Archive | September 2013

Music, Please!

Julie and I sat up late one night talking when she was here about a month ago.  Robbie was sitting next to us, listening to his children’s music DVDs.  Finally, around one in the morning, Robbie’s video ended and Julie stood up and said, “Well, I guess we’d better get to bed.”

The party was over.  Robbie looked up with a pout on his lips and a furrow across his brow and suddenly did something he hadn’t done in over twelve years.  He signed, “Mommy, Sissy!  Music, please!”

Robbie has never talked except to say an occasional “Ma!” and, years ago, “Da!”  Over the course of his school years, we attempted to teach him sign language.  He learned to recognize about a dozen signs, and actually do six or seven—mommy, daddy, sister, Robbie, please, more, music…  Of those, the only one he really retained after he got sick and had more brain damage was “please.”

Now here he was, suddenly putting four signs from his past together in a phrase!  I wondered if I had imagined it, or if it was just a fluke, but no—he repeated it several times with a big grin on his face when he realized I recognized what he was signing.  Needless to say, I was thrilled!  Over the years I had tried to get him to do those signs, but he never would.  I suspected he could if he wanted to, but he was pulling my chain and being stubborn about it—when and if he did them it would be on his terms!  Now, sure enough, our little party animal didn’t want to go to bed so he pulled out his secret trick!  “Mommy, Sissy!  Music, please!”

That was a month ago.  The other night I was sitting next to Robbie when Julie called.  I put her on speaker phone so he could hear her voice.  “Hi, Robbie!” she said.  He immediately began signing, “Music please!”  Julie often sings to him over the telephone.  I told her what he was doing, so she laughed and sang him a song.  When it ended, he signed, “Music please” again.  She sang another song.  Over and over again, as soon as she stopped, he would sign his request and she would oblige.  Finally she said, “Okay, Robbie just one more and then Mommy and I get to talk.  When we’re finished, I’ll sing one more before we hang up.”  That seemed to satisfy him.music sign

He’s been signing “music” now fairly frequently.  It is the most difficult of his signs for him to do because it requires a more complex motion.  The right hand sweeps back and forth over the left forearm—as if one were playing a lute, or David’s harp.

Speaking of David—I and II Chronicles, which tell the story of David, are full of instances when he sang and led the nation in singing praises unto God.  One of the messages of the Psalms, which were mostly written by David and mention singing more than any other book of the Bible, could be signed by Robbie—“Music, please!”

Music is as much a part of God’s awesome, beautiful, intricate, varied creation as the mountains’ grandeur, the colorful plant world, the beauty of the tropics, the vastness of the oceans, the amazing variety of animals and the mystery and complexity of humans.  God gave us music as a gift—and He wants us to give it back to Him as an offering of worship, praise and thanksgiving to our Creator.  Music, please!

When we take a looDavid's harpk at the Psalms we see several purposes for music as our gift back to God.  The first is as an avenue of worship simply for who He is—His attributes.  It is an acknowledgement that He is righteous; His name is glorious, honorable, and most high; He is strong and powerful and holy; He is merciful, and our defense and refuge; He is true and faithful, He is our rock and salvation; He is good; He is just.  (Psalms 7:17; 9:2; 21:13; 30:4; 59:16-17; 66:2; 71:22; 81:1; 89:1; 95:1; 96:2; 101:1; 138:5; 145:7)

Our music should also be a testimony before others of His greatness; of His power and the marvelous things He has done and wondrous works He has wrought; of His victorious, righteous and just rule.  It should be a testimony to those around us, to our enemies, to the nations and to the heathen.  (Psalms 9:11; 18:49; 57:9; 67:4; 98:1; 105:2l 108:2; 126:2; 138:1; 149:1)

Our gift of music back to God should reflect thanksgiving.  He gives abundantly and bountifully far above what we deserve.  He gives us victory and redemption.  (Psalm 13:6; 27:6; 71:23; 92:1)       Psalm 147:7 says, “Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God.” and then to keep singing!  Psalm 30: 12 tells us, “To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee forever.”

