The Holy Head Slap

It was a Holy Spirit head slap ala Gibbs to DiNozzo on NCIS.  Well, it had the same effect minus the pain.  Instantly, I understood what I’d missed all along.

In my mind, I had been rehashing a recent conversation with friends in which Tom and I told of his upcoming kidney stone procedure following many frustrating months of tests and procedures.  Even including the removal of his gall bladder.  As I considered the banter, I heard us bemoaning the loss of a good gall bladder, as we had done many times before.  Next thing I knew, I was the beneficiary (and I do mean that) of a holy head slap.

super-nova

In that instant, I remembered Tom and I praying specifically before his appointment with the surgeon last fall for clarity in our decision.  The gastroenterologist recommended surgical removal of his gall bladder, despite only finding two small polyps in the course of numerous tests.  The surgeon studied all test results and examined Tom before agreeing with the referring doctor.  The additional perspective she added settled us both.  Though not yet severe, those polyps indicated a diseased gall bladder.  His otherwise healthy condition at this time would make the surgery easier now.

We left the office certain surgery was the answer.  Our misguided understanding of the result of that answer brought much confusion in the months to come, however.  We expected elimination of the painful episodes by removing the gall bladder.  How wrong were our expectations!

Many months following Tom’s surgery included many more excruciating episodes of pain, just like before.  Was that an oops on the doctors’ part?  The longer it went on, the more we thought so, even becoming fixed in our minds as an unnecessary surgery.

After the worst episode in these eight months, Tom prepared for the medical sleuthing process again.  We both prayed for the source of the pain to be clear and the remedy relatively easy.  Within days, a large kidney stone was discovered, and a shockwave treatment to break it up was scheduled.  Prayer answered as asked, and we were thankful!

The bad attitude about the unnecessary surgery remained.  Until, that is, Holy Spirit reminded me of our prayers.  We had asked both times for clarity.  The first time, we felt surgery was the answer.  Maybe our expectation was the only wrong part of the equation.  We looked for an end to Tom’s painful episodes via the surgery we felt the Spirit was leading us to do.  Maybe Holy Spirit knew something else none of us could see or even know, at this point, that was best handled immediately.  Maybe it was something else.

Because our natural minds want to be in charge, we complain when we don’t understand what we thought was to happen, what we thought the answer to our prayer indicated.  But peace is found in trusting the Lord, Whose understanding is far superior.  Period.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

Too many times I have groused and complained when things didn’t go according to my understanding, especially when I thought I was in the Lord’s will.  When I simply trust God with all my heart, resting in His knowing the end from the beginning and every step in between, the peace of Christ Jesus is restored.  Since I’d rather live that way, even when it’s contrary to my understanding, I’ll gladly receive a holy head slap to remind me!

No Matter the Place, It’s Always the People

Back by less than two weeks from my third trip to Israel, finally over the jet lag that dogged me longer than expected, I pondered the questions posed several times during the trip. “What is your favorite part of the trip so far?” “What is your takeaway?”

ancient olive trees in Garden of Gethsemane

Had I enjoyed exploring the grottoes near the Lebanon border on the Mediterranean? Spending unhurried time in a less visited part of the Garden of Gethsemane? Worshipping with previously unknown brothers and sisters outside of Jerusalem? Spending the night in a Bedouin camp? Absolutely! But favorite? Honestly, no matter when that question was asked, I could only remember the most immediate sight explored. Visiting so many places, several brand new to me, in such a short time, I couldn’t consider each one individually until I was home looking at my pictures and reliving the memories.Rosh HaNikra and grottoes (7)

mini-Beduoin Camp  (2)I wasn’t focused on finding that one most significant aspect of the trip, but Holy Spirit pointed out that the people we toured with made it extra special. My husband and I remarked several times while in Israel how much we were enjoying the entire group. We could interact with anyone at any time and feel none of the usual barriers found with groups.

