Archive | October 2015

Healed, Supported and Strengthened by God

One year ago this week a little baby was born into this world in a violent and horrific manner. His mother had taken heroin every day of her pregnancy–even just an hour before he was born.  She had tried to abort the baby herself several times, including trying to kill him on the way to the hospital for delivery.  Why she did not go to an abortion clinic I do not know, other than to suspect that she had had other abortions before and for some reason, could not go back for another.  When the baby was born, he was black and blue from head to toe and in critical condition.  The doctors and nurses said they had never seen such a “violent” birth.  One hour later, the mother pulled out the IVs, snatched up her clothes and left the hospital alone.

The baby boy was not expected to live nevertheless he was transferred to a larger hospital where he could get better care. For almost two months he was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  Gradually, he improved somewhat, but he was addicted and he spent those two months screaming so much that they finally had to move him to a small storage room off the NICU by himself because he was upsetting the other critically sick little babies.

The nurses cared about the baby boy, but they were busy and were unable to spend much time in trying to comfort him. Protocol, and their own emotional protective barriers, demanded that they not become too attached, so the baby was held only when he was fed or changed.  Most of the time, he was swaddled tightly and left alone.

Until one day a miracle happened.

A man and woman walked into the NICU with orders from a judge that they be allowed to visit with the baby whenever and for as long as they wanted. From the moment the woman picked up the baby and cuddled him, whispering tender words of love in his ear and prayers for healing, a change came over the baby boy.  He grew still and quiet, relaxing in her arms.  The couple spent every moment they could with the baby, surrounding him with love and prayers.

From the beginning, they prayed about what to call the baby boy. They wanted to choose a name with special significance.  The Lord laid it upon their hearts to name him Josiah, claiming its meaning for him—healed by God, supported by God.  His middle name would be Ezekiel—God will strengthen.

They had chosen well. Day by day, little Josiah began to thrive and respond to them with smiles and contentment.  The doctors and nurses were abuzz with the change they saw in the baby and declared that it was a miracle.  A few of the nurses were believers and had been praying all along for the infant, but even those who did not profess to be Christians believed in the miracle they were seeing before their eyes.

The baby was on methadone to wean him from the heroin addiction he had been born with. They expected that it would be months yet before he would be healed. Thirteen days later Mommy and Daddy walked out of the NICU with baby Josiah—weaned off the methadone and well on his way to complete healing—and headed for home and the family who awaited them there.  It was Christmas Eve.  It was a Christmas Eve miracle.

Josiah turned one year old this last week, and from all appearances is thriving and developing just as he should, reaching all milestones just when he should and, in some cases, earlier. He took his first steps alone the day after his birthday.  He is saying some words already—dog, ruff, fish, turtle, dada.  He is curious and on the go all the time, zooming around the kitchen in his walker and trying to climb already.  When I hear of something new that he has learned, I don’t just think, that is a smart baby. I think, that is a miracle baby.  To think of everything that baby went through before he was even born, and to have survived and thrived with a sound body and mind is nothing short of God’s healing, supporting, strengthening Hand.

King David experienced that same miraculous Hand of God. Just as Josiah’s birth mother tried to kill him, David had enemies trying to kill him for years—betrayed sometimes by his own children and close friends. He said, though, in Psalm 147:3 about the Lord, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” He praised God, as well, for physical healing. “Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases.” (Psalm 103:3)

Psalm 18:17-19 tells us, also, that David praised God for His support.  “He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support. He also brought me out into a broad place; He delivered me because He delighted in me.” From the time he was just a young boy and fought a lion, and a bear, and ultimately the giant Goliath, David knew God stood with him and for him, supporting him in the battles he must wage.

King David could say in all confidence to us then in Psalm 31:24, “Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord.” The strong hand of God, which had strengthened his hand and heart, will do the same for us when we trust in Him.

There was a king who followed David who bore the same name as our baby Josiah. II Chronicles 34:1-3, 8, 26-33 tells his story, ”Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem.    And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.  For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David; and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the wooden images, the carved images, and the molded images.  In the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had purged the land and the temple, he sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, Maaseiah the governor of the city, and Joah the son of Joahaz the recorder, to repair the house of the Lord his God.   But as for the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, in this manner you shall speak to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel: “Concerning the words which you have heard— because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and you humbled yourself before Me, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,” says the Lord.  “Surely I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace…” Then the king sent and gathered all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem.    The king went up to the house of the Lord, with all the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem—the priests and the Levites, and all the people, great and small. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the Lord. Then the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book. And he made all who were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin take a stand. So the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers.  Thus Josiah removed all the abominations from all the country that belonged to the children of Israel, and made all who were present in Israel diligently serve the Lord their God. All his days they did not depart from following the Lord God of their fathers.”

