. . . colorblind? . . .

Now I remember . . . I remember what I miss most about our years in Vienna.

Color . . .  hearts painted in every shade of red, yellow, black and browns. I hugged color, laughed with color, prayed with color. And I was repaid with a richness of depth and perception that fills me, even today, with incredible joy.

While Achromatopsia, the state of total color blindness, affects thousands, a higher percentage of the population suffers milder forms of this deficiency.  One in twelve males is color blind!  According to one source, three hundred million people world-wide are unable to ‘see’ true colors.

I wonder that many of us may suffer from a Biblical form of colorblindness; we fail to see people as they were created in God’s image. In their uniqueness . . . in their color.

Tom and I  recently returned to the states after being ‘home’ in Vienna ten days this past December.

Prior to the ten years we served with the International Mission Board in Europe, I had been perfectly content in my pious, traditional religious world. I was colorblind. Our hushed hide-away allowed me to focus on the neighbor’s cows in the fields below with their spots and colors. Thousands of fire-flies in search of mates lit the woods around us on June moon-less nights, and I selfishly thanked God for His “light” to the world.

I served others, yes, in our ministry, but how smug I had been—living in my isolated retreat, feeding the birds and chatting with the rabbits and chipmunks— at the same time wondering why the rest of the world was not as contented as I.  “Don’t worry, be happy,” I smiled when I met others on the journey.

That was BEFORE the Lord invaded my peace one morning in 1998, and commanded me—in a soft whisper, “Barb, begin NOW to pray my heart for the world.”

Worshipping at the International Church in Vienna this past December 8, 2019, I was reminded of the first words the Lord whispered to me in this very same sanctuary the winter of 2000. “This is how heaven will be.” Joyful tears filled my eyes this day in December as they had almost twenty years ago.20191208_120345

I saw every face, created in the image of our Creator, colored in a perfectly tinted expression of His design. One of the first experiences I remember in 2000 is the circle of hands in every color and country, joined in worship and praise around the room as multiple dialects sang together:

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah to the Lamb,                                                                        Hallelujah, hallelujah by the blood of Christ we stand.                                                                   Every tongue, every tribe, every people, every land                                                                Giving glory, giving honor, giving praise unto the Lamb of God . . .

After a couple of years, the words of another song, “Love in any language, straight from the heart, binds us all together, never apart,” rang out clearly from the growing rainbow circle of hands.

Living in Vienna was stressful, yes.  But on Sundays, something happened.  In those hours, I forgot the cacophony of babble heard on the trains and trams; I forgot the smells, blended in sour fragrance in the markets; I shut my eyes to the graffiti drawn on subway tunnels by would-be revolutionists; I forgot how much I missed my grandchildren.

I was home. I opened the gate into the church garden, and I was home.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We were all ‘at home’. Each unique, different color of the rainbow present that Sunday seemed to be wrapped in the Father’s embrace, hearing a whisper, “I who created you, who formed you and redeemed you. I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1  Each one. Whatever your culture, your country, with your beautiful color. . . you are mine. I will be with you . . . this week. (my added emphasis)

Sunday morning, December 15, 2019, we attended another international church where we had ministered with the pastors through various events while in Vienna. I looked around and felt the same embrace of the Father.  It’s this love, this indescribable, unifying love, that brings us together. For a minute, I thought I had transferred to heaven!20191215_114847On the streets of Vienna, dark turbans cover heads; black burkas conceal feminine bodies, colorful scarves protect against the cold winds of the city, all the while hiding multiple scars and pain.  Constant reminders of different cultures surviving in a hostile world.  But a group of colorful, unified believers willing to love and be loved by a Holy Father staggers the imagination that this is possible. Differences in identity, culture, and history serve to magnify the truth of the Gospel.

And that happens anywhere, anytime, in the world when people come together with a love for the world, with a God-heart for the world.

