Word Review

This year will be the tenth year I’ve chosen a “Word of the Year.”  This has meant so much to me; it’s been hugely impactful in my life every year.  I thought before announcing my new word I would give a review of all the previous ones.  It’s almost like God gave them to me in a sequential order, with each one building upon the previous one.  Often, I would see several of my words in a single passage (as you’ll see below).

2009 — Hold

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  –Hebrews 10:23

He is before all things; in Him all things hold together.  –Col. 1:17

2010 — Way

For the ways of the Lord are right.  –Hosea 14:9

You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of Your presence.  –Acts 2:28

2011 — Trust

Don’t let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God, and trust also in me.  –John 14:1

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise.  Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.  –Hebrews 10:23-24

2012 – Refuge

In Thee O LORD, do I seek refuge; let me never be put to shame; in thy righteousness deliver me!  Incline thy ear to me, rescue me speedily!  Be thou a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!  –Psalm 31:1-2

It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.  It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.  –Psalm 118:8-9

2013 – Journey

When our days there were ended, we departed and went on a journey.  –Acts Acts 21:4

The angel of the Lord came a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, or the journey will be too much for you.  –1 Kings 19:7

2014 – Presence

But now, by giving Himself completely at the cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in His presence.  –Colossians 1:22

Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.  If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your hand will lay hold of me. –Psalm 119:7-9

2015 – Pain

I know all about their pain.  And now I have come down to help them.  –Exodus 3:7-8

He took our suffering on Him and felt our pain for us.  –Isaiah 53:4

2016 – Worship

I was caught up at once in deep worship.  –Revelation 4:2

The best preparation for worship is not rehearsal, but surrender.  –A. W. Tozer

2017 – Cast

Cast all your anxieties on Him, for He cares about you.  –1 Peter 5:7

The twenty-four elders will fall down before Him, who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.  –Rev. 4:10-11

Truly these words have been a huge help to me in my life.  God speaks personally through words, images, messages, situations, difficulties.  It’s been really powerful to see each of these words work in my life.  The lessons from them have been progressive. I had to hold onto Him more deeply before I could understand His ways; then I was in a position to start trusting Him more once I understood Him better.  I found myself in a safe refuge of protection but the next thing you know, I was on a journey of more discovery.  I sought to be more aware of His presence, especially in times of emotional and physical pain.  The result was that I began to worship Him in all situations as I learned to cast all anxieties and concerns upon Him.  The next post will reveal my new word for 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Otterberg, Germany

Now it was time to visit Otterberg, Germany again.  I love this town where our ancestors lived in the early 1700’s.  This was Sarah’s first chance to see the area, and though their Christmas market was over it still was beautifully decorated inside the church.

I wonder if our ancestors gazed upon the same rose window?

Did they use these same decorative door handles?

Or touch this podium?

Hans Nicolaus Kuntz was the almoner of the village in 1703; did he stand in front of the congregation (like I do) and ask people to donate to the needs of children in poverty?

Surely they used this well to collect water before embarking on the long migration to Ireland in 1709, due to their own hardship when Austrian troops came through and overtook their home.

Surely they walked these same streets and were happy to see familiar buildings when they returned from Ireland in 1718.

How thrilled they must have been to see the church again, only to bid farewell to it for the last time when they immigrated to the New World in 1735.

Some beautiful carvings remain behind; perhaps these tell the stories of these brave, strong people.

 

Words of a Song

Often the words of a song are exactly what the heart needs to hear.  When I was still hurting from a bike accident three weeks later, these words of a chorus were wonderful to hear:

He knows my name.

He knows my every thought.

He sees each tear that falls

And hears me when I call.

–Francesca Battistelli

There are so many great choruses and hymns.  I’ve been writing many of the individual lyrics into my journals this year:

O God, our Help in ages past,

Our Hope for years to come.

Be Thou my Guide while life shall last

And our eternal Home

–Isaac Watts

What have I to dread?  What have I to fear?

Leaning on the everlasting arms!

I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,

Leaning on the everlasting arms!

–Elisha A. Hoffman

Israel’s strength and consolation,

Hope of all the earth Thou art.

Dear, desire of every nation,

Joy of every longing heart.

