We Have Now Boarded

I sat back in my seat prepared to enjoy the last leg of my journey after an extremely stressful arrival.  The first leg of my flight was scheduled with a forty-minute delay. I had passed the security check and had only to board the departing plane and return home. While waiting, the flight was delayed further. We finally departed a full 1.5 hours late, but then I had the task of the connecting flight at the next layover.

As we landed, the airline staff noted, I had less than fifteen minutes, to arrive for the next connection. Murphy’s Law, I was at the back of the plane and unable to knock down all the other passengers to scurry off the plane. Dragging the items I had removed from the carry-on luggage, my coat falling from my drooping shoulders, I heard the announcement on the intercom,  “will the passenger for Flight 6007 hurry to gate 24 as we have now boarded?” What? How?  These old, feeble legs were already walking as rapidly as possible, but now I picked up the pace to a slow “run.”

I was at least 25 gates away from the next connection with all kinds of shopping and dining between, so the destination seemed as though it were miles away. My heart began pounding with the discomfort which is “well known” when there is great exertion, but most of all the prayers were rising! I was praying aloud as I dashed with two bags, wearing heavy boots and a down coat causing more heat and perspiration than if I were in 110 degrees in the middle of summer.

I arrived at the empty gate, looking as though I was taking my last breath. The agent queried, “Jane Woods?” Yes, I sighed. I ran all this way. Then as I entered the quiet tunnel, the pilot walked toward me, reminding me to “catch my breath” as they knew I was coming. He also reminded me he knew I had walked a long way. Walk? No, I was in a slow run!

As I boarded the plane, the stewardess announced, “you must condense all those items into your two bags.” Any explanation of not being able to re-pack the items was not accepted. I couldn’t get on the plane with those “flapping, flying” additional objects.

 I would sit down, catch my breath, read my book and just relax. A few pages into the book by Grant Gaines, the words had to be in error, “Some realities in life logically rule each other out…if you have a sibling, you can’t be an only-child. And if you are a God-fearing, Spirit filled Christian, you can’t dislike dogs.” What?!  I know many Christians that don’t like any animals. I love animals. After all-I had just spent a full week with 3 dogs, 2 bunnies, a tortoise and more experiences with them than I have time to write about. Continuing to read the book, I realized the author had penned the dog comment in jest, but he also reminded us life is uncertain. With the kind of day I had endured, it caused me to reflect on how unpredictable life can be. We think we have things planned out, God says, “no, this isn’t what I have planned for you.” So, we can only, sit back, relax and “enjoy the flight.”  NIV Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Just The Facts Ma’m

As I sat in the choir with my few, but dedicated fellow “masked singers”, I suddenly felt a pang of jealousy. As I observed a situation, my heart continued to increase with sadness as to why God had never answered my prayer.

As we departed the choir loft to take our seat in our chosen pew, I prayed for God’s forgiveness of being jealous. Even though my mind wandered about the “assumption”, I heeded the pastor’s words that no matter how often we believe God has forgotten us, His timing and plans are perfect. Even when the pastor said we need to let go of the past for God’s future for us is far better, I was internally crying.  His plans may not be “perfect” to us, for if I truly accepted His plans as “perfect”, would I have been feeling “self-pity” during my choir observation?

Yet, for the duration of the sermon, I continued to ponder as to why God had refused to answer my prayer for something which He speaks so clearly of in His word. What I desire is not selfish, but good and righteous, yet then why is God withholding it? Genesis 2:18 NIV states, “the Lord God said, it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” I knew this scripture was referring to Adam, but what about me? I’ve heard more than one bible study leader recommend that we make scripture personal to us. Thus, I could say, It is not good for Jane to be alone…I will make a helper suitable for her.” I’ve been waiting for decades for that suitable helper.

