Excellent Health

bunch of white oval medication tablets and white medication capsules

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I recently had my yearly check-up (which I try to stretch into two years!) and was asked to rate my health: excellent, good, fair, or poor. Hmm. It’s hard to give myself excellent in anything—that’s just how I’m wired, but as I talked with the nurse she assured me that it was OK! Then, after my exam, the doctor said that I was in excellent health! Really? Excellent? Well…

My biggest problem is my cholesterol at 241. 😦  I’ve struggled with it for the past several years and have been able to bring it down somewhat. I know that the numbers are to be @200, but I REALLY don’t want to be on medication already. So, for the past few months, I’ve worked to take off some weight and am taking Red Yeast Rice. The question is this: Is 241 an acceptable number and how can I say that my health is excellent with high cholesterol. (Oops! That’s two questions!)

Anyway, here are my thoughts: The doctor labeled my health as excellent because of all the other factors: don’t smoke, not diabetic, good eating habits, etc.. Now the question is, where do I go from here? Do I sit back and say, “I’ve made it! Excellent health!” and then stop exercising and eat doughnuts? For me, the report was a great blessing and it has encouraged me to work harder. I’ve hit one goal, so how about five more pounds.  What would that do for my cholesterol? How exciting!

What’s the point? Whether we are ministry leaders, parents, teachers, coaches, or leaders in the community, we need to remember to encourage those who look to us for leadership and example. If we continually say, “Well, it’s just not good enough,” our fellow believers, children, students, team members, etc. will become discouraged.  They may even quit or rebel against our leadership!

What kind of a leader are you? Can you give the truth without crushing the spirit? I believe the reason this scenario spoke so loudly to me is that for the last five or six years I have felt as though my numbers were never good enough.  I wanted to quit and yet I didn’t want to be foolish about my health. Can we look at the whole person and see where they are struggling and encourage them in their Christian walk without excusing sin? I believe we can and the secret ingredient is… the heart. Hmmm, I wonder if that is why “love” is the first attribute mentioned in the list of the fruit of the Spirit?

Tough Love—tough is the adjective, love is the all-important noun (in this case!)

And then there’s one last thought: What good is excellent health if my soul is unregenerate? I may live another 40 years! That would make me 99–29 more years than God prescribed for us in Psalm 90:10:

The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

And so…

Having an “excellent” spirit is a hundred times more valuable than physical excellence in this world and the next!

 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. Psalm 14:1

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Lessons from an Inchworm

I’m standing at the kitchen sink, watching an inchworm “inch” his way up through space. He’s about seven feet off the ground and has about that much more to go until he reaches the nearest branch. I moved away to do another task and came back in a few minutes surprised at his progress. It seems like a lot of work and if inchworms have abs, they are in six-pack condition! Once again I moved on and when I came back to the sink, he was gone!

Do you ever feel like that little fella—working your way through life, working as hard as you can and seeming to get nowhere? Progress can seem SO slow, especially in our Christian walk. We are a volunteer army, and, sadly, some of the performance approval ratings or faithfulness would earn some of us a pink slip! (Do they even have pink slips anymore?) We don’t see much progress in our walk with the LORD. The Christian walk seems so hard and lonely at times.  Our enemy seems so strong and victorious! Woe is me!

Does that remind you of any great hero in the Bible? Elijah had just seen God rain fire down upon his sacrifice. 450 false prophets were running for their lives, and yet just a threat from the wicked Jezebel and Elijah was on the run asking God to take his life. Perhaps Elijah thought that Jezebel would turn from her lifelong habit of wickedness after seeing the power of God. Maybe he was just plain tired. We don’t know, but we certainly can relate to his heart-weary cry.

Now, we do not have the advantages of seeing God rain fire from heaven, send our lunch via ravens, have angels speak to us and feed us food (which energizes us for forty days!), or witness God’s hand in earthquakes, fire,

and a still small voice. Does that make our God different or in any way weaker? Absolutely not because we serve the same God!!! We “hear” his voice as we read His Word.

