Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Stand Up! Eat Purple! Learning How to Raise My HDL

How long do you sit in a day? Stop and think about it. My cardiac rehab therapist recommends no more than three hours. THREE HOURS, for meals, reading, Bible study, T.V. or movie watching, driving, visiting with friends, and church. That is not much when you think about it. I know I had been sitting more than that. So now I’m starting to do my morning quiet time on my feet. The first few times I became distracted. My mind would wander with my feet but as I practice it’s becoming easier to keep my focus standing. I also had a standing station for my laptop installed in my new bookshelf unit. So now I can write on my feet. I had been typing sitting or standing at the kitchen counter but my kitchen counter is lower and has stools. Ooops sitting again!

Changing my diet seems to be called for as well, now that I officially have heart disease. I need to wean my sweet tooth, no more than six teaspoons of added sweetener a day. I can assure you I am not there yet. Some women are naturally sweet. I’m not one of them. I need to add sugar. I just need to start adding less. Dark chocolate is good! Added sugars suppress the body’s ability to make HDL (Healthy cholesterol). My HDL is 40, unusually low for a woman. My heart team wants it up around a hundred.  I also need to eat lots more veggies which is a challenge with my digestive issues. Then I read “think purple”; dark purple fruits and veggies help increase HDL. So I will eat some living purple thing every day. Today I ate red cabbage, blackberries, and black grapes.

The last change I need to make may prove the hardest. Yes, even worse than more vegetables: regular exercise. Not three days or four days a week but minimum five. That’s right five days a week for 30 minutes a day until Jesus comes or I die. Death may come sooner than Jesus because more veggies, less sweets, and regular exercise is sure to kill me. Self discipline in these areas is tough but I know if I make myself do these things long enough I will form good habits and I won’t have to think about them. I’ll just stand up, eat purple, orange and green (no not the Skittles. I ran from that isle), and exercise almost every day. I have gone back to prayer walking. Since I tend to pray or 40-60 minutes a day it helps. The challenge will be when the weather gets cold.

It’s humbling to have to make these changes. Compared to most people my age I had a fairly active lifestyle and healthy diet before my heart attack. Yet God never calls us to compare ourselves to others. We are unique. I am called to be a wise steward of the unique way He made me: prone to heart attacks. Fortunately , He also made us the same in at least one way; we are made for community. I don’t have to do this alone! He gave me you! Please, help me. If you see me ask how my new habit forming attempts are going. If you remember me, please pray the Holy Spirit increases my self control in these areas. Better yet join me. Stand more, exercise daily, and eat purple, by the way cocoa counts as purple. So join me for a daily dark chocolate break. We’ll need it after all that standing and regular exercise.

Lord, please help us each to be good stewards of the bodies You made for us. Help us develop self control. Increase our energy and stamina that we may use it to serve effectively in Your Kingdom. To You be the glory, and honor and power forever! Amen

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Relearning an Old Lesson

Have you ever been so tired you could fall asleep standing? That's how tired I felt the first (and every) time I was pregnant. The first time was the worst because I didn't expect it. I could sleep ten hours at night, take a two hour nap, and still have barely enough energy to drag myself through the day like a zombie. I could not keep up with work, home, and ministry commitments. I cried out to God for help and wisdom.

His response took me to what an older  woman should have been telling me: Titus 2:3-5. I needed to love my husband, my unborn child, and keep up my home. That's what He told me to do. Then the Holy Spirit added this clear impression: "If you can't do those three things, nothing else you're doing is My will for you." That made my life manageable. I dropped everything that didn't contribute to the well being of my household. No more seminary wive's choir or church choir. No more teaching Sunday School. I needed to set an example for those junior high girls that my husband and home came first.

This past year, in the pursuit of a new career as a writer, I forgot that lesson. I failed to settle into my house, the one I moved into two and a half years ago. Granted I didn't know I was staying in this house until twelve months ago. TWELVE months and still not settled! No shelves in my library for my books to rest on. It's tough when your references for writing are still in boxes. A craft room that should double as a guest room stands in use as a large closet, and a messy one at that! Empty boxes and bubble wrap that I thought I may need again have exploded all over my basement along with several half unpacked boxes of items I need to use, store or toss. A bathroom sink and vanity complete the basement disaster, remains of a remodel done last spring.

My loving, wise husband assured me he did not mind. He also didn't mind the unvacuumed floors, dusty furniture, and dirty bathrooms that plagued us all summer as I tried to write my book and meet self imposed deadlines. Then WHAMMM, my heart attack! The counsel from Titus 2:3-5 haunts me. I need to take seriously the instruction to love my husband, children (now all grown and gone from my house), and be a keeper of my home. So until I get my house in order I can't commit to a weekly blog. I hope you understand.

There is a season for everything and in this season I need to settle in for the long haul. Once settled I will begin in earnest to write again. Until then I hope the lesson I'm learning over again will help you prioritize too. For those of us who are married women God's will is simple; Love our husband, love our children, keep our homes. If you're doing that and have extra time praise God and use it for His glory!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Singing Through the Storms

In February, 1984 my beloved Bill took me on a special first anniversary getaway to Cannon Beach Oregon. That was the first time I experienced Cannon Beach. It soon became and has remained one of my favorite beaches. He also bought me a photo of the beach with Psalm 93:4 written on it, "The Lord on High is mightier than the noise of many waters, yeah than the mighty waves of the sea. It hung in our home for many years. The verse hangs in my heart for all eternity.

In helping our Women's Retreat speaker come up with a theme this year. She liked Surf's Up. She'll be sharing from Matthew chapter seven about God's word preserving us through the floods of life. Psalm 93:4 jumped into the for front of my mind as a great theme verse. Suzanne, our speaker, liked it too.

Later that week I found myself reading Psalm 93. Then I was singing it. Next thing I knew I had a chorus stuck in my head. Please, understand I am not exceptionally musical. I do make up silly songs on occasion. Then I did something totally silly. I video taped me singing on my phone and texted it to a very musical friend, Lindsay.

