Tuesday, August 31, 2010


My longtime friend, now blind, lives in a nursing home and recently suffered a stroke which affects her sleep. A relative helped her try to speak on the phone to me last Sunday. It was recorded on my Caller I.D., but I couldn’t understand her. If I write her, someone must read the letter to her. I just happily found out that I can communicate by e-mail with the relative who will convey my message. Thank You, Lord, for creating cyberspace so that precious Emily and I can connect our spirits and bond in the love of Jesus! You may read over my shoulder….

Hello Emily,

I think of you so often and pray for you when I pray for many of my friends our age who live in care facilities. God is with each one of you "all day long" as King David said in the Psalms so many times. And dozens of times David reminded us that during the night time God is especially close to us. Perhaps night time is difficult for you? "His song will be with me in the night" and we are to meditate on Him "with my heart and my spirit." "Let them sing for joy on their beds."

Well, Emily, that probably doesn't mean out loud, does it? We might disturb others. But you and I know how to "sing" in our spirits, mentally, without a sound, and the Lord hears our praises to Him perfectly clear and loud. The apostle Paul calls it “making melody in your heart to the Lord.”

I know how much you love the old hymns and have stored them in your memory. It doesn’t matter anymore whether you can see a hymnbook, does it? Sing them mentally all night long especially when you wake up and can't go back to sleep. Because you have temporarily lost your eyesight (only until you see God face to face), you told me once over the phone that it doesn’t matter whether it is daytime or nighttime anymore—it is always dark for you. But you have God's Light shining brightly in your Spirit. Jesus said He was the Light of the world—no one can put that Light out or Him turn off. There is a verse somewhere in the Bible that says, "darkness and light are alike unto Thee." You know that's true.

Here's something we did when we were young, maybe you did too. When we gathered in Church or someone’s home for what we called “Singspiration,” we took turns suggesting favorite hymns. When we finished singing the last phrase of one hymn stanza, we let the theme or a word remind us of another hymn, and then we started to sing that one. And so on and on, caboosing one hymn after another. Try that for endless praises to our God and it will be a "sweet, sweet sound in His ear," as a modern chorus reminds us.

I will write you again, Emily. "May the Lord bless you and keep you and be gracious unto you, may He lift up His countenance upon you, cause His face to shine upon you (that means smile at you, Emily—you can't SEE His smile, but you can FEEL the warm glow of it, can't you?)—and may He give you His peace."

I love you and Jesus loves you more than you will ever know, until your faith becomes SIGHT and you SEE Him in the intense brightness of His glory for Eternity.

Your friend, Leona


Saturday, August 28, 2010


Someone said that never having to say "I'm sorry" is the definition of true love--or friendship? I think it's just the opposite; to say "I'm sorry" is the test of love and friendship.

I failed that test yesterday. I asked God and my friend for forgiveness and the chance for a re-take test today.

My missionary friend Trudy (not her real name) asked in her recent letter for prayer that her pet dog, Claudus, (not its real name) would lose 3 pounds to qualify for the regulations on the airlines as it accompanied her back and forth to her continuing overseas assignment. I wrote her, without intending offense, that I didn't think God wanted me to make it my priority intercession to pray for a dog when I committed to pray for her mission work.

"I pray for the human aspects of your work, for you, your co-workers, and the people whom you are seeking to draw to Christ. But as much as I have always loved animals and my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren have pets, I have a hard time to pray for the diet of Claudus and the money it must take for his trans-Pacific ticket each flight. Nothing personal, just considering your request in the grand scheme of things Eternal. Your friend and prayer partner."

Oh, my goodness, how inappropriately sanctimonious and prideful I must have come across! I wasn't walking in her shoes; I didn't know the circumstances of her need and jumped to wrong conclusions when I shouldn't have jumped at all. There is a time to speak and a time to be quiet!

