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Archive for October, 2014

jeremiah-3133_3733_1600x1200

 

 

While skimming through my grandmother’s Bible, I came across a notation she made next to Jeremiah 31:33.

First, the verse:

 “I will put my law in their minds

And write it on their hearts.

I will be their God,

And they will be my people.”

 

Perhaps a bit of context would be helpful.

Jeremiah was a prophet of Judah for over forty years. He was instructed by God to speak strong judgment against the people because of their sin. They were following worthless idols and had become worthless themselves (2:5). God promised disaster from the north, even terrible destruction (4:6).

Babylon, the empire from the north, did attack in 586 B.C. and Jerusalem was destroyed.

But Jeremiah offered great hope, recorded in chapters thirty and thirty-one. The verse in bold print above makes clear two glorious assurances.

Assurance #1

“It is God’s work.” (That’s what my grandmother wrote in the margin of her Bible next to Jeremiah 31:33.)

See the phrase “I will” used twice in the verse?  It is our Heavenly Father who initiates the work of transformation in our minds and hearts. We couldn’t make ourselves godly no matter how hard we tried. It is his Spirit who enlivens the instruction of God’s Word to our hearts.

A friend of mine accepted Jesus into her life as an adult. M. once told me that before becoming a Christian, she had tried to read the Bible, but it didn’t hold her attention and didn’t make much sense. But after coming to Jesus? Oh, my! What a difference! Suddenly M. became a ravenous reader of God’s Word. Every word spoke wisdom and encouragement to her heart.

You see, what God provided for my friend (and for all of us who seek him) is a miraculous, spiritual heart transplant.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you,” God says.  “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

God is not saying he will force us into surgery.   We can accept or reject his offer of a new heart and spirit.

When you receive an appealing offer, how do you decide whether to accept or not? Do you consider the reliability of the person or company making the offer? Probably so.

And when you are given advice to follow, do you consider the source? No doubt.

So let’s consider the One making the offer of a new heart and a new spirit–God Almighty himself.   His love for us is limitless.  He is the all-knowing, all-wise God of the universe. We can trust that his instructions are for our good, that following them will bring peace, contentment, joy, and more.

(Tell me again why we rebel?!)

Assurance #2

He will be our God.

 “When this is fulfilled, you are the possessor of all things,” Spurgeon said.

Think of it: innumerable blessings are ours, beginning with a precious, personal relationship with the King of the universe.

His comforting presence, 24/7.

His guidance and provision for every day of our earthly lives.

And the glory of heaven assured.

 

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We praise you, holy God, the One who has informed us through your Word, who transforms us by your Spirit, and conforms us, day by day, to be like Jesus. Praise you for the privilege to be yours, guided and cared for by an all-wise, all-powerful God!

(Photo credit:  www.wallpaper4god.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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mri-scanner

 

My brother had to get an MRI last week. The technician warned him the machine was very loud—similar to a large motorcycle.

“I like motorcycles!” John told her.

Nevertheless she gave him earplugs, to block the noise as much as possible, and a set of headphones, through which he could listen to the music of his choice.

Earplugs and headphones. That’s what I need to drown out the devil’s loud voice.   Sometimes he can be incredibly persistent with his irritating chatter in my spiritual ears, saying things like:

  • “You are past your prime. Why bother trying to accomplish anything?”
  • “Look how blessed your neighbor is. You must have upset God in some way or you’d be blessed like that, too.”
  • “Can you believe how insensitive Ms. __________ is? How can she be so hurtful and not even realize it?

Wouldn’t it be nice if God handed out earplugs and headphones for our spiritual ears?

Maybe God wants us to develop some worthy habits in the process of manufacturing our own auditory devices.

And how might we do that?

Earplugs could be fashioned out of gratitude. We can occupy our minds with continual rejoicing in the blessings of this moment. Then we won’t be able to hear the devil’s negative and critical comments.

Let’s see…I wonder if I could name a blessing for each of the five senses, for what I am experiencing right now?

  • Thank you, Lord, for books and the gift of sight that allows me to read and enjoy them, as well as learn from them.
  • Thank you for soft breezes that create a cheerful rustling of fall leaves.
  • Thank you, Father, for the cozy warmth of my fleece jacket.
  • Thank you for the nutty goodness of hazelnut coffee,
  • And thank you, Lord, for the homey aroma of vanilla, coming from a nearby candle.

 

candleflame

 

Oh! That was fun, and I didn’t have one negative thought during the exercise. No wonder Paul told us to rejoice always.

Alright–earplugs are in place. Now it’s time for the headphones—something worthwhile to pay attention to, that drowns out the noise of negativity and criticism.