–Charles Wesley

 

Help When In Need

As you may know, I had a bicycle accident in Jackson this summer.  I ended up with two sprained wrists, a sprained ankle, bruised ribs and a contusion of the liver.  Since I was alone at my dad’s house I had to drive myself to the hospital and back, and didn’t get to bed until 3:30am.  In addition to being unable to breathe deeply for the next three weeks it was extremely painful.  While at the hospital I was not able to take any pain killers because I would need to drive myself back to the house.  When I arrived home and tried to open the bottle of pills I couldn’t twist the cap or hold it to twist with the other hand.  I thought, “What would Daddy do?” and put the bottle on the kitchen counter and whacked at it with a hammer until I got it opened!

That week was difficult; I could barely get in and out of bed, walk, breathe or even stay awake.  I’d arranged for a plumber to come to the house for repairs, but slept most of the time he was there.  My body was really in shock.  It helped me relate to what my dad had suffered with COPD, and what my mother had undergone with cancer regarding CT Scans and awaiting results (the doctor had originally said that I had a blood clot in my liver completely unrelated to the accident, but later decided it was trauma related).  When I drove back home to Buffalo (normally a 6-7 hour trip) it took 10 hours because I had to pull over to sleep so often.

I’m doing much better now, although I’m still strengthening my left wrist and hand through occupational therapy.  My problems were nothing compared to what others have:  I pray every day for friends that are dealing with cancer and other serious illnesses, and can’t even begin to relate to the struggles and fears they may have.

But I do want to share about the faithfulness of God in my hours of need when I wasn’t even sure I could get through the night.  In my normal, daily devotions He spoke very clearly and assuredly to me.  The first verse is the one I read while lying in the emergency room, awaiting various tests, and it gave me the peace and certainty that He was in this with me and would see me through it.  It was June 26 so I’d looked up Psalm 26:

Examine me, God, from head to foot, order your battery of tests.  Make sure I’m fit inside and out so I never lose sight of your love, but keep in step with you, never missing a beat.  –Psalm 26:2-3 (MSG)

From there, everything else I read the rest of the week was equally timely and encouraging, and was right in my regular readings each day:

Just as Joseph and the psalmist keep turning to God and trusting Him to turn evil into good, so we, too, must keep looking to God in difficult times.  —One Year Book of Psalms, 6/27

Since all that I meet shall work for my good, the bitter is sweet, the medicine food:  though painful at present, ’twill cease before long; and then O how pleasant the Conqueror’s song.  –John Newton

Show us your mighty power, come to rescue us!  Turn us again to yourself, O God.  Make your face shine down upon us.  Only then will we be saved.  –Psalm 80:2b-3 (NLT)

Now I will take the load from your shoulders; I will free your hands from their heavy tasks.  You cried to me in trouble, and I saved you; I answered out of the thundercloud and tested your faith when there was no water in Meribah.  –Psalm 81:6-7 (NLT)

Happy the child who in thunder-claps detects the Father’s voice.  There is no fear in love, because perfect love casteth out the fear that hath torment.  –F. B. Meyer

Yes, there were thunderstorms that week in Jackson when I was sleeping nearly all day and night.  And yes, that last quote had my Word of the Year in it–“cast!”  I”m thankful He met with me in my need and assured me of His presence.

 

 

God is Real–Part Five

How do I know God is real?  It simple: I’ve experienced Him in amazing ways.  Today’s example is pretty zany and funny.  I was in the Dominican Republic with my friend, Mindy, to introduce her to her sponsored child (I had already met him on a previous trip, and Mindy had become his sponsor).  We were headed to the Haitian border the next day but on this particular day we were returning from a trip by van into the country.  During a rest stop I went to get back on the bus, not knowing that they were hosing it down on the opposite side.  With a great whoosh! all the mud, grease and grime came flying up from under the van and splattered all over my khaki pants.  They were blackened from the grease and mud.

In the morning, after my shower, I said to Mindy, “I’m going to wear the same pants that got splattered yesterday, because I’ll just get them dirty again today,” and put them on.  She said, “Those aren’t the same pants; they’re perfectly clean.”  I looked down and she was right.  She didn’t believe they were the same pants, and we argued while I let her look through my luggage because I didn’t have any other khakis.  But they were now spotless.  She exclaimed, “Jesus did the laundry while we were sleeping!”  Now, I know that seems ridiculous, but think about it:  as we discussed, we were heading to child development centers to visit precious Compassion kids near the Haitian border.  Perhaps it was important that we appear clean and spotless, representing our Lord, and also give honor to the children, by giving them our best.  That was the only reason we could think of for the little “miracle” that day.  Our God is real!  But the next story is going to be amazing–watch for it on Friday!

