Do You Want?

There is a story in the Bible I have always found interesting. It is – “Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem … Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, ….. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie — the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.   One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, He asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?'” John 5.1-6
I always wondered why Jesus asked the man if he wanted to get well? What kind of a question is this? It has always seemed odd to me that someone who has been ‘not well’ – especially for 38 years – just may not want to ‘get well.’ When I analyze it, I think perhaps the man never imagined he could be well. Perhaps he was used to being ‘not well’ and did not know how he would be if he were well because being ‘not well’ was all he ever knew. Perhaps he did not think it was even possible to be well – for many reasons. Maybe his illness was incurable, maybe the time he had been ill discouraged him, or maybe other reasons.
I have been very lucky to know God and been healed by Him. About thirty years ago, I suffered from a great depression that caused me to want to end my life. I did not know why I was depressed and the condition continued for five years with no hope of being well or free from the depression. I did not know where to turn and no one I knew seemed to know what was wrong with me and why I was suffering so badly.
The Bible states, “My people perish for lack of knowledge..” (Hosea 4.6) This told me that there was something I did not know that was causing my pain and suffering. I began to search for the reasons and read and availed myself to the help that is in books I read and meetings I attended. I discovered the ‘punishment necessary for me to have peace was placed on my Savior the day they crucified Him…’ (Isaiah 53.5). He provided my peace with His sacrifice.
I had problems that were causing me harm, but I had been in the behavior patterns so long, not only did I not even realize how damaging the patterns were, change was uncomfortable, frightening, and difficult to say the least. But, if I was going to live and ‘be well,’ I had to change what I was doing to be healed. I obeyed God and the depression left without medication or hospitalization and has not been back in thirty years.
I am not perfect and struggle every day to make my Father proud of me and show Him how thankful I am that He saved my life. He assures me that His love is Everlasting and He in Unconditional Love and Acceptance. I see others struggling with similar things, but when I try to share, it seems to me they do not ‘want to be well.’ This confuses me. When I struggled and found an answer, I was elated. I hope if you struggle with addiction, depression, anxiety, negative behaviors or any other struggle, you find your answers and realize God is always the Answer to all our struggles.
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Fall 2018

Well, it is officially Fall. Many of my friends love the change of seasons, and, like clockwork, time marches on. The days are slowly getting shorter. Some in the North will be enjoying cooler weather with leaves changing to bright yellows, oranges, and reds. I have memories of the Amish in Ohio making apple cider and as I drove the country side in Ohio a few days ago, I saw pumpkins being harvested in the fields. Along with the pumpkins, it is also harvest time for all the crops for farmers.  The land will lay silent again until next Spring. Even with all the wonderful Fall happenings, there will be the knowledge of impending Winter. Brrrrr.

I, however, being back in Florida, will still be seeing Palm Trees this Fall. Am so blessed. I have plans be on the rivers in warm, but not scorching temperatures, boogie boarding the waves in the ocean before it cools, and perhaps a trip to the Florida Keys. There is an  imperceptible change of seasons in Florida. Still lots of sunshine and just a little less humid. I must admit, I do not miss my Ohio winters, but I do miss the Fall in Ohio. I loved caramel covered apples, fresh vegetables, and the cooler nights. I liked the feeling as if it’s the end of a very long day – the feeling that everything is going to go to sleep soon for a little while as we endured the snow and cold and looked forward to the Spring – when everything comes back to life again.

This year, I will have traveling friends seeking relief from their colder climates. We have so much planned I think they will want to stay forever. Thankfully, hurricane season will be ending soon – hopefully without any storm activity. I hope your Fall is filled with lots of fun activities and family. I hope you enjoy the apples and fresh vegetables and all the things you and your family do each fall. Enjoy every moment!!!

Another of my very favorite things about Fall is Thanksgiving. Giving thanks is something I do daily, but even more so during this season of thanks and preparation for Christmas again. Oh, how I love this time of year! Have a great Fall!

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Another Day, Another Miracle

I am a terrible cook, but I love to eat. Especially good food. Especially when someone else is an excellent cook and has prepared something wonderful. Sometimes when I eat, I am so full I do not think I will ever eat again – or at least not for the next few days. But,  in a few hours, I am hungry again.

