Praying the Lord's Prayer

   It has only been in recent years that I decided to put some time into the study of this prayer and to really contemplate the wording and flow of it. It is the model prayer that our Lord prayed when His disciples asked Him to "teach us to pray".

 Our Father,

  Sit quietly and consider this brief opening to the prayer. The Creator, the One who spoke all things into being, the One who is and was and is to come. The Alpha, the Omega, the Beginning and the End.......and we call Him Father.

 In heaven,

 In heaven, high and lifted up, far above us in might and majesty, full of grace and truth, Ruler of all, think of the majesty and might and grandeur as you speak these two small words.

hallowed be Your name,

 Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty! Isaiah saw a vision of the Lord, high and lifted up, he was so overcome with the holiness of the vision that he cried out " Woe is me! I am undone, for I am a person of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips!" God is holy. His name is holy! As you speak these words consider His holiness and pray that you will proclaim the holiness of His name, that our lives would proclaim the holiness of His name.

 Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

 Pray that the work of God will be done in all areas of your life, in the lives of your loved ones, in the halls of government, in the counsels of the nations. Pray for the strength and wisdom to walk out His will and declare His kingdom. Pray that we His people will show forth to the world a piece of heaven on earth in the manner in which we live and love and have our being.

Give us this day our daily bread,

 Consider the things that you have been given and be thankful for them, pray for that which is needed in order to live a life pleasing to God, enough that You might not sin against Him in coveting or thievery, but not so much that you forget that it is in Him that you have life and provision.

 and forgive us our debts,

 Pause and consider the great debts you owe, and how Christ by His own doing willingly paid your debt. Consider how many times a day you fail to even think of God, consider the things that you ought do but do not do, consider the things that you ought to have said but did not say, consider those things that you ought not to have done but you did do, and the things you said in anger, in frustration, things that ought not have been said. There is much to consider as you read these brief words.

 as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Forgive the ones who have wronged you. Remember that this is not a feeling, it is an action and it is difficult. You may not feel it, and I find it sometimes helpful to just tell God, such and such hurt me greatly, I am bruised, I am angry, I am frustrated and I feel no love towards them, Lord help me, I forgive them, I give all this hurt to You and I ask that You would help me work through these things, so that my feelings would become at some point, aligned with my decision to forgive.

 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

 Pray to be spared temptation, pray for eyes that clearly see temptation for what it is, pray for deliverance from temptation, and pray to be kept from evil, to be spared from contending with evil, and pray for discernment to recognize evil.

 

 Our Father, high and lifted up, holy and mighty, may Your name be kept holy in my thoughts words and deeds today, and in the thoughts words and deeds of those I love and of all those who call You Father. May the world in all it's misery see the holiness of Your name when they interact with we Your people. May Your kingdom come today, in my life and in all that I do may I be about bringing Your kingdom to the hurting ones, the hopeless ones, the sick ones, and the desperate ones that You bring into my path this day. May Your kingdom come in such a way that we glimpse a tiny bit of heaven here on this broken earth. May Your will be done in our lives today, as we seek to live for Your kingdom.

 Give us this day that which we need to live it well, to live it with purpose, to live it in faith, to live it as a declaration to others of Your grace and Your mercy towards we who have been given the privilege to call You Father. Give us enough that we might not be tempted to sin against You in our want and desire, and not so much that we forget that all that we have is given to us by You, not so much that we think we provide for our families, not so much that we think that we built this life we have.

 Forgive us our sins, and help us to be more aware of them. We error against You a multitude of times and do not even pause to realize our error. May we be conscious of our actions always, may we guard our tongues and speak only words of life. Forgive us when we fail, for we will fail in our frailty, in our humanness. Forgive us Father and help us to learn from our mistakes. Lead us away from temptation and into Your truth and light. May we hear Your voice clearly if we are about to stray from the path, may we be given the strength to resist the temptation to go our own way and may we be given the grace to repent should we fail. Deliver us from evil, may we recognize it clearly, may we be given strength and wisdom to always resist it.

 For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever.

Amen

 I highly recommend these podcasts if you are interested in studying the depth and riches of the Lord's Prayer. I have found myself going back to these for a listen from time to time.

http://poddirectory.com/podcast/143644/the-lords-prayer-lord-teach-us-to-pray



Good News for the Troubled Believer

 O Lord, you have searched me and known me! He knows me, He knows you!

You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. He knows everything about us, knows these jumbled thoughts that sometimes race through our head where we try to make sense of all this suffering within us, around us.

Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. He knows the words we will speak before they are formed on our tongues. And I cannot help but think of my experience with animals when I read that last stanza, how many times I have dealt with a frightened or wounded animal, speaking softly, working gently as I quietly and patiently hem it in and reach that point where I can place my hand upon it. God hems us in, as we thrash about, wounded and frightened and seeking to escape, gently He speaks to our heart, hems us in and places His hand upon us.

 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. We are unable to fully wrap our minds around the amazing love that God has for us. It is indeed too wonderful, too high, too lofty, too outrageously gracious for us to fully comprehend.
  
