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The call came at 5:34 a.m., waking Steve and me from sound sleep. Immediately he thought, This is it. My brain hardly registered a phone ringing.

Within moments, however, my body was in high gear, preparing to leave for the hospital. This day—December 19, 2018—Steve would receive a new liver, the only long-term solution for his liver cancer, caused by non-alcoholic cirrhosis. He had been on the transplant wait list for six months.

That predawn phone call became Miracle #1 out of at least twelve over the next two weeks. Steve’s name had only been moved to the top-tier twelve days prior.  (Some patients must wait a year or more.)

Upon arriving at the hospital, Steve underwent two-hours of surgery prep. And then we waited, and waited some more, until the orderlies finally came and wheeled him away.

Miracle #2: Much of the day I waited alone, although Hilja (our daughter-in-law and a physician at the same hospital) sat with me as she could, especially in the evening. But God’s peace that transcends all understanding absolutely guarded my heart and mind the entire time.  I knew all would be well.

 

 

Miracle #3: The first hours in ICU are critical for any patient. God chose a special nurse to care for Steve, one that a colleague had highly praised to Hilja. In addition, Steve was her only patient for about six hours.

Miracle #4: Hilja insisted on spending the night in ICU. As Steve’s blood pressure and some bleeding became an issue, she was there as an extra set of eyes and ears, ready to advocate on his behalf. (Her expertise and support have been invaluable for the entire nine months since Steve’s diagnosis. She’s even attended some appointments with us.)

Miracle #5: The next day, the breathing tube was removed, and Steve was able to sit up in bed. His voice sounded raspy, but he wasn’t groggy, and soon Steve was joking with the nurses, Scot and Mac (What delightful, attentive young men!). By afternoon, they had Steve walking around the nurse’s station. His progress toward healing amazed us all.

 

 

On Day 3, Steve was transferred to the step-down unit where Laura and Katie took over his care. Again, such kind, helpful nurses. In fact, we’ve been highly impressed by the expertise and compassion of the staff at University of Cincinnati Hospital.

Steve continued to make rapid progress, sitting up in a chair for longer stretches of time, circling more laps around the unit each time he walked.

An added blessing those first few days: a young mom from our church babysat for our granddaughters so our son Eric could run errands and visit Steve.

Pastor Michael came to see Steve that day, stopping short upon entering the room. “This is not what I was expecting!” he cried. Although Steve was in bed, he was sitting up, looking perfectly healthy and alert.

 

 

 

On Saturday, Hilja, Elena (our five-year old granddaughter), and I were supposed to attend The Nutcracker. I expected to miss the performance, with Steve only three days post-op.

But because he was recuperating so well, because Laura and Katie were taking such good care of him, and because Eric could keep Steve company for part of the time, I felt confident all would be well in my absence.

Eric was even allowed to bring Maarit, our almost two-year old granddaughter, with the understanding that hugging, kissing, and sitting on Papa’s lap would be forbidden. That was okay by Maarit. Papa’s walker provided great fun.

Meanwhile, we three girls enjoyed the ballet performance—glorious moments of respite.  (God knew I’d be ready to lose myself in the Land of Sweets!)

 

 

Miracle #6: Steve was released the afternoon of the 24th, just five days after surgery.   Christmas Day we reveled in the granddaughters’ gift-opening at our home—not at the hospital.

Miracle #7: Our younger son and his wife arrived the 26th, our daughter and older granddaughter flew in on the 27th. They had all planned to visit anyway, but what perfect timing God supplied! For ten days they provided gracious help.

Miracle #8: Insurance is covering a visiting nurse on Thursday, so we only have to go to the hospital for post-op check-ups once a week.

Miracle #9: Steve has experienced very little pain. Within twelve days he was taking only Tylenol at bedtime. Now he’s not even taking that.

Miracle #10: The discomfort of acute swelling caused the most trouble after returning home. The doctor told us the edema could take up to three weeks to resolve, but within one week it was much improved.

 

 

Miracle #11: Transplant patients almost always require insulin until the medications that raise blood sugar can be reduced. Steve’s insulin dosage has already been lowered, and only several times has he needed extra insulin beyond the once-daily dose.

Miracle#12: The huge outpouring of love, support, and prayer throughout this entire process have contributed greatly to Steve’s healing.  Many of you reading this post are part of this miracle.

At Tuesday’s post-op check-up we were told his platelet and white blood cell counts are continuing to rise. “Your new liver is happy!” exclaimed the physician’s assistant.

