Sunday, June 24, 2012

Birthday Reflections

My birthday directs me into reflection. There is gratefulness for life - God’s gift of days to me that today number sixty-nine years. I’ve received a wonderful outpouring of care, yet one gift took me by surprise and it is via its offering that I share my reflections with you.
As one who has entered the world of social media, I have been blessed to meet people online who have become friends, enriching my days. Through my writings for Rest Ministries, there are those who share in the challenges of living with chronic pain and/or illness. Other support sites have become places where understanding is given and received.
But Facebook crosses all spectrums of my life experiences: friends from over the years, work colleagues who remain friends, my former students, and those in the groups mentioned above. Additionally, a whole new community of friends on Facebook “find each other” because of shared interests.
 I dedicate this blog post to one such friend, Owen, in thanksgiving for the gift he brought to my page  -  birthday greetings with a song. We met online because of our mutual admiration for the trumpeter, Chris Botti. I had not expected greetings from Owen which made the ones he sent most exceptional. I could not contain my tears. As I told Owen, “Chris and Christ brought us together!” How could it be otherwise when I live near Seattle, Washington and Owen lives in the Philippines.
Though the song he shared is most known for its being sung at weddings, it mirrors the relationship that Christ longs to have with us. Here are its lyrics  intertwined with my birthday reflections for this year.
I Will Be Here
(composer and lyricist: Steven Curtis Chapman)

Tomorrow morning if you wake up
and the sun does not appear
I will be here
Sixty-nine years ago, at six months gestation, I was born as a wee preemie.The words that greeted my mother were, “There is no way your daughter will survive. There is hope for your son [my twin], but not for her.”
Four complete blood transfusions later + one incubator + a God with plans had me resting in His care for two months before being released to go home.
“You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed” 
(Psalm 139:15-16 NLT).
If in the dark, we lose sight of love
Hold my hand, and have no fear
'Cause I will be here
Baptized at birth, a conscious awareness of Jesus all my life, and an adult commitment to Christ as my Lord and Savior have equalled ensuring years filled with joys and challenges and always God’s faithfulness.
“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a NLT)!
I will be here
When you feel like being quiet
When you need to speak your mind
I will listen
“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” 
( Hebrews 4:16 NLT).
And I will be here
When the laughter turns to cryin'
Through the winning, losing and trying
We'll be together
I will be here

“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:7 NLT).

Tomorrow morning, if you wake up
And the future is unclear
I will be here
Just as sure as seasons were made for change
Our lifetimes were made for these years
So I will be here
Twenty years ago this month, it became necessary for me to take an early retirement from my beloved teaching career. God brought His peace to what would have been a gut wrenching decision without it. June is a natural time to reflect on those priceless years and young faces. My students are grown now, many with children of their own. In my daily prayers for them I turn to this gift from God’s Word - words that  held me steady during my teaching years.

“He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young”
 (Isaiah 40:11 ESV).

I will be here
And you can cry on my shoulder
When the mirror tells us we're older
I will hold you
And I will be here
To watch you grow in beauty
And tell you all the things you are to me
I will be here
True, the mirror of life reveals changes as I have grown older. Yet the gift of years is to be treasured if I have followed the One leading me and helping me learn life’s lessons along the way - lessons that keep me close to Him and to those who are gifts in my life.
“Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you” (Psalm 35:4-5 NLT).

I will be true to the promise I have made
To you and to the One who gave you to me
With God the Father’s plan in place, Jesus lived out his earthly days and, as promised, reconciled me [us] to my [our] Creator. In turn, being true to Him is being true to the One who sent Him to model on earth the life I am to lead.

“I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me” 
(John 17:6-8 NLT).

Tomorrow morning, if you wake up
And the sun does not appear
I will be here
Oh, I will be here.
Birthdays are special celebrations. Yet a new day is birthed within me each morning and with it comes the Lord’s glory and presence uniquely greeting me. May I be faithful to carry that gift to others for more years to come.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1 ESV).

