“I’m the Boss” – Dad and Alzheimer’s – A Strange Companionship

2015 June Trip to Georgia to See Dad & Family 004After I punched in the security code (to keep residents in rather than us out), the heavy door released its lock allowing entrance to the memory care unit, First thing, I could hear Dad before even seeing him. He was sitting on the sofa, holding the toy he loves most – a dinosaur given to him by his daughter-in-law. [He thinks it’s a kangaroo, and, in fairness, it sort of looks like one]. He was staring off, repeating over and over, “I’m the boss. I’m the boss.”

The staff and other residents around this common room seemed completely unscathed by his declaration. A “stranger” entering the room broke the normalcy of the atmosphere. I’m sure they knew it made me uncomfortable to see my dad “lost” in some other consciousness.  He has Alzheimer’s.

I’ve written about Dad’s life with Alzheimer’s before (here). He was admitted into an assisted living facility only four-and-a-half months ago. He continues to do very well, despite life-threatening situations (blocked carotid arteries, metastatic colon cancer, and now Alzheimer’s). He amazes me, really. It is obvious, from visit to visit, that his disease is taking its toll. Yet there’s so much of Dad there still, and we are all so grateful.

A couple of months ago, Dad could still have conversations with us. He needed prodding, but the stories would come – fascinating, detailed stories of his growing up years and ours. I have always loved his stories. And the funniest jokes. Even when they weren’t funny, he enjoyed them so much, it made them funny.

Dad talking to Dwane April 2015

In recent weeks, conversations are becoming shorter, more of a chore. He still has great, comforting memories but the fire of remembering has to be stoked considerably. As far as short-term memory goes, he may not remember what he had for supper an hour ago, but he remembers so many other things. – that Dave loves strawberries, and that he still loves the Atlanta Braves, and exactly how to tease each of his grandchildren. When one of them visited recently and called his dinosaur a cat, he got all “offended”. Dad has fussed about it since, at each mention of grandson Jeremy’s name. He will forget eventually, but for now, it stirs an affectionate pot in his mind.2015 June Trip to Georgia to See Dad & Family 056

2015 June Trip to Georgia to See Dad & Family 0572015 June Trip to Georgia to See Dad & Family 058[None of us could ever beat him in arm-wrestling, and as frail as he is, he hasn’t forgotten how to wear us out and eventually draw down our arms.]

With Alzheimer’s, the world of those affected seems to get smaller and smaller. We used to have long, meandering conversations. I miss the dad of those conversations. We’ve been fortunate in that he is still much like himself, with less words. He loves to eat and loves to laugh. I treasure that laugh of his. He still loves people and having visits from his pastor, friends and family, and his hospice nurses.2015 June Trip to Georgia, Blog, Family, Friends, Flowers 2472015 June Trip to Georgia, Blog, Family, Friends, Flowers 2432015 June Trip to Georgia, Blog, Family, Friends, Flowers 3612015 June Trip to Georgia, Blog, Family, Friends, Flowers 332Especially his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Dad has gotten less interested in going out of his assisted living facility. It feels safe to him. Comfortable. Once we’re out though, he is engaged – talking to the other drivers, telling me how to drive, looking for coins on the road (like we’re going to stop and pick them up). Alzheimer’s took away his freedom to drive but it also took away his desire to drive – a strange companionship, this disease and those who contend with it.

2015 June Trip to Georgia, Blog, Family, Friends, Flowers 3932015 June Trip to Georgia, Blog, Family, Friends, Flowers 403One afternoon, we joined other residents in listening to and singing with a church choir in the great room of the facility – outside of the memory care unit. The world feels much larger there. The choir led in some old Gospel songs – “Victory in Jesus”, “Take It to the Lord in Prayer”, “I’ll Fly Away”. At first Dad seemed to really enjoy the singing, and then, he “went away”. Lost in his thoughts and memories.  I left him there…somewhere apart, following a scene I could not see.

After the choir finished, we walked back to the memory care unit, and he joined others for supper. Each has his or her own incredible life. Each now with different companions than they might have chosen – both at the table with them, and inside their own thoughts.2015 June Trip to Georgia, Blog, Family, Friends, Flowers 322

In watching Dad through his diminishing memory, and seeing those around him struggle, I’m struck by the dignity of life that we must battle to preserve. This quieter, mind-wandering, lovely old gentleman is still our Dad.

