Saturday, December 6, 2008

We travelled to Sherman today to see my Mom. She is a patient in Wilson N. Jones Hospital there. She is being treated for Congestive Heart Failure and irregular heart rhythm. Her oxygen saturation is getting back up in the normal range(93-98); she is receiving breathing treatments and continues to get lasix for the fluid buildup around her heart and an IV medication to regulate her rhythm. Her regular doctor will meet with the cardiologist on Monday. She may need to have a stint.

Mom and Dad are in hope that she can go home on Monday and if the procedure needs to be performed then they will schedule it at bit later. She is feeling much better and looks great. She felt good enough to begin to plan Christmas dinner with me today. Go Mom!! My mom is so cool. She already has the cherry pie made, dressing prepared, and potato casserole ready and frozen in the deep freeze. (She has promised her amazing pecan pie though.) All we have to do is bake everything Christmas morning. She is amazing!! Prayer warriors, please continue to pray for her and my Dad.

Ezekiel 16:26 says, “A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you…” What a day to read this scripture! As my Mom heals through this bout with CHF she will have to make some changes. She will not get a “new” heart, but she will have to change how she takes care of the one she has. New medication will be added to her daily regimen. She will need to watch for signs of any recurrence and get to the doctor a.s.a.p. and not at the last minute this time. When Ezekiel received this word, God was telling Ezekiel about giving the nation of Israel a new heart and spirit. I think this scripture applies to us today. God, through the life and death of Jesus wants to give us a new heart and a new spirit.

Psalm 51:10 says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me.” We are called to change our heart to be more like Christ and to invite the renewing power of the Holy Spirit to help us make those changes. We have to change the way we care for our hearts, by changing the way we live our lives. We will need to exercise more by studying God’s Word. We will need to keep our appointments with the Great Physician and then follow what He tells us to do. Prayer is the vehicle in which we will keep our appointments with the Great Physician. We need to run when we mess up and allow that clean heart to shine through and when we feel a relapse of going back into our old ways, we need to go to God at the first sign and not wait until sin has over taken our lives. Just as my Mom takes breathing treatments to keep her lungs clear of congestion, we need a spiritual breathing treatment. To spiritually breathe we confess or exhale our sins and sinful nature to the Doc and then breathe in the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit and receive the right spirit of which we have asked.

What changes are we willing to make to have a “new” heart and a right spirit? Sometimes it is easier to live with the old heart and old ways we know. My Mom is taking the necessary steps to feel better and to prolong her life. Not just her days, but the quality of her days. Are we willing to do the same with our “heart of hearts?” Are we willing to give our clutter and congestion to the One who can heal our spirits, our brokenness and our failures? Let’s give it a try.

The season of Advent is a time to prepare for the coming of the Christ Child; the Child who will change the world one heart at a time. Let us be counted among the hearts that are changed.

Take joy in the journey. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.
Today was field day at Burton Hill. I will take a winter field day over a May field day any time. You can always put on more clothes. When it is hot (as it usually is in May when we normally have our field day) you can’t really take them off! Our theme was the Olympics. Everyone had a great time.

Mom update; I spoke with Daddy this afternoon and Mom is doing better. She is still on oxygen and they are adjusting her medications. She will have to take some sort of medication to keep the fluid buildup at bay when she goes home. I am not sure when she will go home. Bruce, Geni and I are going to Sherman tomorrow to see her. I plan to study in the car.

Deb Koplen update: she stayed confused most of the day. The Doc is trying to adjust her pain medications to find the point of making her comfortable without making her loopy. Please continue to pray. Thank you, mighty prayer warriors.

1 John 3:23 says, “This is what God commands…that we love each other.” When I came upon this verse it caused me to read the entire chapter. Wow!! There is so much in this chapter. Take a few minutes and read Chapter 3 of 1 John. It really tells us about the love of God. To sum up the chapter it pretty well says that the only reason we have the power to love is because He loved us first and modeled His love for us through the life and death of Jesus.

