Archive | January 2013

Better Than Baby Squirrels!

I stopped in to visit my sister Cheree yesterday.  She had a total knee replacement seven weeks ago and is still recovering.  It’s been slow-going and, at times, discouraging—and far more painful and difficult than she had expected.  I’ve tried to visit her as often as I could, feeling badly that there was not much I could do to make her feel better.  She stayed with my mother for more than a month, and Mom did a fine job of caring for her, but finally Cheree felt the next step in her recovery was to return to her condo and get back to her “normal” life as much as possible.

One of those normal things she wanted to get back to was having her grandchildren around.  She was finally able to hobble around her small condo, and they are big enough to help and not be totally dependent on her.  Cheree is a wonderful grandma and usually spends a lot of time with her grandchildren.  She’d been missing Parker, Hannah and Ella.

When I arrived at her house yesterday she told me Steven (her son) had just left to pick up Hannah and Ella.  Parker was sick, so she wanted them to come for a sleepover, mostly to get them away from his germs.  We visited for a while and then finally Uncle Steven arrived with the girls and Happy Meals for their supper.

Hannah (8) came in all smiles.  Ella (3) was smiling, too, but it didn’t take long to realize she wasn’t her usual sunny little self.  She was a little fussy and didn’t want to eat.  She wasn’t pleased about the changes Cheree had made to “her” bedroom.  She wanted to watch a My Little Pony cartoon and I could see her eying the spot where I was sitting across from the television.

I was about to leave anyway, so I stood up and she quickly hopped up on the couch behind me.  At last!  All was right in her little world and she settled down to watch her cartoon.  I put on my jacket and said farewell to Cheree.  I called out goodbye to Hannah, and then said, “Bye, Ella!”  She was engrossed in her show and Cheree prompted her to say goodbye.  “Bye!” she waved and went back to My Little Pony.

I walked out and was headed for the parking lot when Cheree opened the door behind me.  “Ella just told me that she loves Aunt Cindy better than baby squirrels!” she called.

I burst out laughing.  Better than baby squirrels???  Where did that come from?  I wasn’t quite sure how to take it.  Was that a compliment?

Before I could reach my car, Cheree opened the door again.  She must have read my mind, for she called out to me, “She says she really loves baby squirrels!”

Okay, then!  Not sure how much interaction Ella has actually had with baby squirrels, but I will accept that as a compliment.  It gave me a warm glow—and lots of chuckles ever since.  Cutie!

I was still thinking about it (and smiling) when I woke up this morning.  I realized there are two things to consider about what Ella said (not including the obvious baby squirrels???)  The first is that it never hurts to compliment someone.  Silly me!  I was pleased that I rank higher than baby squirrels on Ella’s list!  Have any of her other aunts or great-aunts achieved that lofty standing?  And the lesson is that if you can’t find something nice to say about someone, you can always say they’re better than baby squirrels!

Our words have the power to make or break someone’s day.  Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”  In other words, a compliment is a gift.  God wants the words of our mouths to be edifying and encouraging to others.  “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”  (Ephesians 4:29)  Our words should be gracious, kind and wise.  According to Colossians 4:6,Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”  He tells us as well in Colossians 3:16 to encourage one another andLet the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom,singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

A couple of words of caution, though, about giving compliments: Make sure they are true, first of all.  False flattery does not count!  “They speak vanity every one with his neighbor: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.”  (Psalm 12:2)  Secondly, save your praise for others, not yourself!  Proverbs 27:2 says, “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.”

I am reminded as well by Ella’s words to remember to tell the ones you love that you indeed do love them.  They may know it already, of course, but it never hurts to hear those words again, does it?  I try always to speak those words whenever I am saying goodbye to one of my loved ones or a dear friend, whether it is on the telephone or in person.  If one of us should leave this earth before we meet again, I want the last words between us to be Love you!

Jesus had appeared to his disciples three times after His resurrection already when He asked Simon Peter, “…Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?   (John 21:14-21)  He wanted to hear Peter say he loved Him—but He also wanted Him to prove it by his obedience.  The words I love you should not be empty words, but backed up by action.   I John 3:18 says, My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”  The words are important when they are heartfelt and sincere, but even more important are the deeds that demonstrate them.  Jesus said, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.”  (John 15:12)  How did Jesus demonstrate His love for us?  He proved it by His sacrificial service on the cross, providing the free gift of salvation.

Let us be conscious of the words we use today.  May they be uplifting and edifying to others, spoken from a true heart and out of love.  Better than baby squirrels any day!

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Compassion in Action

 Nicole is an inspiration to me.  She is married to my nephew Brian and definitely is a “niece,” not just an in-law.  Nicole is a sweetheart and inspires many people.  She is the mommy of three young children, works full-time and is going to school, as well, to be a nurse someday.  As if that was not enough, Nicole is also an activist in trying to do all she can to help the poor and needy of this world.  She is an advocate for Living Waters (an organization that provides wells, water purification, etc for peoples around the world who have no clean water); Samaritan’s Purse, Compassion International; our local Women’s Center; March of Dimes; Women at Risk and the Starfish Project (both groups that help women and children enslaved in human trafficking.)  As a leader in our church’s MOPs group (Mothers of Preschoolers) she has been a source of encouragement and education to other young mothers.

