The Winter of Our Discontent

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This winter has been a winter for the record books. For the past 30 years, we really haven’t had very many cold winters in our area. That’s not to say we haven’t had snow; I have a photo book to prove we’ve had some real beauties. There has been a new normal for our temperature range. Al Gore and possibly two scientists have attributed it to Global Warming, others to Climate Change. All I have noticed in my little corner of the universe is that winter for the past 30 years has been much warmer than it used to be, and summers a lot hotter.

Until this summer. We barely reached 100 degrees, staying mostly in the upper 80’s and low 90’s. Compared to the previous summer, where most of July felt like living in a blast furnace, this past summer was delightful. For once, my garden was not incinerated by August, and I had the best canning season ever. Autumn arrived, and as the cool winds began to blow, I kept saying we were due for a good sock-em-in kind of winter.

Well, it came. Children across the country have spent many days out of school for snow and ice. It has been very cold as well. At our lowest, we were -4 degrees in my hometown, and I live in a southern state. Four days later we were a balmy 70 degrees. And so the weather has been all winter long. Bitter, bone-chilling spells of snow or ice, followed by unseasonal warm days.

The prevailing comment is, “I am so done with winter!” People are tired of the snow shovels, the snow blowers, the mess of snow clothes cluttering our living spaces. They are tired of not knowing how to drive in the snow, and coming to that realization in a 12-hour traffic jam.They are tired of cancelled flights, cancelled appointments, missed rendezvous. I am reminded of a commercial which stated, “We’re sick of it. Sick of it. We’re all sick of it.”The weather has been upsetting a lot of people this winter, and frankly, they will not be sorry to see it end.

There was a time that I too fumed about the weather, but my mind has changed in the maturity of life. I have come to the understanding that the weather will be whatever God sees fit to send us, and there isn’t a lot we can do about it. Griping about it only puts me in a funk, and is a useless waste of my time.

What would happen if, instead of complaining about the vagaries of the weather, we decided to simply embrace whatever comes, enjoying the sheer majesty and power of God’s display? I’m not saying to enjoy getting your town blown off the map by severe weather, but to stop the day-to-day whining about the weather that we all contribute to in conversation?

It may even change the outlook of our days.

Now, just let me put my snow shovel away. The sun is coming out.

Habits and Christ

Today our pastor spoke about habits that may be interfering with our walk with Christ. This is a serious matter. He said that 40 percent of our lives are taken up with habits. That means that nearly half of our lives are spent doing things automatically, without thinking. This should cause each of us to examine ourselves to see if there is any habit that could be in the way of true fellowship with Christ.

There are many habits that could interfere with one’s walk with Christ. Some of the obvious ones are alcoholism/substance abuse, and sexual addictions. These addictions are particularly troubling because they are sins against the body, which is the living temple of the Holy Spirit. If this is a problem for you, seek help. There are many organizations to help cope with these addictions.

There are other sins against the body that may be more acceptable in society, but just as damaging to a godly life. The first that comes to mind is food addiction. This does not have to be overeating to the extent of becoming obese. Any time we have an unhealthy relationship with food, we can self—medicate with it instead of turning to God as the source of what it is that we are searching for through food. It would be better to let Him fill us up with good things.

Another that comes to mind is not keeping our bodies physically fit. I know, this seems lame, but I have been a witness to the life-long consequences of not staying active. My own dear mother hated exercise. She loved food and yo-yo dieted her whole adult life. It became a source of pride to her that she passed her days reading and enjoying her time in her chair by the fire. At the end of her life she was morbidly obese and struggled even to walk. Her out-of-control diabetes took her life in the form of heart disease and kidney failure. I determined not to follow that lifestyle and end up dying that way. My dad, on the other hand, has been a model of restraint in eating and has exercised all his life. He is 85 and cuts and splits wood daily with a friend who is 92! When his friend cut back on getting in wood because he was experiencing vertigo, my dad thought he was becoming stiff, so he went out and got a membership at the Y to do flexibility exercises! He has many friends and is actively serving in his church. My point is this: I know that we won’t die one minute before God has planned for us, but shouldn’t we live as healthily as we can, in honor of the miraculous gift of creation that He has given us in our human bodies? How much more joy in the Lord can be had when one is not suffering the unhealthy consequences being sedentary?

