Friday, March 27, 2015


TO NOTICE: "To become aware of something that has caught one's attention;
to observe; to recognize" (Dictionary)
“Forget not all His benefits”
the Psalmist writes.

Leona Choy

This morning I seized a fleeting moment
that nearly slipped through
my careless fingers.

Outside my bedroom window
I noticed swelling new buds
on naked branches
that lifted their bony fingers
toward the grey dripping sky—
such a simple thing
but it announces spring!

I raised the window. 
Sounds of spring rushed in
 carried on wings of chill, damp air:
An advance-scout robin
chirped on the soggy lawn
celebrating the foggy day.
The monotonous rhythm
from the drain spout
kept tempo with the music
of retreating rain.
God, I notice! I notice!

I echoed the throb of new life
I savored the season
trying to pin down the moment
and capture it with both hands
so it couldn't fly away.
I lingered at the window sill bewitched
and breathing basic life.
Lord! I notice! I notice!

Too many springs have passed
unheeded, unclaimed, as I rushed about
preoccupied with my many doings
missing the very One whose fingers
gently touch the earth each spring
with fresh, created life.

Is it possible to miss God
by permitting the pursuit of the ordinary
to obscure His face?

How quickly the noise of daily life
can dull my ear to God
and the pace of my activity
contribute to losing
awareness of His majesty
of His intimate care, of His reality.

But today I noticed God
in the wee buds springing to life
through His cycle of renewal
on bony-finger branches of naked trees
silhouetted against the grey dripping sky.

God smiled and whispered,
"Thank you for noticing!"


Wonder of wonders, God notices ME!
He tenderly, intimately notices all the details of my life
 every moment of the day and night.
I don't understand how that is possible
given the billions of people on earth 
and His meticulous administration of the vast universe
including this seemingly insignificant
 tilted, blue-green Planet Earth.
But the Scripture declares, "the eyes of the Lord
 are upon the righteous...
the Lord looks from heaven and sees all the sons of men...
He cares about you watchfully...."
Jesus said that His Father was aware of each sparrow
and each hair of my head. 
Thank You, God, that You notice ME
and You take care of my every need!

(Encore from Leona's poetry collection
 LATTER RAIN: Wordsmithing Verse
in the Vintage Season of my life)  

Thursday, March 26, 2015


I thought my memory served me well, but I was only partially correct. We did sing the chorus “Peace like a river” at times during my teen years at our “Singspirations,” but now I remember that when we were ready to pack up and go home, it was more often “Thou Wilt Keep Him in Perfect Peace.” A couple of the other survivors from that long ago experience might correct me.

It is based on Isaiah 26:3, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee."

The Amplified Paraphrase version richly enhances the meaning and is completed by verse 4:

“You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You and hopes confidently in You. So trust in the Lord—commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him—forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting rock—the Rock of ages.”

To be “stayed” on the Lord means to abide in Him, settle on Him, be securely anchored in Him, steadfastly remain, continue resolutely grounded in Him without being moved. It is an endurance and persistence and everlasting word packed with meaning.

The Lord is "stayed" on us; the Scripture says "we are graven on His palm" and "we are the apple of His eye." Because God never changes, “Even to your old age, I shall be the same, and even to your graying years I shall bear you!” (Isaiah 46:4) what I experienced of His perfect peace in my teens, is meant to sustain me in my advanced calendar years. 

God is the One who gives me perfect peace and rest; but it is conditional. I am the one who has to do the "staying" of my mind on Him in order to qualify for His peace that passes understanding.
 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee;
When the shadows come and darkness falls, He giveth inward peace:
O He is the only perfect resting place - He giveth perfect peace!
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stay'd on Thee.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


We need wisdom in every season of our mortal lives. 

In childhood, however, we really can't expect it because we have not grown sufficiently and life has not unfolded yet. We are too fresh, untried, and unproven. Youth is in the experimental stage; life is being tested, knowledge is being accumulated. Youthful wisdom? Not so much. In prime years wisdom and folly are being sorted out; we make some good choices; some foolish decisions take us on detours.

It is in advanced years that wisdom is expected to flower and bear fruit and its fragrance waft to others. (At least that's the proverbial ideal track.) Those are our vintage years when our spiritual grapes should be ripe and sweet. The mature, those who have accumulated many decades, are finally supposed to be wise. Those who trail behind us are expected to happily benefit from our collected, well-tried experience. 