For God so loved the world . . . John 3:16

I know why I was home.  We were together with a Father who loved all of us the same . . . every culture, every color, every heart. . .

“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.”    Revelation 7:9

. . . living color conscious in my world . . . NOW. . .

 

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This was a small dinner with ten people from the UN Bible study (two came after picture). Ten people, ten different countries.  Shows the colors heaven will be!!  Tom and I are the only Americans.

I wish I could post a picture of all my favorite colors of the world, my favorite people in the whole world— taken in December 🙂

. . . seeing color . . .

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. . . love these hearts.  .  .

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. . . with angels . . .

My sister’s picture wrapped the entire computer screen as I downloaded it into this post. I sat and cried as I saw her beautiful . . . bigger than life.20191115_105838She had wasted to sixty pounds the last few weeks, barely resembling this happy picture. How much do I know of this sister who chose to live all of her adult life in New Mexico? Oh, we talked on the phone, but can you know someone’s heart with two calls a month?

This past week, I peeped into her life as her Bibles, pictures and writing notes spilled around me. Our daughter, Sherree, was with her the last days of life, and had packed Cindy’s past into boxes, shipping a part of her life we didn’t know back to Tennessee.

Cindy never boasted of her nursing accolades, but I know she was an excellent nurse.  After enjoying years of a medical career in major hospitals of Albuquerque, she retired and continued using her gift at schools, nursing homes and even in a prison. She had kept notes and drawings from third and fourth graders when she left the position of school nurse in 2004.

Dear Nurse Cindy, I am very sad that this is your last day. I really don’t want you to leave. I won’t like it without you. I will never forget the time my ribs got hurt and you helped me. I got sick once and you helped me. I won’t forget when you checked my ears. I wish you luck in your new job.   Your Friend, Kenyon

There are many similar notes from these sweet children.

I cradled the phone Cindy had only recently held until she could no longer respond to calls and texts. I returned each text and call to her neighbors and friends who had prayed these weeks for a peaceful passing. So many sweet replies to my texts, affirming a sister they know better than I.

“I think you are angels,” our daughter, Sherree, expressed to Cindy’s neighbors who had ministered and served Cindy daily since her prognosis of death given on September 4.  For eight weeks, they gave of themselves.

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Two of Cindy’s neighbor angels, Bonnie on the left, Cher on the right with Sherree. Other angels neighbors include Diane, Dawn, Martha, Ari, Phyllis, Lenora. The Lord knows others I may have left off.

“Angels, we are not.” Bonnie told me. “We are doing what God wanted us to do, yes.”  Oh, that we all lived with angels near—or had neighbors with such a heart to obey His voice in ministering when and where needed. Cindy would tell me she was being blessed by those coming and going around her during the last weeks. I wish I had pictures of all of them.

Jesus was questioned once about the way to gain eternal life. Remember, he then asked the expert in religious matters what the Law required; he answered correctly . . .  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. And love your neighbor  as yourself.”  Luke 10: 25-37

His answer affirmed he knew the right words, but the religious expert had no idea what a neighbor was. Jesus’ story reveals that a true neighbor is one who shows mercy to someone in need. As a nurse, Cindy had extended mercy all her life; in the end she was lovingly given love, mercy and kindness by those around her.

I want to remember Cindy as she is in this picture. I want to remember her years of service as she gave herself away to children and hurting adults. She was an angel to many as were those beautiful, caring women who were there for her.

This is how we are to live—and love—serving others in their pain, walking with them right to the door of death.

Are you an angel? Do you have angel neighbors? I like to think of the verse in Psalm 91 that says, “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. . .” verse 11, as a promise that the Lord’s angels are watching, protecting, ministering over me. I am taking it out of context, but it reminds me that we need angels. Who knows, they just may be our friends and neighbors.

Yes, divorce and abuse fragmented our family.  Thankfully, Cindy found purpose, friends, and angels in New Mexico . . . a long way from Tennessee.

