Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Very Hairs of your head are numbered...

My sister-in-law is out of town again for grandkid's birthdays. She'll be gone for a week - so I've been having to go to the store and get meds etc.  Usually my sil drives me so I've been praying before I go anywhere that God will keep me safe and not let me kill anybody.  I'm exhausted.
I have been grocery shopping, which leaves feeling me dried up, spat out, and left by the side of the road. Then I had to go today to Costco, which for those of you who don't know, is a ginormous warehouse full of foods and appliances and, of course, the pharmacy is at the very back, a mile and a half away (at least that's how it feels) and today there were no putt-putts (they actually have little electric carts for those of us who are standing and walking challenged).  My Rx wouldn't be ready for a half hour so, brilliantly, I decided to wander the acreage and look around - then wandered back (uphill) when the beeper went off ( yes, they hand out beepers, just like some fancy restaurant).
Needless to say, I was a weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee bit tired by the time I was through.
Now, there's a Greek takeout place with wonderful food somewhere around there - I can never find it - but after getting my meds I thought I'd try to find it - again.  Why? Dunno.  Seemed like a good idea at the time.
So I'm driving down different streets looking for this place and suddenly the warning light for extreme low pressure in my tires goes off.  I don't know about you, but when a warning light goes off on my dashboard, blinking red or yellow to get my immediate attention (which, incidentally, works really well) I panic.
I know there's a car place also somewhere in my vicinity - but I don't have a clue where, my brother usually does all my car stuff, God bless him. Anyway I pray immediately Lord what do I do??? I don't even have a tire gauge!! 
At the moment, I'm in a turn lane and, as I turn, I notice there's a gas station opposite me.  At the next intersection I make a u-turn and go back. It's like one of those mini-mart-free-shower-with-fill-up places which, in California, is usually run by a surly person of indeterminate species and only carries bizarre snacks and alcohol. 
But I drive in and park in front of the air hose. Above the hose is a bright red sign stating it can only be used after inserting 75cents in quarters - they charge for air now!!! I was aghast! (But then, since I didn't know how to use it anyway, it was sort of a moot point.)
I enter the mini mart. I ask the cash register person, who is built like a bodyguard/biker and has a long grey skinny braid halfway down his back and a cherubic face surrounded by short salt and pepper hair, if they have a gauge. "Yup. Right down that aisle, on the right."
Happily, I at least knew what they looked like, so I could identify what I wanted to purchase! I found it, took it to the register and, fully aware that I'm being really pathetic, asked him if he could tell me how to use it. 
"Yes ma'am," he said.And then, in the kindly tone you use to comfort a 7 year old who has just been told by a classmate that there is no Santa Claus, he added, "I'll take it out to the car and take care of you."  
Handel's Alleluia Chorus begins playing in my head - in full stereo!
He rang up the sale, got someone else to cover the counter and came outside with me. He showed me how to read the gauge, checked the tires, showed me how to use the air pump, and filled the one that was low (after I deposited 75cents of course). On the outside I thanked him several times - on the inside I was thanking God and alleluia chorusing! 
And may the Lord reward his kindness.
Here I'd been completely terrified, close to tears and totally lost - and God had it allllllll under control. (I even found the Greek place!!)
The thing is, I knew that He was in control.
You probably do, too - but in the middle of life's crises, we forget.
So here's a little handy reminder that whatever you're going through today, from CI to facing your worst fears: God knows.  You are not alone in the cosmos. 
God has it alllllllllllllllll under control. 
Trust Him.

Monday, March 5, 2012

I was reading in Deuteronomy today - and I noticed the way remembering the Passover was stressed and stressed and stressed again -" Do not forget that you were once a slave in Egypt."  Moses was speaking to people who were children at the first Passover, and now were 40-60 years old.  The ones who were the slaves had all died in the desert.  Yet they were reminded that they had been slaves in Egypt - and reminded of the God Who frees from servitude. 

Jesus did the same thing - at the "Last Supper" which in actuality was a Passover celebration, the One Who frees from servitude said to His apostles, "Do this in remembrance of Me." 

At every communion service, He is remembered - and He is remembered for setting us free - the children of slaves, and slaves ourselves until the moment when we realized we needed our Passover Lamb to save us.

Coming up on Passover time, we do well  to remember how much Jesus is represented in the Passover itself. I think this is especially true for those of us who are CI.

We are in a sort of slavery to whatever our particular CI is - and yet, He has made a way for us to be free, even as we wear the 'shackles" of illness.  He bought us out of the marketplace as slaves, washed us with His blood, and freed us - from sin, yes, but from being bound also.  On bad days this is often difficult to remember - all we see is the hedges that close us in, whereas if we look up, we see freedom.  All hedges are for our protection as well as a means of confinement. He is creating something special in us - for all eternity we will be an example of His keeping power, His freeing power and, when and if He heals us, His healing power.

Now, on to the feast!