Do you have people in your life whom you have trouble loving? I don’t have too many, but there are a few. After reading this chapter this is what I was called to remember. First, God loves all of us so much that He calls us His children; even the ones who don’t love Him or show love to others. Second, sin separates us from God. When we sin we do not show love, but God still loves us. Third, God came to earth in the form of Jesus to destroy the work of Satan. The work of Satan is separation and sin. And fourth, if I am to declare myself a child of God, I must learn to love all of His children, for we are family. I don’t have to like what they do, but God commands me to love them. God hates the sin but loves the sinner. Praise God!! That means God loves me - sinner that I am. When I find it hard to love someone for whatever reason then I ask God to love them for me and then show me the way to love them. If I don’t love the unlovely, unlovable ones then I am in a sinful relationship with the One who loves me most and I am separated from the King of Love. Lousy place to be!! The ones we find most difficult to love are the ones who are in need of our forgiveness and in need of God’s love.

The great commandment says that we are to love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and our neighbor as ourself. And again in 1 John 3: 23 tells us “This is what the Lord commands…that we love each other.” He does not ask us to love or make suggestion, or casual request. He commands us to love each other. Remember the power to love never begins with us; it begins with God loving us first. When we begin loving each other as He has commanded in His word we become more like Him. Just like any good Father, He wants us to be more like Him. You know that whole image of God thing?

As we make this journey together let us walk together in love and gather others with us and love them with the love of God. Our orders are cut. The King has spoken!

Take joy in the journey. Love you all so much, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Prayer alert: I received a phone call from my Daddy this morning around 7:00. He took my Mom to the hospital at around 2:30 am. She had a bout with Congestive Heart Failure. She was diagnosed with CHF several years ago and has been taking medicine for it, but evidently it was time to fine-tune her meds. She is doing okay right now. She is receiving Lasix and some oxygen. She is in Wilson N. Jones Hospital in Sherman, Texas.

Deb Koplen update: She was taken by ambulance to the Arlington Cancer Center today to receive radiation on her back. I was unable to visit her today so I am not sure how she has responded to the radiation treatment. Doc was hopeful that radiating her back would relieve some of her pain. I will update as soon as I visit her tomorrow.
Psalm 85: 10 says, “Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet and righteousness and peace will kiss each other.’’ I have heard and read about the “trustworthiness” of God twice today. I have begun to think that maybe I am supposed to ponder this attribute of God. I have always believed that God’s faithfulness to us was far greater than our faithfulness to Him.

Over Thanksgiving we met our family in Allen, Texas. Upon our arrival we greeted each other with hugs and kisses. And as each different branch of the family arrived more hugs and kisses were given and received. As I read this verse and the meditation that was written about it I was reminded of not only the family God gave me to raise, but the family that raised me. As in all families there are always disagreements, but even when we disagree (which is rare) we are fiercely faithful and loyal to each other and passionate about being a family. Love has always been our banner. Now that our numbers are decreased by one, the strong bond of love is greater than ever. The loss of one so loved has caused us to remember how precious, fleeting and fragile life can be, but the bond of a family which has always had a faith has near unbreakable bonds.

I was raised with unconditional love. My Mom and Dad have unconditional love for each other and they raised my brother and me with the same love. The only way to have love like that God-like love is from faith and a relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Steadfastness and faithfulness were not only taught in my home but practiced and modeled every day of my life. Those qualities only come from a daily walk with the One who remains steadfast, faithful and trustworthy to us no matter what we do or how much we mess up or how far away we turn away. God is always there to welcome us back not counting the cost or throwing it back in our face. It is sort of like when one of the kids stayed out past curfew without calling to let us know why. They knew that one of us would be waiting when they got home with our hand out waiting to receive their car keys and receive disciplinary action. As much as they hated coming home and facing the relinquishing of their most prized possession, their source of independence; they also took comfort that one of us would be there with our hand out to receive those keys. They knew that even though discipline was a surety, so was forgiveness and love that never changes. The keys would be returned in due time. But forgiveness was instant.