And what could be more worthwhile than scripture, where God offers reassurance, encouragement, and strength? The psalms are a perfect place to begin:

  • “Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust” (Psalm 40:4).
  • “I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble” (Psalm 59:16).
  • “Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples” (Psalm 77:13-14).

And one of my favorites:

 

Ps.89.15.16

 

(“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength” (Psalm 89:15-17).)

Notice: We are blessed when we acclaim God. Disparaging ourselves or others, bemoaning our circumstances—even just in our thought life—is counter-productive.  It is worship that transforms our minds and spirits.

So let’s insert those earplugs and pop on those headphones! The difference will be remarkable.

 

(Photo and art credits:  www.cancerresearchuk.org; http://www.cozyhearthcandles.com; annemateer.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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DSC_7445-X3 (My mom & dad with their great-granddaughter, Sophie, 2011)

 

“What we leave behind

is not what is engraved in stone monuments,

but what is woven into the lives of others.”

— Pericles (495-429, B.C.  Greek statesman, orator, and general of Athens)

I love that word, woven. It speaks eloquently of the way my mother, Geraldine Claire  (November 5, 1928-October 9, 2014), influenced my life. Woven into the fabric of my being are memories of Mom’s words and example that still have impact to this day.

Many of those memories involve Mom and Dad because they were such an inseparable team. They even wallpapered together.

Now marriage experts will tell you that completing home improvement projects with your spouse can be detrimental to your relationship. But that was not the case for Mom and Dad. Amidst the measuring, pasting, and hanging, my brother, John, and I saw cooperation and patience in action.

Once the wallpaper was hung in the three homes of our growing-up years, Mom was ready to entertain. Hospitality was definitely one of her gifts. In fact, the last dining room table Mother and Dad purchased could seat fourteen people.

Mom became adept at organizing large gatherings by writing lists, doing everything she could ahead of time, even labeling the serving ware so each item on the menu would have an appropriate bowl or plate. Little did I know then how often I’d be following her routine and recipes, as Steve and I began to entertain.

Mom’s legacy included wise advice. One time I was heartsick over a low report card grade in math—my most challenging subject. She quickly gave me perspective for the tragedy, saying, “Just remember: this grade will not matter in ten years.”  And, of course, she was right.

Countless times over the years as disappointments and difficulties have occurred, I’ve heard Mother’s voice reminding me to consider events with a ten-year perspective.

But that doesn’t mean she accepted excuses. Instead, Mom fostered independence and personal responsibility .

I’m remembering the Sunday School Christmas program from second grade. My part was to recite six verses from Luke, chapter two, about the angel visitation to the shepherds. “This is too much to memorize,” I complained.

Mother replied calmly, “Well, just tell Mr. Faircloth that you can’t manage it, and he’ll ask someone else.”

Mom did not take control of the situation; she left it up to me to decide what course of action to take. Wise mother, indeed.

But perhaps the most astounding aspect of her legacy is the way she exhibited all features of the fruit of the Spirit, listed in Galatians 5:22-23.

For example:

LOVE — Mom lavished love on family, friends, and stranger alike. She could strike up a conversation with anyone, and was always ready with a warm hug.

JOY — Mother was a woman of gladness. She laughed easily and often.

PEACE — Mom and Dad created a peaceful, secure home for John and me.

PATIENCE — She exercised great patience, especially when dealing with my fluctuating moods of early adolescence.

KINDNESS — Mother demonstrated kindness in many ways.  I remember one house where the old wallpaper was in process of removal when Mom and Dad took in a missionary who needed a place to stay.  We have home movies of  that missionary, Miss Hunt, standing in front of  the glue-encrusted plaster.  Another time when a different missionary family stayed with us, Mom did all their laundry while they attended to other affairs.

GOODNESS — Mother’s goodness was also expressed in numerous ways.  In my mind’s eye, I can still see Mom at her desk at Scripture Press, where she was executive secretary to the Vice President of Editorial.  (The visualization is easy to conjure; I sat directly across from Mom, most of my seven summers as an editorial assistant.)  Frequently people stopped by her desk to share a need and ask for advice.  We used to tease her about being the psychologist of Scripture Press!   

FAITHFULNESS — Mother’s faithfulnesss to God never wavered for the seventy-five earthly years she knew Jesus as her Savior and Lord.

GENTLENESS — While John and I were growing up, Mom could be plenty firm with us.  Yet, when we were sick, hurt or experiencing trouble, she readily soothed us with comfort and hugs.

SELF-CONTROL — I have to admit:  I provided Mom and Dad with plenty of parenting challenges.  And though Mom did become angry sometimes, she never lost her temper with me.

For these reasons and so many more, John and I “arise and call her blessed” (Proverbs 31:28).  Mother did indeed weave godly integrity, wisdom, and faith into our lives.

