Friday, August 11, 2017

THE HAMMER IS STILL ON THE ANVIL


I'm still at the stage of "hours on end to tweak and prune and snip and clip and trim while I edit my latest literary book-child to the point of delivery." Thank you, prayer partners, for your faithful prayers. I'm trying my best to "leisurely walk" through this manuscript rather than writing in the fast lane as is my habit. 

The final editing of the chapters of WRITING FOR THE SUPREME EDITOR should be finished soon and nearing production. The chapters titles are: Beginnings and Before, Launching my Writing Career, Selfie Writing, Spreading My Wings, Over Mountains and Plains and Seas, The Joy of Psalming, Passing the Writing Baton, God's Empowering Touch, From Cave Walls to Cyberspace, Legacy on My Mind, Pursue Your Dream and an Epilogue titled Afterglow.

Below is an excerpt explaining my analogy between the skilled master craft of blacksmithing and creative writing wordsmithing.


As I use the term, a wordsmith is similar to a master craftsman like a blacksmith. The blacksmith uses a hammer, an anvil, fire and water as his tools today in much the same way as they were used in past centuries. His raw materials are metal, iron and steel. The wordsmith's tools have morphed through the ages. His words originally were spoken and orally passed down. The yearning for permanency impelled him to change his medium through the centuries as the medium was developed. Mankind has always had wordsmiths—and always will. There are wordsmiths in every language group and they adapt to the times in which they live.

I found definitions of a wordsmith in various dictionaries which expands our understanding: “One skilled in using words, a fluent and prolific writer who manages language very well, someone who can inspire others through the use of brilliantly crafted words or phrases, one who makes up words intuitively, creatively, or purely by accident, one who can turn a tedious story into a magical and merryful story, one well-gifted in the art of writing, one who carefully selects just the right word and word order, a word expert, a creative communicator.”

Ah, how I would love to qualify as a wordsmith as described above! I can only aspire, dream, practice and press on to be counted worthy to bend low in the company of those who do merit such high-sounding descriptions.

Analogies to Blacksmithing

I see many analogies between wordsmithing and blacksmithing. I can only whet your appetite for such an understanding by briefly mentioning a few of them. First, let's look at what a blacksmith does. A blacksmith is a person who uses mega-strength to hammer hot iron on an anvil to change the shape of the material in line with his mental image. The heat in a forge must be intense enough to soften and shape the formerly rigid and unyielding substance. As iron heats to higher temperatures, it first glows red, then orange, yellow, and finally white. 

Eventually comes the finishing process. Depending on the master smithy's intended use of the piece, a blacksmith may finish it in a number of ways: Filing brings a piece to final shape, removing sharp edges and smoothing the surface. Heat treatment and case-hardening achieves the desired hardness. The wire brush—as a hand tool or power tool—can further smooth, brighten, and burnish surfaces. Grinding stones, abrasive paper and emery wheels can further shape the material. A range of treatments and finishes can inhibit oxidation and enhance or change the appearance of the piece. An experienced smithy selects the finish based on the metal itself and on the intended use of the item. 

A blacksmith doesn't usually work alone. Someone else is in the picture. A “blacksmith's striker” is an assistant whose job it is to swing a large sledgehammer in heavy forging operations as directed by the master blacksmith. In practice, the blacksmith holds the hot iron at the anvil with tongs in one hand, and indicates where to strike the iron by tapping it with a small hammer in the other hand. The striker then delivers a heavy blow to the indicated spot with a sledgehammer. All of the above reminds me of the process of creative writing, wordsmithing.

All for the Supreme Editor

I look upon my lifetime of wordsmithing in a twofold way: first, the creative words I have been forging into some medium of communication, and second, myself as God's workmanship. He has been forging me into the person He planned for me to be from before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4) “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). I am being worked on by His Holy Spirit, and God is working through me and I with Him to write what He wants me to write.

As a wordsmith who is a Christian I have a unique relationship and responsibility to work for and with the “Master Smithy” whom I call in the title of this book, “The Supreme Editor.” He is my Lord, the Omnipotent God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ to whom I am accountable as a good steward. He has the overall plan for any writing project to which He assigns me. 

I regard myself in a sense as His amanuensis. The dictionary defines that as a person who assists another to write what the other person desires. Of course God doesn't literally “dictate” what I am to write, contrary to what some “wannabe writers” claim about their fledgling literary works. In further definition and personalizing it, I am at my Master's personal service, “within hand reach” to perform any command. Further defined, an amanuensis is “an intimately trusted servant; like a scribe; a lowly clerk specializing in producing at royal command whatever the Sovereign wishes to write. I like that aspect. I look to the Lord for His nudge, His impression, His ideation for my writing. I try to listen carefully and “do whatever He says” as the Blessed Mother of Jesus instructed the wine servants at the wedding at Cana.

At times my Supreme Editor has said no or not yet when I presented an idea or manuscript to Him. I have not argued with God about it but simply obeyed. I didn't want to end up with a permanent bad hip like Jacob did when he wrestled with the Angel! As a case in point, it was more than thirty years ago that I chose the title for this book and outlined what I had in mind to write. God stopped me. I thought I got a no but it turned out to be a not yet because that was not God's time or mine. I had much more living to do and many difficult and joyous experiences to live through and many more books to write and publish before I was ready. Now He has given me the green light—due time has come!

