Proverbs 15:15)

Lord Jesus, You were known in the breaking of bread whereby You revealed Your real presence. (Luke 24:30, 31) When I come to Your Eucharistic Table, I receive Your Body and Blood indeed. You, in turn, promised to be at our daily table to eat with me and my family. (Revelation 3:20) I acknowledge and welcome Your presence and preeminence among us when we gather to eat together. (Proverbs 3:6) May our conversation be pleasant as a honeycomb, sweet to our souls, health to our bones, and pleasing to You. (Proverbs 16:24)

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Although God dresses the Energizer Bunny in white fur and you can't really see his gray hair, as he grows older, his whiskers do get white, his ears flop and his hop isn't so "hoppy" anymore. That's how I'm beginning to feel as the calendar pages turn. I don't hop, nor do I run anymore. I count myself blessed that I can still get out of bed and walk, no matter how haltingly. My “get up and go” has “got up and went.”

When one reaches the summit years, it is a given that weariness starts to become a constant companion. Goal setting is not the priority that it once was. Energy is at a low ebb and recharging has become more difficult and frequent. Advanced age tends to pull fatigue along like a caboose. 

Isaiah wrote about the loss of vigor and zip in chapter forty of his prophetic book. He addressed “the weary, him who lacks might, grows tired, and stumbles badly”—yes, that's me, Isaiah. But it turns out he is talking about “vigorous youths!” What about the chronologically challenged like me? 

I used to rise up, Lord
and run quite a distance
bubbling with enthusiasm
when life was exciting and fun
—and I was a good bit younger.

Lord, now I sit down a lot
too often with weariness
discouraged, deflated
bone-tired and limp
overwhelmed with just surviving
hanging on 'til the finish line.
All I can do is slump in a lump
on the sofa and snooze.

I confess to an energy crisis.
From being a fireball
at the start of the day
I soon call a halt
to life's hectic race
and think about bedtime
when I can drift away
hoping while sleeping
to recharge
my exhausted battery

You know it all, Lord:
my downsittings
and my uprisings
and how often I vacillate
from one to the other.

You said You understand.
I'm counting on that, Lord.
In Your love and care I rest
content to lean
with my ups and downs
upon Your breast.

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.” (Psalm 139:2)

Good news or bad news, let me hear the rest of it, Isaiah.

He comes through and surely he includes all seasons of life and all of us through the centuries in his encouraging declaration. Isaiah meant me too!

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the creator of the ends of the earth, does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings as eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”

God has provided a way to get re-charged, to increase our power, to get our energy surge! He wants us to plug into Himself because He never becomes weary. If I am “in Christ” and indwelt by the Holy Spirit who is the Ultimate Power Source, I can soar effortlessly with the eagles on the thermal currents which they wait for before they can take off. If I depend on flopping my wings in my own strength, I not only tire from running but I get weary even from walking.

There is only one way for a Christian to be a good runner or power-walker at any age—we have to stay plugged into The Power Source!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Narrowing the topic of adversities to apply to changes and losses during the advanced chronological season of my life, I can make alternative responses. I have a choice. My response may determine how long the Lord allows me to struggle with a particular adversity. Of course, I want an instant escape or a quick rescue. I want the adversity to vanish immediately in answer to my prayer for help.

Dr. Andrew Murray, an internationally famous Protestant minister, prolific author, and missionary in South Africa during the late nineteenth century, wrote the following good spiritual counsel:

“In time of trouble say,
I am here—
by God's appointment
In His keeping
Under His training
For His time.

As much as I want to hurry the process of being rid of my adversity or present storm, I need to first learn well whatever lesson God had in mind to teach me. I need to behave like a good child of God, not a disobedient rebel stamping my feet and pouting. Jesus will not calm my storm with His command “Peace! Be still!” before I have completed my classwork satisfactorily. If I'm still in spiritual kindergarten in the matter of dealing with adversities when I'm elderly, it's time to grow up and mature in my attitude. I can still make the right choices now and advance to at least first grade. 
I can either—
Groan about them—or grow through them
Become bitter—or better
Throw a pity party—or have a praise and trust celebration
Dig in my heels and resist God's work in me—or embrace and learn from it
Admit defeat—or move on to victory
Whine and complain—or ask the Lord what His purpose is
Be grumpy—or “count it all joy”
Ignore the problems—or deal with them in Christ
Give up—or press on
Settle for personal survival—or reach out to help others
Say “No, Lord!”—or “Yes, Lord!”