Many of the verses in Psalms tell us to simply praise and rejoice in Him with singing, with musical instruments and even in dance!  Sing loudly!  Sing joyfully!  Sing for it is good and pleasant and beautiful!  Sing upon your bed!  Sing with all your being as long as you live!  (Psalm 33:2-3; 47:6-7; 57:7; 61:8; 65:13; 66:4; 68:4, 25, 32; 75:9; 92:1; 96:1; 98:4-5; 100:2; 104:33; 108:1; 135:3; 144:9; 146:2; 147:1; 149:3, 5)

You may be wondering why I listed all these references.  I read every one of these verses—several times, in fact—and it just made my heart happy.  Two verses in the New Testament mention psalms and singing and how they encourage, edify and uplift us and those around us.  Ephesians 5:19 says, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”  Likewise, Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

God asks of us, “Music, please!”  When we give Him that gift—no matter how beautiful or out of tune our music may be—it blesses His heart, and it blesses ours, as well.

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The Right Tools for the Job

I was in the kitchen the other day when I suddenly stopped and looked down at the utensil in my hand.  It was a large flat wooden spatula—perfect for stirring deep pots when you want to be sure everything is being scraped and lifted off the bottom.  It wasn’t so great for serving foods with a lot of liquid out of the pan.  I reached for my large slotted spoon.  “The right tool for the job,” I muttered to myself.

“Oh, good grief!” was my next thought.  “Now I sound like Bob!”  My husband still likes to “teach” me how to do just about anything, even after 43 years of marriage.

I thought once more of those words yesterday when I was at Walmart.  I’ve been making jewelry again this week.  When I began this little hobby several years ago I was a complete novice and did not have a clue what I needed to buy to accomplish it.  I had purchased a little packet of “mini-tools”—mostly because they were on clearance and cheap!  Over the years I had come to realize that they were difficult to use sometimes because they were so small.  This week especially I had fumbled over and over again trying to get a good grip on them and make them work.  Now as I stared at a set of three regular-sized jewelry tools—round nosed pliers, needle nosed pliers and side [wire] cutters—those words came back—the right tools for the job!  It was as if Bob was right there encouraging me to buy them!  I decided to spring for the $8.00, and sure enough—they were so much easier to use when I tried them out later that day.

This morning as I pondered what to blog about, I went to BibleGateway.com for (hopefully) some inspiration.  At first glance, I didn’t really find anything that motivated me, but suddenly I realized that the website itself, www.biblegateway.com was my inspiration this week!

I seldom review or endorse a product or organization here on Sundays with Cindy.  I am going to do so today because I want to share a valuable tool that may be as helpful to you as it has been to me.  Nothing will ever replace my leather and paper Bible.  I like the feel of it in my hands; I like to underline passages of Scripture and write notes in it; I think of it is being something tangible and precious that I can pass down to my children someday.  However, when I am studying or writing this blog, for instance, I like to use an online Bible.  Research is so much easier, looking up Scripture is so much quicker, and when, like me, you are a slow typist, “cutting and pasting” Bible verses and long passages of Scripture makes a huge difference!  God’s Word is God’s Word whether it is in a book, on a screen or carved on the wall of a cave!

I’ve used BibleGateway.com for several years now.  When I can only remember a portion of a verse, I type the part that I recall in “Keywords” and a list of verses that contain those words pops up.  Same thing when I am looking up verses that refer to a word like “rejoice,” or “grace” or “wisdom.”  When I know the reference to a specific verse, I can just type it in the box that says “passage lookup” and it will bring up the verse I want; the verses before and after it; the complete chapter and the chapters preceding and following that—in whatever version or language I want!  Lately I’ve noticed they’ve added a few more tools:  a parallel page where you can get two or three versions of your choice of the verse(s) side by side; an audible reading of the Scripture you type in; your choice if you want footnotes and/or cross-references or not; and even what size font you need!

BibleGateway.com has been an extremely useful tool for me as I study God’s Word.  We’ve bought various programs such as Bible Explorer and eSword, but BibleGateway is far easier to use—and it’s free!  And in addition to these study tools, BibleGateway also offers Bible reading plans, commentaries, Bible dictionaries and audio Bibles.  You can subscribe to their daily devotions, verse of the day or any of their fifty or more devotionals for men, women, families,  leaders…

When it comes right down to it, we don’t really need study tools to read, study, meditate on, understand or appreciate the Bible.  It is, after all, God’s Word—His communication—to us personally (as well as to the Church, Israel, unbelievers…)  When we prayerfully study with an open heart and mind, not allowing sin to block our relationship with Him, His Holy Spirit will teach us and open our eyes and understanding to His Word.  It is wonderful, though, to have these study tools available to us and a shame not to use them if we can!  After all, I can spread peanut butter on bread with my finger, but it is sure easier to use a knife!  The right tool for the job!

II Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  Whether it is with a Bible and a highlighter; a Bible, notebook and pen; a whole library or an online Bible, we all, no matter our age,  ought to make Bible study our lifelong priority!

Confessions of an Addict

I’ve been sitting in front of this blank computer screen, trying to decide on what to write about this week.  I’m taking inventory in my mind of what I’ve done since last Sunday but it has been a rather uneventful week around here—which is a good thing usually, don’t you think?  The one exciting thing that happened was our Gabi’s 16th birthday, but since she is down in Ecuador, Grandma and Grandpa missed out on any of the hoopla surrounding it.  Robbie’s adventures in eating continue to be a very happy thing, but since I wrote about that last week, I won’t elaborate on it further today…

A sad thing? I must have watched at least a dozen programs pertaining to September 11, 2001 this week.  Over and over I was reminded of the horror of that day from every perspective imaginable.  “Never forget” was the theme running through them.  I doubt any adult who witnessed the terrorist attacks of that day could forget.

A lot of my time this week has been taken with surfing the internet, looking for information about health insurance, artificial sweeteners and quantities for cooking for 300.  I’m helping my friend Debby plan another banquet so I’ve been shopping on the internet for large boxes, gift wrap and ribbons and bows, and party supplies, as well.  Nothing much of interest there to write about…

Wait a minute.  We did have a little flap around here about artificial sweeteners—aspartame, in particular.  Bob found an article on my Facebook page that warned of the evils of diet soda, especially those sweetened by aspartame.  He was on the warpath.  “No more diet soda!!!” he laid down the law.

Diet soda???  Hey, you’re treading on dangerous ground now!  Don’t try to take away my diet soda!  I was truly upset.  Being diabetic, I try to avoid sweets and desserts, and for the last year or so I had cut way down on other carbohydrates as well, like chips and breads, by substituting drinking diet soda rather than eating snacks.  I had lost sixty pounds in that way.  Now he wanted me to give up my diet soda, too???  What could I have?  It wasn’t fair!  Like a little child, I was arguing and pouting on the outside, and having a real temper tantrum on the inside.

I was also thinking (although I wouldn’t admit it to Bob.)  Many people who had been misdiagnosed with multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus, the article claimed, were cured of their symptoms when they gave up diet soda with aspartame.  “We’ve seen many cases where vision loss returned and hearing loss improved markedly,” the article went on.   ‘If you are using ASPARTAME (Nutra Sweet, Equal, Spoonful, etc) and you suffer from fibromyalgia symptoms, spasms, shooting pains, numbness in your legs, cramps, vertigo, dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, joint pain, unexplainable depression, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, blurred vision, or memory loss you probably have ASPARTAME poisoning!’

I had accused Bob of falling for everything he read on the internet.  After all, the “experts” seemed to change their minds about these things every other year.  One group said one thing, while others said the opposite.  Who to believe?  What was the truth?  Another article I read said:

“People have safely consumed products containing aspartame for over thirty years. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the World Health Organization, and regulatory agencies in more than 100 countries have reviewed aspartame and found it safe for use. The American Medical Association, the American Dietetic Association, and the American Diabetes Association recognize aspartame as safe.

The sweetener has been tested continuously since its introduction and its safety has been consistently re-affirmed. A study conducted by government researchers at the National Cancer Institute involved over 500,000 people, including those who drank the equivalent of three or more diet soft drinks every day for almost a decade. It found that there was no increased risk of any type of cancer even among those who consumed the most aspartame. In fact, since aspartame was first introduced, no scientific evidence has been found linking it to any disease in humans.”

As I thought about Bob’s concerns, I realized that he was only being protective of me and not trying to deprive me of anything.  I also had to admit that I could tick off several of the “symptoms” the first article had listed in my own life and attributed them as part of simply growing older.  What would it hurt, I wondered, to give up the aspartame for a few weeks and see if there was any change in those areas?