In my wordsmithing God provides the tools, the material on which I work, the fire, the heat, the energizing strength to soften the hard task of working with words and making them malleable to sculpt for His intended use. At times it is I who am the unyielding iron on which God is working and intense heat is not pleasant but necessary. Sometimes there are difficult writing projects where the heat needs to be intensified. At times in the wordsmithing process the Divine Smithy allows the hefty, muscled “Striker” (the Adversary in this case) to administer a blow to make me more pliant and compliant to His will, as He allowed His servant Job in the Old Testament to go through. All the while He is loving on me, carefully holding me, keeping me safe and steady with His "divine tongs" so that I won't be harmed but perfected.

The Supreme Editor reserves for Himself the process of Finishing and polishing the product or writing project upon which we have worked together. He ordained its intended use. I leave it to His discretion how long the case-hardening finish is to take. At times that might mean an unexplained (to me) delay before a book is published. There have been times other than the example above when twenty years or more elapsed between the actual completion of one of my book manuscripts and the day it rolled off the press—seriously! It might have been me who was in need of the filing of my sharp edges or my finding the better choice of words to communicate His message or a different readership. I concur with the Supreme Editor's insistence on multiple editings. As in blacksmithing, the finished wordsmithing product must be presented shining brightly.

My life assignment from my Supreme Editor has been to learn how to communicate His thoughts to those who read my writings as a skillful blacksmith would as he hammers out iron into steel in the white furnace heat of his forge to create a product of His own choosing.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

MY LIST



 I have a "Special Needs" Prayer List. It is above and beyond my ordinary praying, although I don't think there is any such thing as "ordinary" praying. All requests, intercessions, praise and thanksgiving always reaches God.

But on this particular List are the names of people with various physical and spiritual and even unspoken, unknown to me needs. Either they have asked me to pray for them or I have come to know of either their urgent current or chronic needs, their burdens or their worrisome concerns for themselves or for others.



I simply bring the friends on this List to Jesus, lift them up into His arms like the Jewish mothers did with their children. He welcomed them onto His lap: “Let them come....” He embraced them and blessed them at the point of their need. The mothers were grateful and I am grateful to bring my friends to Him. I don't have to go into some detailed recital of their needs or remind Him of how I would like Him to answer them or how my friends would like to have them met. He already knows that.


All I need to do is to “help make a hole in the roof,” as it were, and be one of the four friends of the needy, helpless paralytic by holding one of the corners of the mat as we lower him through the ceiling right down in front of Jesus. (Mark 2:4) I am not praying alone. As I unite my prayers and faith with others, Jesus know what my friends need. He already has an omniscient, omnipotent plan for their lives and how He is going to generously and lovingly answer our collective petitions.


How God will answer doesn't depend on my eloquence, frequency or fervor in prayer. Simply to mention their names to Him will do, as the apostle Paul wrote that was his habit when praying for his friends. Jesus knows each of them by name (John 10:3,14). If they are ill and need healing and I know the name of the illness, I mention it to Him because His name is above every name (Eph. 1:21 and Phil 2:9) and at the mention of Jesus' name every knee will bow to Him (Rom. 14:11)—and by inference, so will every illness no matter how complicated and unpronounceable the medical term for the disease or disorder.


As God answers prayer and needs are met, people come and go on my List. I rejoice with those whom Jesus touches in whatever way He knows best. Some remain on my List for years, if necessary, struggling with chronic conditions and experiencing the “My grace is sufficient for you” balm from God for the long haul. They leave my List when it's God's perfect time to receive their ultimate healing in their Heavenly Home where there is no sickness or pain and Jesus makes all things new.


Others with special needs are continuing to come onto my ever-expanding List. I always have room for more. God expands my compassion and extends my love to include them. The hymn writer expresses it so well based on James 4:6—God gives greater grace: 


“He [God] gives more grace when the burden grows greater;

He sends more strength when the labors increase.

To added affliction He adds His mercy;

To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.



When we have exhausted our store of endurance,

When our strength has failed 'ere the day is half done,

When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,

Our Father's full giving is only begun.



His love has no limit; His grace has no measure;

His power has no boundary known unto men.

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,

He gives, and gives, and gives again!


To hear this hymn on youtube go to:


I welcome any “special needs” friends to My List. Seriously? Yes. Email me at leonachoy@gmail.com. Jesus' care and love for you has no limit. Let's trust Him together.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

CONCERNING CLIMATE CHANGE

God spoke to me in the Czech language this morning. Yes, He did.

 I just awakened and wanted to hurry and remember something that I thought of during the night. I found pen and paper and looked for something substantial to put underneath the paper as I wrote. I pulled a book from my bookcase at random. The adjoining picture is the front cover of that book.


It was a book in Czech for children to learn about the months of the year and the changing of the seasons in little poetic couplets that rhyme at the end of both lines. I can read and speak Czech at about the kids' level since it was my first language growing up in Iowa. My beloved Czech grandmother, Frantiska, who didn't speak any English, cared for me from my infancy at home while my parents were both at work. Translated, the title of the book means: “Whether the climate is hot or cold, on earth everything gives us joy.” (Phone me 540-877-1813 and I'll read it to you in Czech!)


Wow! I thought. That little rhyme packs a monster truth with some underlying principles that apply to the climate change controversy, also to my life attitude under all circumstances of life. The entire international dispute about climate change could well follow the principle of subsidiarity: Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled and problems solved by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. Political decisions should be taken at a local level if possible, rather than by a central authority.”


