Saturday, June 29, 2013

CELEBRATING MY 88TH BIRTHDAY!



I woke up on my birthday morning with the desire to celebrate that day as a detailed THANKSGIVING DAY. I tried to recall and itemize all of the MANY RICHES God has blessed me with. I went about "counting my many blessings ton-by-ton" (not one-by-one), to adapt a phrase from an old hymn. My treasures are not tangible silver or gold but of immense valuable nonetheless—especially family and friends. Each one the Lord brings into my life is a rich treasure! 

I'm sending this message in part as a global expression of my appreciation for a table loaded with greeting cards containing prayers and good wishes besides all the email music cards and messages, bouquets of flowers and plants, and gifts, visits, phone calls, out-to-restaurant group celebrations with friends and family and many church friends. I read every greeting card and all the personal notes, and I thank you for all of your prayers. I prayed for each sender in turn. 
 
Although I didn't reach my goal for a first edit of my most recent book-in-progress by my birthday, (I did complete a first rough draft), I do feel that I'm living the title: “STILL MORE: FLOURISHING ON MY SUMMIT.” (It is the third book in my autobiographical Trilogy (or the 4th, depending on how you count!) I am truly FLOURISHING with the Lord's blessings as I launch into my 89th year!

I've recently had several routine medical checkups with good results. At my pulmonary checkup the doctor said he could no longer detect the fluid in my lung cavity that had persisted for several years. He had previously declared that the condition was not likely to correct itself without surgery--which I declined to have. God took care of it in His time! Thank the Lord with me for the good news, and thanks to many of you for your specific prayers for my health and strength. 

Of course I have some of the common increasing weaknesses and “unfixables” of my “earth suit” (my mortal body) but they are part of the normal aging package. I consider them trivial and  “manageable” with the Lord's help. They are temporal inconveniences without eternal consequences when weighed against God's many blessings.

The picture that accompanies this post is "fresh" from one of several restaurant parties my friends gave for me. I had been feted in advance of my birthday for an entire week by various groups of friends and family—and it promises to continue through the following week. I'll have to go on a diet for sure!! 

Of course I usually celebrate my birthday for an entire month...even all year! I've heard it said, 
         “Until further notice, CELEBRATE EVERYTHING!” 

At this matriarchal stage of life, that's good advice which I plan to pursue because God promises that “His goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives—and then (the icing on the cake!) we will dwell in the House of the Lord forever!” (Psalm 23)
A win-win situation!
Leona

So Great A Cloud of Witnesses!

 http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_YgpHa1oeHME/TUglNxKA4BI/AAAAAAAADAs/RtC2OOmfvEk/s1600/runners.jpg

MY CHEERLEADERS ON EARTH AND IN HEAVEN

Sometimes, when I think about Eternity and what it's like to step over from this mortal life into the Life that never ends, I wonder what it's like - say - after a few hundred years or so. What are we doing--forever and forever?

And then I think of Hebrews 12 which gives me a clue. That's when I smile. The saints are cheering us on! By "saints" I mean who the Apostle Paul meant when he addressed his letters in the Bible to the Christians in various cities. It means "holy ones"--those who are working at becoming holy during earth-time with Jesus' help. And when they finally arrive in heaven, they are holy. They become saints for real! They never turn into angels!

The Church teaches and the Bible affirms that our loved ones and friends are alive and well and now fulfilled and perfect in the presence of God. Jesus declared that those who believe in Him shall never die. Believe it!

According to the book of Revelation, those who died in Christ are aware of what's going on "back here" and they are able to pray for us to Jesus Christ our Lord who then intercedes for the requests as the one Mediator with God the Father through the Holy Spirit's help. These "now saints" are a part of what the writer of Hebrews calls "the great cloud of witnesses."

So who is praying for me? Revelation 8:3,4 tells me. Who is cheering me on when I'm flying low? Who is waving a bell and telling me "You can do it!"? It may be that those who have been closest to us and who prayed for us while on earth are our biggest fans calling out, "Run, sweetie, keep running!"

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us." (Hebrews 12:1)

All glory to the God who sits on the Throne, who hears the prayers of the holy ones gathered there! Saints above, intercede for us all! And always, always cheer us onward in this journey of faith.

