The Look Of Love

 I have had many looks in my life.

I have been a variety of sizes from fat to thin.

I have had a variety of hair styles from long hair to very short hair and everything in between.

I had curly all over frizzy hair to my naturally straight hair.  

Long ago I pigtails and pony tails before graduating to berets, bobby pins and hair bands.  

I once would have never gone anywhere without my curling iron, electric rollers and hair spray.

I enjoyed covering the budding gray with hair dye and particularly enjoyed high lights.

One day I discovered the joys of short hair, the wash and go look.  I felt a new level of liberation!

Then the pandemic came along.  I was never seeing anyone but close family.  So I decided to be a little daring and see how much of my hair was really gray.  

It turned out I had quite a bit of the natural me left that had not flourished yet as gray.  So I gave up the hair dye.  Another level of liberation!

I used to wear makeup.  What started as a teenage desire to cover up my skin’s hormone surges turned into a creative outlet.

I enjoyed creating different “me”s.  I was one of those people who didn’t want to go out the door without my makeup on.

Then after having allergic reactions to various products, I became daring enough to go into the world “face naked.”  Again, I felt liberated!

After a childhood of progressive “ coke bottle” glasses, I graduated to contact lens as a teen.  I wore those for years and again hid from the world if I had to wear glasses.

Then I developed dry eyes and had to give up the contacts.  I was back to glasses until cataract surgery freed me again.  I had a blessed reprieve until retinal surgery caused a return to glasses (at least not as thick this time).

I was fortunate to have advanced pretty far into the aging scene before I developed wrinkles.  At first I was horrified.  This was visible proof of aging.😱

However, over time I have again become liberated to see my wrinkles as “achievement badges.”  I earned them and I own them!

Today I looked at pictures Jay took of me with Gideon, our grandson.  I realized when I looked at myself, I no longer had the desire to photoshop.

When I looked at me, I just saw a blessed grandma soaking up all The Love I could hold from a precious baby boy.

Maybe that is what life is all about … just giving and receiving Love and letting our face show it as it is.  

For now Gideon does not know the history of me.  He just sees Grandma and the joy in his face always makes me smile! 😍

When Is Enough Enough?

When is enough enough?  

The Bible leads off with a demonstration of one of the most powerful weapons satan has.   Deprivation.  Adam and Eve had it all and yet satan was able to convince them they needed more.  

Satan tempts us to believe we need more than what we have.  He assures us God has not provided and will not provide.

Much of our lives are spent wanting more.  We are taught from an early age to keep getting more … more toys, more education, more skills … more recognition, more approval … more love.

We are taught to compete against each other.  We feel deprived when we don’t win.

We look at what others have and if we don’t have it, we feel deprived.  Satan is quick to change longing into envy.

We are hungry.  Satan quickly steps in and offers a tray of what looks like delicious choices.  He whispers, “These are just appetizers.  Wait til you get to the main course.  And the desert … it’s heavenly!”

Many of us already discovered eating at satan’s “fine dining” was not fine at all.  We ended up broke and sick with our lives a mess, and we still wanted something we thought we did not have.  

In actuality, we have exactly what we need.  God our Creator lives inside us and He is The Source of everything in the universe.

Psalm 23:1 has various translations.  I really like these two.

The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need.

Good News Translation

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

King James Version 

When we realize we have everything we need in God, then we can make a choice not to want more.  I shall not want.

If we are supposed to just know we already have everything in God, is it wrong to want more?

Feeling a need is not wrong, but what we do with the feeling makes all the difference.

Before you try to satisfy that hunger on your own, talk to God.  Thank Him that He gives you everything you need.  Ask Him to show you what you need to do.

Paul said it well when he said,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 

And The Peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7

Peace to you.  The Lord is your Shepherd.  He will give you everything you need!

(Thank you to Lynn Moser, who posted her thought for today at the very time I was writing my blog post.  Picture credit to her!)

Laying Down Your Life

Would you lay down your life for someone else?  

 Note:  I did not say, “Would you die for someone else to live.”  I said, “Would you lay down your life?”

Laying down the life you planned in order to care for others is what Jesus had in mind.  

It would be easier to just die and zip off to Heaven while willing our old earthly life to someone else.

But Jesus expects more of us than that.  He has work for us to do here on earth.

Jesus said,

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are My Friends if you do what I command you. “

John 15:13-14

And what did Jesus Command?

