May You Have a Happy New Year’s Eve

Guess I’ve never written two posts in one day, but there’s always room for a change of pace. It’s on my heart to mention that we’ve been praying for our many dear friends who have had to spend this Christmas without their mate for the first time since being married. Alan has two cousins who lost their spouses this fall, and he had two close colleagues who died suddenly this year. Carleen’s Grandma is alone this Christmas, having lost her beloved husband just after Thanksgiving. And, last—and maybe one of the very hardest—was our friend who lost his wife last weekend. Bill was diagnosed just a few weeks ago with a very aggressive, advanced prostate cancer and was trying valiantly to deal with his own terminal illness when his wife—who’d just been skiing with their kids last week—felt ill over the weekend. They took her into the E.R. and she died within two hours from a ruptured aorta. The funeral was today. We are all feeling totally stunned by this one. They were both 68 and seemed the picture of health two months ago.

Last night Alan and I went out with another couple, some of our closest friends and long-time members of the same care group. Cheryl was a paragon of trust in the Lord and bravery during her battle with breast cancer several years ago, and we were just beginning to think she was out of danger when she got some negative lab results. I took her in for a CAT scan a couple of weeks ago, and her oncologist says she thinks it’s lung cancer, although we won’t know for sure until further testing next week. Cheryl is just barely into her fifties, so this is especially devastating news.

I don’t want to end the year on a sad note, but I do want to say that 2009 has been unprecedented for us personally in wonderful highs (like three weddings and a new grand baby) and then so many, many sorrows and deaths. It is so true that we do not know how long we’ll live.  A major source of comfort to Alan and me in all these heartaches has been knowing that in each case, the person we love belongs to God and has made peace with Him through faith in Christ. We look forward to being reunited with our loved ones in heaven some day.

I would like to challenge anyone who reads this to consider whether or not they have made peace with God. In 2 Corinthians 6:2 the Bible says, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31). I hope that for each of us, one of our New Year’s resolutions is to live with Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and to live in the peace and security of knowing and walking with God.

May we all have a wonderful New Year’s Eve and a very blessed and happy 2010!

One Commentary on Obama’s Health Care Plan

The following was a “letter to the editor” in an August 29th Jackson, MS newspaper.

Dear Sirs:

“During my last night’s shift in the ER, I had the pleasure of evaluating a patient with a shiny new gold tooth, multiple elaborate tattoos, expensive hair weave, a very name brand/expensive brand of tennis shoes and a new cellular telephone equipped the net and texting, including her favorite R&B tune for a ringtone.

Glancing over the chart, one could not help noticing her payer status: Medicaid. She smokes more than one costly pack of cigarettes every day and, somehow, still has money to buy beer.

And our Congress expects me to pay for this woman’s health care? Our nation’s health care crisis is not a shortage of quality hospitals, doctors or nurses. It is a crisis of culture — a culture in which it is perfectly acceptable to spend money on vices while refusing to take care of one’s self or, heaven forbid, purchase health insurance. A culture that thinks “I can do whatever I want to because someone else will always take care of me”..Life is really not that hard. Most of us reap what we sow.

Don’t you agree?
DR. STARNER JONES, MD

My personal thought is that Dr. Jones is correct. We have a culture crisis and as a nation are failing to even keep the ten commandments. We have a desperate need to repent of our flagrant materialism (pointing the finger at myself here) and other national sins and turn back to God, asking him for help and wisdom to guide us out of this crisis and back into sound thinking and living. On the other hand, “the poor have ye with you always.” God also calls us to compassionately help those who are in need. Let’s pray for ourselves, our nation, and our leaders to look to God for the wisdom to make right decisions and the grace to live them out.

What Could be Better than Food?

The food around our house has been nigh unto fantastic this Christmas. Carleen got a new Vietnamese cookbook for Christmas, and she and Aaron favored us with a fabulous Vietnamese dinner last night. Carleen was the cooking captain, Gerlinde was first mate, and I swabbed down the decks and such!

Aaron was definitely up there somewhere near the top of the ranking officers, too, and contributed an amazing caramelized rib and veggie dish.

Carleen cooks with a flair, so the plate of raw veggies was adorned with edible orchids!