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. There is no place where He is not! NO PLACE! He dwells in every corner of this earth, He dwells in every place. He is in the hospitals, He is on the streets, He is in the war torn places, He is in the prisons, He is! There is no place where He is not!

 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. He is there in the dark places, the dark nights of the soul. He is there with the loved one that you have not heard from in months, He is there with the loved one who is seemingly alone in the darkness. He is there with you when you feel only darkness. Not only is He there in the darkness, the darkness is as light to Him. In the places where we cannot see where to step next, when there is no clear door to walk though, when all seems hopeless and night is never ending......He is there, He sees clear, it is Light.

 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. We are created, by a loving Creator, One who cares for us, watches us, knows us, knows all our tomorrows and One who has His hand upon us. Trust Him. Walk in Him, and in the knowledge that He has not only today but all your tomorrows. When you cannot see, walk as a blind person who leans upon the hand on their shoulder.

 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you. This entire Psalm sounds out of how precious we are to God, how He searches us, knows us, knows our ways, knows always where we are and is always with us, so when we consider how precious His thoughts are I believe these are His thoughts about us. Consider the grains of sand upon a single beach, or a single desert, or even the grains of sand in a single child's sandbox. That's a lot of sand, a lot of thoughts. God thoughts. We who call Him Father are most richly blessed. It is beyond understanding and impossible to fully grasp the grandeur and the wonder and the certainty and safety of being blessed to call Him Father.

 "They said, if you assume a grain of sand has an average size and you calculate how many grains are in a teaspoon and then multiply by all the beaches and deserts in the world, the Earth has roughly (and we're speaking very roughly here) 7.5 x 1018grains of sand, or seven quintillion, five hundred quadrillion grains."
 
  ""The first fruit of love is the musing of the mind on God. He who is in love, his thoughts are ever upon the object. He who loves God is ravished and transported with the contemplation of God. "When I awake, I am still with thee" (Psalm 139:18). The thoughts are as travelers in the mind. David's thoughts kept heaven-road. "I am still with Thee." God is the treasure, and where the treasure is, there is the heart. By this we may test our love to God. What are our thoughts most upon? Can we say we are ravished with delight when we think on God? Have our thoughts got wings? Are they fled aloft? Do we contemplate Christ and glory?... A sinner crowds God out of his thoughts. He never thinks of God, unless with horror, as the prisoner thinks of the judge."
Author: Dallas Willard

 I read this Psalm this morning in my devotions. Such perfect timing, such needed grace. I was a bit down, having just finished reading the pleas of a mom who is in such fear for her son, having just read of more death and destruction in war torn places, having just tried to get my mind around the jumbled and troubled thoughts disturbing my own soul. I pray this beautiful Psalm touches your heart as it has mine today.

Be blessed.

Thanksgiving 2015

  Today is Thanksgiving, and for some reason that strikes me as odd that one day out of the year could be called Thanksgiving Day, as if there is nothing to be thankful for on the other 364 days, or as if I could possible store up all the grace, all the blessings and then sit down with family on this one day and give thanks for them all. The table would break under the weight of all that grace!

  Every day ought to be Thanksgiving Day. A grateful heart is good medicine for the soul; in fact it is the key to a healthy soul. It took me over 50 years to realize this and it took me that long to realize that every day is so full of His grace that even when I try and capture it all I fail utterly and completely. Some days I fail in even attempting to capture the blessings.

 A few years ago, God used a little book and a wonderful lady from Washington State, to teach me about gratitude, or at least to start me on the journey of learning about gratitude. Times were hard then, it had been a long dark night of the soul with no end in sight. My little family had sent a loved one to war twice, had spent near two years holding our breath and trying to be normal while a dear one fought in faraway lands. We were also dealing with a dark and painful mental illness here at home, one we did not understand and often could not make sense of. One that took a heavy toll from me, and from both my sons. Then my husband’s company closed their doors and money became extremely tight forcing him to seek work out of state.  For two long years we lived apart, seeing each other one weekend out of the month and talking on the phone each evening.  Then at last the war was over for us, the husband found work here, and it seemed that things were looking up. But the dark mental illness continued and to add to it, the son we had held our breath for was now trying to deal with the aftermath of war and loss. Then we had the first suicide, my beautiful daughter in law who had struggled so hard against the darkness of mental illness. Her death hit like a wrecking ball, a wave of pain so intense, so awful that it just cannot be described.  I had just a few weeks to try and breathe try and make some sense of that which cannot be made sense of, try and keep my son alive and then came the second suicide, my handsome nephew, husband and father of two.  A few weeks after flying home from that funeral, a little book arrived in my mailbox, sent by a kind lady in Washington who had ministered to my daughter in law.

 “One Thousand Gifts, A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are”, by Ann Voskamp. It was almost an affront to receive such a thing at such a time. After all, what did I have to be thankful for?  And yet in reading it I began to see, I began to notice, I began to count the blessings. There were days when all I could come up with were the little things, “thank You Lord for coffee, thank You Lord for dogs” but as I practiced daily this art of counting the gifts I began to notice how blind I had been, and how wonderful it was to finally be able to see. To really see the beauty of life, the beauty of creation, the beauty of souls. My situation was still the same, nothing had changed about it, family members were still struggling hard in absolute darkness, and there were many times when we feared we would lose them to the darkness, feared yet another funeral, and yet something within me had changed.

