My Samantha

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It hurt to watch her confusion. She was in a corner of the room trying to find her way out, turning first to the left and then the right. Not able to bear it any longer, I went to her and helped her find her way. Samantha is my 15 year old Siamese and she is going blind.

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Always with Richard.

We got Samantha when she was just four weeks old and weighed one pound and she was, from the beginning, my husband’s cat. She bonded so with Richard that she took every step he did and when his truck pulled out of the driveway, she would stand at the kitchen window and cry. Needless to say, Samantha grieved hard when Richard died.

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Samantha, kindly posing for a good shot in December 2016

In August of 2016, I noticed a significant change in Samantha’s vision. One day she had some minor near vision problems, and the next day (it seemed) she was walking into furniture and walls. Samantha’s vet saw the cataracts but couldn’t explain why the change was so sudden. I was frightened for Samantha, concerned she might injure herself. I was told to keep everything just as she remembered it; no rearranging of furniture or putting anything new in her pathway.

I was encouraged when my daughter told me of a friend’s cat who was blind and had lived a number of years with quality of life. I began speaking to Samantha when I neared so I wouldn’t frighten her. If I find her unsure about a direction, I talk her to the place. If she is unsure about her aim for my lap, I lift her to me. It seems there are times she can see a little more than others and I haven’t figured that out yet.  It doesn’t seem to be connected with lighting.

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Chloe gets her picture made, too.

At first, Chloe was puzzled by it all. Samantha would jump from my lap into Chloe’s space unintentionally and Chloe would think it was a call to play. When she responded in play and Samantha would run from her, Chloe was perplexed. It didn’t take long, though, for Chloe to understand there was something new going on with the cat she had shared space with for nine years, and she began to make adjustments for her, just as I did. One temptation I have to constantly fight is to do too much for Samantha. I know she needs to do as much as she can for herself.

I am trying hard to keep the balance of affection between Samantha and Chloe.I croon my love for both of them and tell Chloe how much I appreciate her helping me care for Samantha. I’m one who believes animals understand a lot of what you say and intuitively know the rest.

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Sharing some sunshine on the patio this past summer.

I hold to quality of life for animals, as does our vet. At 15 years of age, I won’t put Samantha through surgery. Neither will I shut her off in a room for safety sake. Right now she still finds her litter box and makes sure to cover well like the lady she has always been. She can find her food and water and reminds me when it’s time for a mid-afternoon treat.

Samantha, Chloe, and I will walk this journey together and when there is no longer quality of life for Samantha, I will let her go with the dignity and respect she deserves. There will be no way to avoid the heartache of giving her up. For now, we will make our time together as good as it can possibly be for the three of us. We will build memories. And give lots of love.

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My Samantha, winter of 2016

Mary’s Time with Elizabeth

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Every Christmas, I linger over the story of Mary and Elizabeth in Luke’s gospel. I believe it was a rich time spiritually and I hunger for details. We know that the baby Elizabeth was carrying leaped in her womb at the sound of Mary’s voice. And we know that Mary sang a beautiful praise to the Lord (Luke 1:46-55). Beyond that, little is known so I ponder a bit on some probabilities.

It was right after Gabriel told Mary she would bear the son of God, that she departed for the home of her relative, Elizabeth, who lived in the hill country of Judea. Tradition has it the town was Ana Karim, a one hundred mile journey. Perhaps Joseph, Mary’s betrothed, arranged for her safe travel by caravan.

Mary could surely think of nothing else on her journey but the child who would come from her womb. She would bear the long awaited Messiah!  It sounded far-fetched, but Elizabeth would understand. For Elizabeth, like Mary, was experiencing an impossible pregnancy. Aged and far beyond childbearing years, Elizabeth was in her sixth month, Gabriel had said. Elizabeth would be excited for Mary. How good it would be to talk with her kinswoman about their visits from God’s messenger.

Young Mary would take over the household duties. I can hear her encouraging the elderly Elizabeth to rest. The house had been silent for six months—the time Zechariah had been mute due to his unbelief that Elizabeth would bear a child.  Mary would provide Elizabeth with much needed conversation; I think of the talks they must have had. Sobering talks, for sure, but I also think there was lots of laughter.  Don’t we always laugh when we are happy? And how could they not be happy?