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autumn5

“The land is lit with autumn blaze.”

–Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885)

I’ve been anticipating these few weeks of October ever since we moved back to the Midwest in June—the gilding on tree-covered hillsides, the crimson coats on sumac trees, and, of course, the swaths of gold and vermilion among the maples.

The trees appear dressed for a grand party!

Indeed, autumn was the season I missed most during our forty years in Florida.

So Friday afternoon I sat on our second-story deck, to observe more closely the magnificent display in our back yard. You see, a shallow woods stands sentry between the houses on our street and the houses behind us. Among the tree-fellows, chestnut, elm, oak, and others stretch their colorful arms heavenward.

But already the trees are beginning to lose their leaves.

Elm leaves somersault while they plummet, flashing sparks of sunlight from their luminous topsides.

Oak leaves drift downward, gracefully zigzagging side to side.

But whether they tumble or drift, the leaves of all deciduous trees will eventually fall, having fulfilled their purpose: photosynthesizing light, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen.

As human beings, we, too, have purpose to our existence: to live for the praise of God’s glory (Ephesians 1:11).  What an honor is ours, to inspire others to give praise to the King of the universe.

And how might we do that?

  1. Reflect God’s character, like the elm leaves flashing in the sunlight. Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, we can shine as lights (Matthew 5:14)–offering assistance or a listening ear, being a positive voice and example, exercising self-control and patience.
  1. Give praise to God at every opportunity. As tree leaves fall, the lacey branches are exposed, all reaching upward toward the sunlight. Our hearts should be raised toward the Light of Life, the Son of God.

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(“My lips will glorify you.  I will praise you as long as I live,  and in your name I will lift up my hands” — Psalm 63:3-4)

We can:

  • Praise him in the morning for the opportunities of the day ahead.
  • Praise him in the afternoon for the blessings and accomplishments already enjoyed.
  • Praise him in the evening for his guidance and care throughout the day, his strength for the challenges, and the blessing of rest yet to come.
  1. Be content (Philippians 4:11).  God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).  Begin to name those blessings and note how your heart begins to swell with elation–blessings like:
  • relief of forgiveness
  • liberation from guilt
  • assurance of hope
  • confidence of access to his presence
  • certainty of eternal life.

(How long might the list grow if we continued?)

Just as autumn blazes around us, may our hearts blaze to live for the praise of God’s glory!

(Photo credits:  www.galleryhip.com; http://www.media-cache-akO.pinimg.com.)

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His name keeps popping up in books and blog posts: Andrew Murray.

His words are thought-provoking:

  • “Never try to arouse faith from within. You cannot stir up faith from the depths of your heart. Leave your heart, and look into the face of Christ.”
  • “Abiding fully means praying much.”
  • “Just as water ever seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds you abased and empty, His glory and power flow in.”

So who was this deeply thoughtful man, Andrew Murray(1828-1917)? Did his conversion experience turn him around 180 degrees like Paul’s? Did he face great danger like David or Daniel? Did he impact throngs of people with his preaching like Jonah or John the Baptist?

 

andrew_murray-gif

 

 

No. According to the Christian Classics Ethereal Library (www.ccel.org), Andrew grew up in a Christian home. No spectacular transformation from unbeliever to saint.

His father was a Scottish Presbyterian minister who served in the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa. Andrew became a pastor himself and served several pastorates, also in South Africa.

Andrew helped found two schools, made several evangelistic tours of South Africa, and received an honorary doctorate for his contributions to world missions. Today he is best known for his devotional writings, found in the 240 publications to his credit.

Not a shabby list of accomplishments, but Andrew faced no giants or lions. There are no cliff-hanger stories to tell about him. He simply served God faithfully where he was.

No doubt there are some who would skim-read such a biography, yawn, and seek more exciting stories–Adoniram Judson’s or David Livingstone’s.

Andrew Murray may have written some thoughtful books and essays, but let’s face it. His life-story borders on ho-hum ordinary.

But wait. The Bible and annals of history are overflowing with the stories of ordinary people such as:

  • Jethro, a shepherd. Yet his wisdom greatly assisted his son-in-law–Moses (Exodus 18:1-27).
  • Mordecai, a captive. However, he was in the right place at the right time to hear of a plot against the Jews (the book of Esther).
  • Lydia, a dealer in fine purple cloth and dye. She just happened to provide housing for Paul and Silas, and became the first convert—in all of Europe (Acts 16).

No doubt these people considered themselves just ordinary folk. But God used them in astonishing ways.

The truth is, there is no such thing as an ordinary person in God’s kingdom.

So, guess who’s talking when that voice in your head whispers, “You are a nobody. You aren’t accomplishing anything worthwhile in your life.”

