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Braking Points

Exploring the Adventure of Aging

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Devotional

ONE HOUR?

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Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “So, couldn’t you stay awake with me for one hour? Stay awake and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:40, 41 NET)

Lately, I have struggled with insomnia or perhaps just difficulty falling asleep, because I do fall asleep eventually. Typically, I shift, turn, deep breathe and try intentionally to fall asleep. My mind races with worries, upcoming events, list after list of uncompleted tasks. Last night I pulled out my Kindle, tilted my body so the light would not disturb Terry’s sleep and read for 15 minutes or so. I checked the clock two or three times and then miraculously I fell asleep. This process which varies slightly from one night to the next.

This morning I opened The Upper Room to the devotion for today, April 16, 2014 and found the scripture traced Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane honing in on Matthew 26:41 and as God often does when I read familiar scripture it is as if one phrase, one idea, one word becomes illuminated.

“One hour?”

That approximates the time I often spend trying to fall asleep. What if I spent that time praying? What if, I treated the myriad of thoughts, some with names as blessed requests for prayer? What if I prayed and waited with Jesus? What if I allowed the invasion of mental images rather than fighting them off and carried them to the throne of Christ?

“One hour?”

How better to spend it than waiting with Jesus.

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Messages to the Contrary are Just Plain Wrong

What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is the one who will condemn? Christ is the one who died (and more than that, he was raised), who is at the right hand of God, and who also is interceding for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “ For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39 NET)

For several days now, I have been considering memorizing the 8th chapter of Romans…no, I have not completed the task, but I find every word of it so powerful and so reassuring. What a bit of ammunition to have ready, when Satan starts in with his battery of lies, slander, and his store of old tapes. You know the tapes I mean, the slip ups, the mistakes, THE SIN that nailed Jesus to the Cross.

Also, about a week ago I started singing (off key, of course since I cannot sing) a little chorus that took shape into the verses below based on the power of Romans 8.

So here they are…if you can write music, I would appreciate a real melody…that is if these words touch you. To God be the Glory

I’m fine, I’m good
If you heard any differently,
you misunderstood.
God’s good, God’s strong
messages to the contrary
are just plain wrong.

Before I open my eyes, Before I see the sunrise
Climbing out of this bed, the thought fills me with dread
Deep down in my gut the pain starts settling in my shattered heart
But I Can’t let it take hold, Can’t give it any control
Gotta get up and dress. Gotta choose prayer over stress
Gotta move, My choice, Gotta go, Choose to listen to His voice.

I’m fine, I’m good
If you heard any differently,
you misunderstood.
He’s good, He’s strong
messages to the contrary
are just plain wrong.

Facing dragons today, Feel like turning away
Wandering here in the dark, seeking one little spark
Then a whisper shouts clear, “Grab your cross and come here!”
So when I’m losing control, He shouts, “Take hold!”
Gotta get up and dress, face the world with its stress
Gotta move to His Voice. For me there is no other choice.

His voice, My choice
His will what a thrill
His way every day!

Whatever life brings, if He’s there I can sing.

I’m fine, I’m blessed
Even when evidence
screams distressed.
God lives, God’s strong
Messages to the contrary
are just plain wrong.

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When I get to heaven, I am going to be able to leap like the girl in this picture, until then suffice it to say,” I’m fine, I’m good. If you heard any differently, you misunderstood. I’m fine, He’s Strong. Messages to the contrary are just plain wrong.

Overcoming Obstacles on the Downhill Slope

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:9, 10 NIV)

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We use the story of the Little Engine That Could to encourage children, but frankly now that I am in my GOLDEN years (ever wonder who coined that description) I could use a shot of “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can” pretty much every day. In fact some days several shots would be helpful. So what, if use phrases like “over the hill” to describe life after retirement. That is simply not true…the downhill slide is fraught with obstacles that must be overcome.

Lets consider just a few

Texting…a good friend of mine texts elaborately uses full words and syntax representative of the proper use of English grammar. WHY? Not because she wouldn’t like to use the catchy little acronyms like “U”, “R”, OMG, AITR, LOL, LMAO, but because when her daughter’s dog had to be euthanized she texted, “Thinking about you, LOL” thinking LOL stood for Lots of Love. Who has time to learn the 28 pages, I kid you not, look them up, 28 pages of texting shorthand acronyms? I use the ones I am sure of when appropriate or at least I hope they are appropriate..and if they are not, WELL, too bad. I am old you know and my fingers are clumsy.

Exercise…Zumba, Pilates, Yoga, Aerobics…so many choices and they look so easy and fun on TV. I do know many folks my age and older who do several classes a week and then bike, hike, swim or whatever. When I am in my northern home, we do three classes a week to tone, stretch and get our heart rate up, but other than walking we have not entered into any organized exercise plan here in the southern house…oh, and our walking is not exactly organized…more meandering than power strides. So knowing the importance of doing more than getting off the couch to go to the bathroom or get something out of the refrigerator, we do make an effort to park at a distance from the entrance to the store, use stairs instead of elevators, as well as intentionally stretching and moving our muscles two to three times a day. Exercising the body during our final years doesn’t necessarily extend life, but it does make living them easier.

