The Elusive Organ

hospital11Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed;
Save me, and I shall be saved,
For You are my praise.  Jeremiah 17:14 (NKJV)

I was lying on the narrow table in the Nuclear Science department at the Bozeman Hospital.  Of all the tests I’d had in the past half year, this one took the longest.  The kind technician explained it was a little boring, waiting for my gallbladder to appear on the screen and I could take a nap if I wanted.  Whatever chemical he had injected was slowly making its way to my gallbladder so it would become visible.  I wasn’t surprised when after 90 minutes it still hadn’t appeared.  This organ had been eluding doctors for months, why would it come forward now?  Perhaps I didn’t even have one!  But finally, after sending me for two walks and letting me chew sugar-free gum, my shy gallbladder showed up enough to allow him to complete the test.

While lying there, I prayed my favorite verse from this ordeal, “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed, save me, and I shall be saved, for You are my praise.” (Jeremiah 17:14) And I contemplated all that had brought me to this point.  It began over a year before with daily nausea.  When I had a root canal in January 2016, I thought the nausea would quit, but it continued.  Then in March when I was running, I had a mysterious pain below my right rib cage. I kept running and doing all my usual mom activities.  I even became a grandma in April and had a wonderful visit with my new granddaughter in May.  For almost a week, I was “super-grandma,” running, cooking, cleaning, gardening, and holding our sweet baby so her mommy could take a shower. Then I came home.

Reality hit when I walked in the door in early June and promptly threw up.  A week later I was having tea with friends and had to rush to the restroom where I was sick again.  Soon I found that if I had food in my stomach, I could keep the nausea at bay.  A handful of nuts every hour or two seemed to do the trick.

My first thought was I must be pregnant, which seemed like a jolly blessing for a new grandma turning 50.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.  The doctors did an ultrasound of all my organs and said they were fine.  My daughter was having emergency gallbladder surgery, so they looked closely at my gallbladder. The technician pressed the wand into my right side so hard I cried out in pain.  She asked surprised, “Does this hurt?”

I replied, “Yes, doesn’t that hurt for everyone?”  Then she continued pressing for another 15 minutes, only to have the tests come back normal. But the pain in my right side persisted.  For those who have experienced pregnancy, it felt like a little foot pushing on my rib cage. Sometimes if felt like I’d pulled a muscle in my side from mopping. Always, it hurt.

Over the next several months, I had blood tests, ultrasounds, GI exams, CT scan, X-rays, and a bone scan. Every test came back negative.  With each doctor appointment, I prayed, “Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed.”  I dutifully went for the next test they recommended.  Each time it came back negative.  The doctors began to get tired of me.  I began to wonder if I was crazy.  But at night when I was lying in my bed, with a great pain in my right side, I knew I wasn’t crazy.

My symptoms continued. Besides the nausea and pain in my right side, I had a tight chest and shortness of  breath.  I could run four miles, but lifting my arms to brush my hair or walking from the kitchen to the laundry room would leave me breathless.  In July, I quit running as I didn’t have much energy for it anymore.  In September, I quit most of my work.

The foods I could eat were also diminishing.  Way back in 2010 I had started eating gluten-free and felt better for awhile. In 2013 I went dairy-free and again felt better for awhile.  But this year I couldn’t digest other foods.  A slice of gluten-free bread or a bowl of gluten-free oats would hurt for a day.  But the GI tests showed everything was normal.  By the end of my illness, I was eating banana/kale smoothies for breakfast, jello salad and celery, and highly refined gluten-free foods, such as pretzels.  My beverages consisted of ginger tea and coke, both helped with the nausea and the caffeine eased the pain. I still had my handfuls of nuts to avoid nausea and give me energy, but had to give those up due to pain, too.

In October, doctors finally decided my chest and rib pains were from costochondritis, an inflammation under the rib cage.  I started taking large doses of ibuprofen to reduce swelling.  Four days later I was in the emergency room with a terrible pain that started above my left shoulder blade, extended down the top of my left arm and around to my chest.  They did all the usual heart tests which were negative, gave me a toradol shot which did nothing and sent me home.  The next day they put my on prednisone, thinking it might be polymyalgia and referred me to a rheumatologist.