In both cases that may not always be so. Sometimes, unfortunately, those in vintage years speak and act foolishly. And because the young insist on making their own mistakes, they are reluctant to profit from the experience of their elders. So history repeats itself. We who are hopefully wise and mature should be careful to dispense our wisdom only when or if it is requested. Otherwise, let's zip the lips! That in itself is golden wisdom.

The wisdom I seek for myself in my mature years is wisdom to live in the will and purposes of God. In my youth, the days seemed to stretch open-ended and could hardly be counted. 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 want to choose and act prudently as the path of life narrows and my remaining days can actually be numbered. My reflection on that theme follows.

My Prayer for Wisdom

God, grant me the wisdom of mature years to circumvent the potential foolishness of aging.

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

Monday, March 23, 2015


I guess this is going to be a nostalgia piece. I'm dipping way back in my memory almost three-quarters of a century to my teenage years. I grew  up in the Heartland of Iowa in a town named after a river with Cedar trees lining its banks.

Those were pre-television years and kids led a simpler life. With my Christian teen friends our faith life and social life converged in activities in our Presbyterian church. We found our friendships in Sunday School, Sunday services, Wednesday night prayer meetings, even Sunday night services where as young people we experienced our first opportunities for leadership. We were active in the youth group which was called Christian Endeavor, and we met before Sunday night service. These were golden years of our faith formation.

Once a month after the evening service dozens of girls and guys would pile into cars and head for our young, handsome pastor's home for a “Singspiration.” No one wanted to miss that. We all sat on the floor in their living room while the pastor's wife, a classically trained pianist, would play whatever hymns or choruses we called out as our favorites from a youth chorus book. It was a lively, simple, fun time. Eventually we'd be served some goodies and continued to socialize noisily--until we heard the piano playing a concluding chorus signaling time for us to head for the door.

I searched my memory for that particular chorus. Thanks for the memory, Lord! I couldn't even find the words on Google but the human brain has an incredible recall system. I think I nailed it, melody included. (There may still be a half dozen friends from those days who are living and can check whether I got it right. I'm willing to stand corrected).

PEACE like a river
flowing so free
from heavenly mountains
sweeps over me;
JOY like a fountain
sparkling within
fills all my being
with praise to Him.

We were innocent teens full of the optimism of youth and the anticipation of life stretching ahead of us open end. Most of us had experienced a personal relationship with Jesus Christ under the biblical teaching and guidance of our church leadership. JOY—lots of it, fun without serious worries. PEACE—in spite of rumbles of a war that seemed far away. Hitler was marching across Europe devouring countries and bringing death and destruction to people whom we didn't know. But in a few short years the war came to us and peace became illusive. At graduation from high school scores of our classmates donned uniforms and marched off to that very war and came face to face with death. Many never returned. Even our young pastor left our church to join the chaplaincy.

In the ensuing years all of us who sat around on the floor at those Singspirations were scattered across the world. There were still more wars in the generations to come and some of our own children fought in them; there were other events in our lives to disturb our PEACE and JOY. Some lived short lives; a few of us are survivors. 

Is the peace of God which we experienced in the fledgling days of our faith still fresh and effectual to us in our late calendar years? The Scriptures declare that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is sufficient, come what may in our lives. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. But we, of course, can separate ourselves from Him through the cares of life and its burdens and pressures and eventually the weariness of aging.

PEACE like a river.  Another hymn echoes that theme: 
Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious, in its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day,
Perfect, yet it groweth deeper all the way.
    • Refrain:
      Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
      Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

      And still another hymn carries forward that analogy:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul!

Our lives are also like a river. Come what may, whatever turbulence on the surface, whatever whitewater churns, whatever boulders it holds, beneath, in the depths of our being, we can keep experiencing God's peace. Seasons of nature may come and go and accumulate; seasons of our lives may be many; our trials and sorrows may seem huge to us. But “perfect peace and rest” is ours if “it is well, it is well with my soul.”