"So what do you think Linsay? Any real song potential?" Lindsay's written several songs. She liked my song in the rough and began to polish it.She even added a cool call response part. Then we got the retreat worship team together and with their help made the final edits.

Sunday, August 23rd we completed writing the song. The next day I had a heart attack and the day after that I landed in the hospital for three days. I wasn't the only one in deep water. Our church got hammered that week. One woman's 49 year old son died, An elderly gentleman in our church broke his hip. A middle aged man had a stroke. And another woman's sister passed away.

Guess if I write a song about God being mightier than the floods of life He was going to give me opportunity to sing it. So I did. Sang it several times during my hospital stay. God is good all the time. And yes, He is mightier than the waves of the sea! Here's a video of the debut of the new song Psalm 93 being sung at the women's retreat this past weekend.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


I am here.

At least I think I am. I'm writing this a week in advance and unless the Lord returns or Bill and I encounter unforeseen difficulties, I am here which is less than a mile north of here.

This place, apart from being one of my favorite spots on the planet, also holds the record for most photographed beach on the best coast, oops that would be west coast.

Bill and I trekked westward this past week in part to attend the BNN Pastors' and Wives' retreat which is held each year here at the Cannon Beach Christian Conference Center. If you ever get an opportunity to come here DO! God has reserved prime beach front property just for His kids to enjoy. PRAISE HIM!

What is your favorite place to go?

Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth, the heavens declare Your glory! Thank You for making it for us! Amen

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Seeing the Hand of God in a Heart Attack

Ever wonder what God was thinking when you go through a challenging time? I don't mean the whiny "Why me?!" Just wondering how a sovereign God who loves you will work it to good. He does promise to do that. So I think by faith a "Hey Father, what's up with this?" is a great question. That being said, we need to remember He doesn't owe us an explanation. And He does tell us in His word trials teach us endurance.

Yet, sometimes He does show us more. Maybe ten or twenty years down the road. Like the ahh haa moment I had the day I helped a family in a home crawling with cock roaches make a roach free move. About fifteen years before Bill and I were resident apartment managers. It was my job to escort the exterminator through the complex when the building became roach infested. I had roach night mares by the time we got the building insect free. That man gave me a thorough education on roaches. The information seemed trivial at the time but  years later there I was using the knowledge that only that unpleasant trial could equip me with. Then there are times, like last week, when God gives me instant glimpses of what He's up to.

Wednesday, August 26th, Bill waited with me in the ICU for the doctors to get me in for an angiogram and probably a stent. It proved to be a long wait. I didn't go in for the procedure until 5 pm. Sometime around lunch, or at least what felt like lunch time because I couldn't eat before the procedure, we heard a code blue called over the hospital's PA system. Bill and I instantly responded in prayer, "Lord thank You that you know who needs Your help now, even if we don't know them. Give the medical team wisdom and grace as they seek to preserve this life. Care for the family members who may be present. Please help each one and be glorified in this dire situation. Amen"

Ten minutes later we became part of the answer to that prayer. Bill got a call from a woman in our congregation (Bill, my husband, is a pastor). She told him one of the widow's in our church had just lost her son. Yup, that was the code blue. My husband took off to the room where this poor mother had just watched her son slip into eternity. I continued in not only prayer but praise thankful Bill could go be with her.

Had I not suffered a heart attack that Monday Bill would have been in California for duty. He's also a Navy Reserve chaplain. Not only had my heart attack kept him in town but it placed him in the hospital for just this moment in time and not only this need, yes there's more.

The next day as I recovered from the angiogram, Bill faithfully at my bedside, he got another call. This one about a retired medical missionary in our church family. Dr. B. had broken his hip.  Dr. B. also had major heart issues over the last few years and is in his eighties. Once again God had Bill right where he needed to be. He headed out to the ER to be with the Dr.,his wife, and son. They prayed together for wisdom in deciding what should be done. The decision was to take him to Topeka where a cardiac surgeon would also be available. In case you wondered why I was in ICU instead of intermediate cardiac care now you know: small town, small hospital.

We also had a chance to be blessed by three special nurses. In each area of my hospital stay, first the ER, then ICU, and finally on the regular floor, there was a nurse who had come to our church. The ER nurse I had met for the first time two days before. She was a friend of a friend who had invited her to Grace (Grace Baptist Church in Manhattan, KS is where Bill & I serve). Then my ICU nurse that first night recognized Bill right away . We had not met her before but she shared she and her husband regularly attend Grace. Finally, on the floor I met a young gentleman my husband had told me about earlier who is new to Grace. All three of these nurses provided great care for me. I'm so thankful God puts people just where they need to be when they need to be there. From lining up special nurses for me to making sure those who needed my husband's pastoral care would have it God had His hand in all these things.

No matter how much we may be hurting let's not loose the perspective that life, even our own life, is not about us. God has a much bigger story to tell. As any good author knows keeping the mystery of intrigue requires intricately weaving the all the story lines together. Kinda gets me excited about eternity when I can see the whole story unfolded and get all my "What's up with that, God?" questions answered. It'll make the Bible look like the readers digest version. In eternity we'll see how each one played their part in the greatest story ever told!

Father, You are amazing, mysterious, and infinitely wise. May we never doubt in the darkness what You've shown us in the light. Help us embrace self forgetfulness that we may have eyes wide open to your hand at work. Amen

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Lowest Common Denominator

Many moons ago, when I homeschooled the girls, a very close friend of mine, who shall remain unnamed, used me as an example to encourage other young moms considering homeschooling. She’d tell them, “If Teri Gasser can do it anyone can!” And she was right. I was and still am the lowest common denominator.
This reality applies not only to my accomplishments but also to my weaknesses. My weakness this past week that should motivate you: a heart attack. Yes, Monday, at age fifty four, I suffered a heart attack. ME, Teri Gasser, the one with low blood pressure, who lost fifteen pounds a year ago! ME, I’m the one who eats small portions of good food often and has never been overweight. My cholesterol counts are stellar. I swim and or walk at least five times a week. Yes, I had a heart attack and if Teri Gasser had a heart attack anyone can.