I am reminded of the beloved Lord’s prayer that asks God to ‘give us this day our daily bread.’ (Matthew 6.11) When God’s people wandered in the wilderness, they were given daily manna – the bread from heaven (Exodus  16). Just as we need our daily bread to sustain our bodies, we need are daily Bread of Heaven to sustain our spirits and give us life. Each day we need a fresh encounter with God. Just as we cannot rely on yesterdays meals to sustain us today, we cannot rely on yesterday’s encounters to be all we need from God. God wants to do a ‘new thing’ for us each and every day.

Elizabeth Taylor played Velvet Brown in the movie, “National Velvet.” In the movie, she feels guilty asking for ‘more.’ She feels she is asking for ‘more than her share.’ I think as believers, we imagine we can exhaust God’s good will and His answers to prayers. Another day, another miracle I say. It is impossible to exhaust Him or His resources.

The Bible tell us ‘the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, great is His faithfulness’ (Lamentations 3.22-23).

I love the words to the poem made into song by Annie Johnson Flint “He Giveth More Grace.”

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added affliction He addeth His mercy;
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limit; His grace has no measure.
His pow’r has no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!

I am so thankful for a God that has endless resources and He giveth and giveth and giveth again. He is our Loving Heavenly Father Who wants to supply our every need and be everything to us.

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That’s a Funny Story

I recently posted a video of a mother otter teaching her young one to swim. We frequently see otters in Florida and they are excellent swimmers. I always thought it came naturally to them. Apparently they need swimming lessons. It has always been a thing to me that children learn everything from us as parents and adults – good or bad – and that moms and dads hold their children’s hearts in their hands.

When I lived in Ohio, I did not have exposure to poisonous snakes, alligators, black bears, panthers, or other dangerous critters I see in Florida. There are black bears as close as West Virginia, but that was not close to me. In Florida, I have been excited to see the bears. No one else seems to be excited. I discovered they like garbage.

Each evening, my dog, Rudy, and I have a little routine. We go to a nearby dollar store for my one sweet treat of the day – my diet allowing – some water, and sometimes other supplies. One visit, I took him around the building to potty. Suddenly, a huge black bear torpedoed into the nearby woods and a baby scrambled up a tree. I was excited and went into the store to announce what I saw. The clerk shrugged her shoulders in disinterest and said she was aware of the bears. She informed me the moms give a signal to the little ones to climb a tree when danger is near. I never considered little me and Rudy danger.

The next night my dog and I went to the store as usual. The clerk asked, “Did you see the bear again?” with a smile on her face. I know she was mocking me, but I told her how I was so amazed about it, that was why I made such a big deal about something so mundane to her. Sort of nice she remembered us.

The next night we went to the store, we looked for the bears. None in sight. At the check out, I talked about them with a new clerk. She told me there is a mom bear with two cubs. As we talked, she said they were a problem because they came to get into the garbage. Then she shared how one day, all three bears carried bags of garbage into the woods. The mom had a very large bag and the two cubs had smaller bags. That’s a funny story. We laughed and I could only image this adorable sight. I asked if she took a picture. She said ‘no’ but wished she had. Me too.

Nature has a way of showing us how mothers teach their children everything. The Bible says, “Train up a child in the way they should go and even when they are older they will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22.6) Teaching children about the Loving, Living God is the most important thing we will teach them. It is an overwhelming responsibility at times, but we have their hearts in our hands already. Teach them well!

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I love this painting. It is pure chaos. Just like life sometimes. I know people who seem to claim they have an answer for everything. I, however, am not one of them.

I am not certain how this happened, but recently I engaged in debate with two friends about who has experienced the most struggle in life. Weird debate, right? Both shared their stories with me and I wept. I lost the debates. It amazes me how those around me are brave enough to continue each day despite the hardships they endured as children and young adults. Stories of loss of parents through suicide, abandonment as young children, physical and emotional abuse, and more.

