Close Calls

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This morning my scripture reading included Psalm 77.  Here are the lines that spoke to my heart:  “In the day of my trouble, I sought the Lord…I remembered God and was troubled.  I complained and my spirit was overwhelmed.  ..Will the Lord reject me forever?  And will He never again be kind to me?…But then I recall all You have done O, Lord;  Surely, I will remember your wonders of the past...You are the God who does wonders. Who is so great as our God?”

In this psalm, Asaph, the psalmist, encourages himself by remembering all that the Lord has done for him in the past rather than focusing on his current plight.  That is just what I am going to do with the hope that someone else who is discouraged will read this and be helped as well!

The year is 1989.  I am only a few miles from home when I signal to make a left hand turn.  I didn’t notice a car coming up fast from behind.  Suddenly my Ford Bronco is struck in the side.  The vehicle has a high center of gravity, so it flips over on its side, and then onto its top.  I find myself hanging upside down with the Bronco engine still running!  A man with a scruffy face and a nearly toothless mouth peeks  in my window.  Then,  seeing that I am still alive, runs off through the field.  I release the seat belt, and crawl out one of the broken windows.  On the way out I notice that the roof of the Bronco has collapsed onto the passenger seat.  A passenger would surely have been killed or seriously hurt.   An ambulance comes, and I ride to the hospital where they determine that my only injury from the roll-over is a tiny scratch on my arm from the broken window glass!  Great is our God!

We move forward to 2005.  I am driving to my home in a heavy rain storm.  I come up to the intersection to again turn left.  The light is green.  An oncoming car appears over the hill.  She also has the green light.   Rather than continue my turn, I freeze.  My car gets hit hard shoving it backward more than seventy feet.  This time I manage to escape the head-on collision with only a cracked sternum!

In 2006, after more than three months of x-rays, and other tests trying to determine the cause of slight abdominal pain, the doctor gives me the news:  “We have found a large mass.  We suggest surgery this week!”  The next day the news is even worse:  “The results of the biopsy are in:  cancer!” Recovering from the surgery a week later, I get more bad news:  “The cancer was stage three.  It had spread to the lymph nodes!”  But the good news finally comes:  I have been cancer-free for eleven years!

In September 2016 my husband and I are driving to Banff National Park, Canada.  Our route takes us on Interstate 15 from Butte to Great Falls, Montana.   The terrain is beautiful, mountainous.  We stop to take some photos.  Montana allows high speeds on its interstates so after the stop we are flying along with the traffic at eighty miles per hour down a number of switchbacks and hairpin turns.  It is raining hard.  I push the brake to slow down for the turn.  Oops!  The brake barely responds!  It is only then that I notice the red brake light on the dash has turned on.  I had forgotten to release the emergency brake after my stop!  I release the hand brake, immediately down shift and slow down to avoid using the brake.  After about a half an hour of intense prayer, I gingerly try the brake again.  It has cooled down and responds normally.  God has once again demonstrated His unlimited mercy and saved us!
******

“I will meditate on all Your Work, and talk of Your deeds!…Your ARE the God who does wonders!”  Psalm 77: 12 and  14.

The Best Helper

The bitter March wind forced Lois to pull her coat about her.  She was waiting at the bus stop for 8-year-old Danny to arrive.  Just then she spotted the large yellow shape of the bus making the turn at the bottom of the hill.  The bus made its way up the hill, then stopped, and it’s door folded open.  Several children filed down the steps before Lois spotted Danny.  His eyes did not meet hers, and there was no smile of greeting on his face.

Lois pulled the ear flaps down on Danny’s hat.  They had a block to walk to reach their house.  “How did it go today?”

No answer.

“Did the work we did on the multiplication tables last night help you on your test today?”

Still no answer.

Lois felt desperation gripping her heart as the cold was gripping her body.  She had been good in math.  She had tried so hard to help Danny, yet so far her efforts had not paid off.  “So what was your grade?”

Danny exploded in tears!  “Why do you even ask?  Why do you have to grill me like this every night?  You know what the answer is going to be.  I failed again!  I got the lowest grade in the class.  I only got three problems right out of twenty!  Mrs. Bell said that I was going to have to start studying or I would fail math.  But I did study.  I hate school!  I never want to go again!”  Danny was hysterical.

They had reached their home.  Lois unlocked the door and closed it behind them.  She gently removed Danny’s coat and hat, then lifted him into her lap.  She held him tightly, gently rocking him as tears flooded her own face.   It was even more difficult to see her child struggle than to deal with her own issues such as the divorce she was going through.

