Tag Archives: life

All you need is hugs…

Standard

Free_hugsHugs may not be all we need in reality, but they can sure make a difference in your life.  I know two people who are without a doubt the best huggers in the world.  When they hug you it makes you feel like the most loved and secure person ever. Growing up, my family was pretty conservative with hugs. Over time new people would become members of our family and through them we were taught the way a hug can make your feel.  It’s been an irreplaceable gift.

i’ve recently gotten to know a married couple where one of the spouses has Alzheimer’s Disease. She can be funny and silly and frankly not make a lot of sense.  However, she has an amazing way of communicating that is easily understood. She hugs. If she wants to hug you, watch out!  Ann walks up to strangers and tells them they look like they need a hug and out go her arms. She doesn’t think twice about it.

Recently Ann and her husband went on a vacation to Colorado.  As Ann’s Alzheimer’s has progressed, her “filters” have weakened.  We received a note from Ann’s husband about their experience.  I’d like to share it.

“I wanted to share a great story about Ann that has taught me a lot and that we can all learn an important life lesson from.  As many of you know, Ann’s “filters” in life have been lessoned quite a bit the past several years from her disease.  She loves to walk up to people she does not know and offer random words of affirmation, encouragement and hugs.  Her favorite “targets” are young moms with kids and elderly women.  Recently Ann was shopping with our daughter in law and randomly went up to a lady, got her attention, and with a big smile looked her in the eye and told her how beautiful she was.  Ann reached out and they hugged for a long time.  The lady was quite emotional and said, “ I am 84 years old and I really needed this today.”

I have been with Ann when she has done this literally 100’s of times these past several years. I have never, never, seen Ann get a negative response.  Many are taken back at first, but they always seem to quickly warm up to her.  Sometimes she tells them her story about her health.

I was thinking about Ann’s lack of filters and wondered about the filters in my life and all of ours that keeps us from treating others in a similar manner every time we walk out the door. Filters of feeling too busy in life to take time to care, filters of fear of rejection, filters or fears of being vulnerable,  filters of being afraid of what others will think about us when they observe us, filters of not wanting to get involved in people’s lives we don’t know.

Ann has been unable to be involved in much formal ministry work these past couple of years because of her disease.  I think God is using her in an amazing way in people’s lives by her random acts of affirmation, encouragement, kindness, and lots of hugs.  Sure it can feel uncomfortable for those of us with her at times, but then again, WWJD.  I know it has stretched me in my life in the way I have been interacting with people more openly these past couple of years.”

The note continued on further, but the best part is what I shared above.  I have been a recipient of Ann’s hugs.  They do wonders.  While I do not wish Alzheimer’s on anyone, there is goodness that has come from the ugliness of this disease.  I hope in my life it doesn’t take something tragic to make me earnestly strive to help another person feel better.  Imagine the impact we could have on each other by saying , “You are beautiful!” and extending your arms to hug.

I can’t say I’m ready to completely release my inhibitions, but perhaps I can start with a smile, or a hello.   Maybe Ann’s experience will help me to lighten up.  I hope so,
because it would make a world of difference.

All we need is hugs…and more Anns.

dog_hug_cat

A Chapter Closed-at least for now.

Standard

Image

Today a chapter in my book of life closed-temporarily.  Someone who I’ve become friends with over the years succumbed to the pressure of cancer and she has moved from her life on earth to her eternal life in Heaven.  Sweet Kathleen fought a courageous battle. The odds were against her.  Sadly, dear loved ones, including a husband and two children, are facing one of the toughest nights of their lives right now.

I knew Kathleen was coming close to the end of her life among us.  Two days ago I saw two deer in the neighbor’s front yard while I was taking a walk.  My thoughts went to Kathleen immediately. I wondered if her time had come.  It made me think of Psalm 42.  It wasn’t time yet.

Today I walked again and the cloud formation above me was shaped as a beautiful cross.  I wondered again.  How is Kathleen?  Hours later I learned from a friend she had passed.  

I had to attend a meeting following the notice and my thoughts were sad; my heart aching for Kathleen’s family.  I entered the meeting place and went to the open chair at the table.  As I began to sit I noticed something on the chair.  It was the metal heart shown at the top of this message.  I have no idea why it was there, but it made me think of God’s deep, wide and everlasting love.  He will not leave us not forget us. 

I didn’t have a chance to speak to Kathleen directly before she died.  Her husband and children wouldn’t know me very well, but I knew of her pride of them.  I would want them to know Kathleen touched my life in a beautiful way.  She made me smile and laugh.  She was a lovely woman.  She was part of a chapter in my life and I was blessed to know her.