Sometimes people  feel there is no God because of all that seems to be wrong in the world. I admit I don’t have all the answers. I don’t think anyone will ever be able to make sense of things that just don’t make sense.

I don’t have an answer for why children get cancer, why mothers die young leaving their families, why houses burn down or floods happen. Why children are abducted, why murder happens as well as war. Why we choose to persecute those not like us. All the things that don’t make sense in life do not shake my belief in a God that loves us and promises to give beauty for ashes. (Isaiah 61.3) I have always held the opinion we have the opportunity to make our pain our pathway to God. I believe we can know Him a way we would never have been able to know Him without the pain that seems to be destroying our happiness.

In the midst of everything, He is always the Answer to everything. Even what does not make sense. He is still Good and Loving and Able to get us through everything and make us able to help those around us. I realized those that struggle with diabetes campaign passionately about diabetes. Those that have lost a loved one to Alzheimer’s passionately campaign for this disorder. Why does it take pain to move us to help those around us? I am not certain, however, the truth is I am passionate about the struggles I have faced in my quest to help those that also struggle with the same.

In the Bible, Job demands to talk to God. Job wants to tell God how unjust He has been and how the suffering has been greater than he was able to bear. God does talk to Job and gently asks Job if he created all we see around us? Are we smarter than God? No. He put all the world together, He knows all the past, present, and future events, He created the horse and the whale, and He is smarter, kinder, more loving, more creative, more everything than we can ever be. In the end of all things, we will understand. I suppose at that time, explanations will not even be an issue any longer.

I do not want to be accused of peddling easy answers to difficult questions, but for now, I pray we put our hands in the Hand of the Living God and continue to walk through each day, giving Him our struggles, our dreams, our happiness, our everything. We can trust the Man Who died for us so we can have beauty for the ashes we feel have come to us in this life.

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My Easy Load

There are days I just don’t know how I am going to get it all  done – work, deadlines, visiting friends in nursing homes, caring for the home, pets, etc. Stress is a word. It seems I have a heavier ‘cross’ to carry than others. At moments, I am not sure I can bear up under the strain of everything and if someone adds one more thing to my already overloaded schedule, I feel I may just have some bad moments.

I look around and so many others seem to have it easy. They have enough money, enough time, happy families, and on and on. They do not seem to struggle much. I guess if I knew everything, I may think differently. It doesn’t take long to know everyone has concerns.

A friend shared a little story with me, a story of a girl who felt her ‘cross’ was heavier than those around her. When she slept, she was taken to a large room filled with crosses. There were large crosses and jewel adorned crosses and many others. In the corner was a small, plain cross. When the girl saw this little cross, she said, “I would like that one. I think I can manage that one small cross in the corner.” It was then she was then told that was the cross she had been carrying all along. This humbles me.

I ask God to show me my easy load as I watch others caring for disabled children, elderly family members struggling with dementia and other medical conditions, those living on small incomes, veterans returning with emotional concerns, and many other struggles.

I only need to walk the hallways of a hospital to see the faces of those worrying for the ones they love and those who have been given life changing test results. I only need walk the halls of detox centers to see the empty faces of those who do not know how to recover from addictions. I only need walk the streets to see the homeless and those who are lonely. I only need to visit the closest food bank to see ones who struggle to feed their children. I only need to take time to listen to others share with me about losing family when they were young, being raised by single moms, watching other families love each other and wondering why their family is different.

And when I do, my easy load no longer seems to be so overwhelming.  I want to be able to share with anyone struggling how Jesus knows their path and all they face each day and does not disregard them in any way (Isaiah 40.27) but wants to help in every way, every day. And God wants me to help others as much as I am able to make their load a little lighter.

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Birds in flight! How magnificent is that? Every time I see a bird in the air, I am astonished. I don’t know why, they have been flying forever. Their bodies are designed to be light enough for their wing span to lift them off the ground. Without an aviation class, they seem to know how to navigate the airways – the wind currents, the weather, and all – all without a GPS in wing.