Trudy so graciously and gently answered me today with the background of her request. She is my age, 85. We were college classmates, and as a lifelong missionary administrator she could have and was certainly eligible to have retired 20 years ago, but she was still giving valuable professional and spiritual service to her mission in Asia. Moreover, she was responsible for an invalid sister in a nursing home in this country, so she had to shuttle back and forth overseas twice a year to discharge both sides of her commitment. Friends and co-workers in both countries had been unable to help care for Claudus during her absences because of their own responsibilities, illnesses, living circumstances, and other valid and complicated reasons, despite her best efforts to make arrangements for his care. She admitted to feeling awkward asking for prayer about her dog; lately, a friend who was caring for her dog had overfed him. At the same time, she was concerned that the situation might be an attack of the Enemy to distract her from her work for God's Kingdom.

Trudy never married and devoted her entire life to serve the Lord. She didn't have the loving, close, support of family relationships, of husband and children, that those of us who married had. Claudus had been a gift from co-workers not only for her loving companionship, but as a faithful guard dog since she lives alone. Walking her dog forces her to get the exercise she needs for some of her physical challenges. Oh, I could certainly empathize with her.

Now I understood the size and fit of the shoes she wore as she gave beyond-the-call-of-duty sacrificial service to God under difficult circumstances coupled with her aging and health limitations. My heart reached out to her. How quickly I tried to humble myself and express my "Sorry" for words misdirected!

"Trudy, please forgive me for speaking out of turn. Of course I will pray for your dilemma concerning Claudus because this may, as you suggest, be a tactic of the Enemy to distract you from faithfully pursuing at your age (at OUR age) the fulfillment of your calling. That's what I want to do in the latter years of my life. Yes, it may also be a test of your obedience to the Lord and trust in His providence in all things great and small. May the Lord give you His wisdom and common sense and make a way for you where there does not seem to be a way."

And God, help me to learn well my lesson not to judge anyone else's pathway of life and the shoes God has assigned them for their journey.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Who is my neighbor?

In this self-centered society in which we live, with its insulation from one another because of social networking sites online where everyone pursues his own high-tech individual pursuits, it would seem that we don’t have time or occasion to know our neighbors face to face. People who live in high-rise beehive apartments in urban areas put multiple locks and chains on their doors and often don’t speak to people who live down the hall in their own “cells” behind closed doors. Fear of strangers often pulls them into seclusion.

Even when people live, as I do, in a more relaxed suburban development of quiet, five acre wooded lots and on a cul-du-sac, we might be hard pressed to name the people who live within sight of our own driveway. If we walk for exercise, as I do, we may know the canines and felines who live behind fences or electrified borders of well-manicured lawns. However, we may know little about the needs and problems of the people who own the pets.

We are all so busy in the particular orbit of our routine lives that knowing our neighbors doesn’t even make it to our list of priorities. Until an emergency vehicle speeds by, and then we may wonder to whose house it is headed. As it did last week.

In my private prayer each morning I ask of God, "This day bring into my life everything and everyone whomever You choose--in person, by letter, e-mail, phone call, thought, impression, prayer, event, or in the course of my responsibilities or circumstances for today. Since they are filtered through Your perfect will, interruptions and changes are not accidental or incidental. They are my opportunities and Your appointments for my good and for Your glory. Please give me good sense to avoid all those other good things to do or be concerned about, or those over which I have no control, which are not Your "main thing" for me, and which would take my time away from Your priorities for me. Help me avoid them and leave them gratefully in Your hands."

Someone has said that people may come into our lives for a season but always for a reason. I've tried to live by the principal that God brings someone into the orbit of my life either to contribute something good to me, or that I may build something good into his or her life.

She came to my door one morning. My neighborhood friend. We had had some contacts through the years but we were not close. Sometimes we met on our exercise walk along our quiet street. She asked if she could talk to me and of course I welcomed her warmly. She had deep emotional problems coupled with some serious but not life-threatening physical challenges which had thrown her into dark depression. A beautiful woman 25 years my junior was despairing that she had nothing left to live for. I asked if I might pray for her and she consented. We hugged and shared some tears, but I felt some barrier, some unseen, seemingly insurmountable struggle that I couldn't penetrate. I assured her I was there for her and suggested we talk again soon.