 Giving thanks changes you, and the more you practice it the more you will be changed. There are ALWAYS the gifts He gives. There is beauty in the hard places, but we so often miss it completely because our lack of gratitude blinds our eyes to all the grace being poured out.

  So today, this Thanksgiving 2015, I give thanks to God most high, for the love, the intense and beautiful love that holds on no matter what, the love that just will not let go, the love that saves and redeems.  I give thanks for family, a family that looks out for each other, sacrifices for each other, and a family that has known pain and become all the stronger from it. I give thanks for beauty, the beauty of creation and the beauty of the human soul in all its suffering and in all its joy. I give thanks for sacrifice, for in sacrificing for others true love becomes known and understood. Love is pouring out your all for others. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, love hurts, your fur gets rubbed off, you get a bit ragged and worn, but oh how worth it is to truly love!  And last, but by no means least, I give thanks for the grace, grace poured out without measure, grace that falls like rain, grace that has sustained me and the ones I so love, grace that has saved and redeemed, grace that has blessed, marvelous outrageous grace.

  My prayer for us all is that the Lord most high would open our eyes to the gifts He gives, that we might always be a people of Thanksgiving, and that He would open our hearts that we might love with a measure of His love, and that we would be people of grace, giving it out to each other, as He gives it out to us.

 May your Thanksgiving Day be blessed. Remember our imperfections as you go about your day. No matter how hard you try, it will not be perfect. So give grace to the loved one that drinks a little more than they should, and grace to the one who arrives late to the table, and grace to the one that is loud and brash and ungrateful, and grace to the one who weeps and disrupts attempts to be happy, and grace to all the other disruptions and mistakes that might somehow mar your attempts for the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving. For it is by grace that we are saved, and He has poured it out on us, so let us pour it out today on each other.

 Remember those with an empty chair at the Thanksgiving table, whether it be those deployed in harm's way, or those deployed to heaven.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Mm

Called To Be A Mom ( A letter to my neice on the day of her baby shower.)

 Jordan,

 

 Today we will all gather together in that crazy ritual known as the “baby shower” where friends and family come together, bringing gifts, playing silly games, we will eat good food as we celebrate and help you prepare for the birth of your first born child.

 There will be a gift there from us, but I wanted to give you something different also, so I write these words for you from my heart.

  Soon you will experience that wonderful moment, the one like nothing else you have ever experienced, nor will there ever be anything to top it, whereby they place that tiny child into your hands, where you gaze upon him for the first time, where you marvel at his perfection, his beauty and where your heart will be filled with a love unlike anything you have ever known. In fact, on that moment you will utterly lose your heart and the person that has been Jordan will in many ways cease to exist and you will become Mom. This losing of you is not a bad thing, in fact it is a wonderful miraculous thing!

 Being Mom has shaped me, changed me, taught me in so many different ways, and it is the thing of which I am most proud in my life, it has been my calling, my purpose and I am forever grateful to God that He called me to be Mom as He is now calling you to be Mom.

 Cherish the moments, hold them close to your heart, and write them down, for these moments pass all too soon. The tiredness, the worry, the frustrations can block out these moments if you are not careful.  When standing by a crib at 2:00 AM, holding a fussy child when all your body wants and craves is a few moments of sleep it is difficult to cherish the moment, the smell of the child, the feel of him against your chest, the grace of the moment where you have been given this blessing of life can easily be overshadowed by the tiredness that motherhood brings. You will fail in achieving this sometimes, the frustration and the tiredness will win, that’s okay, it’s not an easy thing to do, but endeavor to live in the moment, rejoice in the moment, and have faith in the moment for in truth all we have is the right here, right now and each moment is a precious thing.

 Try to hold fast to the wonder of it all, for one day, and you will not know it when this day comes, you will hold them in that way for the last time. One day you will change the last diaper, you will prepare the last bottle, you will struggle with the car seat for the last time, you will dress them for the last time, and you will wipe their nose for the last time (although I confess you will feel the need to do it for them even when they are adults!) The moments are fleeting Jordan; you won’t easily see this yourself, for it is more easily seen from the perspective of those of us who have done these things for the last time. Cherish the moments!

   There will be so many wonderful firsts to celebrate…..his first smile, the first time he rolls over, the first time he crawls, his first steps, his first words, the delight he takes as he sees new things, touches new things, smells and tastes new things, the wonder of it all as you are graced with the task of showing him this big and beautiful world! There will be wonderful Christmas memories, Halloween costumes, birthday parties and sporting events and wonder upon wonder as you watch this child grow!