We’ve all heard warning; the number one killer of women over forty five is heart attacks. I somehow thought my robust health equaled immunity, NOT! I’m glad for once I didn’t just tough out my day of not feeling so well. In retrospect I should have taken the two events from the previous week as signs to get checked out. Live and learn. Thankfully, I lived to learn. Now I feel obliged to share that knowledge with you.

My symptoms began over a week before. I’d get mild ear pain in my Eustachian tubes. I thought I was fighting a bout of swimmers ear. Then a week ago Wednesday,  Bill and I went for a walk. My ears ached. I felt a burning sensation and heaviness all the way to my chest. I sat on a park bench to rest. I assumed my asthma had flared. It subsided and we headed home. Friday, Nancy took me on a tour of Well Spring. We hiked about an hour and a half. Early in the walk and about half way through the same thing happened. Again I blamed my asthma.

I felt fine after that until Monday. If I did anything but sit the burning in my ears and chest would hit with a vengeance. Yup, time to see the doctor. If I had known it was a MI (Myocardial Infarction) I would have gone straight to urgent care but no, Tough It Out Teri, wait patiently for her next day appointment. God acted mercifully towards those who’d miss me and kept me alive, in spite of my folly.
Know the facts. If you are a woman over fifty a heart attack is looking for you. Whereas men tend to have typical symptoms, women do not. Our more complex anatomy lend themselves to more a typical symptoms.

Here they are:
1.     Heartburn, abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting
2.     Weak, dizzy, or faint feeling
3.     Shortness of breath
4.     Cold and sweaty (feverish without a fever)
5.     Racing heartbeat
And the really freaky one,
6.     You may have no symptoms at all!

So, girlfriends over forty five, listen to your body. If anything is off get checked out, NOW! Don’t be a Tough It Out Teri. The upside, treatment these days works wonders. In one, non invasive, angiogram they could not only find the artery that was blocked but they fixed it by place a stint. Star to finish about seventy minutes. All I have to show for my near death experience and three days in the hospital is a incision less than a quarter inch, no stitches or pain medicine. What a miraculous age of medicine we live in!

Next week I’ll share three wonderful answers to why. God doesn’t always let us in on why He does what He does but when He does, WOW, what a blessing!

Dear Merciful Father, I’m glad I was ready, ready to go and ready to stay. Seems You’re not finished with me yet. Maybe because a sister reading this needs to be ready for a heart attack or better yet to prevent one. Thank You, God. You are good all the time! Amen

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Refocus When You're Fractured: A Poem to Pray

Last week I spilled my guts about how frenzied I felt. Then I shared the three steps I take to get refocused. Often when I find myself in that scattered state of mind I pray this poem by Anne Ortlund. It's one of my favorites.

How single, God, are You – how whole!
One Source You are, one Way, one Goal.
I tend to splinter all apart
With fractured mind, divided heart;
Oh, integrate my wandering maze
To one highway of love and praise.

O single mast’ring Life of peace
At Whose command the ragings cease,
Keep calling to me, “Peace be still,”
To redirect my scattered will
Keep gath’ring back my heart to You.
Keep cent’ring all I am and do.

O focused Spot of holy ground,
Silence which is the Source of sound,
I drop the clutter from my soul,
Reorganized by Your control;
Then single, whole before Your throne,
I give myself to You alone. 

Father, please, use Anne's words to encourage and refocus my sister who feel scattered and over committed today. Thank You for how You used this poem to grow me and remind me You are the One Thing I have need of. Amen

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Three Steps to Untangling Life's Busyness

Tangled, that's how I feel these days. My husband and I moved into this house two years ago but until last December we had no assurance we were staying. In December Grace Baptist Church called Bill (my husband) as their permanent pastor. Previously he served as interim. Now I know we're staying. So I finished most of the unpacking and setting up house. I'd say I'm about eighty percent there. Then I dove into ministry including; chairing the Women's ministry, overseeing women's Bible studies and yes, blogging and trying to write a book. The unfinished twenty percent haunts me, as does the tension between church and writing ministry.  Oh, and did I mention I also work retail two days a week? So the homemaking remains unfinished as I weave the other threads that make up my life. Then I hit a snag; the tangled threads lie in a clump. The weaving slows. Nothing looks right. I drop stitches and knots seem to stop any real progress. I find being tangled is a lot like catching on fire if I don't stop, drop and roll I'll get burned.

1. STOP "Be still and know that I AM God." Psalm 46:10

I've been tangled before. I know God allows busy seasons for a time, not forever. I just need to take a  day alone with God. I'm pretty sure all my to do's are things He wants me to do but I need to focus on Him and let Him untangle all the threads He's put on the loom. Our lives are a tapestry. God the Master Weaver works with us as His apprentices. We apprentices get things tangled at times. We break threads we shouldn't and skip stitches but He always leans in to correct and redirect our flawed work. We just need to stop and listen to Him.

2. DROP "Bear one another's burdens..." Galatians 6:2

I have to drop my burden, unload it. If I don't no one will help me carry it. I need to be humble and ask for help or at least share my situation and ask for prayer.

I know I am not alone in feeling tangled. Some of you have more on your plate than me. For example, before Nancy (my good friend and writing accountability partner) left for a family reunion, she shared the her knots of busyness, "I have company coming this weekend. Then Judd and I leave the next morning. I have to wash the bedding before we leave because we have guest staying here while we're gone." She's blogging and writing a book too. She also leads a book club and she's an elder's wife.

Nancy could have cancelled our Friday morning meeting but she wove me in. Her transparency gave me an opportunity to help. I had an extra set of brand new sheets to give her so she didn't need to do laundry before leaving.

Nancy was relieved and I was happy for the empty space in the closet. We each felt a tad less tangled. As a pack rat, my life gets tangled in stuff at times but God, Who wove me that way, uses the stuff He stores in my house to bless those in need. 