Needless to say, so are we.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 

Just these past three weeks, O God, You have done such great things for us! “Our hearts brim with joy.” Now may your unfailing love rest upon us, even as we put our hope for the future in you.

 (Psalm 126:3; 33:21a MSG; 33:22)

 

(Nutcracker image from http://www.flickr.com.)

 

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Years ago Steve’s Aunt Louise gave us a little ceramic church music box.  With its drab gray walls, greenish-gray roof, and standard steeple, the church did not grab attention. But the arched windows on each side were filled with tiny chips of colored glass, and when lit from within the little church sparkled with glorious light.

Sometime when our three children were young, the church was broken by “Not Me.” Fortunately, the pieces were large and Steve was able to glue them back together.   When the light was turned on, the cracks didn’t even show.

But as the years passed, the glue began to discolor and turn dark. The poor little music box became a sad sight, and I was about to throw it away when our youngest son–probably in high school by this time–said, “Oh, Mom! You can’t get rid of the church! That’s been my favorite Christmas decoration since I was a little kid!”

So Jeremy saved the music box from destruction.

 

 

He finished college, married a sweet girl from our church, and moved twice more while attending seminary. Somewhere along the way the music box disappeared.

Each year as he and his wife Nancy decorated for Christmas, he’d remember fondly that little ceramic church and wonder what happened to it.

Seminary graduation came and went, four years at his first church appointment also passed. While settling into their second parsonage, Jeremy finally unpacked a carton labeled “Memorabilia” that had been sealed up since he left our home.

Buried at the bottom was a sealed shoebox. Jeremy sliced through the tape with his pocketknife, lifted the lid, and brought into the light a lumpy, tissue-wrapped object.

 

 

Within moments Jeremy held in his hands that precious, long-missing ceramic church. And joyful tears stung his eyes.

He quickly found a new bulb and plugged the cord into a nearby socket. The windows instantly filled with glorious rainbow light. Jeremy didn’t even notice the fissures or dark, crusty glue.

Isn’t it amazing to consider that, just as Jeremy loves that damaged music box, God loves us—scarred, and imperfect as we are? We too were just as lost as that little church—sealed up in a box of our own prideful independence.

 

 

But Jesus came looking for us. He brought us into his glorious Light, and filled us with the Light of his inviting, benevolent grace.*

Now, we have the privilege to shine with gleaming Light just like that little church—in spite of our scars.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

God of all grace, I thank you for rescuing me from mere existence in my self-made box, and bringing me into a rich, full life with you. Even though cracks and blemishes remain in my being, what you see is not what I have been but what I am becoming—holy and blameless and filled with Light—for that day when I see you as you are!

 

(John 10:10; Ephesians 1:4; John 8:12; 1 John 3:2)

 

 

 

*Often defined by using an acronym: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense

 

Scripture references: Luke 15:8-10; John 8:12; Colossians 1:27; 2 Corinthians 9:8; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 3:24; Matthew 5:14.

 

(Photo credits:  Jeremy Ruegg (2); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.heartlight.org (Ben Steed); http://www.verseaday.com.)

 

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Christmas is indeed a season of light.

Candles glow and twinkling lights glimmer from houses, buildings, and trees.

People love all the flickering and shimmering!  Some spend weeks decorating their yards and rooftops in spectacles of illumination.  If you asked them why, they might be hard-pressed to express more than, “They’re beautiful!”

 

 

But perhaps it’s more than just aesthetics.  Perhaps it’s a heart-response.

Light is symbolic for:

  • Beauty.  Light grabs our attention, whether it’s sparkling and dazzling or soft and luminous.

 

 

  • Safety.  Where there is light, we can navigate through our surroundings.
  • Comfort.  A nightlight offers just that for many a child who is afraid of the dark.
  • Hope.  Light gleams triumphantly in the darkness at the end of a tunnel.
  • Guidance.  Light illuminates the way.

 

 

Might it be that people respond to light, especially when associated with Christmas, because the human spirit is made to respond to the Light?

Jesus came from the Father who is Light (1 John 1:5), and proclaimed, “I am the Light of the world” (John 8:12).

But that statement is more than symbolic.

God the Son is our safety, because he offers eternal life.

 

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish;

no one can snatch them out of my hand.”

John 10:28-29

 

 

God the Father is our comfort, because he is loving and compassionate.

  

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,

who comforts us in all our troubles.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4a

 

God the Son is our hope, because of his resurrectionWe will be raised from the dead because he was. 

 

“In his great mercy [God] has given us new birth

into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade—

kept in heaven for you.”

1 Peter 1:3b-4

 

 

God the Father is beauty, because of all his exquisite attributes.  And we have the opportunity to bask in that beauty.

