In Times Like These

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” These first lines of Charles Dickens’  A Tale of Two Cities were the introduction to my speech at high school graduation a long time ago. I realize now that every generation seems to think things were much better years ago. The truth is no generation gets it all right; life just somehow appears better in hindsight. Currently there is much concern about what is going on in our world and in our culture. And I would agree there are a lot of shifts and many are not good. Terrorism is growing; innocent people are being killed and fear is escalating. Character and integrity are not held in honor; pressure to tolerate unacceptable behavior is forced upon people; speaking up for good and moral choices is often frowned upon. What’s wrong in our world? How did we get here? What are we to do in times like these?

First let me suggest that we should not be so surprised. All that we see today and what other generations have moaned over is represented and forecast in the Bible. I continue to be amazed at the timeless nature of God’s Word. When sin entered our world, trouble began, and sin still trips us up today.

Deceit:  “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick…” (Jeremiah 17:9)  Hearts were deceitful in Bible times as well as today.

Pride:  Referring to King Uzziah of Judah, we read, “as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper….But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction.” (2 Chronicles 26)  Pride and arrogance and an “I don’t need God” approach to life is nothing new.

Idolatry:  One of the ten commandments is, “thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Every time people have chosen money, prestige, power, other people over God Almighty, the results have been disappointing, if not disastrous.

Sexual Sins: These are rampant now and, quite frankly, have been for centuries. There are many varieties of sexual sins. First Corinthians 6:18 states, “Flee from sexual immorality.” That verse would not have been necessary without sexual sin being a problem.

So what do we do in times like these? A book I read years ago is entitled The Heart of The Problem.  Author Dr. Henry Brandt was a respected psychologist, counselor, and educator. His premise was quite simple – the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart — sin.  When a person quits blaming problems, addictions, and bad choices on circumstances and other people; and he/she accepts sin as the root of the problem, freedom is not far away.  Because, as Brandt affirms, there is a solution for sin!

Heart of the problem is problem of the heart

The Bible affirms that we are all sinners – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)  That’s all of us, none can claim to be sinless.

The good news, also known as The Gospel, is God’s provision for our sin. He sent Jesus to live and to die to pay the price for our sin so we could be accepted as righteous before God. The life Jesus lived is recorded in history; the fact of his death and resurrection is also unquestionably documented. He was not one of many good teachers or prophets; He was and is the Son of God and He offers freedom from sin to E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E.  It is a free gift – seems too good to be true, and yet it is true.

We do not have to remain trapped by sin and its consequences. And we do not have to live in fear and discouragement regarding the state of our world and culture. We can have hope and joy and peace, in spite of times that seem desperate. My opinion is not worth much, but when asked about all the hot topics, my best answer is, “let’s see what God says in His word.” It is with great confidence we can stand on His word and obey His commands. But nobody said that would be easy. People will not always like or agree with the truths in the Bible; God’s word convicts, redeems, teaches, and leads us into righteousness. I am convinced that God is for us and He is for our good.

God is for us and He is for our good.

As a sinner saved by God’s grace, it is my duty and privilege to live in a way that honors Him. That means I should love others extravagantly, give my time and gifts and resources to help people in need, and share the good news of Jesus with a world that desperately needs what He offers.

Focusing on God and His love for this world changes us and infuses us with His power. There is no time for getting caught up in arguments and controversy; our time is best spent seeking God and allowing Him to use us in His plan for our world.

An old hymn says, “In Times Like These, You Need a Savior.”  Yes. We. Do.

The Day After Mothers’ Day

Mothers’ Day is very emotional, multiplied by so many perspectives regarding its significance. Yesterday I was reminded of this as I had conversations with numerous people and perused so many posts on Facebook. In church we had a time of prayer focusing on Mothers’ Day.