Every once in a while we all have to turn over our car keys over to God. The trustworthiness of God is knowing that our forgiveness is instant and He forgets our missed curfews and will allow us to drive once again.

Take joy in the journey. Love you all and say a prayer for Mom. Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Today I received a gift. The gift is a heart pendant with Casey’s image laser engraved on one side and the words Love, Light and Faith on the other. It is beautiful and precious to me. Bruce’s brother and his wife sent the gift to me. What an amazing summation of his all too short life. Casey loved his family and friends. Casey was always a bright light in so many lives. He was always willing to help anyone who asked and was always ready with a smile, a joke or saying something in a funny voice. And his faith seemed to be unshakable. I thought my faith was pretty strong until I watched Casey in the last year. His faith dwarfed mine.

Daniel 9:18 says, “We do not ask these things because we are good, instead, we ask because of Your mercy.”

I am wearing the pendant with Casey’s image as a necklace with his face looking out and the words facing my heart. I wonder what God sees when He looks at me? And I wonder what others see when they look at me? Does God see His reflection in me looking out at those I greet? Do others see a godly image when they see me? If my soul were to be laid bare what words would be etched inside? Would those words say, “harried teacher of first graders,” or “struggling seminary student,” or “messy and cluttered,” or “good and faithful servant?” I am just throwing this question out there for all of us to ponder.

My heart of hearts is sometimes full of pride and arrogance and thinks that I can do it all. Or at least that I need to try to do it all. That sometimes it is “my way or the highway.” Just ask my first graders! But what I know is that God does not honor an arrogant or prideful heart. He does not honor the whole “I did it my way,” the gospel according to Frank Sinatra. He honors the one who struggles. And God loves it when we ask for His help in the journey. I read that God does not bless the hiker with two strong legs who climbs the mountain alone and reaches the top on his own power. God blesses the hiker who is lame and begs Him for a piggyback ride. For you see, when God is invited to help us in whatever we ask, we get to know Him better and He gets closer to us and will write His Words on our heart. That is when we become more like Him. In order to become more like God we must become less of our worldly selves. That is when the world sees more of God in us.

I think that when I go before God someday I would like for Him to find the words, “It is finished!” etched on my heart. Those words say that God accomplished through me what He planned and I was not found struggling while the will of my Lord was being done. Every day at the close of my prayer time (in the car) I ask that when others see me they see the image of God. I know there are many times throughout the day that the image of God found in me is quite fuzzy. I guess that is what forgiveness, grace and mercy are all about.

When others see you whose image do they see? And what words are written on your heart? Something to ponder along the way.

Take joy in the journey. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.
Happy Tuesday!! Today went infinitely better than yesterday. I had the “come to Jesus” meeting with the children in my class. They behaved better, listened more and talked less today. That meeting may have to happen on a regular basis for the next three weeks.

Tonight was my last theology class for the semester. I have a final paper and a final test to take between now and the 16th. I began to work on the final review tonight. It has been a wonderful semester. Our class has been so pleased with our professor that we are all staying together and have all enrolled in his class for next semester.
Deb Koplen update. Deb received chemotherapy today. Her spirits were good and time will tell how she responds. She has talked of donating her hair to the Locks of Love program. The program makes wigs out of human hair for children who have cancer. How cool is that! Deb’s hair is red with a bit of gray thrown in for good measure.

2 Peter 3:18 says, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” I work with an organization that is an off shoot of the Lutheran Via de Cristo for youth. The youth version is called Happening. Happening is a three day spiritual renewal weekend for youth ages 15-18. During the weekend there are talks given by youth and spiritual directors. The talks are on Christian Action, Confession, Faith, Mask, Grace, Jesus Christ and Piety. The young people who attend this weekend become immersed in the love, forgiveness, grace and knowledge of Jesus.