I imagine Elizabeth’s husband, a priest, to be in constant worship. I see Zechariah on his face before God for long stretches of time. I see him, even in his inability to speak, leading Mary and Elizabeth in worship. Messianic prophesy was unfolding before Zechariah’s very eyes, prophetic scriptures he knew by heart. He was a part, for the son born to him would prepare the way for the Messiah. How many time, do you suppose Zechariah wrote to Mary “Tell me again what Gabriel said.” I see his face filling with awe and his soundless mouth forming words of thanksgiving each time Mary gave the report. Though silence had been imposed on Zechariah, it would not have stolen his joy.

In the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary gave. But we must not miss that it was also a time when she received. Elizabeth, by years and as the wife of a priest, would have given Mary exceptional advice, sharing knowledge and wisdom. Mary would have gone home a different woman, one better prepared for the role she had been designated to play.

Mary said in her song to the Lord (Luke 146-56) that He had been mindful of the humble state of his servant. I believe the time Mary spent with Elizabeth was part of the Lord’s being mindful of Mary. God always takes care of anything, even the things we don’t sometimes realize are by His hand and plan.

When You’ve Prayed All You KnowTo Pray

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I wrote this almost six years ago on what to do when we have prayed everything we know to pray. I post it again today for a friend who is feeling that way.

JESUS

Jesus.  Jesus.  Jesus.
Sometimes that is the only prayer I have – and it is enough.
When I’m waiting for an answer that doesn’t come and I know no more prayers to pray, I utter His name — Jesus.
When the night is long and I can’t sleep, I whisper — Jesus.
When I’ve lost my way, I cry out to the One who has not lost me.  I pray — Jesus.
When I’m tired and I can’t see rest ahead, when all strength is gone, I breathe His name — Jesus.
When I am in pain, I remember the One who can heal, and I plead — Jesus.
If I’m afraid, I bear in mind that I have a Shield whose name is — Jesus.
He is my Savior and my Lord, my Shelter and my Comforter.
He gives me sanctuary under His wing and supplies me with restoration and peace.
He is the Holy Lamb of God, the One who comes with compassion and new hope.
He is my Faithful Friend and the Radiant Light on this earth’s journey.
He is the Way of all righteous, the ever-abiding Truth, and the Life of love and joy.
He is the Mighty and Eternal God

Behavior Speaks Louder Than Words

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Now it was time to wait. I had come to receive treatment for a newly diagnosed eye condition. I was alone and with nothing to distract, I began watching and listening to the people around me.

My eyes moved around the waiting room and took in the canes, walkers, and wheelchairs; the patients accompanied by family or friends. I thanked God that I didn’t need walking aid and was able to drive myself to the clinic. I wondered about each person there. Was theirs a longstanding situation or were they dealing with a new diagnosis as I was?

One lady sitting in a wheelchair across from me seemed asleep, but then she suddenly began saying to the two ladies with her that she wanted to go home. Did she want to go home because she wasn’t feeling well? Was she dreading what she might hear today? Her companions didn’t seem too concerned and barely acknowledged that she had spoken. They appeared to be working from a list of people, calling each one to leave a message of concern and express their love for them. Yet here was this lady right there with them receiving little of their attention. Isn’t it the way with people; we look for some good act to do when there is an immediate need right in front of us?

The staff moved about through hallways and doorways at a fast clip. Each one was focused on the work that was theirs to do. They were professional and friendly, having no side conversations with one another that didn’t involve patient care. Their demonstration of being highly skilled in patient and family interaction was impressive. They had either been hired well or trained well. Most likely, both had occurred.

I’m a people watcher by nature, but I become even more so when I’m in a healthcare environment. For more than 25 years I worked in healthcare and that has made me overly sensitive to staff that isn’t professional. In fact, I was at this very clinic because the first ophthalmologist I saw had a staff that interacted playfully with one another but very little with their patients. The physician was rushed into each room by staff and it felt somewhat like I was on an assembly line. After three visits, I determined to find a better fit. This was my eyesight we were dealing with and I needed the utmost confidence in every player involved with my care.

Did you know that over 90% of communication is considered non-verbal? What a person “hears” involves body language, tonality, and attitude. When I began teaching communication techniques in 1984, Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist and founder of the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, graded it as over 90% even then. That old adage of “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care” is sound advice.

I left the clinic grateful to have found a physician and staff that care about how they represent themselves to patients.  That lets me and the others I watched in that waiting room relax into their care. We can come with confidence that highly skilled people are taking care of us and that goes a long way in how well we deal with our particular healthcare situations.

What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

A Nation Under God

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This past Election Day, many evangelicals believed that God’s man for this hour in our nation was elected. The numbers keepers tell us 81% of the evangelical vote went for Donald Trump. I am one of those evangelicals.