This explains why I'm telling you I'm feeling tangled. I know an all knowing God has a child out there that has something I need, something to help me untie the knots. Maybe it's a moment to pray for me or a great time management insight.

3. ROLL "And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart." Galatians 6:9

Once I've spent a day with God and shared my burden it's time to get back to work.The piles of laundry still resemble a mountain range and the to dos on my list are more than I can get done but at least now I'm not doing it alone. God works in and through me to do His good pleasure.

I know if I could do everything I'd take credit for it. God likes to put us in places of dependency because that's where we belong. Then, as sections of the tapestry become complete, He gets the glory. His strength is perfected in our weakness. He also wants us to remember He must be our focus. He is the one thing we have need of. As an unskilled weaver, I'd be happy with a monochromatic piece but God plans my life to be His master piece. So I need to learn to handle lots of threads.

Any chance you're feeling tangled too? Maybe you need to stop, take a day alone with God. Then drop, unload your burden on a listening ear. Now roll, get back at it!

Better yet maybe you’re the sister with the supply I need. Thanks!

Father, please, help us rest in You in spite of the busyness You may choose for us. You long to carry us through. Please, keep us from the folly of trying to get by on our own strength. We desperately need You and Your body. Amen

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Eight Great Reasons to Unplug!

In the midst of your summer hubbub you may not have noticed I failed to post last Tuesday. I neglected email and I chose not to peruse Facebook . I intentionally unplugged for 10 days. This media fast freed me to be with my family, a rare privilege. So here are my eight great reasons to unplug:

1. My GRANDSON! He came just in time to celebrate his second birthday! He is all boy. He loves riding the lawn tractor and Grandpa's "Bacuda!" ('69 Barracuda)

2. My GRAND daughter who reigns as the family princess. She just turned four.
3. Their mommy, my oldest daughter Rachel.

4. My son-in-law, Niall, father of my fabulous grand babies and husband to Rachel, who managed to avoid the camera. Fortunately, this chimp stood in for him. (I love taking kids to the zoo!)

5. My youngest daughter. I call her the Mamma Bear of Washington. She's a state trooper who delights in protecting the innocent and busting bad guys.

6. & 7. The middles! My middle daughter Jenni married a middle man (second of three brothers), Jared. They put up balloons for the birthday boy.

and last but not least #8.
the baby bump known as GRAND daughter #2 or O'Neill #3. She makes her debut in early October or late September!!

I hope you have some peeps worth unplugging for this summer. Enjoy being with the real people. Make some memories. Give lots of hugs and kisses. Plugging into the family and friends who are present keeps the summer sunshine glowing all year!!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Beauty of Thorns

Ahhhh! Not again! I stop. My jaw tenses. My eyes scan the store. There, way on the other side of the store. Sweat drips on my fore head. Can I make it? Upper and lower cheeks clenched, I inch forward. Urgency stops me in my tracks. My foot taps as I wait hoping to hold back the inevitable. What if I don’t make it? Do I have a spare pair of undies? I hate it when this happens!

Any other bathroom mappers out there? This is a familiar scenario to those of us who suffer bowel disease. Lymphocytic colitis plagues me, my personal thorn in the flesh. It stinks- really it does! So let’s consider a more pleasant smelling related subject.

Would a rose without thorns still be a rose? Hmm, I don’t think so. The thorns, in contrast to flower, give the Rose protection and strength. Thorns resulted from sin. Adam fell and Eve got a bouquet with prickles.

“Cursed is the ground for your sake... Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you...” (Genesis 3:17, 18). Thorns serve as a constant reminder of sin and death. God did not say, “Because you’re so bad, I’m giving you thorns.” God warned Adam sin would bring death. Adam already faced the ultimate consequence. So what’s up with thorns and thistles?

Did you notice God’s words “for your sake,”? These words ring with grace – a warning that mankind did not deserve. It’s as if is God said, “For your sake, Adam, when thorns prick you, you’ll be reminded of the pain sin has brought. For your sake, you’ll be reminded that obedience blesses and sin hurts.” What a loving God we have! In His mercy God didn’t zap Adam and Eve out of existence. In His grace He provided thorns that point us to repentance. The power to remind us of grace gives beauty to thorns.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). This was the father’s loving response to his child, Paul, when the apostle got stuck with a thorn in the flesh. What thorn in the flesh plagued Paul? Some say it was epilepsy, others say poor eyesight. Paul called it a messenger of Satan. It could have been a weakness in his flesh, a tendency toward a particular sin. I believe the spirit of God withheld the nature of the thorn for a couple of reasons. First, the thorn is not the point: only the pointer. It direct our attention to God’s all sufficient grace and unlimited strength. Second, just as plant thorns come in lots of different varieties so do thorns in the flesh.

When pregnant with my third child in 1990, my stools became loose, frequent and uncontrollable. I thought the pregnancy brought it on. However, the problem persisted long after my daughter’s birth, so I sought a diagnosis.

After the doctor examined me, she said, “It’s stress,” and left. This troubled me. She never suggested treatment or let me know if it would go away. I didn’t think I was stressed out. I looked for further help. I talked to my OB/GYN about my problem and the previous doctor’s diagnosis. He referred me to a specialist.

The gastroenterologist examined me and ran a number of tests. He diagnosed me with lymphocytic colitis. It had been a trying, humiliating four years but I finally had an answer. I didn’t have anything life threatening – or did I? The first doctor was not wrong in her diagnosis. Colitis can be a stress induced disease. As I thought about my life at the time I first developed colitis, I realized I had been under a lot of stress. Stress results from having more to do or more problems than we can handle. God calls it anxiety. “Be anxious for nothing,” He commands.(Philippians 4:6). When we worry, we sin. And guess what? Sin can kill you!

When I realized my problem was self inflicted, I repented. I also began to pray for God to remove the thorn, just as Paul had. God’s response to me echoes His answer to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you.”