His repetitive “I’m the boss. I’m the boss.” is not surprising. With little education afforded to him as a farmer’s son during the Great Depression, he was rarely anyone’s boss. However, he has lived his life (for all the time I’ve known him) with such a confidence and determination, with autonomy and authority. With so much dignity that not even dementia can steal, hopefully.

Now, with Alzheimer’s, he won’t be easily convinced that he’s NOT the boss.

Maybe, it’s his turn…for a season.

Blog - I'm the boss - Alzheimer's[Big Dogs t-shirt with message (on the back) “I Am the Boss” – Happy Father’s Day present from that same daughter-in-law with a knack for great gifts – as in the dinosaur/kangaroo/cat toy Dad loves]

Repetition and Alzheimer’s

A Different Season of Life – Dad & Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s, the Brain, and the Soul

Alzheimer’s Reading Room – to Educate and Empower Alzheimer’s caregivers, their families, and the entire Alzheimer’s Community 

Alzheimer’s Speaks Blog – Giving Voice to Those Affected by Alzheimer’s

Memories From My Life Blog – Memory Posters

The Best Alzheimer’s Blogs of the Year (2015)

12 Behaviors that Trouble Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Alzheimer’s: 25 Signs Never to Ignore

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Worship Wednesday – It is Well With My Soul – with Kristene DiMarco & Bethel

Christ on the Storm On the Sea of Galilee Rembrandt van Rijn, 1632On that day, when evening came, He *said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” – Mark 4:35-41

What in your life right now has made you doubt a good outcome or happy ending? Is it a tough marriage, a job that no longer satisfies, wayward children, a scary health situation? We are all faced with storms in life that can knock us off our feet and even shake our foundation of faith.

My husband reminds me from time to time that our faith is only as good as the object of our faith. If we put our trust in our jobs, our health, our family or friend connections, we will be disappointed, just as we disappoint sometimes. If, however, we keep our eyes on God, He will see us through any and every storm that breaks over our lives.

The Apostle Peter gave us a keen example of keeping our eyes on God when he, by faith, stepped out of his boat, into a miracle. Seeing Jesus walking through an impossible situation (atop the sea), he joined Him…such a great lesson for us:

Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!” – Matthew 14:28-33

Peter doubted, but he was not punished for that. He was rescued out of his doubt…as he clung to the One who took hold of him.

Morocco sunset by Ingrid Pullar

“My prayer for this song and what I’ve seen it do already is just to comfort people in really, really deep and hard times – the disappointments and the disillusionments, you know and just get to shake off self-pity for the rest of our lives. He really encountered me when I needed it the most. I needed rescue, salvation and I needed faithfulness and He came through for me, so now my faith is faith and it’s not just hope. We can hope that God is real all our lives, but why not know that He’s real?” – Kristene DiMarco

Lean hard on God and on those who love Him and love you.

Worship with me:

Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
It is well with me

Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can’t see

And this mountain that’s in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well

So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name [repeat last line during 3rd run]
[x3]

It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
[repeat 3x]

It is well it is well with my soul [x3]
ahhhhhhh (softly)

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You Lord
Through it all, through it all
It is well with me.
[x2] *

 *Lyrics to It Is Well by Bethel

YouTube Video – It Is Well – Bethel – Lyric Video

Lyrics and Chords to It Is Well by Bethel

Story Behind the Song It Is Well by Bethel

YouTube VideoIt is Well by Kristene Dimarco & Bethel Music – You Make Me Brave

*Original Lyrics for It is Well with My Soul by Horatio Spafford, 1873

YouTube Video – It is Well with My Soul – Chris Rice

YouTube Video – It is Well with My Soul – Jeremy Riddle

Photo Credits – Christ on the Storm On the Sea of Galilee by
Rembrandt van Rijn, 1632; Moroccan Sunset by Ingrid Pullar

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Monday Morning Moment – Be Kind – You Just Never Know

Blog - Another Man's MoccasinsPhoto Credit: Gelene Keever

“Never judge a man before you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.”   – Sharon Creech, Walk Two Moons

My heart is especially tendered right now  toward some friends going through a difficult time. They come to mind often and I’m praying my heart out for them in these days.