For previous posts in my “God is Real” series, click below:

God is Real–Part One (a baby that nearly didn’t make it to birth)

God is Real–Part Two (a specific healing, and one that was not a healing)

God is Real–Part Three (a hurtful e-mail)

God is Real–Part Four (pain)

God is Real–Part Four

How do I know God is real? I’ve experienced Him in extraordinary ways; it’s as simple as that. To read what I’ve written in previous posts of this series, click here:

God is Real–Part One (a baby that nearly didn’t make it to birth)

God is Real–Part Two (a specific healing, and one that was not a healing)

God is Real–Part Three (a hurtful e-mail)

God is Real–Part Five (a zany miracle)

Here is another example of my experience with God, proving Himself real to me.  Years ago I had a skiing accident and tore my ACL.  It was repaired and I recovered well, with the help of physical therapy.  Then, several years later (perhaps 20 years ago now) I went to a couple’s home for a farewell party and their dog came running out to greet us.  Since it was heading towards my bad knee I twisted to avoid it.  Just like that, my knee gave out, for the first (and only) time since surgery.  I couldn’t walk on it and was soon in surgery for an arthroscopic procedure to see what was injured.  The ACL was broken loose and balled up in the center, so the doctor removed it through the tiny incision.  I was supposed to undergo physical therapy for a few weeks, recover from the surgery, and then have the ACL repaired.  For a while I was getting better, and no longer needed to use crutches.  But after about six weeks I realized I was getting worse again and eventually had to use crutches again, due to the pain.  Surgery was not possible until we could discover what was going on with the knee.  After bone scans, a spinal tap and more physical therapy, it was decided that my knee had developed Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD).  As I understand it, it’s a nerve related disease with no apparent reason for the pain (it is now known as “Complex Regional Pain Syndrome).  It has to do with messages being relayed by the nerves back and forth from the brain.  We decided against knee surgery to repair the ACL and, in fact, my knee was very stable, surgery didn’t seem necessary, and it was not recommended with this new problem of pain.

Now fast forward a few years.  They had said that “RSD” could develop anywhere in my body, and when I needed surgery in both shoulders for bone spurs, they were reluctant to do the procedure, and put it off as long as possible, for fear that RSD would develop.  But the pain was getting worse and we eventually decided to do one shoulder; the result was great.  We waited six months; I healed up from the surgery and had no RSD causing further problems, so we decided to do the other shoulder.  However, as soon as I began to recover from the second surgery, I became aware of the fact that “RSD” was now in several areas–both knees, my neck, and both shoulders.  I couldn’t reach for items in the kitchen cabinets without deep pain; it hurt to open a door or even carry a purse.  I could hardly function in normal ways.  One night, I prayed to God, “I can’t handle this.  You’re the only One that can heal me, and I ask you to heal me.  I can’t function.”

Lo and behold, when I awoke in the morning the pain was gone, 100%, even in my knee.  I knew I didn’t need to take the Tylenol that I has been taking each morning.  There was NO pain.  I didn’t take anything for over a month.  And then the pain returned, but only in the knee.  Why?  I believe He allowed the pain to return in one area in order to remind me that everyone has some kind of pain.  Think about it:  you do somewhere–relational, financial, spiritual, or in some other area.  Somebody you love has died, or will die soon.  Some relationship is not quite what you’d hoped it would be.  Parenting is hard.  Jobs are difficult.  You’re frustrated with politics or the church or your community.  Everyone has pain.

I’ll never forget the fact that God healed me overnight, and that it lasted a full month.  I’ll never forget that others around me are hurting, too.  I’ll never go running to another doctor to see if he or she can heal my knee; I already know that God is the One who can heal it, and He will if He chooses.  Previous to this I had gone to many different doctors and was receiving suggestions coming from lots of people about how to find healing.  I no longer need to run around to every doctor and clinic.  I’m OK with the pain; I can live with it and be thankful every day that it isn’t my back, or a more serious condition.  I use a great knee brace when standing for any length of time.

Do I ever go to doctors any more?  Of course, but I’m no longer looking for answers to this knee problem.  Why doesn’t God heal every disease and pain for good?  I don’t know.  He will when we arrive in Heaven, assuming we have trusted Him with our lives and salvation.  But I do know, for certain, that He’s real.  I’ve experienced His instantaneous healing more than once.  A month without pain was heavenly, literally; how much better will the real place be!

