Tag Archives: spirituality

Saving Sunshine—Part 1

10 Aug

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26 NASB95).

When they found my brother Jim, we estimated he’d been lying on his floor for at least five days. Considering the sores on his hip, shoulder, and elbow, he hadn’t moved. He was barely breathing. Every chemical, blood, and body fluid measurement was off the charts. If he lived, what would be his mental and physical condition? Hundreds of prayers went up for Jim, even when we couldn’t find words (Romans 8:26).

The doctor later told us, “I thought I was treating a dead man.”

Jim’s two registered Jack Russell Terriers, Hoss and Daisy, had been confined to his back den during those five days. Overturned trash and partiality-eaten paper plates showed their desperation for food. Eventually, they chewed through a heavy paper bag of dry food; a small puddle of water from a leaking toilet seal kept them from dehydration. A month earlier, Daisy had given birth to one male and one female puppy.

Not knowing if Jim would live or die, we had to find homes for the four dogs. I decided to take the little female home with me. I certainly didn’t need another dog, but she might be my last connection to Jim.

For years Jim’s greeting to me had always been, “Hello, Sunshine.” Jim’s future looked dark, so Sunshine seemed a perfect name for this tiny black and white ball of fur. When I told Robin and Regina her name, each had the same response. “Oh, that’s what Uncle Jim called me every time I saw him.” Until that moment, each of us thought we held exclusive rights to that happy name.

Toward the end of two weeks in intensive care, Jim squeezed a hand. His first words were, “Love you.” The sun began to shine again.

Jim spent six more weeks in the hospital. Next came months in a nursing home, assisted living, and finally home. Added to encephalopathy and other diagnosis, tests revealed he had dementia with Lewy bodies, which has symptoms of both Parkinson and Alzheimer’s. He spent his final days in an Alzheimer’s unit, but he never forgot anyone’s name. Although Jim couldn’t discuss his last meal or the TV show he just watched, Sunshine‘s antics provided a source of conversation and reliable memories for him. I’m extremely grateful for the five additional years God gave us with Jim.

Sunshine eventually transitioned from a housedog to a companion for Jax, our oldest birddog. Last spring I began making plans to bring eight-year-old Sunshine back into the house because of Jax’s failing health and age. That wasn’t to be. She darted under the back wheels of George’s pick-up and was killed instantly. We were both devastated.

I’m never sure if I rescued Sunshine or if Sunshine rescued me. She’ll forever be an inseparable part of Jim’s memory. I am sure she brightened many lives with her playfulness and love of people. She left a hole in my heart and about a month after her death, I began asking God if I should get another dog. Next week, I’ll share God’s answer.

Has there ever been a time you just couldn’t find words to pray? Has God ever answered your prayers through a pet? Please share your thoughts.

Curb Walking

29 Jun

I didn’t want to do it. I’d used the cooler morning to work in my vegetable garden and by 9:00, it was already 80 degrees. However, I’d met one of my writing deadlines; it was now time to start taking care of my temple.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20 NIV).

It helps if I talk to myself. 
“This is the first day of the rest of my life. Get started. You can do it.”
Did I mention I didn’t want to do it?

I know routine helps me do the hard things. Apply sunscreen. Assemble hat, water, cell phone (includes music and timer). Stretch.
“It’s getting hotter and I really don’t want to do this.”

The strangest thing happened. I opened the door and started down the block. I had to stop and adjust my music. An instrumental version of “All the Way My Savior Leads Me” made me smile. About two blocks from home, the Maranatha Singers serenaded me with a favorite Scripture from the King James Bible. “As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after Thee” (Psalm 42:1 NIV).

I wasn’t panting yet.

It was time to renew my habit of curb walking. You may not have seen it done. I never have. Perhaps it’s time to share my secret of turning a walk into a workout without putting stress on joints. You’ll need a certain amount of “who cares what I look like” confidence, a neighborhood with curbs, and not too much traffic.

I walk close to the curb and take two steps on the street. Then I step up and take two steps on the sidewalk. Back to the street for two steps, then two steps on the sidewalk, and so on I go. Once you get the hang of it, you can move quickly.

One gentleman on a recumbent bike stopped me last spring. He had watched me cross the street to step up with my left foot for a block, then cross back to the other side and step up with my right foot for a block. I knew he was watching and I was a little embarrassed. But I didn’t stop.

“What is it you’re doing,” he asked as I approached.
“I’m curb walking. It’s my version of walking and step aerobics. That’s why I continue crossing back and forth across the street.”
“I’ve never seen it done, but it’s a good idea. You should be proud.”
“Thank you. I know it looks silly, but it’s a good workout.”
“Don’t worry about how it looks. Just keep it up.” He rode off on his bike, his big dog leased by his side. That conversation did a lot for me. Thank you, God, for using other people to encourage us.