There were spring rolls and veggie wraps, chicken, ribs, mounds of tropical fruits like mangoes, star fruit, pomelo, and pineapple…ETC!

Dinner—as you might guess—was a gastronomical delight!

As if that wasn’t enough, tonight Gerlinde made an unforgettable Swiss-inspired dinner with a grill in the center of the table surrounded by about two dozen different options of meats, cheeses, veggies, and fruits that could be arranged in little pie-shaped pans and cooked table side, then used as toppings on potatoes. WOW!!!

Jon and I served as understudies in this culinary artistry, and it was another five-star night! I think no one is losing weight this vacation!

And now, for my last point in this three-point message, I alas have no picture, so you’ll have to imagine Jonathan armed with a Bible and dressed in a handsome new outfit he received for Christmas. He labored alone for about 20 hours over the past weeks preparing to preach this morning at Faith Baptist Church, and our family decided to visit with him, enjoy meeting some new friends, and take in the “spiritual feast” he served up. He spoke on II Corinthians 5:14-21: the mystery of our new life (“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new  creature; old things are passed away: behold, all things are become new”), the ministry of reconciliation “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation”), and the manifestation of the righteousness of Christ (For he [God] has made him [Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”).

I was inspired! Considering my new life in the light of the new year about to begin, one of my resolutions will be to attempt to walk more consciously in the Spirit so that the righteousness of Christ might be manifested in me! And that, folks, is even better than the finest cuisine as far as I’m concerned.

Christmas

Here are a few pictures of Christmas, most of all for the benefit of those who couldn’t share it with us!

One of our favorite traditions is singing Christmas carols, which we always do on Christmas Eve.

No one broke into the Christmas presents early…except for Molly!

Gideon couldn’t give up his umbrella once he’d opened it!

Opening presents is quite an event because we all want to watch everybody open each one!

Linda’s first time enjoying a Christmas stocking (not a tradition in Germany for her!)

The best present of all was our precious Lord, Jesus Christ, whose birth is celebrated on Christmas. His life inspires me every day, and his death provided for my salvation (and for that of anyone who will accept his sacrifice for our sins). Thank you, dear Savior!

Talk About Cuties!

Is this big enough for you to enjoy? It’s our two grand daughters all dressed up for Christmas!

Here’s my brother Wolle’s grand daughter, all dressed up for Christmas too! Either all three girls actually have a common genetic bond that’s showing through, or else it’s just that all toddlers are adorable…probably both!

My prayer is for an extra-specially merry Christmas for each and everyone of you!

That Christmasy Feeling

Have you got your shopping done yet? I am ALMOST done, and this year I’ve even been able to keep up with the wrapping…more or less. Once our tree is up, both Molly (our tabby cat) and Davy (pictured above) love to sleep behind the Christmas tree. I think it makes them feel all snug and safe. They can watch the world go by (our small world), and Abishai, our 125-pound German shepherd, can’t get them!

Are you feeling all Christmasy and happy? Alan and I went to the eye doctor Friday only to hear what we expected: Alan has severe cataracts developing and will need surgery in both eyes. We scheduled the surgeries for January. Just when I was hoping that 2010 would be a little easier…well, maybe not so fast! However, I want you to know that Alan and I are safe and secure spiritually, tucked in behind our Christ tree (the cross), knowing that our adversary (Satan) can’t really get us! Because of Christ’s death on the cross to pay for our sins (and the sins of any who accept His redemption), we have His eternal life and can’t really be “caught” even though we can be frightened at times. I’m not so different from our kitties: I love being safe under my Christ-mas tree

School’s Out!

Stephen’s done at 7:30 pm, so I’m running over to MSU to pick him up. There’s a light rain/mist/snow falling and a forecast of patchy fog and possible snow. Not so bad as the weather was a few days ago, but I’m still not exactly relishing a dark drive to Lansing. Joel was planning to go with me, but I really don’t want him out in this weather, either! Decisions, decisions! Pray. Get wise counsel (like checking the weather advisory). Make the best decision you can, and then live with the consequences.