Why get bent out of shape to worry about who or what is the source of change in climate over the millennia of time? History and even pre-history shows us that there have always been changes: catastrophic and minor, sudden and gradual over centuries and decades, even in our lifetimes. Everything in creation changes. It is a built-in earth principle. Human beings have to go with the flow. 


In times past, man didn't have the capability to alter either his immediate environment or the atmosphere at large or even his personal comfort zone–other than putting on heavy clothing during freezing weather or shedding his clothes in the heat.
 Now he is able to climate control his habitat “whether hot or cold” with a thermostat.

More all-encompassing than that, man is now capable of releasing energy by rearrangement of atomic nuclei through nuclear fission or fusion to destroy himself and all mankind and in the process not only pollute and irreparably contaminate his immediate environment and the earth's atmosphere in dangerous ways previously unimagined.


Isn't climate change on earth ultimately vested in God as the “Central Authority?”
Isn't it best that we leave it to Him while we first “take it at a local level” to do what we can ourselves? We are “the smallest, lowest competent authority.” Let's do our share and our personal best. 

Beyond that, taking it even more personally and intimately, there is a secondary meaning to the word “atmosphere.” It refers to “one's dominant mood or emotional tone.” We also have a thermostat for that which is well within our ability to control through our free will. We can have our own “climate change” at any time through our attitude that can transcend our immediate environment or circumstances—whether hot or cold, rain or shine, whether adversity or success, in sickness and in health, in plenty and in want. “On earth 'vse' EVERYTHING 'tesi' nas—gives us joy.” Or as James in 1:2 counsels, “if we encounter various trials, consider it all joy.


Guess what? I forgot what I originally wanted to remember to write down this morning because God spoke so loudly and clearly to me about my own responsibility for “climate control” through that pithy little Czech couplet. I get it: All joy! Regardless of what is going down in my life these days, I'm in charge of my thermostat, my “dominant mood and emotional tone.”

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

WRITING FOR THE SUPREME EDITOR

Many friends already know that I have been “pregnant” with another new book this year—so, does that surprise them? Not at all. They know that I usually have another idea waiting in the wings even as my latest book is coming off the press. I thank all my friends who have been praying for this new book-child. When I'm asked which of the books I've written is my personal favorite, I truthfully reply, “The next one....”


At what point in the "literary gestation" process am I? I've just had a "literary sonogram" on 7/17/17—surely an auspicious and lucky date with all those sevens! I suppose I should have written 7 chapters to make it fit, but I wrote 9, perhaps for the decades of my life. My sonogram was the completion of my first draft. Now I've seen my “baby” in formation.

I know this much about my “child”—she is non-fiction and autobiographical. She has a name already. Her parts (chapters) are all there. She is now in the finishing stage requiring much nourishment (multiple editings for enrichment) as I press on toward completing the manuscript. Only God knows the “due date.” I continually submit my editings to my Supreme Editor with much prayer seeking His approval. I want to be sure that I have said all and only what He wanted me to say.



Writing For the Supreme Editor

My Wordsmithing Life


Leona Choy

From my INTRODUCTION



How long have I been writing? For a lifetime. I expressed myself in writing ever since I learned to write in childhood. I always write with the flow of whatever is happening in my life. Much of my mid-life writing was in the context of the ministry in which my late husband Ted and I were engaged. It has primarily been since the traditional age of retirement that I have become more free to pursue my writing and publishing calling. Most of my several dozen books have been published after I became a cancer survivor and a widow. God generously stretched out those years into longevity The calling of God is for a lifetime and He has not rescinded it in my nonagenarian years.


This book is not just another autobiography. I already wrote my life story to the point of my eightieth year in 2002 and followed it with a spiritual autobiographical Trilogy of books since then. This book is autobiographically specific for the writing aspect of my life—not a “how to do it” book on writing, however. I certainly haven't achieved some public pinnacle in writing or publishing. I have never written a “best seller” in the world's eyes or been at the top of any publisher's charts. In the chapters that follow, I have traced my writing life from childhood to the present into my nineties. Why? To give God all the glory. 


This book is a very personal leisurely walk-through the memory lane of my writing life. It has been a reflective fun book to write without a deadline or pressure to please or target any particular readers beyond my family which now extends to more than a dozen great-grandchildren. That younger generation may not remember me in person when they grow to maturity, but they will be able to know me to some degree through my writings and follow the threads of God's calling upon my life. Perchance some of my progeny may inherit the “writers' ink” in our bloodline which I might have inherited from some unknown literary ancestor on the European Continent or elsewhere.


Why do I emphasize a “leisurely walk-through” to trace my wordsmithing life? By temperament, I am accustomed to writing and doing everything else in the fast lane. I wouldn't like to be known as being self-driven, however. Some people have incorrectly labeled me an “Energizer Bunny,” as if I were super-energetic and depend on my own capability with my writing foot on the accelerator. I want it known that I try to write by the energizing of the Holy Spirit, that I am inspired and enabled by the promptings or impressions or nudges of God, my Supreme Editor. It may seem like a self-contradiction but I have to work hard on walking and working more leisurely!


At my advanced calendar age, my mortal flesh “earth suit” has an ever-longer roster of disorders and ills and limitations and weaknesses not uncommon to the aging package. If I appear to be running the race at the same speed as I did in years past, it may be true but deceiving. It takes more energy for me to press on now. As I decrease in physical and mental stamina, so I must increase in dependence on the strength and enabling of God in my growing weakness.


