Wednesday, December 31, 2008
"Today is a good day to accept God's forgiving grace for mistakes and shortcomings of the past year and get on with life"~ I just read these words today in a devotional and they seemed to go right along with my posts on forgiveness and resentments. Think how free we will be when we enter a new year without carrying those heavy burdens of guilt and resentment. A fresh start!
I like fresh starts!
May your final day of 2008 be one of peace.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
What a great idea!
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Ephesians 4:31,32 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
In Dr. Charles Swindoll’s radio Bible study entitled “Getting Through The Tough Stuff” he spoke on getting through the tough stuff of misunderstanding someone’s words or intentions. I believe it is one of the most important gifts we can give ourselves, both forgiving ourselves and forgiving others. Dr. Swindoll says, “Without forgiveness you will limp through life with bitterness. Misunderstanding someone’s words or intentions can breed deep seated bitterness which does not easily go away.” Forgiveness must occur if you ever hope to be free of experiences of misunderstanding in your past. Bitterness and forgiveness cannot co-exist. You cannot change the past – but your bitterness can change you!”
At times in our lives we need to take an “inventory” of our feelings surrounding bitterness and resentment and examine the misunderstandings that have caused hurt and pain to ourselves and to others. Then take the time to resolve these issue.
Dr.Robert Schueller, Jr. spoke on resentment recently, also. He said, "There is no room for resentment in our lives. No room for resentment with our friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and the whole world." I agree that life is too short to harbor resentments, bitterness, and an unforgiving, conditional love lifestyle.
I once received the E-NCOURAGEMENT devotionals via email by Chris Courtney, and he also spoke on bitterness and forgiveness! “Listen”, he said, “all it takes is a tiny seed of bitterness to grow and spread until we go from “bitter” to “embittered”, hardened by our hurts (both real and perceived). All it takes is a little bit of un-forgiveness toward one person: one ex-spouse, one former employer, one parent, one individual who has wronged us or caused us pain and that little bit of un-forgiveness can grow within us and poison our whole outlook, our whole attitude towards family, friends, life in general, and toward God Himself.”
Susan St. James spoke about the death of her son in a plane crash and when a reporter her whether she was angry about his death at the young age of 14, when her older son and her husband survived the crash. Her response has been echoed around the world. “Having resentment is like taking poison and expecting someone else to die.”
Keeping resentments in your heart is deadly.. We may feel like we are getting back at others, or have the right to be angry and unforgiving towards someone because of misunderstandings that have occurred, but the resentments poison us. It will keep relationships from healing and we may cause others to be upset with our bitterness and revenge towards those who have hurt us or we have perceived have hurt us, but these misunderstandings and feelings of resentment will hurt us the most. God knows this, and that may be why he speaks specifically to this issue in the Lord’s Prayer. “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors..”
In Matthew chapter 18: 22-35(RSV) we find the Law of Forgiveness. Peter asked Jesus how often we are to forgive a brother who continues to sin against me – seven times? Seven times would have been more than Jewish law required, but Jesus replies that we are to forgive others seventy times seven. It seems like an overwhelming task and certainly “not fair”. God is not saying it is easy, but it is necessary.
Chris Courtney said, “God puts within each of us a beautiful garden. WE must tend to our gardens with love and nurturing. We have to pull out the weeds that would threaten our crop. The only way to weed ourselves (spiritually) is through love, through Jesus. Forgiveness pulls out bitterness by the root, and fertilizes the soil of our souls for what God wants to plant within us.”
When I first realized that God was speaking to me through so many avenues on forgiveness, resentment, and bitterness, I knew that God really wanted me to listen, to take this to heart, and search within myself to find those areas that harbor resentments – some hidden even to myself. It is a good time of the year to look within and also set new goals for ourselves. I pray that in sharing this with all of you, it touches your hearts. For I believe that God is asking us to look within and find those areas we need to weed out, those areas that would threaten not only the relationships we have with others or with God himself, but those areas that would keep Him from being able to continue the planting Chris Courtney speaks of – the plans he has for our lives and how we are to serve Him.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
I must confess…..it has been difficult for me to accept myself as I am ~ imperfect. I wanted to be the perfect wife, a wonderful mother, beloved grandmother …..a person who would make a big difference in the world……an INCREDIBLE human being who would be remembered for her goodness and great accomplishments. A bit over the top, right? Still, these were my goals. BUT, alas, I have tasted failure in every area I mentioned ~ more than once. It has been hard to let go of these failures and sometimes I get stuck in the sludge of my own self-criticism.