I believe this was a specially chosen, God-picked group of just over 30 people, ranging in age from 12 to 73 and coming from the US, Canada, Scotland, Great Britain, France, Philippines (via Singapore,) and Israel. But, is that what made it special?

In part, I’m sure, but I suspect God saw so much more when He drew each of us to sign up and follow through. And I know He began something with the members of this group. Or He continued something. Or He completed something. Maybe some of all three. But something was affected in the spirit realm because we were all together on this particular trip at this particular time as believers in Christ who love Israel. Besides that, my heart gets happy each time I see the faces in pictures or memories.

12183691_463541337181015_5349280319832619147_oThere is a possibility I may never know what He did, and I’m not at all bothered by it. I’m totally thankful simply to have been included. Just being thankful is a really peaceful place to reside. I think I’ll dwell here going forward, no longer demanding to understand with my mind what Christ fully understands already.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

About That Bed of Roses

Butchart Gardens (56)If you’ve been alive for more than a few years, you’ve heard the warning, “Well, life’s not a bed of roses, you know.” This is supposed to help someone needing encouragement during a tough time in life.

Strolling the large rose garden at Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC, a few weeks ago, this saying came back to me, and I considered it differently.

Roses are beautiful in their multitude of colors, shapes, sizes, and even fragrances! The petals are like velvet, and the effect of both color and aroma can be calming to the senses. Unfortunately, this is the only part of the rose included in this erroneous cliché, somehow limiting the entire plant to just the blossom, forgetting the plant from which those flowers grow.

Butchart Gardens (60)Years ago, I grew roses – yes, Kay, the non-gardener — caring for them diligently in the hot climate and sandy soil of the Tampa area. Initially, some beauties were produced in that garden – before successive years with no opportunity for hibernation joined with diseases and pests determined to live off these bushes brought my effort to an end.

Of all the spiritual lessons I learned during my rose years, the most glaring disproved that cliché. Indeed, life is a bed of roses. There are pretty and not-so-pretty parts. There are smooth, fresh, even sweet-smelling times, and then there are times you only see or feel the pain of thorns. But a bush is not a rose bush without the thorns, leading to the beauty of the blossom. Likewise, our life is not made of only the seasons of evident fruit. The tougher times, the ones forcing our roots to go deeper, with no velvet, no color, no obvious fragrance above, work together to produce a more complete beauty – the evidence of Christ in and through us. Two verses seem to intertwine to bring strength and comfort during the thornier parts of our journey:

Romans 8:28 For we know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes.

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

If you are in a non-blooming period of life, may you remember this simple bed-of-roses illustration. And may the eternal hope of Christ arise at the prospect of the as-yet-unseen beautiful blooms He is developing in you.James Bay historic district (10)

Saddling Up!

As you’ve probably noticed from the tone of most of my posts over the last six months, life has been on the tougher-than-normal side for me.  Several dear people have moved on to heaven, friendship seasons have changed (or, I just accepted that they already changed,) and we had to say goodbye to our beloved dog.  About the time I felt like I was getting my feet back under me, my son and daughter-in-law told us they were moving from a few blocks away to half the nation away.  It is a good opportunity for them, and they really love Texas, though he doesn’t get that from either of his parents. 🙂  Bam!  That quickly, I plummeted back to the depths of grief.

All I could see is loss.  All I could do was wonder what I will be about now that I don’t have family here, especially the three young grandchildren.  But God!

At the beginning of Our special Sunday morning time together, Holy Spirit spoke to my spirit, “Saddle up, Kay!”  Bam!  That quickly, hope was restored.  I was taken back to the morning 19 years ago when we drove away from our Florida home for the last time, heading to North Carolina.  Steven Curtis Chapman was singing The Great Adventure, with these words going deep:

Saddle up your horses.  We’ve got a trail to blaze through the wild blue yonder of God’s amazing grace.  Let’s follow our Leader into the glorious unknown.  This is life like no other.  This is the great adventure.

horsesNow, as all those years ago, a sense of excited anticipation is developing.  Now, as then, I know my Lord Jesus is moving me into what I’ve not seen before for my life, though He’s seen it all along.