TESTIMONY: This past Thursday, I had a Book Talk where I talk about my books. That morning, feeling much like Elijah, I said to my husband, “Ugh! Why can’t I just be a normal housewife?” He wondered the same thing! His life would certainly be easier—no hauling heavy books from place to place, scrambling for his own lunch, watching his wife struggle, etc.

I left him and went to do my devotions. This was the title of one particular devotional: What Will You Do With What You’ve Been Given? The biblical example was taken from Esther!  My first book is a modern-day Esther story! Was God speaking to me? ABSOLUTELY! Was I ready to quit? YOU BET! Will I? NOT UNTIL HE SAYS, “WELL DONE!”

So, as Dory would say, “Keep on swimming!” As Columbus sang in Ron Hamilton’s, Great American Time Machine“Sail on!” As Paul told the Corinthians: Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Cor. 15:58

This was our theme verse for our children’s club years ago. FYI, just to help you remember them, here are some motions to make it stick:

Therefore, my beloved brethren (palms out, outward sweeping motion),

 Be ye steadfast (pound fists together for each word),

 unmoveable (slap hands to sides—stand straight like a good soldier!),

 always abounding (big circles with both arms)

 in the work (palms up) of the Lord (point up),

forasmuch as ye know (point to head) that your labor (palms up)

is not in vain (palms down circling in then down in an outward sweeping motion)

in the Lord (same as before but end with a good slap just for emphasis!). 1 Cor. 15:58

My Poor Little Zinnias!

zinniasI decided to start zinnias from seed this year. Yesterday, I transplanted them.  I was amazed at the length of their little roots! They had sent them down as far as their shallow soil would allow them to go and then made a sharp right and started crawling along the bottom of the tray! So, I scooped them out and transplanted them into their own little pots; and this is how they look this morning…

Poor little fellas! I wonder if this is how the disciples felt this morning! It’s Saturday—the wonderful once-a-year Passover celebration culminates today! They should be excited, but you see, Jesus had uprooted them out of their comfortable, several millennia of traditions, and they didn’t even know it until this past week. Even though He told them what was going to happen, their eyes and ears and hearts were blinded to understanding His purpose.

Had my little zinnias known what was coming, they might have hunkered down and said, “No! We’re fine here! We’re not moving.” But if they could have done that, they would have eventually died. They would never have produced any flowers. They would have looked pathetic.

Do you ever feel like that?  God has pulled you up by the roots out of your comfy, cozy spot and put you into unfamiliar surroundings.  They seem harsh and unforgiving. You just want to lie down and die!  But wait! There’s something nice about this new place. Mmmm! My toesies have so much room!  I can stretch way down! And this new soil is really nice. I think I’ll just reach my little leaves towards the sun and GROW!  I’m so glad this happened!

Can we say, “I’m so glad this happened,” when life falls apart?  Better yet, can we say, “I’m so glad God did this?”

I would say most of us do not remember what happened on November 5th, 2017. If I mention Sutherland Springs, Texas, some of us might recall the infamous event. That day, 26 people who went to church to worship God, praising His name with their families and friends. But God had other plans.

How do we cope with something like that?  How do we grow through what would seem to be a dry and barren land? Here are some thoughts:

  1. We fall back on what we know: God is ALWAYS good. This step is so foundational to any further steps we take. Anything less will lead us down the wrong path. “ And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day” ( Deuteronomy 6:24).
  2. We draw closer to God and learn of Him. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Titus, James, Peter… these men experienced firsthand the almighty power of God! They have so much to tell us, and since it is really God’s Word and not theirs, it is a well so deep, it will never run dry! ” Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29).
  3. We gather strength from others: This is why a network of believers is so important. (Recommended: flesh and blood. Social media is great but it can’t give hugs!) We go to the huddle known as church and we learn and weep and pray, drawing strength from each other. “…not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25).
  4. We take one step at a time. One of my favorite pictures is of the Guardian Angel,41 portraying an angel watching over two small children while they cross a torrential stream via a very rickety bridge. Just like those children, we walk “circumspectly,” testing each toehold to be sure it will hold, avoiding the pitfalls of pity, anger, bitterness, doubts, fears… the list is endless! (BTW, those are all “fiery darts” and you know who is hurling them!)