It’s interesting how the various doctors each picked their favorite symptom and went with that in my diagnosis and care.  The general practitioner was interested in my heart.  The OB-Gyn doctor thought it was changing hormones. The GI doctor felt my pain was from irritable bowel syndrome after a round of Prilosec didn’t help.  The rheumatologist first suspected bone disease.  Even though they all knew my pain was located right at the gallbladder.  If only one of them had said, “Even though your ultrasound didn’t show anything, let’s explore this area more…”

Of all the health care professionals I had, the wisest were the non-standard ones.  One day in October I went with my husband to his chiropractor to ask if it was possible I’d had a rib out all this time.  He checked me over and said no, I did not.  He was very concerned about the pain under might right rib and encouraged me to keep my appointment with a rheumatologist. He said since I was taking prednisone, I shouldn’t have any pain if it was from inflammation.  He didn’t do any adjusting and didn’t even charge me for his consultation.

The rheumatologist referred me to a physical therapist when the bone scan came back negative.  He thought some core strengthening would help me.  The physical therapist did an excellent job of checking me and pinpointing where my pain was coming from in the center of my back. Then he pulled out a text book to show me a diagram of referred pain from organs. The gallbladder defers pain right to the center of the back!

One day our neighbors stopped by to check on me and suggested I get a HIDA scan for my gallbladder.  Right away I emailed my GI doctor and requested the scan.  I remembered the rheumatologist had mentioned that as a possibility, too.  So, here I was finally having the HIDA scan, 5 months after my first doctor visit.  That very night I heard from the GI doctor.  It was my gallbladder!  It was only functioning at 8%.  A surgeon would be contacting me.

The day I found out I needed my gallbladder out I was so happy. After months of no answers, I finally had the correct diagnosis!  I went to bed so thankful, only to wake up a few hours later in dire pain, realizing my gallbladder wasn’t out yet!

The surgeon was all booked up until mid-December 2016, but there was a cancellation, so I got in earlier.  He was sure that I would feel better after surgery, but he wouldn’t be able to do it until December 12.  With almost three weeks to wait, I didn’t know if I’d make it.  Friends must have been praying, because I didn’t feel too bad the first week of waiting, but the last week was awful.  The back and arm pain I had in October returned full strength.  It was excruciating, but I didn’t want to go to the ER where they couldn’t help. The only thing that would help was to take out my gallbladder.

December 12, 2016, I headed to surgery, again praying Jeremiah 17:14, “Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed, save me and I will be saved, for You are my praise.” I also claimed God’s promise in Psalm 118:17, “I shall not die but live, and declare the works of the Lord.”

Surgery went beautifully, according to the surgeon.  As soon as I awoke from the anesthesia, I noticed the phantom pains in my back and left arm were gone!  Oh, what joy!  However, my right side still hurt because I had four incisions in my abdomen.  As the wounds healed, my pain subsided.  The first week after surgery was the worst, as my body tried to expel the CO2 used to inflate me during surgery.  But after a week, I felt like a human again, and after six weeks I was able to go for daily walks again.  I am disappointed to note that my nausea and chest pains are lingering, and I had a few complications.  I’m also having trouble figuring out what foods to eat, so I don’t get a stomach ache. My mother-in-law mentioned that some of her pains stayed for up to six months after surgery.  So, I’m prayerful that soon they will all disappear, and Jesus will heal me completely.

The prayers of so many people carried me through this ordeal.  I want to encourage you as a prayer friend, that your prayers really do matter!  The first prayer was when I called Samaritan Ministries, our health sharing organization, to report a need.  The fellow who took my information recognized my distress and called on Jesus for healing.  In August 2016, a visiting pastor came to our church and offered to pray for people after the service.  My husband took me up and the pastor, not knowing my ailment, prayed for my complete healing.  Finally, there were the prayers of all the Samaritan Ministry friends who sent checks to help pay the doctor bills.  I especially liked the comment written by one, “My husband and I stand in agreement for your complete healing.”  And that is the promise I claim to this day.

Signs you should have your gallbladder checked:

  • You eat Tums like they are candy.
  • You have daily nausea.
  • You are turning yellow.
  • There are certain foods you avoid that you used to enjoy.
  • Your digestion changes so that you are either highly constipated or running to the bathroom too often.
  • You have a sharp or constant pain under your right rib cage.
  • You have tightness in your chest and shortness of breath.
  • You have back pain that may extend down your arm.
  • Your pains are not improved with heating pads, pain killers, steroids, or shots.
  • Your pain keeps you awake at night.
  • You are fatigued and need extra caffeine to get going each day.
  • You have multiple, unexplained symptoms.
  • You just feel bad and the doctors can’t figure out why.