Although my mortal body ages, my soul doesn't become ancient. It is as fresh as the soul of a newborn babe and will remain so throughout Eternity. My faith can continue as pristine and robust as it was in the early teen years of my relationship with the Lord seventy-five years ago. That is, if I am “stayed upon Jehovah” and maintain my “first love” relationship to which Jesus invited us in Revelation 2:4. “But I have this against you, you have left your first love.” During His lifetime Jesus warned about the situation in the last days, “...the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). He promised never to leave us, but we can grow cold and leave Him. I can't be neutral in my faith or my love for God. Lukewarm is especially unacceptable. (Rev. 3:16)

Lord, may my love for You be such that it “floweth fuller and groweth deeper” with the years so that my peace can flow like a river.

Friday, March 20, 2015


Truth is truth wherever it can be found. The Scripture says, “Whatever things are true...if anything worthy of praise...let your mind dwell on these things” (Phil. 4:8).

Sometimes I find Truth in unexpected places. I came across a truth on the last corner of the cover of my college alumni magazine. A young professional, a graduate of the college, wrote, “I think of my life as a very small plot of land that's been given to me, that I didn't make, and I can't sustain by myself. I want this little plot to reflect God's glory, and so long as I can accomplish this [through her God-given gift and academic training in the arts] I'll continue to explore it thoughtfully and share the experience with others.”

Good stuff! A worthy analogy. I want to explore its application to my own life—"the very small plot of land that's been given to me by God.” Have I been a good steward to cultivate it faithfully? I asked myself that queston in one of my previous blog posts: What difference does my life make anyway? Is my life “footprint” of any significance?
It doesn't matter how large or small my allotted plot of life land is compared to that of anyone else. Just as it doesn't matter how many talents have been given me by God to invest—one or ten. 
The parable Jesus told about the distribution of talents could have several applications. In the economy context of that day He used the word “talent” in a monetary sense to indicate measurement of a commodity. A talent was a unit of weight equal in value to a talent-weight of gold, silver, or other metal. At that time it would not have meant some special natural ability or aptitude or performing skill or natural endowment as a “talent” is commonly thought of today. It described something tangible that a person could literally wrap in cloth and bury in the ground or do business with or invest or secure in a bank. In any case, interest and growth of the principal was expected.  The point of the parable is that we are accountable to the Master how we use whatever He gave us whether it be much or seemingly little. It is a matter of good and faithful stewardship.
It doesn't matter how many years or seasons of life God decides to give me—length of years or a short few decades—in which to accomplish His plan for my life. He only expects me to make use of and to produce abundantly from whatever He has committed to me in His ordained time frame. And He gives us the capabilities to complete it.

To what end? “To reflect His glory.” To whom much is given, of him shall much be required. Undeniably, each of us has been given "much" by our generous, loving Lord. "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits..." (Psalm 103:2) 

And again: "Give thanks with a grateful heart; give thanks to the Holy One...."

Thursday, March 12, 2015


 A true episode in a new autobiography by a Chinese Christian prisoner in China stirred me to hurry and get my yellow legal pad and devote today to GIVING THANKS. It was reminiscent of the stories of many precious, suffering Chinese Christians who my late husband Ted and I had the honor and privilege of meeting personally in China. 

 Confined as a political prisoner but for the more accurate reasons of preaching the gospel and training Christians to evangelize, the young author of this book was beaten, starved, and tortured mercilessly. Along with fellow prisoners, scantily clothed in bitter winter, he was forced to sit motionless, neck, back, and legs completely straight, an excruciatingly painful position, on the perpetually wet cement floor of his prison cell for ten hours daily. Absolute silence was enforced. The atheist, cruel, Communist guards especially forbade anyone to say the word “God” or attempt to evangelize fellow prisoners with what the government considered “superstitious and inflammatory religious propaganda.” 
 In spite of his horrendous circumstances, the young Chinese Christian felt so overwhelmed with thankfulness to God for his faith and the privilege of suffering for Jesus, that one day, he wrote, “I cleared my throat and began singing a song from my underground house church days. “Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One, give thanks, because He's given Jesus Christ, His Son....” Suddenly one after another of the prisoners dared to break form, risking beating or pain inflicted with an electrified baton by the sadistic guards, and joined in the singing filling the atmosphere by their defiance. No one ever dared speak as they were forced to sit silently like statues during those ten miserable daily hours; certainly no one ever sang! Whether they believed the words or not, hardened criminals, murderers, drug dealers though most of them were, they sang on with the young Christian. Then the cells on both sides of their cell began to echo with other inmates also singing to God. Most had never heard of God and possibly sang simply as an act of rebellion. Nevertheless, the prison that day was turned into one huge worship center. 