The lamb, of course, is central to the ceremony - and an unbroken bone is included in the Passover plate as a reminder that the sheep was to be sacrificed without breaking a single bone.  In the original ceremony, the lamb's blood is put on the lintel (the top of the door), then the sides of the doorway - in one motion making the sign of the cross.  The matzos - the unleavened bread at dinner, is striped and pierced, the same way Jesus was.  The father of the house searches everywhere to find the leaven - for they are commanded to have no leaven in their houses for 7 days, and leaven is a type of sin, found everywhere in the OT and NT.  Father searches everywhere with a lit candle (the Holy Spirit.)  When a ceremonial piece of leaven is found, it is put in a paper cup and burned outside of the house.  Children run wild in the house, "helping" Father find the forbidden lumps of bread left here and there.

Bitter herb - a bit of parsley - and salt water - representing the tears of the slaves, are taken - each dipping the parsley in the saltwater.  This is what Jesus referred to when pointing out to John who His betrayer was - "He who dips in the bowl with me..."

And then we have the three matzos.  Father pulls out a bag with 3 compartments.  One whole piece of matzo in the top, one whole piece of matzo on the bottom.  But, in the center compartment, the matzo is broken in half.  Only half goes into its pouch, the other half is wrapped in linen and is "buried" by Father. This is the piece Jesus broke and said "this is my Body, broken for you." The piece that is buried is called the Afikommen.  That is not a Hebrew word.  It is a Greek word that means, "He will be back." 

Meanwhile, 3 cups of wine are passed.  The 3rd cup, which is our communion, is called "the cup of Redemption".  It is this cup that Jesus held when He said, "This is My blood, shed for you"

Then Father "suddenly" finds the Afikommen, and it is broken and passed to all. 

The youngest child in the house gets to as the 4 questions of Passover, beginning with the well=known, "Why is this Saturday different from any other Saturday?"  Then at the end, taking note of the table setting in front of the empty chair, the child runs to the door to see if Elijah is standing there, because Elijah is prophesied to come before Messiah comes.  Finding no one (yet) the youngster comes back and the Hallel Psalms are sung on the way out, as Jesus and His apostles rose and went to Gethsemane.

The garden at Gethsemane was actually a large portion of the hill opposite the temple.  Passover is one of the feasts of Israel where each male must appear before the Lord .  The population of Jerusalem would swell , as some estimate, from a few thousand to close to a million people, and many could not afford a hotel room - if there was one to be found - and so the families and single men camp out amidst the olive trees.

It is here Judas comes, leading a crowd of unruly men, presumably with torches, to the grove where Judas knew He would be.  It would have awakened all those in the garden with the noise and the torches - they would be staring and pointing and whispering to one another. 

The humiliation had begun. 

Those in the garden would have seen Peter chop off the High Priest's servant's ear - and seen Jesus heal him.  The servant would have been covered in blood all over his tunic.  I've often wondered what kind of man could have an ear chopped off in an instant, screaming with the pain and horror of it- then in another instant, cut off in mid-scream, be perfectly healed - no pain, no more blood, reach up and feel the ear completely whole and pain free, and then in another instant, arrest the and beat the One Who healed you.

It's an amazing feast - and I've really left most of it out!  If you want to check it out online at zolalevitt.com you will find many resources, from a book on the feasts of Israel to a video of the full ceremony. This feast was fulfilled so perfectly by the Messiah - and more and more Jews - and Arabs(all the children of Abraham) - are coming to know Him, as He has begun to lift the veil that has covered their eyes for 2 millennia.  Soon the cries of "Baruch haba Hashem Adonai" will once again ring out from the temple mount "Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the LORD!"

We live in an exciting time, as  prophecy is fulfilled before our eyes - we slaves who were not only set free, but adopted into His family. We have become His brothers and sisters -  all children of the Father, indwelled by the Holy Spirit, and saved by the Blood of the Lamb.

"Do this in remembrance of Me..."


Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Grateful Heart

Wow!  two months since last I wrote!

Things have been rough for awhile.  I am filled with gratitude to be able to say the sciatic nerve pain has been extinguished for the moment.  This was my second attack, so I figure it can attack again when God wills it.  For now, my soul is awash with the thanksgiving of less pain to deal with!

My energy level has been sucked dry by all the above.  I have had to stop attending church, and have been grateful for the Internet broadcast our church has.  I have to say that my pastor is one of the best teachers I've ever been honored to listen to - He researches all the backgrounds, the places , the customs, mixes it with humor, the tenderness of God's heart, and the joy of being His child.  You can listen as well - the website is http://www.ccgreenvalley.org/ and the time (all Pacific standard) of the broadcasts is noted.  Wednesday nights are Old Testament, Saturday nights and Sundays are New.  There is also a video archive of all his teaching, and an audio one down loadable to your smartphones, whatever they are (can you tell I am not a great whiz with electronics?)  He is also on the Calvary Chapel radio station - his program is "Through the Word".