Be prayerful and persistent.  If you’re not happy with your doctor, ask friends to recommend another doctor. Be sure to ask for the HIDA scan if the ultrasound is inconclusive. If you’d like to learn more about Samaritan Ministries for help with doctor bills, please check out this website.  It’s a really neat organization. Each month they send our family a name.  We pray for that person and send them a card and a check to help with their doctor bills.  This time it was our time to be on the receiving end.  It really works as Samaritan Ministries helped us with over $30,000 in doctor bills.  Praise, Jesus!

P.S.  I just want to say also, God bless the nurses!  You do a wonderful job taking care of us when we are in so much pain. God bless Sarah, Bunny, and Ali!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Of Noah and Floods and Baptism

flood3For this is like the waters of Noah to Me… Isaiah 54:9 (NKJV)

The images swim through my head, like flood waters swirling around a plugged drain — Noah’s arc, cute animals, faithful Noah, rainbows…then muddy waters, soggy furniture, ruined books and memories…then stain glass windows, angelic babies in white gowns, and the blessings of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As these pictures splash against the insides of my head, I try to form connections and make sense of them all.

In early September, my Sunday school preschoolers colored cute clothespin animals to remind them of Noah’s arc.  Last year we made rainbow crafts, and the year before we constructed an arc around the table with brown paper grocery bags.  Somehow, Noah is always a fun story, and we don’t think about what washed away in the water.

Two days after our Noah’s arc lesson, I was driving home and saw a beautiful double rainbow, from one end to the other.  In Montana, Big Sky Country, we often see the whole rainbow.  I was reminded of God’s promise to never flood the world again, and His many other Bible promises — like Jesus is coming back!

Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. Isaiah 43:1-2(NKJV)

But four days after our Noah’s arc lesson, a real flood came to my parent’s home in Ames, Iowa — the same home they’ve lived in over half a century.  Their finished basement with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and cupboards, packed with favorite novels, puzzles, and family memorabilia, was deluged in hurricane fashion.  In a matter of minutes, water burst through the windows, filling the basement to the ceiling! flood

My parents do not live near an ocean, nor near a river, nor on a flood plain.  In the 51 years they’ve lived in their house, only a few inches of rain have ever flooded, and that was if the sump pump quit working.  The sump pump didn’t have a chance this time.

What caused such a terrible flood?  It was an incredible disaster that should never have happened. The main factor was the new school up the block.  A year ago Fellows School was re-built in the playing field behind the old elementary school my siblings and I attended.  Over the summer, the old school and parking lot were torn down.  By September they had the new parking lot poured, perhaps even graded the new play areas, but nothing had been seeded yet.  So, with no greenery to slow run-off, the sewer drain full of silt and debris from the construction, and five inches of rain over the night of September 22nd into the 23rd, the tragedy occurred.

My siblings worked heroicly to clean up the disaster, rescuing anything that could be salvaged, hauling, power washing, scrubbing, sanitizing, painting, rebuilding… It is starting to look like a basement again, minus the books and photos that were so dear to my parents.  Yet out of this disaster came a miracle.

The day of the flood, my dad who has had cancer for a few years now, was not well enough to have his chemo treatment. His white blood cell count was too low.  In the summer when I visited, he had trouble maneuvering from the living room to the kitchen with his walker.  Today he is climbing down to the basement and up to his office on the second floor a dozen times each day, taking measurements, ordering a new door, arranging his tools, often forgetting his cane or walker. He is a new man with a project.

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4 (NKJV)

flood2On our way to visit my parents and see how we could help, we were blessed to attend the baptism of our first grandchild in Waterford, Wisconsin.  Her baptism was held at the most beautiful Catholic church I have ever seen.  Stain glass windows of the saints surround the sanctuary bathed in daylight.  A lovely tiled baptismal font that could compete with any city square fountain, marks the entrance to the worship area.  It was there that the priest baptized our precious Kennedy Grace in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, claiming her as God’s child.

