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December Newsletter-Joy To The World

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‘Peace on earth, good will toward men.’  That’s a good start right?  It’s The Season and I feel a tradition to write the obligatory Christmas letter.  I get it, and at least I started out with a Christmas card greeting.  And, Peace can be a subject of Christmas.  As for this letter, I’ll paraphrase Peace to include Joy as well.  They may not be exactly the same, but both are in the same family, cousins, and they are both genetically similar accept for a twist or two in their DNA.  Now, I’m not perfect at what I’m about to write about; for that matter, no one is perfect at this subject because being flesh and bone we make mistakes about Peace and Joy.  You suffer some times when Peace seems to be hiding behind a tree somewhere, not to be easily found.  But that said, let me tell you what I believe about Peace and Joy.

First, I think it’s overwhelmingly possible for Peace/Joy, when we apply the Gospel to our daily lives, to be constant companions; constant when we don’t forget to keep them front and center in our lives.  In the past I’ve had Joy and Peace drop by and spend some time with me, you know, kind of visit for a few hours or days.  Jane and I first learned of the Peace of God years ago when the radio station went through some pretty heavy duty stress.  Going through this past year has reinforced our feelings about Peace in ways we had not experienced before.  Currently, the financial stress found in all the economy has affected the giving environment and has presented new challenges for us, but we have been through that before.  However, even more evidence of the Peace of God was found during Jane’s Guillain-Barré experience.  It left me a bit more of a ‘slow thinker’ if you will.  Since March 21st, I’ve tried to slow down some of my hurry, my push, to stop and enjoy the moments more than before.  Before, it seemed that Joy sometimes had other things to do. In the hustle and bustle of life, I kind of forgot to check the back lot for her– see if Peace was still hangin’ round the house somewhere.  You see, during those weeks and months that Jane was so sick, one day at a time became all I could deal with.  One day is all we had at that point. Thinking about the past or future was of no value to me then.  All my planning, work and stability was taken away.  I just made the most out of the moment.  And while I saw some really grim stuff, at the end of each day was a Thanksgiving for another tomorrow.  That’s when Thanksgiving moved in to stay.  And do you know who travels with Thanksgiving?  Yep, Peace and Joy.  Move right in; make themselves at home, with the arrival of Thanksgiving.

They all three moved in and stayed around for a while this time; they stayed in the guest room of my mind.  People have done so much for us, said so many kind things, prayed for us.  Our health care givers were so encouraging and compassionate.  Great Peace took a comfortable chair, sat down, took up residence.  Why?  It seems to me that it was because I stopped ‘taking thought for tomorrow.’  Ours became a day to day experience. We found so much Peace and Joy it brought Comfort to Jane and me both.  It actually made a lot of sense to me afterward.  (Now this is the important part!) God inhabits the present.  My mental and emotional trips to the future were of little good and unnecessary when God is in your now!  Jane and I have always encouraged one another to live in the now.  Our imaginations are usually very emotionally exaggerated and typically the future doesn’t turn out to be what we imagined anyway.  Most are thoughts that never have any value, no substance, no reality; they are empty and sometimes horrible, vain imaginations.  If left unchecked they dominate our lives even when in reality they do not come to pass.  God is in the Real!

God lives in reality; it is in the real that He is always present.  My imaginations are usually me managing and predicting events, kind of making me god over some future before it happens.  In God’s economy tomorrow will take care of tomorrow.  Leaving today and worrying about tomorrow walks away from God’s moment and enters into our imagined future.   I’ve discovered that it’s not Peace and Joy that visits us occasionally and stays but a few days, it’s us that visits and then leaves to imagine other days and focus on other things.  His today interacts with our today each day.   His Grace is a day to day experience.  Today is enough. There’s enough God in today, and knowing that permits us not to have to move on to the future so much.  Living in the present is where you hear the voice of God, where you witness the leading of the Spirit of God.