I feel in a way as if I were emerging from a tunnel.  The colors of Spring, which come early to the high desert, are everywhere.  The town was planned; so the mulberry trees and the Palo Verde trees are putting on their show at present - wild profusions of lacy pink blossoms dance on the breezes (and hang on for dear life during our frequent windstorms!).  The Palo Verde are trees with chartreuse green bark (lifelong) and chartreuse green spring flowers that have a touch of yellow in them.  The branches and limbs are as fine as a flower stem, and when in bloom look like they belong in a fairyland.  Hummingbirds with flashes of bright purple and brilliant reds dip in and out of the gossamer blossoms and delight the heart.  And our quail (as many as 15-20 at a time, the babies of babies of babies of our first group of 4) cluck and chortle their way through our days, bringing laughter and delight.  We also have two male mockingbirds who seem to stake out our feeders as "theirs" every spring, strolling on our back cement block wall until they see each other.  Then they stop, not a feather moving, not a muscle twitching and give each other "the stare."  And then they run full tilt at one another and chest bump, for all the world like two tipsy Bubbas trying to impress a lady.  The first time I saw that "display" I roared with laughter and tears filled my eyes.  I've never heard of such behavior among birds - elk, yes, mountain sheep, yes, but birds?  I should film it and put it on YouTube!

For us CI's, little things become big things.  If we're housebound, every excursion is precious.  Paths in parks that are wheelchair accessible are wonders, chairs in libraries, individual go carts in grocery stores, all are wonderful gifts which, I must confess, I tend to take for granted.  I've been blessed to visit a few countries "across the pond" and I certainly was pleased to return to  the smoke-free and handicap accessible portion of the USA where I live.

And that's the point of this devotional today - gratitude and thanksgiving. 

When I lost my eyesight for awhile, I was so deeply grateful for its return.  Now, once again, I find myself taking it for granted, although it was in my heart and on my lips frequently at its return. 

The same thing happens when my pain medication works especially well, not just decreasing but eliminating the pain for awhile.  To suddenly realize the pain is gone is a miraculous thing for me.  You would think that the first thing out of my mouth would be thanksgiving, wouldn't you?  Yet that is often, to my shame, not the case.  I often don't realize it's gone until it hits again, unexpectedly and with vigor.  After all these years, you would think I had it down pat.


When I attended my first Christian Writers' Conference, I found Dr.Ruth Vaughn's books.  She is a contemporary and friend of Eugenia Price, one of my favorites.  Dr. Vaughn's doctorate is in creative writing.  She had been a professor at the same college as her husband for years.

Then cancer struck.

She had cancer of the pituitary gland, almost died more than once, and was confined to bed for quite awhile as it got worse - then gradually the treatment began to work and she was cured.  During this time she wrote letters to her children with things she wanted them to know- Letters In A Lockbox  was the result. Letters Dropt From God and Even When I Cry were two others that resulted - plus My God! My God! , the cries of a frightened sheep, like you and me, bleating with fear at the edge of a precipice. What's a Mother to Say? is her answer to the questions, sometimes difficult, that children can ask that really make us think, and then shares her answers - from a strong Christian position.

But way back then at the Writers' Conference I stumbled on her book Writing to Discover Yourself . It was an amazing journey in writing - guidelines for any writer, written soon after her diagnosis when she was bedridden for the most part.  It changed the way I looked at life, the way I wrote, the way I processed the world - all a long-winded way to share this piece she included in the section on the senses.  I've been reading her again and stumbled on it - and it left me face down in worship before my King, confessing my thankless heart and using her words to praise Him.

I invite you to join me - this is Dr. Vaughn's piece, "Lord, Accept My Belated Thanks" from Write to Discover Yourself copywrited 1980, page 51.

"I thank You, Lord, that You have not diminished the beauty of the rainbow, the grace of the cottontail, or the luminous loveliness of summer for lack of praise from me. I am grateful, Lord, that You have not withdrawn a note from the haunting music of the wind, the excitement of the cold, wild spray of blowing rain, the enchantment of the breeze and oaks exchanging secrets, because of my negligent gratitude.  I thank You, Lord, for not leaving unfinished one golden leaf, one tickling raindrop, one mischievous, slender moonbeam because of my sleeping thankfulness.

"I am grateful, Lord, for grumbling thunder which rattles winter stars together, for the lazy coils of morning that unwind slowly into a lovely day, for protesting jays and sequestered thickets, for sprinkles of stars, scatter-pinned on the velvet folds of the heavens, for the giddy, gay robins to announce the arrival of spring, for the glory of a young pear tree in bridal veil.

"I thank You for the diverse radiances of the dawn, the crystal-ringed fishpond, the laughter of little children, the bedstead initialed by small convalescents, the quicksilver moments of love and happiness.

"Lord, now I pause in a moment of thanksgiving.  I know that it is long overdue.  For the beauty with which You have filled my world has been taken for granted by me far too long.  Accept my gratitude for Thy salvation, a place to serve, friends who love and care, a challenge for which to work, a hope to hold to my heart, a dream to hang onto the very loveliness of spring.

"And, most of all, Lord, thank You for taking time from engineering Your planets, Your moons, Your suns, Your stars to bend above me listening to my cry for help; and even though I am often ungrateful and always unworthy, You care for me.  You love me.  You answer my prayer!
Though belated and long overdue, Lord, accept my thanks!"

To which I add, "Amen, and Amen."