Dad’s Journey

Dad in Rehab

March 25, 2017, began a journey for my Dad, Max Walker, which will take him through many months to come.

Dad’s health had been going down for several months.  Normally a very active 75 year old, he began to have to rest frequently between his activities.  One day he started feeling pressure in his chest, was sweating profusely and was weak.  Finally, my Mom and my Uncle Harold told Dad that he was going to the hospital either in their car, or by ambulance.  Dad relented and was driven by car to the local ER.

After several hours in the ER, the results of tests were given.  His blood work looked normal and the EKG showed he was not having a heart attack at the moment, but that he had experienced a heart attack at some point in the past.  He was released from the ER, doing no better, and was told to follow up with a cardiologist.

Although nothing was done for him, this trip to the hospital began a series of events that were hard and discouraging to go through.  Yet through it all, God’s hand and control over everything was exhibited.

On Monday morning, Mom called to get an appointment with the cardiologist.  It’s very hard to get an appointment with that doctor in a timely manner.  She was told the earliest Dad could be seen by the doctor would be weeks later in April.  Hanging up discouraged, Mom walked away from the phone only to have it ring.  The doctor’s office was on the phone saying they had a cancellation.  Dad could be seen on that Friday, March 31st,.

When we took Dad to that appointment, he was so weak we asked to have a place for him to lay down instead of waiting in the waiting room.  He was still experiencing all the symptoms that he had experienced when he had gone to the ER.  They immediately took him to a room and hooked him up to run another EKG.

When the doctor came in to talk to Dad, he was told again that the EKG showed he was not having a heart attack.  The doctor listened to his chest and abdomen.  Although I could not see the doctor’s face, both Mom and Dad could.  They noticed that when the doctor listened to his abdomen, his facial expression suggested he heard an abnormal sound.

The doctor then said he thought that Dad should go back to the hospital to have further tests run.  He tried to get Dad directly admitted to the hospital in order to bypass the ER, but the hospital would not allow that.  So back to the ER we went.

I don’t know how it is at other hospitals, but at our local hospital, going to the ER meant hours of waiting.  The thought of going back through the process they had gone through the previous Saturday was not pleasant.  However, since the doctor had called ahead, they put Dad in an examination room and tests began immediately.  We were later told that if he had been directly admitted, the tests the doctor ordered would have become less of priority since any orders from the ER took precedence over the orders of patients in the rooms.

Blood work, another EKG, x-rays, ultrasounds of his organs, were all done.  Nothing was standing out in any of the tests, but he was admitted so that additional tests could be run.  Room 307 became his home for the next nine days.

On Saturday, an echocardiogram and a CT scan of his abdomen were done.  We learned that the sound the doctor had heard when he listened to Dad’s abdomen could possibly have been an aneurysm or blockage.  The tests on his heart were good and no sign of a blockage or aneurysm was found.  Although the scan did show that some lymph nodes in his abdomen and around his kidneys were swollen.

The next day, on Sunday, they did a CT scan of his chest to check for blood clots in his lung.  No clots were found, but additional swollen lymph nodes were seen.

An ocologist was consulted.  He wanted to do a needle biopsy of a lymph node in Dad’s neck.  They did the biopsy on Monday.  Results of the needle biopsy were not received until Wednesday.  The results of the tests just showed some atypical cells but nothing conclusive.  He was scheduled to have a lymph node removed on Thursday.

Two different surgeons came in Wednesday to talk to Dad.  The general surgeon said he could remove a lymph node from under Dad’s arm but because of his full schedule, it would be late on Thursday afternoon before he could do it.  He said he had a partner who possibly could do it a little earlier.  Then an ear, nose, throat specialist came in to say he could take a lymph node from Dad’s neck around noon on Thursday.  Dad chose to have that specialist to do the surgery.

On Thursday morning, the general surgeon’s partner came in at 9:00.  He had a cancellation in his schedule and could perform the surgery at 11:00.  The decision was made to have that surgery.  We later learned that the ear, nose, throat specialist had a surgery that took longer than expected and it would have been later in the afternoon before he could have performed Dad’s surgery.  It was also told that the lymph node in his neck would have been a riskier surgery due to the size and location near his jugular vein.  By having the earlier surgery, testing on the tissue began on that day.  The oncologist told us Friday evening that the initial results showed no signs of cancer so far, but further testing was ongoing.