Eventually Danny’s sobs ceased, and he fell asleep in her arms.

Lois’ own pain and desperation did not end.  She had tried everything.  She had worked with Danny for more than an hour just last night. Obviously the practice was not helping the boy, but she did not know what to do instead.  As she sat still holding the boy tightly on her lap,  one word came to her mind, “Pray!” And she did pray.

After about thirty minutes, Danny awoke and slid off her lap.  He was off to play on his xbox.  Lois started to call out to stop him, but something or Someone stopped her.  “Not now!”

Lois continued her silent prayer as she set about getting supper.  By the time the spaghetti and meatballs were ready, she had reached a feeling of faith and peace.  They would work together on the math as usual, but with one exception, they would pray first.

A week passed.  Lois was again meeting Danny’s bus.  As he climbed down the steps, she eagerly searched his face.  He seemed brighter, more at peace!

She wanted to ask him once again about his math test results, but felt in her spirit that she should wait.

Danny was the first to break the silence.  “Jesus did help me, Mom!  I got four problems right this time!”

Lois’ heart sank!  Only four problems out of twenty?  That was still far from passing!  To her way of thinking that was hardly better than Danny’s score last week.  However, Danny seemed encouraged.

Before they began his math homework that night, Danny asked to pray.  “Thank you, Jesus, for helping me on my math test today!  Last week I only got three problems right, but this week You helped me and I got four right!”  Then Danny enthusiastically began his homework .

Lois knew Danny’s faith had encourage her own heart.

Sure enough, in another week’s time, Danny bounded down the steps of the bus, gave his mother a high five, and enthusiastically declared, “Ten right this time!”

“Still failing,” thought Lois, but clearly they were on to something.

One sunny day in May, a confident, glowing Danny met his mother at the bus stop.  “Nineteen out of twenty!” he crowed triumphantly!  “Best grade in the class!  When Mrs. Bell, asked me if you had been helping me with my math, I told her ‘Yes, but the real help came from Jesus!’  You know, Mom,  Jesus sits with me during the test.  You can’t do that, and”…Danny paused.  “No offense, Mom, but He’s a math expert!”

Lois grinned and breathed a silent prayer of gratitude!

*****

…Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  Colossians 2:3

Hidden in the Light

I could feel the cold sweeping over my soul–the nerves tensing in my stomach, and I knew that another anxiety attack was beginning.  Next came the suggestions:  “She thinks you are controlling, He thinks you are lying, etc.” At first the lies came to my conscious mind a few at a time, then as the attack increased, the lies seemed to bombard my thinking so that I could think of nothing else.

I was afraid of these thoughts.  I knew that no good Christian should be having them.  What if others knew these thoughts were coming to me?  They would surely reject me as a poor Christian, a “bad” person, someone who should be avoided!  That is what I feared most:  being rejected, being counted unworthy.

I was doing my best to live the Christian life.  I believed that I was the possessor of eternal life.  I knew that Jesus loved me unconditionally.  But that was not enough for me.  Jesus loves every believer unconditionally.  I had to be special, different, better than others to accept myself.

Years earlier I had entered first grade as a very frightened little girl.  I clung to the teacher and refused to go out and play with the other children.  At home, in order to get me to eat, my mother had been spoon-feeding me.  At school, I could barely choke down half a peanut butter sandwich.

I felt secure with the teacher, and I became her pet.  I cleaned erasers and picked up scraps of paper.  I was academically talented and began to excel, graduating at the top of my high school class, and in second place in my large college class.

As an adult my early insecurities were largely hidden only to reemerge again in my later years.  When I became a Christian, my teachers once again became the focus of my need.  Rather than doing things for my Lord Jesus, I felt that I had to please my teachers and pastors.

If a pastor suggested that I take a certain course of action, this created terrible turmoil in my mind.  If I took his suggestion, I would be doing it only to please him.  If I did not do it, he would surely reject me!

If a female leader saw the darkness in me, this punched all my buttons.  I felt that she had to be wrong!   I had to look good to her.  How could I accept myself, if she rejected me?

Others suggested that my problem was that I was trying to live the Christian life in my own strength.  I wanted to rely on the Lord, but the thought of it, brought terrible tension, and fear increased its grip on me.  I told the Lord, “I can not come to the end of myself.  I am too afraid, and my soulishness seems to go on and on without end.  Can you please bring me to the place of total dependence on you?”