The apostles would never be the same. In fact, this dark, distressing week was only the beginning. It would pale in comparison to the testings and trials that were coming their way. BUT, Sunday made all the difference!  Jesus’ resurrection changed them, forged them into great heroes of the faith! Oh, to think that our trials as well are designed to kill us… so that we too can truly live!

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

 

An Overflowing Heart

ID-10051375Is there any better time to write a post than when my heart is overflowing? You may ask why? … a raise? … a new sofa? Is it because of the beautiful covering of snow this morning? … the 25+ birds on my feeder? … my terrific husband? …wonderful kids? … adorable grandchildren? No, none of these.  My heart is overflowing because of the feast I just enjoyed this morning from the Bible! Oh, the joy of precious time alone with my Lord and Savior! It brings tears to my eyes and a pain in my chest because my heart is ready to burst!

Just a little background …

I started off this year using a new Bible reading plan which will take me through the Bible in 90 days! That’s a lot of Bible, but I wanted to give it a try.  Now, here on day 13, I’ve been able to keep up with it, but it’s been a challenge. The greater challenge is getting something from the Word.  With that much Bible pouring into my brain, there hasn’t been the luxury of “studying” the Bible, and I’ve missed it.

So, this morning I studied God’s Word. My friend, Matthew Henry, was a great blessing and took me over the top! I suppose I love his writing because he wrote before…

  • The 2000s millennial worldview
  • The 1990s fundamental shift
  • The 1980s contemporary movement
  • The 1970s Christian school movement
  • The 1960s anti-establishmentarian movement
  • The 1950s post-war era

He wrote before…

  • The colonies were even established in America!
  • Voltaire made his inroad into “modern” thinking
  • World Wars
  • Hitler’s diabolical Third Reich

However, his times were not without troubles:

  • His father was ejected as a pastor from the Church of England because he would not conform to church policy (Act of Uniformity 1662)
  • Matthew Henry himself was a Nonconformist, which certainly meant swimming against the tide!

That was a bit of a sidetrack, so back to this overflowing heart and a challenge:

Will you be at church tomorrow?  Why do you go to church? You see, when we spend time with God it will make our hearts overflow with joy, gladness, thankfulness, adoration, praise.  We just want to honor and praise and glorify our wonderful God.

We go to church for those reasons: to glorify, praise, worship, and honor God. We go to express our love and thankfulness to Him for all that He has done for us! We don’t look at the color of the carpet, the outfit someone is wearing.  We don’t complain about what hymn or song is sung.  We don’t go to critique the teacher, pastor, song leader, pianist or instrumentalist.  We don’t ultimately go to see our friends, but we go to focus on God and realign our hearts and lives back to HIS normal.  It’s sort of like going to the chiropractor!

Here are the thoughts and Words from God that triggered the overflow:

How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts!  My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.  Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Psalm 84:1-2

The whole sparrow thing took me to Matthew Henry.  Look at this:

 David … would rather live in a bird’s nest nigh God’s altars than in a palace at a distance from them.  It is better to be serving God in solitude than serving sin with a multitude.  David envies the happiness not of those birds that flew over the altars, and had only a transient view of God’s courts, but of those that had nests for themselves there. David will not think it enough to sojourn in God’s house as a way-faring man that turns aside to tarry for a night; but let this be his rest, his home; here he will dwell. And he takes notice that these birds not only have nests for themselves there, but that there they lay their young; for those who have a place in God’s courts themselves cannot but desire that their children also may have in God’s house

I hope your church is your “home away from home” –a place where you gather with your fellow journeymen and gain strength, rest, and the satisfaction that you have done what God commands, not grudgingly, but with a heart overflowing! Make your “nest” there! Own it! Make it yours! 🙂

 

Sail On!

DONT QUITA new year, a new resolution—it’s January 3rd, how are you doing? Perhaps January 1st is just another day for you, but for me, it’s a new beginning!  I love new beginnings; however, the challenge to accomplish something—sticking to it to the end—can be overwhelming! Last year’s Master Club* Award’s ceremony brought this into clear focus for me.