All of that time, Dad had grown weaker and weaker.  Nothing could be given to him since they did not know what was wrong.  If they had given him steroids or anything else, the root problem could have been masked in any tests that were run.

However, while the week had progressed, his blood pressure medication was adjusted time after time.  Dad had been on two different blood pressure medications for years but his BP had never been stable.  His doctor had even told him to leave it off and if his BP went up, then take a pill.  In the hospital, the hospitalist fussed at dad for refusing to take the prescribed medication.  Dad had been refusing to take the medication because he knew regular use of it caused his BP to fall too low.  The doctor agreed to reduce the amount if Dad would take the medicine.  The following days proved Dad right.  The dosage was increasingly lowered until he left the hospital with one pill instead of two and the dosage a quarter of the amount originally prescribed.  The new amount was prescribed to be used after he left the hospital and has worked well.

Dad was released to go home on Saturday, April 8th, with a follow-up appointment scheduled with the oncologist on Tuesday.  He was very weak.  Mom had been home sick most of the week while Dad was in the hospital.  Having Dad home was good, but both were weak and needed help.   I had been able to spend the week with Dad at the hospital and was with Mom and Dad at home on Monday and Tuesday.

On Monday night, the oncologist called to say the results looked like Dad had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  The diagnosis had changed from thinking there was no cancer on Friday to now being told there was.

On Tuesday, Uncle Harold, Mom and I, took Dad to the Levine Cancer Institute.  He had been throwing up and unable to eat.  Uncle Harold helped us get Dad in the car and in a wheelchair as soon as we arrived at the cancer center.  Again, as soon as we arrived at the doctor’s office, he was taken to a room and laid down.  He was running a high temperature and the nurses immediately hooked him up to an IV, giving him fluids and medicine for nausea.  Blood was also drawn.

When the doctor came in, he told us he had just heard from the pathologist an hour before.  The diagnosis had changed once again and now we learned Dad had T-cell lymphoma.  We were told this was a very rare cancer which was why the diagnosis had been so hard to reach.  The doctor said he had never had a case of that particular type of cancer before.  He seemed to think the fever and deteriorating health was due to the lymphoma and immediately wanted Dad to be admitted once again to the hospital.  Because of the rarity of the cancer, the doctor said many times patients did not know they had the disease and would die because of an infection rather than from the cancer.

So back to the ER.  This time, the Levine Cancer Institute was located across the parking lot to the hospital so Dad was taken by a wheelchair and rolled straight into the ER.  Had he not been so sick, being wheeled across the parking lot in a wheelchair could have been a fun story to tell.  Within a short time he was taken directly to an examination room.  Again, since blood work had been taken at the doctor’s office and because the doctor had ordered ahead the tests to be done, everything was carried out more quickly than would have normally been done.

They began giving him meds to bring down his fever.  Fluids and nausea medications were administered.  A broad spectrum antibiotic was given by IV.  The doctor had ordered an MRI to be done of Dad’s brain to rule out a stroke because of how lethargic he had been at the doctor’s office.  Another x-ray of his chest was taken.  A lot was done in a short amount of time.

It was discovered Dad had a urinary tract infection and the flu.   His stay in Room 325 would last for 8 days.

Wednesday was a day of continual tests to determine the strength of his heart and it’s ability to withstand chemotherapy.  They started him on steroids to help build him up along with the nausea medication, Tamiflu and an antibiotic.  Bone marrow was taken from his hip.  On Thursday, April  13th, a pic line was put in and chemo began.  Because of his ongoing weakness and nausea, he remained in the hospital.  The days were very emotional.  A combination of the medication and the reality of his circumstances took a toll on the normally strong man.

On Tuesday, April 18th, he was transported to a rehabilitation facility.  On Wednesday, it was like night and day.  He was up and moving around.   Although still lacking endurance, he began to quickly gain strength.  Food began to taste better, having real clothes on instead of the “petticoat” of a gown, the ability to care for himself, all contributed to his remaining in rehab only until Friday, the 21st.

Dad has a long road ahead of him.  Trips to the doctor’s offices to get medications and shots to build his white blood counts will occur daily.  Home health care to check his status and to clean the pic line, therapists to come in to keep him growing stronger, will take place.  Five more chemo treatments, three weeks apart, are scheduled.  He will need to take a lot of precautions to avoid getting sick.  Visits will be restricted and places he can go to are limited.  Even short walks outside will require him to wear a mask because of the pollen in the air.