After the guards swooped down and beat the prisoners into subjection, the following day our courageous young Christian prisoner simply hummed the tune to “Give Thanks.” He kept the letter of the regulation forbidding speech or religious propaganda. Once again the other men joined in with humming until the prison sounded like a gigantic beehive of praise. It must have been reminiscent of Acts 16:25, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” 

 Anyplace, anytime, for anything and anyone, under any circumstances, and for every reason, in season and out of season is the Scripture context for giving thanks. (Ephesians 5:20; 1 Thess. 5:18) Thanks includes praise to the Giver of all gifts, acknowledging God as our prime Source and the One to whom we direct our thanks. (James 1:17) We should give thanks without ceasing for that is the explicit will of God. We should “forget not all His benefits” (Psalm 103:2). The Psalter is a handbook saturated with thanks and praise. It is the way we can enter into God's presence. (Psalm 100:4)

 Many of us at one time or another in life experience living in “prisons,” whether literal incarceration of some kind beyond our control or figurative. It may be circumstances that constrict us, jobs or situations in which we feel trapped, suffering in less than ideal marriages, living in bodies that are acutely or chronically ill, or in aging bodies with growing limitations. We may be immobile on hospital beds, in care centers with downsized living quarters and subject to a regimented life to which we are not accustomed, or perhaps in prisons of our minds. We can settle simply for complaining, coping, or surviving—or we can SING. 

 In any and all circumstances God expects us, invites us to give Him the sacrifice of thanksgiving. If we are suffering, it is nevertheless under His love and care and for a purpose. No matter how adverse we believe our situation is, or how unique we think is the suffering we are going through, to “give thanks with a grateful heart” is the key that frees our minds and spirits from our particular prison or place of incarceration, confinement, or captivity.

 Especially in our advanced calendar years, in our summit season, in our vintage years we tend to focus on so many things which we can no longer do, to recite all our lacks, total up our losses, and bemoan our deficiencies. That is a downward, backward slide. The way up, the way out is with the hymn writer to “Count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done!” 

I'm going to slip out of my daily routine today and “take a day out of the office” with my yellow legal pad and start counting, itemizing, enumerating, to identify those multiplied blessings large and small (actually, there are no small ones!) which the Lord has showered upon me. And I will thank Him for each one! 

Of this I am sure—I will SING or HUM or UTTER IN MY SPIRIT if not with my lips audibly my “THANKS with a grateful heart!” Perhaps I will even whistle!



Follow up audio post to: THANKSGIVING IN MARCH?

GO TO THE LINK BELOW to listen to the song the prisoners sang/hummed and sing with them:

Saturday, March 7, 2015


I like to squeeze all possible dictionary meanings out of words. In this key verse from Saint Paul's letter to the Corinthian Church, he tells us precisely how to look at our negative circumstances when we encounter them. "Look, focus on, fix your eyes, stare at, gaze intently with eyes wide open, behold, concentrate on a central point, direct the eyes, pay steady attention to, hold the eyes on, position the mind securely upon" what we can't see: the Invisible!

We are not supposed to simply glance momentarily at the Unseen and then stare back at our present adversities again. We aren't supposed to blink but fix our eyes and heart and mind and emotions and will totally on the Unseen—that which is not yet seen, but will be seen. There is more around us than what meets the eye. If something is fixed, it is not readily movable, it is rendered permanent, definite, not fluctuating or varying. It should be our permanent occupation to gaze at what we can't see.

What comes before this verse in context? “Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” These verses are dynamite, loaded with powerful truth that we can apply to any suffering, trouble, affliction, pain, or adversity—even death. It's all temporary. Other translations say “seen for a time, brief and fleeting, here today, gone tomorrow.” The coming “weight of glory” is the permanent future state, deathless, everlasting, forever.