Another thing that would get in the way of communion with Christ would be busyness/workaholism. This has become an item of American pride, and it is evident among the people I know. How many times have you heard, “I’ve been so busy, I just didn’t have the time.” This is not how we are to live, with each day crammed so full we don’t have time for family and friends, or even our Lord. I will be the first to admit: I am guilty of this. I love to stay busy, but I admit it cuts into relationship—building. When we read the Bible through last year as a church, I have to admit that I missed a lot by using the “catch me up” button. This year I am trying to do better so I won’t get so far behind. I am using an email reminder that comes in the morning from YouVersion online that is helping me stay on track. Also, I will try not to use busyness as an excuse to get out of social events. ( I have always hated that excuse from others, and I have been guilty of it myself.) I want to slow down and savor relationships with family and friends, as well as deepen my relationship with my Lord.

So, what habit is holding you back from a close relationship with Jesus? I would suggest that the first step is to ask God to make you aware of what it is that is holding you back. Next, hand it over to God, admitting that you are powerless alone to defeat this habit. Look to God to help you change the routine that is causing you to sin, replacing it with something that draws you away from your unhealthy habit. Lastly, choose something or someone that will help you stay accountable to your goal.

It won’t be easy, but it will most definitely be worth it.

“Come, let us reason together”, says the Lord. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red as crimson, they shall become as wool.”Isaiah 1:18

Stuck in the mud

My readers will know that we once had a beaver pond that is now empty of beavers. Someone with the railroad came and trapped them so that if we should have another Isabel, that volume of water won’t wash out the railroad again. Today I was mowing on the shore of the now abandoned and mostly drained beaver pond, and I got the zero-turn stuck.

I didn’t mean to get it stuck; in fact I never intend to get the mower stuck. Not behind the house after 3 days of rain; not down in the bottom, once with the tractor and once with the mower; not under the fence, twice – the second time it was the tractor, and it was so stuck my husband had to unhook the mower deck before we could begin to get it out;  not in the ditch in the neighborhood where I slid into the ditch as I mowed and then wallowed there until I went and got my daughter and the other tractor to help pull it out.

I like to look at the activity in the pond often, but I’ve been bitten by a copperhead before, so I like to keep the grass short down there so I can take pictures. Image

The grass had grown quite long because I hadn’t been down much lately, so I wanted to clean it up a little. I was so focused on mowing the deep grass that I didn’t realize until it was too late that where I was mowing was not the shore any longer, but in fact was the bottom of the pond which had been 6 months ago under 4 feet of water. 

You can imagine. I went back up to the shed looking for something to shove under the wheels for traction. The biggest thing I could find was an old crumbly piece of plywood, so I took that back down and it was worse than paper. I went back up and got some boards, but they were minimally helpful. My husband had the Kabota tractor at one of our rental houses, so that wasn’t available to pull it out. The other Ford tractor is so big, I can’t even push in the clutch. A) I have to put all my weight on it standing up, and B) I am too short. Since the hill is bumpy and very steep down to the pond, I didn’t want to risk the tractor getting away from me going down the hill and ending up 5 feet in the mud. The other option I had was to use the only vehicle left, the Lexus GX450.

I considered my options. The Lexus is my husband’s car, and it’s pretty sweet. It has 4-wheel drive. There wasn’t much room at the bottom near the pond to turn around to get in position to tow the mower out of the mud. I might be able to back down to retrieve it. (That last thought was briefly considered, and then the complete ridiculousness of it struck me and I discarded it.) I could leave the mower there until my husband came home at 9:30. Too dark, he wouldn’t be able to get it out and it was supposed to rain. I pictured rising waters carrying the mower away down stream.