  And there will be the hard firsts. That first time you drop him off at a daycare or school, where he is with people who are not family, not you…..and that first day when he cries as you drop him off and you must walk away, the first time he is sick, the first time he is hurt by someone, the first time he faces a bully, the first time his heart is broken, the first time he makes a bad mistake, the first time he loses faith in himself, the first time he doubts he can do something, the first time he tastes defeat, …….the hard things of life will hurt, they will break your heart, but cover these things in your prayers from the moment you first hold him, God is faithful, He is shaping a man and He has blessed you to carry all these things in your heart.

Pray Jordan, pray every single day, whisper a thousand prayers, whisper them as he sleeps, as you hold him in your arms, as you watch him crawl and take his first steps……pray, pray, always pray, cover him with a hundred thousand prayers, enough to cover him all the days of his life, for there will be things you cannot protect him from, he will go places that you will not go, he will face moments that you will be unable to step in front of him, nor should you. These are the most difficult times to be a Mom; these are the times when your heart feels as if it will surely die. I have no idea how Mom’s do it without a sure faith in God. Cling to the cross and pray, for God is faithful and God will walk with him all the days of his life and in all the places where you cannot follow. God is with him, and remember always that God loves this child even more than you do! Yet another marvelous truth to rejoice in!

 You will struggle with that last one. How can it be possible that anyone could love this child more than you? You who would lay down life and limb, you would give all your tomorrows to ensure life for this child, you who would willingly endure any hardship, any struggle, take on all the pain, all the sorrow to ensure peace and happiness for the child can find it difficult to truly understand that God loves even more and His love is a pure and perfect one, that will ever seek that which is best for the child. Find rest in that sure knowledge. Whatever comes, God has it all, and He will see you through it.

  So live these years slow, cherish the moments, practice living a life of gratitude and wonder for this beautiful life that God is placing into your hands, this wonderful calling that God is calling you to…….the calling of Mom. Pray, pray and pray some more, pray the prayers on your knees, the prayers on your face, the tired whispered prayers as your head hits the pillow, the joyful prayers as you live out the moments of wonder and beauty…..pray…..pray….pray!  God will guide you, strengthen you, shape you, hold you and use you, in this glorious work He is doing as He brings forth into the world a new little boy child!

 You are going to be a wonderful Mom Jordan Ortega!

 

  Your Auntie Donna

 

 


Save Now!

 

Save Now!

 

  I was chatting with a friend this morning, someone who like me loves someone with PTSD. Our conversation led me to think about how often I have desired for the Lord to save now, to not wait, to not tarry even one more minute, how often we all do this, we who follow Christ.

  We may be fully and completely convinced of His sure ability to save, we may have complete faith in Him, and yet we desperately want Him to come RIGHT NOW, to remove this pain RIGHT NOW, to save RIGHT NOW! It is terribly difficult to walk through pain and sorrow, to watch the ones you love so very much suffer. It is, and remains the most awful thing I have ever felt. I would rather suffer my personal sorrows one hundred thousand times over; than to watch the ones I love most suffer theirs.

  As my friend and I chatted, I begin to think about the day the Lord rode into Jerusalem on a young donkey.  The crowds were so exuberant. They had seen Him heal the sick, seen the blind given sight, seen the lame get up and walk, seen the demon possessed set free, and even seen the dead walk out of their tombs! The people were convinced, they needed no more proof. This was their long awaited Messiah! The kingdom of God was at hand! Their King was entering the gates of the city, seated on a donkey, as so many kings before Him had ridden in. Hosanna! Hosanna! Save now!

  I thought about those people, the ones who had stood at the gates, waving their palm branches and throwing down their cloaks and crying “Hosanna! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!” Hosanna! The word means “save now” or “Please save! I believe they were convinced that He was the One and they were convinced that things were going to change now! Their King had come…….,Yet  how devastated they must have been and how utterly confused when the very next day, they watched Him stumble through the streets carrying a cross, His back beaten bloody, Him so weak that another had to be pulled from the crowd to carry His cross…….save now! Save now! Seems such a foolish cry at this point, for He does not even attempt to save Himself.

 And yet all this had to come to pass, it had to go down in the bloody and tragic way that it did. He had to die in order to pay the price for sin, and He had to die in order to rise alive, and defeat death. But at the time, they certainly couldn’t see it. How downcast and afraid they must have been. How disappointed.

 And yet, if we look back upon that day, as we do today, and we see the majesty of it all, how God did so very much more than what they asked Him to do on that day so long ago, when the King of glory rode into Jerusalem on the back of a young donkey. They wanted an earthly king, they wanted an end to the Roman oppression, they wanted their bodies healed, their bellies to be full, but He was busy bringing eternal life to His people, He was busy crushing the head of the serpent and buying passage to glory for a multitude of souls. He was busy with the work of defeating sin and death once and for all. They just couldn’t see it.

 

  I too have tasted their disappointment. I have cried out with all that is within me, SAVE NOW! I was convinced without a shred of doubt that He was able to save, that He was my only hope, my faith in Him was sure……but He tarried. He did not come on my timetable, He did not save immediately. I too was devastated.  I too cried out for the pain to stop, for the healing to come, and I too wept at the foot of the cross thinking that all that I so longed for, was not coming.