Am I through with the tears?  Probably not.  After all, I still love all these deeply.  Yet, with those three words, I suddenly knew my life isn’t over.  There is more He wants to do with me here on earth.  I don’t know what it is, but I know the One Who does.  And I trust Him to take me step by step into a new chapter of His great adventure.

The words of Proverbs 3:5-6 seem to have a more solid footing in my heart than ever before: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path.

Bam! That’s life!  That’s Jesus Christ!

The Dot-to-Dot Seasons

This is one of my tougher seasons of life. Unable to pinpoint its beginning, I am more interested in its end.

dot to dot blankIn my not-so-patient endurance, I thought of the dot-to-dot activity pages I enjoyed as a child. These pictures are without definition, other than scattered dots and corresponding numbers. The goal is to connect the dots with color or pencil in sequential numerical order. The originating artist has created a completed picture from which the unconnected dotted sheet is made. The one with the blank page must fill in those spaces one link at a time to see what has been hidden from view.

Maybe this season of my life is one of those dot-to-dots. The Artist of my life sees the completed picture, while I see only a series of line segments taking me up and down, back and forth, with no discernable pattern. In fact, I feel I’m covering the same territory repeatedly, with different names and faces involved. So I question the path God has me on, not a problem in itself. When I stubbornly plant my feet with hands on my hips to demand an explanation before going on, I’ve moved into problem territory.

dot to dot gone astrayTo stay with this dot-to-dot illustration, I’ll say I arrived at #17, quite near my starting point. With no idea how much longer this journey will be, but feeling hopeless, I decide I have had enough. When I arrive at #18, rather than looking for the next marker, I just keep going on no path at all. Ah, the freedom of independence! Really? Look at the second picture.

I’d rather go independently into the senseless unknown than follow Daddy’s path – unknown to me, but known fully to Him? That’s independence?! Once I’ve taken those steps, I know I will never make it back on my own. Prone to wander, Lord, I fear it 1 rings so true.

Without the Lord’s patient and continual outpouring of mercy and grace, I will not see the intricate beauty of Christ to be revealed in this season’s picture. But, if I trust Him completely, not only will He restore me to the path, but will bring me to the finish. Each season’s picture will be as beautiful as He already sees it – when complete.

dot to dot completedI want to trust Him. Really. And I want the pain involved in the making of this picture to end now. It can’t be both. Either I focus on the pain of each step or I trust Christ completely. Thank God for His grace in Christ Jesus!

My heart’s true desire is not to lean on my own understanding. Rather, it is to trust the trustworthy One, regardless of pain or discomfort in the process. Only in this do I find true rest as I am reminded:

You know exactly where I am and what I am going through. 2

You will never leave me or forsake me. 3

Your love for me will never fail. 4

You are working all things together for my good. 5

You know my every thought and still love me. 6

You are leading and guiding me in the way everlasting. 7

Jesus Christ – the One You gave for me 8 – is more than enough for me 9, my refuge and fortress 10, my shield and defender 11, my Life and my light, my salvation 12. You, Jesus Christ, are ever-victorious 13! And You live in me and I live in You – forever 14!

With that, I find myself again on the path, unsure of what I face, but completely certain of Christ Jesus.

1 from hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

2 Psalm 139:1-18

3 Hebrews 13:5

4 1 Corinthians 13:8

5 Romans 8:28

6 Psalm 139:1-18

7 Psalm 139:24

8 John 3:16

9 Ephesians 3:20

10 Psalm 91:2

11 Psalm 18:2, Isaiah 51:22

12 Psalm 27:1

13 1 Corinthians 15:54-57

14 Colossians 1:27

Death is Never Convenient

(Though I veered far off course of the actual blogging assignment today, I needed to write this. Further, I needed to publish it, because I cannot sit back silently any longer, hiding behind my lack of eloquence, while black is turned white and upside down becomes right side up. Others may write and speak much more succinctly, but I must add my voice.)