As I look around, I see more wonders of  nature. Not only do I see birds traveling great distances without boundaries, I recently noticed large green ‘elephant ear’ – looking plants. I don’t know their names and could not believe how large the leaves were. They were taller and broader than a 6′ man. I am also amazed when I see palm trees bending to  hover over the ocean waters. Who could think of this? They are made of what look like tubular structures surrounded by an outer covering that make them strong and form their shapes. I love Joyce Kilmer’s poem – “I think that I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a tree… poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”

I have come to dislike the ants I see crawling everywhere and multiple other bugs that serve a purpose in our ecosystem, but they do intrigue me. Someone is studying bugs right this minute and loving every minute of it! How could this be? And there are so many bugs.

Then I think to myself, ‘What have I ever made?’ Have I made a bird that flies? Have I made an eye that sees? Have I made a nerve cell that carries information from one part of a body to another? Have I ever made something as stupendous as a heart that pumps blood a distance four times across the United States every day and yet rests 10-12 hours a day? No, the answer is no. I have not even made a blade of grass.

Nevertheless, even though I realize how small I am, I find myself instructing the One Who has made everything. I find myself telling Him I would do things differently. Oh how I am in desperate need of His mercy and love and understanding to this little child of His Who forgets that He put the stars in the sky and He names them and cares for the sparrow. He cares for you and me. I am thankful for His patience to remind me how big and awesome He is every day, all day.

The Words used to describe Him are Omnipotent -all powerful, Omnipresent – in all places, and Omniscient – all knowing. But what does He know? Not only does He know how to make the mighty oak tree and put whales in the ocean, He knows everything about us. He knows our every need. Our deepest longing. Everything that makes us feel secure or afraid or loved or even unloved. He knows every word that has ever hurt us deeply, made us feel unworthy, damaged our spirits.

He knows the hairs on our head and the dreams and desires we each have. He knows every word that has ever been written, every home that has ever been lost or made a home in, every time the weather threatens, each answer to every test, how to reach the ones we think are unreachable. Simply put- Everything -that is what He knows.

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If I had a nickel for every time I did something foolish or thoughtless or just plain ‘stupid,’ I’d be a very rich woman. Seems I cannot go a day without something. Most don’t know because I wisely don’t tell all my mishaps. In fact, I forgot some important items I meant to take to work today. No real big deal, but a real big inconvenience.

Sometimes it’s easy to have a tendency to freely given unsolicited advice on just how not to make mistakes each day. How to be more organized, less forgetful – perfect really. We even hear others shouting out ways to be better at just about everything. Easier to give advice than follow that advice.

Recently, I heard a cute little story. This story is about a young girl who took her homework to church. She enjoyed the service, but after it was over, she unintentionally forgot her homework in the church. She informed her mother of her situation. As they returned to retrieve the homework, her mother proceeded to scold her the entire way back to church. She told the young girl how she needed to be more responsible and make sure she did not forget important things like her homework. The little girl quietly listened as they drove along. When they arrived back at the church, the little girl went in to  find her homework. Soon, she came out of the church, walking with a happy and bouncy stride. She was smiling from ear to ear. The little girl had her homework in one hand and her mother’s purse in the other.

I must admit that was one cute little story. I was feeling sorry for the young girl being scolded for being distracted in church and making an innocent mistake. I wondered how her mom felt when she saw her purse being toted along with her daughter’s homework. Very funny. It all reminds me of how easy it is for me to hold others to a standard I do not always hold myself to. I do not have any stones to throw at anyone who finds themselves in a situation where things most likely could have gone better, but didn’t.

I want to take time to extend a gracious attitude to all those around me who are as imperfect as I am.

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Magic tricks are something that have always fascinated me. No matter how often I say I will not be tricked today, I still am. No matter how many times I say I will pay attention and not allow myself to be distracted, I still am. I am easy to fool that’s for sure. I can never figure out how the magician did the trick. I saw David Copperfield make a tiger appear. Great trick. But the truth is, that they are not real, they are truly tricks.