I wondered what I would do for a towing strap because the long one was in the backhoe, which was also at the rental house. The Lexus doesn’t have a hitch either, so I wondered how/where I would attach one if I had one. I found a short one, maybe ten feet long,  in the back of the car and found a special towing place under the back left bumper. I hopped in and crawled down the curving steep and bumpy path. 

When I got to the bottom I realized that the Lexus was bigger than the area in which to turn around. There was a sawn log in front, an overgrown gate to my right, and lots of thick grass to my left, My husband had cut up some trees there, but I had no idea where they were in all that stuff. 

I turned the SUV around, but it was not a 3-pt., picture-perfect turnaround. More like inching back and forth in tiny little increments for about 20 times. Finally, I backed up to connect the tow strap. Too short. By about 18 inches.

Again, I considered my options. I could back up another foot and I would have the back wheels on iffy ground. The Lexus has 4-wheel drive. My husband could also find both the mower and the Lexus stuck down there when he came home at 9:30. Or I could leave the mower down there. (Rising waters and all).

I decided to back up closer and try again. I believe in praying about everything, and I desperately wanted to get this out so I wouldn’t have to get my husband to do it for me. I was buoyed by the fact that I had pulled the mower out before, twice. Ok, the most recent time was 4 months ago, but that is beside the point. 

I hooked up the tow strap and hopped in the Lexus to try again. I breathed one last little “Help, please?” and slowly accelerated.

Eureka! It came out so easily I had to hop out to make sure It hadn’t come unhooked! Just for good measure, I pulled it out another 5 feet so I’d have plenty of room to turn the mower around. 

So, when my husband comes home, I think I’ll just let him read this blog. Then I won’t have to listen to him sniggering at me.

Right now, I remember I have some thanking to do.

“6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Phillippians 4:6

 

 

What must we do about Syria?

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I understand. We are tired of war. We are tired of loss. We’ve brought too many of our brightest young men and women home in coffins and wheelchairs. We’ve had enough. 

But what should we do about Syria?

I’ve heard many say that we want to worry about our schools, our children, crime and terrorism at home. What does the conflict in Syria have to do with America?

I know of a quote from a Baptist pastor from Liverpool in the late 19th century. Maybe you’ve heard it too. It’s been attributed to several people, President John F. Kennedy being one of them. 

“It has been said that for evil men to accomplish their purpose it is only necessary that good men should do nothing.”

We are a Christian nation, despite what President Obama would have us to believe. We were founded on Christian principles and we are in a battle everyday to keep it that way. 

We ourselves have suffered from acts of terrorism, in our own homeland, and believe me, we don’t want anymore of it.

Syria is a hotbed of extremists, as witnessed by the government of Syria’s treatment of her own people. These same extremists train others to carry out their ‘ideals’ all over the world.

So, should we be involved in sending military aid to Syria? 

I am glad that I do not have to decide. But one thing I am going to do. Pray.

How did Mary know?

The Wedding at Cana
 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”

Have you ever wondered at Mary’s instructions to the servants at this wedding? Look again: “Do whatever He tells you.” What occurred in Jesus’ earlier life that caused Mary to put her trust in her Son to provide for the hosts of this wedding? Could it be there was a day she watched from the window when Jesus picked up a little dead bird, and as he shed a little tear, breathed it back to life again? Maybe another day in their large and growing household when there was not enough to eat and suddenly there was? Or could it have been a night the family gathered to celebrate Passover where 4 glasses of wine were to be drunk by each member of the large family? Could Jesus have provided for Mary when her own provisions were meager? Could it be that Jesus performed these untold miracles within the private sanctuary of their own household?

Her statement that the hosts were out of wine was met by Jesus’ reply, “Woman, my time has not yet come.” In those days, weddings went on for days, and the reputation of the hosts depended on their provisions for the wedding guests. Mary did not hesitate to make her simple statement, “Do whatever He tells you.”