It was my intention and desire for this writing project and for this season of my joyful wordsmithing life to adopt the translation of Deuteronomy 33:25 in the NASB version, “According to your days, so shall your leisurely walk be.” Other translations are, “Your strength will equal your days; your strength lasts all your days, the rest of your days.” “Your old age will be like the days of your youth.” Taking it as my verse for this year, I have found much gold to mine and exciting promises to reflect on as I applied it to the writing of this book on writing. I have coupled it with Psalm 103:5. “[God] satisfies your mouth [your life, your years, your necessity and desire at your personal age] with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.”

I have tried to take it easy, to walk, not race with God's strong hand on my shoulder to keep me from running ahead. I trust Him to see me through. 


In this modest saga about my writing life, I have traced God's guidance in the rear view mirror as I reflected upon His faithfulness. He patiently taught me to listen for His voice and then obey it as a writer who is a Christian.



(Stay tuned and pray for me as I spend hours on end to tweak and prune and snip, clip and trim while I edit this new literary book-child to the point of delivery.) 
 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

OUR HUMAN "NESTING" INSTINCT



God's created human beings have been "preparing nests" for themselves ever since they had an unscheduled exit from the Garden of Eden.

Conditions were perfect there. They didn't even need to construct any shelter since there was no danger and the climate was perfect. Neither a/c units or heating systems required. From that point through the centuries of time to the present, our hostile and dangerous environment has forced us to build all kinds of shelters for ourselves and our families.

Construction depended on geographic location on Planet Earth, the materials at hand and what our culture dictated. Our “nests” have at times been tents made from animal skins, primitive thatched huts, rock caves, wigwams, hogans, underground houses, cliff dwellings, igloos made of ice, houses of mud, wood, stone, bricks, concrete—to multi-storied apartment complexes and lavish Hollywood-style homes that sprawl over acres, to grand palaces for our kings, the ingenuity of man has expressed itself. Large cities have arisen from ancient times to the present urban civilization to accommodate the shelters of those who labored in them. 

The same is true for places of worship: tents, tabernacles, magnificent temples, jungle meeting places, simple one room wooden churches, massive embellished cathedrals with splendid artwork, "crystal cathedrals" and mega-churches which could pass for plush entertainment centers.

Architects have tried to outdo one another generation by generation by designing more and more complex and futuristic dwellings for residences and houses of worship. Well, fasten your seat belts—prepare to be dazzled by the edifice depicted in the YouTube below. (If your Internet connection can't readily view this link, simply google “DUBAI ROTATING TOWER—YOUTUBE”) and let that blow your mind!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtlSecSxhkg

By and large, all these human “nests” were constructed for use during our mortal lifetimes. They all fell into disrepair with time and returned to dust, as did their occupants. The residents left them behind when they turned in their “earth suits” to leave for their eternal destinations.

The trajectory of those whose faith was anchored in God through the Lord Jesus Christ look forward to the resurrection of their mortal, temporary bodies of flesh. And they cling with anticipation to the fulfillment of Jesus' promise: “Don't let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's House are many dwelling places [mansions, in some translations]; if it were not so, I would have told you. For I go to prepare a place for You, And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3). Other versions translate “mansions” as “travelers' resting places,” “many rooms, rooms to spare, more than enough rooms, many abodes, permanent residences...”

What those dwelling places will really be like far surpasses anything man has attempted to construct on earth no matter how high tech or architecturally far out his imagination will take him. “But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9). Other translations enhance the meaning: “haven't even crossed the mind of any human being; what no one even thought could happen, is the very things God prepared for those who love Him; what God has arranged; all that God has in readiness for them that love Him.”

Can you find better promises or more sure than what Jesus Himself said He would be doing between the time He was taken into Heaven after His resurrection and the time when He will return? He is sitting at the right hand of God, yes, but at the same time apparently working on the preparation of those “travelers' resting places” that will be our permanent residences—whatever that means. 

Doesn't anticipating that glorious future eclipse any temporary trials of life, “comparative light afflictions” they are called in Scripture, that we may be going through while still in our “earth suits?”

"Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done...Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:12,20).




Sunday, July 9, 2017

Watch Out For the Waves!

I love the waters that God created—lakes, ponds, rivers, seas—but most of all the ocean because it is continually in motion. Nothing boring about the ocean. You can count on most of the others to be generally predictable and for the most part calm and tranquil. But not the ocean. 

You can anticipate the ocean to be unpredictable: the waves are capricious and impulsive. Even the rhythmic tides can surprise us. Sometimes waves bring unwelcome upheavals, turbulence and devastation as in a tsunami birthed as an earthquake in some far away location and deep beneath the surface along the ocean floor.

I have many precious friends for whom I pray who at this moment are struggling with physical issues that could turn into tsunamis at any time. I recognize one of them by looking into the mirror. 

What we might be accepting as chronic but stable “unfixables” this morning may become totally disordered and out of control before nightfall. Waves of life will come. A routine blood profile might suddenly be flagged as suspicious. Waves will come. Medications that held cancer at bay might cease working. Waves will come. Conditions that were in remission might turn acute. Diagnosis that has been benign might suddenly be reversed. Waves will come. An X-ray or MRI that was clear might suddenly need further exploration. Waves will come. Waves of life are unpredictable. They wash away our creative sand castles. We can learn to ride the waves. They have power to lift us higher.