As I did early morning errands in anticipation of a long workday, those I passed along the way put me to thinking about the proverb above. A dear friend of mine in cancer nursing quotes it often.

There are some people’s moccasins I hope, in all honesty, to never have to wear. Some have borne their lot in life well, and others with deep bitterness and relenting anger. Even the moccasins that have the appearance of being fine and fancy must bear a cost to the owner…more than the money they paid. I prefer my own old, scuffed, marred, well-traveled moccasins.  Yet, today, my heart is full, thinking of those whose roads are difficult to walk right now.

Praying hard for someone does something to us more than we anticipate. It causes us to look at others with greater compassion. We never know fully what that colleague or neighbor or beggar or family member really has on them today. An act of kindness, or a word of hope (real hope), or a decision to be deferent – might make a lighter burden for that one…next to you.

“This man beside us also has a hard fight with an unfavouring world, with strong temptations, with doubts and fears, with wounds of the past which have skinned over, but which smart when they are touched. It is a fact, however surprising. And when this occurs to us we are moved to deal kindly with him, to bid him be of good cheer, to let him understand that we are also fighting a battle; we are bound not to irritate him, nor press hardly upon him nor help his lower self.” – John Watson, The Homely Virtues by John Watson – Courtesy

You usually see quotes from God’s Word in my writing, but the proverbs of native peoples give us glimpses of the wisdom of God as well. I close with this Cherokee story, and bid you a day sweetened by a fresh look at those around you. With hearts tendered, you just never know what difference you can make…

“An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life: A fight is going on inside me, he said to the boy. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed. “”*

*American Indian Proverb Quotes

Walk a Mile…a Day…32 Hours in Someone Else’s Shoes by Gelene Keever

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

War Room – A Film and a Strategy – Praying Our Hearts Out for Those We Love

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War Room – A Film and a Strategy – Praying Our Hearts Out for Those We Love

Blog - War Room to publish 4

“May Yahweh answer you in a day of trouble; may the name of Jacob’s God protect you. May He send you help from the sanctuary & sustain you from Zion. May He remember all your offerings & accept your burnt offering. May He give you what your heart desires & fulfill your whole purpose. Let us shout for joy at your victory & lift the banner in the name of our God. May Yahweh fulfill all your requests.”Psalm 20:1-4

Have you ever laid awake at night fretting or even despairing over a loved one’s situation or life choices? Have you felt the choking hopelessness not thinking you can do anything to help? God forbid, we deal with a request for prayer as new fodder for gossip, or we just click “Like” on Facebook and never really pray. Never really pray as if all the powers of Heaven might come to bear on a situation if we did. Pray.

A new film by the Kendrick Brothers opens in theaters in the US on August 28, 2015. It’s called War Room with the subtitle Prayer Is a Powerful Weapon. I had the opportunity to see a pre-release screening and it so lifted my heart. It’s a compelling story about a married couple, Tony and Elizabeth Jordan (T. C. Stallings and Priscilla Shirer) whose relationship is crumbling by degrees. Ambition, pursuit of pleasure, entitlement, and unforgiveness have dealt mortal wounds to their marriage. Only a miracle would save their marriage.

This glimmer of hope arrives through the friendship of Elizabeth with an elderly woman, known only as Miss Clara. (Karen Abercrombie). This tiny old woman is a serious force of nature…wielding supernatural weapons, in her faith in God. She wages battle daily for those God places in her path. Unbeknownst to them at first, Elizabeth and Tony would soon see the very God of the universe draw near to them in response to His daughter’s cries for help. If you see this film, Miss Clara may remind you of your praying grandmother. So much love. So much power.BLog - War Room to publish 2

The film opens on a war room with military officers pouring over maps and coordinates as they planned strategy for battle. When Miss Clara enters the story, a very different war room is introduced. She prays all the time, out loud and confidently. Yet there are times during each day, she enters her war room – a tiny closet, with a chair and Bible, and notes taped up all over the wall. Those notes were prayer requests and Scripture promises. Complete focus on God and on the ones she was praying hard for…no distractions.