Over the years God has kept his word. He gave me wisdom to treat my symptoms with fiber and plain yogurt. These provide a measure of control. He also helped me see that when I give into my anxiety, my colitis flares up. Just as literal thorns warned Adam to obey, so my thorn reminds me to pray and ask God to control what I cannot, namely my bowels. The thorn in my flesh keeps me in that place of grace, knowing I’m a needy creature and God is the Almighty Creator. It took me many years to appreciate my thorn in the flesh but today I praise God for allowing it.

How about you? Do you have a thorn flesh? Are you allowing it to fester or are you learning its painful yet precious lesson?

Father, Jesus bore a crown of thorns to remind us He paid the price for sin. We praise You for Your amazing grace. Help us embrace the beauty of thorns. Amen

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Que Sera Sera

Twilight approached as I drew near the I-5 Bridge across the Columbia River. My drive south from Seattle evolved into a sentimental journey. The day before, I moved my youngest daughter into her dorm at Seattle Pacific University. Now I was within an hour of home in Hillsboro, Oregon, the west Portland metro area. All of a sudden reality slammed me like a tsunami; my four children lived in four different states. My youngest had just begun his freshman year in high school. Four short years and he’d be leaving too.  

My throat tightened, I swallowed hard. Tears flowed down my cheeks. My emotions tumbled, a mix of foam, sand, water, and salt, a wave so furious my heart couldn’t distinguish a single sentiment. There were so many. My conversation with God, which had begun two hour before as I set off for home, hit pause. I listened. Then Mark Harris began singing on the radio. 

This song served as my parental anthem since I first heard it two years prior. The Holy Spirit whispered through Mark’s music, “This is what I filled your quiver for. You and Bill are My warriors and your arrows are well shot.” I wept with an odd joy over my emptying quiver. It was a good thing, not an easy thing but a good thing.

God met with me on the I-5 Bridge that day. He held my tumultuous heart. He caught my tears in His bottle. He sang to me with His Servant Mark Harris’ voice. Most of all I began to understand better the swirl of emotions God encountered as His own Son left to accomplish redemption; the pain, sorrow, grief all for a greater joy and fulfillment. That day as I launched my youngest daughter God gave me perspective. My sacrifice paled in comparison to His but it still helped me understand a little more of how much we matter to Him.

Six years later my four children still live in four different states and none of them live in Kansas, my current state of residence. Yes, I miss them but my husband reminds me, “What warrior shoots arrows at his feet?” I accomplished what God intended. I spread my influence from coast to coast, north to south. So joy over shadows any sadness concerning my now empty nest.

Gathering my little flock, that now includes grandchildren, rarely happens. The last time we were all together was two years ago.  Last year I enjoyed having all four of my kids together for my grandma’s 100th birthday but my husband, Bill, was deployed to Afghanistan. Working to mesh the lives of the now eight adults (this includes two son-in-laws) in our family so we can be in one place at one time is tough. When the blue moon occasion does occur, it swells and breaks like a tidal wave too. But this wave crests as one of joyful pandemonium.

I thought we would succeed in coming together the first week of August but my son won’t be able to join us. Seems three out of four happens more frequently. A year ago Christmas youngest daughter, Anna, couldn’t join us. Then this past May when we gathered in Texas for Jenni’s graduation from law school oldest daughter, Rachel, and her family were unable to come. This time Jon misses out. But I will chose to be thankful for any and each of my children God brings for a visit.

 I treasure these precious visits. Together we reminisce and look forward to the future. Our third grandchild arrives this fall Lord willing. Our middle daughter moves from Austin to Huston to begin her new career as a lawyer. Anna the Washington State trooper will have tales to share of her policing adventures. We will cook, eat and pray together. We will pray for Jon and together feel his absence and miss his jokes.

I thank God for filling my quiver and I praise Him for the arrows that He let me shoot. I praise Him for the tsunamis of launchings and gatherings.  I don’t know what will be but I do know Who holds it all in His hands. And I know He is good.
Thanks for joining me in my moment of nostalgia. This song seems an appropriate ending. ENJOY!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Best Promotion Ever: From Ma to Grandma!

Four years ago yesterday I reached a coveted milestone. I got promoted to GRAND! I think my longing for grandchildren came about the time my oldest fledgling flew the coop. It took her four years to marry but she finally found a red headed Irish man who'd have her. YES! I love red hair.

I fancied having a granddaughter first because the first born since my great great grandma had been a daughter to the first born daughter. S. J. O'Neill became the seventh generation in this family line. On July 13, 2011 I became S. J.'s grandma but the event was not so grand. In fact the two and a half weeks leading up to that day flung us all onto an emotional roller coaster. Not the fun kind of ride, more like the old, rickety, half broke down type that you pray with white knuckles will end well.

Saturday June 25, 2011 while wandering the farmer's market with out-of-town family (a providential gift of grace) I got a call from Rachel.

"Mom, Niall and I are on the way to the hospital. I lost my mucus plug. Please pray."

 She was only twenty four weeks along. the doctor at the ER admitted her into labor and delivery immediately. there Rachel would stay on bed rest for as long as they could hold off labor. My husband, his cousin and wife and I stopped and had a crisis prayer meeting on Main Street. We held each other and cried out to our God. God's provision of Jim and Renee's company at that time was a gift I treasure to this day. They love Rachel as their own. We were not alone in our concern and yes, even fear.

That night as we learned more about what was going on three thousand miles away (we lived in Oregon. Rachel lived in Pennsylvania) Bill and I decided some one should be with them if they lost this baby. My son-in-law's family were just as far away. The O'Neill clan lives in Galway, Ireland. The logical choice was for me to fly out. So two days later I hopped on a plane and headed for the hospital in Scranton.

There's a baby in there?!!

The two and a half weeks that followed proved to be a precious time. I helped do the nesting for my daughter. They had moved to a new apartment just a week before she went into the hospital. There were boxes to unpack, pictures to hang, and a nursery that needed painting. This filled my evenings while Niall spent time after work with his wife at the hospital. I did the day shift with my daughter. Rachel and I had lots of mother-daughter bonding time. I also got to go with her for a few ultra sounds. What a joy to see my granddaughter wiggle in the womb. Rachel seemed to stabilize and we began to hope for the best case scenario; labor would hold off until 32 weeks then Rachel could go home until delivery.