It was my conversation later that night with my daughter that clinched it for me.  I told her about the squabble I had had earlier with her dad and said, “I was really, really upset!  Every sugar-free product has aspartame in it—especially diet soda!  What can I have?”

She sympathized with me for a moment (which of course, is what I was looking for) and then I said, “I admit, the last few months I’ve been a “chain pop drinker”—finish one and pour another!”

“Oh, so you’re a soda pop addict!” she accused in fun.

“Yes!  Don’t take my addiction away from me!” I laughed.  Suddenly, with the word addiction ringing in my ears, I stopped dead in my tracks.

In all seriousness, is that what I had become?  I, who as a Christian, would never allow alcohol or tobacco to become an addiction?  I, who struggled with my weight and allowing food to become an idol in my life?  Why else would I have become so upset at the mere suggestion of giving it up?  Why must I always have a diet soda close at hand?  I was an addict—and I hated the sound of that admission!

I enjoy writing Sundays with Cindy and sharing what God has done in my life and the lives of my loved ones—and what He has to teach us through these things.  It is weeks like this, however, that I don’t enjoy so much—weeks when I must confess my failures and admit that I am not perfect (Surprise!) on the internet for all to see.  God sees my heart.  I know how far I fall short.  Why must you all know it, too?  [Sad smile]  The Lord won’t let me go when He lays it upon my heart to confess.  His way of keeping me humble, I suspect.  (After all, He told the good and the bad about the great men and women of the faith in the Bible.  Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, Peter, Paul—wonder how they like having their failures in black and white for all these centuries?)  We learn from our failures—and others learn, too.

Okay, an addiction to soda pop or chocolate is not like an addition to alcohol—right?  The Bible warns against being addicted or “given to much wine” in Titus 1:7; 2:3, “drunkards” in 1 Timothy 3:3 or “heavy drinkers” in 1 Timothy 3:8, as well as throughout the book of Proverbs. One of the definitions of addiction is “to cause to become physiologically or psychologically dependent on a habit-forming substance.” It is clear that believers must not be dependent upon alcohol, and it stands to reason that this would also apply to addiction to any other substance, such as tobacco, drugs, gluttony, pornography, gambling..  When someone wants to take away my diet soda or chocolate, though, and I have a hissy fit—hmm, what does that say?

There is another definition of addiction: “To occupy (oneself) with or involve (oneself) in something habitually or compulsively.” This speaks of an obsession with anything other than God: sports, exercise, work, shopping—even family or children when we put them before the Lord. We are to “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5) which is, according to Jesus, the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38.) An addiction to anything other than God Himself, then is idolatry and therefore, wrong. God is the only thing we can (and should) occupy ourselves with habitually. To do so with anything else draws us away from Him and displeases Him. He alone is worthy of our complete love and service.  Isn’t “addiction” then, just another word for idolatry?

Everything in moderation.  That is something I have struggled with most of my life.  When I enjoy something or some activity I tend to go gung ho.  There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these innocent things, whether they are sports or work, soda, golf, coffee, fishing, chocolate, shopping, exercise… It is when we become obsessive about them and can’t let go that we become an addict—and yes, Christians can become addicts.  We must ask forgiveness for that.

Let’s put Christ first in our lives in ALL things!

The Milk and the Meat

On June 23 of this year I wrote a blog called “Deliciously Dangerous.”  You can go back in the archives here and read it if you have not already done so.  That article talked about Robbie’s venture into trying to eat again after being on a feeding tube for the last twelve years.  We had come to the conclusion that as much as we would love to see him have the pleasure of eating by mouth again, it was simply too dangerous to allow it since choking could lead to aspiration, and that could lead to pneumonia and another stay in the hospital—or worse.

Since then things have changed.  Robbie continues to progress and gain strength.  He is attempting new things all the time.  We were at a mini-family reunion last week and relatives were marveling at the change in him.  And Robbie decided to take matters into his own hands and take another stab at actually eating again!

I discovered a half of a potato chip in his mouth one day!  Of all things—a potato chip!  By the time I saw it, it was mushy and I watched with fear and trepidation as his throat muscles worked and he actually swallowed it whole.  (Yikes!)  A day or two later I caught him trying to stuff a whole (hard) breadstick in his mouth!  I did manage to get that one away before it could do any damage.  After that he kept trying to grab food off our plates.  It hurt my heart to keep saying no.  I would gladly give anything to him but I was afraid.