  And yet as I look back, over some six years of the most intense struggles of my life, I see His hand at work. I see how He was doing so much more than what I had asked and longed for. He was saving, and He was building, and He was working. He still is! While I pleaded for the salvation of my loved ones, for their pain to stop, for their healing to come, He was bringing about a change in me, and a change in them, and the salvation and restoration of many, and He was using all that pain, all that hurt, to reach others, and to change lives.

  Hard times will come. Sometimes I wish that the positive movement, the name it and claim it people were right, that just having enough faith will see you heaped with monetary blessing and worldly happiness and that there will never be a single day of pain, or sickness, or mental anguish. But they are wrong. Hard times will come. Trusting God is not easy when they do come. Watching someone you love dealing with a depth of pain almost beyond comprehension is not easy. Laying them down on the altar of God is not easy. Believing that He has it all in His hands and that He intends good for you and yours is not easy. The hard times HURT. Losing people hurts, seeing them make grievous mistakes hurts, making grievous mistakes yourself hurts, being utterly helpless while everything around you is crumbling into pieces hurts.

  But God is faithful. If you can just hold on to that, cling to it with everything in you, and pray like you never prayed before. You will see, like the people who shouted Hosanna, and saw their King crucified, their hopes crushed, and yet lived to see Him rise from the dead, and start His church, and they turned the world upside down, He will turn your world upside down too! He will be victorious in your life, He will and has heard your prayers, He hears your cries of SAVE NOW LORD, but He is working, He is working to do so much more than you could imagine.

  I eagerly await the end of our story, for we have not reached it yet, but I am excited to see what He will do. I see Him moving! I see His hand in so very many things, I have seen people, so many people, blessed by the things that have come out of our struggles, and I can only see a little bit of what He is doing, and He isn’t done yet. It’s gonna be awesome for He is an awesome God.

  So if its hard right now, if it feels like it’s never going to let up, if you, like me are watching things crumble and are helpless to stop it, pray, pray and believe, and in your unbelief ask Him to help you. Fall on your face before Him when you cannot go another step, and then get up and get out there and tell others about Him, share your struggles, share your triumphs, ask for prayer, and pray, pray, pray. The King is coming! He saves! He is faithful!


Life is But a Vapor………….Live it Well: A Tribute to Julie A. Ferguson

  Folks who know me personally know that the last few years have been a struggle for many reasons. A son sent to war, a family struggling because a son is at war, family members lost to suicide and a son returning from war and all the struggles that come in trying to return all the way home.

  Having never been to war, I can only speak from my experience as a Caregiver and parent to someone who has but one thing is certain about coming home from war, it involves far more than stepping onto that aircraft that flies you home. Bringing the physical body home is easy, bringing the whole person home can be a struggle.

  During these years I have learned a lot, I have grown, and I have met a great many wonderful people. Today I would like to speak of one person and honor her memory.

  While attempting, with everything I had in me to assist my veteran in navigating the cold stiff oceans of molasses that can be the VA Healthcare System, I had reached a point of near despair. We just were not getting anywhere, nobody was listening and if they did listen it seemed they often heard something other than what we were attempting to say, until one day the phone rang and on the other end of the line was a lady named Julie Ferguson. She introduced herself as the OIF/OEF Case Worker at the Albuquerque VA that we had been frantically fighting our way through.

  I liked her immediately.  She came off warm and caring and so enthusiastic. You could not help but believe in her sincerity. I liked her even more when we went up to meet her the next day. She began working hard for my veteran right away, and she kept us informed always of what she was doing. Within a short time she had established a bridge for us to stand on while we waited for that far in the future appointment. Along with these things she offered other avenues of help. When she learned we had dropped out of training our veteran’s service dog, for financial reasons she jumped right into that and begin reaching out to our trainer and to Wounded Warriors to try and procure funding to complete the training. She was like a worker bee, flying about from place to place, searching under every rock for the way to get past the obstacles. She was relentless.

 She and I talked a lot on the phone. We felt at ease with each other, and even talked about getting together outside of work and establishing a friendship. I often doubted the VA, doubted the system, and doubted the doctors…..but I never once doubted her. Her sincerity and desire to help were a rock you could stand on. I remember when the bridge she worked so hard to build for us began to crumble, and I was so upset, so at the end of my ability to cope with it all, I was talking on the phone with her, I was crying and I said “Julie, I don’t doubt you for a second, but there is only so much you can do, I feel I need to come down and protest, need to call Channel 7 news, need to do anything and everything I can to make this stop!”………and she got quiet for a moment and then she said.” Donna, let me work on this, if I cannot fix this I will go to Channel 7 with you.” And I believe she would have. As it turned out she was able to fix our crumbling bridge and make it secure enough to walk across.

  On another occasion just before she passed away, we were talking. She was saying how much she loved her job, how much she truly desired to make a difference for her veterans. I was telling her things from my side and some of the experiences these young men had gone through who have fought for us, the things they have done, their courage and sacrifice and she asked me “Donna, what can I do to get to know their side better? I have ordered every book I can on PTSD and TBI and I try to stay informed, but how can I understand their side better.”  I told her about some war memoirs I have read and she was so excited, and wrote down the names so she could order them and read them. She was going to order House to House and Outlaw Platoon!  She truly wanted to understand as best she could what war is like, what the veterans who come to her for help have been through. The things they carry. My respect for her went even higher.

