All posts in Investing in Heaven

Jesus is My Mouthwash

Recently, while reading through the Psalms, I noticed the reoccurring phrase of how man is just a vapor, a fleeting breath.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had bad breath. Serious. Bad. Breath.

It made me wonder what kind of breath I’d be if my life’s breath could be smelled and rated on say a 1-10 scale. Or for that matter, if all our lives could be rated on our life’s breath, maybe like the Olympics–cards would be held up with 7.5, 8.1, 6.3… (Of course the Russians would always be lowest.)

Some would say my cards would be high and my heavenly breath good because of caregiving or other good works, but I know better. I know my hidden thoughts and insidious pride.

I’ve thought about life’s breath a lot lately. One of my new friends in North Carolina died Friday. Her death came both suddenly and quickly. One day she was at church, and over the next few weeks, she went from the hospital to home to Hospice to heaven.

I miss her.

She wouldn’t stand out in a crowd. A rather ordinary-looking, middle 70-ish woman who of course drove a Buick.

She was the first to greet us in our new church. Each week I could count on her pleasant smile and kind words. She always asked about my bed-bound mom or how farming was going with us. Or how my son was doing in Florida.

But it never stopped at just words. Her actions backed up her strong faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

She called almost every week to check on Mom and update the prayer list. One evening, on a particularly difficult night for me, she corralled chickens and even helped me make a gallon of salsa for an event I attended.

There were other acts of kindness that I am not allowed to discuss because those were her terms. If she did something for us, Tom and I couldn’t tell anyone.

She had fresh breath. It was made fresh by Jesus.

Mine, too.

Our human effort smells foul to God. Isaiah stated that all our best works are like filthy rags. A negative number on the vapor/breath scale.

Yet, by Christ’s atoning work, he makes our life-breath clean. Pure. Acceptable to God.

I’ll miss my friend, but I’m not sorry she’s gone. She’s breathing heavenly air. Air I long to breathe one day.

Fresh. Eternal. Jesus-filled.

But for now, I’ve got to think about my breath here. Do I smell like heaven, or do people move away?

What about you?

 

 

How I Met My Mother

Mom and Silas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I surprised my parents with my birth when Mom was pushing forty. They thought the child-rearing role was behind them with my two older sisters. The Almighty had other plans.

My memories of Mom are vague until I reached almost school-age. Even then, the pictures in my brain are foggy and mysterious. Always a sturdy woman, she towered over me. Her stomping walk resembled that of a duck–feet turned out, head erect, eyes forward–she moved so quickly my two little legs could never keep up.

No one is stronger than my mom, I thought.

I moved through the terrible teens, and managed through my twenties. After my first child was born, my parents retired from serving as officers in The Salvation Army and moved about four miles up the street from our family.

Fast forward a few years and our roles began to change. I accompanied them to doctor visits as their health declined. I checked on them and made a few of their weekly meals.

Fourteen years ago, they moved in with our family of four and it felt right.

But it was hard.

My uniquely passionate father died six years later after two leg amputations. My mother stood by him through it all–his rock–although she wasn’t as sturdy as she’d been. Her shoulders slumped, her hands didn’t work, and she walked with a cane.

It’s like I met her for the first time. Although she appeared strong, she wasn’t. She simply did what needed to be done. Caring for my dad–a full-time job–her family, and her congregation from the Salvation Army where my parents served.

Now I’m caring for her.

She’s ninety-five years old and probably doesn’t have much time to live. Through these fourteen years of caregiving, I’ve experienced a range of emotions from anger to resentment to deep sadness, even despair. But recently, when I look at my mama’s creased face, I’m filled with love and compassion and mercy.

It’s a God thing.

In fact, the similarities between how I feel about my new grandson and my mother are astounding.

The time with Silas as a baby is quickly slipping away. The time left with Mom will be over soon. Both are precious.

Both are completely dependent on someone to care for them and protect them. They each have personality traits to be discovered and encouraged.

I know I’m a writer, but I couldn’t possibly put on paper the emotions I experience with them on a daily basis.

Each evening I’m with Silas I sing a special made-up song and watch him smile and try to sing along.

Every night, I slip into Mom’s room, hold her hand and sing, All night, all day, angels watching’ over me, my Lord. All night, all day, angels watching over us. Then I pray.

She used to sing with me each night, but lately she will sing a word or two or not at all, but I know she hears.