As I sat quietly in His Presence, He gave me the picture of a brilliant light.  That, I knew, was Him.  In my mind, I saw myself, soiled and dark in many places, move closer to Him.  As I did that, His light overcame the darkness in me, and I disappeared!   In His Presence, I had peace.  I was hidden in His beautiful light!

By Pat Lockridge, March 20, 2017

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For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  Colossians 3:3 NIV

Lucky Pat

On  Saint Patrick’s Day

by Pat Lockridge

 Lucky Pat has
Friends who call when she needs them most.
A spouse who is always faithful in his support.
A church who both preaches and practices love.
A neighborhood with opportunities to pay it forward.
And a God who is loving, patient, and forgiving
as she learns to trust and surrender to Him.
Lucky Pat!

A Caregiver

unnamed-1I am a caregiver, a position that I have held since July 2015 when my husband suddenly became unable to move due to Parkinson’s Disease.   I didn’t apply for this position, nor am I particularly given to the people skills and medical knowledge that this position requires.  However, this position  is an opportunity to serve my husband and to serve my God!

My job description includes:
1. Managing six prescriptions and making certain that my husband (patient) not only gets the pills in his mouth but also swallows them!
2. Dressing the patient, helping him bathe, shaving him, and cutting his nails.
3. Preparing a variety of meals for him with the consistency of baby food.
4. Watching to make certain that my patient does not wander away or experience a crippling fall.

Rewards of working as a caregiver include:
1. Although the hours are long, the position offers plenty of down time.
2. My caregiver position also gives me a chance to give back to my life partner who has given me more than fifty years of companionship, support, and love.
3. It gives me a chance to see a different side of this man I know so well–a softer, gentler side.
4. And now that his mind is no longer dominant, it gives me a chance to know his spirit, that part of my man that connects with his God–gaining a new perspective on a life-long companion.

Praise Wins the Day!

“Wake up, Drusil!  Wake up, wake up!”  Micaha’s voice was adamant.

Drusil rubbed her eyes and sat up on her cot.  “What do you want?  What’s so urgent!”

“A huge enemy army has gathered against Israel.  The King wants everyone to gather in the courtyard to pray for the safety of our country.”

The two ran to the courtyard where a large crowd was gathering.  They were told to “hush” as King Jehoshaphat was praying a public prayer to ask help from the Lord for a victory in a battle against impossible odds.

“Oh, Lord won’t You judge them?  For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us, nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

When King Jehoshaphat had finished his prayer, Jahaziel, the prophet, began to speak,  “Thus says the Lord to you.  Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude for the battle is not yours but God’s. ..You will not need to fight in this battle.  Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!  Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them for the Lord is with you.”

Upon hearing that victory was promised, King Jehoshaphat humbled himself before the Lord with his face to the ground, and Micaha and Drusil along with the other subjects of the kingdom bowed and worshiped the Lord.  Then all stood and raised their arms to enthusiastically praise the Lord.

The next morning, Drusil and Micaha were among the first to arrive at the courtyard.  The singers from among the Levites were being organized into rows, first sopranos in the first row, second sopranos behind them, then the altos, tenors, baritones, and bases.  Drusil and Micaha were second sopranos so they took their positions behind the first row.  Assuming  that the singers had been organized to perform for the big victory celebration that was sure to come,  Drusil was glad that she could see around the girl in front of her.

After a few minutes, Drusil and Micaha looked around.  “Where were Israel’s soldiers?”  Finally, they spotted them a few hundred feet behind the last row of singers.  What a rag-tag group they were!  They had assorted weapons, and their shields and armor were worn and mismatched.  Even their lines were not straight.

Micaha got the realization first.  “We are going to lead the entire procession into battle!” she exclaimed, her voice filled with excitement and fear.

Just then the enemy forces came into view.  This army marched in perfect rhythm, their movements synchronized.  Their matching armor was polished.  Their shields were held to protect their chests and faces, their spears ready for attack.  The girls couldn’t even see the end of the multitude.

“Wow!” breathed Drusil.  What a murderous-looking mass!”  She tried to hide behind the girl in front of her as they moved forward to encounter the Ammonites and Moabites.

At the blast from the ram’s horn, they began to sing the song they had rehearsed, “Praise the Lord, For His mercy endures forever!  Praise the Lord, For His mercy endures forever!”