Conservatives believe that a school day opened with prayer and the pledge to allegiance is a good thing. We see it as putting God first, where He deserves to be. We believe our flag is to be honored and lifted high in respect and gratitude for those who have bravely fought for our freedom. We believe that our nation must come first as we work cooperatively with other nations.

george-washington-kneeling-in-prayer2President George Washington said “It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.” That belief was still held when Abraham Lincoln said “Unless the great God who assisted (Washington) shall be with me and aid me, I must fail; but if the same Omniscient Mind and Mighty Arm that directed and protected him shall guide and support me, I shall not fail . . . Let us all pray that the God of our fathers may not forsake us now.” No one said it more clearly than President Ronald Reagan when he said “If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”

A friend called the day after the election and said she imagined I was very happy at the election’s outcome. I replied that what I felt most was relieved; relieved that God was giving us another chance to come back to Him. This mission of many to put God completely out of every public venue is misguided. Every faith is honored and given room today but the faith of Christianity. This is wrong and God will not be mocked. Want some proof of that? Read the stories in the Old Testament of those who did it their way rather than God’s way and see what they went through.

Why would God pick Donald Trump to use? Someone who sometimes speaks crudely and bombastically? I can’t answer that any more than I can explain why God used a drunk (Noah) to build an ark to save humanity. Nor why He used a murderer (Moses) to lead the people of Israel out of bondage. God turned Saul of Tarsus from a man who strongly supported the execution of Christians into Paul, a great missionary and builder of New Testament churches. Maybe God chooses the unlikely to show His great power over all, to demonstrate that the impossible with man is opportunity with God. I can’t explain God’s choices but I can line up and respect them. If I cast my vote incorrectly, time will soon tell. And if I made the right choice, it will be an exciting time for America as we watch God shape and use President-Elect Donald Trump.

“The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.” Psalm 33:11-12 (NAS).

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Praying God’s Steadfast Love

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Many of us are familiar with the comfort received when we personalize Psalm 91. In verses like 3, we replace “He will deliver you” with “He will deliver me” and we go on in that manner of making the scripture our own. As we face our own trials and fears, we pray back to God the inspired scripture of Psalm 91.

I learned about praying Psalm 91 over myself from a woman long devoted to constant prayer. I was quite ill at the time. Then when my daughter became gravely ill, I taught her to use it in the same way. Sometimes I would read it over her, entering her name throughout, and she found strength and calm in God’s care for her.

There is another psalm that I use even more as a prayer and that is verse 4 of Psalm 6: “Turn, O Lord, and deliver my life; save me for the sake of Your steadfast love” (ESV). Everything we need is in that one sentence. We call on God’s mercy and grace for whatever is our need; we ask Him for deliverance because of who He is and not because we in any way deserve such Love.

There are times when a scripture seems to jump into our vision. The words will magnify as if bolded. I consider these times as God reaching out in a personal way, giving us a scripture to claim in a time of need, and I encourage you to do the same. Thank Him for it. Write it down and pray it frequently. In so doing, He will inscribe it on your heart.

I especially love Psalm 6:4 because it is easy to remember and because it fully encompasses everything. I pray it over friends. For example, I will say: “Turn, O Lord, and deliver Christy’s life; save her for the sake of Your steadfast love.” I use it for our nation: “Turn, O Lord, and deliver our nation, save us for the sake of Your steadfast love.” It is a prayer we desperately need to pray in these days.

The word “steadfast” is an English translation from the Hebrew word “hesed.” Depending on the translation of your Bible, it may also read everlasting, kindness, or mercy. I have read different counts as to the number of times it is used, but all accounts have given it 200 times or greater, with the most use in any single book of the Bible found in Psalms, the scriptures used as the temple hymnal and devotional guide for the Jewish people.

There is great wisdom in praying the scriptures. We engage ourselves with God’s Word, we commit scripture to memory, and we pull power into our lives from the breathed words of God. Can we not imagine the delight of our Father when He hears us speak to Him in His language? He has declared a covenant with us and when we communicate with Him in this manner, we are claiming and agreeing with what He has said.

All scriptures of God’s love are for for us, yet I believe that if you search the scriptures that tell of His steadfast or everlasting love, you will find something that God will lift from the pages and personally give to you. I hope you will give it a try.

Here is a beautiful song about God’s everlasting love from Terry MacAlmon.