As fun as magic can be, I once heard someone say that the devil’s greatest trick was making people think he doesn’t exist. Interesting. We seem to live in a world that wants to embrace concepts such as this and suggest there is nothing ‘bad’ or nothing that we should refrain from. There is no ‘evil’ force. The world today wants to embrace that nothing is wrongful and if someone suggests something is wrong, then they are stoned for not having ‘tolerance.’ However, it seems most of our movies show the universal struggle between ‘Good’ and ‘evil.’ Star Wars – for instance – has Darth Vader and the ‘dark’ side. I see the good v. evil in most children’s movies and stories as well as adult themes and ‘Good’ wins.

I think the devil not only made many believe he doesn’t exist, another deception that he makes them believe there are no consequences to choices made today. Undoubtedly, he is a liar, a thief, an accuser, and his ways lead to certain death. He deceives by making things that are ultimately destructive to us look like ‘pleasure’ and that all is okay. The devil also subscribes to the thought process that obeying God is not necessary and is what losers do. We need only look at evil men – ISIS, Hitler, and many others to see the work of evil. Sometimes it is a little more subtle in our own lives. Choices that are not what God would want us make lead to the break up of homes, addictions, abuse, treating women in disgraceful ways, and many other life sabotaging actions.

Jesus, however, is Life. In fact, He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (John 14.6) The exact opposite of the devil. Our Healer, Savior, Greater than any opposition. He set His rules – commandments – to protect us. I used to think the ‘rules’ were burdensome, but our Loving Father gave them to us because they are the ways that lead to life and prosperity and happiness. They are protective because God made us, He knows how to protect us and what ultimately hurts us. Holy isn’t a word we throw around much these days, but it is a word God uses to encourage us to life. Jesus knows all the tricks of the devil and has given us every reason to follow His teaching to have real life and happiness.

I choose to not be tricked by the devil, but believe God is my God, my Helper, my Deliverer, my Guide, my Source, my Friend, my Everything. God says to us He has put before us death and life – He encourages us to choose life. (Deut. 30.19) In everything we say and do, choose life and God’s way. It is the way to happiness, health, good things.

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I love the French language because it sounds so soft and romantic. For instance, the word ‘merci’ is sweet to me. When the Olympics were in France, I heard everyone on television saying, ‘merci.’ I wished I was there.

Merci – thank you. What a lovely translation. The word ‘merci’ also reminds me of the word ‘mercy’ – one of my other favorite words in English for an incredible gift God gives to me and everyone.

I think the word mercy is overused at times and poorly understood. I already said it is an incredible gift, but it seems I am stunned when I think about mercy, so I say it again. I want to really absorb the rich meaning and impact mercy has on my life and the life of the ones I love. In Webster’s, we find the meaning of the word ‘mercy’ to include ‘the discretionary power of a Judge to pardon someone  – compassion shown to an offender.’ This is ok, but not the deep and special meaning of the word to me. The faith filled meaning of the word is that God show us mercy – He pardons us and loves us even when we are not lovable.

I once heard the story of a woman whose son was sentenced to death for crimes he had committed. His mother pled for his life. She cried out, “Have mercy on my son.” The leader declared, “Your son does not deserve mercy!” She replied, “If he deserved it, it would not be mercy.” The leader was so touched by the woman’s words that he released the man.

Even though I am not a criminal sentenced to death in this life, I am a sinful woman who lives in a sinful world and at one time I was sentenced to eternal death. I did not and do not ‘deserve’ mercy. It is because of the mercy of God that I am alive today because I was in danger of ending my life over 30 years ago. Because of the mercy and grace of the Living God, I am physically alive as well as spiritually alive. I am ‘thankful.’ Thankful for mercy. I guess one could say merci for mercy. My heart is deeply touched by the mercy of God, so it allows me to see His mercy for the ones around me.

Each day I try to live the life I want God to be proud of, but I make many mistakes. Sometimes those around me are flawed and do things that are hurtful to themselves and others and me. God’s mercy is for all the things we cannot seem to do right every moment of every day. It is an awesome gift that is beyond my comprehension at times. No matter how many times we fail each day, He picks us up, dusts us off, and continues down the road with us.

Lamentations 3.22-23 tells us, “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, great is His faithfulness.” Praise Him for all His wonderful gifts.

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