With things looking good and my husband missing me, we decided I should head home. Three day later labor started again and the doctors couldn't stop it. S. J. came into the world via emergency C section, at only twenty seven weeks old, three months early. My granddaughter weighed one hound fifteen ounces. She fit into the palm of her daddy's hand. The medical team rushed her over to the NICU. My poor daughter did not get to meet her first born until three hours later.

Mama's first kiss. S.J. three days old.

I chose not to fly back to Pennsylvania when S.J. arrived. I felt my presence would be a source of greater stress rather than blessing. I needed to step back and let my children walk through this trial without imposing upon them. Rachel and Niall belong to a wonderful body of believers who walked and prayed them through this trial.

As for my wandering in this wilderness of being a grandma to a micro preemie, I kept glued to Facebook so I could pray when my son-in-law posted updates. I also took those Facebook statuses along with picture he posted and began scrap booking. I think I win the prize for worlds largest grandma brag book.

The nine weeks S.J. spent in the NICU grew my prayer life. God proved Himself faithful over and over again. Today, four years later, I have a healthy,active, granddaughter. I know this is not how every NICU story turns out. I had a good friend who was expecting her first grand child at about the same time S.J. came. Her grandson came a week late at over nine pounds. He died eight hours after his birth.Such pain we traversed. Mine ending in joy her's in sorrow . Yet, God is good and in both our circumstances we found His grace sufficient.

Today I thank God for filling my arms with grandchildren. My friend's grand arms are full now too. I think she now has three grandchildren. It is good to be grand! Thank You, Lord!

I enjoyed the blessing of being with S.J. for her first three birthdays. Those trips kept me busy and engaged. This is the first of her birthdays I've had to miss. I guess that's why I'm scrap booking again, reminiscing on her story. Thanks for letting me share it with you.

Omnipresent Father, Thank You for being with my children and grand children when I cannot. Thank You for the privilege of being a grand parent. Thank You for S.J. and W.S. I also praise You for the many lessons You taught me in that NICU wilderness and for always giving me grace. Amen

Friday, July 10, 2015

Show and Tell: God’s Non PC Communicators, Examples of Godly Tongues and Wise Listeners part 3

APauling? Putting the Rock in His Place
      The Rock, no not Dwayne Johnson, the original Rock, Peter, preached the Gospel in Jerusalem at Pentecost and three thousand souls were saved. The Rock walked on water. The Rock gazed at the transfigured Christ along with seeing Moses and Elijah. Not just one of the twelve, the Rock was one of the three closest to Christ. The Rock, the third person to see the risen Lord, ate breakfast with Jesus on the shore. The Rock who received a net breaking catch of fish, not once but twice. Peter, a leader of the apostles, was the first pastor of the first church of Jerusalem. So who did this Paul fella think he was confronting Peter of wrong doing publicly?! APPALLING!

            Paul himself relays the account to us in Galatians 1:18-2:1-21. Here’s the Reader Digest version: Paul had traveled to Jerusalem to get a final word from Peter and the other apostles on whether or not the gentile believers needed to keep the law. Their unanimous decision was “NO!” So, Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch to report the verdict. Sometime later Peter shows up with a delegation from Jerusalem to see how this fledgling church plant of gentiles fared. Then those conniving Judizers had their way with Peter. Seduced by peer pressure, Peter left the table where he was dining with gentiles and joined the Judizers. It was so junior high! Not surprising that the other Jewish believer began to follow Peter. Even Barnabas, son of encouragement, Paul’s fellow missionary to the Gentiles, picked up his plate and snubbed his gentile brothers.

            That was all the hypocrisy Paul could stomach in one meal. He stood up walked over to Peter and let loose the sword. As Paul filleted the Rock like a fish, the Rock found himself between God and grace, a far worse place than between a rock and a hard place. Peter, who first brought the gospel to the Gentiles, sank like a rock in Antioch. Like an anchor drags chain links behind it, Peter was dragging others down too. James along with the writer of Hebrews warn teacher of their accountability for this very reason. People follow those who teach, YIKES! This is why we need each other. Peter possessed enough wisdom to stay in community. Being a team player saved him from error and kept the church from splitting down ethnic lines. Peter’s pride tripped him up but humility set him upright.

            How different the story could have turned out if Peter took a self defensive tone, “How dare you, you Christian Killing latecomer! Who do you think you are talking to me like that?! I heard Jesus in person! I know the scripture as well as you, maybe even better!”  God be praised that is not how it went down. Peter repented. The Judizers got the paddling they deserved and I can eat bacon! Hallelujah! Can I get an “AMEN”?

            We are all prone to stumble especially over our tongues. I need people to correct me when I’m wrong. I don’t want to mess up the Gospel and find myself between God and grace leading other back into bondage. So please correct me when I misspeak. Trust me, I will correct you, not because I’m better and know more, but because I love you, the church, and the Word of Truth. Public sin screams for public rebuke to protect the flock from sheep rustlers. So let’s love truth more than our reputations. Let’s be appalling, non respecters of persons, who fear God and are fearless in the face of error.

            Paul, Abigail, and Elihu shared a common trait. They all qualified as people-lovers not people-pleasers. In Edward T. Welch's book When People are Big and God is Small he describes people-lovers, "Only people-lovers are able to confront. Only people-lovers are not controlled by other people." People-lovers love people because they rest securely in both the love of fear of their Heavenly Father. People-lovers follow Gods directions for listening and speaking. Who do we love; God and people, or our own popularity? Godly communicators will never be popular. They will always be considered audacious but one day they will hear, "Well done!" from their Abba Father. 

Have you ever heard a preacher or teacher miss speak or teach something contrary to scripture?

What did you do about it?