Our waves in life may seem at certain times to be under control and peacefully rhythmic but in a moment can become threatening. Unless we are prepared beforehand to encounter them, the under-tow may catch us unaware and drag us under even if we are confidently swimming in the relative shallows. We may lose our balance unless we focus on a stable point or Person in the distance.



 WAVES WILL COME

Waves of life are inevitable
They break upon my shore
and I must face them.

A thundering swell approaches:
I brace myself alarmed
but the wave spends itself
before it reaches me.
I feared in vain.

Some lesser waves
roll toward me silently
so slight I disregard them
but they capsize me suddenly
with surging undertow.

Waves wash to shore
with varied rhythm
subsiding and swelling
with respite between
to prepare for the unseen
yet certain waves of life.

The choice is mine:
I can run from them
but they will pursue me
or I can run to meet them
encounter them head on
ride their crest with courage
hailing them as friends.

If I gaze in apprehension
focusing on the waves
I lose my balance
my world spins and sways
but if I fix my eyes
upon some distant point
I stand unmovable and firm
though waves may roll
against my body or my soul!
*****

"I have set the Lord continually before me;
Because He is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken."  Psalm 16:8

Monday, July 3, 2017

CHANGE MY DESERT, LORD!

We usually think of the desert as a bleak, lonely place with endless stretches of hot sand, no water and a scarcity of greenery. Drab and dreary, certainly not colorful. Attractive to nothing but snakes and scorpions. Surely not a tourist destination. Who would want to go there?


Apparently thousands of people each year! They plan their vacation around unpredictable dates to challenge that the above description is far from accurate—even botanists and weather professionals. Believe it or not, a desert can become a tourist attraction! 


When a unique combination of sun, wind, water, temperature and elevation sets the stage and the precise location is determined, a springtime bloom extravaganza takes place in certain so-called arid deserts. And people flock to see it as if it were Disney World. It is God's lavish Wonder World.


Rain is needed in small doses throughout the winter. Too little rain provides a poor climate for seed germination. Too much rain, and the seeds could rot or be washed away. Showers too early or too late in the season snuff out possibilities of this fireworks of wildflower blossoms. Temperature is also critical. If the sun gets too hot, the seeds may become parched and seedlings scorched. Very cold temperatures spell bad news for blossoms.

Each year's bloom is unique in its variety, profusion and timing. A normally barren-looking California desert landscape can become transformed into a colorful field of flowers over the span of a few days.



The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in southeastern California experienced such a "super bloom" this year. That is a colloquial term used to define an explosion of wildflowers that exceeds typical spring blooms. The park, which is typically bare of flowers, came alive with vibrant greenery, poppies, primroses, and lilies not planted and cultivated by man's hands but the Creator's who seems to like to keep us in suspense.


But surely that doesn't happen in the inhospitable Death Valley desert which straddles California and Nevada! But YES! When conditions are right, including well-spaced rainfall and low winds, that forsaken, arid desert becomes carpeted with wildflowers. This year the conditions were just right for God to paint the desert with lavish colors. The window of opportunity for human eyes to see this incredible display was only brief.


Cactus plants regularly join in the fun. Right in the middle of their profusion of sharp stay-away-from-me spines grow the most spectacular flowers in the entire Southwest.


 Splashes of bright red, yellow, pink, orange, and lavender dot the barren landscape. Because rain is so infrequent, some cacti have long roots stretching as much as eighty feet underground. As part of the complex ecosystem, they store water in their leaves. Their thorns protect the stem and give shade and shelter to human and animal life.


LET'S EXPLORE THE ANALOGY TO OUR SPIRITUAL LIVES.

Some of us find ourselves in isolated, arid places—literal or figurative—at times in our lives. We don't want to be in the desert. Even an Amazon tropical rain forest jungle might be preferable, even a bleak mountain, or a deep valley. Here in our desert the fierce hot wind bites our face. We sweat. We have parched, cracked lips and we taste gritty sand. The heat burns through the very soles of our shoes. We have an insatiable thirst. 

Yet the words of the apostle Paul ring in our ears, Not that I complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content(Philippians 4:11). Wherever I am? In whatever circumstances? Yes, if I am a child of God, He has uniquely planted me wherever I am for my good and for His glory and His purposes. That includes the inhospitable desert. But something spectacular could happen to me wherever I am!


What makes the difference between despair in our circumstances and hope for change? The loving presence of Jesus can suddenly burst our lives into “super bloom” if we open ourselves to the conditions He arranges for us. The sun (we must be in right relationship with the Son), the wind (Wind of the Holy Spirit must be invited to blow freely through our lives), the water (we must keep ourselves hydrated with Jesus, the Living Water, from above through rain or below from aquifer underground rivers that run secretly cool and fresh deep beneath the desert sand), the temperature must be in the right balance between hot and cold (but Jesus doesn't want us to be lukewarm spiritually), the elevation (we must be standing firmly high on the Rock which is Jesus. I've traveled through the Sinai desert. Immense rocks jut forth from the desert sand.) All these conditions need to be fully aligned in us in order to germinate our aridity and burst forth into full bloom spiritually. 