Surprisingly, I had a great time worshiping God and taking care of myself at the same time. It was only 25 minutes, but I’ll eventually get back to that hour I was doing five days a week last year. And to think I didn’t really want to do it.

Our Hope and Helper

5 May

I’d never heard of dementia with Lewy bodies until my brother, Jim, received that diagnosis about 2006. Victims suffer hallucinations and symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Jim died 2010. Later we were saddened when our son-in-law’s mother received the same diagnosis; she already had many other health concerns. Almost two weeks ago, our extended family celebrated her life and grieved the loss of our beloved Linda. Our prayers and tears mingled with people in Boston; West, Texas; and around the world as explosions, disease, war, and famine claimed lives. Sometimes such sadness and discouragement can be overwhelming.

That’s the way Christ’s disciples felt when He spoke of going to the Father. Jesus offered them hope as He promised His Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to help them (and us) live by faith.

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also” (John 14:16–19 NASB).

The Greek word for Holy Spirit is parakletos, which may be translated Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, or Counselor. Parakletos literally means one called alongside to help. God’s love that sent Jesus to the cross and the power that raised Him from the dead is available to all believers. Christ’s death meant agonizing change, lost hope, and broken dreams—feelings most of us have experienced. Because Christ’s Spirit abides with us and in us, we don’t have to be discouraged. We can handle whatever life throws at us with strength, courage, and even joy.

We celebrated Linda’s life with laughter and song as well as tears. The pastor said, “She taught us how to live and how to die. Her husband, Lanny, taught us how to love.” The service was beautiful—bittersweet and sad, yet beautiful. What a legacy and example for their children and grandchildren.

The world also recognized multiple heroic examples that week as first responders’ courage and selflessness amazed us. Our country once again united in support of other suffering Americans. Perhaps you (like my husband and I) renewed your gratitude for life and love, conceding we’re not promised length of days. There is great good on earth, which we can appreciate and celebrate. We also need to do our part in alleviating pain and suffering through prayer, hard work, time, and money.

However, we are all just passing through this world. The Bible promises the best is yet to come. Jesus said, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1–3 NASB).

And from the Revelation of John we have this promise.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3–4 NASB).

One day we will join Linda, Jim, our parents, and thousands more—all healed, whole, and singing, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power.” What a glorious reunion that will be.

My Addiction

26 Apr

It begins with a single thought that flows into a recurring, rippling stream of desire. Finally, the current of my thinking forces me to the refrigerator. I’m not actually hungry; I’m bored, depressed, need a break, or maybe a nap. What I don’t need is food, but I tell myself it will give me the energy I need to finish my project. Exercise might do that, but food won’t. I know that, but then binging isn’t rational.

For two or three generations, my family’s addiction of choice has been alcohol. In some cases that meant devastation and even death. In other cases, it meant second chances, recovery, and new life. I’m very proud of family members who continually choose life over addiction. They credit Jesus Christ and the twelve-step program for their victory. Their accomplishment blesses family and friends who once dealt with broken relationships, stolen property, wrecked cars, jail visits, and lawyers—for most, a dim memory.

You may say my food addiction doesn’t have that kind of impact. You’re right—no theft, no wrecks, no jail time. Neither am I obese, “just” overweight. Then why be concerned? We could start with gluttony as one of the seven deadly sins, but it’s more than that.

Food can become an idol. I’m defining idol as anything in life that replaces God. It can be a job, possessions, sex, relationships, power, or control. What helps us forget our troubles, feel good about ourselves, or fill a void? Do we run to God or the refrigerator, the liquor cabinet, a soap opera, an affair, or the corporate ladder?

There’s another reason my addiction concerns me. First Corinthians 6:19-20 says this, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (ESV) Our body is the only vehicle by which we may worship God and share His love.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1–2 NIV).

If I want be a living sacrifice and help others recognize God’s will as good, pleasing, and perfect, then I need to think differently about food. God created a wonderful variety of food that delights our senses. I’m free to enjoy food without thinking about it all day or making it my escape. I want to say with Job, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12b NKJV).

I suppose this is a confession and a willingness to be held accountable. It’s bit frightening and perhaps irrational to make such a public commitment to healthy eating and exercise—especially since it’s not my first effort. I’ve found freedom in so many areas of my life, but this seems to be one of my most formidable strongholds. I’m ready to break free.

Perhaps some of you feel the same way and may choose to join me. Do you need words of encouragement or have success stories? Your words can make a difference. I’d love to hear from you.