Thank you, Owen for the gift of this song as recored by Gary Valenciano

(composer and lyricist: Steven Curtis Chapman)

"The Masterpiece" print by Bette Myers
Photo taken by Lynn - scene in her apartment

Friday, June 15, 2012

What Are My Real Needs?

During these past few weeks I have been in touch with so many people who are facing down various crisis in their lives. If you are not in crisis at this time, praise God. It is inevitable that such times do arrive and could be around any corner when we least expect them. 
One common thread with those I have written to and responded to as they have cried out  for help is how they have "lost their identity" -  they are grieving the person they once were or the person that was able to be more active ( chronic illness hit )  There are those in marriage and/or  relationship crisis and a whole new identity is having to be faced either because of divorce or because the relationship is having to be rebuilt. There is struggle in letting go of the  "old" to make way for the "new". There is despair in wondering if any beauty can rise out of ashes. Unfortunately, it is necessary for a fire to burn the old so that there are any ashes from which beauty can arise.
I am facing decisions about a new medical treatment that is needed but which has the potential for side effects I'd prefer not to have and so I am clutching at my faith in believing that God brings the new because He has a plan - a plan to prosper and not to tear down. When we are in the midst of the questions, the pain, the depression, the wondering, and the unknown,  it is hard to focus on what we know as the "feelings" are so intense.
It is a time to draw close to the ultimate Comforter - the Holy Spirit. His light has not dimmed. Our view has dimmed as we are being crushed under the cares that are upon us. We are called to rest in different ways, seeking Him and waiting until the roar of the cares calm down enough so we can receive His counsel.
I have felt impressed to post to my blog a devotional I wrote some years ago in hopes that it will encourage any readers who are struggling. I am struggling and it is good for me to return to "my own words"! I needed them then and I need them now. This original posting  was for Rest Ministries - an online web site resource for those who live with chronic pain and/or illness ( I am a staff writer, along with other writers, who contribute to one of their resources - daily devotionals. 
This piece is written in first person but you can transpose it to your own needs. The core message is that each day we are given enough provisions from God's basket of care to meet our needs. It takes choosing to go to Him and the basket and reach in and trust what we pull out is enough - that He is enough  - for there is none who cares about each of us more than He does.
Bless you as you read!
What Are My Real Needs?
“If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.” His disciples answered, "But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?" “How many loaves do you have?" Jesus asked. "Seven," they replied 
(Mark 8:3-5).
Jesus’ teachings nourished the spirits of those gathered to listen to him. During this event recorded in Mark, their need for food was also met. A miracle occurred as Jesus broke the bread, had his disciples distribute it to more than four thousand and leftovers remained -- enough to fill seven baskets! 
In kind, God cares about my every need. He knows how undernourished I can become in all areas of my life. As someone who lives alone and with chronic illness, how can I evaluate what I am truly needing as each day dawns? 
Are my feelings on edge, my hopes on hold, or my spirit in need of some freshening? What is in Jesus’ basket for me? I’ll find prayers to be offered, strength from his Word, encouragement to relax and to cease from striving. Yet in this account I see something else. Jesus asks his disciples to distribute the food to the crowds. I am designed for a relationship both with him and with others.
Do I isolate myself from nourishment that friends could bring? Can I risk letting others know of my need for them? Am I willing to wait for their yes if their lives are busy? Chronic illness does not make me exempt from the desire for human connection. It is most important that I have enough. If I become drained, my own opportunity to bring nourishment to others is weakened. 
This Scripture passage reminds me that the answer to all I need has its foundation in God. He asks others to contribute as they come alongside me. Together, relationship is formed. The Lord wants no one to collapse on the way Home from lack of care.
Prayer: Lord, your basket of provisions holds bread blessed and broken. Your basket is always full. Help me to receive from you and from others the gift of relationship. Thank you that you meet every one of my needs in abundance. Amen.
from Lynn's manuscript: "Choosing Comfort: Words of Encouragement During Times of Life Challenges"

Breadbasket photo by Lynn