It’s been hard for him to go through all he’s experienced; it’s hard for his loved ones to watch.  But God has had His hand in every event.

  • Having the sensation of pressure in his chest along with the sweating and weakness, led to his first visit to the ER and the recommendation of him seeing a cardiologist. The pressure in his chest ceased after being hospitalized.
  • The cancellation of an appointment at the cardiologist office allowed dad to be seen quicker.
  • Being so weak, although it was not a good thing, led the nurses to put him immediately into an examination room, where tests were started instead of him waiting in a waiting room that would have delayed him getting help.
  • Although there was no sign of him having a heart attack at the moment, the cardiologist hearing an abnormal sound in this abdomen led to him requesting further testing.
  • Having to go through the ER instead of receiving the direct admittance the doctor requested, led to the ordered tests being done with top priority over patients in a room
  • Because the doctor had ordered a CT scan of his abdomen looking for a blockage or aneurysm, the scan revealed the extent of swollen lymph nodes in his torso.
  • Another CT scan ordered to look for blood clots in his lung led to the further discovery of swollen glands in this chest and neck.
  • Since he was a patient in the hospital, the oncologist consulted saw him quickly without having to wait at home for an appointment.
  • The needle biopsy not showing conclusive results led to the extended stay in the hospital where his blood pressure issue was addressed and hopefully corrected with the proper medicine and dosage set.
  • The surgeon who just happened to have a cancellation in his schedule allowed the removal and testing of the lymph node to begin earlier.
  • Although getting the flu was not a good thing (which he either contracted from his previous stay in the hospital or from going home on Saturday) led to the fever and weakness that caused the oncologist to send him immediately back to the hospital when he went to the Tuesday appointment.
  • Another visit to the ER allowed them to immediately begin fluids and an antibiotic along with other tests performed quickly
  • Another stay in the hospital allowed the pic line and the first treatment of the chemo to occur quickly.

I’m not saying that it is a good thing that Dad has been so sick.  But God is working in the details.

Before he was sick, he had joked with Mom about getting his hair buzz cut.  Mom was not excited about that.  But with him being so sick, his hair was cut very short while he was in rehab so that he could wash his head easily since he cannot get in a shower due to the pic line.

Dad has never liked coffee.  Mom would brew coffee while he was out of the house so he would not be bothered by the aroma and then she would just warm up a cup at a time as she wanted it.  When Mom was sick and unable to come to the hospital, coffee did not set well with her.  But while he was in the hospital and feeling so nauseous, coffee was one of only a couple things Dad could stomach.  Dad told me that if Mom were there, she would know he was really sick since he was drinking coffee.

Thinking about those small details lightened the seriousness of the circumstances.

During the first stay in the hospital, Mom was sick; my brother was sick; both my aunt and uncle were sick.  I have a job that allows me to build up time that I can take off and my supervisors are wonderful to work with.  All of those things allowed me to spend time alone with Dad.  Most of the time he did not feel like having a lot of conversations, but just being with him meant so much to me.

And I saw something else.  Though Mom and Dad were apart, I saw a picture of their great love for each other.  The doctor my Mom went to had told her to stay away from Dad because of the risk of giving him what she had.  Thinking of his well-being over her own is the only thing that would have kept her away from him.  She eagerly awaited my phone calls to get updates on him.

And my Dad.  A nurse came in at one point to check on him.  In his weak voice, he told the nurse that his wife was at home sick.  Then with tears in his eyes, he said, “I just want my wife to be ok.”  He was worried about Mom and Mom was worried about him.

We often have no choice in the journey we find ourselves on.  There’s the age old question of, “why do bad things happen to good people?”  If ever that question applied to any situation, it applies to my Daddy.  But just as Dad had always been the best example of how to live a Christian life, he also is being a great example of humility dealing with this unplanned journey.

The first full day of rehab, when he was feeling so much better, I shared another moment alone with him.  His pastor, Toney, had visited Dad in the hospital and told him about the Easter Sunday sermon he was preparing.  In the course of his studies, Toney came across something he had not really noticed before and he asked Dad if he could explain it.  So sitting beside Dad on the edge of his borrowed bed, I got to look in his Bible with him and discuss the scripture.  Another moment I shall never forget.