As I observe individuals that have not one, but two, three or even four helpmates, then I was perplexed, why I couldn’t have even one? Now at the end of my life, I had prayed for years for God to send me a helpmate, but it wasn’t meant to be. So here I sat, in church having a pity party.   I love being in church; hearing God’s words and being reminded of His love for each of us. Now I was querying why I was still alone?

At the conclusion of the service as each of us left the sanctuary, I suddenly realized my assumptions had been in error. I reflected on what a bible study leader noted a couple years ago- our imaginations are sometimes our greatest enemy. We assume things to be the truth-yet often we don’t have all the facts.  It doesn’t mean God has not given “my desire” to the other member, but what I observed is not what I assumed. The “helpmate” I believed God had sent her, was actually the helpmate of another. When she had taken his hand in a gesture of love, my “human-ness” took over. I’m still praying and waiting! NKJ Psalm 27:14, Wait on the Lord, Be of good courage and He shall strengthen your heart. Wait I say on the Lord.”

WWJD?

“I just wanted to let you know you gave me too much change”, smiling and handing the sales clerk the $22.00 which he had given me several minutes prior. When I realized the error, I drove back around the store, waiting in line to get up to the window. “Well, uh, oh, I em”. That was all he said. I was not upset with him; I was merely trying to be honest. When I handed him the money, he just stared. I reminded him of the cost of my purchase and what was owed in change.

When I received the second “profit” on a purchase in less than two weeks, I could have said “oh God, thank you for giving me this blessing”, pocketed the money and left. However, with each of these situations, I wanted to do what was right, but departed feeling I was the one in error.

Neither of the sales persons thanked me for my honesty and with each transaction, they truly seemed offended that I chose to be honest. As Christians, is it our responsibility to be honest? Is it our responsibility to be fair? I believe the answer is “yes” to each of these questions.  I’ve heard Christians say believing and having faith He is God and there is an eternal home with Him, even if this were not valid, is far better than to be wrong for walking away from Him and not having faith that He is God. I agree without hesitation.

As Christians we may often ponder the reality of God and His ways, yet we believe in Him. It is much easier to see someone gives us too much money or didn’t charge us for an item we purchased. One takes faith and with the other we reflect our faith; doing unto others as we know God would do or choose for us to do.  I receive the “gift” of knowing I did what was right.

Just recently there was a situation in which someone did something which was perhaps not morally or ethically wrong, but certainly was disrespectful and discourteous. I was invited to attend an event, being informed I would be a guest of the invitee, only to be told days later than I owed them $400 for a ticket to the event. What? Why? I gulped and paid the $400, but remained perplexed as to why someone would do that and not inform their guest of the cost. I would have declined, had I known the cost.

While sharing this with some fellow Christians, they noted they would not have paid and queried as to why I did. Because I made a commitment that I would be the person’s guest. I didn’t have to feel guilty that I had not kept my commitment. Yes, the “human me” said, “no way. You invited me and now are asking me to pay $400 for my ticket?”, but just as with returning change which was not owed or taking items back to a store which I was not charged for, I know I can softly say, “WWJD”, what would Jesus do?” Luke 6:31 NIV, “do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Such A Beautiful Creation!

He was so tiny and fragile.  I wanted to stroke him, but concerned it would cause him much fear.  Thus, I held him gently, enamored with his beauty and speaking softly as though he understood every word I uttered. This would probably be the first, last and only time I would hold such a creature, feeling the warmth of his body against my hand. I couldn’t stop crying for I didn’t want this magnificent gift from God to die in my hands. He blinked softly as I stared into his exquisite little face.

I stood in my kitchen only minutes earlier when I heard him hit my window hard. I looked out to see his lifeless, splayed body on the walk beneath the window. I couldn’t stop the tears. “Oh no, God, no, please don’t let him die,” I screeched.  I ran to grab a towel and dash outdoors to pick up this helpless, little life.