I have spent a lot of time looking at what it means to be incredibly human. According to my husband, I am good at beating myself up. I like the term incredibly human as it has a place within it for forgiveness, kindness, and understanding. It reminds me that self criticism is self defeating. Because I am incredibly human I am going to make mistakes. Dwelling on my mistakes has at times given me little room to enjoy a full life. It is time to shed that negative pattern of thinking. All I have is the present. I plan to take this “present” ~ this gift of today and clean out the cobwebs of focusing on my life as an imperfect person so I can truly enjoy the life I am living now….as one who is incredibly human while being an incredible human.
I also gave thought what makes someone an incredible human being. I think my definition has been flawed. Always striving to be someone else and not accepting who I am is exhausting! With new insight I believe we are all incredible humans because we have been created in God's image, we are loved, and we have been wonderfully made. These are words we need to wear like a warm blanket.
Incredibly Human + An Incredible Human ~~~A good combination for us to embrace.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
When we were living in central Minnesota in the eighties the media somehow got hold of this “new” idea of worshiping in a barn on Christmas Eve. A TV station from the Twin Cities came up to film our service. This did not go over very well with Joel, so he asked them to take their pictures and interview him ahead of time~ so as not to interrupt the actual service. We did not want to make this a big production. The AP picked up the story and friends in Alabama told us they read about Joel’s barn service in their paper! What we found so comical about the newspaper story was what they said about Joel…and I quote: “The pastor even dressed the part , wearing cowboy boots, jeans, and a cowboy hat.” What they did not realize is that this is how Joel dresses every day except Sunday morning ( and then it is his suit with boots) and this is how it has been for over 30 years.
I miss attending those special services, and so do our children now that they are grown and have moved on, but we have many special memories of years past. The barn service continues each Christmas Eve and more importantly so does the worship celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
When my husband was in the seminary we spent his internship year at a parish in North Central Montana. Malta’s Parish consisted of four main Lutheran churches, a hot springs resort chapel, and a tiny church in Zortman, Mt. ~ a historic mining town nestled in the foothills of the Little Rocky Mountains. Joel and his internship pastor ministered to these areas.
We had the privilege of being a part of the Christmas service the year we were there, and it is tucked away in our memories forever. We drove the long distance through snow and freezing temperatures, arriving with many others shortly before the service. Everyone gathered at the local café beforehand. All of us were dressed for the bitter cold in snowmobile suits, snowsuits, insulated underwear, heavy boots, scarves, and warm mittens. When it was time for the services to begin, everything in the town closed up. It was dark outside as we left the cafe, and many of us were given lanterns to carry up the long hill to the church. We were one of the last families to leave, and in doing so we were able to watch the glowing lights move up the winding path to the church. As each person carrying a lantern entered the sanctuary, the church filled up with more and more light until it looked just like a beacon on the hill. What a beautiful sight to see! Once we arrived in the sanctuary, we all huddled together on benches to keep warm. The wood burning potbelly stove, which stood in the corner of the room, gave off a warm glow and provided the only heat in the church. Our hymns of Christmas joy were especially meaningful as we sang along to the old pump organ. For many reasons, the Christmas story of Jesus being born in a humble stable held special meaning for us that night.
When services were over, we all walked back down the hill guided by the lanterns and moonlit sky. All those who attended went into the café for coffee, dessert, and more fellowship together, before heading back out into the cold and traveling home.
The service in the Little Rockies is forever a beautiful memory for me. Here we were, coming together to worship our Lord and Savior and celebrate His birth. It did not matter whether we were worshiping in a big cathedral or a tiny “borrowed” church in a small, historic mining town in Montana. The focus was the same ~ to worship and celebrate the birth of Jesus our Lord.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
When I make it "all about me" and take my eyes off of my Lord, it is difficult for me to want to keep going. It does not happen often, but yesterday was one of those days. We all have them don't we. So what do I DO when I am filled with discouragement and sadness?