The Observing Rector, a youth leader, gives the talk on piety. Living a life in piety is studying the Word, prayer, worship, service and fellowship. I love listening to these amazing young people talk about how Christ is working in their lives at the ripe old age of 16 or 17. How wise these children of God are and how much further along they are than I was at their age. These young people, while they continue to grow in wisdom and knowledge of Jesus Christ, find time to lead others their own age.

Are we too old to continue to grow in the knowledge and wisdom of God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? God loves us just as we are, but He loves us too much to leave us where we are. He wants us to grow in His knowledge and in His grace. Growing on our part takes work. God wants us to be more like Him. We are made in the image of God. I must admit that the image some may see in me is a bit fuzzy at times, but when I set my priorities to life - a life in piety - and make those priorities a habit, then I see God more clearly and just maybe others see God more clearly in me.

Have we reached a level of spiritual maturity where we are comfortable and feel we have arrived? Or do we need to still exercise and become stronger? Perhaps a new exercise routine is in order. Let us examine our life in piety. What parts are toned and what parts are flabby? Which parts of our life in piety need attention most or do we need a general overhaul? Personally I began with prayer and reading the Bible daily. Which part will you begin with first?

During this season of Advent and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season as the gifts seem to grow under our trees, let us also grow in the likeness of Christ by reading His Word, prayer, service, worship and fellowship. And, like Jesus, we will grow in wisdom, knowledge and the grace of the Father.

Take joy in the journey. Love you, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Happy Monday! Can you believe is December 1st? The first question my students asked me this morning was “How many days until Christmas?” My hopes that my students would have a rather subdued first day back were pretty well dashed. Today, they were extremely noisy and it was one of those days when if you asked them to raise their hands they raised both feet. And on top of all that there was no heat in the building today. The children and their teacher wore their coats all day long. But as Scarlett O’Hara once said, “tomorrow is another day.” I imagine that tomorrow will go much better than today. We have a couple of exciting events coming up very soon in that we are having Field Day this Friday and next week we are going on The North Pole Express. It is a takeoff on the book The Polar Express, and is a train ride taken on the Tarantula Train in Fort Worth. We all wear our pajamas, sing songs, hear stories and have a wonderful time. Perhaps that is why they are so noisy.

Deb Koplen update. She received her diagnosis today. She has been diagnosed with cancer in most of her bones including her skull and some spots in her lungs. Dr. Adams, Casey’s oncologist, is her doctor. Doc is beginning aggressive chemotherapy on her tomorrow. Please pray for her as she begins treatment and the fight of and for her life. Thank you, friends.

Daniel 6:16 says, “May the God you serve all the time, save you.” As I read this scripture tonight and the meditation I thought about our friend Deb Koplen. The meditation cited Jonah in the whale, Joseph in the pit and Daniel in the lion’s den. All of these prophets of the Old Testament were servants of God and when they called out to God, God saved them out of their life and death situations and they continued their missions of prophesy.

The Old Testament Community followed one prophet after another. When one would die there was always another prophet waiting in the wings prepared to pick up where the previous prophet left off. Enter Jesus. The nation of Israel is looking for a political “warrior king” to deliver them from the hand of oppression (warrior king - you know the type – clad in armor entering on a stallion?). They were not expecting a servant king. Jesus served His heavenly Father all of the time, but God did not save Jesus from death. Instead of saving His own Son, God saved us through the death of His Son. And instead of sending another prophet, God returned Himself in the form of the Holy Spirit. We can call on the Holy Spirit to intercede for us at anytime. The Spirit will plead our case before the Father when we call for help and are in need of His saving grace.

Our friend Deb has been a servant of Christ and His church for as long as we have known her. She may be praying this prayer right now. When you read this I ask you to agree in prayer with her. There is amazing power in prayer. She is beginning the journey. Let us help her to take joy in the journey.

Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.
Blessings to you this first Sunday in Advent. Advent means “coming.” We will now prepare for the coming of the Christ Child once again. Let us not forget as we wrap packages, trim trees, fight the traffic on Cooper St., bake cookies and place lights on the house who is the Light of the World and prepare for Him to come into our hearts once again fresh and new.