A Prediction for the 2016 Election from Pastor Tom Lindberg

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My pastor, Dr. Tom Lindberg of First Assembly Memphis, is a very positive and encouraging pastor, always. Yesterday in morning worship, he told us he wanted to make predictions we could count on about the November election. What he then declared was so uplifting I asked for permission to share it further. May you be blessed by my pastor’s wisdom.

Dr. Tom and Sandi Lindberg Lead Pastor, First Assembly Memphis, TN

Dr. Tom and Sandi Lindberg
Lead Pastor, First Assembly Memphis, TN

A Prediction for the 2016 Election

          On November 8, millions of people will go to the polls to vote in our national election.  I have a prediction to make about the election.  I predict that on November 9,

  • The Lord God Almighty will still be King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
  • Jesus Christ will still be our Savior, Healer, and Baptizer.
  • The Holy Spirit will continue to fill His people with wisdom and power, and greater will be the One in us than he that is in the world.
  • On November 9 I predict the Bible will still be God’s eternal Word. Heaven and earth will fade away, but not God’s Word.
  • I predict God’s church will continue to march ahead in might and power, for the gates of hell cannot stop God’s church.
  • And I predict on November 9 that God’s plan for this world will not change. His plan still concludes with “the Lord Himself descending from heaven with a shout and the voice of the archangel.  The dead in Christ shall rise first, then we that are alive and remain shall be caught up with them to meet the Lord Jesus in the air.  So shall we ever and eternally be with the Lord.”

That’s my prediction for November 9 and election 2016.  Take courage!!

You can learn more about our church famemphis.net and reach Dr. Lindberg at tlindberg@famemphis.net.

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Favorite Quotes on Prayer

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I have long been a collector of quotes. A few words can speak so much. An avid reader, I have journals with nothing but quotes from favorite authors that have taught, comforted, and encouraged me through the years. Unfortunately, I did not keep a record of what book I found each quote, as my intention was to record them only for personal review. All  are about prayer and it is my hope that you will find some blessing for yourself in the quotes I am sharing.

ingrid-bergman-2016“When a man is born from above, the life of the Son of God is born in him, and he can either starve that life or nourish it. Prayer is the way the life of God is nourished.”  –Oswald Chambers

“Our strength is renewed in only one way: spending time with God in prayer, waiting on Him, immersed in scripture reading, time with God’s people, cultivating Christ’s presence—so that the Holy Spirit may take over.”  –St. Francis de Sales

“Do not have your concert first and then tune your instrument afterwards. Begin your day with the Word of God and prayer, and get first of all into harmony with Him.” –Hudson Taylor

“What is essential in prayer is not that we learn to express ourselves, but that we learn to answer God. The Psalms show us how to answer.”  –Eugene Peterson

“It is the prayer that God the Holy Spirit inspires that God the Father answers. . . . The Holy Spirit works His prayers in us through the Word, and neglect of the Word makes praying in the Holy Spirit an impossibility.”  – R. A. Torrey

“Praise and thanksgiving are an essential part of persevering prayer. The more we focus on praising God, the more devoted and faithful we become. “ –Cynthia Heald

“In prayer we cease leaning on the staff of self-will and put all our confidence in God.” –Maxie Dunnam lady-of-guadelupebest

“When we fail to make prayer a priority—essentially forfeiting our time alone with God—we will begin to feel an emptiness in our lives, accompanied by a strange sense of unrest and uneasiness.”  –Charles Stanley

“It is well said that neglected prayer is the birthplace of all evil.”  –Charles Spurgeon

“Praying for the sick is reaching out with one hand to touch the risen Christ while holding on to the sick with the other hand.”  –Robert L. Wise

“Prayer is the rope that pulls God and man together. But it doesn’t pull God down to us, it pulls us up to Him.” –Billy Graham

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fear nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.”  –Samuel Chadwick

“He must set his heart to conquer by prayer, and that will mean that he must first conquer his own flesh, for it is the flesh that hinders prayer always.” –A. W. Tozer

“I think that the dying pray at the last not ‘please’ but ‘thank you,’ as a guest thanks his host at the door.” –Annie Dillard

“If the only prayer you say throughout your life is ‘Thank you,’ then that will be enough.” –Meister Eckhartbucket-of-roses-jul-29-2016

More on Relinquishing Prayer

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I have continued to ponder the subject of relinquishing prayer and there are a few more thoughts I would like to add this morning. Thank you to those who gave feedback; it has helped me to sort through what I said and hopefully respond more fully.