Pictures, calendars and countless quotes have paid tribute to these creatures. Now, he was in my hands, not uttering a sound, not trying to leave. I imagined he was thinking, “what was this “being” going to do, after quickly picking me up after I fell?”  Bringing him indoors, I made numerous telephone calls to do whatever to save this precious little boy’s life. My initial telephone call was to the Oklahoma Wildlife Department, but with it being a Saturday afternoon, the office was closed. I frantically began telephoning local veterinarians, sobbing as I told them what happened; but also, fearful his legs were broken or worse.

One of the veterinarians instructed me where I could receive help.  I told the Edmond animal shelter of the beautiful cardinal I held wrapped in a towel, praying he was alright. What a relief that this cherished cardinal was most probably stunned. I had to chuckle when the voice on the telephone noted, “sometimes they hit the windows so hard, they are knocked silly and it may take him 15-20 minutes to regain his strength and fly away.”

Yes, his little eyes continued to blink, so I gently took him outdoors and bending down on the lawn, carefully unwrapped the towel. What a joy! Little boy cardinal flew away. After releasing him, I researched the life of cardinals, especially since he was so small.  My research made him even more beloved to me. The males receive their full coat of red feathers at age one, so I felt certain he was a young male. Cardinals mate for life and remain in the area. Could this be the son of the parents whom I so lovingly watched build a nest and give life to their little fledglings by my office window?

Just as I carefully picked this creature up to be certain he would survive, I thought of the many times we fall and God picks us up, wrapping us in His blanket of love. He makes certain we are okay and that we will “fly away” to fulfill His plans for our lives. Matthew 6:26 NIV, “look at the birds of the air; they do not reap or store away in bars, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

It’s Time To Leave

“So here I am to worship; Here I am to bow down; Here I am to say that You’re my God.”  These were the words from this song that touched my heart and lips today, as God was filling my “blessing basket.”

Most, if not all of us have experienced living in God’s waiting room.  Faith, trust and patience are the elements to success when in the “waiting room.” For most of us, the majority of our lives are spent there. As I have shared in previous blogs some of the situations I was encountering while waiting, were difficult.

  Over these past several years, while in God’s waiting room, there have been many patients; disappointment, heartache, confusion and necessity. Yet, I knew God was taking care of each, so I had no desire to cling to them, but only to allow God to dismiss them when He knew each was ready to leave.

 Yesterday as I walked out of church, I received a telephone call which literally caused me to sit in my car in the church parking lot, thanking God that it appears one component of a long wait will be lifted. God has not yet released this patient, but I’m at peace while awaiting.

Then today, a patient was removed from the waiting room.  Ms. “Need To” was something that I didn’t want to give up, but “needed to”; a tangible item which I needed to clear away for whatever God has for me in my life. Ms. “Need To” had been around for a couple of years, as I continued to pray for her departure. Yet, God said, not yet, just leave Ms. “Need To” here with me. Today she left.

 While Ms. “Need To” was leaving, I received a telephone call which brought many of the patients in the waiting room to a new room. God began writing my life’s story decades ago. Then several years ago, with God’s blessings, I began scribing my story to share with others-the story of His grace, love and strength for me. I was in God’s waiting room, as I wrote, prayed and sought an editor. The book was completed and I prayed while awaiting a publisher. Today while standing with Ms. “Need To” to depart, a joy filled my heart to realize my book has been accepted to be published.

 When I learned that approximately two-thirds of all submitted books are rejected, I thanked God for allowing mine to be chosen as a testimony to Him.  I remain in the waiting room regarding the telephone call yesterday and now as I watch God’s story of my life brought forth in print. Some of the patients will be leaving the waiting room, but I will remain for as long as God desires. There will always be new patients joining me, but the “joy of the Lord” will remain. Philippians 4:4 NIV, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

The Trip Is Short

I sat quietly with only the soft sound of the humming, central heat while looking out my window to the dozens of trees laden with turning leaves, now shedding their lush shade to the ground below and thanked God for another day. God blessed me with a home with a “park like” back yard, filled with many of His creatures. Even if I hadn’t read the state’s department of transportation road sign, Pumpkin Spice is Nice. But Safe Driving Is Always in Season, the view outside my window gave me the clue fall had arrived.