I wanted this blog to honor Cindy in some small way, and to give immeasurably gratitude to the friends and neighbors who loved her and ministered to her needs. . . to the last . . .

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Cindy’s Bible study group-Cindy is seated  left

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. . . with the ABC’s

“Please post that on your blog,” my friend urged.

I had shared with her that I have walked for decades using the ABC’s as a discipline and focus in the mornings, while ironing Tom’s shirts or when engaged in other activities that are repetitious and quiet. .  . i.e. dusting.   This one practice surprises me daily and makes me aware that the Lord, indeed, is involved in the details of life.

I listen for a beginning phrase . . You are my . . . from A to Z. . . Anchor, Beloved, Comforter, Deliverer, Enabler, Fortress. . . or Barb, I have . . . appointed you, blessed you, called you, delivered you, examined you, freed  you— from A to Z . Lord,you are my . . . answer, my beginning, my calmness, my delight,  my quest, my song, from A to Z.

Today, Father, I simply walk in  . . . then from A to Z. . . my focus is easier:  an awareness of your presence, in the beauty of your creation, the comfort of your love, the delight of this day . . .

The beginning sentence always varies– then you might need a verb, a noun or adjective. One morning, I may use Create in me a/an __________________ heart, O Lord.  Then from A to Z — an accepting heart, a believing heart, a faithful heart, a gentle heart, a yielded heart. Lord, you will . . .  from A to Z . . . answer me, instruct me, never let me go, quiet me, restore me, validate me, watch over me . . .

The possibilities are limitless–as your Scripture vocabulary increases, so will your words of praise and affirmations. As you grow into a deeper understanding of who you are in Christ, words explode within you.  As you know Him better, your words will reflect the truth of  who He is.

Not only is this is a simple, safe exercise, it is a beautiful spontaneous blessing!  And it works in any language. I usually let the words come easily; sometimes I struggle to find one that is unique for the situation of the day.

It is a great way to pray for others.  From A to Z  . . .  when living in the international community in Vienna, it was easy to discover names for every letter.  And so amazing to listen for those I should lift that particular morning.

Below you will find two completed lists from A to Z.  Q, X,Y, or Z can be challenging.  If a word doesn’t come quickly, I leave that letter, but continue with the alphabet so as to stay on focus.  I have pages and pages of lists with these alphabets of praise and affirmation as I write them down when I return, or as I remember a new word I used that day.

I would love to hear how this blesses you. . .

Let’s go walking . . .

Because of Your love, I am . . .

Accepted

Beloved

Chosen –Ephesians 1:4

Desired

Examined—Psalm 139:23

Forgiven—

Guarded— Isaiah 26:3

An Heir— Galatians 3:29, Romans 8:17

Intricately made — Psalms 139: 13-14

Justified

Kept— Isaiah 42:6, Isaiah 43:4

Loved—John 3:16

Made in His image

Named

One with You

Planned for

Quiet in Your love— Zephaniah 3:17

Restored, renewed . . .

Set apart— Jeremiah 1:5

Trusting

Useful

Victorious

Woven together beautifully!

X-onerated!                                Yours                         Zealous

 

My Father and Lord, you are . . .

Always

Because of everything

Creator

Divine

Exalted

Faithful

Good

Holy

Involved in my life

Jealous

King

Light

Majestic

Near

The Only One

Peace

Quiet in your love

Righteous

Sweetness!

Truth

Unchangeable

Victorious

Worthy

X-cellent                              Y             the Zenith!

 

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. . . in kindness . . .

I am so ready for my fighting guests to leave . . . they have been neither kind or considerate.

Our garden sanctuary is more like a war zone these hot humid days. Soaring like Kamikaze pilots of World War II, hummingbirds  bombard each other at incredible speed. This week they are warriors on the move.