Brian and Nicole are not rich–far from it.  They struggle to make ends meet, but that does not stop Nicole.  When she sees or hears of a need near her, she gives whatever she can to help fill that need, whether it be clothes, household goods, food…  She has garage sales periodically to raise money for her causes, selling off her own possessions to give to others.  “We have too much ‘stuff’,” she says, although they live very modestly.  She is raising her children to care for others, as well.  When they had birthday parties last year, they asked the guests to give money for Compassion International in lieu of gifts for them so that they could help a poor child somewhere else in the world.  How could you not be inspired by that?

When you first meet Nicole, you might think she is shy.  She is soft-spoken and does not seek attention for herself.  When she is speaking up for one of these causes in which she believes, however, she finds the courage and poise to stand up before hundreds, presenting the need and promoting the organization eloquently and without hesitation.  It is not just “social” needs that move her, but most importantly, the commission to take the Gospel throughout the world.  Nicole cannot go herself, but works tirelessly to stand behind those who can.  This is her gift from God.  This is her gift to God.

One of Nicole’s charities has been dear to my own heart for many years as well.  Compassion International, in response to the Great Commission, helps more than two million children and their families around the world physically, economically and especially spiritually.  Our own daughters Laurie and Julie both worked for Compassion at the headquarters in Colorado Springs, so we were aware of their good work and impeccable reputation decades ago.  We had sponsored a child in the past, but it has been many years since then and recently the Lord had been speaking to my heart about it.

Nicole has inspired me to become involved again with Compassion International, but other things have influenced me, as well.  Julie and David adopted two teenagers from the Ukraine this last year.  Their adoption journey opened my eyes anew to what Jesus said about caring for orphans and the poor and needy.  “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”  (Matthew 25:35-40)

I saw firsthand what being truly poor and needy means when I visited Laurie and Fernando’s family in Ecuador.  I will never forget the poor Indian woman I encountered one day on the streets of Cuenca.  She was begging for money to feed herself and her two little ones.  The baby had a burlap diaper; the two-year-old wore only a t-shirt and simply peed on the ground.  I still see in my mind’s eye the destitute children up in remote areas of the Andes mountains who came running when they saw our car making its way up the road to pass out Christmas gifts.  Their parents came to the car, as well, thanking us profusely and begging us not to forget them.  I saw the shacks that they called home with their dirt floors, pieced-together tin roofs and walls.  I saw them plowing nearly vertical sloped fields with an old wooden plow.  We have so much, even in our greatest need, and they have nothing. 

It is not enough to be emotionally moved by the need we see around us.  It is not enough, even, to be convicted that we are to answer the call to help those in need.  It is not enough to talk about it, but we must take action and put feet, hands and heart to the compassion we feel for others.  The Bible says, But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?  My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”   (I John 3:17-18)  I feel guilty for the time I have let pass between the “thinking about it” and the actual “doing.”  In the meantime, a real child has lived with poverty every day, day by day.

I got my Compassion child this week.  His name is Pedro and he is 10 years old.  He lives in the southern section of Guayaquil, Ecuador called Batallón del Suburbio.  I have been through Guayaquil and I have seen the types of houses these kids live in—dirt floors, brick or wood walls, corrugated iron roofs.  The adults work in factories or as fishermen.  Pedro’s father gets work sometimes as a laborer.  Common health problems in the area are anemia, parasites, malaria, skin diseases and typhoid.  Because Pedro will be supported through Compassion International he will receive Bible teaching, nutritional food, education, medical care, and vocational training among other “fun” things like games and celebrations.  His parents will be reached through evangelism and special meetings.

How will our support of Pedro impact his life?  I don’t know, but God does.  We prayed that God would place just the child He wants us to help into our hands, and we trust now that He has intersected our lives to make a difference for Pedro—and for us, as well.  I know sponsoring Pedro will be as much a blessing to us as it will be to Pedro, if not more.  There is even a chance that someday we may meet Pedro as we fly in and out of Guayaquil when we go to visit Laurie and Fernando and their kids.

I do not share this with you to toot our own horn.  As I said, I am ashamed that it has taken us this long to finally do it.  Rather, I simply want to remind us all that Jesus wants us to be “compassion in action.”  As part of the body of Christ we are to be His hands, His feet, His heart to love and care for others in His name.   Nicole does not have much money to give, but she gives of her time and talent, and creatively finds ways to raise the money to give, encouraging others along the way to do likewise.  This is not an option for the believer, but part of the work we are to do for the Lord until His return.  Let us be faithful in sharing the compassion and love of Christ in real, tangible ways.

She stretches out her hand to the poor; yea, she reaches forth her hands to the needy. Proverbs 31:20

But you see the trouble and grief…The helpless put their trust in You. You defend the orphans. Psalm 10:14

Help Him to defend the poor, to rescue the children of the needy. Psalm 72:4a

He will rescue the poor when they cry to Him; He will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them. Psalm 72:12

For He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. Psalm 107:9

But You are a tower of refuge to the poor, O Lord, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat. Isaiah 25:4a

He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. Deuteronomy 10:18

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress. James 1:27

 

You can find out more about Compassion International, or even sponsor a child, by going to http://www.compassion.com/default.htm  or calling (800) 336-7676, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. MT.