 

“I’m asking God for one thing…

To live with him in his house my whole life long.

I’ll contemplate his beauty; I’ll study at his feet.”

Psalm 27:4  MSG

 

God the Father is guidance, characterized by wisdom, compassion, and readiness.

 

 

The Light of the world offers us all this and more.

I can’t imagine life without him, can you?

Let’s make time to linger in his Light during this Advent season.

 

 

Let’s be watchful for “Glory-moments, awash in his dazzling Light” (Sarah Young).

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    *

 

How else might we expand our heart-response to Jesus?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

Photo credits: http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.tOrangebiz; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com (3).

 

(Revised and reblogged from December 2, 2013.)

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In the town where I lived till age ten, great elm trees bordered a number of the residential streets. Their wide-reaching branches stretched across the pavement and met in the middle, creating a thick, verdant archway in the summertime.

As we walked or drove underneath, the view was dominated by tree trunks—sentries of the streets in two straight rows.

One stand-alone tree, tall and far spread, is an inspiration, as Joyce Kilmer’s famous poem attests. But a double row stretching to the horizon? That’s a wondrous sight you don’t forget—even after six decades.

Not long ago I came across an observation of Charles Spurgeon, based on just such a view. And immediately I thought of those stately elms of my hometown:

 

“We delight to look down a long avenue of trees.

It is pleasing to gaze from end to end of the long vista.

Even so look down the long aisles of your years,

at the green boughs of mercy overhead

and the strong pillars of loving-kindness

and faithfulness which bear up your joys.”

(Morning by Morning, p. 366).

 

 

What better time to look down those aisles of our years than this week of Thanksgiving?

Down my own personal road…

…I do see the green boughs of mercy—times when God treated me with grace and compassion that I did not deserve—even in small matters.

One example out of many:  the time I forgot to order new books for the women’s Bible study at church. (This was long before amazon.com and priority shipping.) An emergency run to the Christian bookstore was necessary.

While driving there, I prayed to find sufficient copies of a worthwhile study that we could complete in the necessary time frame: eight weeks.

I know, I know. Such specific requirements. But sure enough, God supplied exactly what was needed, in spite of my foolish forgetfulness.

 

(Women too!)

 

…I see the strong pillars of loving-kindness—times when God demonstrated his tender and compassionate affection.

Again, one example out of many: I spilled a bit of coffee on my computer and the mouse died. Steve tried the hair dryer trick, and miraculously, my mouse came back to life.

But Steve would be the first to tell you God gets the credit, first for bringing to his mind that solution, and because “every good and perfect gift comes from above”—even problem-solving power.

 

 

…I see the strong pillars of faithfulness—times when God demonstrated his firm and devoted support.

Just a list of categories is quite long. God offers protection and provision, equipping and encouragement, instruction and guidance, comfort and strength, forgiveness and restoration, support and deliverance, healing and blessing. Surely there are even more.

Often, God expresses his strong and loving support through his Word.

One morning while settling in for a quiet time, I opened my Bible first instead of the study guide. “Wake up,” I chided myself. “You don’t even know what scripture you’ll be studying today.”

I turned to the morning’s lesson and discovered my Bible was already open to the proper page, and the prescribed verse was right at the top. Before even reading the verse I felt a strong impression from God: “Nancy, this scripture is for you today.”

Now before I reveal the verse, let me explain that just a few days prior I’d received disturbing news. Hurt and discouragement were fighting against faith and hope in my spirit.

So imagine my astonishment when I read, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand” (John 13:7).  An overflow of joy in my heart became tears in my eyes. He saw my distress and came alongside with encouragement and support.

 

 

No doubt you have stories of your own green boughs of mercy and strong pillars of loving-kindness and faithfulness, as you gaze down the long aisle of your years.

I’d love to hear one of your examples; I’m sure other readers would too.

Please share in the comment section below, and together we can praise our God for the wonders he has performed (Psalm 105:5a)!

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.strongtowns.org (Daniel Jeffries); http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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Years ago my mother worked as secretary to a publishing company vice-president.  One spring she was invited to attend a goal-setting retreat with those in leadership. Her job was to take notes.

 

 

During the first session, the facilitator (We’ll call him Jim.) included some clarifying questions about the mission of the company.   Mom didn’t expect to participate, so she was caught off guard when Jim invited her to share. She confessed to feeling out of place and unqualified to contribute. After all, she was only a secretary.

But editor-in-chief, Bernice, exclaimed, “Why, Geri! You shouldn’t feel that way!”