Daddy had a little more courage.  Bob decided to test the waters.  We had seen Robbie actually swallow.  If he could swallow, maybe he could get down some very soft things.  He offered Robbie some soft-serve ice cream on the tip of his spoon.  Rob eagerly took the tiny bite.  It went down smoothly.  He beamed from ear to ear and signed, “Please! Please!”  He proceeded to swallow bite after bite.  We all rejoiced!

From then on, Robbie looked reproachfully at us when we ate something he could not have.  Last night it was pizza.  We have compensated with chocolate pudding, applesauce, mashed banana, ice cream, and jello.  Each one went down easily with no coughing, choking or aspiration.  He visibly swallowed.  Hurray!!!  We seemed to have turned the page to a new chapter in Robbie’s life—one that we never dreamed he would achieve!  We truly thought he would never be able to eat again.  Now we dare to hope that someday he may truly be free of the feeding tube!

We are taking it slowly and speaking to Robbie’s neurologist.  I did some research the other night on regaining the ability to swallow and safe, soft diets.  A person of normal mental capacity can do exercises to strengthen their swallowing mechanism.  Robbie does not understand that, so I made a plan to “graduate” him gradually from one step to the next as far as food consistency and texture.

For instance, he already seems to be handling the Step One foods just fine—ice cream, pudding, yogurt, etc.  Tomorrow, after speaking to his doctor, we will move on to what I have designated as Step Two foods—things with a little more body and texture like oatmeal, mashed potatoes and cottage cheese.  Hopefully he will progress to Step Three foods—scrambled eggs, canned (or cooked to soft and tender), mashed vegetables and fruits, pancakes and syrup…  Throughout this time we will keep him on his liquid diet through the g-tube.  Our hope is that once he graduates to Step Four foods (thick soup or stew with soft veggies and tiny, soft pieces of meat and pasta or rice; peanut butter and jelly on soft bread; soft, moist cookie, cake, pie or muffin; sloppy joe on soft bun; macaroni and cheese; tuna salad and so on…) we will be able to remove the feeding tube, or keep it only for hydration (thin liquids are most dangerous as far as aspiration is concerned) and giving medications.

This plan is reminiscent of how we teach our babies to eat.  We move from one stage of food to another as they grow and become accustomed to different consistencies, flavors and textures.  What a blessing it will be for Robbie to once again be able to enjoy food in his mouth—and a special joy to his family to see him enthusiastically dig in!

The Bible speaks to this very thing in a spiritual sense.  We are born again when we trust Christ as our personal Savior.  In fact, Scripture calls us “newborn babes.”  What do newborn babies desire first of all?  They want milk.  I Peter 2:1-3 tells us that once we have left behind our sinful past and been reborn to newness of life, we ought to crave the “milk of the Word” so that we might begin to grow in the Lord.  “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”

Our eyes are opened to the things of the Lord and to His Word, and we have new understanding of them, but it does not happen all at once.  We take in the milk of the Word and begin to grow and mature until finally we begin to dig deeper and start wanting to delve into the real meat of the Word.  “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of   strong meat.  For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.  But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”  (Hebrews 5:12-14)

We would not give meat to a newborn.  But there comes a time when a child must move on with a healthy, balanced diet in order to develop properly.  If he does not, growth and health issues may ensue.  In the same way, God wants us to mature and grow into healthy believers.  That includes partaking of the milk and the meat of His Word.  God reveals to us then the deeper things of His Word and we have a greater understanding and communication with Him.  Not only that, but we are more able then to share with others God’s Word.

I cannot conceive of what it must have been like to go for twelve years without having a morsel of food in my mouth like Robbie did.  I always appreciate my food (as you can surely tell!) but I imagine those first few bites for Robbie must have been beyond appreciation—incredible, amazing, wonderful!  In the same way, as we take in the milk and meat of Scripture, we ought to begin to crave it, to hunger for it.  Psalm 19:7-10 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.  The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.  The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.”

Discovering that Robbie can swallow again; seeing him enjoy food again; having hope for his future and however far he may progress—this is a huge deal to us!  Joy, joy, joy!  May we each take such joy in spiritual growth which comes through partaking of God’s Word.  “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!  (Psalm 119:103)