It’s not God!

He placed within each of us wondrous, unique gifts. Would God do that if we were worthless?

Second, he placed us within a circle of influence that includes family, neighbors, friends, church acquaintances, business contacts, and more. (And let’s not forget the ripple effect.)

Third, God provides opportunities within that circle for us to use our gifts, be a blessing to others, and  bring him praise.

So whether God ordains you or me to be a leader or follower, a platform personality or a behind-the-scenes helper, a larger-than-life Paul, or a lesser-known Andrew Murray, we each have a unique niche to fill—especially designed by God himself.

 

potter

 

For we are God’s workmanship, 

(Think of it—we are the handiwork of the Master Designer!)

Created in Christ Jesus to do good works, 

(Works that will bring glory to God and supreme satisfaction to our hearts.)

which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).”

(Availing ourselves to what he’s prepared results in supremely worthwhile accomplishment.)

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Thank you, Father, for gifting each of us with unique abilities to fulfill your specially designed plans. Thank you that in your kingdom there is no such thing as ho-hum ordinary, because you, the Master of the universe only create masterpieces! May our joy be centered in faithfully completing the works you have prepared for each of us.

 

Art and photo credits:  www.newparadigmthinkers.wordpress.com; http://www.dayofgrace.me.)       

 

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psalm-42.5

 

On Friday, September 26, my younger brother, John, called with the heartbreaking news that our mother, age 85, had suffered a massive stroke. Her entire right side was affected; she could neither see nor talk. The prognosis left little room for hope.

By Sunday morning I was on a plane for Austin, Texas, to see Mom and care for Dad (age 90) while John and his wife, Collene, took care of numerous business matters related to Mom’s and Dad’s welfare.

For at least ten years Mom has been Dad’s primary care giver, due to his degenerative arthritis and Parkinson’s disease. But she considered her responsibilities a privilege, often saying, “He took care of me for many years; now it’s my turn. He’s my ministry now.”

For ten days we put our hope in God and witnessed his power at work.  In spite of great sadness, we could say, “For we will yet praise him, our Savior and our God” (Psalm 42:5), as he blessed us with his presence, guidance, and provision.

Mom was taken to Brackenridge, a teaching hospital, where she received conscientious, compassionate care. Doctors and nurses alike spent time with us, patiently explaining Mom’s condition and what we could expect.

Though she could not speak, and her brain had sustained extensive damage due to swelling, Mom communicated her love with hand squeezes. She also drew our hands to her lips for kisses.

My daughter, Heather, received permission from her kind boss to take time away from work and fly to Austin. She was able to stay for three days, visiting her grandmother, offering help, and lifting the spirits of us all.

On Day Five, I believe, it was recommended that Mom be moved to Hospice.   Immediately the name of a highly respected facility came to Collene’s mind. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Grandma were taken to Christopher House, she thought. But that particular hospice is small. What were the chances that a bed would be available? Collene kept the thought to herself, just in case Mom was assigned elsewhere.

Sure enough, a representative from Christopher House came to the hospital and directed us through the process to have Mom transferred there. An added blessing: John and Collene knew one of the nurses. She asked to be assigned to our mother for the duration of Mom’s stay.

Meanwhile, we visited three nursing homes for Dad. (He had told Mom on numerous occasions, “Just put me in a nursing home!” She wouldn’t hear of it. Only four months ago did she agree to have a care-giver come four hours a day.)

All three facilities were close to John and Collene, all relatively new.   One seemed a particularly good fit for Dad’s needs and interests.

Two doctor’s appointments, many phone calls, and much paperwork later, Dad was approved and processed for admittance to the nursing home we had hoped for.   The day before my flight home I did laundry for Dad, gathered toiletries and other items, and marked his name on all belongings.

The next morning, Wednesday, John and Collene got Dad settled, and I flew home.

Later, John sent me a video of Dad playing a piano duet with a staff member. Granted, he could only play with one finger, but he packed a lot of rhythm and soul into those single notes.  What a delight to see him having a good time–already.

That night we spoke by phone.  Dad told me the folks at his dining table enjoyed his jokes, and he’d already taken advantage of the library.

On Thursday, October 9, Mom graduated to heaven. It was her father’s birthday.

Do they celebrate birthdays in heaven? I’d like to think that my grandmother and grandfather stood at the gate to greet Mom, as Jesus ushered her in. Together with many family and friends who already reside in heaven, they celebrated her arrival as a precious gift for Gramps’ birthday. Somehow it seems very fitting.

 

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You can read my mother’s story at http://www.memorialwebsites.legacy.com/gerischaub.

 

(Photo credit:  www.jeanierhoades.com )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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