The Television Remote…I cannot believe that many buttons are needed to turn it on, change channels, and adjust the volume….enough said on that issue.

I am sure there are many other examples of the daily challenges of living both physical and mental, but I also find myself challenged by the charge we find in Galatians 6:9-10. So tempting is it to retreat from the spiritual growth and action needed to meet the challenges found in these verses. So tempting to let the younger Christians with their boundless energy take the reins of ministry, and yet, God’s word compels me to consider the damage to self and others if I curl up and let other Christians grow, pray, study, meditate, and do GOOD.

Younger Christians may have the energy, but Older Christians usually have more time, experience, and often more resources available for doing good. SO, Do not grow weary of living the Christian life, that’s where all the fun and excitement of Christianity lies. Read Scripture and Act on what you read.

There simply is no faster way to die than to STOP! Christianity is not a spectator sport no matter how tempting that may be.

So like the little engine go into this day that God has made with these words, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” with Christ I CAN!

WHAT IF GOD WERE ONE OF US?

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While in Tulsa recently I saw a church sign that read,” What if God were one of us?” Since then I have rolled that around in my mind? Of course God is in all believers, but by Jesus own words He is also in the weakest, the sickest, the loneliest…the least of us and am I not both filled with His Spirit, but also among the least at times. The following verses emerged from my thought cycle. Readers, I hope they are meaningful to you.

What if God were One of us?

Fragile flesh, brittle bones, she sits and watches all alone
She searches faces as they pass, seeking solace in a glance
Once a beauty, once a lass, a wife, a mother inclined to dance
Now tired and weary to the bones, she waits in silence for the phone.

What if God were One of us? Would we see or feel His touch?
If He were alone or in disgrace, would I recognize His face.
Would I reach out to touch if Christ, my Lord, were one of us?
Lord Jesus, let me see, help me believe Your presence in the least of these.

Different somehow from the rest, he seeks to pass every test,
Every gauntlet thrown his way, yet falling short, a castaway
Last one chosen, taunts, and jeers, turning quickly to hide his tears
Wondering, Wandering, He did his best yet bitter roots fill his chest.

What if God were One of us? Would we see or feel His touch?
If He were alone or in disgrace, would I recognize His face.
Would I reach out to touch if Christ, my Lord, were one of us?
Lord Jesus, let me see, help me believe Your presence in the least of these.

Human refuge, scattered about, needing comfort without a doubt
Prisoners whether behind bars or not, seeking freedom or perhaps not
Aged relics, hungry hearts, defenseless child, raging masses running wild
Masking heartache, anger, fear, Where is one to dry their tears?

What if God were One of us? Lonely face on the outbound bus?
Hands that comfort a crying child or lift the fallen from the aisle?
Eyes that see beyond masks of man, Ears that hear what only God can?
What if we were called in a rush to be the Christ among us?

What if God were One of us? Would I reach out and touch?
Would I trust and believe that He lives inside of me?
In the mirror would I see that I am one of the least of these,
Who needs a touch from the God who is One of us?

What if God were one of us?

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For Those Who Need it Most

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If I am full of love the temptation is to share that love with others who are lovable, loving and who expess kindness to others. Loving the lovable is not wrong or evil, but it is incomplete. It isn’t unChristlike, but it is also not fully Christlike.

To love like Jesus means recognizing as God did that it is the sick who need a physician, it is the enemy of the Cross who most needs the Cross, and it is the unkind who most need kindness.

My prayer today is that I can express Love and Kindness to ALL. It is the least I can do and I cannot do it without the Holy Spirit within, but with Christ’s help I can. If it gets hard, I will remind myself that while I was buried in sin, Christ died for me. Christ died for all! And the ones who reject that idea need to be loved the most.

Within, The Strength of Nails

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Years ago I did the Children’s Sermons at the church we served. I used many object lessons to relate the Word of God to youngsters. One Sunday I used a paper straw and a nail. First, I handed one of them the paper straw and asked, “Can you bend the straw?” Of course, he bent it easily. I let a couple of other kids try and again the straw bent easily. Then I inserted a nail and asked then to try and bend the straw. After several tried, some with great effort, they acknowledged that, no, the straw with the nail was unbendable, except, of course, where the nail did not reach. Kids are quick to pick up on things.

I told them, “We are like the straw, weak and easily bendable, without Jesus, but when we asked Jesus into our hearts, he comes and is like the nail. He helps us be strong, except as you said, where the nail doesn’t reach. We still look like the straw, but inside we are strong, because Jesus lives in us and He is strong.”