Innocent

Here is the last set of quotes this week.  As promised, the first quote is a continuation of the previous quote I mentioned.  We don’t behave perfectly all the time, but nevertheless we can be certain we are innocent before our Heavenly Judge:

Justification declares the sinner righteous, but it is external to the man.  That is, the justified man may be no better off for his justification if that is all that happened to him.  Justification is a judicial thing.  Just as a man may stand before the court and be declared innocent of a crime — not guilty, and yet it does not change the man inside.  He weighs exactly the same as he weighed before; stands at the same height, with the same color of hair and eyes as before. He has the same relationships and in every way is the same man he was before.  The only difference, he is judicially free, declared not guilty before the law.  — A. W. Tozer, My Daily Pursuit, pg. 184

Of course he doesn’t leave us that way if we truly seek Him in repentance and offer Him our hearts:

In the history lesson of Psalm 78, we find the Israelites following the Lord “only with their words.”  They knew what to say, but they didn’t know how to live.  They would come to God’s Temple with sacrifices but they would not offer him their hearts.  “I want you to be merciful,” God said,  “I don’t want your sacrifices.”  The people were going through the motions, but not letting God’s emotions go through them.  —One Year Book of Psalms, 6/21

Repentance is primarily a change of moral purpose, a sudden and often violent reversal of the soul’s direction.  The prodigal son took his first step upward from the pigsty when he said, “I will arise and go to my father.”  As he had once willed to leave his father’s house, now he willed to return.”  — A. W. Tozer

The atonement (the fact that Jesus lived a perfect life for us, and died a perfect judgment for us on the cross, and truly did rise again from the dead as proof) makes all the difference in the world and can even change the inside of a man, though we will never be perfect until Christ returns.  How do I know Jesus did rise from the dead?  See my previous “God is Real” posts — Part 1, Part 2, Part 3!

Atonement is the basis upon which God acts toward humanity.  Atonement makes justification possible, and justification leads to regeneration.  This is the work of God outside of a man that has the potential to change the inside of a man.  Regeneration takes place at the same time justification takes place…A regenerated man is a man [or woman] who partakes of the divine nature, a man who has a new relation to God, which gives him eternal life.  –A. W. Tozer, My Daily Pursuit, pg. 185

But now we are seeing the righteousness of God declared quite apart from the Law (though simply testified by by both Law and prophets)–it is a righteousness imparted to, and operating in, all who have faith in Jesus Christ.  (For there is no distinction to be made anywhere: everyone has sinned, everyone falls short of the beauty of God’s plan).  Under this divine system a man who has faith is now freely acquitted in the eyes of God by his generous dealing in the redemptive act of Christ Jesus.  God has appointed him as the means of propitiation, a propitiation accomplished by the shedding of his blood, to be received and made effective in ourselves by faith.  God has done this to demonstrate his righteousness both by the wiping out of the sins of the past (the time when he withheld his hand), and by showing in the present time that he is a just God and that he justifies every man who has faith in Jesus Christ. What happens now to human pride of achievement?  There is no more room for it.  Why, because failure to keep the Law has killed it?  Not at all, but because the whole matter is now on a different plane–believing instead of achieving.  We see now that a man is justified before God by the fact of his faith in God’s appointed Savior and not by what he has managed to achieve under the Law.  — Romans 3:21-28 (PHI)

From there, we can encourage one another in our relationship with Jesus, our Savior.  The apostle Paul spent much time in prison writing to believers in various places, encouraging them in their faith.  Here is just one example of many, beautifully expressed in the J.B. Phillips translation:

I wish you could understand how deep is my anxiety for you…How I long that you may be encouraged, and find out more and more how strong are the bonds of Christian love.  How I love for you to grow more certain in your knowledge and more sure in your grasp of God himself.  May your spiritual experience become richer as you are more and more full of God’s great secret, Christ himself.  For it is in him, and in him alone, that men will find all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge…in spirit I am by your side, watching like a proud father the solid steadfastness of your faith in Christ.  Just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so go on living in him–in simple faith.  Grow out of him as a plant grows out of the soil it is planted in, becoming more and more sure of the faith as you were taught it, and your lives will overflow with joy and thankfulness.  –Colossians 2:1-7 (PHI)

And now, if you haven’t already, go back and read my “God is Real” posts, to see why I’m so certain that all of this is true — Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.