I usually have to cry a bit...okay maybe more than a bit. Yesterday I also was very angry ~ which is very unproductive and takes alot of energy :) I also write. I express what I am feeling in the my own written word. I also express to God openly what I am feeling in "loud" prayers. I think most importantly I remind myself not to believe everything I think. I remind myself of God's faithfulness and I search out devotionals, books, scriptures, and recently blogs that encourage me and bring my focus back on God. Two of those blogs are listed in my blogroll here. ~ Beside Still Waters and Pearls of Wisdom. They bring me encouragement and peace and remind me of God's goodness. I also reach out to my online support group which is made up of others who live with chronic illness. And when I am ready I get back on my feet and face another day with hope.
These are ways I bring myself back into balance. Each of you have your own ways, I am sure. I am never down on the ground for long. It is not in my nature to do so. I look for ways to bring things back into focus and balance. I find what I need to sustain and nourish myself ~ with the Lord's help!
Today is a new day.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Today I would like to share a story with you about our oldest son, Matt.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Four years ago today on December 13th our son, Kevin, age 25, died of congestive heart failure after a virus attacked his heart. Kevin had gotten sick with a respiratory virus a couple of months prior to this and eventually went to the doctor when he could not lie down and sleep without becoming short of breath. The doctors discovered that his heart was surrounded with fluid, and testing showed his heart was only functioning on a level of 20%. He would eventually need a heart transplant to save his life. He was put on oxygen and went home to wait for an appt. with a specialist.
On Dec. 13th we woke up to the phone ringing at 3:30am. A nurse from an ER in CO was on the phone telling us we needed to get down to the hospital right away as our son was in cardiac arrest and had “coded”. I told her we lived 4 states away and that would not be possible. I asked her to please have someone call us back as soon as they knew something more. In our bedroom Joel and I laid in bed holding each other, crying, and praying for our son. We finally received a call an hour later telling us that they could not resusitate him ~he had died. Kevin left behind a son, a newborn baby daughter, and a fiancé.
Joel and our oldest son flew out to CO for the funeral. My nephew and his wife offered for them to stay at their home and they also attended the funeral. I was too sick to travel. Due to our families living in the Midwest, we had a memorial service for our son at our church right after Christmas, so that everyone could attend.
At one point during a conversation with our oldest daughter, she made the comment that Kevin had died of a broken heart~ not just a physical broken heart, but also an emotional broken heart. There is a lot of truth in that statement.
Kevin came to us at age 3. He was a beautiful, quiet, little boy whom we had welcomed into our family when we were living out west. He had been neglected and abused by his birth mother and birth grandmother, and taken away from them when he was a year old. We also discovered a few yrs later that he had also been sexually abused in his foster home. Because of all this abuse, Kevin really trusted no one. He was filled with anger and even after years of therapy throughout his childhood years, he could not adjust to a family. We worked hard to keep him in our home, but when social workers and therapists strongly recommended that he be placed into a treatment center, we made one of the most difficult decisions of our parenting lives. At age 13 we placed Kevin at a Boys’ Ranch in S.D. He did very well there working with horses ~ you see, animals he could trust. He was even able to ride a horse in the inauguration parade for Pres. Clinton. When he was 19 he went to Job Corp and trained to be a mechanic, and this took him to CO. This is where his short and difficult life ended.
I am choosing to remember the good times with our son. The day we brought him into our family he came with only a grocery bag 1/3 full of all his belongings. We immediately took him shopping for clothes and shoes that would fit. When he put his new shoes on, with a big smile on his face he said, “NOW I HAVE FAST SHOES!” From that day forward Kevin's love for shoes was well known. We kept those first pair of shoes and our oldest daughter asked for them after he died. They hold special meaning for all of us. When Kevin first came to be with his forever family, I remember sitting by the bed and holding his hand at night until he fell asleep because of his fears. I remember Kevin playing football with his older brothers ~ wearing a jersey and helmet that engulfed him. I remember his excitement over Christmas and Birthday presents when he was little. I remember his baptism, his confirmation ~ even the time he came home from the ranch and helped me clean all the windows in the house. These, among other things, are what I choose to remember about our son. I have chosen not to dwell on the difficult times nor the what ifs…the could haves…should haves…maybes…
We have worked through a lot of our grieving. It has come in stages…we grieved when he told us about the abuse…we grieved when he had to leave our home…we grieved deeply when he died. We continue to grieve our son's death. But in many ways, Kevin is in a better place. Our good friend gave the sermon at his memorial service and he said, “Kevin has gone before us to Heaven where he awaits our homecoming. He went before us because, after all, he always did wear “fast shoes”.