Matthew Henry's Commentary on verses 13-18 of 2 Corinthians chapter four: (the italics are mine)

"The grace of faith is an effectual remedy against fainting in times of trouble. They [the early Christians] knew that Christ was raised, and that his resurrection was an earnest and assurance of theirs. The hope of this resurrection will encourage in a suffering day, and set us above the fear of death.
"Also, their sufferings were for the advantage of the church, and to God's glory. The sufferings of Christ's ministers, [and all Christians] as well as their preaching and conversation,[behavior] are for the good of the church and the glory of God. The prospect of eternal life and happiness was their support and comfort. What sense was ready to pronounce heavy and long, grievous and tedious, faith perceived to be light and short, and but for a moment. 

"The weight of all temporal afflictions was lightness itself, while the glory to come was a substance, weighty, and lasting beyond description. If the apostle could call his heavy and long-continued trials light, and but for a moment, what must our trifling difficulties be! Faith enables to make this right judgment of things. There are unseen things, as well as things that are seen. And there is this vast difference between them; unseen things are eternal, seen things but temporal, or temporary only. Let us then look off from the things which are seen; let us cease to seek for worldly advantages, or to fear present distresses. Let us give diligence to make our future happiness sure.”

So what is it about “fix your eyes” that I don't understand? God tells me exactly what to focus on. I shouldn't be shifty-eyed. Like viewing the eye chart in the ophthalmologist’s exam room, He asks me to see how clearly I can read each line of 2 Corinthians 4:18. Then He expects me to put it into practice!

We can even fix our eyes on the Invisible, on things above, if we are blind or sight impaired to some degree! We perceive things in the supernatural through the eyes of  our spirit. For that we don't need human eyesight. It is a matter of my will to turn my inner eyes to God and to the eternal dimension in which He dwells. There is some analogy to a night vision device, a NVD. This is an optical instrument that allows images to be seen even in levels of light approaching total darkness. They are most often used by the military and law enforcement agencies. 
If I have difficulty seeing clearly because the darkness around me is too dense, or my pain and suffering and adversities tend to obscure my sight, the Holy Spirit is available to provide me with His precision NVD. David the Psalmist king fixed his spiritual eyes upon God in the dark of the night upon his bed--and God was there! It is simply up to me to turn my spiritual gaze upon Him, “...looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith...” (Hebrews 12:2). 

As the hymn written by Helen H. Lemmel invited us:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There's a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion
For more than conquerors we are!

His Word shall not fail you, He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Thursday, March 5, 2015


(For my friend who is walking through The Valley)

I thought of the following verse while praying for you as you enter Hospice care this week:
24 "Enoch walked with God. Then he couldn't be found, because God took him from this life" (NIV Genesis 5:24).

This verse came to my attention recently when I heard someone on TV talking about a suffering friend who continually repeated the prayer, "Walk with me, Jesus!" And one day his friend just "kept walking with God" like Enoch, and the Lord gently took him Home like Enoch. What a precious truth!

And then I thought of the other verses from Philippians 3:10-11

"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."

Should we not pray instead, "Let me walk with You, Jesus!"? There is a difference in perspective. Let us focus on Him.
Jesus is the One whose sufferings we share as we suffer with Him who suffered for us. We lean on Him. He is the One who carried the Cross for us. And He is the One whose nail-scarred hand holds our hand as we walk together to life's Finish Line.

Then suddenly, quietly, at some point and time foreordained by God, we just keep on walking with Him right on into Heaven! Then we "can't be found" because we are "ELSEWHERE" with Him! How cool is that?!

How much more meaningful it can be if we repeat often during the day and in the lonely night hours, "LET ME WALK WITH YOU, JESUS!" "LET ME WALK WITH YOU, JESUS!" "LET ME WALK WITH YOU, JESUS!"

And then it will happen that “one day we can't be found" -- God has taken us from this life!

Love and prayers,
Your friend in Christ,

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


(A bit more about MUSIC)

Whatever I am thinking or reading or hearing before drifting off to sleep at bedtime deeply affects how well I rest or how much I toss and turn restlessly. My mental posture filters into my dream cycles. Apparently our minds don't have a pause or stop button but continue running actively all night long. 

If I don't capture my thoughts like with a butterfly net, they will fly about wildly and uncontrollably. That sets me up for worry and anxiety. I fantasize what could happen when I cross the bridge which may not even be there when I get to it. I replay what went wrong in the past and fast forward to what the unknown future may hold. It's my choice but God instructs me: “Set your mind on the things above,” and “Have the mind of Christ,” and “bring every thought into captivity.”