 

Psalm 42- The Living Bible

42 As the deer pants for water, so I long for you, O God. 2 I thirst for God, the living God. Where can I find him to come and stand before him? 3 Day and night I weep for his help, and all the while my enemies taunt me. “Where is this God of yours?” they scoff.

4-5 Take courage, my soul! Do you remember those times (but how could you ever forget them!) when you led a great procession to the Temple on festival days, singing with joy, praising the Lord? Why then be downcast? Why be discouraged and sad? Hope in God! I shall yet praise him again. Yes, I shall again praise him for his help.[a]

6 Yet I am standing here depressed and gloomy, but I will meditate upon your kindness to this lovely land where the Jordan River flows and where Mount Hermon and Mount Mizar stand. 7 All your waves and billows have gone over me, and floods of sorrow pour upon me like a thundering cataract.[b]

8 Yet day by day the Lord also pours out his steadfast love upon me, and through the night I sing his songs and pray to God who gives me life.

9 “O God my Rock,” I cry, “why have you forsaken me? Why must I suffer these attacks from my enemies?” 10 Their taunts pierce me like a fatal wound; again and again they scoff, “Where is that God of yours?” 11 But, O my soul, don’t be discouraged. Don’t be upset. Expect God to act! For I know that I shall again have plenty of reason to praise him for all that he will do. He is my help! He is my God!

 

 

Unplugged

Standard

Yesterday morning’s routine started as most where I wake up, freshen up a bit and then go on a morning walk with my dog to get both of us exercised and clear-thinking for the day. Spring hasn’t quite gotten the idea that it’s time for it’s arrival yet so the weather outside was a little crisp-like the first bite of fresh Gala apple.
As I assembled myself for the walk I couldn’t find my earbuds anywhere. The typical routine includes my listening to a select number of radio programs on the journey to help camouflage the distance we are trying to attain.

I got the novel idea to free myself from Tune-In and just listen to the natural sounds that surrounded us. I wanted to use my senses to absorb the environment and try to get in touch with the beautiful creations that God gifted to us.

Once I warmed to the slight chill in the air my first sight of beauty was seeing the sun glaze over an initially still pond showing a range of tangerines hues. Slight ripples from a gentle breeze wavered the colors across the water creating interesting effects like the flames of a fire.
Most mornings I notice a few hawks gliding through the sky, but for some reason this day it was two giant black crows. They had words to share that I didn’t understand and swooped up and down around me a few times until they realized my dog and I really weren’t that interesting after all.

The wind picked up slightly and the dry branches of most of the trees tousled about as we passed along our route. Those too timid to sprout displayed the intricate weavings of twigs and leaves that many a bird called home at one time.

A few trees had buds on them, but they must have felt too cold to open up and completely display their colors. Though, there were a few brave enough to expose their flowers with their petals shivering from the cold and breeze.
The terrain is hilly where we walk and there are moments where you see glints of distances miles away with houses and cars and busses hustling to get to their destinations. But that didn’t distract for long as I got reabsorbed in the beauty surrounding me quickly.

What must the first few days of creation been like? A world freshly unpacked and unaffected by man-made things. How did the animals respond to each other? Did the species all get along? The water must have been crystal clear with a purity we will never know in our lifetime. Trees obviously bore fruit. Was the earth filled with color? Was it filled with jumbled sounds from melodic birds? Could you hear a pin drop at night when the stars blazed across the sky? Was the sky so clear it really looked like a curtain of diamonds?
What an amazing 30 minutes I had before reality set in for the day. My dog probably notices this stuff every day. She’s very in tune with her surroundings through her nose and ears and eyes. I take for granted the loveliness God provided to each and every one of us. I need to change that and take advantage of the pleasure that my unplugged walk resulted in. For that unexpected time I give thanks and praise to our Creator.

PSALM 148

1 Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights above.
2 Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
3 Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars.
4 Praise him, you highest heavens
and you waters above the skies.

5 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for at his command they were created,
6 and he established them for ever and ever—
he issued a decree that will never pass away.

7 Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
8 lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
stormy winds that do his bidding,
9 you mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars,
10 wild animals and all cattle,
small creatures and flying birds,
11 kings of the earth and all nations,
you princes and all rulers on earth,
12 young men and women,
old men and children.

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
14 And he has raised up for his people a horn,[b]
the praise of all his faithful servants,
of Israel, the people close to his heart.

Praise the Lord.

