Jesus

Smiling at Ugly

I saw God once. He was sitting on a throne and He looked pleased.  Contented. As though there were no terrorism or exploitation or child/animal/spouse abuse or abortion or addiction or disease.

He was smiling as though all is right with the world.

From His perspective, perhaps it is.

Perhaps what makes the world right in His eyes is not our behavior, but His.

He sits with a serene smile because all is right in His world.

We mock Him in our world and He loves us in His.

We exploit and terrorize here, He redeems and forgives there.

His conscience is clear because He has always done the right thing.

So He smiles.

I was a little like that when I was young, smiling at the world with a soft heart.

But somewhere along the way my smile became based on the behavior of others.

I was only as content as my husband was faithful, my child was grateful, my friends were loyal.

As my contentment became based upon things I could not control, I stewed more than I smiled.

I stewed because people aren’t being how they’re supposed to be.

I’ve been wanting to get back to smiling, even at an ugly world, and God has shown me how He does it.

He doesn’t smile because we are being how we’re supposed to be.

He smiles because He is faithful.

He smiles because He is grateful.

He smiles because He is loyal.

And because He has redemption up His sleeve.

“Look at them,” Jesus said as He looked out over the crowds of rich, poor, healthy, lame, righteous, grateful, unrighteous, ungrateful, faithful, adulterous, loyal betrayers at the start of Matthew chapter 5, “Blessed are they.”

“Blessed are they because I am here to do the right thing.”

And He did.

And now He smiles.

And I want to smile with Him.

Blessed are we.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

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the friends

Is this my new calling? ‘Cuz I’m gonna’ need superhuman strength.

One minute you’re getting your face bit off and the next minute you’re living in Hintzville.

One day you’re living in Hintzville, going for a warm, sunny walk and a week later you’re under the knife.

Last post I told you what I know about Dixie’s history. What I didn’t tell you is that she has had varying amounts of blood in her stool since the day we adopted her. Every stool, every day.

Finally, after multiple trips to the vet and two rounds of blood and stool tests to rule out parasites and infections, we were referred to a specialist for an ultrasound.

The ultrasound revealed a mass in her colon. And an enlarged lymph node. And a small spot on her spleen.

So at 8:00 this morning I dropped her off at the hospital for a colonoscopy – to give the internal medicine specialist and the surgeon a look at what they’re dealing with from the inside.

While she’s still under anesthesia she’ll go directly into surgery.  To remove the mass and resection her bowel.   And, if she hasn’t been under too long at that point, the surgeon will remove the lymph node and her spleen, too.

Just got a call from the hospital. They are about to begin.  It will be about two hours. The surgeon will call when he’s finished.

I hung up the phone, got on my knees and asked God to fill the operating room. I asked Him to give the specialist and the surgeon insight and knowledge and skill beyond what they have. I asked Him to give the surgeon creativity in approaching the mass – since it is partially behind her pubis and difficult to access.  I’m praying he’ll get clean margins without having to split her pelvis.

I’m praying the mass is not malignant.  I’m praying it isn’t any kind of cancer at all.  It’s possible that it’s a stricture. I sure hope so.

I’m praying for no complications.

I’m praying that the resection will not come apart one day and dump feces into her abdomen.

I’m praying she will heal quickly and live another happy, healthy five years.  At least.

If it is a malignant cancer, the surgeon said worst case scenario she’ll have  3-4 months, best case she’ll have 1-2 years.

I’m praying it isn’t cancer.

I’m praying I don’t have to muster the strength, beg God for the strength, to walk another friend down this road again so soon.

I’ve already fallen in love with Dixie.

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And I’m still missing Bebe.

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And Lucy.

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I told you last week that Dixie had been bounced around a lot this last year after her “mom” moved into a nursing home.  And that made it really heartbreaking to leave her this morning.

So I’m asking God to hold her close, to whisper in her soft, floppy little beagle ear that she hasn’t been abandoned.  That she is deeply loved and she will be going home to Hintzville.