I had a busy week or two and didn't follow up our encounter, although I remembered to pray for her, my neighborhood friend.

Last week while working at my computer, I was startled to see through the window several rescue emergency vehicles speeding by. Where could they be headed?

An hour later I received a phone call.

My neighborhood friend had taken her own life!

In the throes of my own deep emotional shock, I took it personally. I went over and over a roster of "what ifs" and was overwhelmed with thoughts that I could have done more but didn't do so, didn't see this coming, and now it was too late.

I beat myself up about the tragic choice my neighbor made. I didn't turn her away in her time of need but I didn't reach out further to her.

Her choice was so, so sad, but I have to accept that it was ultimately her choice. I have to leave her to God and trust Him and pray for her immortal soul. I believe that God's incredibly generous mercy and forgiving love covers such happenings when a person's reason is clouded by depression. I must realize that to focus on "I could have done more" is not always amenable to rational argument.

But where did I miss God's guidance? Or did I? I know I can't go there. I can't turn back the clock. So there--I guess I needed to lay it all out and now I have to lay it all down at the foot of Jesus' cross. I must move on and pray henceforth to become more sensitive, more discerning, to let God show me "Who is my neighbor?" and what He would have me do and say and pray.


Friday, August 20, 2010


Every time I have a need for prayer helpers I send an S.O.S. to certain friends whom I call my “Praying Eagles.” Sometimes it’s by e-mail, sometimes by phone, sometimes it is through face to face encounters. Many of them don’t know one another and live scattered across the country; but they know me. I may not even have met some of them personally. But in Christ they love me and I love them.

When they have a need for prayer help, they feel free to call on me too. Sometimes it is another member of our Lord's Body who is sick or suffering or needy in some way—someone whom most of us may not even know. (1 Cor. 12:26) But we beseech our Heavenly Father in the Name of Jesus to show His mercy and love and healing, if that be His will, on behalf of that person or that situation we have been asked to pray about.

We lift each other up, if we are DOWN. Likewise, when one of us is UP and rejoicing in some blessing or grace, we celebrate together with that brother or sister. We rejoice again when a prayer is answered, often “exceedingly, abundantly above what we can ask or even think.” This prayer fellowship extends “across the aisle” of our particular Christian faith persuasions. If we are one in Christ, we are part of one another. The apostle Paul encouraged us to “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law [of love] of Christ.”

Some Christians are reluctant or shy to ask anyone else to pray for their needs; they keep their burdens to themselves. They are very private people and I respect their reticence. Also, their particular Christian faith persuasion might not provide a background or experience for such personal sharing. Cultural differences also hold some folks back. I believe they are missing something particularly precious. I encourage them to avail themselves of the joy and privilege of our Body Life in Christ!

God doesn't get tired of our asking Him for help; He hears every prayer we lift up to Him. So we shouldn’t get weary of praying for each other either. Of course, God hears His precious child when he or she prays alone. And when two or three gather in His Name, Jesus has promised to be in the midst of us. He doesn’t require a multitude of people to pray for a need before He will hear and answer. When more of us join together in prayer, it is not a "class action suit" to try to influence God with our sheer numbers to do what we ask Him. We must always ask only that His will might be done. We should not be presumptive to demand a specific answer. He is God and we are not. Only He sees the big picture.

Our Heavenly Father must surely be pleased, however, with our close and loving "Family relationships" which lead us to pray together in agreement even when we are scattered in different locations when we pray for someone's need. God transcends space and time.

Each of us may cultivate his own circle of “praying eagles.” We don’t need to be formal about it. Among our friends and brothers and sisters in our church fellowship we should soon be able to discern those who genuinely love to pray and have compassionate hearts. We flock together naturally because we are "one in the spirit and one in the Lord."