Whether we are baptized as babies or believers, we all must make the personal choice for salvation in Jesus Christ.  It is in choosing Jesus that we are given new life.  We are washed clean from our sins and filled with the Holy Spirit. We are new creations.  As baptism symbolizes death, the coming out of the water symbolizes rising again to eternal life. I’m reminded of the Prayer of St. Francis which concludes, “It is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

Our granddaughter’s baptism is the beginning of her new life in Christ Jesus.  My parents’ flood gave new life and health to my dad.  And Noah’s flood brought a second chance and rebirth to our fallen world. Above all, out of the waters rises our victorious Savior, Jesus Christ.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

-Prayer of St. Francis

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

 

My Heart Inn

coffee_mugAnd she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7  (NKJV)

“NO ROOM in the INN” the sign proclaims on the make-shift inn created by the Sunday schoolers for their Christmas pageant.  The beautiful story of our Savior’s birth will soon be portrayed by the youngest members of our church family.  As the students and teachers make the final preparations for this year’s production, my mind contemplates the words on the sign — “NO ROOM in the INN.”

The sign is taken right from the book of Luke, And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Why do these words from the Christmas story strike such a chord with me?  Is it because God allowed me to share in Mary’s experience?  Is it because He showed me “NO ROOM in the INN?”

Not once, not twice, but three times God let me be pregnant and then moved us to a new place! In each instance, during a span of 18 years, a home, a job, and our future were uncertain.  Oh, how I wrestled with God each time!  And just as He provided a stable for Mary and baby Jesus, God provided homes for us, from a rustic cabin in the mountains to a spacious home near town. But best of all, He gave us the babies.

The Sunday schoolers suspend my thoughts for the moment,  now parading onto the stage  in their costumes.  Instead of the usual bathrobes and shepherds’ staffs, they are dressed in modern outfits.  One holds a sign that reads, “Super 8, No Vacancy.”  Another says, “Holiday Inn Express, No Vacancy.” Another proclaims, “Comfort Inn, No Vacancy.”  I look down the line at all the children, each with another hotel sign, all claiming, “No Vacancy.”

The last little girl comes in a red velvet dress.  She has a different sign.  It reads, “My Heart Inn.”

“Oh, what can this be?” I wonder.  We sing “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem” before the children commence with the play.

Mary and Joseph wander onto the modern Bethlehem stage, looking for a place to stay.  First the Super 8 manager explains how he has no vacancy because of a cattlemen’s convention. He turns his sign so we can read, “No Vacancy, Welcome Cattlemen!”  Next the Holiday Inn Express manager tells about the craft show people filling her motel. She turns her sign to read, “No Vacancy, Welcome Craft Fair!”  The Comfort Inn manager is excited about the basketball tournaments in town and turns his sign to read, “No Vacancy, Welcome Basketball Players!”  And on down the line it goes, with each motel manager giving reasons for no vacancy.

Finally we come to the little girl in the red velvet dress.  This sweet little girl explains why her “My Heart Inn” has no vacancy.  She turns her sign so we can read, “No Vacancy.  Welcome American Girl dolls, video games, cell phones, ballet, new clothes, earrings…”

The congregation lets out a gasp.  We are all so shocked, just sure the little girl was the one to welcome baby Jesus.  We can’t believe it!  How is it possible?!  Such a sweet little girl with no room for Jesus.  It causes us to think, “Are we making room in our hearts for Jesus? Is there room in ‘My Heart Inn?'”

And so Mary and Joseph continue outside into the cold.  We see them standing outside the church window, shivering in the snow. There is an uncomfortable pause as we await whatever is next.

The little girl in the red velvet dress stands trembling in front of the congregation.  Tears form in her eyes because she also sees Mary and Joseph outside.  A sob escapes her as she cries, “Yes, baby Jesus, Yes!  I do have room in my heart for You!”

The little girl tears up her  “No Vacancy” sign and throws it into a nearby manger, sobbing uncontrollably on the alter steps.  Tears spring from all eyes as we watch the little girl helplessly, not sure if we should go and comfort her. From out of the shadows appears an angel who reaches down and touches her, giving her a new sign.

Looking surprised, the girl in the red velvet dress stops crying to read, “My Heart Inn. Welcome Jesus.”  She smiles, wiping away her tears, delighted with her new sign.

The pastor stops the production to point us to our church bulletins.  Inside we find hearts like the “My Heart Inn – No Vacancy” sign.   Pastor asks us what is filling our hearts, creating no room for Jesus?  Is it money, things, toys, activities, computers, cars?  He asks us to write it on the No Vacancy heart.

