Heart Condition

I took my mother to her heart doctor today as a follow up to having her pace maker replaced last week. She is doing well, the incision is healing nicely, and the data from the pace maker indicates that her heart is doing what it is designed to do.

We are thankful.

We then visited her family practice doctor to ask about some slight swelling in Mother’s legs. He asked her several questions, questions designed to reveal if  there is anything going on in the rest of her body that might signal a heart condition. The answers indicated that mother has been more active since I have been visiting with her, and that the extreme heat here in Chicagoland is causing that bit of swelling.

Nothing to be concerned about.

We were glad we went to the doctor and it got me to thinking about the questions doctors ask. Questions designed to reveal information about conditions that may not show up on the surface, but could be of grave concern. Those questions could reveal heart conditions that are hidden from view.

The questions we ask reveal much about who we are, don’t they?

I remember being in the hospital with my father right before he passed away. His condition was a mystery at first, and five different specialists were consulted to try to determine what was wrong.

Each specialist came to talk to my mother, my brother and sister-in-law, and myself. We listened to their preliminary diagnosis, and then were asked if we had any questions.

My brother would ask a question, and immediately you could see a change in the specialist’s deminor. They would ask, “Are you a medical person?” They knew immediately, without my brother saying so, that he had medical knowledge by the vocabulary he used, by the insight he had into what the specialists shared. My brother is a family practice physician and had been on the other end of these conversations countless times. His questions revealed who he is.

Jesus did the same thing when people came to Him seeking help. Jesus asked questiones to determine the condition of their hearts.

In Matthew 19:3-6 Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees. Jesus asks them a question to test their hearts.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Jesus knew they were trying to trap him, but instead Jesus revealed the condition of their hearts.

We must guard our hearts that they do not become hard. Our words reveal the condition of our hearts, don’t they?

Jesus says in Matthew 12:34b

For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart,

I pray that our hearts are in good condition.

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Be an Ambassador

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My daughter Hannah and I had the privilege of staying two nights in the home of the Ambassador of the Republic of Haiti in 2006 when we were visiting Washington, DC.

We had a lovely visit and even went to a celebration of Nigeria’s Independence Day at the Nigerian Embassy with our host and hostess. I saw the most beautiful dresses there that I have ever seen!

How did we happen to have this amazing opportunity?

Well, the story starts in 1956 when I was 5 years old.

I grew up in an old farmhouse that evolved into a house in a neighborhood four blocks from Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. My parents housed students from Wheaton College to help pay their mortgage.

One of those students was a brilliant young man, Raymond Joseph, from Haiti. He was studying at the college and would always greet us in the mornings and evenings in French as he passed by us to his room upstairs. He had the most beautiful smile and was always interested in what my brothers and I were doing.

Raymond Joseph went on to study at the University of Chicago and later worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and worked as a leader in the Haitian opposition movement of then dictator, Francois Duvalier.

You can imagine my surprise when I got a telephone call 55 years later from Raymond Joseph!

He was calling from Washington, DC where he was living and serving as Ambassador to the United States from Haiti. Raymond had been in touch with my mother and she had given him my phone number. We talked for a long time catching up and reminiscing.

He said that if we ever came to Washington, DC we were welcome to stay with him.

Don’t ever say that to the Woodys – we will come!!!

We had the most delightful visit. Ambassador Joseph had his limo pick us up and drop us off for a tour of the Haitian Embassy. We talked at length about the issues facing his homeland and his efforts to work for progress and real change for his people. His love for Haiti and his people was evident in his home, his office, and all he shared with us.

The definition of ambassador is – an accredited diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to a foreign county.

Raymond Joseph was an excellent ambassador. He represented Haiti well from 2005 to 2010.

The recent appointments of ambassadors for our new administration has prompted the above memories and also started me thinking of our role as ambassadors for Jesus Christ.

II Corinthians 5:20-21 says –

20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin,  so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

What a beautiful message of reconciliation!