Jim suggested that Bernice tell Mom why her input was important, why she was a valuable part of the team.

 

(A-Z Quotes)

 

Perhaps Bernice mentioned a few of the gifts I noticed in Mom: her creative problem-solving ability, astute interpersonal skills, and proficiency at organization.

Whatever Bernice said, the compliments embarrassed Mom but validated her deeply. Bernice had never before shared what she saw in Mom.

Jim explained that citing specific reasons, rather than simply telling someone not to feel a certain way, can more effectively foster a change of mindset.

So in light of that facilitator’s advice, I won’t tell you that God thinks you’re pretty terrific.

Let me show you from his Word what he sees in you.

For example:

God sees you as precious and honored because he loves you.

 

 

That love is not just collective for all humankind, but individual and unique—just for you.

God sees and loves you—the one who handles a myriad of details so someone else can be in the spotlight.

He sees and loves you—the one who swipes up messes hither and yon, parades laundry baskets to and fro, and traipses dishes from washer to shelf, day in and day out.

He sees and loves you—making those calls, writing those notes, pausing to listen to sales clerks and restaurant servers.

But on any given day, you may not feel particularly precious or honored—when frustration boils over into unkind words, impatience leads to anger, or unfair treatment curdles into self-pity. How can God see anything precious and honored in that?  Perhaps it’s because he’s focused on his vision for you, his work in you.

Remember,

God sees you as his child.

 

 

And like any loving parent, he delights in every step of growth, every benchmark of progress. With pleasure and pride he is cheering you on.

Also,

God sees your heart.

 

 

Perhaps that statement evokes guilt, as it did in me for many years. I contemplated the ways I disappointed God, even failed him. But there’s a positive side to that statement. Our Heavenly Father sees our good intentions, our desire to obey him, our attempts to practice his presence with praise and gratitude.

And just as we would never reject a misspelled, wobbly-lettered love note from a child, God never rejects our sincere efforts.

Furthermore,

God sees you as his masterpiece, a stunning, one-of-a-kind design (Ephesians 2:10).

 

 

He chose the colors of your personality, the form of your life-chapters, the line of movement from child to maturity, and the spaces both negative and positive that contribute to soul growth.

God also chose a particular place for you in his world-size gallery where you could best display his artistry. And like all beautiful handiwork, you evoke joy in the heart of your Maker.

 

 

Indeed, it is holy, precious perfection that God sees in you.

 

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.hanscom.af.mil (Todd Maki); http://www.azquotes.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr.com.)

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Some believe that indulging in memories is a waste of time, that past events have no meaning for the present. But nothing could be further from the truth— especially if we acknowledge God’s part in those events.

When we include God in our remembering:

  1. We gain a sense of perspective.

Even difficult times are part of God’s plan. Sometimes, with the gift of hindsight, we catch a glimpse of his purpose later.

For example, how many students have struggled through school, yet in adulthood flourished in careers well matched to their gifts? Most of them are actually thankful for the early challenges, because they learned perseverance and developed strength of character. Those late-bloomers are often compassionate and understanding toward other strugglers, because they remember the difficulties of those formative years.

 

 

  1. We acquire wisdom for today.

“Reflective thinking turns experience into insight.”

–John Maxwell

In my younger days I used to be a champion talker. But somewhere along the way I began to notice the listeners—caring folks who often demonstrated the gentle and quiet spirit Peter spoke of (1 Peter 3:3). They reminded me of my sweet grandmother.

I valued that demeanor and began to turn insight into a new experience of focused listening. (Please understand: practice hasn’t achieved perfection yet. But improvement? Yes.)

 

  1. We build a foundation of stability for today as we remember God’s grace and faithfulness in the past.

But memories easily fade. So some believers keep a book of remembrance or a praise journal, as a way to savor God’s faithfulness.

Just for fun, I randomly opened my loose leaf praise journal in search of an entry to share with you. Here’s what I wrote, December 23, 2003, about our older son, who was in college at the time:

 

 

(“Eric got a new job yesterday and it starts today! The owner of the bike shop has not paid Eric for ten days, but a friend offered him a job in their family’s fireplace shop at the same salary.”)

Entry after entry highlight God’s provision, protection, and guidance through the years. And each memory contributes to my foundation of stability.

 

  1. We foster gratitude in our hearts.

As you can see, the entry recorded above ends with: “Thank you, Lord, for answering our prayers and providing for Eric.”  Joy just naturally overflowed into appreciation.

On the opposing page I wrote, “I am overwhelmed, Lord, by this continuing string of blessings. You are SO good to us, always demonstrating your faithfulness and grace. May your praise continually be on my lips!”