 
God's purpose for us, however, is not simply to stand around blooming. A beautiful sight, yes, and a witness for Him to others in the desert, but He primarily desires us to be His channels for that Living Water which He provides sufficient for all. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 Paul lets us know why we may be going through such desert times experiencing personal trials, hardships, exhaustion, stress. God lavishes His comfort on us so that we can comfort others and point them to the all-sufficiency of God. We can offer cups of cold water to others who are thirsty because we have experienced thirst that has been quenched. We can wash their burning, sandy feet. We are to be God's “well-watered gardens.” God wants us to be signposts inviting the thirsty to the flourishing, abundant Oasis which is Christ Himself, the Ever-flowing Spring, where they can drink freely. 
 
If you are in the desert, take heart! God's promises abound in the Scriptures of what He will do for us and through us in desert places. The following verses from Isaiah do apply first of all to Israel but the principles are available for us: “I have given waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert...I pour out water on the thirsty land...I will guide them to springs of water...I will make her desert like the garden of the Lord...the Lord will satisfy your soul in scorched places...you will be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters do not fail...like streams in the desert...I will make the desert a pool of water, and the dry land fountains of water....”




The desert will be glad and rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it will blossom profusely...” And so will we in our aridity as we allow God to make our deserts into His well-watered gardens.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

DIVINE COUNSELING SERVICE


I thought I was unique in discovering this spiritual secret for myself, but David the Psalmist King and Samuel the prophet definitely beat me to it. 

The non-secret? God often, even habitually, chooses the night seasons in which to communicate with those who know Him, whom He knows, and who are on intimate terms with Him.

Throughout the Scriptures we read of God speaking with specific instructions through dreams and visions. Granted our dreams are not always sacred and directive or are meant to be taken seriously. They may be the result of pizza and ice cream before bedtime or indigestion from a late, rich, heavy dinner. It takes discernment to recognize the voice of the Lord or our complaining tummy. 

In this reflection I'm not talking about dreams anyway. Rather, a state of heart and mind when one deliberately opens himself up to God when alone, still in bed. In my experience it is during the hour or so just before becoming fully awake and aware after a good night's sleep. Or even after a sleepless night. 

I'm in a sort of twilight zone where I'm relaxed and at rest, but my spiritual consciousness is alert and receptive to God's guidance spirit to spirit. Nothing spooky or mystical about that. I have discovered that for me that is the time of my day/night when God shows up to communicate His counsel or guidance to me by strong but gentle impressions. 

By an act of my will, however, I must invite Him to speak just as young Samuel was instructed by Eli to do in the book of First Samuel chapter three. God doesn't force Himself upon us. We must want to hear Him, to do His will, to follow His leading. So I mentally or out loud invite Him, "Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening." God's voice is not audible with my human ears, only with the ears of my heart. Jesus often repeated, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." I do qualify, despite my electronic hearing aids.

I looked up all the many passages in the online concordance where King David so often spoke of God communicating with him at night while he was in bed. Was he just lazy and not disciplined enough to get up and pray to God when he was awake and alert and knew what he was doing? I don't think that is a valid conclusion to draw. I believe David was tapping in on a different encounter with God in the night seasons and letting us in on a valuable secret.

I compared different translations to get at the precise meaning of what he was getting at. Psalm 16:7 is one of the richest verses from which we may learn. "I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me." Other translations include: "knowledge comes to me from my thoughts in the night; God advises me; He instructs me in the depths of my mind; in my inmost being; even at night I feel His leading." Psalm 17:3 adds the thought, "Thou hast visited me in the night" and 63:6 "I remember Thee upon my bed and meditate on Thee in the night watches. If I'm sleepless at midnight, I spend the hours in grateful reflection."

I speak only from my own experience. During the pre-awakening time of the day when there are no distractions of busy life to give my spirit any interfering static, God can get through to me. My spirit gives Him undivided attention. I don't ask Him to reveal to me His general will. I know that already. The Scriptures and the teachings of the Church from the days of the Apostles are clear. I want to receive His specific, personal instructions, counsel, advice for myself for the day ahead which He has generously set before me. I want to please Him and live it His way. It is while in this sweet and precious twilight time that I receive the impressions of His guidance for whom to call or write, and what to do, as I understand it. Yes, during that time most of my blog posts are composed and my writing ideas for my books are formed.

Some people declare that God's "voice" doesn't come through for them clearly. Are you old enough to remember the "rabbit ears" antennas used for early TV reception before satellites and "dishes" and wireless? You had to keep fiddling with them to adjust them before the snowy background on the screen locked in a good picture and clear sound.


I visualize the rabbit ears as upraised arms in surrender asking "Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening."  We might need some adjusting in our spiritual lives and relationship with the Lord like the rabbit ears antennas before there will be no static or snow, nothing to hinder hearing His voice clearly through night seasons impressions.


Jesus declared, "My sheep [My human ones] hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me" (John 10:9). That's a promise, yet it has a condition: Am I committed to follow what He instructs me in the night seasons? 

As for me, I plan to keep availing myself of that bountiful pre-awakening hour for "Divine Counseling Service"



Saturday, June 24, 2017

RENEWING MY MARRIAGE VOWS

June seems to be a traditional wedding month. However, more and more couples who are advancing in age are opting to repeat the marriage ceremony in another fashion these days...Me too!

"But how can you participate, Leona? You aren't 'a couple' anymore. Aren't you a widow?" 

Yes, Ted and I were a couple for forty-six years. Our wedding vows were "Till death do us part." And death did part us twenty-five years ago.