We, God’s children, should be representing our Heavenly Father in such a way as to make others who aren’t Christians desire to become part of God’s kingdom.

Are we being good ambassadors?

Do our children, grandchildren, friends, co-workers, anyone we come in contact with – do they see a Jesus in us who loves them so much He died for them?

  • Do others see grace or condemnation?
  • Do they see joy or sadness?
  • Do they see faith or fear?

God is making His appeal through us!

May we be faithful ambassadors of the kingdom of God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Plugged In

 

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“I always check first to see if the computer is plugged in, or if the power source is on.”

Our tech guy was explaining to me why he was checking the power source and connection of my classroom computer.

“You would be surprised how many times folks contact us for tech help and their computer isn’t plugged in or the power strip is turned off.”

I breathed a sigh of relief when my computer was in fact on.

I did spend about 20 minutes one day because my computer wouldn’t take my password. A co-worker came by and noticed that the computer was logged in to the substitute I had while attending a workshop. I logged myself in and AMAZING – it took my password! SO GLAD I hadn’t called the tech guy!

Do we do this as Christians? Do we run to someone for help, when we aren’t even connected to the Power Source?

Yes.

We do this more often than we realize. Sometimes we just wallow in our worry, despair, or confusion wondering why we feel so “disconnected” or so “drained.”

As a Christian, my source of power is the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us in Romans 15:13 –

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

No matter what we are facing in life, we can have hope, joy, and peace if we are connected to the source of power.

How do we get connected? Peter preaches his famous sermon in Acts chapter 2 on what we call the day of Pentecost. The crowd asked Peter after his message how they could respond. Acts 2:38 -39

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

This promise is for each of us – and for our children!

Later in this chapter, we are told how to STAY connected. Acts 2:42.

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

These four disciplines will assure that we stay connected to the source of power.

  • Biblical teaching
  • Fellowship
  • Eating together
  • Prayer

Attending a women’s Bible study addresses each of these disciplines for me.

  • Biblical Teaching – We study God’s word together. I am always blessed by insight from God’s word that various women share, often truth that I see in a new light.
  • Fellowship  – The fellowship is encouraging and such a blessing! Women of various ages and different churches and backgrounds attend. I have met women I would never have met apart from this fellowship.
  • We share food once in a while, which is always nice, nourishing our bodies and souls.
  • Prayer – we pray for each other after sharing requests each session and also pray during the week.

If you are not connected to the Source of Power, consider attending a Bible study. There is often child care available for mothers of young children.

Let’s get plugged in and stay plugged in to Jesus, the source.

 

Brokenhearted

 Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times

How do I respond to the horrific, senseless violence that is sweeping the world?

Is it getting worse, or do I just hear about it more frequently because of the 24/7 media coverage that sends an unending stream of information and images from throughout the world?

How do I help my children and grandchildren process these events without causing them to live crippled by fear?

  • the killing of police officers in Dallas
  • the shooting of unarmed black youth in several US cities
  • the massacre of 41 innocent civilians in Turkey
  • the gunning down of 49 people in a night club in Orlando
  • 14 are shot dead in San Bernardino, California

and yet more personal …

  • the senseless murder of a dear young mother’s husband in Atlanta

This lovely young woman, a long time friend of our family, has been working tirelessly to eradicate human trafficking as an Assistant to the Attorney General of Georgia. She is now faced with raising her precious little girl without the loving support of a father.

I must respond with genuine concern and compassion to all those involved.

Jesus did that.

Right before he was crucified, on the Mount of Olives, Roman soldiers (the despised oppressors of the Jews in Jerusalem) approached Jesus to arrest him. Peter responded with violence – cutting off the ear of the High Priest’s servant.

Mark 22:51 – But Jesus said, “No more of this.” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

NO MORE OF THIS!

Our response to the violence and suffering around us must be an example to our children and grandchildren.

No more of this. We are brokenhearted.

If we  – for one moment – we think “maybe they deserved this” we are WRONG!