This time of year, is especially endearing to me. Not only is it my favorite season, but a respite from the long, summer heat, which I have never enjoyed. I love the chill and crispness of the changing temperatures for I can always add another layer if the days or evenings are too cool. I delight in the aroma of the smoke-filled air from the neighbors’ fireplaces and the sound of the leaves as they “crunch” beneath my feet. I’m as gleeful as a child when sipping a cup of hot cinnamon cider or hot chocolate with marshmallows. 

As much as these traditional sights, sounds and rituals of fall is, realizing God is giving us yet again a time to “slow down” and be quiet. As I have shared for years, it seems when Labor Day arrives, the holidays are only weeks away. How rapidly our days and weeks pass. Before we realize it, the year has come and gone, validating the shortness of our lives.

As I was sitting alone, I was again thanking God for His love to me. So often as I’m chatting with God, I become emotional and tearful; filled with questions and wonder about my life.  I have often deliberated why God gives some persons so much joy and happiness while others seem to have sorrow from the day of their birth.  We all know those whom were born with severe physical, emotional or mental impairments, but their joy is beyond description.

The older I become, the more I realize that all of this will pass so quickly. When persons live to be eighty, ninety or even become a centurion, we say “they had a long life.” Yet, when we think about eternity, all of this time on earth is like the “blink of an eye.” 

I recently read a wonderful example of our short life by Muthender Velishala. In his blog he wrote about an elderly woman that was a passenger on a bus. “A grumpy young woman…sat down beside the woman, hitting her with her numerous bags…the old woman remained silent. The young woman asked why she (the older woman) had not complained…the trip is short”, the older woman had replied. Muthender gave many other examples of not being angry or unkind when situations in our lives occur. It is a reminder that our lives are short, but as Christians, we are looking to the day we are with the Lord.

Psalm 90:10 NIV “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.”

So Great To Be So Small

 I placed the items in the Christmas shoebox.  It has been several years since I filled a box for a needy child; a child that will be thrilled with the necessities of personal hygiene and perhaps a few tiny toys or clothes, stuffed into a small box. I thought of my own children and grandchildren when they were young and the gifts they received. Often times they had so many gifts from relatives there was barely enough space in their car to transport all their gifts home.

I wondered about this little boy age two to four, the recipient of my gift(s). I would like to fill a huge box with large toys and lots of clothes, but they will receive one tiny box. I shopped carefully thinking about what would delight such a child. How could a toothbrush, soap or bandages possibly be exciting for any child? I tried to picture this little angel, wondering if he will receive anything for Christmas? Perhaps at his young age, his thoughts of survival are more important than whether or not he will receive a package for Christmas.

 What if this precious child has never had a toothbrush? What if this child has never had a new shirt or socks? Then the tears flowed, as I thought of this precious life that didn’t ask to come into the world and certainly didn’t ask to be born into a world of poverty?

I used to tell my children often that “if not for God”, they too could have been born poor, handicapped, to parents that were abusive or unloving or countless other situations, “but God.” If not for God’s love none of us would be reading this blog today. My daughter and her children packed shoeboxes for children for many years, allowing her children to select items which they would like if they were the recipients. The churches packing these boxes are given supply lists for each age of child. As I shared with another person also purchasing items for her child, it’s so difficult to purchase only items which will fit into one small box.

Unfortunately, my concern is like that of many parents and grandparents in our culture of “wants and desires.” We desire to fulfill the wishes for the children we love.  I had to realize that if the recipient of this box has basically nothing in his little life, anything he receives will be a blessing. Having worked with the homeless, both in my career and also as a volunteer, I have to realize that often times the smallest of gifts can be cherished as “pure gold” by these recipients.