Those of us who are advanced in years, often need help going up the steps. The Lord will gently but firmly hold my hand and help me up the steps in my struggle with adversities: 
My first step is to be “Well content,” as Saint Paul demonstrated when he accepted God's better answer to his prayer for relief from his thorn. I should learn to echo the words of the hymn, “When peace like a river attendeth my way or sorrow like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, 'It is well, it is well with my soul.'” Whatever my lot—whether my adversity is removed or I am permanently stuck with my thorn.

My second step is to “Consider it all joy” (James1:2). This seems difficult, but I should “take pleasure, delight, be quite happy, glory in” with the words of Paul, no matter how God has decided to answer my prayer for relief from my adversity.

The third step is a natural consequence. “Comfort others.” I shouldn't waste my grief from my learning experience. From the Living Bible paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 1:4, “...So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us.” God allows me to feel pain or experience trouble to teach me compassion and to identify with the pain of others and how to respond to it. 

Whatever I am going through, I shouldn't let my adversity define who I am or how others perceive me. Nor should I use any adversity or trial to solicit pity or attention toward myself. God often shows His mercy and grace through healing. I shouldn't hesitate to ask in faith first, as Saint Paul did. God didn't reprimand him for asking, but gave him a better answer. After asking for deliverance, I should accept God's decision whether the answer is healing or endurance with His sufficient grace.
 It is well with my soul either way.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Adversities have many faces. They can be broken things—broken relationships, broken health, broken careers, broken dreams, anything that disturbs my comfort zone or that of those for whom I am concerned. 

They can be changes, losses, trials, trauma, problems, sufferings, illness, accidents, or catastrophes. Adversities are things out of my control. They can be mental, physical, material, emotional, social, or spiritual. Adversities can be visible or hidden. They can be little whammies or big bangs, an annoying drizzle or a hurricane. All of them involve grief of some kind. Sooner or later and both sooner and later everyone experiences adversities. They often feel unique to me and I tend to think that I am the only one facing such an issue. It is useless for me to compare my adversities with those of others.

Adversities are painful. I can't pretend they are not there. I can't blow them away, pray them away, or praise them away. Some are chronic adversities that I can't shake off; they cling to me like burrs. My human perspective of adversities differs from God's view. He uses them to lovingly and gradually shape and transform me into the image of His Son. 

I must accept a few things in order to understand what God is doing in my life and how He is doing it. Earth life is not fair and is often unjust. I must understand that not until the final judgment will God deal fully with inequities and injustices. Adversities should be no surprise. They are part of the normal Christian life! Saint Peter instructs us, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Peter 4:12). Adversities are not for the purpose of punishment. God is not venting His anger on me. God is still in control even when he doesn't keep bad things from happening. 
We don't live in a random universe. God is involved in all of my life. Always. He is not silent or absent even when I can't hear Him or see Him at work. But He may or may not intervene in my circumstances; He will not violate my free will with which He has endowed me. Adversity is not simply to get through but to grow through. It is one of God's most effective tools to mature me. Whatever puts me down, grows me up. “Tribulation brings about perseverance” (Romans 5:3). Every loss is a potential gain if I am “in Christ.” I gain through losing. What I am going through is trivial and “not worthy to be compared” to heroic Christians who are giving their lives for the gospel. Saint Paul says that our adversities are a “momentary, light affliction which is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Adversities are often God's means of getting my attention. If I don't respond to a little tap on the shoulder, or a bit of sandpaper in my comfort zone, the Lord might use a loving hammer or a blow torch to alert me. My adversity is not as important as my response to it. 

God’s dealings are never from vengeance or retribution. They could be for correction, and they are always for good and not for evil. (Jeremiah 29:11-14) God provides me with enough resources and grace and His strength to meet any adversity. He will never leave me or forsake me and never changes in His faithfulness. I need to keep moving right on through an adversity no matter how slowly. If I go through rocky places, I can use them as stepping stones to draw closer to Him. 