King Josiah was just a little boy when he became king, but from the very beginning he determined to love and follow God and lead his nation in doing the same. He purged the land and temple of all idolatrous worship, restored the temple building and when the Law of God was found in the temple, he had it read to all the people and led them in repentance and obedience to God.  I have no doubt that our little Josiah, with the love and teaching of his mommy and daddy, will follow in the footsteps of King David and King Josiah and grow up to love and serve the Lord God as well.

How blessed our baby Josiah is to have a mommy and daddy who love him unconditionally, plenty of older siblings who adore him, and a happy home in which to thrive! The story of Josiah’s life could have been written far differently.  And how blessed they are to have this little bundle of joy and energy!  How blessed I am to be his grandma!  How blessed we all are to have witnessed the miraculous healing, supporting, strengthening Hand of God in this precious child’s life!  And what He has done in our baby’s life and the lives of kings, He can do in yours, as well!

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The Master’s Touch

I wish I was in California today! The Bluegrass Boys will be playing at Julie and David’s church and I would love to be there to hear them perform.  Oh—there may have been other groups by that name, but I guarantee you’ve never heard these Boys.  And they’re not really bluegrass—more like Southern Gospel—thank goodness!  I’m not a big fan of bluegrass, although I do like Southern Gospel music.  Nevertheless, at the moment, the Bluegrass Boys are my favorite group—because three of the five Boys are my grandsons, Benjamin, Joshua and James!master's touch

They will be singing “I’ll Fly Away” tonight.  James and Joshua play guitar with their friend Roy, Benjamin will be on the fiddle (last time, when they played “The Lily of the Valley,” he played the harmonica) and their other friend Caleb will play the banjo.  I would so love to be there.  David said he will record it for me, though, so I will happily settle for that.  I am sure they will be amazing!

It’s so fun to see our grandchildren develop talents and gifts we never knew they had. Some of the lids are very musical and play a wide variety of instruments.  Anastasia and Hannah made beautiful quilts this summer.  Others are into rock climbing, surfing and so on.  It remains to be seen what passions the little ones will develop.  I just pray that with all these other things, they all will grow to have a love and zeal and passion for the Lord.

I don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook usually, but once and a while I’ll see a little story or video that someone has posted that catches my interest. I saw one this week that I enjoyed and passed along to a couple of my Facebook “friends.”  It was about an 81 year old man who walked into a music shop in Tennessee and picked up a guitar.  What came forth as he began to play amazed everyone in the store.  Someone grabbed their camera and recorded it.  (If you would like to see the video for yourself you will find it at http://qpolitical.com/this-81-year-old-picked-up-a-guitar-seconds-later-my-jaw-dropped/  )

I showed the video to Bob and when we finished listening to the beautiful Spanish-style song he said, “You can tell that man was probably a professional musician at one time. He is a master at the guitar.”

His remark got me to thinking about our grandsons and their love for playing their instruments. It will be many years before they will be true masters of the caliber that the old man was, but if they continue to be enthusiastic and practice, practice, practice, I have no doubt they can excel at whatever they put their hands to do.

Bob’s comment also reminded me of an old poem I heard many years ago—and I’m sure you’ve probably heard it also. It is called “The Touch of the Master’s Hand.”

 

The Touch of the Master’s Hand

‘Twas battered and scarred, And the auctioneer thought it hardly worth his while To waste his time on the old violin, but he held it up with a smile.

“What am I bid, good people”, he cried, “Who starts the bidding for me?” “One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?” “Two dollars, who makes it three?” “Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three,”

But, no, From the room far back a gray bearded man Came forward and picked up the bow, Then wiping the dust from the old violin And tightening up the strings, He played a melody, pure and sweet As sweet as the angel sings.

The music ceased and the auctioneer With a voice that was quiet and low, Said “What now am I bid for this old violin?” As he held it aloft with its’ bow.

“One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?” “Two thousand, Who makes it three?” “Three thousand once, three thousand twice, Going and gone”, said he.

