Draw Near

I have a very simple olive wood nativity set that I put out every year for Christmas.  I bought this set in Israel many years ago.  I love its simplicity and the memories it brings to me of my times spent in Israel.   

This year, as I was decorating, I asked Aaron if he would like to place the nativity scene on top of the cabinet where I always display it.  He agreed, and so I left him to it as I continued putting out other decorations. 

Later, as I walked by, I saw what Aaron had done and I had to smile.  You see, he placed the shepherds, wise men, Mary and Joseph, and the animals in a tight group around baby Jesus in the manger. 

I usually have them spread apart, like this.

My first instinct was to rearrange the pieces in the way I always have them.  But I stopped myself.  First, I didn’t want to hurt Aaron’s feelings – making him think that he had not done the job correctly.

But looking at this little scene, with every person and animal huddled close around baby Jesus, has made my thoughts go to the significance it portrays.

The whole depth of God’s love for us is demonstrated in that humble manger scene.   To think that He planned the way of our salvation through the gift of His only Son is astounding. 

Jesus, God Himself, drew near to us as he was born in a filthy animal stable and placed in a dirty feeding trough.  He endured the difficult life of a human during a very hard time in history.  Israel was ruled by brutal Romans.  Jesus was not welcomed in that world and was eventually crucified.  His death went far beyond politics, though.  He lived and died to make the way for us to know God…to come to God through His sacrifice for us…to bear our sin so that we could be sinless in God’s eyes.

Jesus grieved over Israel’s refusal to believe that He was the Messiah.  His heart broke as He looked over the city of Jerusalem and said that He would have gathered them near as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. 

And how He wants us to draw near to Him in that same way!

James said, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…”  (James 4:8)

He has said that if we seek Him, we will find Him.

Draw near to Him for salvation.

Draw near to Him in every upheaval of this life. 

Cancer.  COVID.  Divorce.  Prodigals.  Danger.  Tornadoes.  Finances.  Termination.  Caregiving.  Death.

Just add your situation to the list and then purposely draw near to Jesus.

Satan wants to distract us and defeat us by making us look at the impossible and the hopeless.

But Jesus wants us to know Him and to see that with God all things are possible.  With Him, we have hope both here and now, and for eternity.

And to be able to say with the Psalmist, “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good.”  (Psalm 73:28)

The Other Side

 Aaron recently had a tooth pulled and an implant inserted.  He’s really done well with the whole procedure and with healing, as far as we can tell.  But as is the case in every single tiny part of Aaron’s life, autism rules. 

I mean, come on, this is the guy who won’t get up from a program until he watches the credits.  Who, if he has multiple music CD’s from the same artist, will only play them in the order of their production date.  Who will not start eating his popcorn at the theater until the movie we came to watch has actually started.   Who lays his special greeting cards on the bed at night while he reads, just like this.

Who keeps a log book of the time he goes to bed every night and the time he gets up in the morning. 

And who…get this…will only chew on one side of his mouth.  And you can probably guess which side that is.  The side which had the extraction and implant, OF COURSE!!!

This was a huge reason that my stress level was so high as I thought about his recovery.  Gary and I have coached Aaron and encouraged Aaron and demonstrated to Aaron and pled with Aaron to please…just PLEASE…chew on the OTHER side of his mouth.

“I don’t LIKE chewing on that other side,” he asserted over and over.

“So start early and get used to it!” we declared.

“But I can’t TASTE on that other side,” he told us over and over.

Silly parents.

Thinking we could even remotely win this battle was as crazy as…well, as expecting Aaron to chew on the other side of his mouth.

For Aaron…for anyone with autism…there is basically no other side to any matter.  There is one side…one way…to do and to see everything. 

Things came to a head last Wednesday night.  I had fixed Chicken Fajita Soup.  Aaron had eaten and enjoyed this soup in the past, but that was before he was being tormented with all this tooth business.  He was unhappy with the soup.  He was unhappy with me for fixing the soup and for insisting that he eat some soup.  Aaron’s unhappy led to my unhappy. 