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

John 13:34

There are many ways to lay down our lives and love one another.  Some people are full time care takers.  

They have laid down the lives they wanted to immerse themselves into the suffering of others.  They are suffering servants, as Jesus was.

Some people choose to forego getting big expensive luxuries in their own lives so they can feed and clothe the poor.

Sometimes laying down our lives simply amounts to giving up something much simpler for others … sacrificing the parking spot we thought we had nailed …letting someone else have their say in an argument where we were sure we were right … letting someone in line ahead of us … wearing a mask to protect those who may be more vulnerable to disease.

Jesus calls us to do more than “the law allows.”

He said,

“And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.”

Matthew 5:41

Jesus saw the world through Love.  He loved, not just in dying, but in living a Life of Love on earth.  May we do the same!

Where Are We Going?

As life has unfolded in recent years, I have frequently asked The Lord, “Where are we going?”

I know I am with Him, but like a weary travel worn child, I want to ask, “Are we there yet?”

Each time He has said, “We are here.  I am with you.”

Here?  Where is here?  Few of us live “here” in time.

We go back to the past in our thoughts.  We glamorize the “good old days,” hanging on to our best memories that make today seem   “bad” in comparison.

Satan laughs.  He loves to see us feeling deprived.

We go back to the past and review our past mistakes.  We wonder how we could have been so clueless.  

We come up with all kinds of self condemning labels … either the ones we made up or the ones we believed when others labeled us.

When we take a break from blaming ourselves, satan licks our wounds and says, “Hey, it wasn’t really your fault.  It was them”

Satan laughs again while you think of all the people you blame for life’s missteps.  He makes it hard to go back down that road to the past without seeing the faces you really would rather forget.

Sometimes we bring the past into trying to predict the future.  We still believe the negative labels of the past.  We believe satan’s lie that we will never change.

We take the wounds from the past and are constantly on guard in the future to try to keep from ever being hurt again.  We call them lessons learned.  But in reality those thoughts are rooted in fear.

When bad things happen, we already have a data base of who to blame.  We apply satan’s lies to other people too.  We believe they will never change.

And satan has one last joy stealer.  We are afraid of change.  If we are miserable, satan whispers, “It will always be this way.”

If we are happy, he whispers, “It won’t always be this way.”

Between the past and the future stands the present, aptly named as a gift.  To live in the present is to let go of all the pain and regrets of the past and stop worrying about a future we cannot control.

David said, ‘This is the day The Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

Psalm 118:24

Paul said, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:13-14

Jesus said,

“Don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time!”

Matthew 6:34

It is impossible to live anywhere but the present.  NOW actually means “No Other Way.”  Enjoy The Gift of this present moment!

Complaining To The Lord

We know we should praise The Lord and give thanks.  But is it ok to complain to The Lord?

There is great evidence throughout The Bible that God was very patient with His whining, grumbling people.   But at some point, He let them all know He was God and they were not.

I have many reasons to be thankful.  God has blessed me and is blessing me.  But, life is not perfect by my standards.  I want some things changed … resolved … solved.

I want to express my frustration and yell, “How long, oh Lord, how long?”  I want to know when and how God is going to act to make things right.

The prophet Habakkuk complained.  Chapter 1 lays out some of the same things we might say today.

How long, Lord, must I call for help,

    but you do not listen?

Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’

    but you do not save?

Why do you make me look at injustice?

    Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?

Destruction and violence are before me;

    there is strife, and conflict abounds.

Therefore the law is paralyzed,

    and justice never prevails.

The wicked hem in the righteous,

    so that justice is perverted.”

Habakkuk 1:2-4

God’s Answer was then and is now

“Look at the nations and watch—

    and be utterly amazed.

For I am going to do something in your days

    that you would not believe,

    even if you were told.”

Habakkuk 1:5

God then even gave Habakkuk more details about what would happen in his time.  But Habakkuk was not satisfied.  He continued with his complaint.

“Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;

    you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.

Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?

    Why are you silent while the wicked

    swallow up those more righteous than themselves?”

Habakkuk 1:13

Habakkuk then waited to see what God would say.  Often I do not wait.  If God does not instantly answer, I complain some more.😳

Habakkuk said,

“I will stand at my watch

    and station myself on the ramparts;

I will look to see what He will say to me,

    and what answer I am to give to this complaint.”

Habakkuk 2:1

God answered.  His Answer was then as it is now.  “I will act in My Time.  Wait for it!”