Alan and I just got back from the doctor…a follow up visit from his surgery. His last PSA reading was 0.01 with a positive margin near one nerve bundle. To have taken his prostate nerves might have had dire  functional ramifications, as would radiation treatment. The obvious reasonable thing to do is pass on radiation treatment now but wait and not do nothing unless the PSA level rises sharply in the next 4-12 months. Life is not sure, is it?

Jonathan is developing a message for the next time he will preach, December 27th. He is speaking on “Walking in the Spirit.” What does that mean? How do we learn to walk in the Spirit? Sunday we sat around the table and looked at various Scriptures that touch on the subject. One of the goals in my life is to learn to walk consistently “in the Spirit,” or being led by the Spirit, or in obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. How? Surrender our will. Listen for His voice. Meditate on the Word. These are ways I try to learn. We are told to “walk in the light” to “walk in love” and, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25), but learning how to do this is a spiritual exercise.

Am I walking in the Spirit as Alan and I make the decision not to have radiation treatment right now? to go pick up Stephen? I hope so! Does that mean all will be well and we won’t have any illness or accident? No. But, it does mean I can live with a clear conscience and experience peace with God…and that is huge to me!

The Funeral

Just wanted to add a couple of thoughts from Stan’s funeral today that really struck me. One is that he is ethnic Chinese and has three names. Besides his family name, his names meant “celebrate” and “happiness.” His brother mentioned that Stan had really lived up to his name. Stan apparently used to tell his kids, “It’s not how many breaths you take, but how many times your breath is taken away.” Ah, may I spend more time being blown away by God’s beauty and majesty, his love and kindness, his holiness and light. I’d like to be breathless every day!

A Tribute to Stan

Stan met his wife in Indonesia over fifty years ago at a campus party. Stan was in line for punch just behind Henrietta, but by the time she got to the punch bowl, there was only one cup left. However, after Henrietta received her cup, she turned to Stan and offered to let him drink out of the other side of hers. That act of kindness began a long and beautiful romance that lasted over half a century! At the age of 75, Stan was still working hard as a psychiatrist/addictionologist, providing incredibly compassionate and spiritually deep care, not only for his patients, but for his staff. Stan had become Alan’s mentor, and both of us have great admiration and respect for him.

Saturday night Stan and Henrietta had dinner together at home and then planned to go out to play tennis, although the car was making funny noises, so they decided to stay home and play table tennis in their basement instead. Stan beat Henrietta and was in a very cheery mood. He decided to watch a little T.V. while Henrietta busied herself upstairs for awhile. When she came down at 9:00 pm to see if Stan wanted a snack before they went to bed, she found him slumped over. Despite her own artificial respiration efforts and an emergency team working on him for an hour and a half, he was gone for good.

Their four children all live in California, so we spent Sunday morning with her. She was totally in shock. I remember experiencing shock when Alan’s parents died and then when my last “parent” (Mommu) died. You can’t think, can’t remember, can hardly feel anything but a stark awareness of pain. The whole world turns gray. You wish you could go to sleep and wake up to find it was just a nightmare. You aren’t hungry. Can’t relax. Can’t sleep. Senses make no sense. You can’t make decisions, and it takes all your energy just to do what the robot part of your brain dictates as correct.  This beautiful, tiny Indonesian/American feeling totally lost. I knew I would feel just the same if anything happened to Alan. So much of the fiber of our daily life is wrapped up in our spouse, particularly for those of us who do not work outside the home.

Henrietta was asking the “Why” question, but it was the right why. “Why, Lord?” I knew I didn’t have a glimmer of an answer for why the Lord would take a magnificent man who was ministering in such an inspirational way to so many people…a man who was still seemed so healthy and had such an agile mind. I knew from reading Job that it wouldn’t be any use even trying to guess, because I had no clue what the mind of God was in this situation. I think in heaven we will understand, but I think here on earth God ultimately wants us to trust him, like Job, no matter what. Henrietta had that right too. Shocked and inexpressibly saddened by the loss of her partner, she is still clinging to her God who was and is and is to come.

God has loved us from eternity past. He loved us from our birth and calls us to walk with Him, and He alone is the One who will never leave us. I adore Him for calling us to Himself and holding us up in his strong arms!