We have people all over praying for Dad.  And I ask for the prayers of everyone reading this.  We are trusting that God is going to bring this journey’s end to a full restoration of Dad’s health.  And all along its way, we know we will continue to see God’s hand in every detail.

 

Crying Out In Brokenness

Sand dunes

Have you ever been brokenhearted?  It’s not something we like to feel.  It’s not something we like taking about.  But unfortunately, we do experience brokenness in this fallen world.

I love reading the Psalms of David.  So many of them are filled with nothing but praise and worship of God, for who He is and for what He has done.  But there are many of the Psalms where David is crying out, brokenhearted before his Lord.  He cried out when his enemies were pursuing him. He cried out when he was betrayed by his son.  He cried out because of sin he committed.  He cried out to God when he felt all alone.

There were times when David felt God was far away and didn’t hear his pleas.  He cried out in Psalm 13:1-2 (NIV):

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?”

But he was saying by Psalm 13:5-6 (NIV),

“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.”

David cried out in Psalm 6:6,

“I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.”

But by verses 8-9, David said,

“Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.”

There are also times when we can’t even put our pain into words to cry out to God.  However, we are assured that the Holy Spirit that lives in us will pray for us.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Romans 8:26

I once experienced that verse.  My heart was hurting so bad that the only words I could say were, “Oh, God!  Oh, God!”  But those words, coming from my broken heart reached the ears of my Father.  I felt God’s Spirit wrapping His arms around me, picking me up, and just holding me.

David was faithful to praise God even in the midst of his pain.  That’s not an easy thing to do.  The Apostle Paul knew pain.  Imprisoned, beaten, ship wrecked – in every situation, Paul said to give thanks.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

Give thanks?  What is there to be thankful for when the pain is so unbearable that it’s hard to take the next breath?

Giving praise and thanks to God doesn’t always mean that He takes us out of the situation causing the pain.  We still may have to endure the circumstances we are going through.  But praising God even in the midst of that pain somehow eases the burden.  In some unexplainable way, we find the strength to keep going, to keep breathing.  We keep trusting that God’s plan is being fulfilled.  We have faith that we will get through whatever we are enduring.

Are you experiencing pain right now?  No matter the reason, whether it is attacks from our enemies, betrayal of someone we trusted, sin we have committed, or depression pulling us down – we can cry out to God.  He knows our pain.  He knows every aspect of our circumstances.  He’s just waiting for us to call on Him.  Like David and his Psalms, we will have songs of praise in our heart mixed with the songs of pain.  But the songs of pain can end in rejoicing as we cry out to our Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

Lean In A Little Closer

If you stopped by because you read my devotion today over at Encouragement Cafe, WELCOME!   So glad you are here!

God's Whispers Shouts Of His Love.Joan Walker Hahn

“And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”    1 Kings 19:12b (NIV)

Have you ever been on a spiritual high?  A place where you were seeing and feeling God really move?  But then, there’s a sudden crash.  The wonderment of God’s presence suddenly turns to a feeling of overwhelming fear and oppression.

Elijah experienced such a situation.  God had been using him in mighty ways.  Following the direction of God, Elijah confronted King Ahab and the people who were following the Baals.  The false prophets and all the people assembled to watch the showdown between the false god and the one true God.  The prophets of Baal built an altar and cried out to their god to answer from heaven with fire to consume their sacrifice.  All day long they cried out, but their god did not answer.  Then Elijah built an altar before God and prayed.  Fire from heaven consumed the sacrifice and altar.  All the people cried out, “The Lord – he is God!  The Lord – he is God!”  1 Kings 18:39 (NIV).

However, after that awesome display of God’s power, Elijah fled.  He went to the wilderness and cried out for God to let him die.  But God didn’t let Elijah stay in that state.  The angel of the Lord brought nourishment to Elijah, twice.  Then Elijah was told to go up to the mountain to see the Lord.

Once Elijah got to the mountain, the Lord spoke to him, telling him where to stand to see the Lord pass by.  Then there was a powerful wind, but the Lord was not in the wind.  There was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  There was a raging fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.  But then … then came a gentle whisper, and the Lord spoke to Elijah.

