Friday, October 14, 2011

Come Heal With Me: Thou Shalt Not Steal

Thou Shalt Not Steal

Notes from the Book: God's eighth rule for life, "Thou shalt not steal," is the foundation of our entire economic system, because it recognized the fact that one has a right, a God-given right, to work, earn, save, and own.

Actually, no person owns anything. All belongs to God, but while man is on earth he has the God-given right of possession. To deny any man that right violates the very basis of God's creation.

"If any would not work, neither should he eat" (II Thessalonians 3: 10).

(What denotes stealing:)

"What belongs to my neighbor belongs to me and I will take it." the robber, the embezzler, and all the others.

Living beyond one's means. To go in debt without a reasonable probability of being able to pay back is stealing.

To fail to give an honest days work is also stealing.

We can also steal from another when we withhold from our fellows ... How can I give to God what is rightfully His? There is only one way; that is in service to others. So the positive meaning of "thou shalt not steal" is consecrated service, both of my material resources and of my life.

Notes from Mother:  All that we have God has given in one way or another.

My Notes:  Mother didn't write a lot in this section and I think I know why. Mother was a giver. She believed in tithing and offering, not just of her money (which was tithed to the penny) but also of her service.

When Mother retired, I thought I would now find her sitting before the television, knitting, enjoying her "shows."  She watched The Young and the Restless from the day it first aired until the last day she physically sat before a television (her last few days were spent with me at Ridgecrest). She often said she didn't really care about it ... but she had to keep up, I guess.

Mother also enjoyed anything featuring The Gaithers. She had hours and hours of Gaither Homecoming shows recorded. She adored the "Love" movies which aired on The Hallmark Channel, made from the Jeanette Oak books. Just last night I saw a new one was airing. I was on the phone with my brother and I told him, "Here's one she never got to see."

"Gosh, she loved those movies," he said.
"Sometimes I'd walk in the house and she'd be sitting there watching one. I'd say, 'Don't you have that recorded and haven't you already seen it about a hundred times?' and she'd answer, 'Yeah, but I just love to watch them.'"

I'm on a rabbit trail. The point is ... Mother actually, honestly, rarely got to watch television. She was too busy volunteering. Helping others even younger than herself. When I called and got the answering machine, I'd leave a message that said, "Now where are you?"

The answer was that she was nearly always out helping someone else. Driving someone to a doctor's appointment. Picking peas or beans, shelling them, and taking them to someone who couldn't. She volunteered so many hours at the nursing home (where some of her friends lived), she was named Volunteer of the Year (she rode the float as such in the Livestock Parade just two months before her death), and a butterfly garden was dedicated to her after she died.

When Mother died, a lot of people said, "We sure are going to miss her." I knew what they meant, of course. But I also know they'll miss her service, which included her gift of giving financially, her smiles, her laughter, her willingness to play Bingo with the elderly or serve hot dogs during a picnic, to shell peas (probably while watching one of her shows!), and to drive those who no longer could wherever they needed to go. To listen. To give the best advice.

To just be there.

Mother was a giver. I want to be known as a giver, too.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Come Heal with Me

Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery

Notes from the Book:  Morris Wee teels that one day his theological professor said to the class, "About fifty percent of all human misery is caused by the violation of this commandment." That seems an extreme statement -- "about fifty percent ..." The students did not believe it, but after a score of years i the ministry, Dr. Wee says he now knows it is so. Sit with me in my study in a church on a main thoroughfare of a great city. Listen to my telephone, ready my mail, talk with many who come in person. You, too, will begin to believe the professor was right.

Adultery is violation of the marriage vow of faithfulness to each other.
It is wrong because God said it is wrong.
It is wrong because it brings further wrong. Sorrow is a wound.
[Jesus] hated the sin but never ceased to love the sinner.

[In John 8]: Now comes one of the grandest scenes in the Bible. The matchless Saviour is alone with the woman. Not one harsh word comes from His lips. Not even a look of rebuke. Instead, gently and tenderly He says, "Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more."

Mother's Notes:  SR (sexual relations) between married person and another not their spouse. Voluntary SR between unmarried.

Psalm 32 & 51
Proverbs 5,6,7

1 Co 6: Body is the temple of the Holy Spirit

Cover of darkness

My Notes: I turned to this portion of the book with trepidation. My father, as much as I loved him, committed adultery against my mother (and, subsequently, his children). He--like the woman in John 8--made amends with God, but the damage was severe. My mother, living in a small community where she and Daddy reared us--was forced to hold her shoulders back and keep her chin forward in the midst of personal heartache and sorrow.

"Sorrow is a wound" the author wrote.

Mother circled the words. How well she knew. But her grace and dignity taught me more about the person of Jesus than a month of Sundays sitting on a hard pew. Her forgiveness taught me how to love more deeply.

And my father's sin taught me that, without Jesus, we are all sinners--the adulterer and the gossiper.

"We are all sinners," I heard a convict-turned-prisoner once say. "Some of us rob liquor stores and some of us tell little white lies. But we are all sinners."

When I die, I wonder, what will people remember about me? Mother was far from perfect (actually, she was pretty close to perfect ... but by my standards) but her imperfections are not what I remember. What I think of, when I remember her--which is constantly--is the faith by which she lived her life. My father, even after the divorce, called her "a fine lady."

Even when I think of Daddy, it's not of his mistake, but his work for the Lord as a repentant and saved man.

When I think of them both, I remember her sitting by his hospital bed during his last days. Quietly they watched an old movie while their children took a break from death and dying. Not a lot of words were spoken, she told me later, but not a lot of words were needed.