But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Matthew 6:6

Some situations need excruciatingly intimate business done with God. Prayer requests in a meeting or through social media make a difference also. However, we don’t see answers to prayer sometimes because we think the problem is too great or the situation too far gone. Miss Clara kept her faith…whatever the outcome, this should be our heart toward God. He is able.

Blog - War Room to publish 3

When we battle in prayer for those we love, this moves the heart of God. What are you praying your heart out for right now?Blog - War Room to publish

YouTube Video – War Room – The Heart of the Film

War Room – Doing Battle with Prayer – WRBL Special Report

“The Three Battles” by Alex Kendrick

To join the conversation: WARROOMMOVIE on Facebook; @WARROOMMOVIE and @ANSWEREDPRAYER on Twitter

Putting on the Armor – Equipped and Deployed for Spiritual Warfare –  Dr. Chuck Lawless (pdf Bible study)

How to Pray Evangelistically – How to Pray God’s Heart – by Dr. Chuck Lawless

How to Pray when Someone You Love is Stuck in Sin by Erin Davis

Photo Credits – All images are from WarRoomTheMovie.com media materials.

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Rainy Day Respite – in the Crazy & Confusing of Life – God Is With Us

2015 June Blog Rainy Day Respite“So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth.” Hosea 6:3

It’s rained all day. This morning, the rain started gently, more a mist. Some of my dear neighbors walk every morning, so I didn’t need to check with them as to whether this morning would be different…but I did. Walking as usual. With umbrellas. And jackets. The rain was soft, almost warm. Hardly a sound made except for the occasional breeze launching rain from the summer-leafy trees.2015 June Rainy Day Respite 3

I love walking in rain like this…an experience made even sweeter by the company of friends. The world seems quieter in this soft rain…the noises of work and school life muffled somehow. So quiet.

The LORD will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand. – Deuteronomy 28:12

All around creation is fairly bursting with vivid color, all washed and clean from the rain. What a gift this is…to nature, and to nurture the soul. This day is a gift I wish for you…a day with a gentle rain.2015 June Phone Pics, Blog, Flowers, Friends, Family 036 2015 June Phone Pics, Blog, Flowers, Friends, Family 0432015 June Phone Pics, Blog, Flowers, Friends, Family 0412015 June Phone Pics, Blog, Flowers, Friends, Family 0462015 June Phone Pics, Blog, Flowers, Friends, Family 050

The rain changed though. A hard, relentless, soaking rain continued. Still a boon for growing things. Still a living lesson on God.

He speaks to us in the rain. I have always loved walking in a summer rain. This afternoon, on an errand, my umbrella wasn’t quite to the task, and I got wet through and through. It made coming home all the sweeter. A cup of hot coffee, a short reading with Oswald Chambers, and a reminder of His promises:

What line of thinking do my thoughts take? Do I turn to what God says or to my own fears? Am I simply repeating what God says, or am I learning to truly hear Him and then to respond after I have heard what He says? “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’ ” (Hebrews 13:5-6).*2015 June Blog - Rainy Day Respite

As sure as the rain is, so is God’s presence with us. [I am reminded, that even in desert places, God’s presence is with us there as well.] Just as the rain does what it is intended to do; so does His Word to our hearts. When we allow ourselves to get quiet, we hear Him speak. When we tune our hearts to Him, silencing the noise of the world, He refreshes us and restores us, as the rain does the earth.

I hope you got to enjoy rain where you are today…and for sure, I hope you experienced the deep comfort of God’s Word and His nearness to you in some quiet place in your day. Never forget, in all the crazy and confusing, He is with us (link to the song below).

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.” –  Matthew 7:24-25

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”Isaiah 55:10-11

*My Utmost for His Highest – Daily Devotional – June 4 – Oswald Chambers

YouTube Video – He Is With Us – Love & The Outcome (Official Video)

YouTube Video – Sound of Rain: Smoky Mountain Rain in Fog

Dave’s Happy Little Flowers – Begonias2015 June Phone Pics, Blog, Flowers, Friends, Family 055

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Worship Wednesday – Choose Well Whom You Serve – The Doorkeepers (Bowab) of Egypt

 6437A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.                    I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickednessFor the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!   – Psalm 84:10-12

For many years, we were apartment dwellers in the desert city of Cairo, Egypt. The Nile River winds gloriously south-to-north through the city, but it is nonetheless a remarkably dusty place. The fine sand of the Sahara blows in daily and covers everything in its wake. Washing windshields, sidewalks, and hallways must be done each morning. These are among the many needful tasks for which the doorkeeper is responsible.

