Saturday, March 31, 2018

Useful to Him

"For there is hope for a tree, If it is cut down, that it will sprout again, And that its tender shoots will not cease.

Though its root may grow old in the earth, And its stump may die in the ground,

Yet at the scent of water it will bud And bring forth branches like a plant.               Job 14: 7-9

I took this picture last year, around this same time, when I was staying with my mother. I was fascinated to see the pussy willow trees bearing glorious golden buds, right on cue for the spring season, though it was still cold. Yet these little friends did not live to see spring. As we prepared to get the house ready to sell, a month or two later the lovely weeping willow trees were cut down, much to my chagrin, in order to give a better view of the fields below and the rolling hills behind them.

I sometimes think about things that more logical minds might think are silly. Like those beautiful buds, even though they soon were cut down, were a wondrous creation by God that gave beauty and glorified Him. God knew the exact moment they would be cut down, and yet He let them bud. He wanted me to see them, and to praise Him for His glory displayed in His creation. It was almost as if I were a little child, beholding them for the first time that day. I never saw up close how pretty the buds were until I was a 55 year old woman. How many more wonders will await us in the New Jerusalem?

Now Mom is in an assisted living facility, and despite our efforts to encourage her, she finds her life is short on joy and long on despair most days.  My Dad has been gone about 1 1/2 years now, and she misses him so much. It is hard for her to find a reason to still be on this earth, even though we try to remind her that God's time for Him to take her home is perfect, and we just have to trust Him in spite of what we feel. I want her to believe that God has a use for her if only she will trust Him.

I 've been reading the book: Amma: The Life and Words of Amy Carmichael by Elizabeth Skoglund. I wrote about Amy and her mission in Dohnavur, India in my own book, Sure Mercies: Hope for the Suffering. What a beautiful testimony of faith she bore.

 Amy rescued hundreds of orphans from the temples in India, but in her old age, she had a severe back injury which left her an invalid for the last twenty years of her life. In much pain, Amy used this time to write many books and lovely poems. She did not give in to despair.

 In this book I found a quote about old age and how we can still flourish in it. Most beautifully, Amy wrote:

Dear Companions in the Patience, do some of you find it hard to be contented to grow old?... Perhaps your thoughts have said, O to feel well for just five minutes! Listen, and perhaps you will hear something like this: My child, you will feel well for all Eternity. Your thoughts have said, Nothing else would matter if only I could be of use to someone. Listen and you may hear the gentle rebuke, My child, look out of the window. I find a use for the smallest leaf and bud on the tree, even the smallest drop of dew on the grass; can I not find a use for even you*?..."
 Amma: The Life and Words of Amy Carmichael by Elizabeth R. Skoglund, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1994, page 46. Quoted from Carmichael's book, Though the Mountains Shake.
emphasis mine

With the knowledge that every bud, every drop of rain is useful, so I want to make my life useful to Him. I fail constantly, but it is my prayer each day to present myself to Him a living sacrifice (Romans 12:2).

In this season of Easter, I think of how He was a dying sacrifice for the whole world. For any and all who will believe in Him He offers a purpose for each moment, even though at times it seems the sun hides its face and the gloom is palpable.

All the promises of His first advent came true, so we can trust that His promises to us about His return will prove true as well. One day soon, there will be the sound of a trumpet, and all those who have died in Christ will rise...

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed--in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory."
         "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is                 your victory?"
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
                    I Corinthians 15: 51-57

So hang on, dear friends. In the midst of the swirl of confusion, plant your hope in the One who cannot lie. Like the beautiful buds on the trees and flowers, we can have the wonderful privilege of revealing a tiny bit of His glory. One day soon, we will hear the trumpet sound.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Waking from Winter Slumber

"Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.
"He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him.
"So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth." Hos. 6:1-3

It is a yearly ritual, when the warmth starts to tease us for a day or two but winter won't quite let go. I know they will be there...

 I search for my tiny purple snow crocuses that faithfully return somewhere between winter and spring, even if only for a couple days. And there they were, waiting for me.

The day I took this picture, I was awaiting a big operation, one I was not relishing. Just a day or two later I was under the knife for more than four hours as the surgeon fixed my hiatal hernia and took biopsies. You see, my breath had become shorter and shorter as of late. Even walking up a flight of steps was so tiring. I've been winded for years, but not like this. I had this funny bump on my forearm for over a year and finally went to the dermatologist. I thought it might have been precancerous or something but it came back as sarcoidosis.

Sarcoidosis, how come I had never heard of it before?

Thought to be somewhat like an autoimmune condition, these non-caseating granulomas start to grow in your body. The main place they attack is the lungs. When I saw a CT scan filled with nodules, we wanted to find out for sure if this was sarcoidosis and not cancer. 

Now we have a diagnosis, and will try to treat it with the help of my pulmonologist. Hopefully  medicines will calm the little buggers from growing anymore or invading any more organs.Yet having this diagnosis has not made me cry, not really. After many years of choosing worry over fear, this time I choose not to fear, but to live in the reality of God's unfailing love.

 A couple of posts ago, I wrote about numbering my days. At the time, things hadn't flared up yet with my lungs. Now I see why I wrote it. The Lord really does want me to number them, because just like those little friends that popped up from the cold, barren ground to say hello to me for a day or two, human life is just as fragile.
"Man, who is born of woman, Is short-lived and full of turmoil. Like a flower he comes forth and withers. He also flees like a shadow and does not remain." Job 14: 1-2
The first couple of days home it was all I could do just to lie in the recliner most of the day. But it hit me, if my days are numbered (and they are) then what really matters?

There are too many choices and distractions, but One book and One Person whom my soul longs for. Every time I long for Him, He is there, faithful, while the things of the world seem so empty.

Outside my window today I hear the winds roaring, just like the March lion. My tiny friends are slumped over in the grass. 

I face a tough road ahead to try and get this mystery disease under control. But I thank Him for it all, because He is using it to awaken me from my own winter slumber,  to know what it means to abide in His love, to have that perfect love cast out all my fear.

His love has allowed this, I will not ask why. Just as those tiny crocus displays His glory, it is my prayer that I will too. 

If there is something big looming in your life right now, I know He will show Himself utterly faithful as you simply trust Him. He loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.