Almost perfect, you would not imagine that a bird this small could be so aggressive. They are the only birds that use their long beaks as a sword. “Please, can’t you just be kind. There’s plenty for all.” Tom warns me to stay calm when their conflict lasts for hours. The male Ruby red-throat is viciously territorial. You would think he was protecting Fort Knox. He guards the feeders and flowers so his harem alone has enough sweet nectar.

Weighing as little as three paper clips, the fierce birds can beat their wings up to 80 times per second. When soaring, they race each other at speeds greater than 35 mph. They are a perpetual winged machine.  I get exhausted at their frenzied hostility; often one will whiz right over my head.

They eat non-stop . . . “if a hummingbird were the size of an average person, they would use sugar fast enough that they would need to drink more than one can of soda every minute . . .” (Creation/Evolution headlines, David Coppedge, December 2013)  Wouldn’t we love that problem! (Hummingbirds are native to the Americas; if you are not familiar with them, you may want to Google them. They are quite incredible.)

These tiny birds cannot walk but can fly backwards, can fly upside down, can change directions instantly. Truly a marvel of creation, but definitely not an example of sweet fellowship.  They attack one another recklessly and constantly as they fight for a place at the feeders.

This six-second video shows what happens when a visiting flock migrating to South America

stopped to refuel, putting the permanent summer dwellers on high alert. Tiny hummers have a great memory, returning to the same feeders year after year.  Massive chaos ensued when the newcomers barged in.

Watching their attacks and selfishness this morning, I thought of Psalm 133: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!”  . . .  The writer of this Psalm compares kindness and unity to oil and dew. ” it is like precious oil poured. . . and flowing down . .  . and like the dew of Hermon falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows His blessings, even life for evermore.”

Oil was for anointing, for a blessing . . . for consecration. Oil perfumed and refreshed those living in the hot climate, filling the atmosphere with sweet fragrance. Harmony in family, in church, in community is cause for great happiness.

Dew. . .  cool dew of these recent early mornings, nourishes my soul. Or my feet.  Walking in the wet dew refreshes my ruffled spirit; I sigh deeply, inhaling the freshness of a new day. The day will heat up . . . but for this moment, NOW, I rejoice in the sweetness of the dew.

The dew of Mount Hermon can literally water the arid lands around Zion, refreshing and reviving all green growth. Unity, a spirit of forgiveness resulting in sweet togetherness, is a cause for joy.  Peace in relationships brings delight to the very heart of God.

It is normal for hummingbirds to defend their food source; to brawl constantly. But who wants to be normal?

Have you seen the billboard promoting Ephesians 4:32?  “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” I think I will post this on a tree in my yard next year. Hummingbirds cannot smell, but their vision is great. I wonder if they can read.

 

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. . . in the dark . . .

 

Tom and I were walking in the dark; the moon was hidden with clouds, blanketing any light to see our way through the trees. Tom had brought a flashlight along, so he decided to use it. That was a wise choice. Right in front of us was a massive trap. Without the light, we would have been entangled in a large web.

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Moving the light to see where the web was attached, we saw that it was connected to a tree limb about twenty feet above us. While I marveled at the intricacies of a spider’s creation, I was more aware of how the light had warned us of what was ahead.

“You need My light in this dark world.” a gentle word . . .

Normally, I do not fear the dark. I run through it at times, slowly, cautiously, but not afraid. Nyctophobia, or the fear of darkness, affects eleven per cent of the adult population. Darkness causes our brains to imagine the potential dangers lurking in the trees, under the beds, behind a closed door. It’s not that one is afraid of the dark, it’s what the blackness hides.  We are afraid of what we cannot see. . .

Tom and I did not stumble blindly into the unknown when we changed the entire course of our lives in 2000.  We followed His light that blazed our path to Vienna, Austria, and later to Copenhagen, Denmark. There were dark days during the move and transition, but His light exploded the darkness in perfect timing. Those ten years, lived with the light of His word and love continue to shine as the watermark of our ministry.