Supporters of the right to die law feel a terminally ill individual should have the right to determine the when and how of their final moment, thereby avoiding some of the pain and misery of waiting for a natural shutdown. Consideration for family and friends is also eschewed, reducing their time of struggle in watching and waiting for a loved one in the process of death, as well as reducing medical costs for longer care. This is referred to as dying with dignity, though assisted suicide is another term used.

Wait. Think about that phrase a moment – assisted suicide. Suicide is self-killing, self-murder. When the word assisted is included, there is now an accomplice to murder, if not the murderer himself. But assisted suicide sounds so much more acceptable. Someone is killing another person; albeit, with their permission and at their request (for now,) and legally in some states. Nevertheless, someone in the medical profession – a profession that is supposed to do no harm – is now intentionally killing another person.

Having agonized through the slow deaths of both my parents, I am not without understanding of the struggles involved. In the last days of my mother’s life I wanted her freed from the cancer ravaging her body – and me freed from the suffering of watching. Yet it was not up to her or me or the caring Hospice people to say, “Enough.”

Years later, my father’s dying process was much slower, much less convenient. In addition to some other pretty severe physical issues, we had years of the long goodbye, as Alzheimer’s Disease is frequently called. In the hardest of days, whether his or mine, I wanted his life, such as it had become, to be over. I didn’t want my father to suffer any more of the cruelty of this disease, ending up curled into the fetal position on his bed, unaware of anyone or anything. I also wanted to be free of the pain of seeing the decline day in and day out, as well as the responsibility for caring for him. Yet, even in those helpless and almost hopeless days, my prayer was always that his last moment not be even one breath too soon.

They were shells of their former selves by the time they took their final breath – my mother hardly recognizable because of cancer, and my father unable to communicate or discern his own family. Both, however, died with dignity, their care having been given in love and compassion, their pain having been eased without being overmedicated.

Regardless of what is allowed by government, humans were not given the right or responsibility to determine the date and time of death any more than the moment of creation and birth. Every day is given by God, and there is purpose in every breath given by God – every single breath – though we may not understand suffering that comes with it.

bright crossThe root problem stems from the Garden of Eden, when the serpent convinced Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil so they could “be like God.” It’s the same story today. We still want to be the god of our life. Only the truth is, there is no one like God. Further, His plans are good and for the good of each one of us. And . . . He works everything together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. He has promised, Jesus Christ being the proof of His faithfulness.

We are not god, nor God. We don’t know enough, though we think we do, to determine our life and death. But that’s a good thing, for we can know the One Who does, and trust Him implicitly, even in our lack of understanding. Therein is peace. Therein is rest. Therein is freedom. Therein is life – real life.

The Peace of Faith

From the archives of my journals, this short entry from 1992 paints a word picture of the faithfulness of our God and His Christ – always.

waiting dogsI was caring for the neighbors’ dog and cat this weekend. When I pulled the curtain away from the door to go outside to feed them, they were standing side-by-side staring at the door, waiting for what they knew was coming. . . sometime. I don’t believe they heard me. They only knew it was time to be fed. They weren’t fretting or moaning or doubting that someone would come before it was too late. They were waiting calmly because they knew they would be fed.

How like that I can be, if I will. I can ask in faith, believing in the Source of my faith, Jesus Christ. Then I can calmly expect the answer to come – waiting patiently and watching for it.

Yet there was more to learn from these brief moments . . .

As I opened the door, the dog and cat didn’t look past me as they sought their expected provider. Neither did they turn and walk away as if to say, “We won’t eat this food we want and need, because you are not the one we’re used to.” No. They eagerly received the food without hesitation, even though I was not their expected method of delivery. Their owners, after all, had made arrangements for them in advance of the need.

What a simple and clear picture of life in Christ! Because of Jesus Christ and all He has done, I can simply believe, waiting expectantly in His peace. If the answer arrives contrary to my preconceived expectations, I can still receive it in His peace, knowing my Daddy has made all the arrangements in advance of my need, according to His great plan!