Most residential buildings have a doorkeeper, called a “bowab” in Arabic. He and his family often live in a tiny space on the bottom floor of the building. He, his wife and children run errands, do various other tasks for building residents, find taxis for those who need them, and stand guard, so to speak, at the door of the building.

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The bowab has a lower station in life, but the ones I’ve known treated their work and those they served with dignity and graciousness. They may have preferred a different path, but maybe because of lack of opportunity or education, this was their life. Whether they chose it or not.

I had read Psalm 84 before moving to Egypt, but not until meeting the bowab of our building did these words come alive to me. This Psalm is written by the Sons of Korah* who were doorkeepers and porters those days in the house (tabernacle) of the Lord. They have a fascinating history which set the stage for them also to be sincere worshippers of God – humble, joyful, passionate worshippers.

Reading this Psalm, I am reminded of the pull of the world on us to walk away from God. To leave our stations. To choose to do something else. To be someone else. We begin to believe the voices that we deserve something different…something better…we owe it to ourselves to break free. Our thoughts can get more and more muddled…with that wanting something more…more than this?! More than what we have in Psalm 84?

We choose our course in life. God draws us to Himself, but we choose to align ourselves with Him or with the world. There is no “not choosing”. On days when my thinking gets clouded, I’m so grateful for the Word of God – how the truth of who God is resonates in my heart and mind. He is my Sun – driving away the darkness and my fear with it. He is my Shield – deflecting the arrows meant to wound and confuse me. He withholds no good thing from those who walk with Him.

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

Alexandria01

Just this morning, a friend reminded me of his devotional reading today out of A Daily Dose of Spurgeon:

“These were potters, and those that dwelt among plants and hedges; there they dwelt with the king for his work.” 1 Chronicles 4:23, ASB

Potters were not the very highest grade of workers, but “the king” needed potters, and therefore they were in royal service… We, too, may be engaged in the most menial part of the Lord’s work, but it is a great privilege to do anything for “the king”; and therefore we will abide in our calling… The text tells us of those who dwelt among plants and hedges… They may have desired to live in the city, amid its life, society, and refinement, but they kept their appointed places, for they also were doing the king’s work… Ye unknown workers who are occupied for your Lord amid the dirt and wretchedness of the lowest of the low, be of good cheer, for jewels have been found upon dunghills ere now, earthen pots have been filled with heavenly treasure, and ill weeds have been transformed into precious flowers. Dwell ye with the King for His work, and when He writes His chronicles your name shall be recorded.”Charles Spurgeon

Remembering the Sons of Korah and the Egyptian bowab helps me reckon with my station in life. How thankful I am that God has delivered me out of merely existing for myself and into gloriously serving Him. There is nothing menial there. All momentous. Nothing small. All mysteriously and lovingly God. I want to stand at that door…how about you?

“Choose well. Your choice is brief, and yet endless.”Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:14-15

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YouTube Video – Better Is One Day – with Lyrics – by Matt Redman

*Who were the Sons of Korah in the Old Testament?

Egypt Essentials: The Bowab by Erin Owen

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Sebastian Traeger on the Value of Our Work

2015 May - Blog - The Gospel at WorkFor we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.Ephesians 2:10

I had the opportunity recently to hear Sebastian Traeger speak on work. Although the auditorium was packed, he could have been speaking to one young person sorting out his future. Or to a professional in a mid-life funk wondering if what he does really matters. What he said, and the thoughtfulness of his presentation, actually surprised me. It had less a flavor of a highly successful entrepreneur’s career advice, and more that of a friend counseling a friend.