We MUST respond with compassion. If we do not feel compassion for the those shot and their suffering loved ones, regardless of the situation, we must repent.

Psalm 34:18-19 (NLT)

18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

19 The righteous person faces many troubles,
but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.

Our children and grandchildren will form their understanding of suffering from the way they hear and see us respond.

  • if we express fear – they will fear
  • if we express hatred – they will learn to hate
  • if we seek revenge – they will seek revenge
  • if we express compassion – they will learn compassion
  • if we trust God for justice – they will learn to trust God

I heard an inspiring message Sunday from Rev. Reggie Screen of Atlanta. This Godly black man challenged us to have compassionate hearts in light of the violence all around us. He challenged us to be like Jesus. Reggie encouraged us that as things are darkest – the light of Jesus shines brightest.

We must be brokenhearted like Jesus.

We must have compassion.

We must love others and demonstrate that love at every opportunity.

We must seek justice and love mercy.

Oh, God, heal our land….

 

 

 

My Father’s Daughter

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“I’ve walked with God my whole life, I’m ready to go be with Him.”

These were the words my father spoke when the oncologist asked Dad if he knew what he was facing.

Three days later, my father passed on into the presence of the Lord. It seemed to go so fast for us, his loved ones. Dad died on February 10th and at Christmas, just two months before, he had been his vigorous self. He was turning wooden bowls, playing ping-pong, checking his plants in the hallway sunroom.

He was 91.

Dad walked with God.

I miss him most when I walk around our yard now. His handiwork is everywhere. The calla lilies Dad planted are blooming in their pure white glory. The butterfly weeds he started from seeds have spread and are full of orange tipped butterflies, just like the blooms.

“Gayle, you have to come see this.”

“Dad, you’ve got to come see THIS!”

“We must go get your Mother.”

These were the conversations we would have beginning in spring and continuing until a hard frost. We would walk around the yard, weed, deadhead, and glory in the beauty and handiwork of God’s creation.

Dad and Mom would count the number of different kinds of flowers in bloom at one time. He so enjoyed the variety and unique qualities of the various species.

I miss Dad.

Yet, I am left with wonderful memories and so many beautiful plants.

My father also left me with His greatest influence on my life – his love for his Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Dad quietly, yet openly, lived as a Christian.

He loved God.

He loved his family.

He loved others.

He loved God’s creation and was a steward of all living things.

As I tend the flowers, I am reminded of the lessons Dad taught me about life –  botanic life, and more importantly, life everlasting.

I am my father’s daughter and I am so blessed that Dad led me to follow Jesus, just as he did.

May we leave this same legacy for our children and grandchildren.

From the Inside Out

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“Two coats of paint and that pink mess is still showing through!”

I was talking to myself in a VERY disgusted tone of voice. I was working on a “refinishing” project that I had GREAT plans for.

Does that ever happen to you?

We usually stoop to this behavior when we are frustrated that:

  • our work is not progressing as we planned
  • we are forced to repeat a task we already thought was finished
  • we have to repeat instructions ONE MORE TIME! (moms? teachers?)
  • things are not turning out as we planned

Pretty much everyday occurrences, yet we allow frustration to take over.

It started like this….

I bought an old buffet at a yard sale. It was in rough condition  – which made it affordable for me. It had a veneer surface, which I knew would be a challenge to repair, but the claw feet were so impressive. So, I got out the trusty stripper.

ok… VARNISH STRIPPER, old rags, and set to work. I realized very soon that this piece, because of its age, had old varnish that was not responding to my efforts.

I was undeterred. I kept at it. I had to justify this purchase as a hidden treasure – NO MATTER WHAT!

I finally removed all the old varnish that I could and it looked…well….terrible. Parts of the veneer were gone or loose, so I pulled them off. Now I REALLY had a mess.

So I did the next best thing. If refinishing fails, paint the wood.

I painted the wood, except for the top piece, because that wood was a solid piece of beautiful oak.

But the parts I painted antique white looked pink!