Cabin Fever

The natives are getting restless around here.  Well, I guess I should say “the native” (singular)—me.  I’ve been sick for ten days now and I am so ready to get out of this house.  I try not to complain about petty illnesses when I am very aware that this nasty cold—miserable as it has been—is nothing compared to what millions live with every day.  It is even negligible compared to this flu that has been going around.  I’ve had no fever or body aches; no tummy troubles, etc—it’s just a rotten cold.

Now that I am finally feeling better, I want to do my own grocery shopping.  I have a couple gift cards burning a hole in my pocket, too, to be spent on something “fun.”  My mom has been sick, also, and my sister is recovering from surgery.  I am anxious to get back over to see them as I was doing every other day before I got sick.  I want to go back to church.  I don’t normally get out of the house much anyway because of caring for Robbie and that doesn’t bother me at all, but now that I can’t go out, I am suffering from cabin fever.

I am definitely feeling better despite the symptoms that are stubbornly hanging on, however there are other circumstances still keeping me at home.  The weather has been either too cold or too rainy or too whatever…It is not worth taking a chance on being in stores or crowds and bringing home the flu bug…I have a husband who is very protective and just says, “No—you’re not going out until you’re completely well!”  Frustrating, but an exercise in patience, I guess.

Well, enough about me.  You probably have not been left unscathed by all the illness going around these days—or if you have, your turn will come sooner or later.  We all go through times of illness, injuries, and other physical ailments and conditions, major and minor, which must be dealt with.  Today I just want to leave you with some Scripture guaranteed to bring comfort and encouragement to the achy body and weary soul.  Think of it as a warm, cuddly blanket; a hot cup of tea; a bowl of chicken soup; a soothing balm; the cozy fire by which to snuggle.  There is no better medicine for us than God’s Word:

I am in pain and distress; may your salvation, O God, protect me. (Psalm 69:29)

Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony. (Psalm 6:2)

Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise. (Jeremiah 17:14)

O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. (Psalm 30:2)

My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. (Psalm 34:2)

For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. (Psalm 72:12)

The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness. (Psalm 41:3)

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.   Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  (Isaiah 40:29-31)

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. (James 5:15)

…there was given to me [Paul] a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.   For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.  And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (II Corinthians 12:7b-9)

Party Pooper Parents

Poor Robbie.  His lip sticks out as he eyes us.  He gives a quick, hopeful smile when he sees me looking back, but it is rapidly replaced by that pout again.  I can read his face like a book.  He wants us to play with him, but he has a couple of party poopers for parents and he is not happy about it.  I feel badly for him.  He is feeling rejected and lonely and cannot understand why Mama and Daddy aren’t giving him that loving that he is so used to.

We’ve been sick all week and trying desperately not to pass it on to Robbie.  The least little thing can send him back to the hospital so we are very careful about bringing germs home to him.  It is almost inevitable, though, when it seems this week that there is sickness all around us, that one of us would go down with the usual New Year’s Crud.  This year it was Bob.  He’s been miserable all week with a throat infection and accompanying fever, headache, swollen sinuses, etc.  I thought I’d dodged the bullet this year when I made it safely through the holidays, but then the last few days caught the bug and went down myself, although not as badly as Bob.

We’re on the mend.  I can’t wait until we can hug and kiss Robbie again and reassure him all is well.  Daddy is Robbie’s best buddy and he especially has been missing him.  He’ll be so excited when Daddy is ready to party again!

There are times when we are like Robbie.  We go through some trials or difficulties and we wonder why God seems not to care or respond in the way we think He should.   David cried out to the Lord several times in his distress.  “How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? forever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?” (Psalm 13:1)  Elijah felt alone and abandoned at one point and told God He might as well kill him right then and get it over with.  “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.(I Kings 19:4)  Joseph, Moses, Job, Daniel—many great men of the Bible went through times when the temptation to feel forgotten and forsaken must have been great.

The truth is—they never were.  God heard their cries.  He cared.  He loved them.  But He also saw the big picture and knew what was best for them.  He used those times to refine them, strengthen their faith; show His grace and mercy.  They may not have seen it at the time, but through it all He carried them, fought their battles, worked His great plan in their lives.  In the end, they got it—His loving arms were there all along and they could trust in Him to never leave them or forsake them.

Life is not always a party.  (Sorry, Robbie!)  But just because God allows us to go through the fire and the floods at times, it does not mean He does not care.  In fact, it is just the opposite—because He loves us so much, He wants us to experience His tender compassion, His sufficient grace, His faithfulness, and His power to heal and save—things we could not know about Him in their fullness without going through testing and trials first.  David saw God come to His rescue and felt His joy and strength and peace return.  Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”

We did what we did this week for Robbie’s best, whether he understood it or not.  I hope we can say, like Job, when our world seems to be falling down around us, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” (Job 13:14)