Just got a call from the surgeon.  The colonoscopy showed that it is a mass, not a stricture.

Dixie’s being prepped for surgery and he’s heading into the OR.

Praying he gets it all.

Praying it’s benign.

Praying she heals well.

Praying, praying, praying.

And feeling sick.

 

 

 

 

 

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life

Clean Water & Broken Cisterns

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Solomon told us to remember our Creator while we are young – before the days of trouble come.

“Remember Him,” he wrote, while you can still see and hear.

Remember Him while your spirit is still attached to your body,
while you can still offer up prayer
and your body can still hold the Holy Spirit.
Remember Him while you still have the strength to draw Living Water.
Remember Him before you are dust.

Of course, he put it poetically:

“Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
and the wheel broken at the well,
and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”  Ecclesiastes 12

Today I was reading John 14 and I understood a few of Jesus’ words in a new way.  Thanks to Solomon and Jeremiah.

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:13

Here’s what Jesus said that I think I finally get:

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”  John 14:12

What can be greater than raising Lazarus from the dead? Feeding multitudes with a few fish and loaves? Healing leprosy, blindness, crippling physical and mental diseases with just a touch or a word? Forgiving sins?

I can’t do any of those things.  Except forgive sins. I can forgive sins that are committed against me. But only if God works it out in me.

And that’s the point.

Jesus said that He only said what He heard the Father saying and He only did what he saw His Father doing.

So it’s not that I’ll do greater things than Jesus did, it’s that the things God does through me are much more impressive than the things He did through Jesus because Jesus was perfect and I am not.

I am a broken cistern, barely able to keep the Holy Spirit from leaking completely out. Actually, I’m more like a clogged pipe – full of debris that hinders the flow of the Spirit.

When the Father worked through Jesus He was working through the perfect human being. When He works through us He’s using damaged tools, dull blades, dim bulbs and clogged pipes.

And even so He is able to create masterpieces of love and good deeds.

Kinda’ makes me want to give Him ALL the glory.

#clean

 

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family, love, the friends

Sacrificial Gifts

A few weeks before Christmas my daughter texted me a picture of Sorel Slimpack II Waterproof Boots – in case I needed a gift idea.

I had already bought her gifts but I was tempted to buy just one more.  Except the hub said we needed to scale back this year due to all the vet bills.  So I resisted.

The Monday before Christmas I stood at the pharmacy counter with a prescription for a colonoscopy prep kit – the same kind my husband used back in October when he had his colonoscopy.  The kind that is a lot easier to take than the Golytely jug I’ve used in the past.

“Your insurance doesn’t cover this one,” the pharmacist said, “it will be $100.”

“What?” “Is that how much my husband paid back in October?”

She checked her computer.

“He paid $86, he had a coupon. I’ll try applying that same coupon code to yours.”

With the coupon it would be $91.  The price must have gone up she said.

“Is there another kind that my insurance will cover?”

She advised me to call the doc’s office and ask them to authorize a switch.

Golytely. The dreaded 4 litre jug.

Dreaded but 100% covered.

I texted the hub.  He said go ahead and pay the $91.

But then I remembered the boots. I was willing to suffer for the boots.

So I took home the jug.

The day after the colonoscopy I went to Nordstrom to purchase the boots – for $145.

“I thought I saw them on sale on your website for $114,” I said, as the clerk rang them up.

Apparently not.

As I was leaving the mall I spotted the same boots at another store – on sale for $109.

Back to Nordstrom to return, then back to Journeys to buy.

Those 8 hours of gut-wrenching misery – literally – paid for all but $18 of the boots.  The hub could live with it.

Sacrificial Giving

As we were heading to the theater to see the matinee showing of La La Land the day after Christmas, I told my daughter the story of the boots – my own small version of the Gift of the Magi.  Not because I wanted a medal or anything, but because I wanted her to know the depth of my love. And because giving a sacrificial gift felt so good, I thought receiving one might feel good, too.  Judging by the expression on her face at the end of my story, I think it did.