The Lord answered.

“The revelation awaits an appointed time;

    it speaks of the end

    and will not prove false.

Though it linger, wait for it;

    it will certainly come

    and will not delay!”

Habakkuk 2:2-3

His Answer is not only an Answer for the world.  It is an Answer for us personally.

Whatever you are going through right now, this is what God is saying to you.  Receive it and thank God for it!

“I am going to do something in your days

    that you would not believe,

    even if you were told.”

“The revelation awaits an appointed time;

    it speaks of the end

    and will not prove false.

Though it linger, wait for it;

    it will certainly come

    and will not delay!”

Something Old or Something New?

Our daughter went to a Montessori School.  It seemed like a very good system where children advanced at their own pace.

However, it required close observation and intervention by the teacher to keep things moving forward.

One of the teachers shared that their greatest challenge was getting children to move on to something less familiar after they had achieved success in one area.

The feeling of familiarity and success translates into a false sense of security for many of us.  We often do not see giving up the familiar as growth.  We see it as loss.

As I get older, when I find I cannot do something anymore, it concerns me.  I long for the “good old days” when not only could I do those things, but they were easy!

However, when I look back, I realize how mercifully God eased me into the next phases of life, giving me new things to do and new ways to do them.

God shows the same Mercy in our physical bodies.  Skin cells quietly drop away without our even noticing.  New skin grows.  Same with hair and even other parts of our body.

When it is time, God does something new.  Instead of worrying about what He is going to do, we should rejoice in the certain knowledge that He has The Plan and it is a Good One!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

When we ponder giving up this body, we should also look forward to what God has planned next   Perhaps the discomforts of this present body are just God’s Nudge that better things are coming!

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of Glory beyond all comparison!

2 Corinthians 4:17

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth!

Isaiah 43:19

Finishing The Work

Continuing earthly work does not get easier with age and increased physical and mental challenges.  It  can become tempting to give up, sit in the rocking chair and dream of Heaven.

But we are not Heaven bound until we pass the tests here on earth.  And the big test question is the same one Jesus asked Peter.

“Do you love Me?”

Peter had the opportunity to answer three times.

Each time he professed his love for Jesus, Jesus told him to do something.

“Feed My Lambs.”

“Take care of My Sheep.”

“Feed My Sheep.”

But that was not all Jesus said.  He also gave this chilling response.  He wanted Peter to know his time of service and obedience was going to last longer than the time Peter could call the shots.

Jesus said,

“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; 

but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 

Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

John 21:18-19

Some of the greatest testimonies of God’s Grace and Mercy came to me through physically or mentally weakened earthly saints.  

The creative ways in which they still found ways to serve inspired me.  Seeing once strong, in charge, people graciously submit to the care of others touched my heart.

The ways in which they thanked other people for even simple acts of kindness often seemed God’s Way of saying “Thank You.”

And their stories and testimonies of God’s Provision through both the highs and lows of life encouraged me and gave me hope.

When I gave student nurses the assignment to ask their nursing home residents what their plans for the future were, a bedfast lady, who was 104 years old, said, “Lie here and let you learn on me until God calls me home.”

God’s Work is never finished nor should we resist whatever mission He chooses for us.  I am still learning and not very good at submitting to any loss of independence.

But perhaps it is God’s Way of calling us back Home where we began as infants, dependent on His Mercy and Grace brought by other people.

This is what The Lord says.  Hold His Words in your heart.

“Listen to me …

 whom I have upheld since your birth,

    and have carried since you were born.

Even to your old age and gray hairs

    I am He, I am He Who will sustain you.

I have made you and I will carry you;

    I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

Isaiah 46:3-4

May we be able to say with Jesus,

“I have brought You Glory on earth by finishing the work You gave Me to do. 

And now, Father, glorify Me in Your Presence with The Glory I had with You before the world began!”

John 17:4-5

Remembering Pete Huang

Written in loving memory of Pete Huang.

Dr. Pete Huang immigrated to the United States in 1961 from China.  He became well known in China and the United States for his contributions to civil engineering.

He authored books, even in later life.  His eyes still sparkled when he spoke of how to build roads.

Jay and I first met Pete through a Sunday School class.  We knew nothing of his educational level or his fame. We just knew him as Pete.

Pete taught us, not about making physical highways, but about how to travel on The Way of Jesus, Who is The Way.