 Because of the struggles we had faced in getting the care needed for my veteran both I and he were somewhat disillusioned and distrusting. Julie would always encourage us. She wrangled an appointment with a doctor that she wanted for my veteran, telling us how she really trusted this doctor and really believed in her. She would tell me how she longed to move time forward so we could just get to the appointment and meet the doctor and be at peace about the care our veteran would receive.

  The day of our appointment arrived. The appointment the day before with another provider had not gone well, so we were not expecting this one to either. I had emailed Julie two or three times and she had not responded, which was very unusual. I assumed that she was ill or perhaps on vacation and since I arrived to the VA ahead of my veteran and with plenty of time I decided to go up to her office to see if she was in.

  Her door was shut, so I assumed she was out of office and turned to walk away when a lady asked me quietly, “who are you looking for?”, and I told her “Julie”. Her face fell and her voice quivered as she said “I am sorry to inform you that Julie passed away on Sunday”. I cannot even put into words the feelings that coursed through me, sorrow, and loss, even guilt that all our conversations had been mostly about me and my veteran and our struggles and that I hadn’t gotten to know her better.

  We went to our appointment apprehensive. We left hopeful. First impressions seem to indicate that this doctor is everything that July said she was.

  Julie Ferguson made a difference in our lives. I am pretty certain that she made a difference in the lives of others also. She was not expecting to die. She had plans, big plans, and she was constantly working on how she could better serve her veterans. Her life is a lesson to us all and there are several things that she taught me in our brief friendship.

  • Never lose hope.
  • Never stop working.
  • If you don’t understand someone’s perspective work to understand. Invest the time to understand.
  • Be a light in the darkness.
  • Love big.
  • Network to make things better.
  • Live like today is your last day. It very well might be.

 

Julie gave us a piece of her heart; I expect she gave a piece out to everyone who came to her for help. I think she had discovered the secret that when one gives out a piece of their heart to others, although it might hurt to so invest yourself, you find that your heart does not diminish, instead it grows larger.

 Julie left us, on Sunday the 4th of October, we will miss her greatly, but before she left she turned the lights on. Where we had struggled through a maze of darkness she switched on a light, plowed through obstacles and opened the door to hope.

 You were right Julie. She is a great doctor and I think we are going to be okay now. You get a huge piece of that, we would not have made it had you not been there switching on the lights.

Go with God Julie Ferguson.  I cannot thank you, so instead I will endeavor to love big, to never lose hope and to be the kind of person who works to turn the lights on for others.

 

Rest in Peace

Julie Ferguson

OIF/OEF/OND Nurse Case Manager

New Mexico VA Health Care System

 

I do not have a photo of Julie so I felt the next best thing would be a photo of Florence Nightingale “The Lady With the Lantern”


 


The Walking Dead

    One of the most popular shows of all time is the series The Walking Dead, which portrays the lives of a small group of people, thrown together by a terrible tragedy whereby the vast majority of the population have turned into zombies and where everyone carries the virus within them that upon physical death they too will become the walking dead.


   I often wonder why we are so drawn to shows like this, where the world civilizations crumble and a handful of people survive? I wonder if its because deep down humanity knows that we are all carrying the virus. We are the walking dead. The Bible tells us in many places that without Christ we are dead in our sins and trespasses. Christ is the Lifegiver, Christ is the Redeemer, Christ is the cure for our walking dead virus. There is no other cure. There are things that we do to alleviate our suffering, Band-Aids that we place upon the gaping wounds of our souls. They work for a time. We search for money, we search for love, we search for gratification, we search for medical assistance, for age defyers, for distractions...... we pursue the spiritual.....we pursue happiness.....we pursue pleasure.....we search and we search, grasping up our various Band-Aids and placing them on our patchwork souls......but in the end to no avail. We are dead and we are powerless to change that.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

For all have sinned and fall short of God's glory.

 During Jesus' time here on earth there was a young man who wanted to follow him, and the young man told the Lord "just let me bury my father and I will come and follow You." But Jesus said to him, "Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead." What did he mean by this?  He was referring to the people of the world, the people without Him. All who do not have Christ are dead.....the walking dead.

 Jesus Christ is the only source, the only hope of peace and life. There is no other. Everything else that we use to attempt to fill the empty spaces of our souls is superficial and non lasting. There is no pill to make us better, there is no purchase that satisfies, there is no person who fills the hole, no pleasure, no distraction.

 King Solomon stated perfectly the results of the life without Christ " I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 1And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.  I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity    and a striving after wind.

What is crooked cannot be made straight,
    and what is lacking cannot be counted.

 I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.

For in much wisdom is much vexation,
    and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow."