One of the Christian doctrines that is easiest for me to embrace and so biblically right-on is the Communion of Saints, that is, the continuing union of Christians on earth with those in Heaven. I prayed the Apostles' Creed ever since I was a teenager in the Presbyterian Church and I continue to do so.  But I never knew what "the communion of saints" really meant. It means that we are still one family in Christ although we may be separated from our loved ones by the death of the body!

In practice, I joyfully make it a practice to ask by name for the intercession of my departed loved ones, family, friends and the godly ones from ages past whom I have not known but whom I look forward to meeting in Eternity. I have special "saints" (both those on earth and those in heaven) whose prayers I ask for when I have specific needs, like wisdom for my creative writing. I have prayer partners on earth whom I call my "Praying Eagles," and I have prayer partners in Heaven--my "Cloud of Witnesses." Those in Heaven aren't able to actually DO anything tangible for me--that is God's business. But they can pray to Jesus and the answers to our prayers and theirs come from directly from God the Father.

How exciting if we could see through the veil between our two dimensions to see how really close to us our "cloud of witnesses" may be! Someday we'll find out! Nevertheless, by faith we are encouraged and energized to keep running our earthly race as they cheer us on!

Friday, June 28, 2013

NO MORE TEARS!

“Can you wipe my tears?” sobs my two year old great granddaughter Makenna holding her arms up toward her mommy to be picked up from her crib.

Perhaps the little child had an age-appropriate nightmare or had just awakened and cried when she realized she was alone in the dark. Of course mommy picks her up and hugs her close. Then with both hands she wipes the tear drops flowing down Makenna's cheeks.
Love, warmth, compassion, comfort, consolation, solace, and relief are all bundled up in a mommy wiping away her child's tears. 

Likewise, whatever season of life we are in, and whatever our adult circumstances, we have tears that we want wiped away. If not actual liquid tears, then the tears of our heart which are unseen but deeply felt. We have a divine, loving, warm, compassionate Consoler who comes with solace to rescue us when we call. “The Sovereign Lord shall wipe away the tears from all faces...” (Isaiah 25:8). 

We all have our own nightmares, our fear of the darkness, the anxiety of loneliness, the sometimes insurmountable pressure of our human circumstances. Right now it's night time and there are still human tears to shed. God reaches to us in the dark to enfold us close to His bosom and dry our tears. We can stay snuggled in the shelter of His arms peaceful and poised while everybody else seems to be going crazy and our lives are whirling out of control. Why? Because we know that ultimately the dawn will break, joy is coming, all will be well. We can smile through our grownup tears in the midst of whatever chaos we are in and say, "I know how all this is going to end!” 

God's promise to us is that in His kingdom, there will be no hurting or mourning or tears. He will comfort us, wipe away our tears, and heal our deepest wounds. The Scripture uses the metaphor of God collecting our tears in a bottle implying that He doesn't overlook them, they are not wasted, they are precious. Whatever causes our human tears, whether grief or loss or regret or hardship or aloneness or illness or the aging and debilitating aspects of aging, Jesus promised “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.” 

Whatever doesn't get straightened out on earth and in mortal time, will find its fulfillment in heaven according to Revelation 21. Although suffering is a permanent feature of our life on earth, the sure promise of God is, “He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain.” 

I imagined our tears with another metaphor--the weeping of the sky as the rain falls in sympathetic echo of our earthly tears--when I wrote:

SKY TEARS

Why does the sky cry?
Is it for what has been and is no more?
Is it for what is not and never will be?
Is it for what will be but is delayed?
Does the sky cry from emptiness or fullness?
Or simply because in the cycle of seasons
it is time to cry?
The sky needs release and the thirsty ground
needs sky tears to soften the soil
and prepare for spring: the planting
sprouting, birth of life.
The weeping sky and the rejoicing earth
meet in expectancy for the certainty
of growth after the spring rain.
Why does my heart cry?
I don't know why. Perhaps for all the reasons
of the sky and earth combined
for I am part of that cycle of life and its seasons.
I seem to be always in transition, always in anticipation
always in passage to another stage.
I, too, cry from emptiness and from fullness
and for release. Sometimes wistfully looking backward
and then again pressing longingly forward.
Sometimes my tears are neither sad nor glad.
Perhaps my tears are the bridge between
the loving decrees of God for my life
those unknown episodes still beyond the horizon
and the thirst of my earth-heart to know what they are
and what the coming spring will bring
after the planting, after the sprouting
after the births of life that will come forth in me
ultimately
after God has dried my earthly tears
after the spring rain when the sun bursts forth again
perhaps with the surprise of an awesome rainbow
after all will be revealed
when He “makes all things new.”