Here are the highlights from his talk:

  • Is fulltime ministry more valuable than my job? Are some jobs more valuable to God than others? No.
  • Who we work for is more valuable that what we do. Whatever is our work, as believers, we work for God. He is our boss. We are servants of the King.
  • God deploys each of us to do what He has for us to do – and what He means for us to do is always beyond our competence. We need Him.
  • What God values is not always obvious to us (Matthew 20:1-16).
  • God deploys us. Be fully where He has you until it’s clear He has a next assignment for you. He deploys us both inside our workplace and beyond, in our communities and to the nations.
  • Desire, abilities, opportunity – these three factors work together under His guidance. You may have one or more but not all three where you are. Don’t be discouraged. Trust God and do whatever you can to be faithful in hearing and obeying God in your desire, abilities, and opportunities.
  • What assignment has God given you? Be faithful.
  • Paul’s example in his letter to Philemon about Onesimus – one can seek freedom (a change) from his (work) situation but he must strive to be faithful in the meantime.
  • There is mystery in God’s purposes. Trust Him.
  • Finally, in sorting out your work situation, remember 3 things:     1. We live in a fallen world. Take this into account in dealing with your expectations.  2. Pray for opportunity (within your work and outside your workplace).   3. Trust God.

Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert go deeper into these concepts in their book The Gospel at Work. They present a revelationary teaching on the issues of idleness and idolatry in our work and how to “pursue faithfulness, then fruitfulness”.

“The answer to fighting complacency is recognizing that you work for the Lord in all that you do. He’s not primarily calling you to your job; He’s calling you to belong to Him. Understanding the gospel in light of our work helps us to understand that we are to be sold-out disciples in all things.”*

Blog - Gospel at Work - Sebastian TraegerBlog - The Gospel at Work - Greg Gilbert - from cbmw.org

Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert

The Gospel at Work – A Conversation with Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger (ERLC)

The Gospel at Work by Sebastian Traeger & Greg Gilbert

The Gospel at Work Website

*Q&A: Sebastian Traeger on the Ministry of Work at ValuesandCapitalism.com

The Gospel at Work – A Conversation with Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger (ERLC)

Skybridge Community

Photo Credits: Images of Sebastian Traeger (bpnews.net) and Greg Gilbert (cbmw.org)

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Worship Wednesday – 5 Things to Ponder in Tuning our Hearts Toward God

SunriseFrom the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the LORD’S name is to be praised.Psalm 113:3

We were made for worship. It is our finest pursuit – to be true and constant worshippers of a living and loving God. We make it a process harder than it is…which, in turn, causes us sometimes to give up somewhere along the way. Our default is often to rely on others (an author, a worship leader, a preacher) to stir up worship in us for a few minutes, or 50 (which seems to be the new norm in preaching these days). Then we lay the book down, head out of “church” for another week, or close our journals (on the mornings we manage to open them), and find some satisfaction that we did our duty…we worshipped. Check. Done.

Oh what we must miss in life when we don’t recognize God in all the moments of our day! All the moments. What joy we can experience when we see Him in every encounter, in all the coincidences, in every expression of His glory.

What keeps us from a life of worship? I grapple with 5 hurdles to worship. Be encouraged…none of these have to hold us back for all our lives. We are not without help in these – we have God and His church on our side.

Distractions – I so struggle with being distracted. God knows my frame (Psalm 103:14) and is not Himself distracted by my weaknesses. This used to be an area where I lived in constant self-loathing, but God has redeemed my thinking in this area. In the distractions, He is teaching me to see Him – even in my struggle. With the Psalmist, I say, “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:14) My job here is to rein in those distractions where I’m “prone to wander” and remember God.

Idols – Tim Challies writes about how Sarah’s burning desire for a child drove her to orchestrate an unspeakable act – putting her husband together with another woman to gain a child from their union. What do we want more than we want God? Where are we unwilling to wait for God Himself to act? What do we put in our lives, in place of God, thinking them harmless (ambition, recreation, relationships)? They become harmful to us and those near to us when these things loom so large they modify our thinking of who God is and who we are to Him and His Kingdom – idols sink us into smallness, and not in a good way. God will not be made small, but we can be. God forgive us when we set idols up for ourselves and miss Him and the life He had for us. With His help, we can identify the idols, repent, and retune our hearts. 