Today, I feel like a straw easily bent. Suffice it to say, I am struggling with a touch of melancholy, but I know that the One who resides in me is the One who has overcome the world.

Whatever troubles or trials inside or out, He has conquered them. Within me is the strength of nails, three gruesome Roman spikes, splattered with the blood of Christ. Within me is the Love of God that endured the cross so that I could be set free from this body of sin and death. Within me is the Power that raised Christ from the dead. Within me is CHRIST, the hope of glory.

And He is available to all who believe and invite him in. My prayer is that today I will be thankful for the strength of the nails within and that those souls I encounter here on this meager blog, at church, in the world will acknowledge that strength in their own selves or invite Him in to reside and strengthen them. Amen

No Wedge

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:3, 38, 39 NIV)

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There is no wedge
sharpened to an edge like steel
There is no wedge
driven by the forces of hell
There is no wedge
no hateful vengeful heart
There is no wedge
that can rip us apart
There is no wedge
with syrup dripping
There is no wedge
that can cause a ripping

We lift our eyes; We see his face
We feel the wedge, our sin and disgrace
His love holds us firm through time and space
For we are bound in Christ’s embrace
held by his love and the strength of Grace.

Unforced Rhythm in the Dance of Life

image“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)

When God was handing out athletic ability, gracefulness, and rhythm, I was dropping the ball, tripping over my own two feet, and dancing to the words not the beat of the song. . .not to mention singing either flat or sharp. I just did not find the fun in running, hitting, or catching and though I longed to dance never really grasped the rhythms of it all. I have been clumsy and awkward most of my life, including having an eating and drinking disorder–I spill or drop food on myself often. I have envied, yes, yes, I know that envy is sin, especially the kind that turns to coveting, actually hoping the graceful fall. So easy to fall into the trap of coveting and so very wrong.

As I have aged I have not become any less awkward, but I have learned to enjoy some sporting activities, even some as a participant [tennis]. I took lessons which helped. And yet, the truth is physical grace lies outside my purview and that is okay now. I am not the scrawny kid chosen last for the team. God gave me other abilities and I am still learning the grace of those rhythms.

I am also still learning the Rhythms of God’s Grace, that fill me, lift me and give me peace. The world is a tiring place, full of responsibilities, chores, physical deficits, mental, financial, relational challenges, full of fun stuff that tasks physically and mentally as well. Face it! We’d be Super Heroes, if we didn’t get tired.

God promises that if we keep company with him, which should be easy for us Christians, since the Holy Spirit lives within, but unfortunately I still try going my own way only to plunge into a series of missteps, fatigue and often depression. Why? When as The Message puts it God desires to lift my burden and give me rest, if I will

Come away with him
Walk with him
Work with him
Watch how He does it
And He will
show me how to live freely and lightlyIn other words, if we put our feet on God’s feet, He will guide us through the rhythms of the dance of life effortlessly no matter how graceful or in my case not graceful we are.

The Intimacy of Life Within

Owen and his Mom...the newest member of our family.
Owen and his Mom…the newest member of our family.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God has God living inside, and that person lives in God. (1 John 4:15 NCV)

The experience of having another live inside of you is the most intimate of all human experiences. When I was expecting our first child, during those first few months, I knew I was pregnant, but my body told me little else. This was long before ultrasounds that allow expectant mothers to see their unborn child, to hear the heartbeat and see tiny kicks weeks before feeling those movements. One August afternoon when I was lying down for one of my frequent naps, I felt and then saw my unborn son move. A ripple within in sync with the slightest flicker of movement across my belly. The reality of the life within me took hold both of my head and my heart

So it is when the Holy Spirit comes to abide within the believer, from the moment of confession of faith in Jesus Christ, the moment of conception, He enters with a life force that will grow within, that will change forever the believer and that the believer will not be able to contain. In a sense, like Mary, the mother of Jesus, we, who are Christians become Christ-bearers. The Holy Spirit, unlike the unborn child, who will grow and be born a separate being, the Holy Spirit resides within forever, gradually transforming and maturing each Christian until we are born into Heaven.

During the process, like with pregnancy, the changes become more visible, less easily disguised. Like a baby-bump expands, so do the workings of the Holy Spirit within show. The intimacy of pregnancy does not stop, when a child enters the world…the mother and the child remain bonded…forever.

Certainly there are changes in the relationship of a mother and her child as she turns him loose for his first steps and continues to let go as he matures until to all those watching his independence seems complete. Ah! but as a mother of three I know since the first quickening within my womb to now, I have never completely turned loose.

God calls each of us to Him, but when we accept Jesus as our personal savior, He enters the core of our being…AND He never turns loose as He molds us from within, as He quickens our hearts to be like Jesus, as our spirits become entwined with his…even when we try to run away..He remains. We are His and He is ours!

My prayer today is that all will come to know the intimacy of the Holy Spirit within.

Blessings to all who are expecting babies today and to all new mothers, as they marvel at the wonderful miracle of life.