Father, silence is not always golden but the Golden rule is. We need to correct others just as we need to be corrected. Please give us wisdom and discernment to do just that. Protect your flock from error and protect those of us who teach from propagating it. Help us love people and please You! Amen

Next week a glimpse at grace. Hope you join me.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Show and Tell! God’s Non PC Communicators; Examples of Godly Tongues and Wise Listeners part 2

    Have you ever been to the ocean during a storm? A gale at sea shivers the timbers of seasoned sailors. They understand the driving force of those winds can tear a sailboat apart. David’s Abigail was a different wind; she blew him to the harbor of humility. For those unfamiliar with her story you’ll find it in 1 Samuel 25: 2-42.

                The debate I’ve heard through the years concerning Abigail’s character outrages me. Some Bible scholars (I use the term loosely) defame her as an unsubmissive wife.  She did, after all, violate her husband’s will and called him a fool publicly in the presence of a known dignitary. So I see how those teachers come to that position but I can’t get past the fact that God, in 1 Samuel 25: 3, declares her to be “a woman of good understanding.” Debate closed!

                When the servant made her husband’s blunder known, she did not have to intervene. There was another option that would have freed her from her abusive husband. She could have told the servant to pack their bags and high tailed in out of Carmel before David and his army came. Voila! No more Nabal. Abigail’s beautiful appearance could snag her a better husband in no time and as a widow she’d be free to remarry. Wise people know the easy way out is seldom the right way out and Abigail was wise. She set her own interests aside and considered the lives of her servants and even her foolish husband’s as better than her own. She also considered how this action could tarnish David’s future position as King.

                When Abigail’s servant told her what Nabal had done to offend David and that David would certainly retaliate, the servant feared for his life. This shows us a few things about her character;
1.       Abigail was approachable.
2.       She was reasonable.
3.       She could be trusted to do the right thing.
4.       She got things done.

                That’s exactly what she did. She humbly approached David on behalf of her household and paid him for the protection he had provided to her and Nabal’s shearers. She confessed and took responsibility for her husband’s foolishness. Plus, she encouraged David not to let his righteous temper to get the best of him. Yes, going against her husband’s sinful will and telling her future king to hold his anger were the right things to do. She didn't care if it made waves. Sometimes it is right for women to admonish their leaders and defy their husbands.

                Her bold choices don’t end there. She could have sneaked back in the house and never said a word but that would not have provided necessary edification to Nable. When she saw he was drunk she knew he couldn’t receive or even remember her counsel. So she waited until he sobered up and rebuked him. He literally had a heart attack. About ten days later the Lord gave Abigail her freedom from the fool. When David heard Nabal died he swooped in to harness the gale that had blown him to safety. He wanted that excellent wife as his own. He knew as king he’d need a counselor wise enough and bold enough to watch his back and keep him in his place. He saw Abigail as God described her, “a woman of good understanding and beautiful appearance.”

                So Sisters, are we women of good understanding? Are we brave enough to speak the truth in tough love? Sometimes leaders need leading. Sometimes God uses a wise woman to do just that.

Next Friday is the last Show & Tell installment. Hope you'll be back to see just how appalling good communication can be.

Father, how desperately we covet your wisdom and discernment to know what is right. Even more desperately we need boldness do to the right thing. May Your Spirit be the gale that drives us to be audacious and speak your truth in love.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Show and Tell! God’s Non PC Communicators; Examples of Godly Tongues and Wise Listeners

"It’s show and tell time," Mrs. Reeves, my first grade teacher, announced, "Who would like to go first?” 
Before she finished speaking, my hand shot up. I waved it rapidly to get her attention as, “ME, ME, ME” I squealed. 

 “Teri, I think you have something to share with us.”

My face lit with a grin as I popped out of my chair, snatching the bag at my feet. “Mrs. Reeves may I use the globe?” She set it on her desk within my reach.

“Here’s where we are,” I declared, pointing to South Carolina. Then I spun the globe and pointed,” This is where my daddy is on his navy ship. This is Japan,” Then I picked up the bag and carefully lifted out my treasure. “My daddy sent me this doll. This is what Japanese women wear. It’s called a kimono,” I motioned at her brilliant scarlet garment covered in pink and yellow flowers. 
Oooos and aaahs filled the room. 

“Thank you, Teri for sharing your special gift with us.”

As a navy brat I loved show and tell. I’m sure my obnoxious eagerness wore  Mrs. Reeves out but I also think she appreciated the geography lessons I gave.

                God knows we need show and tell. The first two thirds of the Bible show us faith through story. Then God elaborates through the epistles the precepts those stories illustrate. In my last two blogs I’ve shared some of His precepts on communication, rules for listening and speaking. I began my blog, 5 Rules for  Listening, by lamenting the effect of political correctness on our communication. Now It’s show time! What follows in this and my next blog are three examples of audacious communication that shatter our concepts of political correctness and cultural politeness. These shocking stories also show great listening and speaking skills; communication God used for His glory.

EliWho? Job’s True Counselor, God’s MC

                The curtain rises. In center stage is a pastor. His head hangs down. A pained look covers his face; his eyes red and puffy, his cheeks tear stained. On either side of him are three other men; the mayor, the police chief, and the high school principle. They are all silent but their brows are drawn together and their mouths twisted with sympathetic frowns. At the far end in the rear of the stage sits…someone. I wonder if a young stage hand forgot to get off stage. Then the drama starts as the police chief breaks the silence, “Pastor, just tell us what you’ve done! We’ll forgive you. You should confess your sin now before it becomes public.”

“If only that were the cause,” the pastor wails, “but I can’t think of how I could require such painful chastening.”

The all condemnation breaks loose as the three accuse the pastor. The pastor retaliates in self defense. The theater fills with the tension of the scene. The young man in the background seems just as drawn into it as the audience. Finally weary of argument, all four voices fall silent. We expect the curtain to close and the cast to prepare the next scene. Then the young kid in the back stands. He looks heavenward as though praying and drags his feet to take center stage.
“Eli what are you doing here?” gripes the principle.