Remember that hymn, "Loved with everlasting love"? Some of the lyrics are: "His forever, only His; Who the Lord and me shall part? In a love which cannot cease, I am His and He is mine; But while God and I shall be, I am His and He is mine...." The renewing of vows I am talking about are my declarations of "I do!" between my Lord and me. Not on the occasion of a twenty-fifth or fiftieth anniversary, but daily! And out loud!

Why should I start each day as I awaken by declaring my commitment to the Lord? Isn't pledging myself to God a one-time decision like a wedding ceremony? Why repeat it? Who hears it anyway?

It is important that three set of ears hear my daily vows renewed. 

First, with my own ears I hear myself declaring, "Lord, I present my body a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is [my] spiritual service of worship" (Romans 12:1). I renew my "first love" to You, Lord. Today I renew the surrender of my mortal body with all its needs, disorders, and growing limitations with the years. I remind myself that I am not my own; I am all Yours today: body, soul and eternal spirit, mind, emotions, my will, all that I am, all that I have, all that I hold in stewardship from You. I renew my vow that I want to do Your will today on earth as it is done in Heaven."

The devil is listening. He is not omniscient or omnipotent. He is not a mind-reader as God is, so he can't know my thoughts. But he can hear my words. I give him notice that he has no authority over me. He hears me repeat my vows. He realizes that he must back off because once again as I have re-declared Jesus' Lordship over all my life, and specifically this day. He can't interfere with my vow to do God's will. 

God hears me! He doesn't get weary or bored with my expressions of love. As the chorus goes: "I love You Lord, and I lift my voice to worship You, O my soul, rejoice! Take joy, my King, in what You hear. May it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear."
God delights to hear my verbal desire to give Him my "first love." He accepts my daily declaration and blesses me with His graces according to my needs and His good and perfect plans for me in the day ahead.

With Nehemiah I pray and renew my vows, "O Lord, I beseech Thee, may Thine ear be attentive to the prayer of Thy servant...who delights to revere Thy name, and make Thy servant successful today...." (Neh. 1:11) 

How about my friends who have never been married? You can also renew your marriage vows. "For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the Lord of hosts...." (Isaiah 54:5). There is no "until death do us part" in your relationship with God. You too may declare, "Loved with everlasting love: I am His and He is mine." Jesus, in turn, has promised, "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Promises for Days to Come


Relying on God's promises for the days of advancing age


"AS YOUR DAYS"...WHATEVER EACH DAY MAY HOLD...COME WHAT MAY....

On my 92nd Birthday
 June 22, 2017

Deuteronomy 33:25
Various translations:

As your days, so will your strength be
Your strength will equal your days
So may your work be that your strength lasts all your days
.as long as you live
.the rest of your days
Your strength will be equal to your days
Your old age shall be like the days of your youth
As your days, so shall be your strength, rest, and security
According to your days, so will your leisurely walk be

Coupled with Psalm 103:5

[God] satisfies your mouth [your life, your years] [your necessity and desire at your personal age] with good; so that your youth, renewed, is like the eagle's [strong, overcoming, soaring]! Isaiah. 40:31

Amen! So be it
For me, and for you, too 

                                                                                Days of my youth

 

                                                                                                                                  

Friday, June 16, 2017

RESTFUL AVAILABILITY

I've just returned from an exciting extended weekend in Paradise—Pennsylvania, that is—near Lancaster.
In my blog post on June 1, I described the purpose and the relevance of my being there. I'm the only remaining co-founder of the large para-church university campus ministry, Ambassadors For Christ, Inc.

While there, besides speaking, I was scheduled to be video taped for an interview about my nearly thirty years' friendship with the Leaman missionary ladies and the famous Chinese Christian lady who deeded their property to the AFC ministry. Christiana Tsai came from an affluent family during the late Qing Dynasty. She spent over fifty years as a bedridden invalid in a dark room necessitated by the light sensitivity her illness caused.


Her life story Queen of the Dark Chamber, translated into over thirty languages and versions, brought an estimated 10,000 visitors from many parts of the world during the thirty-five years she lived in Paradise. With God-given strength, Christiana was able to rise to each occasion (while sitting up in bed) and witness under God's anointing to each of her visitors—university students, faculty members, church groups, housewives, businessmen, famous Christian leaders, school children, military personnel, and people from other countries. Although she could not continue to serve God in China, God brought the world to her bedside.


I choose only one reflection to share with you from my extensive preparation of down memory lane recollections. It started out to be only a few pages and went on to become at least a short book probably headed for publication. It is my personal, intimate look “Beyond the Books” which made her story such a page-turner.


Interruptions of visitors were almost a daily occurrence throughout their long lives. Of the four single, aged missionary ladies, Christiana was the weakest and most helpless, but the last to be called to her Eternal Reward at age 94. Even after she was left alone with her caregiver helpers, the Lord kept right on bringing people to see her and her witness to the gospel continued unabated. In fact it was during her final twelve years that she was the most productive and we wrote the sequel book to the flagship book, The Queen. People would come unexpectedly and at inconvenient times when they were exhausted and at their weakest. They taught me by their example to pray each morning, just as they always did, “Lord, bring only those people to us whom You desire, and keep away all who would only tax our strength and take our time away from Your ministry to the lives of people who really need You.”


They summed up the offering of their lives to God as RESTFUL AVAILABILITY. I have taken that prayer into my heart and written it in one form or another into most of the books I have published. These precious friends taught me by their example to keep pressing on, as the Apostle Paul declared, “for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” That meant whether “in season or out of season,” convenient or not, to welcome whatever or whoever God sent into their lives—or mine.