MID-YEAR CATCH UP TIME

Some have been asking about my current book writing progress. Am I working on another sequel to the sequel of the first sequel? The answer is yes. 

My book-in-progress is the third book in the "MORE" series, but the fourth in my spiritual autobiographical set, so I guess I can't call it a “Trilogy” anymore. (Czeching My Roots was first, My Journey to the Land of MORE was second, and Living the Treasures in the Land of MORE was the third. Now STILL MORE—Flourishing on My Summit is the one I'm writing. 
 
A delightful extra book slipped in during the year. I co-authored AGING JOYFULLY with a minister friend in Canada and it was published some months ago.

I have been sharing some excerpts of STILL MORE with friends by email and, when I've had time, also on my blog—irregularly. I call these advance tastes “licking the spoon and mixing bowl” while the “book-cake” is still baking in the oven. This is a fond flashback from the kitchen experience of my childhood.

I'm sorry to have confused some of my readers by changing my proposed title several times. Some of the previous titles are chapter titles in the forthcoming book. The new Introduction reflects my current working title and adjusted theme. Such changes/developments are typical of a book-in-progress.

I've reached the point of collecting the material into chapters before I start on the first edit. I hoped to finish the first draft of STILL MORE by my 88th birthday in June but other priorities delayed reaching that goal. What is the target date for publication? “To everything there is a season....”

Some of my friends promised to pray this book through to completion, to publishing, as they did my previous books. I feel the uplift of their prayers while I am creatively writing and disciplining my time to spend the necessary long hours at the computer. These prayer partners and cheering friends encourage me and share in the fruit of my writing and its outreach!

 
My proposed chapter titles, Dedication, and Prayer for Wisdom are listed below. 

Working title:
STILL MORE—FLOURISHING ON MY SUMMIT by Leona Choy

Dedication
Prayer for Wisdom
Introduction
Preface
Proposed Chapters:
    Climbing to my summit
    Living on my summit
    My view from the summit
    My "earth suit" on the summit
    Relationships on my summit
    Ordinary time on my summit
    Storms on my summit
    Singing on my summit
    Summit meetings with God
    Nature flourishes on my summit
    Summit living like the eagle
    Abundance on my summit
    Gems gathered on the summit
    Psalm 71—My GPS on the summit  
    Launching from my summit


Dedicatory Prayer

SAINT FRANCIS DE SALES (1567-1622) is my patron saint and example. I took his name for my Confirmation since he is the patron of those in communications, publishing, and the media. I asked for his intercession in the writing of this book. I would like to adopt and adapt his Dedicatory Prayer from his famous book, “Introduction to the Devout Life” since his words also reflect my desire.

Ah, sweet Jesus, my Lord, my Savior, and my God, behold me here prostrate before Your Majesty as I pledge and consecrate this work [of writing] to your glory.

By your blessing give life to its words so that [those] for whom it has been written may receive from it the sacred inspirations I desire for them. In particular, that of imploring Your infinite mercy in my behalf to the end that while I point out to others the way of devotion in this world, I myself may not be rejected...but that with them I may forever sing as a canticle of triumph words that with my whole heart I [have written]....

LIVE, JESUS! LIVE, JESUS!

Yes, Lord Jesus, live and reign in our hearts forever and ever. Amen.”

Note: Saint Francis commonly uses in his books the title “Your Majesty” when addressing God. Royal titles for Deity were in common use throughout the history of the Church in early centuries, during the Middle Ages and later.
Vive Jesus!”-- “Live, Jesus!” may be taken as the motto and theme of Saint Francis de Sales' writings and life work.

DR. ANDREW MURRAY, another saintly, famous, and prolific Protestant writer of devotional books and proclaimer of the Gospel in mission lands several generations ago, often expressed a similar sentiment as Saint Francis did above. He acknowledged that he often offered his readers godly truths and spiritual experiences beyond what he himself through his human failings had walked out fully in practice in his own life.

In my writings I seek to be honest and genuine, but with Saint Paul I too fear that I fall short of practicing consistently all that I have written. I commit myself to the mercy of God, the Searcher of Hearts, and declare, “...Not that I have already attained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on...reaching forward to what lies ahead...toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:12-14) With my readers I press on. 
 
