Outwardly wasting away; inwardly renewed

Someone joked online recently about a virus-related health questionnaire asking if she had any aches and pains. (I haven’t run across that one yet, have you?) She chose to answer “No more than usual.” I’ve been thinking how I would answer if confronted with the same question at the beauty salon today.

In our worldly existence, we’re all subject to aches and pains–and worse, and we spend a lot of energy trying to prevent them ,dull them, and cope with them in various ways. Even our brains are subject to deterioration.

My beautiful, intelligent, and godly mother almost made it to her 99th birthday. She survived breast cancer and enjoyed excellent health most of her life but she did suffer with dementia during her last few years. Although she never forgot her family members or had major personality changes, I felt her quality of life was greatly diminished. I still wrestle with “why?” and I confess some of my questions are mixed with concern about whether this will happen to me, too.

Because of her faith in Jesus, I know Mother went to heaven, where she longed to go for many years. Sometime after her earthly body wore out completely, I rediscovered a scripture which put a balm on much of the discomfort I felt about what I’d categorized as her “ignominious” final years. 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 showed me there’s more going on in the life of a Christian that meets the eye, or than we can feel as we go about our daily activities.

Reading, one of Mother’s greatest pleasures next to music, became difficult. Fortunately, she’d been an eager Bible student throughout her life and hidden scripture in her heart when her mind was sharp. I discovered a stack of her memory cards which reminded me that these truths were still in her heart when she could no longer read or understand. Supernaturally, the Holy Spirit was using them to renew her inwardly, when all I could see was the wasting away of her earthly body.

When Mother could no longer pray, Romans 8:26-27 reassures me that the Holy Spirit intereceded for her, perhaps using as fuel some of the scripture that she had memorized.

As I try to hide God’s Word in my heart, too, I’m reminded that God does not abandon his creatures. Even as I search for the verse, Psalm 92:12-15, which I supposedly memorized, I’m reminded that the Lord does not abandon his children (the righteous). He helps them continue to bear fruit as they age, and as they waste away outwardly, they are renewed inwardly day by day. Even though I don’t always understand His ways, “he is my rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”

Happy Birthday in heaven, Mother!

Could I Interest You in an Appetizer?

You smile and accept the menu, your mind on catching up with the friends you’ve joined for dinner. The server hovers. “Can I get you started with an appetizer tonight?”

Since you’re with a group, you might settle on something to share and the server hurries off. He returns just as you’ve caught up on your friend’s latest news and begin to hear the rumbling of your stomach.

By the time you’ve polished off the appetizer and your meal arrives, your appetite has diminished. You groan as the server sets a huge feast before you. What possessed you to snack on hot, buttered bread in between bites of steamed mussels or spicy grilled shrimp? How will you ever do justice to your steak and baked potato or your Italian feast?

How did “appetizers” get their name, anyway? Mom was right that eating between meals spoiled your appetite!

If you’re still with me and you haven’t run to the fridge for a snack, you probably want to know what this has to do with our spiritual life, right?

Spiritual appetizers aren’t like restaurant appetizers. 

During the early days of the pandemic, the days often dragged. Like everyone, I missed my daily routine. My house and my entire neighborhood were quiet. (Hard to believe if your entire family was suddenly at home together 24 hours a day looking for a tranquil corner, but I didn’t have that problem.) As she stared at the occasional preoccupied passer-by during our walks, I knew even Angie the dog missed people and fellow canines.

I started to create a new routine centered around time with the Lord and virtual connections centered on spiritual things. A podcast during our morning walk. Noon prayer with one or more churches. A weekly online Bible study. My own worship service on Sunday, followed by others that I might want to visit as well. This became the new normal and was a helpful way to stay connected with God and with fellow believers.

My appetite and need for spiritual sustenance were strong.

Slowly, days have become fuller and noisier. I’ve ventured out a bit. Now the virus wasn’t the only news on TV, and I “had” to stay informed. I tackled some big projects around the house. I had to rush to get up and over to the dog sitter’s so I’d arrive at an appointment on time. The “old normal” tried to reassert itself.

A vague sense of disquiet marred the tranquility I’d cultivated earlier.

I skipped the opportunity to turn on the Christian radio station and allow some music to shape my thoughts.

“I should probably settle down and pray or do my Bible study. I’d feel better,” I would tell myself.

Sometimes, an insidious voice would whisper, “That’s silly. You were really overdoing it before.”

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”

Your face, LORD, I will seek.

Psalm 27:8 NIV

Strangely, when I managed to silence the deceptive voice and sample the appetizer, I wanted more. Spiritual appetizers helped me crave more spiritual food, not less.

And that’s a good thing!

When the Spirit’s voice tries to interest you in an appetizer, say yes!

 

Christmas Scavenger Hunt Round-Robin: The Old Fool

Joyeux Noël!

Welcome to the blog tour stop for my Christmas novella The Old Fool. This story is the prequel to the Sully Parkway Series, and I’m delighted to share a pivotal moment in the life of one of its heroes.

Little Olivier’s parents couldn’t know they were saddling their son with an unpronounceable name, or that one day as real estate tycoon O. L. Feuille, his competitor would dub him an “old fool.”

As the Christmas season begins, O. L., known to his friends as Ollie, fends off overtures from his chief competitor in the world of retirement homes. Sleazy Hank Cochran is determined to acquire Ollie’s beloved flagship home, the somewhat dilapidated Queen Anne in Manassas.

The Old Fool front final

Ollie rallies his associates in a last-ditch effort to prevent Cochran’s takeover, but he’s distracted by the appearance of down-and-outer Art Dink, who has a different agenda in mind.

Stressed and financially stretched,  Ollie has a disturbing—and possibly prophetic—nightmare and finds himself at a crossroads.

Will he be wise or foolish?

It’s time to continue the scavenger hunt! Go to the book on Amazon at this link. When you read the book blurb, you’ll be able to answer the question: What is the name of Hank Cochran’s retirement home chain? When you have the answer, fill out this form and head on to the next blog!

Thank you so much for visiting! The next author on the tour is Sally Bayless, who is telling us all about her Christmas book Christmas in Abundance. You can find it at this link:

http://www.sallybayless.com/christmas-scavenger-hunt-round-robin-christmas-in-abundance/ 

Remember that the round robin will end on December 16th at 11:59 PM EST!