Monday, November 23, 2015


Things that once were wild alarms cannot now disturb my rest...” is a phrase from a hymn familiar to some of us.

Is that a true witness for those of us who have put our trust in God...or just wishful thinking? Has God's “peace that passes understanding” that was promised to keep our hearts and minds, our emotions and our mental equilibrium at an even keel vanished in the face of fear?

When an alarm suddenly goes off, it churns up feelings of jangled nerves, rapid heart beats, ear splitting noise, and paralyzing fear. There might be outward alarms like a sudden electrical storm in the middle of the night with flashes of lightning and thunder boomers; a fire alarm breaking silence; the screech of tires followed by a splintering crash and breaking glass. Or inward emotional alarms like answering the phone and receiving bad news; a worst scenario report from a medical test; a treasured relationship unexpectedly shattered; a devastating financial disaster. Alarms wear many faces and make us feel that we lack control.

It seems as if dozens of wild alarms are currently going off at a high decibel level all over the world. We are on edge and in the grip of fear with imminent terrorist threats. Our nerves are on edge. We face the threat of cataclysmic changes to our accustomed way of life. We are afraid for our very lives and the lives of our loved ones.

There will always be situations in life that disturb my status quo and jerk me out of my comfort zone. Jesus stated that in the world we will have tribulation. We are not promised smooth sailing or a placid flight over the jagged mountain tops of life. The captain of a plane might have time to warn us to buckle our seat belts and prepare for turbulence ahead or it might come suddenly. He might have to alter the flight course and rise above the clouds to avoid a storm. For sure it is time to keep our seat belts fastened.

No matter how high or how tumultuous the waves on the surface of the churning ocean, a submarine can navigate into the depths where there are quiet waters unaffected by the violent storm above. Likewise Jesus is our “ever present help in time of trouble” to submerge us to that quiet place in the secret of His presence.

Peace doesn't mean the absence of storms or adversities or setbacks. Jesus declared that He came expressly to give us His peace, to leave it with us “to take as needed.” It is recorded in the gospels that Jesus was sound asleep in the midst of a raging storm on the sea so violent that the panicked disciples feared for their very lives. It may seem as if God doesn't care about our present dilemma because He is not doing anything about it. Nevertheless, He is still in charge and will never forsake us and will take us through whatever He has allowed to happen in His perfect will.

The devil is good at breaking and entering our hearts with frightful events, trying to breach our security in Christ and knock us off kilter. He uses “wild alarms” like terrorist threats to fill our hearts with fear, steal our peace, and shake our trust in God. Jesus promised that “no one can snatch us out of the Father's hand.” Only we can remove ourselves from God's protection and shelter by giving in to the devil's wiles.

I am God's child. Have I forgotten to anchor myself in the promise of Psalm 91 in this time of terrorist threats?

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, "My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!" For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper And from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. You will not be afraid of the terror by night, Or of the arrow that flies by day; Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. A thousand may fall at your side And ten thousand at your right hand, But it shall not approach you. You will only look on with your eyes And see the recompense of the wicked. For you have made the LORD, my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place. No evil will befall you, Nor will any plague come near your tent. For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, That you do not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and cobra, The young lion and the serpent you will trample down. "Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name. "He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. "With a long life I will satisfy him And let him see My salvation."

Sunday, November 15, 2015


 It was such a simple, innocent gesture. The sweet, young podiatrist's assistant asked me, “Do you want me to put your socks and shoes back on?”

 I had just finished with my regular appointment to have my toenails trimmed and anything else foot-related attended to as necessary. “Sure, thank you!” I replied, although I could still have done it myself.

It caught me by surprise. I smiled and relaxed and let it happen. Well, why not? Full circle—navigating my nineties now, I had a flashback to when I was a toddler and my mother did that for me because I had not yet learned to do it myself. Soon on, however, I wanted to do everything for myself no matter how clumsily. Dependence turned to independence and being in control of myself for a long lifetime. Independence became a habit. I accepted that as the admirable, mature normal for adulthood.

Fast forward to the present. The new normal of the advancing in age process seems to be a diminishing of one's capability and relinquishment of being in control of one's abilities and activities. Gradual dependence looms ahead. I find myself needing greater assistance in some of the physical areas of life. And at the same time a resistance to being helped wells up within me. I must admit that I am not as strong as I was. I don't want to lose control. I want to stay competent and efficient. I want to remain independent. I want to stay strong. I don't want any help!

The facts are against all of this. We progress from total dependence as an infant through the seasons of life to at least a large measure of dependence in the last season of life. That's part of the aging package and the reality road to serenity we must embrace: to accept the things we cannot change; to change whatever we can, and wisdom to know the difference. The reality of needing assistance looms high on the roster of things we must accept or else we will make ourselves miserable.
I dislike that I need assistance, but I'm coming to understand that there are certain things I can't manage by myself anymore. It comes as a shock. I'm accustomed to quoting, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” That is not always so. To receive help is something difficult that one must learn. We can also be blessed when we have learned to receive. If we fail to accept assistance we reject the natural order of things. I dislike the four letter word weak. I have always been strong and in charge. Nevertheless, God's order is: there is a time to help others when we are strong, and there is a time to let others help us when we become more frail. I don't like the word frail either.

My friend's husband is elderly and becoming unstable in his walking gait. His doctor strongly advised using a cane for balance. His male pride got in the way, he refused the cane, stumbled, and ended up in the hospital, then in rehab, and now is confined to a walker. Examples of our resistance to assistance and the consequences are many. What a blessing awaits us if we accept help joyfully and thankfully! God provides that through family and friends and caregivers! 

Resistance to assistance has its parallel in the spiritual realm. We have an innate desire to want to be in control, to “do it my way,” to devise our own way of salvation, to walk independently. God's normal is to want us to look to Him in all our ways, to lean on Him, to accept His help because “without Me you can do nothing.” He wants us to receive the bounteous help and blessings He has for us. It is in our weakness that we experience His strength.