“Things happen to me, so that things can happen in me, so that things may happen through me.


Inquiring minds want to know. Who causes the inevitable storms in our lives that upset our well being and cause us harm? Adversities, accidents, illnesses, reverses, any negative events or circumstances—they all come with the package of our mortal life. Are all of them the fault of our infernal enemy? Or are they “acts of God” as the world calls them, especially if they are related to nature gone wild? Are they punishments from God because He is angry with us? Who is to blame?

I make spiritual progress if I inquire of God why something is happening to me, but not as a whining, rebellious complaint. I don't get anywhere if I become stuck in the asking process. It may be an entirely “unexplained mystery” to me but I must settle a basic premise in my heart. As a Christian, this is what I believe after experiencing a long lifetime of intermittent stormy weather:

God is always behind the curtain, even when Satan seems to be in center stage. Saint Paul, as recorded in 2 Corinthians chapter twelve, was given “a thorn in the flesh” from Satan, but he prayed, besought, entreated the Lord three times to remove it.” Being all-wise and all-good, God did not answer his prayer but changed Paul's attitude toward it and gave him strength and joy not only to endure it but to glory in it. I walk in present earth-knowledge, but God controls a bigger and better plan. 
Adversities often come in clusters like the thorns on a rose bush. Saint Paul listed some of the thorny things he endured: weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions, difficulties. In another passage he said he was “afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not despairing; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” We can hardly compare our hardships and misfortunes with what Paul went through.

In the eleventh chapter of the same letter he itemizes some of his more horrendous “external things”: labors, multiple imprisonments, frequent beatings more times than he could count, being in danger of death, five times thirty-nine lashes, three times beaten with rods, stoned once, shipwrecked three times, spending a day and night in deep water, frequent journeys, dangers from rivers, from robbers, from his countrymen, from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, in the wilderness, on the sea, from false brethren. He spent many sleepless nights, often suffering hunger and thirst, subject to cold and exposure. To all of those he added his daily spiritual pressure of concern for all the churches.

Making it personal to us in chapter six, Paul instructs Christians to commend themselves as servants of God “in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger....” all with genuine love in the Holy Spirit. We are told to persevere “in glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report,” even when people regard us as deceivers while we know we are true. We may feel as if we are forgotten or unknown, but God knows what is happening to us—and why.

God isn't obligated to explain to me what He allows to happen in my life. Adversities and the negatives of life can come from a variety of sources, one related to another. Or even none of those listed below.

Random accidents (in our view)
Deliberate actions of spiritually fallen, unregenerate, evil people
My freewill which leads me to mistakes or deliberate wrongdoing
The freewill of others who make their own choices
Contact with contagious diseases
Living on a flawed earth with natural disasters
Subjected to a polluted environment
Living in a mortal, deteriorating, temporary human body
Heredity and DNA factors
Reverses in the economy and acts of government
Diminishing health due to the natural aging process
My poor health habits or neglect of body maintenance
Spiritual warfare: Satan’s direct attacks or harassment.
The sovereign, life plan God works in me by what He permits.
God's pruning of my self-life so I will bear more spiritual fruit
Answers to my own prayers for spiritual growth

When I don’t understand, when I can’t trace His hand, I can still trust His heart.”

Friday, July 5, 2013


Our state in life keeps changing depending on our season of life and the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Looking back on my long life I can identify perhaps a dozen different “states in life” I have gone through: childhood, adolescence, student life, married life, motherhood, parenting, missionary service, administrative positions in ministry, widowhood, single parenting and grandparenting and great-grandparenting, organizational leadership. I have been a writer, publisher, broadcaster, poet, counselor, teacher—just to begin the list. 

When I became a Christian in my teens, that identity overlaid a stewardship responsibility to God onto every one of the states in life He would assign to me at any given point in the future. My states in life keep shifting according to the seasons of my life, my chronological age, my circumstances, and opportunities God sets before me.