Have you ever noticed how Jesus lived in just the single day?  As you watch his ministry you see someone that had time for all kinds of people, had time to listen and share with each person.  He was led by the Spirit of God each day.  He was not living way out in front.  He took his own advice and did not ‘toil or weave’ but lived each day like God was present with him.  We will not be 100% successful at ‘taking no thought for tomorrow’ but we can do better than we might think.  Trust and obey is a motto we’ve used, but being faithful to this Gospel and this Faith has a deeper Trust and Obeying than we commonly live in each day.  Can we really put our lives in the hand of God?  Can we trust and believe like we really should?  Well, at least I think we can improve.  I think so because as we experience God’s Grace guess who shows up to reinforce that?  Yep! Thanksgiving, Peace, Joy.  I’m trying to take a deep breath now and slow my day down. I want to notice today’s opportunity and not rush to tomorrow so quickly.  Not easy for us in this culture, but doable nonetheless.

There were long days in Chicago, 24 hour days where each hour presented a new focus unlike Jane and I have experienced before.  And, I’m not sure, but it felt like there was a deeper Peace to be found there.  The Joy of each moment overpowered the terror of the moment.  And, in the middle of that, Thanksgiving was easy to find.  It moved into the hospital room with me.  I had a chair in the corner to live in.  I’m not sure where Thanksgiving, Peace and Joy slept, but I can tell you each morning as I woke from a couple hours sleep, all three stood in that room, ready to be daily companions.  They had moved in to stay and I liked it!

Scripture says live like this: ‘whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things…and the Peace of God shall be with you. (Phil 4:8)  It’s True!

Jane’s Guillain Barre Syndrome Journey Recorded 10/17/12

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Jane’s GBS Journey

(please click the words above to hear Jane’s story that was recorded on 10/17/12.)

November Newsletter-The Father and child.

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My dad was a coal miner for most of his life.  He served in WWII in the 79th Division in the US Army, in the 314th Infantry.  He received the Purple Heart for being shot in a hedgerow in France.  In all, he spent 26 months sleeping in the European mud before returning home, and well, with my mother’s help, gave me life.

The most important fact about my dad and me is that we had ‘relationship’.  Now if you were watching us, some of the time our relationship could be misunderstood.  If you looked at it from the outside, he could have looked (to someone that did not know or understand him) too direct or too firm, but that was not really the case.  He just understood that he had a responsibility to try and train me in a way that gave me the best chance in life, to get the most purpose out of life that I could.  He took that seriously but not selfishly.  My great benefit was that I didn’t misunderstand dad’s love.  In my mind there was never any question about how much he cared, how much he tried to be a guardian for me.

What I saw was someone that held two jobs much of my childhood. He did that to make ends meet.  He never came to me and said, “Hey, I’m working day and night here for you and the rest of the family”, but I knew that he was away a lot of the time trying to make my mother’s, my brother’s and sister’s and my life better.  I saw him scrimp to come up with the money to buy my first baseball glove, a Rawlings glove, the best!  Paul Wilson ran the local DX ‘filling station’ and he kept a few gloves in the station to sell.  That moment was overwhelming to me; it was so thoughtful and giving on my father’s part.  Up until then, I don’t know if I’d ever experienced someone sacrificing specifically for me, denying their needs, just to make my life better.  I noticed what a joy it was for dad to give me that glove. Actually, he got as much out of giving it as I got out of receiving it.  My playing ability never did justify the purchase, but he never complained. I saw many unspoken things about dad that translated love for my mother and three kids.  He didn’t ‘toot’ his own horn but he simply, quietly cared for all of us in his unique way.