When my father died, Mother wrote a letter and slipped it into his suit coat pocket he wore to the grave. In it she wrote: While our marriage did not survive, I will always love you as the man who gave me the two greatest gifts of my life, my children.

When I die ... what people remember about me depends on what I do now. Not what I have done ... but what I do.

Photo: Bracker (1924) Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery 
art by M Leone Bracker (1885 - 1937)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Come Heal with Me

Thou Shalt Not Kill

Notes from the Book (God's Psychiatry): God made us to live with each other, and the very process of living requires certain rules. God laid down five rules for us to live with each other. The first one is: "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13).

This applies (first) to our own selves. We did not create our lives, and we do not have the authority to destroy our lives. The very fact of life carries with it an inescapable obligation to live.

Murder, too, is prohibited.

Also forbidden are the destructive emotions of men: fear, hate, jealousy, anger, envy, anxiety, excessive grief, and the others. To counteract them requires developing within our lives the healing and life-giving emotions such as faith, hope, laughter, creativeness, and love. Love, for example, is a process of giving.

Positively, it means to live and help live.

Mother's Notes in the Margins:  Mother's mind was ablaze with questions, it seems. She wrote:

have the car checked
war & self-defense
mercy killing by doctor
capital punishment
kill by our words
God values life

My Notes:  What stands out to me more than anything in this portion of the book is one word Mother circled: anxiety. My mother tended to be an anxious person. She worried about things ... try hard as she may not to. She knew God didn't want her to worry, but she did. Her worry came naturally. She worried about my father (who worked in law enforcement) when he was out working a case. She worried about her children (with good reason ... we tended to keep her knees calloused until the day she died). She worried about her grandchildren (who also kept her knees bent).

One thing I can know for sure, when Mother died, she left all her anxieties in this world for the joys of heaven. As my brother and I sat vigilant by her deathbed, two people called and told me the same story. Just recently, they said, Mother had expressed her desire to leave the worries of this life for the face-to-face presence of Jesus. She loved her Jesus. More than she loved us. And that's okay by me.

Still, for a year and a half I've struggled with Mother's death. Before I had two seconds to mourn her, another tragedy hit my family that has rocked me far more than losing Mother or Daddy. Their deaths make sense in the light of this. We live our lives and, if we are Christians, we die to gain our reward.

So, for a year and a half, I've been tossed like a ship on the Galilee during a storm. Then, about two weeks ago, I admitted something out loud that I'd only toyed with in my mind. "I don't want to die," I said to a friend. "I just don't want to live any more."

Just saying it out loud ... and the healing began. Don't ask me why. I don't know.

I do know enough to know that death by my own hand is not what God has in  mind for me. His desire is that I lean into Him and trust Him with ... my life ... and my death, which will be at His command. Not mine.

Meanwhile, I have a life to live. I have a life to give. 

Father God ... let the healing not only begin, but continue in the days, the weeks, and the months ahead.

"I am ready."

[photo by Eva Marie Everson]

Friday, August 26, 2011

Come Heal With Me

Honor Thy Father and Mother

Notes from the Book: God gave us ten rules to live by. The first four deal with our relationship to Him. The last five deal with our relationship with other people. The fifth rule has been called the centerpiece of God's law. "Honor thy father and mother" involves both our relationship with God and with our fellow men. When God made man He also set up the pattern by which men must live together. First a man and a woman come together in marriage, and out of the union come children...As the child learns to love and respect its parents, so later does it love and respect God.

1) the parents must be honorable.
2) the children should recognize, respect, and love their parents.
3) we must recognize our debt to the past and be thankful for it.

Mother's Notes Written in the Margins: Mother had a lot to write in this portion of the book. Not only did Mother have a lot of respect and honor for her parents (even with their imperfections) she had the honor and respect from her children. My brother and I knew, without a doubt, that our parents loved us. They were far from perfect, but they were the perfect parents for us.

One of the notes Mother made struck me. "Grow up to be like the parents" she penned. This was close to a paragraph that tells of a mother who took her son to the zoo. When he saw some young wildcats in a cage, he asked, "What are those?" The mother answered, "Wildcats."

Like most children, he pondered for a moment and then asked, "Why are they wildcats."

"Because," the mother said, "their parents are wildcats."

My Thoughts and Notes: I understand not everyone is blessed with loving parents who also love Jesus. I know that many who may read these words will say, "My mother never touched me...hugged me...said she loved me..." or "My father's way of showing love was a roof over our heads, a meal in our stomachs and a strap if we misbehaved."

I understand. I just was blessed otherwise. There is not a day that goes by that I don't pray my children will see me with the same love and respect as I had for my parents. If anything, their amazing parenting is one of the things that makes me miss them all the more.

My husband did not have such parents as I had. Yet, he is a marvelous father. But his greatest joy is seeing that his children are better parents than he. His prayer is that, whatever he got right, they will imitate and whatever he got wrong, they'll learn from...grow better from.

If you have good parents, give them a call or go into the next room and say, "Thanks. Even for the things you didn't get right. Thanks."

If you had good parents, give a thanks to God and set your mind on imitating and doing better.

If you didn't, I ask you to look beyond what they were to you and try to see what their parents were to them. Then, with prayer (and therapy if you need it), you be the parents to your children you always wanted your parents to be to you.

Mother and Daddy: I love you. I miss you. You were the best!

(Photo taken of Eva Marie Everson and Van Purvis with Betty Purvis (top), Eva Marie and Van with Preston Purvis (bottom) c. 1962.)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Come Heal With Me

Remember the Sabbath to Keep it Holy

My notes from the book (God's Psychiatry): More words were written about this commandant than any other the others. Think about it. Four words and four words only were given to "Thou shalt not kill" but ninety-nine words were given to this commandment.