Have you ever noticed that when someone is speaking quietly, we lean in a little closer, concentrate a little more deeply and hang on their every word?  I think that is why God whispers.  He wants us to lean in a little closer, concentrate on Him a little more deeply and hang onto His every word.  When we do that He can then reveal to us how He’s been there with us all along.

The Lord listened to Elijah tell Him what was bothering him.  But then He told Elijah to go back the way he came.  God gave him another assignment and the strength to carry out that assignment just as He had equipped him in the past.

Do you get weary doing the Lord’s work?  Are you weary because you are not doing what He’s asked you to do?  Either way, what do we do when we feel oppressed or tired or useless?  We listen.

Am I saying that I always hear Him speak?  No.  Sometimes all I hear is the wind blowing, the fires roaring and feel my world shaking.  But even then, God is there.  During those times when we can’t hear His whispers, maybe He is waiting for us to call out to Him.  Then when the storm is over and He sees we have leaned in a little closer, are listening a little more intently, He can speak.

So when you are going through things and find yourself tired, physically, mentally and spiritually, go to the Lord’s mountain.  Allow Him to nourish and feed your soul.  Tell Him how you are feeling.  Allow time for the noise to cease as you just wait before Him.  And then lean in a little more closely and listen for His whispers.

Heavenly Father, thank you, Lord, for Your love.  Thank you that even during the storms, even when I can’t hear or feel You, I know You are there.  Thank You for patiently caring for me when I feel alone.  And in those precious moments when I do hear Your gentle whispers, I praise You, Lord, for speaking.  May I always keep an attentive ear so that I may always hear what You want to say.  I love You, Father.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

 

Leaving A Trail

Leaving a Trail

I have a thirty minute drive to work and I often find myself enjoying the morning sky.  The changing colors in the sky as the sun rises always amazes me at the beauty of God’s creation.  My husband can assure anyone that I really am not a morning person but when I get out the door and see how God is telling me good morning, my attitude changes.

I was driving to work one morning when the air was crisp and I saw several contrails crisscrossing the sky.  Contrails, short for “condensation trail,” are the white streaks planes leave behind when the hot exhaust from the plane escapes into the cold air.

Seeing the contrails allowed me to know that the planes were headed in all different directions.  I only saw the evidence of a few of the thousands of flights that take place each day.  People are traveling in opposing directions all the time.  I then began to think of how it is the same spiritually.

People are headed in all different directions spiritually just as they are physically.  So many various teachings and religious ideas are rampant in our world.  People are told that there are many ways to heaven.  People are told that God loves everyone and that everyone is going to heaven when they die.  People are told they are their own little god and they can live life however they want.  People are told God will accept them if their good deeds outweigh the bad.  People are told there is no God and that this life we live is all there is.  I could go on and on about the different things people believe.

But, my friend, there is only one truth and one God.  There are not many ways to heaven.  The airplanes that are going in different directions do not and cannot all land in the same place.  A plane headed east does not land in California.  A plane headed north does not land in Florida.  A soul headed away from Christ does not end up in heaven.

In this day of divisiveness, it’s not always easy to speak with people about spiritual things.  Everyone believes their thoughts and opinions are superior to others.  I admit that in my stubbornness I also have at times thought that if everyone would just see things the way I see them then everything would be better.

God’s Word reveals to us how much He loves us.  But God’s Word is also divisive.  So many people focus and preach about the love of God, (and He is a loving God), and they fail to teach about the judgement of God.  He will one day divide those who have trusted and accepted Christ as Savior from those who have rejected Christ.  Those who have accepted Christ are headed to an eternity in heaven with God.  Those who have rejected Christ are headed to hell.

Which direction are we heading in?  Have we heeded that truth for ourselves?  Are we helping people to know that truth?

Or maybe another way to put it, which airplane are you riding on and are you leaving a trail that will point the way to Christ for others who are watching your life?