The relationship between dad and me was one that was largely understood, not necessarily expressed.  Occasionally, we would slug away at each other’s shoulder, but we used that ‘touching’ as more of an expression of fondness for each other, never a real blow.  I could see the pleasure in his eye as I grew up and matured.  He never said anything, but I could tell that he ‘loved’ when life went well for me.  I got to where I assumed his caring whether he said anything directly to me or not.  As our children were born, he delighted for Jane and me.  In the last few years of his life, dad fought prostate cancer and gradually it wore away at this life.  One of the really dear moments, one of the most special moments for me, was one late August day in 1998.  Dad and I picked up hay out of the field together that day.  He was very sick, actually dad died a few months later.  But it was the unspoken sharing that took place that day that was so special.  He and I didn’t talk about the pain and failing health.  We talked of everything else with no words said about what we would be facing shortly, but there were unspoken words we each had in our hearts.   I knew, and he knew, this was our last day to stack hay in the barn.  (Even today, I don’t ever enter the barn loft without those feelings being re-kindled.)  The charming part was that each of us enjoyed one another; we trusted one another without much expression. There was a confidence that each had about the other, a comfort that only comes when two trust and respect the other. He did not have to say it, I did not have to look for it, and we both understood it.  It came from years of relationship.

I’ve said all that about my dad because I want you to know that the blessings I received from my dad were, in a large part, because of the way I saw him, how I perceived him.  When we did not see eye to eye, I never did perceive him as a father that just wanted his way or wanted to control me for selfish reasons.  I trusted him; I knew him, and had all the confidence in the world that anything that dad might say or do was motivated by a great love for me.  His love was not self-centered.  It was compassionate for me.  That’s important in our Christian Life as well.  How we perceive ‘our Father’ works the same way.  How we see Him makes a difference in the relationship we have with him.  If we don’t know what to expect, don’t know what He might do next, how can we live peacefully with God?  Jesus told us that no man (prior to Christ coming) had seen the Father, but Jesus came to show us Who He really was. He instructed us that if we could perceive Christ’s heart we could perceive the Father’s Heart. You see, the way I perceived my dad was directly proportional to the amount of blessing I could receive from my dad.  Knowing him, trusting him relaxed my relationship with dad.  The way I perceived my Father was directly proportional to the amount of blessing I could receive from Him.  Have you noticed how Jesus approached Peter in Matthew 16?  His question to the apostle was simply, ‘Who do you say I am?’  Why did Jesus do that?  Because what we say affects what we believe about God, which has an effect on what we see and experience of God.  Jesus was leading Peter to think about that.  Christ still asks each of us that same question today.  Who do we say He is?  What do we expect of Him?  How do you see your relationship between you and God the Father?  If we don’t see that relationship correctly, how will we ever get the right answer to that question?

When Jane was so sick, so close to death, it never entered our minds that God’s fingerprints were on that moment of such pain.  Instead, of looking for a great lesson to be learned, we were looking for and received great Comfort and Peace.  We knew that God was with us, cared for us, provided Grace to us.  We were not suspicious of His place in our experience, trusting was easy.  Confidence was natural for us because we know the Father in the same way that I knew my dad.  My dad gave me life and up until the very time of his death, dad spoke and did everything to root me on in this life.  I remember so well the words of care and love he spoke to me from his hospital bed.  No matter what it looked like externally, I never did misunderstand my dad’s heart for me. That benefited the relationship we both enjoyed with one another.  Likewise, there is no double-mindedness in my relationship with my Father; it’s stable because I know I can trust Him in every situation.  Jesus advised us to be single-eyed, not looking to the right or the left to perceive Him, to look at the Father face to face.  The most important phrase I learned in all my chasing the Bible meanings and all the studies, books, tapes and teachings did not come from any of those.  It was a simple a statement made to me years ago by a friend; it has been a ‘true North’ marker for me ever since.  Simply put “Dad ain’t mad.”  That knowledge made a difference in my relationship with my earthly father; it has made a profound difference in my relationship with my Heavenly Father.  That phrase has made all the difference.  We are not to be ‘double-minded’, no Good God/Bad God.  I’ve made up my mind about my Dad, He is for me, He is for you!  I’m not afraid, not overwhelmed, not ashamed because I know my Dad just like I knew the comfort from my dad!

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