All is vanity apart from Christ. All our striving merely superficial and non lasting,

  Jesus came, God Himself clothed in flesh. He lived the perfect life. There was no sin in Him, He did not fail in anything. He perfectly kept the Law and fulfilled everything He came to fulfill. He offered Himself, the perfect spotless Lamb, and died in our place that we might have life. He was buried in the tomb, his body dead and lifeless, wrapped in grave clothes and placed in the earth. On the third day He arose from the dead and appeared to His disciples and hundreds of others. This is the gospel, that we are all dead in our sins, without the means nor power to please God in any way. Yet Jesus, the Redeemer paid the price on our behalf, and in Him and in Him only there is life.

 "So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father  does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son,  that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.  Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. 

 May you hear the voice of Jesus and come out of your tomb and live.



Words

Words spoken fade upon the wind,

If lucky perhaps one or two will be remembered,

Or perhaps people will just say “she spoke often of this or that”

Without really remembering the words.

 

All those conversations,

All those attempts to get your message out,

Lost and forgotten for the most part,

Words spoken fade upon the wind.

 

Written words hold more hope,

They can capture your thoughts

And hold them for a time

Until said time and elements degrade them into dust.

 

I look back on my childhood,

Wishing I could go back

I would take notes this time

I would capture his words on paper.

 

I remember now how he tried so hard to impart his thoughts

Tried to put them into me, make them mine

He prayed for them to stick

But now, all I have is “he spoke often of this or that”.

 

The exact words are lost to me

Words spoken fade upon the wind

I wish I had paid more attention

Wish I had grasped the importance of it all.

 

So now I write words down,

In hopes that one day they will be read

That one day they will be cherished

That one day they will be understood.

 

Words spoken fade on the wind,

Words written crumble to dust over time,

But the Word of the Lord stands forever.

And that is enough for me.


Paradise Lost.....Paradise Regained

 As I wonder about the halls of this huge hospital, constantly reminded at every turn of the suffering that saturates the walls and floors and brick of this enormous building I think of my sister Eve whom I read about in my devotions today. Eve, the only woman who ever walked with God in the garden of perfection, the only woman who was in perfect face to face communion with the Creator.

 As I stand in the tiny hospital chapel, my hand upon the blue notebook filled with the cries of a multitude of people calling out for mercy, calling out for a miracle I was struck by the sharp contrast between what was and what is now.  What was it like to walk in His physical presence? To hear Him call out your name as you wandered about the delightful beauty of a new and perfect creation. I can only imagine.

  As we wade through the suffering of this world our eyes looking forward to the day of deliverance perhaps strength for the journey can be found in considering how terribly difficult it must have been for our sister Eve. To walk out of the garden, head down, tears flowing, the feel of death upon her skin from the raw hides that covered her nakedness. Hides fresh from the bodies of creatures she once frolicked with, perhaps even taking lazy naps with her head upon the flank of the magnificent creature whose skin she now wears. To realize what she has lost, to have witnessed that first death, the death of something innocent slain because of her shortcomings. To wonder how and when death would come to her.

 My sister Eve knows what it is like to stand in the very physical presence of God, to walk with Him, laugh with Him, delight in Him and then to be removed from that presence and cast out. And yet she endured. She endured and she believed in the promise that from her line would come a Savior, one who would crush the serpent that had deceived her. A Savior that would redeem her shame, restore her loss and set her free from the bondage she had willingly chosen.

 History has ever condemned my sister Eve, and yet I do not.. After all, I am certain that had I stood in her place I too would have reached for that fruit, I too would have tasted, and I would have handed some to you. She lost something that I have only dreamed of experiencing and yet she endured that loss and became the mother of all living. She endured.

    So as we walk through this world and all its suffering and need, let us set our sight upon His promises. Promises yet to come, promises of a time when tears are wiped away and sorrows are no more, promises of a time when we who belong to Him will see Him face to face.  Press on towards the goal. Be His hands, His feet, His voice, His heart. Shed the light of His love and sing of His promises. Share the good news of redemption. Endure.

 So I stand here, my hand upon the book filled with the cries of broken people calling out for deliverance and hope and I think of Eve and of Paradise lost. I stand and read the words in Your book of life, I read of your promises of Paradise regained. I stand here and the tears flow as You speak words of life into my soul. I lift up the prayers in the book, Lord hear their cries. I add my prayer to theirs and I leave the tiny chapel with a sure hope in my heart.




http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/what-gospel/

http://byfaithonline.com/a-reformed-presentation-of-the-gospel/

Blessed Are The Merciful

  This week in my daily devotions I have been considering the subject of mercy. The main focus of these devotional readings ( http://www.ifequip.com/category/beatitudes) has been Matthew 5:7.

   Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.

   God blesses those people who are merciful. They will be treated with mercy!

   Blessed are those who show mercy. They will be treated mercifully.

   Happy are the kind and merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.

  They are blessed who show mercy to others, for God will show mercy to them.

  Looking at this one verse, in several different translations shows two clear points. A person will be blessed, and find joy and happiness in the act of being merciful, and God will be merciful to those who grant mercy to others.

    To whom am I to be merciful towards? Should my mercy be extended only to those who have earned it? Is there a certain type of character to whom I am to be merciful? Are there certain types that I should deny mercy to?