Research has now proven a number of benefits of gratitude.*  But surely one of the best: it nurtures a contented soul.

 

 

  1. We can turn remembering into a beautiful act of worship. 

That’s exactly what scripture invites us to do: 

“Rejoice in all the good which the Lord your God has given to you and your house” (Deuteronomy 26:11).

Praise the name of the Lord your God, who has done wondrously with you” (Joel 2:26b).

“You make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands” (Psalm 92:4).

 

 

Such glorious cause and effect! Remembering God’s wonderful deeds of the past turns our hearts to worship, which causes a powerful, positive impact on the present.

 

  1. We can tell our stories of God’s miracles and mercies, to encourage the faith of others and refresh our own.

Scripture invites us to do that too: 

“I will tell of the kindness of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all he has done for us” (Isaiah 63:7).

.

 

So let’s begin here! Please share in the comment section below about a kindness, miracle, or mercy of God from your memory. And together we can praise the name of the Lord who has worked wonders for us!

 

* Another post details some of those benefits, “Happiness.”

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.nellis.af.mil; Nancy Ruegg (3); http://www.heartlight.org.

 

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“He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.”

–Psalm 104:5

 

The ancient psalm writer, with his limited knowledge of how the universe works, could only express what he observed: the earth remains stable. Perhaps he noticed we never veer too close or too far from the life-giving sun. And without knowing why, he knew who was responsible: God Almighty.

Now, after centuries of research, we can understand more clearly the reasons for our constant position in space.

 

Isaac Newton (1643-1727)

 

Isaac Newton was the first to surmise that the planets are held in place by the sun’s gravity.   Why?   The more massive an object, the more gravitational pull it produces. Since the sun is by far the largest entity in our solar system, it exerts the strongest pull.

But what keeps the planets and their moons from being drawn into the sun and consumed? Rotation. As the sun exerts pressure inward, the planets’ orbit around the sun pulls them outward. (Think of an object tied to the end of a string and spun in a circle.) Centrifugal force pulls the object outward. Perfect tension between these two forces keeps every celestial body in its place within the solar system.

 

 

And because earth’s foundations are never moved, life is sustained. Any closer to the sun and our glaciers would melt, causing sea levels to rise and massive coastal flooding to occur. More water surface on the globe would mean more heat absorption as well.

Just a minor move closer to the sun would cause drastic results.

On the other hand, if Earth were just a few million miles farther away from the sun, the reverse effects would occur. More ice would form, diminishing the oceans. Their function to absorb heat would be lessened. Colder oceans would not evaporate as quickly, causing less rain to fall.

Again, just a minor change would cause drastic results.

 

 

Now we know:  Our specific, firmly established distance from the sun is crucial to sustaining life.

But our foundations are unique in another regard. Planet Earth is tilted on its axis 23 ½ degrees. (How’s that for precise?)

 

 

The tilt keeps our overall temperature stable.   Each hemisphere, north and south, receives three months of greater sun exposure, creating warmth. They also receive three months of less sun exposure, bringing the temperature down.

If the world was not tilted at all, there would be no seasons. All points on the globe would retain the same temperature in July as in January—equatorial regions would remain intolerably hot; regions toward the poles would be unbearably cold.

 

 

Weather patterns would remain rather static, creating areas of high humidity and other locations of insufferable aridity. As a result, only the mid-latitudes–about half the planet– would be suitable for human habitation and favorable for cultivation.

With these facts in mind, I’m much more appreciative of that truth tucked into Psalm 104: “He set the earth on its foundations.”

Did you notice the psalmist used the plural form of foundation? Perhaps he spoke more truth than he realized.

The viability of Planet Earth rests on at least these three foundations described above: gravity, centrifugal force , and tilt.

 

 

Such precision, multiplied again and again throughout the universe, proves God has thought of everything to keep his creation functioning millennium after millennium.  And…

 

“Nothing under his control can ever be out of control.”

–Chuck Swindoll*

 

If he can perfectly orchestrate numerous factors, with absolute exactitude, in order to maintain life on this planet, he can certainly handle the less-complicated, smaller-scale aspects of my life and yours.

 

 

All that’s required of us is the application of one foundational principle:

Faith.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *    *     *     *

 

*from Intimacy with the Almighty

 

Sources:  https://spaceplace.nasa.gov/review/dr-marc-solar-system/planet-orbits.html and http://www.icr.org/article/planet-eart-plan-or-accident/

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.jpl.nasa.gov; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pxhere.com (2); http://www.canva.com.

 

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