More valuable than the minuscule gifts in the box, is the love the Christian staff gives these children and their families when these boxes are delivered. We all know at Christmas we truly celebrate the greatest gift ever received with the birth of our Lord Jesus.  The shoeboxes are one small token to these children of the love Jesus has for all of us. Romans 6:23 NKJ “…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

It Just Doesn’t Matter

For the past months in numerous devotions, the subject was waiting.  “Waiting” has been prevalent during Covid-19.  However, many of the devotions I’ve read were in books printed several years ago. It validates this topic is infinite. No matter our age, locale or status in life, we did, are now or will be waiting for someone or something in our lives.

As Christians we know there are times in our life when the waiting seems to be an eternity. To a young child a few minutes is “an eternity”. To the teen and young adult waiting to graduate from high school or college may seem “an eternity.” As adults our “eternity” can be days, weeks or months as we await our circumstances to change. What happens when the waiting turns into years? What is God telling us? Most of all, what do we do while we are waiting? Do we use this time to see what God is doing with us?

I have shared previously that as I’ve sat in prayer with one of our church staff pastors he queried, “but Jane, would you have been as close to God as you are now? I say without hesitation, “no.” During God’s waiting, He has given me opportunities and experiences I would never have had.  I’ve met individuals I would never have met.

The greatest joy over these last years of “waiting” has been the long, quiet and countless hours that it is only me and God; no angry voices, no confrontations, no distractions.  Such situations can be productive when presented in the right way, but when alone with God, He removes all of these to focus on Him.

 During God’s “waiting”, I have realized, what is done for God is the only thing which will endure. This topic was discussed again this week with women from one of my bible studies, when one of them said, “it just doesn’t matter. Life is short.”

Chuck Swindoll’s words reminded me our waiting which may seem like an eternity is merely seconds compared to our eternal life with God. “Rearing children. We hope…we wait. Standing alone. We hope…we wait. Life presses in, we get discouraged, we come close to quitting. In it all, we hope and wait for the promise of God. That He will be faithful. That He will deliver us and provide. In what or in whom is your hope? Are you waiting on life to change or are you learning to wait on Him?…Be still. Read and pray. He will stand by your side when you feel most alone. Wait…and hope.”

Today, I attended my Christian writer’s meeting which has recently resumed following Covid-19. Whereas, we previously had a room full of attendees, we were now small in number, but what a blessing to hear of how God has used all of us even though we were “waiting.” NKJ Isaiah 40:31 “But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”

Have We Been Blocked?

As I recently opened one of my social media pages, I was taken aback that over 1,500 people had replied to the opportunity to post their prayers for a Christian ministry to join them in prayer.  I was again reminded of the depths of despair people around the world are enduring.

James Banks states, “God moves through our prayers to accomplish great good in the lives of his people. One of the best ways to love others is to pray for them, because through our prayers we open the door to the help only God can provide.”

From the time I was a young girl, I understood my conversations with God were some of the most important of my life. Reared in a poor home to extremely abusive parents, my weekly attendance in Sunday School taught me Jesus would always hear what I had to say. I was in awe of this for I frequently desired to “talk to” my parents, but conversations were not a part of our family life. Innocent queries were almost answered with a beating. I knew God heard all my prayers, short or long, silly or serious.

Recently, there were some serious health concerns with family members. I reached out to fifteen persons whom I believed would join me in praying for these sincere needs. Three were other family members and the remaining twelve were some of the church staff or fellow church and bible study members. Not one person acknowledged my plea to join me in prayer.

Over the years, hundreds of times I’ve been asked to pray for another. Often, I would jot down the name and request and add that person to my daily prayer list. Chuck Swindoll shares, “talking to the apostles…I think they’d emphasize an oft-spoken discipline-but one rarely deployed in our lives: praying for others.”