Drusil forgot about the prophecy given the previous day that had promised victory.  All she could think about was the obvious peril she was in.  Drusil was not afraid to die.  She believed that her God would provide the sacrifice to atone for her sins and give her eternal life, but the thought of one of those spears puncturing her body causing her to bleed out in terrible pain terrified her!!  Her voice became a whisper.

Then Drusil began to think about the words that she was singing:  “The Lord’s mercy endures forever!”  She remembered how often her Lord had shown her mercy, mercy that she did not deserve.  Suddenly courage fell upon her.  If she was to die, she would do so boldly.  She would give her all.  Her voice grew stronger.  She turned and smiled at Micaha, who smiled back and joined her in praise.  Their courageous spirit was picked up by their section, then by the first sopranos in front of them and finally by the whole chorus!  “Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever.  Because of Your mercy, we know that you are pleased to give us victory, and our enemy will not have his way.  Praise to the Lord, the God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting.” (Psalm 41:10-13)

As the singers advanced, Drusil noticed that the soldiers seemed confused, being met in this way by singers victoriously praising their God.  They hesitated.  As they did so, the rows behind them began to pile up.  Next the sides and back of phalanx began to mysteriously fall to the ground.  Soon the entire army was in disarray and in full retreat.  The whole enemy multitude was vanquished.  Praise had Won the Day!  Hurrah!  

Taken from 2 Chronicles chapter 20 and Psalm 41:10-13.

The Love Solution

Ella sat at her desk, her head in her hands.  She knew that she should be writing her next report due in a few days, but no words appeared on her screen.  She opened her desk drawer and looked at her last report.  The page was covered with red marks, the edits from Shirley, her supervisor.  Ella felt terrible.  She had not even bothered to read the report to see what Shirley had thought needed correction.

At that moment, Shirley passed by Ella’s desk.  When she saw that Ella was not working, Shirley gave her a dirty look.  Ella got up and went to the ladies room.
Returning to her desk after twenty minutes, Ella found a note:  “Employees on the clock are expected to be using their time wisely.”  Shirley had signed the note and put a little “happy face” on it to soften the effect.

Ella had all she could take!  She grabbed her coat from her locker, clocked out, and left for the day!  She could not wait to tell her roommate about her “terrible supervisor”.  Shirley had come highly recommended, but she had been with the company only a few weeks.  What neither Ella or Shirley could see was the “wall of animosity” that was growing between them.  Each time Ella repeated her story, her fear of Shirley grew, adding more bricks to the animosity wall.

When she came in late the next morning, Ella added a few bricks to that wall.  Shirley added a few more bricks to the wall when, passing by Ella’s desk, she found her not working, and cleared her throat giving an indication of her disapproval.

To make matters worse, Ella overheard Shirley talking in the lunch room about the lazy, uncooperative girl in her group.  The wall was getting higher.

That night Ella’s roommate, Irene, suggested that they pray about the situation.  “I get the impression that you need to give Shirley a chance.  Do you know what specifically she doesn’t like about your reports?”

Ella’s response was surprising:  “No, I never reread them.  I just couldn’t bear the fact that she found so much wrong.”

Irene was adamant in her advice: “‘The Word of God instructs us to ‘love our enemies and do good to those who appear to take advantage of us.’  I recommend that you read your reports and make at least some of the corrections she is suggesting.”

Ella bowed her head and asked for the Lord’s help.  After a few moments, she sensed that He was giving her peace about the situation.

The next day, Ella followed Irene’s advice.  She reread her edited reports.  To her surprise, Shirley had corrected the same error in several places.  Shirley had made a couple of positive comments as well.

Ella worked at her latest report all morning.  She carefully included some of Shirley’s suggestions, and thanked her for her positive comments.  She couldn’t see it, but she had just removed the top row of bricks from that invisible animosity wall.

Shirley brought Ella’s edited paper back to Ella’s desk personally.  “I really think that you have a future as a technical report writer, Ella,” she said kindly.  “However, there are a few issues in your writing that you need to address.  Will you let me help you?”

Ella couldn’t have been more surprised.  “You do? You will?   Oh, yes, yes.  Please help me!”

With Ella’s response, the final remnants of the animosity wall dissolved!  Love had provided the solution.

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Love never fails.  I Cor. 13:8

The greatest of these is love.  I Cor. 13:13

Above all love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins!  I Peter 4:8

Perfect love drives out fear!  I John 4:15

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good!  Romans 12:21