The first thing we are told is to "remember." It is scientifically impossible for man to forget anything. Every detail of every day of your life is stored somewhere in your brain. However, "forgetting" and "remembering" are two different things. We may not remember what we had to eat three months ago on a Thursday but our brains have stored that meal forever.

God is reminding us through this commandment that this is one thing we must not forget to remember.

To keep the Sabbath, the 7th Day, is to take a precious gift from God. It is our reward for six days of labor. A man named Moshe Wolf (quoted by Sholem Asch in his book East River) said, "When a man labors not for a livlihood, but to accumulate wealthy, then he is a slave."

The Sabbath teaches us that we are not work horses, meant only to work, eat, sleep...we are children of God, born into an inheritance.

The Sabbath was given to each man so that he could be recreated physically and spiritually. It has been proven time and again that we can do more in 6 days with one day of rest following them than we can do in 7 days without rest. But more than just physically rejuvenating, the 7th day spent in rest allows the spirit to catch up to the body.

An old miner once said, "I bring my mules out of the mines for a full day, every 7th day, to keep them from going blind."

"Be still and know that I am God," we read in Psalm 46:10.

Beauty doesn't shout. Loveliness is quiet. Our finest moods are not clamorous. The Divine is not obtrusive. He is reserved and courteous. We need a day to hear his voice.

Mother's Notes in the Margins: The first four commandments are between man and God. The following six are between man and man. This is the last commandment dealing with man and God.

What would our country be like if we really observed the Sabbath as we should?

Psalm 84:10: (Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.)

(Next to "we are in too big a hurry," Mother wrote:) Satan busy.

God doesn't push himself on us but waits patiently for us.

My Thoughts on Both: A few years ago, as my work and ministry seemed to explode around me, I took on the 7th Day of Work attitude. Yes, I went to church but then I came home, marched myself to the computer and started working. Occasionally I'd throw in watching an old movie on AMC or TCM...but mostly I worked. I told myself that I enjoyed it, therefore it wasn't really work.

Then, one day, my back began to hurt. And it wouldn't let up. The pain traveled to my right hip, locked itself in, and then moved on down my leg. The pain was excruciating. I went to doctors. I took pills. I had shots. Nothing gave relief and no doctor seemed to have the answer.

I was forced to stop working because I couldn't sit at my computer very long. For someone who averaged about ten hours a day of work, I was lucky to get three. Ice packs and heating pads and narcotics had become my best friends.

I sat at the dining room table one evening, opened my Bible, and laid my head on it and cried. When I was finished weeping, I looked at the words spread before me:

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it."

The admonition found in Isaiah 30:15 wrapped itself around me like the sting of a father's belt. My strength...was found not in working, but in repentance, rest, and quiet.

I knew the truth of this. I had taught it, for crying out loud. Many is the time I stood before a class or an auditorium filled with people and said, "Psalm 46:10 says, 'Be still and know that I am God.' The word still in Hebrew is raphah. It means to cease. Be still. Stop. Sink down and relax. Abide..."

Oh for the joy of just being with God! A whole day not worrying about working, but enjoying his gift of time. Of family. Of friends. Of the simple joys like watching the children play. Or taking a long walk. Or picnic-ing with loved ones. Watching that old movie.

And, of course, worship.

One thing I have noted. God said for us to "remember the 7th day" so that we "keep it holy." I believe we have confused what He commanded here. He did not tell us that nothing apart from God, worship, prayer, etc. should be enjoyed. He did not say, "If you lie on the couch and watch an old movie...or take your child to a matinee...or sit out by the lake and watch the ducks have broken my law." No...he said "remember"...

I do not worship God but one day a week. That is every day. He is with me constantly, praise Him! Even when I am at my worst, He stands by and says, "Get your hissy fit over with and then let's move on." And I praise Him for that!

Remember to rest. Remember to enjoy this precious gift God has given you. One day a week. One whole day. How marvelous is that?

Photos copyright Eva Marie Everson

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Come Heal With Me

Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord They God in Vain

Notes from the Book, God's Psychiatry:

What a person thinks about determines what he is.

The secret desires of our hearts eventually show up in our very appearance.

A man is what he thinks about all day long.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our life is what our thoughts make of it.
Marcus Aurelius

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.
Proverbs 23:7

Mother's Note in the Margins: Where are you Adam?

My notes: As I read the chapter titled "Thou Shalt Not Take the Name of the Lord in Vain," I grew confused. I flipped back and forth from the text to the title, back to the text. What, I wondered, did my thinking patterns have to do with taking God's name in vain?

Growing up, I'd always heard that saying "Godda**" was the ultimate sin. "God cannot damn," some teacher once told me. But the more I thought about it, the more it didn't make total sense to me. At the end of the book, it seems to me, God pronounces judgment, bringing some into glory with Him and condemning others to a life of "weeping and gnashing of teeth."

When I was a little girl, I dreamed that God could be seen high and lifted up, high above the whole world. There, standing in the front yard of my childhood home, I stood, looking up...looking at God. And, the whole world stood there with me (how we all got on that property, I'll never know.)

God was ready to pronounce judgment on the whole earth, on all mankind. He said, "I will separate the earth. Those on the right will come to heaven with me. Those on the left will go to hell with the devil."

The earth began to split, from just under the Almighty all the way down...toward me. I watched as some fell to the right, others to the left, and some fell into the great crevice. Just as the line approached me, I tried to judge it. To mark the timing. As it reached my feet, I reckoned, I would leap to the right.

But instead, I fell to the left.

I was going to hell??? This could not be right.

I looked up at God. "Can we have a do-over?" I asked.

And God granted it. Again, I positioned myself, ready for the great crack to come toward me, ready to jump to the right.