  I know of only one method of obtaining any kind of answer to my many questions on this subject. I go to Jesus and observe Him.

  Jesus describes mercy to us in a parable about a king and two debtors. The king forgave the debtor who owed him an enormous sum, a sum so great that it could not be paid back, but the one whose debt was forgiven by the king, ran right out and demanded a paltry sum be paid back right away by a man who owed him money. This man could not pay and begged for time, but the one the king forgave would not allow it and cast him into prison. When news of this reached the king he was very angry, and ordered the man whose debt he had forgiven to be cast into prison until the very last penny had been paid because he who had been forgiven so much, had no compassion and no mercy upon his fellow man who owed a tiny sum in comparison.

  Jesus was clearly merciful to the poor. He stopped by the roadside many times to heal beggars afflicted with leprosy, blindness, and lame. So it is clear that I am to be merciful to those who suffer from poverty or are afflicted by handicap or disease even if those handicaps or diseases are deplorable to society. (look up leprosy during the time of Christ.)

 Jesus extended mercy to the Roman soldier and restored to him his child. Rome was the oppressor in that day, the symbol of a tyrannical government. This did not stop Christ from showing mercy. I am to be merciful to those who oppose me politically, morally and to those who work in support of government and programs that oppose me politically and morally.

  Jesus was merciful to tax collectors, who were hated and despised by Jewish society. They were in a sense considered traitors. By their actions they betrayed their people and assisted the tyrannical government in oppressing them. Yet Christ demonstrated mercy to them. I am to be merciful to traitors and liars and cheats.

 Jesus was merciful to outcasts from society. Women of ill repute, lepers who were considered to be unclean and untouchable. He even touched the untouchable. So I am to be merciful to the untouchables of society.

 Jesus was merciful to the criminal hanging next to Him, one who according to scripture has earlier been mocking along with everyone else. A criminal who could do nothing at all for Christ, who could only call out "remember me, when You come into Your kingdom." Jesus was merciful. I am to be merciful to people without regard for what they can do for me, or have done for me, and regardless of their social stature.

  And last, but not least, in fact the most profound; Jesus was merciful to me! To the one who openly opposed Him, mocked Him, mocked His people, mocked His word, to the one who broke every commandment, to the one who did not extend mercy, who hated, who reviled, who stirred up trouble, who lied, cheated, stole, murdered with my words, to the one that did nothing at all, not one tiny thing to deserve mercy, to the one who earned and fully paid for condemnation with thoughts, words and deeds, HE EXTENDED MERCY. If He, in His outrageous grace, can extend mercy to me, then I should and must endeavor with all of my might to extend mercy to everyone.

 Now to some this is an unthinkable thing. But I think the distress comes from the understanding of what mercy is and how we go about extending it. Mercy does not automatically mean that we dismiss deeds committed by persons. Should someone commit a heinous crime, and murder another, being merciful to this person does not mean excusing their crimes, nor does it mean setting them free from the consequences of that crime. Perhaps mercy to this person would be to pray for them, to still see them as a living, breathing person, to see them as redeemable, to perhaps visit them in prison, or write to them.

  I think that extending mercy to all might become easy were we able to always see the humanity in another, even one who is opposed to us, maybe even hates us, or to one who has done the unthinkable, the awful, the terrible. In order to see the humanity in others I believe we have to see the capacity for inhumanity within us all. 

  There are those who murder with their hands, taking the life of another unjustly and without cause. Then there are those who murder with their lips, defiling the character, judging and condemning another, ruining their life, their peace and their reputation and refusing to extend any possibility of redemption. Both are murder in God's eyes.

  Okay, so I am to be merciful. I am clear on that, the next question is how. How do I extend mercy to the untouchables? Right now, in today's world there exists a group of persons who are hell bent to destroy us. Were I in their hands the most grievous torture would be enacted upon me, and I would most likely die, probably with my head cut off. We have all seen the countless videos and read the stories of the multitude of people murdered by the hands of Islamic terrorists. The fleshly me wants an eye for an eye, or in truth I want a head for an eye. My flesh screams out to nuke every last Islamic country that holds even a thread of terrorism within it into the stone age. My flesh cries out, assemble the armies and march upon them and bring destruction to every last living thing that stands in our path. But my soul cries out something different. I have to listen carefully, for I cannot hear it for the boiling blood and pounding heart of my flesh, but I pause, I consider, I remember the things I have been learning about mercy and I know that my cry for vengeance and destruction is not the cry of my soul. My soul cries for peace. My soul prays for the spirit of God to be poured out upon the Muslim people, be they terrorist or normal hard working folk, my soul cries for the eyes of those committing evil to be opened, for their hearts to be deeply burdened for the atrocities they have and are committing. My soul cries for the hate to stop, for the mercy of God to reside in the hearts of all men. My soul cries for peace on earth and good will to all.

 And I hear that still small voice saying "yes child", "pray for them, pray for this world, pray for grace, pray for mercy, pray for peace, and be a light."

 What does the Lord require of me? "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8