I painted on another coat – it still looked pink!

I let it dry…still pink.

Phil noticed my frustration and asked, “Why did you paint it?”

NOT what I needed to hear at this point….

But he did offer some good advice. He said I should get some KILZ paint which is made to cover mistakes. This project was turning out to be a BIG mistake, so I did as he suggested.

It worked.

After painting, I sanded some of the edges to give the piece an aged, distressed look. (It was aged after all and had caused me distress!)

Then I added some tiles I had purchased at a yard sale 3 years earlier, just because I liked the way they looked. They fit perfectly where I had pulled off some of the veneer.

tile backsplash

I spray painted the handles to look like hammered pewter and I was done.

handles

I actually liked the finished results. The white paint ended up fitting in with the white cupboards in our kitchen so much better than a totally wood piece would have done.

We are studying the book of Colossians and the following verses made me recall my “refinishing” project.

Colossians 3:8-10 (NLT)

8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.

Just as I had to strip off the old varnish, God wants me to strip away my old sinful nature.

But that is not all – “put on the NEW nature.” I had to put on three coats of white paint to avoid having the old varnish show through as a pink tint.

As a Christian, I must get rid of the old nature and allow God’s Holy Spirit to renew me from the inside out. Then my new nature will be what shines through so others see Jesus as I am renewed to become more like Him.

May Jesus renew each of us from the inside out!

 

 

Wild and Crazy!

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“Are you Mrs. Woody?”

I turned to look at the person who asked that question of me Friday and found myself looking in a face that was familiar ….  yet when and why?

“I’m Preston Springer”

Ah, yes! Fifteen years ago – “Copenhagen Boys” –  wild and crazy skits that made us laugh so hard we almost…..

You get the idea. There are certain people who have so much personality that they only need one name to identify them. They are funny even when they aren’t trying to be. They just are.

Preston

Preston was an art major in college, and as seems to go with that choice of major, he was wild and crazy.

He was wild and crazy about Jesus. You couldn’t be with Preston very long before you knew he loved Jesus and wanted you to know that being a Christian was a blast – in the best sense of the word.

Preston was also real – what you saw was what you got. He was enthusiastic about his art, his girlfriend Deede, and sharing his faith with high school kids. He led Bible studies that had everyone laughing one minute, and reading the Bible the next to see if it really said that. Some kids came because they were never sure what would happen next. That was fine, because it always came back to Jesus and following Him.

Preston volunteered with Young Life while he was a college student and our daughters were in high school at that time. He led a Bible study that met at our home.

God used Preston in the right place at the right time in the lives of our daughters.

This is how:

  • he was real, and really committed to following Jesus
  • he was funny, but not by putting down others – usually at his own expense
  • he encouraged teens to read the Bible
  • he and his friends did skits that most who saw them feel will never be surpassed
  • he had FUN

High schools years are often difficult for young people who want to follow Jesus.

The pressures from our culture that say being a Christian is boring, backward, a crutch, or even anti-intellectual are intense. Finding those who will spend time, be positive role models, and have fun together with our adolescent children is a blessing that Christian parents pray for.

Romans 12 :1-2

12 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Preston and Deede were here to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary. They have 3 beautiful children and both are artists. Preston teaches high school art and Deede is a floral designer and photographer with her own business. Check it out at – Springvine Designs on Facebook and prestonspringer.com.

As Christian parents and grandparents, we should pray that God brings those special people in our children’s lives that will help them to grow in their love and knowledge of Jesus. Preston and Deede where those kind of people for our children. They showed by their lives that following Jesus was not only the best, but could be fun as well.

All those who teach Sunday School, lead youth groups, and love children are being used by God in such special ways.

We have many in Jackson County that are fulfilling that role for our teenagers, Keith and Hope West, Jason and Casey Melvin, and Samantha Blanton to name just a few.

Pray for these folks and encourage them who are fulfilling this ministry in the lives of our children.

May God Bless all those who bless our children!