We begin to die as soon as our lives begin

Standard
We begin to die as soon as our lives begin

This is a bit of a mind bender for me.  When I came across the quote that follows it struck me in a way that I haven’t been able to forget about it.  That’s unusual in these days where I can’t seem to remember where I last placed my keys, my shoes, my glasses or remember my passwords.

“How is it that the Eternal should make so much of mortal man, who begins to die as soon as he begins to live?

The quote is attributed to Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  I read it in relation to Psalm 144.  Bless the Lord, who is my rock.  He gives me strength for war and skill for battle.  He is my loving ally and my fortress, my tower of safety, my deliverer.  He stands before me a shield, and I take refuge in him.  He subdues the nations under me.

Wow.  Those are metaphors of enormous strength, power and protection.  I think it’s saying that God is totally AWEsome; there is nothing like Him, AND yet, He is really there watching out for us.  With His power and might why does He care to think about each and every one of us?

The Psalm continues-  we are like a breath of air; our days are like a passing shadow.   Here’s the connection with Spurgeon’s quote. We begin to die as soon as our lives begin.  We don’t know how long we have on this earth.  That’s obvious from daily current events that share heartbreaking stories of lives gone too soon.

How does it all affect me? I think I need to start asking what I should be doing today that reflects God’s will for me.  I guess the step before that is to allow God’s will to breathe in me.   I’ve always been one who wanted the obvious message from God.  I wanted and angel to be in my face redirecting me, or God to post a giant billboard that gave me specific direction.  It hasn’t happened that way.  In fact, I’ve probably wasted time waiting for those monumental alerts.  I’m going to  pray to notice the small signs, openings, feelings that might be a gentle nudging from Heaven.

One of my favorite sentiments from John Baille says, “Let not the noises of the world ever so confuse me that I cannot hear You speak.  Suffer me never to deceive myself as to the meaning of Your commands and in all ways let me obey your will.

We begin to die as soon as our lives begin.  I don’t have time to be bothered by noise.  None of us do.  Time is ticking away.  What have I done for Him lately?

How is your faith when life sucks?

Standard

I’m kind of stuck on Psalm 107 right now.  I think I find my life on the same track of the people being written about at the time.  Throughout the Psalm people get in trouble and call for help.  God responds each time.

I have a friend who is facing cancer for a second time, and this time it seems worse.  Her husband is out of a job and has been for a year.  Her work is contract so she doesn’t add much into the income pool.  There is no insurance.  They are dealing with an older family member who is suffering in so many ways and have had to make the difficult decision to put this person in hospice care vs. trying to sustain their life through temporary fixes.  How do you console a person in this situation?  Is it trite to say God is with you and He is watching over you as you see them lose their hair to countless treatments of chemo or have painful surgeries and procedures to remove tumors?  How do you make them feel good about the fact they are out of work with no insurance, or about having to decide to remove life support tubes that could keep someone they love alive longer- though in a vegetative state.

This part of life really sucks.  I don’t understand it and I am working to accept that I never will.  When I look at my friend’s situation I don’t want to say God is with you.  I want to say this sucks and it isn’t right or fair.  It’s horrible and painful and my heart cries for you.

Then when I come around full circle I realize really the only thing they have that is a constant is God.  It’s not trite. It’s true.  The very last verse of Psalm 107 says, those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.  There is absolutely nothing in this earthly life that my friends, or I , can count on for sure.  Everything we think is so solid can change in the blink of an eye.  I know it from my own experience.  You know it from yours.  My friend has certainly learned it in her life.

In Psalm 107 the people cry out for help in different situations four times.  Each time God leads the troubled to safety.  What we have to remember is that His safety is different from what we perceive to be safety.  It definitely means change and it could mean that sometimes His safety is life in Heaven with Him.  That’s when faith has to really kick in.  Have you seen His faithfulness enough in your life to accept He has something better for you even when life sucks?  Is it there and you aren’t acknowledging it?  Do you need to do a check list of all the “coincidences” that occurred in your life that got you out of storms and brought happiness?  I do from time to time.

There is no place in the Bible that I have found that says life on this earth will be good.  There is a lot to suggest it hasn’t been and it won’t be.  Our faith is meant to be beyond this earth.  I don’t mean to say that things in this life aren’t good or can’t be filled with utter joy.  There are plenty of things that are and those are awesome moments.  I just mean that ultimately the best good we can imagine is found in Heaven- found through faith.  Psalm 107: 43- Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.

How is my faith when life sucks?  I’m working on it, but it’s leaning toward good especially when I remember to acknowledge how faithful He has been.  How about you?