Same Love, Different Scenario

That evening, after dinner, I said, “Time for family goodness.” (“Family goodness” = all of us taking the friends for a walk.  One of us takes the hound, another takes the beagle and the third is on bag duty…”)

“It’s almost dark,” the hub said, sitting comfortably on the sofa watching some sort of sport on tv.

“Bring a flashlight,” I replied.

My daughter didn’t say anything, but the look she flashed revealed that she wasn’t thrilled either.

It was a rare 50 degree day in December and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to walk the little beagle. She cannot tolerate the cold anymore and getting oxygen to her lungs is so important.  I had been waiting all day for the rain to stop so we could take her.  It was still drizzling when I made my announcement, but it was getting dark and the window was closing.

“Come on,” I said.

As my daughter put on her coat she said, “You’re never going to be satisfied with the manner in which I parent your granddogs.”

“I just won’t come over,” I replied.

She continued, “Because I’m going to treat my dogs just like the rest of the country does.”

It snowed 8 inches the weekend before Christmas.  I bundled the beagle up and took her for a walk a few days later when the temp rose to 32 degrees.  She begged to romp through the woods.  “Sorry, little Be,” I said, “but your legs are too short, your belly will drag through the snow and you’ll get too cold.” I promised her that once the snow diminished enough we would take a walk through the woods.

And on that rainy, 50 degree day after Christmas when the snow was just about gone, we did.

The five of us took a walk through the woods, the hub carrying a flashlight and me using the flashlight on my iPhone.

It felt good to keep a promise.

It felt good to take my friends for a damp, drizzly, sacrificial walk in the woods.

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It’s all the same.

I thought about my daughter’s comments as I was unloading the dishwasher the next morning.

It’s all the same love, baby girl, I thought.  The same quality of love that bought your boots kept its promise to the Be.

It’s that way with God, too.  The quality of His love is always the same  – whether He is extending it to the saint or the sinner.

It isn’t about how lovable we are, it’s about how able to love He is.

And I so love Him. ❤

#nomoping

 

 

 

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faith, Jesus, the friends

Calm, Bright, Holy Beagle

It was not my usual week-before-Christmas.

Monday, instead of baking and sampling, I was fasting and prepping for Tuesday’s colonoscopy.  It’s not ideal to schedule a colonoscopy the week before Christmas, but it had already been rescheduled twice… The good news is I passed with flying colors. Doc says I don’t have to “Golytely” again for another ten years. Misnomer that.

All is Calm, All is Bright

Wednesday, instead of shopping, I was sitting on a folded quilt on the floor of the veterinary oncologist’s exam room with my back against the wall.  The little beagle lay on her side beside me, head on my lap. A mild, pleasantly soothing incense wafted through the air, mingled with the gentle music playing beside it. I stroked her soft little head and spoke quietly to her as she lay still for the twenty minutes the acupuncture needles needed to do their thing.

“It’s worth it little Be,” I whispered, as I stroked the side of her face, “they are stimulating your immune system and helping to clear the lung congestion.”

She lay perfectly still. Completely calm. Not a single needle fell out this time. What a sweet little love.

Acupuncture needles in place of pine needles.

She has been doing so well – her eyes clear and bright, her energy high – that I was starting to imagine her a medical miracle.

And then Thursday she started coughing. Really coughing. She coughed up a hunk of tissue and what looked like a blood clot.

Silent Night, Holy Night.

So Friday she went back on an antibiotic.

She’s sleeping a lot now, her little body battling pneumonia. So last night, while she slept, I broiled filet Mignon, mashed sweet potatoes and sauteed Brussels sprouts. And then my daughter and the hub went to the 10 pm Candlelight Service while I stayed home with our friends.

I was going to have our own little silent night, holy night – just me, the hound and the beagle. I was going to read them the Christmas story. I was going to tell them what Jesus said about not a single sparrow falling from the sky apart from the Father’s care. I was going to read them the story Nathan told David and explain that God considers pets members of the family, too.

“but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.”