The Sunday School class was the most unique group we had ever encountered.  They were all over 80 years old.  When we first visited the class, we felt a warm welcome by all.

We knew we had found The Fountain of Youth when an elderly lady said, “It’s so nice to have young people join us.”  We were in our 60s at the time.

We were duly oriented to the class routines and rules, which apparently had been agreed upon years before.  

The members found its boundaries not restraining, but comforting … dependable in an ever changing world. We found it to be true for us as well.

The class started on time … not one minute before … not one minute after.  Everyone sat in the same place every week.  They never claimed their seats and would have given it up to anyone else, but we all knew whose seats were where and we eagerly waited for that person to occupy the seat.

If anyone was missing, their seat went unclaimed.  We felt they were there in spirit, even if their physical body was not.

I became the song leader for the class.

As such, I had the opportunity to witness the most wonderful section of God’s Choir.

The group always began with the chorus of “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” as they had done for years.  Looking into their eyes looking into Jesus’ Eyes was perhaps the most spiritual experience I have ever had.

This was my first real introduction to Pete.  Pete was very hard of hearing.  But this in no way limited His Praise of God.  He sang enthusiastically and with Joy.  

He was often not in synch with the other voices because he could not hear them.  He was having one on one communication with Jesus.  And his face shone in the reflection.

The next step in getting to know Pete was through the monthly potlucks.  Once a month, everyone came to the church social hall with their dishes.  

While we were never instructed in what to bring, after a few months, we noticed a trend.  Everyone always brought their same dish every time.  Everyone knew what the other was going to bring because they always brought “their dish.”  They could count on it.

There was also a division of labor.  When they gathered, each person knew what their job was and they did it faithfully.  Jay and I were rotated through and taught what to do.

And so came the next part of getting to know Pete.  He was the official dish washer and dryer.  He was meticulous.  Dirty dishes came in and he put them through the wash.

But what intrigued me was how he handled each dish.  Picking each one up, holding it up to the light to be sure it was clean, and gently placing it on the drying rack.

It made me think of Jesus taking us dirty children and rendering us without spot and gently … very gently … putting us down to dry.

I grew up in the days before we had a dish washer, so I was the family dish dryer.  Pete was delighted to hear that.  He said, “So you have experience!”  I felt like I was on a job interview and I wanted to work for Pete.

He “supervised” me until he was sure I could handle the job.  Then he showed me where each plate, serving platter, bowl and utensils were stored. 

I always looked forward to my times in the kitchen with Pete.  I had no idea Pete was Dr. Pete.  He willingly served in humility, just as Jesus did.  While he could have been addressed as so much more, he was content to just be called Pete … one name like Jesus.

Perhaps the greatest lesson Pete taught me was about unconditional love.   Pete had a wife named Jane.  She was at every potluck with Pete.

Pete always fixed her a plate and served her before he got his own food.  The looks of love between the two of them could light up the room.  Everyone talked to Jane and so it escaped our attention for awhile that she never answered.  

Gradually we learned of the vibrant, active woman she had once been … before she developed Alzheimer’s Disease.  She had been silent for awhile.  She possibly did not know her friends.  But she knew and loved Pete.

His gaze never left her.  Even as he was washing dishes, he looked up at her and smiled.  And she smiled back.  She had forgotten many things, but she never forgot Pete’s Love.

Pete also loved his children and grandchildren and they loved him.  Pete shared with us how proud he was of his children, but what most pleased him was that they knew The Lord, Who had ordered his steps all the way from China to the United States.

At some point, we discovered the academic and professional achievements of Dr. Huang.  He even shared his book with us.  He shared everything, not in pride, but in gratitude to God for allowing him the life he had.

I was saddened to learn of Pete’s passing this week.  But then I realized he had just been promoted.  He was truly faithful on earth. 

I am sure Jesus welcomed him with open arms and said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!”

Matthew 25:23

At the end of each potluck, I led the group in singing “Bless be the tie that binds.”  It was the way they had ended potlucks for years.  It was their testament to The Spirit that held them together, no matter what.

The original last verse spoke of the pain of parting.  This seemed very out of character for this group.  I was a little nervous about proposing any change, but I felt led to do so.

They heard it and the vote was unanimous.  It became our new non-parting song.  And Pete was the most vocal in singing it.  I hear him today from Heaven, singing it.

When we asunder part, 

 we surely will feel no pain.