WISDOM FOR MY REST OF THE WAY

Wisdom is needed in every season of our mortal lives. However, in childhood it can't be attained because life has not unfolded yet and we lack the experience on which wisdom is based. We are too fresh, untried and unproven. Youth is the experimental period; life is being tested, knowledge is being accumulated. Wisdom? Not so much. We are still in process. In prime years wisdom and folly are being sorted out; some good choices are made, some foolish decisions take us on detours.

It is in advanced years that wisdom is expected to burst forth in flower and its fragrance waft to others. At least that's the proverbial track. The mature, the elderly, the aged are supposed to finally be wise, and those who follow in their footsteps are expected to happily benefit from their collected experience. 
 
That's not always so. Sometimes, unfortunately, the aged are foolish. And the young insist on making their own mistakes, reluctant to profit from anyone else's experience. So history repeats itself. The hopefully wise mature ones should dispense their wisdom only when and if it is requested. Otherwise, zip the lips! That in itself is wisdom.

The wisdom I seek for myself in my mature years is wisdom to live in the will and purposes of God, to choose and act prudently as the path of life narrows and my remaining days can actually be numbered. In my youth, the days seemed to stretch open end and could hardly be numbered. The aging Moses reflected on this transient life in Psalm 90: “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom.”
I have reflected on this reality in my
PRAYER FOR WISDOM

1.      God, grant me the wisdom of mature years to circumvent the foolishness of aging.
2.      When You see me playing in the spiritual shallows, Lord, beckon me out of the wading pool into Your deep waters.
3.      If I feel bogged down in meaningless routine, turn the plain water of my daily life into “the best wine saved until last.”
4.      When I tend to resist change and settle in my comfort zone, grant me an open spirit and a growing, receptive mind.
5.      If I’ve lost my get-up-and-go, show me how to “rise and take up my bed and walk.”
6.      When my leaves are withered and dry, revive me to be “full of sap and very green.”
7.      When my fruit is scanty and sour, show me how to “flourish like the palm tree.”
8.      If the embers of my first love for You are growing cold, fan them into flame by Your Holy Spirit.
9.      When the noise of my activity drowns out Your still small voice, quiet me to wait on You in contemplative silence.
10.  If the soil of my life is depleted and lies fallow, break up the clods, supply fresh nutrients, and make straight my furrows.
11.  When my prayers seem unanswered and my spirit is arid, open the floodgates to let Your Rivers of Living Water flow again.
12.  Where my life is out of balance and I lose my footing, help me restore eternal priorities to keep from stumbling.
13.  When my vision for Your Kingdom has grown dim, touch my eyes to see again Your destiny for me.
14.  If I’ve become slow of speech to declare Your message, open my lips to boldly proclaim Your Good News.
15.  If I can't hear Your voice clearly, send Your Holy Spirit to be my hearing aid.
16.  If my memory begin to slip, help me remember that You never leave me or forsake me.
17.  When I’m weary from the length of life’s journey, draw me close to Your bosom to find comfort and rest.
18.  If I’m laboring to bear scarcely 30-fold fruit, teach me to abide in You to effortlessly produce by Your wisdom 100-fold.
19.  Where some good seed of Your Word still lies dormant as I advance in years, send the gentle latter rain of Your Spirit so I can bear an abundant late harvest.
20.  When I am tired and lack motivation to press on, restore iron to my soul, strength to my weak knees and limp arms.
21.  When I drag my feet to do Your will, energize me with the adrenalin of Your Holy Spirit.
22.  When I’m short of breath from life’s fast pace, inflate my lungs with Your Breath of Life.
23.  If I grip material possessions too tightly, teach me to hold loosely the things of this world.
24.  If I open my mouth to speak foolish words, show me how to put a watch on my lips.
25.  When I’m afraid of the darkness around me, take my hand to walk in Your Light.
26.  When my emotions roller coaster out of control, teach me to set my affection on things above not on things of earth.
27.  When anxiety about the future threatens to overwhelm me, remind me of Your great faithfulness in years past.
28.  If my appetite becomes jaded by the world’s junk food, give me Yourself as my Daily Bread in the Eucharist.
29.  When I think I’ve reached the limit of my endurance, help me persevere in Your strength to run the last mile Home.
30.  When thoughts of my mortal end cause me fear, remind me that You are preparing a Place for me in Your Father’s House.



KEEP THE LID ON!