We know that we can believe God’s promise…”I go to prepare a place for you..” He welcomed Kevin home and even though sadness still touches us at the most unexpected and expected times, we feel a sense of assurance, knowing that Kevin no longer suffers any internal pain. For the first time ever, he is at complete peace.
Friday, December 12, 2008
It is not easy to see the deer in the dusky light, but I hope you enjoy looking at a "special" view of my sofa sanctuary today.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
It is hard for Joel and I to be on the receiving end of gifts of money when we are in need. We have always found great joy in helping others. We have also always taken care of ourselves and been able to do so whether making $500 a month in 1978 as an intern pastor with 4 kids, or making the good salary Joel has now. I used to take on jobs wherever we lived...from day care provider, church janitor, clerk in a hardware store, interpreter for the deaf...theraputic foster care provider. What was needed to help out...until I got to sick to work. We have always paid back any loans with interest and we have prided ourselves on being able to help others. We planned on digging our heels in and doing the same with our financial burdens this past year ~ which all came about due to my health and the risk we took to move on to a new congregation. This time around, we were the receivers...and I think we maybe need to go back to that word...
p r i d e. Pride kept us from wanting to accept the gifts that were offered. Even though some of our situation was not in our control and even though Joel elt God guided him to take a new calling....our thinking, like even some of our family's, was ~ you made the choices now you live with the consequences....
These gifts have taught us about receiving and made us more sensitive to how others feel when we offer them gifts of financial help. It has also humbled us. Much of the past year and a half has humbled us ~ and maybe that is God's purpose here. To use our circumstances to humble us and to teach us. My oldest son said something profound to me over Thanksgiving. He said, "When I used to give to others I would feel so happy and then also feel selfish for how happy it felt to give! (it does feel GREAT to give) Then I realized that the reason I feel good inside when I give is because it pleases my Heavenly Father."
So simple and yet so profound. So, the reason I share our story is because I feel like in an unusual way, our accepting of these gifts also pleased our Heavenly Father. It pleased our Heavenly Father to have others want to give, and for us to put aside our pride and accept these gifts. I feel like our story needs to be shared so others can find encouragement and understanding on the issue of giving vs receiving. I have learned that God's plans for us usually involve making us better people. It has touched me deeply to receive so many blessings from God. I hope my story touches you in some way too.
I am sure that would also please my heavenly Father.
Monday, December 8, 2008
In Feb. of 2007 we had to postpone a move to our new home in a new town where my husband had accepted a call to a new congregation. Even though we had spent time and money fixing tghe house to accomodate my needs, the house had a chemical smell from new flooring and also from something else we could not identify.
All things: Joel's new church is close enough he can commute and in the coming weeks we discovered a subtle gas leak in the furnace of the new house. It would have caused my health to spiral and what else for both of us?
In March 2008 I developed polyneuropathy overnight. It was very difficult to deal with and caused me a lot of stress. Other things were going on within my body, too, and in a short time I lost 30 lbs. and had a constant thirst, chills, and other unusual symptoms. I started to have anxiety attacks from trying to cope with the constant nerve ending pain, and it was difficult for me to be home alone.
All Things: These new symptoms sent me to my doctor who told me she could no longer help me....her words and those of a friend who had been diagnosed with chronic lyme after having CFS for 20 yrs., brought me to the conclusion that I needed to see a lyme doctor. As the neuropathy continued to cause me emotional and physical distress and I researched Lyme, I talked with my friend's doctor in NY and he gave me the name of a CFS and Lyme specialist only 3 hrs away. After an extensive and expensive 4 hr. initial appt. I was diagnosed with chronic Lyme and 3 co-infections. The CFS and MCS are a result of the Lyme.