And again, I fell to the left. I looked up in horror. As I did, God said to me, "Eva Marie, this is just a dream. Mankind has been given chances time and again. But one day, the chances will run out."

Then I awoke.

I spent the rest of my childhood trying never to say a bad word (I was reared by parents who never cussed) and certainly not to commit the "unpardonable sin" as I knew it to be. But now I understand something even more: when we hold something in high esteem, we do not "take its name in vain." We honor it, both with our thoughts, our words, and by our relationship with it.

I. Love. God. Period.

I adore Him. Cherish Him. Worship Him. But do I ever take his name in vain?

Yes. Every time I get angry and say anything that would disgrace Him or my relationship with Him. Every time I don't take our relationship seriously and our time together seriously.

Mother wrote, "Where are you Adam?" God knew exactly where Adam and Eve were hiding. What He was asking was, "Where are you and I in this relationship, Adam?"

When we grieve, as I have grieved this past year--both for Mother and the other things I have lost (as this has been a year of loss)--I have both run to God and run from Him. Angry. Bitter. How could you? How could you have taken her...or her...or her...or it from me? Haven't I been a good daughter? Haven't I tried to live on the 'right' side of the crevice?

I took my eyes off the One I love and put them on my circumstances.

Don't get me wrong. It's okay to cry (even Jesus cried at the death of Lazarus). To be angry. To question WHY??? But in doing so, we should...we must...keep our eyes on Him. Become more like Him.

To live on the right side of the crevice.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Come Heal With Me; Week 14

Thou Shalt Not Make Unto Thee any Graven Image

Notes from the book, God's Psychiatry, by Charles L. Allen: It is much easier to whittle God down to our size instead of repenting, changing our way of living, and being godly ourselves. When Horace Bushnell was a college student he felt he was an atheist. One day a voice seemed to say to him, "If you do not believe in God, what do you believe?"

He answered back, "I believe there is a difference between right and wrong."

"Are you living up to the highest you believe?" the voice seemed to ask.

"No," he said, "but I will."

That day he dedicated his life to his highest belief. Years later, after he had been pastor of one church 47 years, he said, "Better than I know any person in my church, I know Jesus Christ." when he began conforming his life to his beliefs, instead of making his beliefs fit his life, he was led to a realization of God.

Mother's Notes Found in the Margins: He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him. Nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.

My Notes: God created man in His image, yet we are told not to create any image of God for the purpose of worship. So, we seek to find something within creation to connect with our Creator. We sit on the ocean's edge and marvel at it's power. We look out over a range of mountains and can barely speak. We gape in wonder at a forest of Sequoias. Why? Perhaps because in our effort to find God--to worship Him--we attempt to create Him in our image of what we think God is like.

We try to make God into what we want Him to be; not who He is. We know God wants us to live according to His goodness. Yet, when we want to sin, we create in our mind a God who is okay with that. We create a God who gives--health, wealth, prosperity--but we do not want a God who requires of us--thithes, offerings, acts of service.

We worship God by "picturing God" according to our own ideas and fabrications. but what if those notions aren't accurate? What if they aren't even close?

Philip said to Jesus, "Lord show us the Father."

Jesus replied, "He who has seen me, has seen the Father."

Those who walked with Jesus and went on to write about it failed to tell us anything about Jesus' physical appearance (almost as though they were commanded thusly). But they told us plenty about who He was.

How wonderful it must have been to look into the eyes of Jesus and know you are looking into the eyes of God! But we don't have that opportunity. We have no image, graven or otherwise.

Or do we?

It is us, you know...We are created in His image. When we look into our own eyes or the eyes of one another, we should catch a glimpse of His. We are to imitate Him, so much so, we become His reflection.

Lately I have found it difficult to worship because life has sucked everything out of me, leaving nothing but a shell and vacant eyes. My prayers of praise are spoken through tears and anguish. My example of Christianity has been anything but. When others look into my eyes, they hardly see God. They see hurt, betrayal, anger, anguish, confusion, brokenness. I fight to hold it all together for the sake of the call and if that is not apparent, then no one is really looking.

But maybe, what God really wants me to do is to stop pretending and start coming to Him from such a raw place, I am emptied of all of me and replaced with only Him.

John gave us the most incredible promise in the 22nd chapter of Revelation. He reminds all that those who are faithful "shall see His face" (vs 4).

No longer will we have to look to the mountains, the seas, the trees, or each other. One day, when there is nothing between us and God but the praise and worship, we shall see the glory of God by His own image.

Notes from the book: One thing more. After Thorwaldsen had completed his famous statue of Christ, he brought a friend to see it. Christ's arms were outstretched, His head bowed between them. The friend said, "But I cannot see His face."

The sculptor replied, "If you would see the face of Christ, you must get on your knees."

He is the perfect image of God; let us have no other.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Come Heal With Me; Week 13

The Ten Commandments

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Notes made after reading the Book: before man can live rightly with each other, he must first get right with God. The 1st commandment is not "Thou shall believe in a god." We were created with the instinct to believe--to reach for something higher than ourselves. When we come into the world, it is with a natural desire to eat and drink. However, we must be taught to eat and drink the right things. God, as the creator of man, knows that man will reach for something, anything to worship. The moon, the sun, the stars. But God created all these, too. God's 1st rule is that none of the things He created for us to enjoy become something we bow to.

God also placed other desires within us: to gain knowledge, wealth, fame, pleasure, power. In and of themselves, they are not wrong. But when we put these things--or the acquiring of them--before our desire to know God, we have broken the very first commandment of God.