As I live out the latter season of my life, there is more of my past to account for and deal with. Does God provide a Divine Shredder for my unrighteous, regretted, seamy or sinful past? 

The Psalmist employed analogies with which he was familiar in a nature-oriented era. He said that God casts my sins into the deepest sea, or banishes them as far as the East is from the West. However, I must first acknowledge and confess my transgressions and omissions and repent. I must accept God's forgiveness which is all of grace and mercy, and forgive myself as well, or I'm unable to move on with my life for the rest of the way Home.

In this electronic and technological age, we have another analogy at our fingertips. There is before me as an option on my computer a little icon labeled “Trash” or “Trash Can” where I can dump my unwanted writing, mistakes, or matters I have already dealt with. I shouldn't let rubbish or clutter accumulate on my computer--or in my life--but discard it regularly. 

Sometimes, sorry to say, I have gone back to the "Trash Can" on my computer to search for and retrieve something I already disposed of and should have left untouched and unremembered. 

The same is true of my life. Forgiven by God, I should no longer search through the trash or carry the guilt of my past sins, not even the stench of them. I should keep the lid on the Trash Can! 

 "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).

TRASH CAN

What joy to discard
into the Divine Trash Can
the despicable bundle of my sins
and have them hauled away:
Hallelujah!

I must first drag the unwanted,
the unholy, the iniquitous
and deliberately deposit it
at the Place of Disposal
the foot of the Cross
by an act of my will.

Grateful for God's forgiveness
I kneel to place there
my burdens and sinfulness
conscious of my unrighteous heart.
Then I must abandon the refuse
put the cover of Jesus' shed blood
firmly in place
and accept His grace.

But too often I vacillate
and instead of turning my back
on the garbage and waste
I exercise my free will
and drag it back out
smelly and foul
in the process of decay
retrieving it as fondly
as a dog unearths
a favorite rotting bone
and I display it once more
contaminating myself
and causing me grief.

Lord, I don't want to turn back
to my sordid past
to the things that corrupt
I want to leave the lid
firmly on the Trash Can
and cement my resolve
by selecting a new document
and moving on with You!

(Luke 9:62; 1 John 1:9)








God preserves my fruit

Since our Lord's expectation for the fruit I bear is "that it should remain," preserved fruit is what gives Him pleasure. To preserve it, He anticipates that I will stay connected to His vital life, abiding in Him without interruption, moment by moment.

My advanced years are not a time when my spiritual fruit should dry up and fall off my life tree or rot. I am not off the hook because of my age or my mortal, diminishing condition. It is not enough for me to barely hang on to God's living branch. God wants me to stay firmly connected so I can "flourish...to yield fruit in old age..."

I am tempted to wonder, however, whether the good works for the Lord I have tried to do, the words of encouragement I have spoken, the books I have written, will be part of the “preserved fruit” that will count for Him. Will it matter in the eternal plan of God?

Truth can be found in many unexpected places. I came upon a few lines in a novel titled “The Shack” by William P. Young which reinforced my assurance that it would matter. “...If anything matters, then everything matters. Because you are important [to God] everything you do is important. Every time you forgive, the universe changes; every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes; with every kindness and service, seen or unseen, God's purposes are accomplished and nothing will ever be the same again....know that [you] can make some difference, no matter how little that difference might [seem] to be.”

Is it possible that God notices when we stop and talk about Him with a friend? Or write an encouraging letter to someone? Or witness to someone who needs to know God as his Friend? Is God too busy running the universe to pay attention to our casual conversations about Jesus? Is it possible that He reads our minds when we lift our thoughts to Him in the midst of a busy day? Does He notice?

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem who lived in the late fourth century, wrote “…nothing is lost. Every prayer of yours, every psalm you sing is recorded. Every alms, every fast is recorded.”

Truly then, every prayer I pray is everlasting; it is preserved as if carved in stone. My prayers keep working forever. When I launch them out into the universe to the Throne of God in Jesus’ Name as He taught us, God hears them immediately. If He delays the answer for my good and for His glory, they will still never diminish in power. God does not file them away in some dusty heavenly filing cabinet and forget them. 
 
God preserves our prayers; He records them permanently in some mysterious, spiritual way. God is far ahead of us with our puny modern high-tech gadgets; He records the words and deeds and thoughts of everyone all over the world simultaneously! And they won't be wiped out by any electronic grid failure. We will be judged by them since they will all be documented by some supernatural preserving process. Nothing we consider insignificant or trivial that we say to one another or do for one another will be overlooked by the Lord. How do I know?