Beloved, do not believe every spirit [speaking through a self-proclaimed prophet]; instead test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets and teachers have gone out into the world. By this you know and recognize the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges and confesses [the fact] that Jesus Christ has [actually] come in the flesh [as a man] is from God [God is its source];and every spirit that does not confess Jesus [acknowledging that He has come in the flesh, but would deny any of the Son’s true nature] is not of God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming, and is now already in the world. Little children (believers, dear ones), you are of God and you belong to Him and have [already] overcome them [the agents of the antichrist]; because He who is in you is greater than he (Satan) who is in the world [of sinful mankind]. They [who teach twisted doctrine] are of the world and belong to it; therefore they speak from the [viewpoint of the] world [with its immoral freedom and baseless theories—demanding compliance with their opinions and ridiculing the values of the upright], and the [gullible one of the] world listens closely and pays attention to them. We [who teach God’s word] are from God [energized by the Holy Spirit], and whoever knows God [through personal experience] listens to us [and has a deeper understanding of Him]. Whoever is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know [without any doubt] the spirit of truth [motivated by God] and the spirit of error [motivated by Satan].  Beloved, let us [unselfishly] love and seek the best for one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves [others] is born of God and knows God [through personal experience]. The one who does not love has not become acquainted with God [does not and never did know Him], for God is love. [He is the originator of love, and it is an enduring attribute of His nature.] By this the love of God was displayed in us, in that God has sent His [One and] only begotten Son [the One who is truly unique, the only One of His kind] into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [that is, the atoning sacrifice, and the satisfying offering] for our sins [fulfilling God’s requirement for justice against sin and placating His wrath]. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us [in this incredible way], we also ought to love one another.             1 John 4:1-11 Amplified Bible (AMP)

“But What About Me?”

Well Done

If you stopped by because you read my devotion today (1/25/17) over at Encouragement Cafe, WELCOME!   So glad you are here!

I’ve always been a quiet person.  I’d rather stay in the background than to be the center of attention.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t like the occasional, “Atta girl,” or “Good job!”

I think maybe everyone on some level likes being recognized for their talent, abilities and strengths.  Being praised for something can give us a sense of worthiness, it can make us feel needed, or it lets us know people notice our accomplishments.

But when no one notices our hard work, or even pauses to thank us for what we do, it may sometimes be hard not to become disappointed or feel unappreciated.  Especially if we see someone else receiving attention for their efforts.

The prodigal son’s brother felt that way.  When the wayward son came home, the father threw a party.  The older son became angry.  When his father found him, the obedient son listed the things he had done right, as though to say, “But what about me?”  The father responded, “’My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.’”  Luke 15:31 NIV

A Mary Christmas

If you stopped by because you read my devotion today (December 28, 2016) over at Encouragement Cafe, WELCOME!   So glad you are here!

maryatchristsfeet

Sitting At His Feet

And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”   Luke 10:41-42 (NKJV)

Sometimes I wish that everyone would just decide not to give and receive gifts at Christmas.  Does that make me a Grinch?  I worry so much about what to buy for people.  Will they like it?  Is it too little or too much?  Can I afford it?  Or what if someone gives me something and I don’t have anything for them?  Oh dear!

I believe most would agree that we have made Christmas about everything but the birth of Christ.  I do like cooking, but I’m always rushed.  I like decorating, but I run out of time to make it perfect.  I’m more like Martha of the Bible instead of Mary.  I stay busy, rushing from one thing to another, doing what I feel people expect me to do.  When what I really need to do is make it a “Mary Christmas.”

Holiday Separation – For a Time

If you stopped by because you read my devotion on November 18, 2016 over at Encouragement Cafe, WELCOME!   So glad you are here!

 

“For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”  John 6:38-40 (NIV)

 

Holidays are exciting, joyful and greatly anticipated.  Sometimes.  But there are also times when the Holidays can be hard to handle.  There may be some who have lost a loved one and they face what is supposed to be a joyful time with dread.  Others may have no close family or friends at all to celebrate with.  Many struggle with disease or depression and seeing the happiness in other people’s faces amplifies the hurt in their own lives.

The first Christmas after my grandmother passed away was hard.  She was a petite woman and we used to love seeing her covered over with presents.  They would be stacked in her lap, around her feet and her sweet smile was barely seen over the pile.  And when she began opening her gifts, her face lit up like a child’s.

grandpa-grandma-wilhoit

The next year, my grandfather had also passed.  I had wonderful memories of Christmas’ past when he would leave the adults conversing in one room to come gather us grandkids together to sing songs with us as he played his little ukulele.

It was hard.  But as new babies were born into the family, the Christmas gatherings were filled with joy as new little voices filled the room even as we reminisced the past.