Mother's Jotted Notes in the Margins:

Not in God's Word
Traveler's Checks
What about me
Look nice

She also underlined a lot of the text, but she underlined twice: "One of our greatest temptations is to put pleasure before God."

I write: I have no idea what most of Mother's notes mean, but I do know what her first note in the margins means.

No where does the Bible attempt
to prove there is a God.

I have never doubted God's existence. Mother made certain I knew of Him from birth. But knowing Him has been up to me. My desire for Him must rise above all other desires.

Do I want to be smart? Of course. I am interested in a variety of things, some I wish to have more than a passing fancy over. Just this past weekend, while in Cedar Key watching the birds, I found myself wishing I knew more about the varieties of these fine feathered friends. Nothing wrong with that, unless I put the knowing about God's creation over the knowing the Creator.

Would I like to be rich? Perhaps not necessarily of the Bill Gates category, what with all it's responsibilities. But to be comfortable in my old age? Sure. To be able to help my children or grandchildren should they need my assistance? Of course. To be able to give to the children's charity I am affiliated with? Naturally! Furthering God's work is of paramount importance to me. Certainly nothing wrong with that. But if I put the gain of money ahead of the mission it may accomplish, then I am walking down a dangerous path.

What about fame? Is it wrong to want my books to do well? To be known for the hard labor of my hands? Certainly, I don't believe there is anything wrong with that at all. But what it I put my work, every day, before seeking God? What if I ignore the rest of the 7th day in order to get a little more done, go a little further, work a little harder? This would be wrong.

And pleasure? Sometimes I think, "I need to pray..." or "read God's Word..." and then I think, "Oh...this show is coming on..." or "I'm tired and I want to take a nap now..." A few weeks ago, our daughter, her husband and their children came to Orlando to visit the House of the Mouse. This is fun. This is pleasure. But they also came by and spent time with her father...her Daddy. And so I think of the times I spend sitting out on the dock over the lake behind our house. I look out on this magnificent vista...and this is pleasure...but while I am there, I am deep in conversation with the Creator. Sometimes I take my journal and write letters to Him. I love hiking in the cool of the forest or along the crags of mountains. Sitting beneath waterfalls, listening as it pulsates into a pool below. These are times when God's creation and my pleasure go hand in hand. I think of what Eric Liddell said: I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure...

But what about power... oh to have it at times! To be able to speak one word and my will be done! To have the ability to right the wrongs! My thoughts wander down two paths: the power of evil and the evil of power vs. the power of prayer. Why do I spend so much time barking at the moon? Why not cry out to the One who has all power and waits for me to speak but one word? Abba...

I cannot think of a single thing that came before Mother's relationship with God. I cannot, in all honesty, say this about myself.

In this year since Mother died, I have been consumed with and by many things. Some are of my own making; others have been pressed upon me. To make heads or tails of this, I must list them--I think--so that I can identify them. And after this, I can--hopefully, prayerfully--see why they have gained a place--any place--above God.

(By clicking on "and when I run, I feel his pleasure, you will have the pleasure of seeing these powerful few moments from Chariots of Fire, 1981)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Come Heal With Me; Week 12

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever...

This is week 12. In the book, it is headed "12."

Mother circled the number (it is one of the biblical numbers of completion) and wrote beside the word forever, "eternity."

From the Book: The author, Charles Allen, who hails from Atlanta, speaks of 5:00 traffic in the Georgia capitol city. He describes it as thrilling. The streets are filled with people, cars, buses... people are standing, running... and people are going home.

Be it ever so humble, he quotes John Howard Payne, there's no place like home.

But what about those who have nowhere to go? What about the homeless who inhabit the streets after dark, when the streets are devoid of all those who have left their work for the sanctity of home?

Mother Wrote: love, warmth, people

From the Book: David did not suggest that he might dwell in the house of the Lord forever but that he would. "I will," he penned.

David had never heard Jesus of Nazareth say, "I am the resurrection and the life" but David knew God.

My Notes: Da'at Elohim ... The knowledge of God.

Mother Wrote: I wonder, how intimately do we know God?

My Notes: As May nears, and with it Mother's Day and the anniversary of Mother's "going home" I am more aware than ever this concept of this not being our home. I imagine David writing or being inspired by "his 23rd psalm" in the lush fields where a shepherd boy may have led his sheep. For fodder. For water. For rest. Having been to Israel, I can picture the rolling hillsides, the deep blue of the skies, the bridal veil clouds. I know what it looks like to see the Golan Heights blush in the late afternoon sunlight. The land where David grew up, the land in which he ruled as king, was and is a magnificent sight.

But not so great as to keep him from desiring "home."

This earth is our place of rest. But 5:00 comes. For some of us, sooner than for the rest. But it comes. It's like that country hit, "It's 5:00 Somewhere."

Of course, I know that's about having a drink ... but it's also about coming to the end of the stresses, the labor, the dealings with people and problems all day long. It's about finding respite at the end of it all.

Mother has made it to 5:00.

When I was a girl growing up in her home, Mother liked to have a cup of coffee late in the afternoon. I suppose this was a lot like having a "spot of tea" were she in England. At times, friends came by and shared it with her. I used to watch them sipping from their cups, listen to them chatting. And I would think, "When I get to be a big girl, I can do this, too..."

When I was older, sure enough, it was my pleasure to share a cup of afternoon coffee with Mother.

Mother is having her 5:00 coffee with Jesus now. And my father...and her mother...and so many others who made it to 5:00 before her.

I'll be there one day. Right now, I'm still at work.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Come Heal with Me; Week 11

(Blogger's Note: I apologize that it has been a few weeks since my last post... bear with me as I walk through my own Vally of the Shadow...)

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life..."