Christiana always declared, “My bed is not a prison but a training school; the Holy Spirit is my Mentor, and my visitors are my homework.” It linked with Christiana's lifelong decision based on Psalm 84:11. “I never ask God WHY He allowed me to suffer for so long; I only ask Him WHAT He wants me to do.”


Can we think of a more pleasing attitude to offer our God, the Creator and Sustainer of our lives who lovingly only plans for our good? (Romans 8:28)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

LONGEVITY--GIFT or BURDEN?

Encore post--Updated!

                     

THUMBS UP FOR LONGEVITY? 

(In my 92nd year)

LONGEVITY is not an achievement for which anyone should pride himself. It is a cherished GIFT given and a FAVOR granted by our generous God who determines the measure of our years. It is a season of indeterminate length and a privileged time.


The anticipated number of our years varies with centuries past and with cultures, geographic locations, heredity, and many other factors. The biblical Methuselah lived 969 years. In the dentist's waiting room recently I picked up a magazine with an article about a woman in Italy who is now the oldest in the known world at 110. No one today is pushing one thousand, although longevity to a greater or lesser degree is still alive and well these days.


Longevity is defined as great duration of life span but not a specific number of years on the calendar. In real time, age it is irrelevant to longevity, although brevity of life is its opposite. Whatever one's age in earth-time, it is the last stage of our lives individually, notwithstanding its duration. At some point, even longevity terminates. It's not really the last stage of life, however. Eternal life for the soul comes after either longevity or brevity on Planet Earth. A person may be experiencing longevity in one's fifties, or sixties, or seventies, or eighties.


In my human family tree I am heir mostly to brevity of life. My paternal grandfather in Europe died at 41, my father at 59, my maternal grandfather at 39, my maternal grandmother at 58. When I went through lung cancer surgery at age 65, my surgeon told me afterward that there was nothing I could do or he could do to assure me that I would survive even to an optimistic five year mark. He said that it was entirely in the hands of God and His plan for my particular life.

I'm in my 92nd year. I think that I qualify to have reached longevity by the loving generosity and plan of God--and I'm thankful!


Realistically, I've already become what I have been becoming throughout my lifetime—unless I blow it. I now have a frame around my life picture that is pretty well permanent. But I dare not say “I've been there and done it all” although my life has been full to overflowing with God's goodness and mercy and opportunities. The Lord is always coming up with more blessings and surprises even at this late season of my life. That keeps life exciting and I press forward.


Looking ahead, there is really a next stage beyond longevity, but I won't experience it on earth. Like the count down we used to shout at play when we were children: “One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four to go!” longevity is a “time to get ready.” I'm preparing to live forever—but not here. “And four to GO!” 

There will be a “Birthday Party” at the end of longevity that will launch me into a new welcoming environment of love and peace and joy in Heaven. How do I know this for sure? My lifetime faith in God and the promises of His Son Jesus will carry me through that door to immortal reality where faith will become sight at last and where I will know as I am known. That will not be a season that will pass, but an Eternal Dimension without end.


Meanwhile “back at the ranch,” as they say, longevity carries with it a responsibility to continue to be a fruitful and faithful steward of my length of days. I'm obviously not left here to be good for nothing. However, stewardship is no longer tied to doing some specific work as in previous seasons of my life, but to being. At this stretched-out season of my life called longevity, what I am or who I am is not determined by what I'm able to do.

If I'm not able to do anything, or if I find it difficult to do anything, or even if it's unnecessary to do anything, that doesn't mean that I am nothing. I can please God and He smiles on me regardless of my ability or capability or inability to be productive. After all, He created us to commune with Him and to enjoy Him and allow Him to enjoy us—not primarily to serve Him. We serve Him because we love Him. He created angels not human beings to be His servant-messengers.


Longevity is a time for reflection and gratitude. Not a time to waste on worry or regret but to "smile at the future," as was written about the woman in Proverbs 31:25. And in the same verse, “She opens her mouth in wisdom.” (If she can't speak with wisdom, it implies that she should “zip her lips.”) Trusting in the providence of God as we age should bring with it happiness, restfulness, and contentment. Let's count His blessings and say “Thank You!” to God for the opportunity to have experienced life on earth. Yes, we should confess that we have come up short. Nevertheless, we leave those regrets beneath the cross of Jesus with gratitude for His mercy and forgiveness. 
 

Of course there is struggle during longevity with growing weakness and disorder of our “earth suit” bodies and multiplying health issues. Therefore, we must lean all the harder on the strong arm of our Mighty Heavenly Father who knows our frame, recognizes our human frailty, and gently embraces us in His love. It is also a time for detachment, to loosen the bonds that have held us to things of this earth.

There is both joy and sadness in longevity. Certainly joy that God has “crowned us with loving-kindness and tender mercies”; joy that we have lived to see new generations birthed on the earth scene; sadness to let go of friends and loved ones and peers when they walk off the stage of life before we do. Then joy again when we are reunited in our Eternal Life after life!


With long life I will satisfy him and let him behold My salvation,” God promises in Psalm 91. To be “satisfied” and content is His provision for us in our season of longevity. “[The Lord] satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle” (Psalm 103:5).



LONGEVITY IS A PRECIOUS GIFT TO BE TREASURED

BUT STILL INVESTED 
WHILE WE HAVE TIME TO DO SO!


To Chinese people, eating long noodles is a symbol of longevity