The audience cheered, But some of them cried, “We just don’t understand.” “What changed its’ worth?” Swift came the reply. “The Touch of the Masters Hand.”

“And many a man with life out of tune All battered and bruised with hardship Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd Much like that old violin

A mess of pottage, a glass of wine, A game and he travels on. He is going once, he is going twice, He is going and almost gone.

But the Master comes, And the foolish crowd never can quite understand, The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought By the Touch of the Masters’ Hand.

– by Myra Brooks Welch

I am proud of my grandchildren for working hard at developing their talents and gifts. Maybe someday they will become masters at whatever they set their hands to do.  There is only One, however, who can truly turn their lives—or yours and mine—into the beautiful masterpieces that He intends them to be.

He is the Master Creator — Psalm 139: 13, 14 says, “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.  I will praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.”  God created us in His image and proclaimed His work “very good”–marvelous, in fact!  Sin, however, ruined that masterpiece; marred it and scarred it, and set it on the path to destruction.  The Master Creator-Designer did not give up on His ruined creation, though, and throw it out on the trash heap.  No–He had a plan.

He is the Master Restorer – In order to restore us back to the masterpiece He had created, He had to redeem us.  That is why He sent His Son Jesus to shed His blood so that we might be saved from sin.  Titus 2:14 says, “Who gave himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”  It was the perfect plan, calling for a perfect sacrifice—the sinless blood of Christ. Hebrews 9:14, 22b tells us, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? …and without shedding of blood is no remission.”

He is the Master Molder – It is true, when we trust in Jesus as our Savior, our sins are forgiven. The final redemption does not take place, however, until we stand before Him in our new and glorified bodies.  In the meantime, we will still, on this earth, do battle with our old sin natures and bear the consequences of sin.  He does not leave us alone, though, to fight those battles on our own.  When we submit our wills to God and allow Him to work in our lives, we find that He is molding us into His image once again.  Isaiah 64:8  says, “But now, O Lord, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand.”  Submission to the Master Molder is the key in His work in our lives. The Bible says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you… Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up. (James 4:7, 8a, 10)

He is the Master Refiner – The masterpiece must sometimes go through the refiner’s fire to come forth shining as gold. I Peter 1:7 says, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” Just as He molds us, the Master must sometimes allow us to go through testing and trials to strengthen and polish us for our own benefit—but also for His glory. We don’t enjoy testing and trials, but do not be afraid of it.  The Master allows it for our good because He loves us.  “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”  (James 1:2-4)

He is the Master Finisher – The Master wants each of His creations to be restored unto Him.  He wants the work of His hands to be molded and strengthened and polished into the image of Christ. The final touch of the Master’s hand will be when He finishes His work once and for all, giving us our glorified bodies to live with Him for all eternity.  No longer will we battle sin.  No longer will we struggle with the effects of sin—sorrow and pain, decaying bodies, broken relationships… Hebrews 12:2 says, “ … looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…”  The final touch of the Master’s hand will be the ultimate, perfect culmination of His plan.  And all we have to do is submit to His loving touch in our lives.

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I’ll Fly Away — Oh, Glory!

I’m beginning to feel like a seasoned traveler these days. Last year I flew to Ecuador in March and November, and California in April and December. Just this week I returned from another trip to California. What is the motivation that keeps me flying? Why, my grandchildren, of course! I’m the long-distance grandma to thirteen of the world’s most beautiful, wonderful children and if I want to see them, then I just have to fly.  flying1

I thought about calling this “Adventures in Flying” because I have certainly had my share of stressful experiences when I’ve flown. Oh, nothing when it comes to the actual 35,000 feet up in the air part, or even take-offs and landings—thank God! That part doesn’t really bother me—much. No, it is getting to and through the airports—and all that that entails—that causes my stomach to be in knots and my hands to shake.

My very first opportunity to fly did not start well. It was back in the 80’s—the days of using travel agents and pre-9/11 security measures. I was traveling from Colorado to Indiana with my two little girls. I had just finished packing the day before we were to fly when I got a call from my agent. “Hurry!” she said urgently. “Can you get to the airport in one hour? The air controllers just went on strike. I can get you on a flight today, but if you wait until tomorrow you may not get to go!” Somehow we made it to the airport in the nick of time, but as Bob was lifting the suitcases from the trunk, the zipper on the biggest one broke and everything spilled out into the parking lot!

“Hurry! [I hate that word!] You get to your gate and I’ll find something to tie this together,” he said. The girls and I took off running.