First we thanked God for mothers and other women who have been mother-figures in our lives. Truth be told, not everyone has or had a great mom. BUT, when we put our minds to it we can discover some good qualities in the woman who brought us into the world. It is important to search (hard, if necessary) to find those good traits and thank God for her. For those with faithful, loving moms, it is not always smooth sailing; that is just the nature of relationships. However it is our choice to focus on all we can be grateful for and celebrate the woman who raised us, taught us, showed up for us, and often just put up with us. Whether you had a super mom or a not so super mom, there are other special women who have met the needs we have for mothering. On Mothers’ Day it is appropriate to thank these women who have been there for us, teaching, encouraging, supporting, and perhaps just listening. Sometimes those women have children of their own, but they make room for us; sometimes they are not officially mothers but they definitely serve in a mother-role to us and that counts! Sometimes it takes practice or intentionality (a word my son loves but I struggle with) to thank God for what you have rather than moan over what you feel like you may have missed or lost.

Grateful Grief or Selfish Grief

Secondly we prayed for those whose mothers have died. I am now in that group; we still love them and miss them. Regardless of their age when they died or our age when they died, most of us will continue to miss them the rest of our lives. But rather than feeling sorry for ourselves over what will be missed in the days ahead, we can remember and be grateful for the good memories we have from when they were with us. So, will our grief be grateful grief or selfish grief? It is our choice. And here are some things we can celebrate: we can be thankful that their influence and character can live on through us; we can talk about them and tell lots of stories so our children will have a sense of knowing who they were; we can live the rest of our lives to make them proud. I’m surprised no-one has marketed a WWMS bracelet – “what would Mama say?” It might be a good idea to consider when we are about to do something foolish or wrong.

“What Would Mama Say?”

JB and I were talking yesterday; his Mother died at 63 when we were 34; my Mama died at 90 when we were 62. Big difference. While we missed having his Mother involved in the lives of our children, she did not have to grow old and deal with all that comes with old age. When Mama died we were grateful for all the years we had with her but she suffered the last few years with the “Big A” as she called it, and that was very hard. So, either way, death is going to come and we should not be totally surprised when it comes to our own family. God only promises forever to those who accept His gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus. On this earth all of our days are limited; why do some die early and some late? I have no idea but I do know God is faithful to meet our needs and bring comfort and strength when and how we need it.

We also prayed yesterday for mothers who have had to live through the death of a child. Now that is a big one and I know their hearts burn with love and loss on Mothers’ Day. It is not what we would call normal; it just should not happen; but it does. And only God is able to soothe a loss that deep. A dear friend of mine whose son died a few years ago wrote the sweetest post yesterday. In it she wrote,”my son went to the arms of Jesus, and I found amazing grace at the feet of Jesus. Grace wins every time!” What a testimony.

Grace wins every time

A young friend of ours from Kenya has experienced much loss in her life, including her mother and other family members. She serves God and others every day. She posted online, “I am blessed to be a blessing. So much has been given to me, so much is expected from me. Lord I am saying YES, here I am, use me!” Oh, that we all had this attitude.

Finally yesterday we prayed for the many young women who long to be mothers but have not yet had that desired fulfilled. We all know them; they are our friends, our family, our neighbors. Have you ever thought how hard Mothers’ Day is for these women (and their sweet husbands)? We prayed that God would bless them and give them a child – whether by birth or by adoption. God is God; we are not. Though we may not always understand His ways, we can trust Him. I will continue to pray He will bless these women with children to call them “Mom.”

So, there you have it – had you ever thought how many angles there are to Mothers’ Day? Call or text someone special today and express your love and appreciation and prayers.

Claim as your own, “I am blessed to be a blessing. Lord I am saying YES, here I am, use me!”


Turn About Is Fair Play

Have you ever said this to someone? I have never written it down before so it looks funny, but I know what it means. If you have done something kind for me and now I am trying to do something kind for you, you need to let me because, “turn about is fair play!”

For the three-plus years that my Mama lived with us we had care-givers in our home 24/7. At all times we had six women on our team. It. Was. A. Trip. I learned a lot from each of them; they knew what to do in ways that amazed me every day. The profession of care-taking is valuable and a God-send when you need it. We had women of all ages with various gifts and a wealth of experiences. In addition to the stories our own family produces, we also shared in the wild and crazy stories these women had in their lives and families! I could probably write a novel based on all the tales I heard! Mama out-lived two of her care-givers; a few came and went; most were with us for years. It was a roller coaster ride with some hilarious moments, a few near-disasters, lots of working through the tough stuff and figuring out how to make the best of everyday. Here are just a few memories; there is no way I could include all or mention everyone who graciously helped us.