Chuck also says, “Prayer is one of the deepest subjects we can study. We’ve heard it said that we never stand taller than when we kneel before God. But what actually happens when we offer our prayers and petitions to God?” Do we ever feel as though He has “blocked us” from His prayer list?

Sometimes we pray so long, so earnestly and so diligently that we have become weary from praying. I have serious situations in my life which I prayed over forty-four years and God said, “no.” Another, I’ve been praying for over two and a half years and God has said no. Other serious prayers are twenty six years, one eight years and another almost six.  I’m still waiting. I have to accept His ultimate answer may be “no”, but when it comes to talking to God, unlike people that walk away from us and choose not to hear us, God never gives up. He hears every word. I love Max Lucado’s words on prayer, “prayer is the hand of faith on the door handle of your heart.”

When talking to God, patience has to be one of our strongest virtues. Psalm 27:14 NKJ, “Wait on the Lord, Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart…”

Created For Us

Garbage in, garbage out! What we eat, drink, think, read, watch and surround ourselves with often reflects the person we are. With the current events of our lives and the world, it is difficult to always have positive output, but it is possible.

For several years, I never went to bed without watching some, if not all of the national news.  As it became saturated with only politics and Covid-19, I now seldom watch the news. I happened to turn the news on last week when I learned of a tragedy which had touched the hearts and lives of a local family. I not only stopped and prayed for the family, but asked prayer for them on Facebook.

Oh Facebook! That is a story in and unto itself, isn’t it? For years I had no interest or desire to be on Facebook.  Then like millions of others, I succumbed to being “one of the mass.” As with the news, Facebook can be uplifting or discouraging. It’s the posts we choose to read which allow our feedback to be productive or detrimental.

Like all of you readers, I have my morning routine. Before I begin my day,  I prefer to have my quiet time with the Lord; reading my devotions and bible and THEN it is time for “the latest.” What’s happening on Facebook? Most days I have no comments or inquiries directed to me, so I quickly scan the “home page”, those events or posts which are public for all to read.

Today was a joy! What a change, what a blessing from the on-going political arguments and negative posts! The first enlightening narrative I read was from the perspective of a veterinarian to his or her patient and their family. For those families whom are privileged to remain in one community for the duration of their pet’s life, their “fur baby Doc” is akin to a family physician. The commentary I read today was written as though the veternarian knew that “fur baby” from birth through death.

“Doc” spoke of the family brining the bundle of joy into the clinic for the initial examination. Like human babies, those little ones need their vaccines. Throughout their lives, “fur babies” may have injuries or “ouchies” while “Doc” will be there to intercede in the healing.  “Doc” will laugh and cry with the family as their little one grows, matures and ages. Like humans, the aged “fur babies” also have ailments and conditions which make life more challenging.

The ultimate sorrow for not only the family, but the veternarian is the loss of that precious “baby.” As “Doc” noted, often these little angels from God have been with us for fifteen years or longer. As the author noted, when the grieving and crying families leave the room, how often the “Doc” sobs over the life of that precious pet.

I know God created these angels to make our lives richer, but how very sorrowful we all are when we must bid them good-bye. What I had to tell myself over the loss of my precious fur babies is that they enriched my life while here and I was also able to do likewise for them. Ecclesiastes 3:2 NKJ, “ a time to be born, and a time to die…”

In memory of my fur babies: Mo, a feline that took up residence on our deck, while my children were young and remained with us for over eighteen years, Indy, my beautiful Sheltie, a Christmas gift from my then husband, Charles. Indy blessed my life for over fourteen years. My last “fur baby angel”, also a Christmas gift from Charles, Boomer, a Bichon Frise. Boomer was a certified therapy dog for almost the duration of his life. He was a Therapy Dog International at age one and we spent the remainder of his life bringing joy and smiles to others, until Boomer became ill and passed away at age ten. His time with me was far too short, but the joy he brought me and others was a blessing beyond description. I thank God often for the memories and blessings I had with those beautiful “fur babies.”