Notes from the book: Mary Martin (in South Pacific) sang, "I'm stuck like a dope, with a thing called hope, I can't get it out of my heart..."

David said the same with his word "surely..." when thinking about God's goodness and mercy.

Mother's Notes: Love and Grace

My Notes: I decided to look up the word "surely." David, in his native Hebrew, would have written 'ak.

An emphatic "indeed."
"Without a doubt."

Notes from the book: Even with all the disasters of the world, when we walk with God long enough--as David did--we come to trust that God will get us through the darkest valleys.

Mother's Notes: See Psalm 37 for "young now old"

My Notes: Psalm 37:25 reads: I have been young and now I am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread.

Notes from the Book: Professor Endicott Peabody (1857-1944), headmaster of Groton School for Boys (Groton, Mass) and the Episcopal priest who founded the school said in chapel, "Remember things in life will not always run smoothly...the great fact to remember is that the trend of civilization is forever upward." One of his students went on to proclaim to a hopeless nation, "The only thing to fear is fear itself." (Franklin D. Roosevelt)

Stop thinking disaster into your life. Instead, say with the Psalmist, "This is the day the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24).

Mother's Notes: START

My Notes: Mother wrote "start" as a personal note where to begin her teaching of this small section of the book. But I thought it ironic that she wrote START right where Charles Allen (the author) wrote "QUIT."

I think this is all about perspective, then. Whatever is going on in your do you look at it? Losing Mother, for me, was about extreme pain and loss. For her, it was about reaching Heaven's Gates, seeing her Savior, dancing on streets of gold. Seeing, for the first time in many, many years her own mother. Joy untold.

Untold joy.

So many disasters are upon us today. Even within the last two weeks... earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding, dictators rising against people, people rising against government, war added to war added to war...

The earth quakes at the presence of God, I believe. Perhaps, then, what we see as disaster is God's move on his creation. It cannot help but shake when he comes near. I don't know... don't quote me on that. We all try to make sense of what we have seen.

Mothers fear their sons and daughters heading into another land in uprising. But the people who wait for foreign soldiers--wait in fear of their own government--beg us to hurry.


No matter what...surely...

Surely God's love and grace--his goodness and his mercy--will follow me...

I remember a teacher from high school, Jenny Jackson-Adams, who had two cats she named Goodness and Mercy. "They follow me everywhere," she told me.

She could see these little furry reminders of God's love as they scampered behind her. And so she named them...Goodness. And Mercy.

If I look behind me, what will I see? Will I see that God has always remained faithful (I've never seen the righteous forsaken...)? Will I see his hand directing my feet upon the path he laid for me? Of course I will.

Goodness and Mercy follow me... all the days of my life.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Come Heal with Me. Week 10

Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over...

Mother Wrote: Kaddesh
God, our holiness
God, our satisfaction

Toward the end of this section, which talks about how life can hurt and cut and bruise, Mother wrote "Start" where it says:

David says, "Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup... He didn't say "our heads" or "our cups."
It is the singular, personal pronoun.
All day long the shepherd is concerned with the flock. But as they go into the fold, he takes them one by one...
...He stand at the door of the fold and checks them one by one.

Mother Wrote: God has the power of the universe and the power to take care of me.

Mother Underlined Portions of: Remember how, as little children, we would bruise a finger or stub a toe. We would come running to Mama, who would kiss the hurt away. There was a mystic healing in her loving concern.

...a heart can be broken.

I Write: ...and so it can.

It's 9:35 p.m. This day has held more tears than I can imagine any day should. I took a shower not too long ago and cried more tears than I knew I had water within me. Certainly more than the spray splashing against my body and falling, along with my sorrow, to the tile beneath my feet.

Oh, my precious Jesus.

Do you see me at the gate?

Is there healing for my wounds?

Water for my thirst?

Rest for the tired and the weary?

If only life were about one day, one hurt.

If only we went out into the brutal world one time and return to the fold but once. Instead, we go out long day after long day. The path is familiar and yet still it's rocky. It rambles. It twists and turns.

If only...

Perhaps, I think, life hurts the most when we allow anything other than God to jockey for position of "satisfier."

Father, I am at the end of the day. I am tired. Broken. Bruised.

I am standing at the gate of the fold.

Do you see me?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Come Heal with Me, Week 9

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.

Notes from the Book: In the pastures of the Holy Land, where shepherds lead their flocks, poisonous plants grow. Thorny thistles, whose needles penetrate the soft nostrils of the sheep, sprout up along the landscape.

If the sheep are to eat without the risk of pain or death, the shepherd must first prepare the fields.

A table, if you will.

Mother's Notes in the Margins: Nissi
Our standard of victory

My Notes: This chapter is more about the role of parents to keep their children safe (preparing the table for them) than anything else. Right now, it speaks to me loud and clear. How like God that I should read it now when my teen is up in arms over the boundaries we've set and closely guard.

Mother wrote "school." I don't know why for sure, but I can guess. For years she worked in food services at the schools in Screven County. She not only took part in the preparation, so to speak, of making sure no child went hungry, she also helped prepare their hearts. She loved them with her words. With her hugs. They loved her back.

"Hey, Mrs. P!" I heard over and over, from the very young she'd loved on the week before to the young adult she'd loved on years before.

"There was hardly a life in Screven County Mama didn't touch," my brother said after her death.

He had that right...

"Jehovan Nissi" she wrote.

"The Lord Our Banner." (Reference Exodus 17: 8-15)

I'm not sure why she focused on this name for God. Why not Jehovah Jireh, the Lord my provider.

Unless, of course, the point is that when rearing children, we truly are at war. Mother knew. She saw what was happening to society as a whole. She didn't like it, either. She did more than just feed and hug and love. She prayed over these children, whether they knew it or not.