First of all, to relinquish something to God doesn’t mean you must never mention it to Him again. Most likely you will continue to pray about what you relinquished, but you will pray differently. The “relinquishing” part is to accept what God gives, to be in agreement with Him even if it is contrary to what we want to happen. It is a step in greater trust.

I know the scriptures that say to persevere in prayer and the respected teachers who say never give up; neither do I argue with them. But I also know when Jesus prayed in Luke 22:42, He prayed a prayer of relinquishment: “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (NASV).  I suspect most of us will at one time or another come to a place where this is the prayer that should be ours.

We must be sensitive to the Spirit to know how God wants us to pray. If we come to a time when we feel we are to relinquish a particular matter to the Father’s hands, our prayers may then turn more to words of trust and thanksgiving. When the concern comes to mind, rather than petition as we have, we thank Him for His mercies shown us throughout life. We thank Him for being the good, loving Father that He is. We thank Him that we can always trust Him, no matter what. And we certainly want to thank Him for the peace that I believe He always gives when we relinquish our will to His. We might pray like this: “I know that you see things I cannot see, that Your thoughts and ways are far higher than man’s. Your word tells of your steadfast love and mercy and I thank you that I can count on such love and mercy. Keep me in Your perfect peace and my eyes fixed on you, Lord. I love you and relinquish my will to yours and count it all joy to do so.”

Until and unless you come to a time that you feel led to relinquish the way you are praying. I encourage you to continue asking and seeking and knocking at the door of heaven. Always pray as the Holy Spirit leads. If you stay close to Him, you will know in your spirit how to pray. Pastor David Cross, First Assembly Memphis, says, “If you love Him and stay near Him, you will hear Him speak to you like never before.” Prayer is conversation with God and the Holy Spirit lives in us to guide how we are to pray.

Dr. Charles Stanley, In Touch Ministries, says “God’s primary goal is our ultimate good, not our comfort or short-term happiness—He wants what is best for us in light of eternity” (In Touch Devotional, October 8, 2016). Everything in this life is short term. May we strive for the eternal in all our living and praying.

Your will, O Lord, is the safe place, the joy place, the glory place.

The Power of Relinquishing Prayer

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There is power in relinquishing prayer. Power and peace. When we’ve prayed all we know to pray and the answer we want just doesn’t come, there is one more prayer to pray: “Father, Thy will be done.” And that is the prayer of relinquishment.

Catherine Marshall’s experience with this is one of the most memorable for me. She had been sick for six months with a lung infection that kept her bedfast. Medical treatment was not working. She had exhausted every approach to prayer she knew and nothing happened. So she said to God that if He wanted her sick and to spend the rest of her life in bed, then she would accept it. But with that prayer of relinquishment to God’s will came heavenly power and her recovery began.

Pastor David Cross of my church, First Assembly Memphis, tells of his being on a treatment table to receive radiation for a golf ball size cancer on his neck.  As he waited, he prayed. Actually, he worshiped. For Pastor David didn’t petition God but said “Even if you don’t heal me, you are still my Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals.” He unconditionally relinquished his self-will to God’s will and at that very moment he knew healing had happened. He felt his neck and the tumor was gone. “I’ve been healed!” Pastor David cried out. “Yes, you certainly have,” declared the Radiation Therapist with tears in her eyes.

I had my own experience with relinquishing prayer when I thought my daughter was dying. For years, I had pleaded with God to heal her of health problems that had stolen so much from her. Then one day, her body began to shut down. In my car, headed toward the other end of the state and not knowing if she would be alive when I got to her, I gave it all to God. I told Him I was through pleading for her health and if it was His will to take her, I accepted that will completely. It was my relinquishing prayer.  Immediately, peace poured over me—and she did not die.

When we can get to the place of total relinquishment, we honor God. We stop questioning. We cease struggling. We simply step away from all attempts to control what we never could control anyway. We believe in God’s love for us however He decides to give it. We accept His will. Sometimes relinquishing prayer brings exactly what we prayed for. Other times, we don’t get the answer, but we do get peace. My child lived, but she still has health problems; yet the complete peace God gave me in 2012 has solidly remained.

When we desperately want something, it is hard to relinquish. Most of us pray for long seasons of time for things we are desperate to have. Our prayers are at first relentless, not relinquishing. But when we can finally reach the place of giving unanswered prayer to God, we will know peace that only God can give. And with that peace is the power to accept whatever is the will of God.

Jesus prayed in Luke 22:42 Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (NIV). May we do no less.