I consider my heart and the Christmas story.  I didn’t really share in Mary’s ordeal.  I don’t know what it is like to have a baby in a stable.  I haven’t really shared in Jesus’ sufferings, from His humble birth to His sacrificial death.  I ponder what to write on my heart, and then I know.  I write down all my worries that keep me from trusting Jesus. I write down my busy projects I think I have to do for Him, when all He really wants is my heart.

Pastor invites us to come forward and leave our  torn hearts in the manger, just like the little girl.  There is not a dry eye as we file to the front of the sanctuary. Wise men and shepherds appear on the scene. They give each person who places a “No vacancy” heart in the manger a new heart that reads, “My Heart Inn.  Welcome Jesus.”

The children’s choir softly sings, “Jesus is knocking at the door of my heart.” Then the congregation sings “The First Noel” and other Christmas hymns until the manger is overflowing with our torn hearts, and everyone in the congregation holds a new one.  As the piano music ends, the girl in the red velvet dress runs to open the door for Mary and Joseph.  The couple walks in holding baby Jesus, Who Mary carefully places in His manger bed (we wonder if He was born in the snow, but we don’t ask).

Pastor leads us in a prayer, asking God to help us truly give up these things that have cluttered our hearts, and for Jesus to fill our hearts instead.  The prayer ends and we look up to see…

The little girl in the red velvet dress, standing behind the manger.  She begins to sing, “Joy to the World, the Lord is come.  Let earth receive her King.  Let every heart.  Prepare Him room…” The children’s choir and the congregation all join her in singing this beautiful hymn.

Suddenly, with great joy, it is every holiday all mixed in one.  There are red heart balloons with John 3:16 falling from the ceiling like Valentine’s Day.  The Sunday School teachers bring in a cake for baby Jesus and we all sing “Happy Birthday to You!”  The cross on the alter reminds us of Easter and Jesus’ reason for being born – to die. And outside the head elder sets off fireworks like the Fourth of July to celebrate our freedom from sin.

We gather our children in our arms and sing “We wish you a Merry Christmas” as we all share a piece of Jesus’ cake.  And you know, I think it really will be a Merry Christmas this year. For this is the year Jesus found room at My Heart Inn.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. Revelation 3:20  (NKJV)

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 (NKJV)

New King James Version (NKJV)Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

The Day Jesus Came to Big Timber

Big Timber My hometown is celebrating “Miracle on McLeod Street” this evening for their lighted Christmas parade.  Inspired by the theme, I share again the greatest miracle I imagine on McLeod Street (with a few updates).  Merry Christmas, Big Timber, Montana!

‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  Luke 19:38(NKJV)

Dear Jesus, I imagine You riding into Big Timber, Montana as You did so long ago in Jerusalem.  You borrow a donkey from the Langhus ranch south of town, riding over the interstate, past the park and swimming pool.  Right down McLeod Street You trot, just as I’m arriving at the library for storytime.

Joel, Kevin, and I see the crowds laying out jackets, so we throw ours down, too.  I even grab the stadium blanket from the back of the car to cushion Your path.  I wish Kent and Jacob were here, and then they pull up in their work truck, having just finished a job nearby.  They lay out their jackets, too.

We see You as our Savior, the One who makes everything right.  We bow, we cheer, we cry, we smile.  We don’t want this moment to end.  We sing, “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”

For the moment we forget our troubles and bask in Your holiness, wishing You would stay with us forever.  Mrs. Jackie, Mr. Goos, James and other library regulars pour out into the street to join us in worship.  Even Mrs. Debbie and the preschool children wave leafy branches.  Others keep arriving, adding to the celebration.

Pastors Bryan, Kyle, Jeremy, Joel, Ron and Justin, along with their wives and families are delighted to see the One Whom they proclaim every week.  The grade school and high school dismiss at midday, sending droves of young people to Jesus’ feet. Yellow buses deliver children from the country schools. I see my Sunday school kids, and shout, “This is Jesus! The One who loves you!”

People pour out of every shop on main street as the healing begins. Jake’s kidney is well forever, Stacy, Jeff and Jan are truly cancer-free, Pat and Lief throw down their crutches, and Greysen’s insides are like new. Gordon brings the kitchen band from the Senior Center, praising Jesus with melodies.  And all who have lost loved ones are suddenly comforted by the One who is acquainted with all our sorrows.