For we will still be joined in heart

And know we will meet again!

And many of that group, including Jane, were already in Heaven to welcome Pete!

Remembering September 11, 2001

I grew up in the Deep South in a time when racial discrimination was all around me.  I was blessed to be raised by two parents who treated everyone equally.  They saw everyone simply as a child of God.  We were all related.

 I did not personally experience discrimination until I  lived in Germany in the early 70s.  Some people pointed at me, made obscene gestures and yelled out “stupid American woman.”

I was truly baffled by it.  I had done nothing to them.  They did not know me.  But they judged me by the group with whom I was associated.  They hated me because I was American and I was a  military wife.

A German friend later tried to explain it to me.  She said, “You have to understand.  The Americans killed their grandparents and they grew up learning to hate Americans.”

“But, “ I protested, “The war ended a long time ago.  I had nothing to do with killing anyone.”

She said simply, “They were raised to hate.”

September 11, 2001, was a day that no one would want to repeat.  What happened was horrific.  We are being encouraged to remember and not forget.  However, we should be very careful about what we choose to remember.

The young nurse I referenced in my last post ended up moving with her family to another location.  Even as American citizens, they had to live in fear.

We should not use September 11th to open old wounds and reactivate fear and hatred.  We should not use it to judge and stereotype people.  We should not use it to raise our children to hate.

We should remember those who lost their lives.  We should pray for their family and friends who carry the scars of grief even twenty years later.

We should remember those who were enemies that day.  We should also pray for their  families and friends, who grieve.  Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

We should remember that violence never happens overnight.  Even at this moment, potentially future terrorists are being born into hate.  We should pray that satan never gets a grip on them … that they will experience The Love of God and only reflect that Love back into the world.

We should remember the courage of those who rose to the occasion on September 11, 2001.  They put their own lives at risk to save others.  Some exited this earthly life trying to protect others.

We should remember the way Todd Beamer prepared for battle.  He prayed and reached out through the phone, imploring a total stranger to speak The Word of God with him.  And it could be heard in the background that others were joining them, claiming The Promises of God.

We should remember that those who resemble the enemy in physical appearance, race or creed are not the enemy.  We should never become terrorists ourselves by labeling, stereotyping, or judging.

We should remember that The Light still shines in the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it. 

We should remember we have been born into this time to be Light bearers.  When you tell others about September 11th, tell them about the courage, faith and love that sprang up from the ashes.

Yes .. remember September 11 … and plant seeds of Hope for the future.

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it!

John 1:5

911

We each remember where we were on September 11, 2001.  Ironically the numbers 911 used to summon emergency help came to life that day.

I was the Nurse Manager of a busy medical surgical unit at the VA Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky.  I was in my office when a nurse ran in and said, “Come quick.”

I jumped, thinking a patient had crashed.  But she followed with, “Look at the tv in the break room.”  I heard the horrifying news as many others had — by tv.

Hardly had I had enough time to process what was happening when I was called to the phone.  My boss told me to operationalize the disaster plan.

The disaster plan was something we had rehearsed on a regular basis, but staff almost went to sleep during the mandatory reviews.  After all, we never thought we would actually have to use it.

The other chilling reminder we got that day was that the VA was a backup to the military.  

Since it was unclear what had happened or what was about to happen, we were told to prepare for any extra patients that might arrive … either fresh casualties or more stable patients moved from other parts of the country to decompress areas that needed room to treat mass casualties.

There were no cell phones then.  We had to stay off the phones, so all communication channels could remain open.  

Therefore, we were in a lockdown where we could not communicate with our families.  Everyone quietly went about doing their assigned tasks, while periodically checking the tv and awaiting the next updates from my supervisor.

We did not receive casualties or extra patients from the outside, but there was a casualty from the inside.

When I returned to my office, one of the nurses was waiting.  She was a wonderful nurse and a true team player, liked and respected by all.  But that day, she was crying and shaking all over.

In the midst of carrying out her duties during this crisis, her life was threatened.  Later she would find out her husband and children’s lives had also been threatened.

Why?  Their skin tone, manner of dressing and slight accent revealed their heritage.  They were originally from the Middle East.  

In a matter of hours, they, who had nothing to do with the horrible crimes committed that day, became victims of what became a growing wave of hate.

Jesus understood.  He saw some of the same people He had seen waving on Palm Sunday calling for His Death on Friday.

I will share the rest of the story in my part two post.