Entitlements – Oh these vile little tricks of thought. “I deserve”, “It’s my time”, “I’m doing something for me”, “That’s just not my gift/style/preference”.   “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17). We all get tired and feel stretched beyond what’s comfortable. Lean on God.

Good but not God – You do good all day – to those you love, with those on your job, and for those God places in your path. That good is how we apply a counter-pressure against the evil of this world. Doing good is right. In the strength of God, with Him in view, makes it become an act of worship. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). John Piper wrote about doing good:

God gets glory not from our heroic exertion but from our reliance upon his strength—when we serve as one who serves with the strength which God supplies.

God’s will himself to glorify
Is not a weight
to make us sigh
For it is wings
to make us fly.*

Ungratefulness – Paul encourages us through his letter to the Thessalonian church: “pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit…” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-19). When we are in a lifestyle of worship, we can thank God for everything…everything. What joy we have in knowing He is working everything out (Romans 28:8) for our good and His glory!

From dawn until dusk and into the darkness of night, we can experience the sweetness of God’s presence if we remember not to forget and if we believe Him enough to not disbelieve. He is worthy!

Worship with me.

Blog - Sunrise by Alicia BowmanSunset in East Tennessee - Kathy VisneskiSunset in Philippines from Jessica BoltonMorocco sunset by Ingrid Pullar

Worship God – Introduction to a Series on Worshipping God by John Piper

Holy Subversion – Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals by Trevin Wax

*How to Do Good so that God Gets the Glory by John Piper

To the Other Woman’s Embrace by Tim Challies

YouTube Video – Indescribable – Chris Tomlin

We Were Made for Worship – It’s What We Do – Because of What He Did – from archive – www.debmillswriter.com

Photo Credits: Sunrise/Sunset images are credited (in the order they appear) to me, Alicia Bowman, Kathy Visneski, Jessica Bolton, and Ingrid Pullar.

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Bookmarked Summer: Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street

2015 May Blog - Sandra Cisneros House on Mango Street 004 for blog

I love words. Not cruel, lying, arrogant, or mean-spirited ones, of course. I love the kind of words that make stories come alive, where you can see and touch and smell right off the page of the book. Oh to write that way… maybe one day.

A dear friend, who reads my writing because she loves me, shared this book with me. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. I finally read it…just a few hours long, packed with that pink-orange hue of Mexico. Mexico transplanted in Chicago. Cisneros writes so personally of growing up straddling two cultures – living in Chicago sometimes, and Mexico other times. The book is a small novel, large with details of a family living Mexican in an American city. Sandra Cisneros opens the door to the reader to step into her Mexican American childhood, tucked in a neighborhood, so like Mexico and yet still far from home.

I read some of the reviews by readers of Cisneros’ book. They are extreme in their take on this little book – ranging from those who love her writing,  identifying with her stories, and those who hate that they had to read the novel (for a class, etc.), not seeing Cisneros’ writing as worthy of their time. The criticisms surprised me, and then I understood that her writing is full of strong emotion and bore fruit of that in her readers, one way or another.

I loved the way she invited the reader, one outside of this neighborhood and culture, to be a part of its story. It was impossible to tell what was fiction and what was truly her own childhood.

Below you will find some of my favorite quotes from The House on Mango Street.  I hope you enjoy her words, as I did.

“My mother’s hair…is the warm smell of bread before you bake it, is the smell when she makes room for you on her side of the bed still warm with her skin, and you sleep near her, the rain outside falling and Papa snoring.”

“Those who don’t know any better come into our neighborhood scared. They think we’re dangerous. They think we will attack them with shiny knives. They are stupid people who are lost and got here by mistake. But we aren’t afraid…All brown all around, we are safe. But watch us drive into a neighborhood of another color and our knees go shakity-shake and our car windows get rolled up tight and our eyes look straight. Yeah. That is how it goes and goes.”

“Hips…one day you wake up and they are there. Ready and waiting like a new Buick with the keys in the ignition. Ready to take you where? They’re good for holding a baby when you’re cooking…you need them to dance…if you don’t get them you may turn into a man…they bloom like roses.”

“My Papa, his thick hands and thick shoes…wakes up tired in the dark,..combs his hair with water, drinks his coffee, and is gone before we wake.”