One young lady received an award which some of the students had never seen before because it requires three years of complete dedication to earning every badge in the program.  This is not an impossible feat, but it does require a lot of commitment. Several students who would return the following fall showed great excitement and interest in earning that award. Now, here we are in the middle of that particular challenge, and I’m having my doubts that any of them will complete all the requirements. How does it happen: completing a task, sticking to it to the end?

Paul said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith (2Timothy 4:7).”  Isn’t that every believer’s goal? Sometimes the Christian race can seem daunting. Yes, we break forth at the starting line with “new babe” joy and expectancy, but sometimes, when we are out there in the middle somewhere with no end in sight, it can be lonely, discouraging, and seemingly impossible to keep fighting “a good fight.” You’ve probably heard of the farmer who keeps his eyes focused on a certain post or tree to ensure that he has plowed straight rows, but if there’s nothing to focus on, what do we do to keep the line straight? Here’s what my hero, Ron Hamilton has to say:

                        When the going gets tough, sail on! When the sea gets rough, sail on!

                        When you’re tempted to quit, sail on! Don’t give up the ship, sail on!

                        Trust in God’s might. Don’t give up the fight.  Come on! Keep on! Sail on!

                        If you want to succeed, sail on! Christ is all you need, sail on! Sail on!

 

Do you see Him? Can you sense His presence? Do you feel His guiding hand upon your shoulder? He is there beside us… IN us! Wow! So…

  1. Remember that you have a Friend that sticks closer, cheers louder, sees better, loves deeper, and knows you better than you know yourself!
  2. Don’t forget all of God’s helpers! Hopefully, you have a pastor, pastor’s wife, Sunday school teacher, Bible study leader, friend, or family member who can help and encourage you on your journey. Don’t be afraid (or too proud—I can say that because I struggle in that area!) to ask for help.
  3. Set goals! You will never hit the bull’s eye if you don’t put up the target! It’s OK to be hard on yourself and stretch yourself a bit further. This year, I’m trying to read/listen to the Bible in 90 days. That’s a big one for me, but here’s the plan:
    1. I’m using Youversion.com which puts the Bible at my fingertips.
    2. I’m mostly listening to it in pieces throughout the day. (Praise the Lord for earbuds!)
    3. HERE’S THE BIG ONE: I’m not listening to anything else until I am finished with my Bible listening for the day! When I first wanted to become faithful in my Bible devotions, I would not eat until I read the Bible. That worked!
    4. Keep focused on the goal. Sometimes we crash and burn and Satan is right there at our elbow to feed us his lies, like: “You’re being legalistic.” “This really isn’t necessary.” “Who says you have to read the Bible to be a good Christian?” “You’re just doing this for prideful reasons.” Then your flesh comes along and says, “I’m tired.” “I don’t want to read anymore.” “You should be doing…” “I can’t concentrate anymore.” “My eyes hurt.” “My head hurts.” “My feet hurt.” Then the dog barks to be fed, or the kids need help, or hubby interrupts.

When the going gets tough, sail on! When the sea gets rough, sail on!

 When you’re tempted to quit, sail on! Don’t give up the ship, sail on!

 Trust in God’s might. Don’t give up the fight.  Come on! Keep on! Sail on!

If you want to succeed, sail on! Christ is all you need, sail on! Sail on!

Is it worth it? Oh, yes! Can you imagine hearing this from Jesus:

Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Matthew 25:21

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

* a children’s Bible club in which the students earn badges, etc.

 

If Only in My Dreams

61MS3M5UGILBing Crosby made “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” popular in 1943. With US troops fighting both fronts of the Second World War, it’s easy to see why this Christmas song struck a common chord both here and abroad.

We all have dealt with separation from loved ones at one time or another, but the Christmas season seems to magnify the ache. Memories of past Christmases when all the bambinos were under your roof, or a loved one who is now missing was still sharing the holiday gatherings with us can turn our moods blue in a heartbeat!

As my husband and I listened to our Christmas gift from our youngest son—a collection of family favorites played by him on the piano and cello—brought tears to our eyes. Tears on Christmas morning? It happens but it’s OK. Tears are so necessary in this life!  They wash away the hurt, release the pain, and clear our vision.