The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” Psalm 119:130.

Trust in the unknown was easier in my younger days. I find NOW, I often fear the blackness of what is ahead. The future of the what if’s. Age and experience have made me more cautious . . .
In reality we all live vulnerable and exposed every day. If we could carry a special LED light that would spot any threat hiding on our journey, how great would that be?
“My word is a lamp to your feet, and a light for your path,”  Psalm 119:105

. . . a LightEveryDay

 

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. . . when I can’t sing . . .

There is no sweet nectar . . .

. . . anywhere. Returning home after a few days away, I noticed the three hummingbird feeders drained of all liquid. Used up . . .

These tiny birds love that sweet liquid and will sip all day ignoring the fragrant flowers and vines right under their long, sword like beaks. But this morning with feeders still empty, they were busily feasting on the red and orange blooms, not grumbling for the lack of their favorite food. Darting here and there from one flower to another, they seemed to be just as content, thankful for their meals.

I pondered. . . how do I respond when my preferred source of nourishment has vanished? 

I’ve been cleaning out old notebooks, journals and old Bible studies. There comes a time when you begin discarding much of your past experiences. Page after page found its way into the trash can when these words flew right off the page as I began tossing it. . . .

  “The only way I know you are trusting me is that you praise me.”

Did I write that? Is that true?

Worn words written twenty five years ago. Looks like my writing. I attribute that line of wisdom to a sweet Bible teacher leading a retreat at Fairhaven — Tennessee in 1998. I can remember those words reigning true in my life. That was long, long ago when life was simpler. . . when my  feeder was full of sweet nectar. No major crashes . . .

Weddings celebrated, grandbabies born. Trust was possible, real. I was fluent in praise.  Complications could surface as surely as life happens, but nothing so serious to disrupt my flow of praise.

Our decade in Europe with the International Mission Board brought continued trust and precious time in singing praises. Serving in Vienna and Copenhagen was the high point of our ministry. Health issues there did not dampen our music as we rejoiced in loving the peoples of the world.  

Praise came so easily . . . trusting my Lord was a way of life.

NOW . . . the sweet nectar is gone . . .

The Babylonians demanded the Jewish captives to sing. Not just any perfunctory song, but one of joy. “Sing us one of the songs of Zion.” In Psalm 137, we can sense the pain of those sitting around the banks of the rivers in a foreign country, trying to remember happier days in Jerusalem .

They could not sing. . .

I like to imagine that they did sing —-  a silent song, one not heard by their tormentors, but heard only by their God. A song deep within their hearts, reflecting love and praise to the God they knew, but now He appeared absent. He hears the songs I cannot sing NOW. He hears the praises I cannot voice— He sings over me the songs I am unable to whisper. 

What a beautiful thought that our heavenly Father sings over me . . . and you. “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

The Psalms are full of cries and lament unto the Lord. David was unashamed in sharing emotions, in being honest before Him. Seventy percent of the songs recorded there are classified as lament Psalms and were readily used in worship.

There are reasons I am having difficulty  praising. And trusting. . .  Some of you will understand the lament of this blog; others cannot imagine because you are brimming over with sweet nectar. 

  • I have begun doing research on the subject of child sexual abuse for a book I would like to write. Interviewing and hearing the stories of precious lives is a personal battle for me. Please pray I succeed in giving hope to victims of this grave wrongdoing. This is a year long process. (I will be seeking a prayer team to surround me in this project.)
  • The brokenness of family . . . loss of relationships. Tom’s mother once said, “There are things much more devastating than death.” 
  • STRESS  . . .  my doctor told me this week that due to my history of Lyme disease, Q-fever, high histamine levels, my body is unable to handle stress.

What to do when I can’t praise? When I have difficulty trusting? 