What am I trying to say?

Solomon said it best in Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die.”

And both should be experienced and treasured to their fullest.

Happy New Year! I pray that your lives will be lived in the light of the joy of eternity.

 

 

 

Dancing With Dolls

Life is full of surprises. And sometimes you get a blessing from a place you least expect it.

That happened to me today.

My husband and I–along with a friend–visited an older man from our church at the VA Medical Center in Salisbury, North Carolina. We’d never met him before.

We entered his tidy room with an attractive wood floor. He sat in his computer chair while we made our introductions. Jesus hats were placed on a display shelf along with pictures of his family.

“I’ve had three different kinds of cancer. The last one took my arm.”

The hour and a half flew by. He smiled a lot. So did we. We laughed and prayed, too.

“When I was six years old, a preacher visited my father in the field at our dairy farm and asked if I could attend Bible School at his church. At first, Dad said no but after 45 minutes he agreed just so he could get back to work. The catch was the preacher had to pick me up and take me home.”

He went on to tell of how his family ended up that attending church and coming to know the Lord. I wondered if the preacher that spent 45 minutes in a field ever knew the little boy who he picked up from Bible School went on to be both a preacher and a missionary.

The older man went on, “I try to enjoy myself and be involved. I’ve figured out how to move this thing around in circles, and back and forth.” He pointed to the motorized wheelchair. “So the other night, a little girl visited, along with her doll, Marianne.”

He smiled and leaned forward. “I had them attach the doll to my chair and I pretended to dance with her all around the hall. Everyone laughed and clapped.”

“But when Marianne the doll winked at me, that just cracked me up!” He threw his head back and cackled. So did we.

Soon it was time to go. As we walked out, he stopped us.

“I just want to tell you one more thing. At first, when they took off my arm, I had trouble, but then, I felt the Lord wanted me to praise Him for the loss of my arm. It took a while, but when I did, I got my joy back.”

I’ve paraphrased his words but I won’t forget them. In fact, when I arrived home, I shared them with my 94-year-old mama. We figured we should praise Him, too. Not just because we have two arms, but for all of God’s blessings and trials–which are blessings in disguise.

And we did.

And we had joy.

Thanks for that blessing, Ron.

 

Giving God’s Currency

It’s Christmas and my credit card is not in the red. In fact, I’m not using it at all. Here’s how Tom and I are celebrating this year. I shared some thoughts on mtlmagazine.

https://mtlmagazine.com/money/

 

 

When the Roll is Called Up Yonder

The sound of the mellow horn rose from the hickory wood floor to the high ceiling. I began with My Jesus I Love Thee and ended with When the Roll is Called Up Yonder. As the sound rose, so did my spirit.

Heaven. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. It began with my father’s death seven years ago. And studying I Cor. 15 for nine months lured my mind back.

Now there’s mom. Weaker and weaker, I believe 2015 may be the year she enters glory. I’m okay with that. For crying out loud, she’s 94! And to think a doctor told her she wouldn’t live past her 20′s. I’m glad she did.

So this morning, I entered her room before the caregiver came and I read to her from the Psalms. And then we sang His Name is Wonderful. Then I went to prayer and used the Salvation Army Songbook. Here is a song I read this morning written by Isaac Watts:

“There is a land of pure delight, where saints immortal reign; infinite day excludes the night, and pleasures banish pain. There everlasting spring abides, and never-withering flowers; death, like a narrow sea divides this heavenly land from ours.

“Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood stand dressed in living green; so to the Jews old Canaan stood, while Jordan filled between. But timorous mortals start and shrink to cross this narrow sea, and linger, shivering on the brink, and fear to launch away.

“O could we make our doubts remove, those gloomy thoughts that rise, and see the Canaan that we love with unbeclouded eyes! Could we but climb where Moses stood and view the landscape o’er. Not Jordan’s stream, nor death’s cold flood, could fright us from the shore.”

And then I played my horn. Not well–but with feeling. Five or six songs, all about Jesus and hope and heaven.

And I rested. Not in my work, but in the finished work of Christ on the cross that began in Bethlehem and ended in the resurrection.

But there is more to come–kind of like a sequel that’s actually better. It involves Christ’s second coming and then heaven. Eternity with my Lord. That is something to celebrate. The Gift that keeps on giving long after Christmas is passed.

I’m ready to cross that narrow sea. Are you?