Smart phones are snapping photos. The Pioneer sends Lindsey and Mackenzie to cover the story. Sheriff Dan brings all his deputies. Chief Kris calls out the fire engines to blare their sirens in praise.  It is the grandest parade Big Timber has even seen! The children love it, even though there is no candy, for when Jesus looks into their eyes and says, “Come to Me,” it is the sweeter than anything in heaven or earth.

Suddenly Jesus takes me and another hurting mom aside.  He pulls us into the Lutheran Church where the bells have been tolling continuously.  Jesus ushers us right to the confirmation photo board and shows us our children.  He whispers to our hurting our hearts, Fear not, for I have redeemed them; I have called them by name; They are Mine.” And we are comforted, knowing that Jesus holds our children, even when they are far away.

As we return outside to the bright sunshine, I realize I was never without Sonshine with Jesus by my side.  My walking buddy Beth hurries over, pushing her daughter Della in the baby jogger.  I wave and hug her, exclaiming, “Isn’t this the BEST! This is Jesus Who I was telling you about!” Our friends Elsbeth and Ole are there for storytime, too. Jesus gives Els a special wink and promises of good things to come.

I hear someone comment, “I wish Lola could have seen this!” Her friend replies, “Lola invited Him!” Lt. Alan drives up in a patrol car.  The doors pop open with John, Diane and Cindy completely recovered from their Minnesota adventures.  The crowd cheers yet again.

Together the whole town cries, “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!” And we are changed forever, trusting in the One who is King of the universe.  We follow Jesus all the way down McLeod Street, over the railroad tracks where the antiquers and apartment folks cheer wildly. Then down to the fairgrounds we follow Jesus.

Jesus dismounts His donkey, looks into all our hearts, speaking words of peace and comfort to our souls.  Then He climbs aboard a fishing boat, taking a beaming Connie and other beloved townspeople with Him. As they sail down the Yellowstone River to the next town, a rainbow appears in the sky above, reminding us that God always remembers His promises.

We make the long journey back to the library and I see families and friends who weren’t talking, hugging again. I wonder if more people will come to church on Sunday?  Will they come to worship Him and learn more about this Jesus who came to town? Do they know He is coming again with the clouds, and every eye will see Him?  O Jesus, I can’t wait!

O Jesus, come to Big Timber, come to my family, come to me.  Wash away our hurts, heal our diseases, make things right.  Send your Holy Spirit to help and comfort us until You come again.  Do your miracles and be glorified, my precious Jesus. 

Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” Luke 21:27-28 (NKJV)

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NKJV)

“…lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.  Matthew 28:20 (NKJV)

New King James Version (NKJV)Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Looking Up at the Big Blue Sky

My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD;
In the morning I will direct it to You,
And I will LOOK UP.
Psalm 5:3 (NKJV)

Do you LOOK UP?  When I was little, I always wanted to be near a window to catch a glimpse of the blue sky.  If I could just see the sky, I could smile up at God.  On my walks home from school I would smile at the puffy clouds and talk to God about my day.  When I was a teenager and started running, it was that blue sky that kept me going.  When my college cross country team died in a plane crash, I looked up at the dreary November atmosphere and questioned the God in charge of the universe, and decided I didn’t trust Him anymore.  After two years without God or my blue sky, the sun finally shone again for me when dear friends introduced me to Jesus Christ.

Now I’m blessed to live in the Big Sky State, Montana, where the sky really is bluer than anywhere in the world (according to friends from Rhode Island).  Even though I live in a narrow valley, I can see a big blue strip up above each day.  As I sit by my window for my morning TEA CUPP, I LOOK UP at the still dark, star-speckled sky and whisper, “Good morning, Jesus.” While I pray, the sky lightens, the day dawns, and I’m having TEA with Jesus under the big blue heavens.

You know, when we choose to LOOK UP to Jesus, no matter what our circumstances, life tends to LOOK UP after all.  In recent years we’ve lost 3 cats, 3 babies, a job, and other great sadnesses.  I could look away from God as I did as a college student, but you know what that means?  If we aren’t looking up to Jesus, where are we looking?  We are looking down to Satan, and I don’t want to look there!  So, I keep LOOKING UP…I want to encourage you to do the same through God’s Word.