The profession of care-giving is a God-send

Wanda is the first care-giver we had. She came to us when Mama was in rehab after a fall and surgery for a broken hip. She immediately jumped in and began to take care of things and make life good for Mama. She talked with her, took her to ride, got her laughing and made everyday fun. I was amazed to watch her watch Mama; it’s like she always knew ahead of time what Mama wanted or needed. Wanda brought in her friend Priscilla who also had great experience and treated Mama like a queen. Numerous times I would come home and find Priscilla washing Mama’s feet in warm water and giving her a wonderful foot and leg massage with lotion. She also took Mama to the beauty shop – which was a big deal and a request Mama made before she became ill. The little things mean a lot! Shonnie loved doing Mama’s make-up. I told her she could be a stylist and make-up artist if she ever decided to give up care-giving! Barbara was so much fun and amazing with an iron! JB still misses that. Our families have been friends forever and we shared lots of fun memories. Doris was on the evening shift and she gave Mama her dinner, created a calm environment, and made sure Mama was comfortable all night long. She also liked to cook and often brought Mama dinner from her own kitchen, especially if we were out of town. What a special treat and kind gesture of thoughtfulness.

But this blog is really about Wanda. Wanda was and is hilarious. She picked up on Mama’s quirkiness and funny ways of saying things and she began to say them herself.  Occasionally I would hear Wanda saying, “Miss Margaret, are you feeling nervous, weak and jerky?”  This was just one of Mama’s funny sayings. I came in one day to find Mama folding wash cloths. There were lots of them and as soon as she was finished Wanda took them and in a few minutes she gave them back to Mama, all messed up again to start over. As she explained to me, “it is good for her to keep using her hands.”  Who knew? Wanda has a gift and I learned a lot from her. She has been giving care to people in need for years and years. Wanda loves her kids (and now grandkids) and she loves animals. She brought a little dog named Pearl to work a few times and Mama enjoyed holding her. I guess Wanda understood pet therapy before it became a “thing.”

Who knew?

Wanda talked with Mama all the time; she told her what was going on and she could get Mama to talking and especially to laughing.  Wanda also had a few other elderly patients and she would entertain all of us with stories. When she had to quit working for us due to some health issues she still would come visit and Mama was always glad to see her. They definitely bonded in the time she was on our team. I was very aware how much Wanda cared for Mama and she could talk me off the cliff when things were going downhill and we did not know what to do. Wanda always had a good suggestion and words of comfort.

Now, here is the point….  My phone rang recently and it was Wanda — in tears, sobbing. She was driving back to Georgia from Tennessee where she had been visiting her parents. A few years ago her Daddy was diagnosed with alzheimer’s. His condition is worsening and Wanda is helping to take care of him. She asked me between sobs, “Shugie, why is it I can help others and stay calm and not get emotional, but I am falling apart trying to help my Daddy and my Mama?”  I replied, “Wanda, you care for your patients so well, BUT, it is just different when it’s your Daddy. You will get through this, but it is hard.” We talked for quite a while and remembered some good times together. I reminded her how much she helped our family when we were struggling with Mama’s situation. Our conversation was interrupted when she announced, “Gotta go! State Patrol is pulling me over!” Oh, Wanda – you are hilarious and you still drive too fast! When she called back I was glad to hear a warning was delivered rather than a ticket – Wanda dodges the bullet.

You will get through this, but it is hard.

By the time we wrapped up our visit, she was feeling better and had a few new ideas on how to tackle some of the details regarding her extended family’s challenging situation. She thanked me for spending that time with her and helping her through a tough moment.

Thanks for calling, Wanda. It was my pleasure to listen and talk and encourage you, because “turn about is fair play.”

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