. . . the last time . . .

“This could be our last breakfast,” I solemnly said to Tom one morning last week. Events of the week had propelled my thoughts into last times and last things.

Last week a dear family friend had two strokes and given a poor prognosis; another friend lost an adult son, totally unexpected. Our daughter lost her aged mother-in law. Even though the family knew her time was limited, they lost someone very precious to them. At the funeral one of her sons shared his last time with her. He had helped with feeding her dinner, kissed her good night.  “I had no idea that would be my last time with her.” It had been the final good bye.

. . . the last time. . . there are many meanings for last. Final, end, ending, eventual, decisive, closing, climatic. Some of these definitions can be good, positive, expectant of something better, different. A friend had his last day of work this past week.  Retirement opens a new door for him. The last day of elementary school means your child is finally entering high school . . . that glorious time where new adventures await. Then there is the last day of that education trek and college waits.

So is life.  We find ourselves on one stage; the curtain goes down, and life opens on another.

But what about the last time . . . the very last time for life, for breath? That’s what I meant in the comment to Tom. He reached for my hand, and said, “Yes, Barb, it could be.” A tender, tearful sharing followed about living in the NOW.

Tom’s first funeral fifty one years ago was for a thirty-seven year old father with four young children. He had been mowing the lawn, a very ordinary part of life; he came in to rest on the couch as he sensed something was wrong. That death had a powerful effect on me as a young wife and mother.  Still, today, it affects how I view and have always viewed life and marriage.

I have today. . . this NOW. It has been important that Tom and I do not let anger linger, that we face and discuss our differences quickly. I have focused on loving him today, because I may not have tomorrow. We always hug (and not just a quick, generic hug.) when one of us leaves the house for the day, for a trip. It could be the last time.  This is the only way to love.  I am convinced I cannot live fully this moment without accepting the fact that I may only have this moment.

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I wear this pen one week a year. I wear it unashamedly with passion and gratitude for the man I love every moment. An older pastor’s wife that I loved dearly and from whom I learned much found this for me thirty five years ago.

Jesus said in John 10:10 that he came “that we may have and enjoy life and have it in abundance—to the full, till it overflows.” Amplified.  I would add that these words are more clear, more alive to me as I have learned to live in the Now, trusting the Lord, following Him in  . . . the moments I have today.

One of my favorite verses for marriage is Deuteronomy 24:5 . . . “If a man has recently married, he must not be sent off to war or have any other duty laid on him.  For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.” Isn’t that an absolutely great plan!  You know what? Tom and I  forgot the part about one year. We have chosen to live out this principle for fifty-five years . . .  bringing joy and happiness to each other. Of course, we have failed many times, but this goal remains our focus.

This is not a sad or morbid post. It is a lovely way to live. Perhaps you need to begin this Valentine week to focus on the NOW . . . to live and love each moment . . . with the one you love. With your children. With your brothers or sisters.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him  . . . each moment (my  insertion)  . . .  so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Living this moment NOW . . . it could be my last . . .

 

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. . . just blind . . .

Why was the line in the post office so long? It took me a second to remember what week it was.  “This is not the week before Christmas, is it?” What is going on I wondered on this fourteenth day of January? There were at least twelve people in front of me, none of whom I considered normal.

Then every person turned in my direction, questioning me, pointing a finger. “Do you see me? What color am I?”

I wanted to run. . . they didn’t really point their fingers or even turn; they were more gracious than that. Only an hour earlier, I had posted my blog Colorblind. Secure and self-righteous in my love and acceptance of the colors of the world, I dropped in at the local post office to mail some notes . . . to those colors.

I had no idea I was self-righteous in this.  I sincerely love the colors I know. Evidently that is the secret—the colors I know, accept and see.

The thin, toothless man who had pushed past me as I opened the door to the post office was no doubt, homeless.  All indications told me so;  he had little material possessions and no genteel manners. His clothes, his hair, his perfume, the envelope he had in his hand, addressed to the left of a window envelope, which showed a folded, tiny, penciled note through the window . . .  shared his situation.

The colors of the world just happened to be here today, dressed in the latest fashion of   tattoos, bright colors of hair, multiple earrings in multiple places. Some in tight leggings, very tight, showing every available bulge. A dingy t-shirt offended me with its imprinted message.

I was stunned. Why are so many of ‘these’ here this day, this time? You know—the ones we call the fringe society.

Just as stunned, and almost immediately, I heard thunder; it sure sounded like thunder.  “Barb, do you see these colors? Each one is my beautiful creation, and I love them all. What will you do with these colors?”

I stood there, naked and condemned of my sin. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23,24. Amplified

Quickly, I headed for fresh air. Examining my heart all the way home, I sought God’s forgiveness for my judgmental attitude. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9

What was surprising  is the fact my God would organize a meeting of the local fringe society at the exact time I would walk through the same doors. He loves me enough to show me who I am.

Thank you, Father, for forgiveness today.  And how grateful I am that “you do not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great are your mercy and loving-kindness to us who reverently and worshipfully fear you.” Psalm 103:10,11 Amplified

A fringe society is defined as people or activities considered strange or extreme. When I looked  that word up in  the dictionary, I saw my picture.  After all, Barbara  means strange. . . even barbarian.

. . . If I know my heart at all, I desire to see and love people, all people. . .  as they are . . . on this journey to NOW.

Will you join me? . . .

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. . . 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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