In the book of Acts we read about a deacon named Stephen.  For his preaching of God’s Word, Stephen became the first martyr of the Christian faith.  Just before he was stoned to death, Stephen called to the crowd…

“Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Acts 7:56 (NIV)

But their hearts were too hard and their eyes closed, so they could not see Jesus.  And they killed Stephen. Jesus, help us not be like those men.  Let our hearts be softened and our eyes opened as we LOOK UP at the sky for Your coming.

Did you know Jesus CALLS us to LOOK UP?

Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, LOOK UP and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” Luke 21:27-28 (NKJV)

LOOKING for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:13-14 (NKJV)

If I can’t LOOK UP it is because of my sins, and I must ADMIT my sins to Jesus…

For innumerable evils have surrounded me;
My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to LOOK UP;
They are more than the hairs of my head;
Therefore my heart fails me.
Psalm 40:12 (NKJV)

While we are waiting for Jesus to return, He CALLS us to LOOK UP to Him as an example of how to live our lives…

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are ABOVE, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. Colossians 3:1-2 (NKJV)

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9  (NKJV)

…You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming 2 Peter 3:11-12 (NIV)

And He CALLS us to be ready for His return…

Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Luke 12:40 (NKJV)

Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:8 (NKJV)

For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 1 Thessalonians 5:2 (NIV)

I UNDERSTAND in my story how God has helped me to LOOK UP to Him each day…

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2 (NKJV)

Unto You I lift up my eyes, O You who dwell in the heavens.
Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters,
As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to the LORD our God,
Until He has mercy on us.
Psalm 123:1-2

And He PROMISES that one day while we are LOOKING UP He will come again…

And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” John 1:52 (NKJV)

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11 (NKJV)

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (NKJV)

Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. Revelation 1:7 (NKJV)

Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
And look on the earth beneath.
For the heavens will vanish away like smoke,
The earth will grow old like a garment,
And those who dwell in it will die in like manner;
But My salvation will be forever,
And My righteousness will not be abolished.
Isaiah 51:6 (NKJV)

New King James Version (NKJV)Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

New International Version (NIV)Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica

Heaven and Airports

But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:16 (NKJV)

Heaven and airports.  Arrivals and departures.  Terminal illnesses and terminals.  I wonder if others have pondered this connection while waiting in an airport terminal for loved ones?  If it’s a light day, you can get a seat to watch the action.  Otherwise, you may be standing to observe the tearful or joyful embraces.

Last August we put our daughter on a plane from Montana to Guam for her junior year of college.  As we said good-bye, and watched others say farewell, there were plenty of tears (from others, not our brave daughter, of course).  It seems that airports and funerals are two places it’s okay to show love and grief.  Why do we display more emotions at these times than we do when sending someone off to work or school each morning?

If we knew it was the last good-bye, would we hold our friends and family closer when we depart?  My testimony begins with a plane crash, and I never got to say good-bye to those on board.  It was my college cross country team returning from the national meet.  My two coaches, three team mates, the athletic trainer and pilot all died that icy November day in 1985.  While their plane lay shattered in Des Moines, Iowa, the plane of my life continued to spiral downward as I questioned how God could let this happen.  Two years later I gave my life to Jesus Christ, and I  soared for Him again.

One of the many joys of being a Christian is knowing I will always see other Christians again.  If I don’t see them here on earth, I will have eternity to visit with them in heaven.  We live at a church camp where there are good-byes every week of the summer.  Volunteers serve and become our friends, and then they depart.    I am thankful that we will get to see these folks again in heaven.  Perhaps Jesus will line up some of these great workers to help prepare houses for more people coming to heaven!

Four months after we put our daughter on that plane for Guam, we found ourselves at the airport again on a frigid December day.  As we eagerly waited for our daughter’s return, I watched couples and families reunite.  I thought of heaven and how loved ones will welcome us.  Hugs, tears, slaps on the back, ruffling hair…all these say, “I love you!”  I imagine our relatives there will be delighted when we finally reach heaven.

Our daughter, however, did not arrive on schedule.  She was not on the one o’clock flight from Denver, or the two o’clock, or the three o’clock.  With no cell phone, we didn’t know where she was or when she would land.  A desk attendant said she wouldn’t arrive until the next day. I felt like crying. We waited for the four  o’clock flight anyway, and guess what, at just a little before five o’clock our daughter appeared!   After checking the faces of every blond girl that afternoon, we finally saw the face of our daughter!