God had no problem with the way the poor man lovingly cared for his lamb, but He certainly had a problem with the way the rich man treated her as property.

I was going to say, “God loves and cares for all of the creatures He created, guys, and He loves you even more than I do.”

We were going to have our own holy moment while the rest of the family was at church.

But the night turned out to be more silent than holy. The beagle’s breathing was labored as she slept on the sofa beside me. I didn’t want to disturb her by reading aloud. I knew she’d try to respond to the sound of my voice and she needed rest more than anything else.

So I scrolled silently and came upon this from Muddy Boots Manor:

A precious telling of the Christmas story. I think the hound was listening as he lay awake on the floor nearby. The beagle slept through most of it – awaking only briefly and raising her head to see who was talking. Then she drifted back off to sleep.

Now it’s Sunday. Christmas Day.

When my daughter wakes up I’ll make pancakes. I’ll embellish the maple syrup with minced figs, dates and walnuts because on Tuesday the recovery nurse handed me a brochure with a list of high fiber foods and dried figs was at the top.

We’ll open gifts and then I’ll make stuffed mushrooms and a mushroom pate for the hub and the daughter to take with them to the family gathering.

I’ll miss out on some amazing food, but Christmas, it turns out, is not about beautifully set tables and skillfully prepared feasts.

It’s about giving presence to a sick little friend.

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The hound – 96 in dog years – wants extra presence himself these days.

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I did take time to do some fancy wrapping this week.

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Merry Christmas everyone!

#anewkindoffestive

 

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church nonsense, Jesus

Manipulators of Men

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I read a short, encouraging article today. It reminded me of a scene from Blue Like Jazz. I hope you have a minute to read it.

It kinda’ goes along with what I was thinking about after church yesterday.

I used to be a member of a conservative church. Everyone, as far as I knew, was like-minded. So much so that I assumed all Christians were like-minded.

Because everyone was like-minded, the pastor thought nothing of inserting political commentary into his sermons. He didn’t mention anyone by name or violate tax-exempt laws in any way, he just assumed everyone agreed.

From there I began attending a politically diverse church. The pastor may have leaned liberal but the large congregation seemed to be a fairly equal mix of Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, Centrists and Conservatives. There were Independents who lean left, Independents who lean right (me) and Libertarians scattered about, too.

Discussions in the Thursday morning women’s Bible study were uplifting. Because we were aware of the diversity of viewpoints, all political comments were made carefully and with respect. As a result we were able to actually hear one another and even broaden our perspectives. It was easy to love those women – even the ones with whom I disagreed – because their respectfulness loved me back, because it was obvious that our Christian sisterhood was more important than our viewpoints. I miss them.

These days I attend a mostly liberal church.

Sitting in the pew yesterday I thought of any liberal-leaning people who may have been in the audience of that first church years ago. And as I sat in their shoes (shoes that probably walked far away) I missed the mix of the second church.

I missed being where a diversity of opinions was assumed and even appreciated. I missed knowing that at least half the congregation saw what I saw.

As I was walking the beagle the other day God reminded me that half the country sees what I see. He brought to mind the county by county map of the US I saw on election night – the one that was almost completely colored red.

When one half of the country is yelling f- you, it’s easy to feel like you’re in the minority.

When you sit in church and hear a faint f-you from the pulpit and feel a silent f-you in the pew next to you, it’s easy to wonder if you are in the wrong family.

I know the incoming administration wants to make changes to the Johnson Amendment to the tax code, but that could become a nightmare for the church.

Fishers of men could become manipulators of men.

I hope not. I think I might do a little research, weigh the pros and cons.

In the meantime my pastoral friends, a sermon that indulges in even the slightest bit of partisan commentary is a sermon that has just lost its power; a sermon that has just clogged the flow of the Spirit.

At our ritual after-church lunch my daughter shared that one of her friends resurrected his LiveJournal account back when they were in college just to post a rant about this very thing. He ended by saying how much he appreciated that his pastor back home just said what Jesus said and left it at that.

Amen.

#aconservativefishinaliberalsea

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