Just as I got to the gate I happened to look down and discovered that the seams on the brand new dress I had just bought at JC Penney’s were unraveling and my dress was coming apart! Eeek! I rushed the girls into the bathroom. Fortunately, I had several safety pins in my purse and was able to pin my dress together sufficiently to get us to Indiana. We came out of the bathroom to find them almost done boarding the plane and Bob frantically looking for us.

“I found some rope to tie your suitcase,” he said.

Oh, good grief, I thought. We’re going to look like the Beverly Hillbillies! Nevertheless, I was grateful. We kissed a hasty farewell and the girls and I boarded the plane for our first ever flight. As I finally sank into my seat, I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind, If the air controllers are on strike, who’s up in the tower keeping all these planes apart? I white-knuckled it all the way across the country, trying not to show my fear to Laurie and Julie.

These days I am more experienced and less fearful of the actual flying, but still just as stressed when it comes to the airports. I’m the little old lady who seems always gets called aside for extra scrutiny by the security agents. “What’s this?” one big, bad agent asked sternly as he pulled a large can of pumpkin pie filling out of my carry-on.

“Uh, that’s pumpkin to make pies for Thanksgiving, sir,” I quavered. It was the week before the holiday and I was on my way to Ecuador. Laurie had asked me to bring the offending item.

“Can’t have it. It’s a liquid,” he said brusquely.

“Pumpkin is a liquid?” I asked incredulously. When he grunted, “Yep!” I pointed out that it was in a sealed, tamper-proof can.

“Still a liquid,” he doubled down, but in the end he relented with a stern warning to never do that again, and let me go on my way with enough pumpkin to make a couple of Thanksgiving pies.

My very next trip, this time to California, I was pulled aside by security again. “What’s this?” another equally big, bad agent asked sternly. He held up a teeny, tiny little tool kit he had removed from my carry-on.

“Oh! I just threw that in at the last minute, just in case I needed an extra Christmas gift for one of my grandsons. I never even gave security a thought! Guess I can’t have it, can I?” I asked wistfully.

“Nope.” And there went the little tool kit into the trash.

Getting through security in the US is bad enough, but when you’re traveling internationally and you don’t really speak the language, it can get not just stressful, but even a little scary. It happened to me on my trip to Ecuador last November.

I was just about to board the plane in Guayaquil to return home when the young man who was escorting me indicated that we had to go back to the gate (the plane was actually parked a long way from the gate.) He didn’t speak English but he kept pointing to my carry-on as if there was some problem. “But why?” I asked in my poor Spanish. “They already checked it.” Just then I heard my name called over the loud speakers.

We headed back to the gate and the agent, another young man who also did not speak English, met us and he, too, kept pointing to my carry-on and said that I had to go with them. It was a long way to wherever we were going, and at last a third young man who spoke English joined us. “I don’t understand,” I said. “My bag has already been checked by security.”

“No, no—not this one! Your big suitcase! There is a problem.”

“What?! What could it be?” I tried to laugh it off. “I don’t have anything in my suitcase that should be a problem, so I’m not worried. I can’t imagine…”

“Do you happen to have any chocolate in your suitcase?” he asked.

“Why, yes! My daughter is sending some Ecuadorian chocolate home to her dad as a gift. But why do you ask?”

“Ah-ha! That is probably the problem. You see, drug smugglers put chocolate in their bags to try to cover the scent of their illegal drugs. Narcotics agents have begun training their dogs to alert them to chocolate in luggage. Here we are!”

I was still nervously trying to laugh it off when we headed down some back stairs to the basement. My laughter stopped when I saw the sign above the door—Anti-Narcotics Unit. Gulp. I was so glad that fellow had given me a head’s up! I was able, in my limited Spanish, to point out and explain the presence of chocolate in my bag. After dumping all my belongings out, the agent dumped it all back into my suitcase and let me go. So much for my careful, neat packing the night before! And note to self (and you)—never, ever carry chocolate in your checked bags on international, or even domestic, flights! The dogs will get you!

I made it back to board my plane just in time (last one on, where a little while before, I was supposed to be the first one.) All was well on that flight—but then I had to change flights in San Salvador. That meant going through security all over again, and I knew from previous experiences that the agents there were very thorough and tough.