As I understand it, God holds each of us responsible to be a good steward only of what He has given us or how He has uniquely gifted us, not of how He gifted someone else. Applying it to myself, I'm accountable according to my state in life and God's gifts to me. When I surrendered my life into God's hands as a teenager, I came empty-handed. I perceived myself as not having any of the obvious “talents” which my young peers seemed to have. (And I most obviously didn't have a talent for playing the piano—which gift I had coveted!)

God took me at my word when I committed my life to Him. He began to gradually and generously give me specific abilities, gifts, opportunities, experiences, and relationships which He expected me to use responsibly. He gave me the gift of creative writing in which I find great joy. Expressing myself in writing is as automatic as breathing, although not without blood, sweat, and tears sometimes! I fulfill my stewardship by writing books to encourage, teach, inspire, and witness to my faith. Caboosing on that gift came publishing, speaking, broadcasting, and helping others grow in their faith and develop their gifts. 
As my state in life changes, so do God's expectations for my stewardship. That doesn't mean He has let me off the hook because of my advanced age. He has guided me into adjusted expressions of my stewardship through technical and electronic equipment and the use of cyberspace and at least minimal know-how. Never have I lacked anything that God knew I needed in order to fulfill His purposes through me including providing me with state of the art computing and communicating “stuff”--thanks to my sons' generosity and patience! Supplemented with instruction from grandchildren! 

Living on the summit, I'm happy to enjoy some of the harvest now as I eat the fruit of my lifetime of planting. I continue to sow and reap simultaneously. I shall keep generously sowing for God into the lives of others by sharing the riches of the Christ-life with them. According to God’s promise, I can always expect a harvest from sowing whether I live to reap it or not. The Bible says that older women (I think I finally qualify!) should teach the younger. I’m enthusiastically optimistic about the new generations! 
To keep my day in focus with the Lord as I fulfill my calling during my current state of life, I wrote and pray this prayer each morning:


Lord, let the words I type with my fingers
and send swiftly through cyberspace
through the technology designed by men
come first and solely
from the holy meditations of my heart
and the mind of Christ who dwells within me
overshadowed by the Holy Spirit's direction.
Guide them according to Your purpose and will
for the building up of the recipients
not for the aggrandizement of myself
but for the greater glory of God alone:
ad majorem Dei gloriam.

Grant that the words I compose for publication
likewise be for the edification of Your people
and the exaltation of the Holy Trinity:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


At times I seem to be stuck in neutral. Nothing exciting is happening. I am going through responsible routines but marking time, not getting anywhere. The days are mundane, unremarkable, static. Nothing seems to change. So much of life is actually made up of, to all appearances, humdrum sameness. 

Nature sometimes echoes my monotony, especially the in-between-seasons times when nature seems to be too slow in changing her clothes. I trudge along in drab, colorless days that I didn't invite but must endure. They are gray days—and I feel gray too. Gray is defined as “a color between white and black, having a neutral hue, dark, dismal, gloomy, indeterminate, intermediate in character.” That describes my emotional disposition at times. 

But gray days eventually evolve into brightness if I patiently endure them, seek to uncover their beauty, and attempt to understand the purpose for which God sends them. Gray days can pour welcome peace into my soul and trickle contentment into my restless heart. They can provide a breather and a respite to prepare me for the big bangs of change and extremes which are sure to come upon me with the inevitable storms that will beat upon my life-house.


Gray days, uninvited, slip in
between winter and spring
and bring gray moods
and mental monotones.
Snow birds chirp in muted notes.
The season seems suspended
with winter open-ended.

Drab days endured
with passive acceptance
will always pass. I know
the cycle is ordained:
gray, in-between days are always
followed by The Grand Spectacle of spring
when the somber draperies of the sky
are suddenly drawn back
and songbirds warble cheerily
heralding the splendid season
and the inevitable renewal
of every living thing.

My soul, too, passes through
gray times, ordinary times
waiting and mediocre times
shrouding me in melancholy and
a certain sadness
fogging my thoughts
tempting me to despair.

Shall I not embrace
transient times which test me?
I shall welcome them, assured
that my soul is being fortified
by the days in between
the gray days uninvited.
Mellowed and molded
my spirit patiently awaits the time
when the dismal winterness of my soul
is dispelled again

by sunshine!