  • I listen to instrumental music –no words. Words surface from memory, ever so gently, restoring my soul. Right now—- There is a Balm in Gilead is playing softly in the background. . .
  • I read the Psalms–the other thirty percent of joy and praise!
  • Tom hugs me often
  • I begin mornings in gentle peace

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Tom’s cup from Austria says, Ich bin Der Weinstock, John 15:5. . .  I am the true vine

Are you struggling to trust and praise NOW in these moments? Perhaps you can share how you are learning to sing  again. . .

“By day the Lord directs His love, at night, His song is with me—a prayer (a low moan -my words) to the God of my life.” Psalm 42: 8

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. . . growing my beard . . .

It was flying straight towards me.  I ducked . . . a  male cardinal hit the clear glass pane with a  bang. Windows without screens invite winged creatures to fly straight through them. 

The bright red bird was stunned . . . for ten minutes, he sat perfectly still, listening to me as I opened the door, speaking softly to him. He didn’t move an eyelid; he didn’t cock his head. It was uncanny–this stillness, this waiting. It was as if he knew any movement would hinder his hope of recovery When all sense and presence of mind returned, off he flew.

It happened again yesterday; only this time it was a small goldfinch. The bright yellow male sat right where he landed, not moving, for almost an hour. I thought he had surely broken something, but then he darted to the tree above.

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(photo by Lyndi Harris)

Why can’t I sit still . . . not flailing in despair . . . waiting . . . gaining strength . . . changing perspective if necessary? Waiting. . . quietly . . . Am I committed to staying calm as I recoup my balance when a devastating circumstance would detour me. Where did birds learn to take such blows in stride, to quietly compose themselves before running into another situation? Neither one of these colorful beauties called a friend to support him in his pain; they did not Google for a quick remedy. “I pour out my complaint before You, O Lord. before You, I tell my trouble. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is You who know my way.” Psalm 142: 2-3a

While birds are often stunned when crashing into a glass barrier as these two were,  over one hundred million birds die every year when they attempt cruising through a window. It’s virtual suicide. They do not recognize the clear pane as a barrier.  Bird lovers are encouraged to cut branches, move feeders, add decals, close curtains,–multiple solutions are given to prevent more deaths. Perhaps I need to make sure my windows are dirty:-)  

Are there solutions when you and I slam into a barrier? When circumstances steal the very air we breathe.  Stunned fowls need peace and quiet to reboot. I, too, must adhere to that advice. I am reminded of David in Psalm 131 when he acknowledges . . . “I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.” He is totally contented, at peace, waiting.

An interesting story in 2 Samuel 10  gives insight into waiting for healing.  David’s gesture to show kindness to an Ammonite king was interpreted as a spy motive. David’s delegation of men was siezed; their beards were shaved half off, and their clothes were cut down the middle. Imagine returning to Jerusalem with buttocks showing! There was no debate; they could not return home. 

This was humiliation at its worst. To have one’s beard removed was a major taboo in the Israelite culture; it was an insult.  Exposure of one’s  private areas was a shameful practice afflicted to prisoners of war. King David heard of his men’s pain and instructed them to stay in Jericho until their beards grew back.

Why Jericho? Jericho was the first city the men would have come to after crossing the Jordan from Ammon. No doubt it was an unfruitful area with few inhabitants as it had not been rebuilt since the walls had fallen and the city burned during the conquest years before. (Joshua 6) The shamed men could be obscure while regaining their sense of worth and strength to continue their journey. 

But it is a sweet spot–this Jericho to which David sends them. Jericho literally means a place of fragrance. Imagine that these devastated men needed to seek calmness, peace, and quietness in order for their emotionally damaged hurts to be soothed. Trees of balsam, pine, and the spring blooms of the myrobalan or cherry plum perfumed the ruins. 

Perhaps we need to hurry to our place of fragrance, a sweet place. . . and stay there until our beards grow back.  A place where we can be soothed , to again know peace . . . His peace.”Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you  . . . John 14:27

. . . my beard is growing . . .

 

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