Separation at Christmas—do we stop to realize that, even though we praise our heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ for coming to this world, this greatest gift would mean separation for them? We cannot comprehend God’s omnipresence. Were they really ever separate? Certainly, on the cross, Jesus’ words would indicate that His Father forsook Him. I believe it is Martin Luther who pondered this thought: God forsaken by God. We cannot understand, but we can be grateful. We can allow the Father’s sacrifice and separation to be a comfort to us when we are separated for a time from those we love. The greatest blessing for every believer is that we will never suffer the separation from our heavenly Father that Jesus felt on the cross. Hallelujah!

Family is a wonderful bond that cannot be broken. We may be separated emotionally, spiritually, mentally, politically or even physically from family, but the bond of relationship cannot be dissolved.  Whoever said, “Blood is thicker than water” was right. As this precious, festive season draws to a close and we start another year, may I challenge you to do all that is within your power to restore lost relationships as well as find comfort and peace in our forever Father when separation cannot be helped? Blessed Christmas to you all! Emmanuel—God with us!

Pr 18:24 ¶ A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

Why not me?

ID-100180787Last night, my husband had a really bad headache.  He does get migraines, but this was different–just a bad headache.  It started at supper and he took a pill. Later, after picking up kids in the church van, leading Wednesday night prayer meeting and taking kids home, we were watching some TV when I looked over to see him holding his head. The pain was worse, so I got him another pill. I decided to sleep in the guest room and went there after kissing him good night, leaving him there all curled up in a pathetic ball with the covers over his eyes.

It’s now 4:19 AM and my brain is in overdrive. What if he… I should go and check on him, but I don’t want to awaken him, but what if he’s…

Such a morbid thought, but isn’t it possible? Why not me? The hurricanes just snuffed out lives–someone’s husband or father–why not me?

What would I do? More morbid thoughts, but it may be true, or will be true, someday. I hope it’s not today. He’s only 59.

An amazing statement came into my life recently and I can’t give credit, but this morning, in the wee hours of the day, sitting at his desk, they have new meaning:

God doesn’t give us grace for our imaginations.

I can’t even imagine what I would do. Tom and I may be weird, but we play these things through our minds every once and a while.  He, like most men, always says that he’ll die first and he’s probably right.

I think these thoughts are haunting me because –

  • We just remembered 9/11 this week. Sixteen years ago.  That doesn’t seem possible, but I’m sure anyone who lost a loved one on that day feels something different about the day.
  • 9/12 is the anniversary of my own father’s death. It’s always a hard day, mainly because I don’t want to ignore it but I’m never sure what to say, especially to my mom. I write the date on a piano student’s practice notepad and think, what’s today’s date? Oh yeah, the twelfth–the day my dad died, but I don’t say anything.
  • We went to a funeral this past Saturday. It was an untimely death even though his grandmother was 74. Less than a year ago she was healthy. Then the dreaded news came–cancer. Her husband is quite a bit older than she was and he probably never thought he would be facing that day. As I came to him during the viewing, he asked ME how I was doing! And then, after I asked him how he was doing, he said, “Good.  What are you going to do?  It’s how it is, and you just have to accept it.” WOW!

So, I’m heading back to bed. I may slip into our bedroom and just listen. I’m sure he’s OK…

… but if he’s not, I know only one thing, but it’s a really, really, BIG thing:

God’s grace will be sufficient for the day, no matter what it brings. He’s already taught me that. We carry burdens and heartaches. We have scars from past wounds. We’re made of tough stuff, although the bottom line is that God created us from dirt and when under pressure, it crumbles. But …

God’s grace will be sufficient.

I’m thankful that I can’t speak from experience on this one, but don’t we believe that faith is the substance of things hoped for, THE EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN (Hebrews 11:1)? Can you believe this wonderful, precious promise and the One who promised it for whatever you are facing today? Will you let the strong arms of Jesus carry you through?

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, 
Stand in his strength alone; 
The arm of flesh will fail you, 
Ye dare not trust your own.

Bart Millard