Sure enough—the agent came to the thermal bag I had inside my carry-on that held an ice pack and my insulin. She lit into me, scolding me in Spanish because they were not in a zip-lock bag. I couldn’t understand her words but I knew what she was saying as she tried to stuff twelve little boxes of insulin into a baggie. She finally let me go—after dumping the contents of my carry-on back into it—and I breathed a sigh of relief that I still had my year’s worth of insulin.

As I sat on that plane headed back to Chicago, I started to cry. I was exhausted and the morning had been so stressful. I began to think of Fernando and Laura and the kids driving back to Cuenca (about a three hour trip through the Andes Mountains) and my weary mind began to worry about them on that sometimes treacherous road. I couldn’t stop crying. I tried to hide my tears, but I am sure it was probably pretty obvious to my seat-mate, the guy across the aisle and the flight attendant. (I don’t cry “pretty.” My red, drippy nose, swollen eyes and tear-streaked face told the tale, I’m sure.) Lunch was served shortly after take-off and that presented a temporary diversion, but it didn’t take long for my thoughts to revert to their previous morbid mode.

It was a couple hours later when I happened to pick up the bottle of Diet Coke they had given me with my lunch. I turned it over and there, in front of my startled eyes, were the words “Have a Diet Coke with LAURA.” I had not seen Coca Cola’s new marketing ploy before, and it just seemed like a God-thing to me—a little whisper from the Lord, “You see? It’s okay—they’re going to get home safely and someday you’ll share a Diet Coke with Laurie again!” I burst into tears once more—this time happy, thankful tears. Marketing ploy or not, you cannot convince me that was not a little message from the Lord. I mean, of all the thousands of different names Coke put on their bottles and can, and all the hundreds of passengers on that plane, that particular bottle came to me?   Uh-huh.

I flew home from California the other day. It was a good trip and there were no problems this time, but as I sat for three hours in Los Angeles waiting for my connecting flight, I was lonely. I couldn’t help thinking how much nicer it is to travel with someone. The last time that happened for me, I had flown with Fernando to Ecuador. It was so nice to have someone to rely on for the logistics of the trip and deal with the language issues, not to mention Fernando’s sense of humor and how he kept me entertained! Now, flying home from California, I wished again that Bob and Robbie and I could fly as a family again.

And getting home—well, the welcome from Robbie and Bob was as sweet as I knew it would be, and it was good to put my swollen feet up and thank the Lord for a safe trip home, but I heaved a sigh, too, and thought, “Well, vacation is over. Back to reality.”

It’s great to get a little time away, and as much as I’ve had my issues with flying, I am sooooooo thankful for modern technology and the ability to travel thousands of miles in one day into the arms of my loved ones, or for a great vacation. They could never have even imagined that a century ago!

flying doveDavid, in the book of Psalms, could never have, in his wildest dreams, imagined flying away—or could he? We read, “So I said, ‘Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.’” (Psalm 55:6) He was weary; he was fearful; he had been betrayed. He just wanted to get away from his enemies and the battles he had been forced to fight throughout most of his life. To have wings and fly away—aah, it sounded wonderful to him.

Most of us will never go through the kinds of troubles and strife that the Psalmist went through, but we all have those times when we would just love to fly away and leave it all behind! Hallelujah—that time is coming when those of us who know Christ truly will fly away! “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (I Thessalonians 4:16-17)

There will be no ticket to purchase, no luggage to pack, no security checkpoints to go through. We won’t I Thess 4have to travel alone—Jesus Himself will escort us! And we won’t just be leaving it all behind—we will be flying to an eternal destination that is more glorious than we could ever imagine! Now, that is a flight I am truly looking forward to!

When I got home from California Tuesday night, my husband told me to put my feet up while he made me some supper. As he handed me a glass of iced tea, he said, “Well, now you need to start looking for a good price on a ticket to Ecuador!” I had already been looking for the last two or three months, but I was pleasantly surprised that here I had just returned from one little vacation, and he was giving me the green light to plan the next one! The price on the two South American airlines I was checking had stayed consistently at $768 – $777. I was holding out, hoping to get it a hundred dollars cheaper, like I paid last year. This morning, as I started writing this, I decided to check again. Two days ago it was $777. This morning it was an eye-popping $510! Needless to say, I snatched it up!

So, early next year I will brave big, bad security agents and chocolate-sniffing dogs once again and take to the skies to wing my way to Ecuador and my children and grandchildren once more. When I get there I am going to share a Diet Coke with Laura and praise the Lord for giving me the ability to fly!

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