I hear her say, "Don't forget, honey, to raise your arms to the Lord in battle for your children. Pray and take authority over the enemy, who wants to steal the young minds. The tender hearts. But our God is stronger than any enemy who wages war against us."

My hands are lifted, Mother. Do you see them?

There is another enemy. Death. Oh, I know... death is merely the portal by which we reach heaven's gates. Oh, then death, where is your victory? Where is your sting?

But it is my enemy because it took Mother and Daddy from me and my brother and all those whose lives they touched. But not death is not their enemy. No. For them, death was the shepherd, providing the table, clearing away the thorns, the poisonous flowers that are pretty to behold but oh so dangerous to nibble upon.

I wonder... as they breathed their last, could they hear the whoosh of the linen tablecloth as it fell over the table? The clink-clink of fine china and crystal? Could they smell the polish from the silver? The sweet mingling aromas of foods being placed around the table, and between the candelabras?

A table prepared for them that day.

A table prepared for day.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Come Heal with Me, Week 8

Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me...

Notes from the Book: The sheep is a helpless animal. It has no weapon with which to fight. It is easy prey to any wild beast of the field. It is afraid.

But the shepherd carries a rod, which is a heavy, hard club.

Mother's Notes: Word. It is written. Sheep pass under rod 2 B counted. Royal scepter. The HS in OT. Scroll & Prophets.

Book: Also, the shepherd carried a staff...

Mother: Spirit w/n us

Book: ... with his staff the shepherd could reach down, place the crook over the small chest of the [fallen] sheep and lift it back onto the pathway.

It is a comfort to know the shepherd will be able to meet any emergency.

Many times we feel helpless; then we find comfort in realizing the power of God.

Mother: Mighty.

Book: Thy rod and Thy staff...
Mother: Thy Word & Thy Spirit...our faith is our rod and staff.

My Notes: What is more helpless than lying in a hospital bed, brain not functioning, depending on tubes and bags and machines just to exist? What is more helpless than hearing your children call out, "I love you" and in hearing being unable to respond back with no more than the shake of a shoulder. What is more helpless than standing on a ledge, hanging in the balance between earth and heaven, steps away from the mountains that will lead you homeward? What is more helpless than standing at heaven's gate--like Esther before the king's presence--waiting for the royal scepter to extend to you, waiting for permission to enter in to the King's presence?

Mother always said that one of my greatest attributes is my faith in God. Believing Him, no matter what life throws my way. Believing in Him.

No matter what...

Life has thrown some curve balls my way. A cliche, I know, but it's true. Still I believe in God. I believe God.

So, then Lord...if what Mother said is true...if what Mother noted in the margins of this book is true, Your Word protects me. I believe that.

When Mother was lying in the hospital bed, I read Scriptures to her.

Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens. Praise Him for His acts of power; praise Him for His surpassing greatness (Psalm 150:1,2 NIV).

I will bless You as long as I live; in Your name I will lift up my hands (Psalm 63:4 ESV).

Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28 NLT).

May the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way(2 Thessalonians 3:16 NIV).

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14: 27 NKJV).

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT).

Over and over I read these verses. With each reading, Mother stirred. She recognized Abba's words of truth, even in her current state. No brain damage could take them away from her, so ingrained were they. They had been her guide for so long, they were not about to stop being so because of some silly little aneurysm. They were the stick she always crossed under. They were the rod by which she was counted.

Thy Spirit saves me when I slip and fall...

Yesterday I had a meeting to attend. As I drove to Panera (the meeting place), the events of this past year slipped into the car unnoticed, then crawled into the front seat with me. The tears I'd held back gushed from my eyes. No warning. No little trickle followed by a wave. They poured out like water onto sand.

I cannot cry now! I won't be able to continue on with this day with its many appointments...

The Hebrew word for spirit is "ruwach." It means, among other definitions, "breath."

The breath of God...

Yesterday, as the tears came and the traffic in front of me blurred, I heard a tender voice say, "Breathe in...breathe out...breathe in...breathe out..."

And so I did. And I felt God's Spirit wash over me. Calming me. Rescuing me with the Shepherd's staff.

This is not the front time I've slipped and fallen since Mother died. It won't be the last. But each time, there is a staff to draw me back to my Savior. There is a rod with which to count me among those who will live with Him forever.

A scepter extended that says, "Welcome home..."

There, I will stand with Mother...and Daddy...and all those I have loved and lost to Heaven (both now and in the future) and I will sing, "Worthy ... worthy... worthy..."

Great Shepherd. Mighty King! Everlasting Prince of Peace.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Come Heal With Me; Week 7

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.

Notes from the book: There is, the book says, an actual place called the Valley of the Shadow of Death in Israel. It stretches from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea and is a dangerous place for leading sheep. The Valley of the Shadow of Death is literally "the glen of doom" and can be many things, not just death.

Mother's notes: Lily of the Valley... Go through the valley to the mountain.

My notes:I know this area. I have seen it. Driven through it. Walked in it.

Lovely to behold. Dangerous, perhaps, to walk through.

The sheep are oblivious to the dangers, but the shepherd knows. The sheep think, "I have the shepherd; why should I worry?" while the shepherd trusts in his instincts...trusts in God.

The valley is not just death, Charles Allen wrote. But is there any valley deeper to walk through than death? Perhaps for the one passing over the valley to Heaven's Mountain, it is a place of peace and joy. A looking ahead to the moment of seeing God's face, to bask in the Presence of His glory, His magnificence. But for the one left behind or to be left behind...

It is an odd thing to watch someone die. To want the suffering to leave ("Death, come!") yet knowing that once it is over, it is done ("Death, stay away!").