Then those who feared/revered the Lord talked often one to another; and the Lord listened/gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who reverenced and worshipfully feared the Lord, and who thought on/esteemed His name.

'And they will be Mine' says the Lord of hosts, in that day when I publicly recognize and openly declare them to be My jewels—My special possession, My peculiar treasure. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him” (Malachi 3:16, 17 Amplified Translation).

Can you imagine how God refers to us when He hears us talking together about Him or even thinking about Him? He calls us His own, His jewel, His special possession, and His peculiar treasure! Aren’t we blessed?

No breaking point!

With great fascination I watched a technical program on TV called “Finding the breaking point.” The premise was that few things are built to last but they could be improved upon. 

Certain R & D labs specialize in putting advertised products through crash and stress tests to find their breaking point. Technicians apply tremendous pressure and speed to find their weakest point. They put the product or device through overload. They count how many blows it can withstand, what amount of brute force it can handle. They watch as micro-cracks gradually widen and then the object shatters. Even steel and concrete, the hardest substances are severely “punished.” An earthquake shaking machine simulates the real thing for brief periods to measure the damage that could be expected or could be prevented. 

The point is not to be sadistic and destroy the items or building materials. It is for the lessons to be learned, lives to be saved. Technicians work redesign or refine existing products or invent new ones to protect the brain, like helmets, or better protective goggles for eyes, or shield eardrums from industrial noise or military explosions, or more durable equipment for sports, or safe appliances for the household.

It is not unusual for those of us in advancing years to be scheduled for a stress test in the hospital including treadmill, heart monitor, EKG, and nuclear imaging. I’ve had that experience several times. The point of such medical procedures wasn't to give me a heart attack or stroke by “punishing” my body, but to see if my heart gives the right response with a steady, regular heartbeat when stressed to the limit. The tests are not comfortable and push me beyond what I thought I could endure; they are to learn about the condition of my body. Sometimes doctors discover that there is really something blocking normal channels of my heart. 

Stress and pressure in our lives are usually built up over time, although the onset of trouble may seem sudden. Blood pressure tends to elevate gradually. As I age, there are different kinds of pressures—interior and exterior, self-imposed or circumstantial—which affect my well-being. As I age, my heart and circulatory system become sluggish, and often an irregular heartbeat develops. Sometimes the condition is benign, as in my post-ventricular contractions, sometimes more serious and medication would be prescribed. As time goes on, determined by wearing a heart monitor, some people eventually need a pacemaker implanted to assist their normal heart function.

There are spiritual parallels. The Lord allows situations to test us on the treadmill of life to see if our spiritual hearts respond correctly under pressure. God doesn't punish us to see how much we can stand without caving in. He allows the stress of our circumstances to lovingly draw us to lean more fully upon Him.

Some things may be blocking our normal responses to His voice and hindering the completion with joy of the course in life that God has appointed for us. Cares of this world, prolonged illness, relationship fractures, the ever-accelerating speed of life, and multiple sufferings may beset us. Such conditions may result in a breakdown in physical health as well as spiritual health. We notice fatigue in both areas; we can’t keep up the pace of life as we age. Our energy is depleted, particularly through our increasing limitations. Second Corinthians 4:16-18 notifies us, in case we are in doubt, that “our outer person is decaying [wasting away]” because we all are “earthen vessels made of clay,” clay pots, so to speak. Our mortal bodies feel broken, run down, tired, used up, and physically and spiritually listless.We often feel that we are at the breaking point.

We have outward and inward afflictions. Saint Paul itemizes a few of them in 2 Corinthians 4:7-10. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of this power may be of God and not from ourselves. We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” This is to assure us that we don't have a breaking point when our sufficiency is in Christ. 

Just as we are given medication to restore physical normalcy, most of us whose pace is irregular need some assistance to regain the normal, healthy function of our spiritual hearts. It is essential for our inner person, our spiritual infrastructure, to be renewed day by day. This refreshing comes from the Spirit of God as we seek God’s presence daily in worship, from the Sacraments and the Mass, and from the Word of God, all of which nourish our souls.