“Everything is holding its breath inside me. Everything is waiting to explode like Christmas. I want to be all new and shiny…a boy around my neck and the wind under my skirt.”

“There were sunflowers big as flowers on Mars and thick cockscombs bleeding the deep red fringe of theater curtains. There were dizzy bees and bow-tied fruit flies turning somersaults and humming in the air. Sweet sweet peach trees…big green apples hard as knees. And everywhere the sleepy smell of rotting wood, damp earth and dusty hollyhocks thick and perfumy like the blue-blond hair of the dead.”

“A house of my own…only a house quiet as snow, a space for myself to go, clean as paper before the poem.”

“I never know what I am feeling till I write about it. Writing makes me feel better when life overwhelms me.” – Sandra Cisneros*

Blog - House on Mango Street - Sandra Cisneros

*Sandra Cisneros’ Letter to the Sixth-Grade Students of Ms. Jill Faison, Hogan Middle School, Vallejo, California

The House on Mango Street – 25th Anniversary Edition

Photo Credit – Picture of Sandra Cisneros – by ksm36 –  Wikipedia.org

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Worship Wednesdays – Shoulders – for King & Country

Blog - Shoulders - 2“I will lift up my eyes to the hills–From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.” – Psalm 121

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:28-29

There are wonderful and terrible things in this life I do not understand. The cycles of seasons. The next breath. The birth of a baby. The death of a young mother. A world crumbling under the weight of its own sin. At the same time, a world still sustaining life in exquisite beauty in the face of centuries of war. How is all this possible?

We are carried. By a God who loves us, comes alongside us, and lifts us up out of the muck and mire of our troubles. He shoulders our burdens. I am daily grateful to Him for that, because my shoulders are too small and weak for the task. Even when I don’t see God in a situation, I know, by faith and by experience, that He is present. How would we bear the wonders without Someone to praise for them? How would we bear the wrongs of this world without knowing, deep in our hearts, that He carries us?

Charles Spurgeon once said, “Some of you go forth to your daily labors and you find the place of your service to be a real wilderness, full of trial and everything that is unpleasant to you. Yet look again, with eyes touched with Heaven’s eye-salve and, instead of seeing the bitter poverty, and the grinding toil, and the daily trial, you will begin to see that God is in it all and, “underneath are the everlasting arms!” You shall go cheerfully home to Heaven, borne up by God. He who made you will carry you! He who loves you will bear you all the days of old till you shall come unto the Mountain of God and stand in your lot at the end of the days!”*

Luke and Joel Smallbone, of the group for King & Country, write so honestly about the Shoulders of God. The writing comes out of their personal experience of both a life-threatening illness and the birth of a child. Watch their video linked below which visually tells stories some of which we have also experienced. Thankful for these guys who help me to worship God as He is. Strong and true.

Worship with me:

When confusion’s my companion
And despair holds me for ransom
I will feel no fear
I know that You are near
When I’m caught deep in the valley
With chaos for my company
I’ll find my comfort here
‘Cause I know that You are near

CHORUS
My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders

You mend what once was shattered
And You turn my tears to laughter
Your forgiveness is my fortress
Oh Your mercy is relentless

My help is from You
Don’t have to see it to believe it
My help is from you
Don’t have to see it, ‘cause I know, ‘cause I know it’s true.**

Blog - Shoulders - for King & Country

*The Everlasting Arms by Charles Spurgeon

YouTube Video (Lyrics) – Shoulders – for King & Country

YouTube Video – Shoulders – for King & Country – Official Video

YouTube Video – Shoulders Live on K-Love with For King & Country

See It First: Go Behind the Scenes of For King & Country’s Powerful Video, ‘Shoulders

**K-Love – Lyrics to Shoulders by songwriters Luke Smallbone, Joel Smallbone, Ben Glover, Tedd Tjornhom

Story Behind the Song – Shoulders – NewReleaseTuesday.com Interview with Luke Smallbone

For Hope: Luke Smallbone Finds Grace in the Darkness

Bio Page – for King & Country

Rebecca St. James – singer, songwriter, author, and sister to Joel and Luke Small bone

Photo Credits: YouTube and www.forkingandcountry.ccom website

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