The first year after my father-in-law passed, someone gave a special gift to each of the 5 children.  It was a bear made out of shirts their father had worn.  A small piece of him was there with the family.

papa-j-bears

It’s hard facing the holidays with that pain in your heart.  But we can be assured that God sees and understands the separation from a loved one.

The Lights In The Heavens

sun-picture

As I headed to work one morning, I saw the still full moon as it was setting in the west.  It was becoming very dim in the pale blue of a morning sky not yet fully lit with the sun.  I tried to take a picture of that sight but the photo could not adequately capture the waning light of the full orb.

In the opposite direction, the sun was brilliantly shining as it began to ascend in the horizon.  As I tried to look for oncoming traffic in the direction of the sun, I could see nothing else because of the brightness.  I had to block the sun with my hand, but still struggled to see.  And what I could see seemed to be just images with no color.

The more I thought about those two contrasting sights, several things came to mind.  I thought both the moon and the sun to be beautiful.  I love seeing a full moon illuminating a night sky.  But when I saw that same full moon very pale in comparison to the sun and the competing brightening of the morning sky, it caused a mixture of emotions.

Good Times Or Bad?

If you stopped by because you read my devotion today over at Encouragement Cafe, WELCOME!   So glad you are here!

 

romans-8-28

Everything works for our good?  Really?

So many times when this verse is quoted, it is when something bad has happened to a believer.  Does all of the bad things that happen to believers really happen for good?

The times when we are enjoying the presence of our Abba, Father – those are good times.  When we are serving God and seeing results of truly trusting and following Him, that’s what I call good.

So why do we have to endure the bad things and then be told to trust that God will use it for our good?

R. I. P.

tomb

I have to say that I don’t really like the scary displays that are seen around Halloween.  The ghosts and zombies, headless bodies and tomb stones.   As I drove past one yard I saw a tombstone with “R.I.P.” written in big black letters.  That is seen a lot around Halloween but it is also used at other times when someone passes away.  I suppose it is meant as a tribute to the deceased person.  But when I saw it on that fake tombstone, I thought about the meaning of those letters in a different way.

Rest In Peace.

Do you know we can Rest In Peace now?  As a child of God, we can be filled with His peace on a continual basis.  After all, the Bible tells us that Christ came into this world as the Prince of Peace.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6 (KJV)

So how do we get access to that peace?  We gain peace when we:

1.  Abide in Christ.

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Romans 5:1 (KJV)

God is a holy and just God.  He judges sin.  Those who have not accepted Christ as their personal Savior are separated from God, warring against Him.  But when we come in faith and repentance, accepting Christ as our Savior, we are cleansed from all unrighteousness and are then at peace with God.

2.  Abide in God’s Word.

“For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”  Romans 8:6 (KJV)

As believers, we are to allow God complete control of our lives.  As we study His Word and crucify ourselves daily, His Spirit that lives within us will be evident in our outward behavior.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law.”  Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV

3.  Abide in His Promise

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  John 14:27 (KJV)

It’s not easy to live a Christian life in this world.   But Christ promised that we are never alone.

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33 (KJV)

4.  Abide Within His Commission

“Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.”  John 20:21 (KJV)

Jesus told the disciples that we are to go into the world and share with others the good news of salvation.  But we don’t have to go in our own strength.  He will equip us to do everything He asks us to do.  He didn’t promise it would be easy, but He did say that His peace would go with us.

“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:7 (KJV)

5.  Abide in the Ultimate R.I.P.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.  And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.  And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.”  Revelation 21:4-6 (KJV)

I think this verse sums it all up.  We can rest in peace for all eternity.

I have never really liked saying, “RIP,” like many people do when a person has passed if I don’t know their spiritual condition.  The condition of a person’s heart, whether or not they have been saved, determines where the person will spend eternity when they die.

If they are a Christian, then they are immediately in the presence of Christ.  However, if a person is lost, they are immediately separated from God forever.  We can call that person’s name out and say, “RIP,” a million times, but if they were not saved, they will be forever in torment with absolutely no possibility of ever experiencing peace again.  In their case, it is completely useless for us to wish for them to rest in peace.

But for the Christian, it’s a totally different story.  We get to experience God’s peace even in the midst of this sinful world and then we get to be at rest in peace throughout eternity when we die.

So, are you resting in God’s peace every day?

But an even bigger question is – When you die, can R.I.P. be written on your tombstone?