I must be proactive. If I don't program my mind to fill it up in a positive way at bedtime, it will not remain empty. It will be taken over by the debris of the day or the activities of the one who "roams the world seeking the ruin of souls."

Unfortunately, my lifelong habit has been to read myself toward drowsiness, sometimes with light fiction so as not to tax my brain too heavily and prevent the onset of deep, quality sleep. I confess that too often I’ve read far into the night if enticed by a dramatic, page-turner novel. I’ve tried to break that habit and make my last thoughts before going to sleep focus on God, my Provider and Sustainer, and on His words in song or Scripture, which make for a much more “silent night, holy night.”

I’ve heard several versions of the following story. The details vary, but the point of this true story is always consistent. During the bombing of London in World War II, many young children were temporarily sent off to the English countryside to live in safety with rural families until the danger of aerial attacks on the urban areas would pass. Everyone was living in austerity and food was rationed. The children were fretful, nervous, and distraught by separation from their parents and families. Their sleep was filled with nightmares. Although they were provided with food during the daylight hours, they seemed fearful that there might not be anything for them to eat in the morning.

Their surrogate caring families finally found a loving way to alleviate their anxiety. Although the children had eaten before bedtime and their tummies were full, their hosts gave each child a substantial hunk of bread to hold in his hands through the night. Thus the young ones were assured that they would have something in the morning, and if they awakened during the night, being able to touch and taste and smell the extra bread gave them the assurance and comfort they needed.

I have tried to build that analogy into my life. Upon going to bed, I deliberately “hold” a piece of spiritual Bread in my heart and mind in order to “eat” it during the night if I awaken. It comforts and assures me that I will be kept safely through the night with the abundant provision of my Heavenly Father.

Music is the proactive way to fill the void in my mind for its journey through the night. I can actually put into my mental player any mental music CD that I choose! How cool is that? I'm not at the mercy of my untamed thoughts which continue to bombard my mind while I sleep. I have available an entire music library of mental iTunes to call upon. They are in my hymn books or stored in my memory bank. I can download them at will. 

I can program into my mind the lyrics and melody of a Christian hymn silently. I don't even have to hear it audibly. It will "play" endlessly and soothe my spirit and build my faith. Even a simple phrase from some stanza or the refrain is something to sink my spiritual teeth in, to chew on by repeating over and over with my lips or in my mind in silent contemplation.

David the psalmist king and contemporary musician often mentioned how during the day and all through the night he meditated on his bed about God and His goodness. God gave him songs in the night: “I will remember my song in the night. I will meditate with my heart; and my spirit ponders” (Psalm 77:6). That was also the experience of Job in even more ancient days. “...God my Maker, who gives songs in the night” (Job 35:10). David composed his own songs and we are privileged to sing them even today in the Psalter. In fact, we can compose our own songs in the night as we too intimately worship our King.

If we need help, examples from any hymn book are unlimited. A phrase plucked from a hymn will do: “Rejoice, the Lord is King, or “Be still, my soul, the Lord is on your side,” or a stanza from a hymn: “Simply trusting every day, Trusting through a stormy way; Even when my faith is small, Trusting Jesus—that is all,” “Jesus, I adore You, lay my life before You.” Saturating my mind with a sacred song is a shield against the enemy of my soul who seeks entrance to my mind during the night when my guard is down and I am vulnerable to enemy attacks.

I can take my defense in another direction too. That piece of Bread might be a Bible verse I’ve selected from my nightly Scripture readings in a devotional book. It can even be a single word that has become spiritually significant to me. I can select a simple phrase or what I like to call a "flash promise" from God. For instance “Let not your heart be troubled,” or “Forget not all His benefits,” or “Be anxious for nothing.” Perhaps a declaration of faith like "Jesus, I trust in You!" or “Jesus Christ, Lord of my life,” or “I know whom I have believed,” or “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.” And my every night favorite, “Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening!” Taking one phrase of the Lord's prayer to repeat each night is another savory banquet.

It helps if I choose something that I can mentally repeat in rhythm with my slow night breathing. I can repeat the same phrase over and over to build my faith. This is not “vain repetition” which Jesus condemned as what the pagans do. On the contrary, this nurtures my spirit with the rich and meaningful Words of Life. If I fall asleep at any point, that's a bonus!

As Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” so I ask the Heavenly Father to direct me in choosing just the right piece of nightly bedtime snack to sustain me. Such nourishment truly becomes “Wonder Bread.” And my songs in the night are my midnight snack to comfort me
 until the morning light.

Sunday, March 1, 2015


As I write this, I happen to have six friends of various ages who have lately fallen, all under different circumstances. Several of them are repeat fallers. I am encore-adapting a topic from my recently published book, STILL MORE! FLOURISHING ON MY SUMMIT because our “fallen state” becomes all the more apparent in our calendar-challenged years.

“Help! I've fallen and I can't get up!” The image of a woman lying helpless on the floor flashed across my TV screen. An often repeated statistic flagged me: “One out of three people over sixty-five will fall this year.” Since I'm in that age category, advertisers target me persuasively to buy an alert button to hang as a pendant around my neck. They promise that if I press the button, I will be rescued in the probable event of a fall.

A few of my friends who are advancing in age are trying preventive maintenance. They enroll voluntarily in a rehab class for instruction and exercise to increase their mobility and improve their balance. Both physical and spiritual balance are in danger in our summit season of life. We tend to totter and wobble more than a bit when we walk. (On the physical side, I listed twenty of the everyday hazards that might precipitate a fall in Chapter 8, “Maintaining Our Balance,” in my above mentioned book.)

Accidental falls happen to the toddler and to the advanced-in-life totterer and to anyone in between. The small child is just learning to walk and gets up readily from a tumble after a few tears. Because a little one is closer to the floor, the bumps and bruises are not usually critical. Sufficient baby fat cushions the fall. The older person, having been a veteran walker for a lifetime, may become careless and unaware of the lack of balance that naturally comes with aging. A fall is usually more serious for us because our bones are more brittle and there is less natural padding. We easily become black and blue or end up with broken bones. As senior adults, we should learn to watch our step.

Most of the above physical warnings can translate into spiritual warnings. Although I have been a longtime Christian, I'm still in danger of losing my spiritual balance and falling. The road of life may be getting rougher. I face an uncertain future. I tend to shuffle instead of walking erect and alert and focusing on where I am going. I can lose my spiritual bearings.

Some unexpected trauma threatens to topple me. I may not be as careful to walk in God's full light as I did in the fervor of my first love for Christ. I must be careful not to carry too much baggage of the past; it may drag me down to a fall. My attachments to this earthly life may become too strong. If my spiritual feet are tired and weak from the length of life's journey, I may need spiritual orthotics in my shoes to maintain my walk with the Lord. I may not hear God's whisper of guidance as clearly as I did when I was in a more intimate relationship with Him. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit is available as my hearing aid.

Jesus warned us to watch and pray so we will recognize the particular temptations of our life road and not stumble. I must not let my spiritual vision to become clouded with the cataracts of the passing things of this world. Along my pathway are sins which can so easily beset me and upset me. They cause me to fall if my spiritual eyes aren't fixed on the Lord. My feet may get tangled up in the trivia of the temporal and down I go spiritually. If I'm not progressing in my faith and trust in God, I slip backward and eventually take a spill. If I don't keep my spiritual knees strong by kneeling in worship or worshiping in my spirit, I will join my peers who head for knee and hip replacements.

Only with my heart continually turned to prayer can I keep from fainting from the weariness of advancing age. Some of us in our senior years settle for the rocking chair posture too soon and fall from weakness caused by physical inactivity. On the other hand, some of us tend to excessively hurry because the time left on earth seems so brief; we trip and fall too. I should trust Jesus to show me His will for both my physical and spiritual pace at each season of my life.

I must beware of elevating myself with high heels of pride for my achievements and turn an ankle and take a tumble. “Pride goes before a fall,” the Scripture declares. I must not be drunk with the luxuries and comforts of this world which the evil one designs to keep me from walking the straight line of righteousness.

In my advanced years my spinal discs may compress or deteriorate and I may lose a few inches in height. Applied spiritually, I might “lose my backbone” by no longer standing up straight for the moral and spiritual issues I once stood for so enthusiastically. Spiritual sciatica may set in.

Let's avoid a spiritual "Oops!" To be a faithful child of God, I should obtain whatever spiritual alignment correction is necessary to keep walking tall in my spirit without wavering or falling—all the way to the Finish Line.