Worship was amazing today. The first Advent candle was lighted by a family as a symbol of the light coming into the world. The light of Jesus. Pastor Joel is preaching for the next four weeks on Christmas wishes. The first Christmas wish he preached on today was change. Many years ago another pastor’s wife helped paint the nursery at church and painted this verse over the changing table ; 1Corinthians 15:51, “We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed.” (I thought this was hilarious!! Only a pastor’s wife!) I don’t think this is exactly the change of which Pastor was speaking. He was speaking of turning from our sinful selves and allowing the love of God in Christ Jesus to change us into beings that are more like Him. Anyway, the music, the sermon and the entire worship was awesome. There will be mid-week services at Advent Lutheran Church each Wednesday between now and Christmas. I would love to see you there.

Nehemiah 8:10 says, “...for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord, is your strength.” Worship always perks up my spirits. Today I went to worship alone. Bruce was sick, Travis was at work and Geni was asleep. When it came time to receive Eucharist, I walked down from the Praise Team and stood by Nichole Burkholder and shared communion with her. It is a bit of an odd feeling not to have Bruce or one of the kids by my side at that part of the service.

And then there are the Christmas movies. Most of them have happy endings, but are usually about a family in distress or separation and finally in the two hour time period all is well. You and I both know that problems are rarely solved in two hours and all do not live happily ever after. One of my favorite movies is Father of the Bride with Steve Martin and Diane Keaton. It is about a family preparing for the wedding of their daughter and all of the stresses that come with a preparation of the magnitude of a wedding with all of its myriad details and lots of dollars. As the family was decorating the house I was reminded of the afternoon when my best friend and I sat in the floor of the sanctuary of Advent Lutheran church preparing the memorial table for the celebration service for Casey and we both remembered that had things turned out differently we would have been decorating for his wedding. And after I shed tears over that, then came one of those totally sentimental Christmas movies where a family is restored to wholeness just in the nick of time and the tears flowed again. I stepped over to Bruce and asked if he remembered the first Christmas with Casey and how we were flat broke with no money for Christmas and a friend came over a gave us $50.00 for Casey’s first Christmas. And Christmas was a joy. It was then I asked Bruce, still crying, how are we going to have Christmas without Casey?

This morning my drive time devotion was the scripture from Nehemiah. It was throughout the day with its emotional ups and downs that I began to understand joy. It is easy to express joy when something is happy or successful (like I got an A on my last paper! It is my first A in Grad. School. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.) But to be joyful when your heart is breaking is tough. True joy is when everything seems to be going south the only thing you can do is get on your knees and look north. God meets us on our knees and lifts us up to remind us that His heart was broken and he knows just how we feel. When Christ lifts us up our joy is in the strength of the Lord’s saving grace, tender mercies and loving arms that wrap themselves around us when we are broken. His joy is made perfect in our shattered hearts and broken dreams. When we realize the strength of Christ is within us then we have joy inside ourselves that can overcome the greatest sorrow we experience. For you see, Christ had a mother who lost her Son too and He knows how she felt. I figure Jesus comforted His mother at the resurrection and Christ comforts me through His Word as a constant reminder that He is with me all of the time grieving with me and bringing me joy through His presence. God comforts me with Bruce, Geni and Travis when they comfort me with hugs, laughter and understanding. Through this journal I work out my feelings and meditate on the Word and how it applies to my life. It is a great source of comfort.

Tomorrow I go back to work. I will greet a new teacher to my team and hopefully help her become comfortable in her new surroundings. I pray for her to have joy in the moments that are a bit unsure and in learning a new class. As the journey continues I have a better understanding of my sign off line; take joy in the journey. I could just as easily say, “take Christ in the journey.” The journey is not always filled with joy and smooth roads, but Christ who is our strength is always there in whom we can take our joy. If we take Christ, our joy, on the journey then no matter how rough the road our guide is always there to lead the way.

So, my friends, take joy in the journey. Have a wonderful Monday. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.