Do you notice Jesus, the Lord of the Universe, does not refuse His mother. He knows the purity of her heart, her desire that these friends of hers not be ashamed that they have run out of wine. So, as only He can do, He fulfills her wish by changing water into wine. Lavishly, abundantly, one hundred and twenty + gallons of wine!  And the icing on the cake is that the wine He provided was the best of the wedding.

I like to think she knew He wouldn’t fail her by experience. How else could she say with utter confidence,”Do whatever He tells you”?

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Too soon

My neighbor died yesterday. She was thoughtful and pretty, and felt life deeply. So deeply, she sought escape in blinding drunkenness and the lure of prescription pain pills. Instead of surrendering her helplessness to God, she became even more helpless in the grip of alcohol and drug abuse.

I helped her in many ways. I was one of few friends. She and her family moved from a house on the corner of a neighborhood adjoining our land to the other side of me on a farm. I felt that God had moved her from one side of me to the other in order to save her from herself. She knew she could count on me in many instances. As she got more and more in trouble with the law, I called a dear recovering alcoholic to come talk to her, to show her there is a better life without alcohol. She began to consider AA, and eventually got a sponsor.  She attended meetings, but she told me she never spoke. All to no avail.

Last night I was tormented with thoughts of things left undone. For hours I saw her face before me as I thought of meals unshared, words unspoken, time not spent together. Then God began to whisper beneath the tumult of thoughts,” When she needed help, who did she call? When she died, who did her husband come to see? For whom did her son stop his truck in the middle of the road to receive a hug and a word of encouragement?”  I can take comfort in the fact that I let God use me the best ways I knew how. The truth that hurts is, not that I didn’t do enough, but that I cannot help her anymore. It’s over. 

They never saw this coming. No symptoms, no warning. She was not ready. The coroner said she died of a gastric hemorrhage, but that her body was so abused, a number of things would have taken her life, sooner, not later. She lay in her husband’s arms and bled to death in a matter of minutes.

She died unexpectedly, before her time. The fact is, we will all die, and most of us unexpectedly. 

Be ready. Don’t wait. Time is running out. Maybe yours.

“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.” Romans 10:9

Christians suffer depression.

Yesterday our pastor preached on emotional health as part of a 3-pronged approach to Christian fitness. The other two parts were physical and spiritual. It was an affirming message for those of us who have dealt with depression. Christians do suffer depression, just like Christians suffer high blood pressure, or diabetes or any other malady. There is no shame in admitting you are having difficulty with your emotional health. There is hope and healing out there, and I believe God has provided a way through the medical and mental health professions.

I didn’t even know I had depression. I had difficulty sleeping, had problems with short-term memory, was irritable and just wanted to be left alone. As the months passed, I became increasingly isolated and began to worry that I was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. I went to my general practitioner who referred me to a neurologist. After filling out a questionnaire in private, he met with me in his office. He said, “The good news is: you don’t have dementia. You do show some slight memory loss, but this is likely due to your lack of sleep. The bad news: you have Clinical Depression. Today I want you to set up an appointment for tomorrow to meet with a counselor who can help you walk through this. And I mean it. You must see someone immediately.” 

His diagnoses and his orders shocked me into action. I sought out a Christian counselor and we began the process of unraveling the cause of the depression. She put me on an antidepressant and after 2 weeks I felt like the sun came out in me. After about 4 weeks, she determined, along with the consultation of my medical doctor, that my depression was the  result of a chemical imbalance, so there was no more need to see her.

I have been on a low maintenance dose for a long time now. I taper off the medication occasionally to recharge the serotonin receptors in my nervous system, but I can’t stay off for long. 

I am a deeply committed Christian, and yet I suffered from a depression so deep I had thoughts of suicide. I don’t believe I would have killed myself, but I remember thinking how easy it would be to end the pain if I drove into the side of a concrete bridge.  I thank God that He put the right people in my path, not to blame or condemn me, but to set me on the path toward healing. I believe they saved my life. A dear close relative killed herself because of depression not so long ago, and she loved the Lord.

If this resonates with you, get help, and don’t wait. Make a pact with someone you trust that you will not harm yourself, but that you will call out for help when you feel the urge give up.