In April 2008 we moved to the new house in the new town...but the house still had a hidden chemical smell that made me sick along with a varnish smell. After spending a month in a 9x10 room (with a special foil covering the floor), in the van, or outside, we knew had to return to our former home. This was extremely difficult for us.
All Things: Our other home had not sold ( it sold at first and that fell through) so we could return to a safe place for me. Many people helped us get a small trailer full of necessary things back to our home. It was very helpful for me emotionally to no longer be confined to a small room.
In June of 2008 we were in a terrible accident. A fully loaded pick-up pulling a trailer and with a snow plow hook on the front hit our van from behind going 55mph. We were trying to avoid hitting a family of skunks on the highway and were slowing down. He was following too close. The van was moved far ahead and the front of the pickup was so embedded in our back of the van it took the jaws of life to get us apart. Responders were there within 5 minutes and we rode together in the ambulance to the local hospital.
All Things: We were NOT injured except for Joel having a stiff neck and back that needed chiropractic treatment for several months. My doctor had just put me on a muscle relaxer which the dr. said kept me from having a huge flare of my pain and muscle problems. A member of our new congregation borrowed us a car for the 6 weeks we needed one. 1 year later the insurance company of the other driver offered us a settlement. We did not ask for a settlement and would not have sued, but they did not trust this and wanted to give us a settlement. THIS paid for us to put siding and windows on our house that we had purchased 3 yrs ago but had to wait to have it put on. Our house is much heathier and warmer now.
In July of 2008 I started treatment for Lyme. The initial die off was intense and I had alot of die off in my brain causing me to have crying jags, mood swings, a return of the anxiety attacks, and alot of brain fog and confusion, besides the high pain levels and heart symptoms.
All things: Joel was able to take 10 days vacation and stay with me as the doctor recommended. My doctor is so great ~ she talked to me quite often and could reassure me that this was "normal". Joel was my security and kept me going when I wanted to quit.
In August of 2008 we realized we could not move back to the new house and put it on the market.
All things: Our children came and helped Joel move most of our things back~ we had been "camping" for 2 months in the house :)
The end of August of 2008 Joel, who has recurrent corneal erosion, had both eyes tear at the same time causing exreme pain, and blurry vision. The top layer of the eyeball actually rips off with this illness. He ended up having to travel to Mpls. MN to have emergency surgery on his one eye that would not heal.
All Things: His dear friend, a fellow pastor, came and got him at 3am and took him to MN for the surgery and brought him home. I had the strength to help him as he went through the days before surgery and after. Strength that came from a power greater than my beat up body! The eye he had surgery on is the BEST it has been in years.
In January of 2008 I had several mammograms and then a breast biopsy.
All things: First of all everyone at the outpatient clinic was so nice when I had the biopsy and accomodated me with my chemical sensitivies. Everything was benign!
From the strange way I had to lay on the table for the biopsy, my back went out and then a few weeks later when I was bending over something went out and for 3 weeks I had to use a walker to get around the house while in alot of pain.
All things: We finally called a chiropractor to come to the house and he was able to help my back immensely. He also helped me with detoxing my body from the antibiotics and bringing my body back into balance. He lives close by, so he still comes to my house when I need him to.
All things: Along with all these blessings we have also experienced amazing financial blessings that have helped us get through a couple of challenging years. These gifts have humbled us, bringing us to ur knees with thanksgiving many times.
Romans 8:28 has carried us through many challenges in our lives. The 14 mo. I wrote about were some of the most difficult, but also carried the most blessings. God is faithful. He is always with us. He keeps his promises. All things do work out for good......
Sunday, December 7, 2008
As a Christian, I can have the same happy ending. Life is not always fair. If fact, it is downright hard at times. Sometimes I verbally respond to struggles with one of Erma Bombeck's titles for a book she wrote ~ "If Life Is A Bowl Of Cherries, How Come I Get All The Pits!". BUT no matter what comes my way ~ good, bad, or ugly, and like everyone else I have experienced it all ~ when I die my life will have the happily ever after ending. Eternal Life with Jesus Christ my Lord.
An ending that is worth waiting for!