GOD, our Heart Monitor and Divine Pacemaker, is always available to mend our spiritual hearts and restore His steady pace for our final days. Our mortal bodies are not built to last permanently on Planet Earth. Micro-cracks develop. We all have weak points. Earthshaking experiences threaten to topple us. We think we can't withstand any more blows. We are sure that we will crash and burn. But as we focus on Him, looking unto Him as the “Author and Finisher” of our faith, and Finisher of our life course, He infuses sufficient divine strength into us for those Last Miles of our earthly journey, however long or short.

As the old hymn promises, “He gives more grace as the burdens grow greater....” The Lord may also provide us with the assistance of our friends, “people with skin on,” who pray and care for, love and encourage us, cheer us on, and bear us up when we are flying low. Thank God for The Body of Christ, the Household of Faith!

Lord, please edit my life!

Milestone 88
Since committing my life to God in my teens, I have sought to navigate in the midstream of God's will as I have understood it and whatever has been my state in life at the time. There is no cruise control for a Christian. Every season of life has its distinct challenges. I have always believed in lifelong continuous course adjustments. 

In my advanced years, I've had a late-in-life pull in two directions: 
HURRY! redeem the time, the day is far spent to do the Kingdom work to which God called me and for which He gifted me. At my age the time is short at best. God said in His Word that we should "be zealous for good works." I find great joy in creative writing and also in pursuing a ministry of encouragement and spiritual building into the lives of others. Those two aspects are in tandem, part of God's one calling in my life. I work hard at my writing and blessing others with the fruit of those joyful labors. To God be the glory always. I want to be a good steward and give Him a full basket of spiritual fruit in thanksgiving for choosing me, saving me, calling me, and blessing me so abundantly. 
 
On the other hand, well-meaning friends urge me to be reasonable. To SLOW my pace at my age; that it's time to be temperate, to take it a little easier. God is eternal and not time-bound. He can build His Kingdom with or without me. I should walk and work more leisurely. 
 
I need to be sure which voice, which tug, which whisper is God's express will for me or simply my human zeal and desire for accomplishment or the expectations of others. In any given situation how can I discern whether I should I run or walk? I know very well that God doesn't measure His pleasure with me by success as the world looks at it, but by my faithfulness on obedience; not by quantity accomplished, but by God-breathed and anointed quality. Can I somehow balance these seeming opposites? Somehow still do them both and please my Master's heart?
I can't see myself objectively. I need God to fine tune my life now as much as I did in my youth and prime years. As a writer, I call this surrendering to God's editing.

When I edit a manuscript I use a blue pencil not only to correct mistakes but tighten the document for clarity to better accomplish the purpose for which it was written. I cross out superfluous words and elsewhere select more appropriate ones. I'm able to edit my own manuscripts only to a point because I view myself and my work too subjectively. I need God's divine perspective.

When God edits my life He uses the blue pencil of the Holy Spirit. He crosses out my superfluous involvements, steers me away from distractions, and gets my priorities back in focus for spiritual growth. He factors in my season of life and changes taking place in my “earth suit” (mortal body). 
 
In my most advanced season of life, God's editing increases in importance because time is running out to complete my life course. I lack wisdom and capability in the natural to make the adjustments necessary. God is the one to let me know what changes He wants me to make with His enabling. How can I hear His voice? Sometimes it is an inward knowing, sometimes it is His loving tap on the shoulder. I need to listen carefully and obey so that He will not have to use less gentle means to get my attention.

I usually sense the need most keenly for this editing at chronological milestones. I'm approaching another birthday on June 22. In Chinese tradition 8 is the luckiest number—so 88 should usher in a twice blessed year! Some friends are asking me again, “Isn't it about time for you to retire?” Others take for granted that I've already been retired for decades because I'm not punching a time clock. 
 
I've always maintained that I would never retire but just keep going full speed ahead on my writing and publishing ministry. To “retire” seems to imply not having to do anything or having anything to do. Why would I want to live that way? Writing was/is my ministry, my gift, my calling from God, my opportunity, and my pleasure and satisfaction. I can retire from a job but not from God's calling. God may adjust His expectations according to my ability to fulfill my call and changes in my state in life, but He doesn't withdraw it.

Yes, in the sense of not drawing a paycheck or making money, I've already been "retired" for several decades since I left my administrative position with Ambassadors For Christ, Inc., the mission ministry my late husband Ted and I helped to establish. However, my normal lifestyle continued to be, more often than not, working at writing for a full day every day—as if I were not “retired.” In my lifetime I've written and published more than a couple dozen books. It has not been without a bit of wear and tear on my “earth suit” and some “senescent vigor depletion.”