“I’ve been concerned for Pastor too, I was hoping you would help him but you are just accusing him without any evidence. I’m really disappointed in how mean you’re being. Like soldiers shooting a wounded man. You ought to be ashamed of your selves…” Now we realize the young kid is an actor playing Eli, a high school student. He continues a twenty minute rant against the older, well respected men then turns to the Pastor and reminds him God answers to no one, telling the pastor his conversation had been out of line too. The other four characters along with the audience gasp in disbelief at the audacity of the angry youth. Are you getting a sense of how incensed they were?

Welcome to a modern day retelling of Job. Sandwiched between the six major characters of Job; The Lord, Satan, Job, and three miserable comforters, speaks an almost forgotten voice. His name was Elihu. What he says of himself and God’s silence concerning him, reveal a few important facts. He was by his own admission much younger than the other four men. The fact that he waits until everyone else exhausted their words shows he was both humble and patient, a good listener. His message in Job 36-37 communicates his unbridled passion for truth. When God rebukes Job and convicts the other three friends Elihu is not mentioned. God’s never addresses Elihu, confirmation that his words were righteous.

In most cultures throughout history youth are taught to respect their elders. An old Victorian expectation, still held in some circles, is “Children should be seen, not heard.” The Bible teaches the younger to respect the older but what if the elders are teaching falsehood or need correcting? Does God prohibit those younger from rebuking them? Of course not! He used Elihu for just that purpose.

How do we handle criticism or correction from those junior to us? I hope we listen to them the way we should listen to everyone, with a humble, gracious spirit. We old dogs just may learn some new tricks.

Next Friday I’ll share another shocking tale. Hope you join me for some more show and tell.

Father, please, give us teachable spirits even when the teacher you send our way may be a young whipper snapper.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Total Tongue Transformation; 5 Rules for Speaking

            “Open mouth. Insert foot.” Have you ever found yourself accomplishing these directions? I have.  Directions require a step by step process for correct completion. If I don’t open my mouth I can’t put my foot in. Yet opening my mouth may be necessary.

            In a culture where texting trumps talking, much of our interfacing is not face to face. Based on the understanding that eighty percent of communication is nonverbal, our social media society stunts the growth of communication skills. Is it any wonder we struggle with meaningful conversation?

            The key in good communication; follow God’s directions. “He who answers a matter before he hears it is folly and shame to him.” Proverbs 18:13 shows the first step we take in transforming our tongue.

1. Listen! If you have not read my previous blog What to do with Unwanted Words: 5 Rules for Listening, please stop, go back, and start from the beginning because this is part two of a five part blog.

Next we need to listen to our own words before we speak. What tone will we use? What words should we choose?

Then while we are speaking let’s listen with our eyes. Is the listener tuned in or fading out? Does her face reflect reception or rejection, agreement or offense? Make eye contact. Watch body language. Eyes do make good ears. Lip readers listen with their eyes all the time!

2. Speak Less; God gave us two ears and one mouth so we should listen twice as much as we talk, right? Whoever wrote this equation left out two important factors; mouths shut, ears don’t. We should always listen and speak sparingly because, “In a multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise,” Proverbs 10:19. To some this comes easy; the rest of us require considerable tongue biting.

Tongue biting hurts. Yet the pain caused by frothing at the mouth exceeds it exponentially. Trust me on this. In the realm of too much talk I supplant Paul as chief of sinners. Thankfully God can teach old dogs new tricks! By His grace I am learning to speak less and listen more.

The following rules come from Ephesians 4:25-32.

    3.  Speak Truth; Honestly?! She “always” does that or “never” does this? Exaggerations make great comedy but dishonest conversation. Absolutes tend to inflame arguments not resolve them.

Another common form of dishonest speech is polite replies. If we go to church and tell people we are fine when we are not how can they pray for us? Who will help us bear our burdens? And most importantly, how does that model authentic fellowship to young believers?

    4. Attack Problems Not People; When we are angry with some one that emotion produces adrenaline. God designed anger that way so we would have extra energy to resolve problems. God cautions us not to misuse that energy by sinning.

 “You lied to me!” attacks the person. I accused them of being a liar. Now they’re defensive.

“I under stood you to say______. When you didn’t follow through I felt deceived. Is that what you meant or did I misunderstand you?”

This explains a problem. It may be the problem was a misunderstanding. If there was intentional deceit, they are now accountable to ask for forgiveness. It’s a win, win without verbal sin!

When we’re confronted in anger only “a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger,” Proverbs 15:1. One day when I was trying to resolve an issue over medical billing. I called the collection agency to express the frustration I had because of never receiving a bill from my doctor before it went to collections. My angry tone stirred up the woman on the other end who responded in kind. I took a deep breath, remembered the proverbial advice, apologized for my tone and continued in a more pleasant fashion. When I spoke softly she toned down too. What we call yelling the Bible calls clamor.

Don’t stew. Angry clamor is sin but so is neglecting a problem. Bitterness is equally sinful. When we’re on fire we’re told to stop, drop, and roll. Anger can burn too. So in the heat let’s stop, drop, and pray. Ask God how we can attack the real problem constructively. Let’s remember people are not the problem; sin is. It may be theirs. It may be ours. We need God’s wisdom to discern the truth.

    5. Build Up! Give encouragement and lots of sincere praise but also be willing to rebuke. When we see sin destroying someone’s life we must speak up. Discussing it with other people is gossip. To selfishly get something off my chest gives away a piece off my mind I can’t afford to lose. To put people in their place is to usurp God’s place. Love is the only pure motive in necessary edification. If I can’t speak to build them up or admonish for their good and God’s glory then I shouldn’t speak.

Tongue taming is hard work. When we do it well God gets the glory and His body grows healthy. So let’s embrace God’s rules for communication by casting out our cultural politeness and political correctness. 

Join me the next three Fridays as I shock you with three Biblical examples of great communication. 

Lord, You are the God who speaks. Please teach our tongues the law of kindness. Help us follow Your directions as we speak. Amen!