I wondered if that could happen in heaven?  Will we be dismayed when our loved ones don’t show up?  God says He’ll wipe away every tear from our eyes and there will be no more sorrow.  So, will I be somber if my brother doesn’t pull in?  I think there will be an empty spot in my heart, because Jesus desires that none should perish.  While I’m still on earth, I’d better make sure my family knows they are invited, that they know Jesus and His salvation.  I may be distressed when my family members depart from this earth, but I’ll be delighted when all my loved ones arrive in heaven, even if it is a day late. 

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 Corinthians 5:1 (NKJV)

New King James Version (NKJV)Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

The Narrow Gate

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Matthew 7:13-14 (NKJV)

We live at a church camp way up in the mountains of south central Montana.  Like most of the ranches in our area, we have a log rail fence to define the property.  At one point in the fence, a small walk-way was installed so hikers can pass through without climbing over.  This is handy if you are the right size.  I found when we had little kids that I didn’t fit if I had the back-carrier or stroller or wagon.  We could only fit through the narrow gate one at a time.

This narrow gate is such a symbol of God’s Word above.  Most people would rather go through the main entrance because they can do it their own way, bringing the big vehicle, the family, the horse trailer, the RV…all their extra stuff. But God says, “Enter by the narrow gate.” We can’t bring our stuff or anyone else to heaven, only ourselves. We can’t even do good works or give big offerings to enter heaven.  All we can do is believe in Jesus and point others to the narrow gate.

We can tell our family and friends that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through” Him. John 14:6 (NKJV) We can explainfor God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 (NKJV). And we can urge them to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” Acts 16:31 (NKJV).

Looking at my photo of the narrow gate, you might suggest that a person could just climb over or through, or crawl under the log rails.  That might just work to get to camp, but God does not allow that for getting to heaven.

I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. John 10:1  (NKJV)

We don’t want to be thieves and robbers.  We want to enter the way God intended, through the narrow gate.  How hard can that be?  Jesus says, “And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24 (NKJV) A camel wouldn’t even fit through our narrow camp gate, let alone the eye of a needle.  How then is it possible that we can enter the kingdom of God?

Jesus responds,  “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 (NKJV) I pray this possible miracle for all my family and friends and even my enemies, that they will believe in Jesus, my Savior, the Narrow Gate, the only Way to heaven.

If you would like to bring your family or church to this beautiful church camp in Montana, I will be delighted to show you our narrow gate, and share a devotion with you.   Please visit…

http://www.campontheboulder.org/

I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved. John 10:9 (NIV)

“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Luke 13:24 (NIV)

New King James Version (NKJV)Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

New International Version (NIV)Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

My Home’s in Montana…for now

In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. John 14:2 (NKJV)

“My Home’s in Montana, I wear a bandana, my spurs are of silver, my pony is gray…” In my early years I attended Girl Scout Camp at Camp Sacagawea near Boone, Iowa.  In the evenings around the campfire we harmonized this tune.  As the twilight faded and the stars appeared, we crooned “Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam, where the deer and the antelope play…” and “Down in the valley, the valley so low, late in the evening, hear the wind blow…”

Now, I am a mom and still make my bed at camp after we hum hymns around the campfire.  I breathe in the land once walked by Sacagawea in Montana, where my head is often bedecked with a bandana as I cook in the camp kitchen.  Our valley is filled with deer and antelope as the breeze blows the bows on the pines and aspens.  And just over the mountain from us is Yellowstone National Park, where the bison and bears attract photographers from around the world.  It is a wild land, one I never quite imagined as I sang those campfire songs so long ago.

Yet God knew I would be here.  He had a plan and prepared me for it in His own way and time.  He also has another home He is preparing for me in heaven, because He knows I’m coming.  There the mountains will be more majestic than any on earth, and the valleys will be lush with vegetation.  The animals will play freely in the fields of rainbow-kissed wildflowers.  The wolf will lie down with the lamb (Isaiah 11:6).  I won’t worry about bills to pay, sickness, or troubles of this earth.  There will be no more tears (Revelation 7:17).  It will more wonderful than I could ever imagine.  And with all believers, I will sing praise to God around the eternal campfire of His throne.  “Holy, holy, holy.”

And one cried to another and said:“ Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!”

Isaiah 6:3  (NKJV)

New King James Version (NKJV)Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.