I held Mother's hand. I watched it swell with fluid. I listened for days on end as machines pumped, as they breathed in and sighed. I held my own breath as she struggled with hers.

Rattling in the chest... danger on the mountain.

Suctioning meant struggle. Hers, physical. Mine, emotional.

Notes from the Book: I have said to many people in "the valley of the shadow of death" to get off by themselves in a quiet place. Quit struggling for a little while. Forget the many details. Stop your mind for a little while from hurrying on to the morrow and to the next year and beyond."

Mother's Notes: Sense peace.

Notes from the Book: Just stop. Become still and quiet.

Mother's Notes: Not easy.

My Notes: No, it's not...

But like the sheep wandering along the dangerous path, I am not alone. The Shepherd is with me. It is time, I think, to find moments of respite wherever and however I can find it. In the quiet places of my home, in the cafe of a bookstore, before the sparkling waters of a wide lake.

Find the Lily of the Valley, Eva... Stop long enough to drink in His beauty, to drink in His perfume.

"Be still and know that I am God" is just that.

It's being still.

It's knowing...

Blessed assurance...Jesus is mine.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Come Heal With Me; Week 6

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Notes from the book: The book's author, Charles L. Allen, writes of God's direction. Like a shepherd, He guides, he does not "drive" His sheep as would a cattle rancher. When decisions have to be made...which road to take, which path to choose...the shepherd guides.

Mother's Notes in the Margins: Tsid Kenue. God, our Righteousness.

My Notes: When I was in Israel in 2007, my dear friend and coauthor of Reflections of God's Holy Land; A Personal Journey Through Israel, Miriam Feinberg Vamosh pointed to the circular paths that wound around verdant hills. She said, "These are circular paths, made by the shepherds leading their sheep in a safe manner."

The paths don't lead up or down. The poor sheep, with their poor vision, would become afraid. Or worse, fall to their deaths.

Miriam said, "When David wrote about paths of righteousness, he was talking about circular paths."

Wherever God leads, there is safety.

I think now of that moment when my brother Van and I were led into that little, nicely-decorated room and given the bad news of Mother's current and future condition and what the doctors expected, which was the worse. I remember how I felt as I walked behind the doctors and in front of Van. It didn't seem real, and yet it was very much so.

I had gone online the day before and studied everything I could about Mother's condition and about the signs and symptoms I'd recorded from the medical personnel. I already knew about the Glascow Coma Score. I knew the brain damage was severe.

What I didn't know was why. Why had God brought us to this place, to hear this news. Would God, I wondered, lead us down a path in which Mother, who loved life and the living of it, could be solely dependent on one of us for her every need?

I said to my brother, "What I fear more than her dying, is her living."

For two days, we continued to allow God to guide. The path chosen was that he would take her Home to be with Him. And now, without her as our maternal and spiritual guide, we continue to follow Him in the days, weeks, months and years we are left without her.

I re-read that passage after taking my notes. He leads me in circular paths for righteousness sake.

Tside Kenue, Mother wrote. God, our righteousness.

So what if God leads us down those circular paths in order to bring about his own plan of righteousness or for righteousness sake? What was gained out of all this?

Mother reached her eternal reward, yes.

But Van and me? We are a little more spiritually wise, a little more spiritually broken. But I don't think we will fully know for a while yet all that God had/has in mind.

After all, the sheep don't know they are on a safe path or where that path will lead. They only know to follow their shepherd; that he will care for them, guide and direct them, along the way. We can ask for no more from our Shepherd, can we?

Proverbs 3:6: In all thy ways acknowledge him and he will direct they paths.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Come Heal With Me; Week 5

He restores my soul...

Notes taken from the book: When the sheep leave the sheep pen, they march out in an order they will keep the whole day. But sometimes the sheep wander away from the path. Some will walk away from the shepherd and he, in turn, will go after the one. Other times, the sheep will walk toward the shepherd, looking for a touch, a whisper, and a way back to the fold. The shepherd guides the anxious fellow back to the path for his day.

Mother wrote in the margins: Rapha-- healer.
Protected by God with giant and Saul.
Psalm 32 & 51.

Mother is referencing David's affair with Bathsheba. David had walked away from God and was wounded in his soul in the process.

My notes: When David sinned with Bathsheba, and after he was caught, he ran to God and begged for restoration. But sometimes it is not our sin that drives us off the path, it's life. Living holds all sorts of elements that will suck all life from our lungs.

And life is air.

Air is life.

Impossible to breathe moments.

Without the ability to inhale fully, we are left without enough oxygen to sustain life. We cannot go forward on the path because we are nearly lifeless.

When God breathed air into Adam's nostrils, he (Adam) became alive. Fully alive. Awakened to all there was around him. Blinking in the bright life of the Father's presence, he stared then into the face of his Creator.

Life, for Adam, was new and full of possibilities.

When Adam sinned, he was driven away from the Garden. But he was not driven away from God. God, his Shepherd, never turned his back on Adam. God continued to love and guide him, throughout all his joys, throughout all his sorrows.

When life sucked the air out of Adam, God was walking alongside him, waiting for this one sheep to come over for a touch, a whisper, a nudge.


Holding Mother as she had her first hemorrhage was a life-sucking event. The look in her eyes--the lack of life within them--haunts me still. The immediate knowledge that this was more than being sick to her stomach and a headache.

Seeing her second seizure.
Her head shaved.
Studying the symptoms online to gain better understanding of her illness.
Listening while doctors and nurses gave the news, always bad...never good.

Letting her go...

Her release of life was my release of life. But the Shepherd stands close by. I can choose to walk away from him or toward him...

...For a touch.
A whisper.
A nudge...