The unexpected “retirement, resignation, renouncement, stepping down” of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI gave me pause, although I can't compare my reasons or circumstances for a potential course adjustment with his. He faced the reality of his own increasing physical frailty and diminishing energy due to his age. I empathize with that. I'm two years older than he, but thank God, still comparatively energetic despite being a longtime cancer survivor. He explained that he was “stepping down and stepping back in order to step up.” Following what He believed was God's leading, He resigned his public calling as Pope to spend the rest of his life in isolation, contemplation, and prayer. At the same time, many have encouraged him to continue his important writing.

Well, I'm not ill in any debilitating sense at present, but my “earth suit” has begun to protest the long hours at the computer. I've been trying to alleviate the creaks and groans and pain in my lower back. I sense that God's editing is coming in part as a tap on the shoulder from that direction—I've been advised to scale down the length of time I spend sitting at my computer! 

The Pope Emeritus has retreated to a monastery. I'm sure God isn't leading me to enter a convent! And I don't envision that He wants me to stop writing. I think the still, small voice of God is a nudge to somewhat moderate my pace while accelerating my spiritual pace. I hope to learn to walk and work at a more realistic daily stride in line with my season of life.

I don't exactly know how to do that! I've always been a race horse, a self-goal-setter, deadline-meeter, and high achiever. A Chinese proverb describes such a life as “galloping on horseback through a field of beautiful flowers.” You can't “smell the roses” that way and might even trample on them. Besides, you are likely to wear out the horse! I realize how seldom I allow time for non-work. I understand G.K. Chesterton when he said, “I never have enough nothing to do.” I can learn from Jesus when He called His disciples to come apart for rest and restoration after they returned from doing the work He had given them.

“Let your moderation [temperance] be known unto all. The Lord is near [at hand, coming soon]” (Philippians 4:5 in various translations). Perhaps my “nose-to-the-grindstone” intensity and productivity is better “known to all” than my moderation. That is nothing to be proud of. Temperance is defined as “showing self-restraint in action, exercising self-control, not being extreme.” In Galatians 5:23 temperance is listed as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Intemperance, therefore, is lack of moderation, overindulgence, excess in anything even something positive and good. If I lack temperance, one of the essential Spirit fruits has fallen off my life tree.

I find it extremely difficult to change lifelong overwork habits. Adjustments may not go smoothly. I will have to exercise strong self-discipline. I may slip back into pushing myself to meet self-deadlines and reach worthy goals. I know I can't go “cold turkey” and modify my lifestyle all at once. I can expect withdrawal challenges. God helping me, I'm going to pray and try to gradually reshape my days and refine my priorities according to the Lord's editing to achieve better balance. Along with scaling down my computer sitting/writing time, I hope to edit in more time to refresh and restore myself physically, spiritually, and every other way to achieve better balance. (Perhaps!)
 
The above may not sound like a very big deal to some, but for me it borders on the drastic! My desire is to do the complete will of God and to produce the maximum spiritual fruit for Him the rest of my way Home. Here's the sticky part for me: I believe I really have, to this point, written and published and done the will of God according to what I understood of His purpose for my life. At the same time, I haven't written and done all that I myself hoped or still want to write and do for the Lord.

So I asked some of my dear special friends to pray for me as I pray for myself:
Lord, grant me wisdom to know the difference between Your will and my will and give me the strength and discernment to press on to accomplish YOUR will as You reveal it to me. I give You permission to “edit” my life in any way that will please You.”

Some friends responded immediately with good advice along with the promise of their prayers helping me toward a proper perspective. One friend put it this way: "Each morning ask the Lord for wisdom to face that unique, new "unEDITed" day and let God EDIT it Himself so that you may be a crEDIT to Him!

That sounds like good spiritual and practical advice: Perhaps I shouldn't be as concerned about making some sweeping, drastic, overall lifestyle changes or work-style decisions. Each day I will look to the Lord for His specific will for that day whether He wants me to walk or run, work or play, write at my computer (or how long!) or minister to a neighbor, restore myself or help bear the burden of a friend, etc.

The main thing is to let the Lord hold my hand daily and determine that day's pace—or to accept multiple paces within one day. 

Of course! Really good common sense and spiritual wisdom!