That was one side of the matter.  The other side is that Aaron was looking forward to going on our Meals on Wheels route the next day and finally getting to eat out.  We were going to his favorite Mexican restaurant to see his favorite server and eat some soft enchiladas and of course to scarf down a side salad with no croutons and with TWO ranch dressings!

But instead, he had two seizures in the early morning hours.  He stayed home with Gary while I went on our route.  I felt sad for Aaron, but honestly, I needed that alone time.  The previous night had been rough.  I had not gone through Aaron’s normal bedtime routine because I was just so tired on every level.  Instead, we simply said a quick goodnight and I sat at my desk reading some Psalms and praying. 

Those are the times that I do not feel the joy of being Aaron’s mother but instead feel overwhelmed with the burden of caregiving.

I could feel my burden being lightened as I delivered the meals to my elderly clients that morning.  I pulled up to a new client’s house.  It was only my second time to take R. a meal.  She slowly came to the door with her walker.  We talked for a minute and then she began to tell me about her husband who had died a few years earlier.  She had been his caregiver for years before his death.  I was able to share with her some things about Aaron, whom she remembered from the week before.  I felt a bond with her, this new little friend who smiled when I told her that she didn’t look like she was 91 years old.   But then she talked about how lonely she was, and how she felt like she had no purpose…that she just existed.  And I told her that she did have a purpose in God’s eyes and how she had just encouraged me.

I had to run on and deliver more meals.  When I went to C’s house, he immediately asked about Aaron.  He had some things to give to Aaron.  He handed me a plastic pumpkin that was loaded with stickers and rocks that he had painted with Aaron’s name, along with several other items.  I thanked him over and over, and he told me that this was his ministry now since he couldn’t get out like he used to do. 

I told him that his words reminded me of my visit with R…of how she felt useless and with no purpose, but how we all have a purpose in God’s eyes. 

“What’s her name?” he asked.  “I’ll paint her a rock!”

I told him her name and he spelled it to be sure he had it right.  Then he said that his aunt had that first name, and how she lived a few blocks over…that she was alone and was 91 years old.

“That sounds like my new client,” I told him.

He gave me his aunt’s last name. 

And wouldn’t you know it?  His aunt is the new client that I had just talked to, who is so lonely and sad.  He said he would call her and visit with her.

This was a sweet gift to me from God, this reaching down and orchestrating the encouragement that our three hearts needed. 

For R and C were not the only ones who needed that touch from God on that morning.  I needed it, too. 

Yes, I could walk and drive and later go out to eat with Aaron.  I got to go home to a loving husband and live in the purpose that God has given me at this point in my life.

But sometimes God’s purpose for me is not easy, yet it IS all too easy to chafe under the yoke instead of remembering that God has said His yoke is easy when I wear it for Him. 

That’s the other side of God.  He teaches us so much under the stresses and burdens of the lives we live. 

He equips us for the life He has planned for us.

And He surprises us with sweet blessings when, and how, we least expect it. 

See My Hurt?

Aaron recently had a tooth that was hurting him so much that he asked me to hurry and call our dentist so he could look at it.  For Aaron to want to go to the dentist showed me that he was truly in pain.  Our dentist referred Aaron to our endodontist, who confirmed what the dentist thought…that Aaron’s tooth was probably cracked way down in the root, infected, and would need to be pulled. 

Aaron was fascinated to look at the x-ray that the endodontist showed him.  You could see all the dark areas of infection very clearly.  Dr. Turner explained to Aaron that this was why his tooth hurt so much. 

Our next appointment was with an oral surgeon, the same one who had removed Aaron’s back molar near this infected tooth.  That molar had fractured during a drop seizure when Aaron’s face had hit a cement floor.

At first Aaron was pensive and tired:

Then he became silly as we waited for the doctor (look at his watch! 😊):

Dr. Cole finally arrived and examined Aaron’s hurting tooth.  He put up the x-rays that were taken in his office a few minutes earlier.

Aaron’s eyes darted to the x-rays.  He studied them for a few seconds.

“Can you see my hurt?” he asked.

Dr. Cole was a little confused.  He said that he couldn’t exactly see the crack but that they knew it was there.

“But can you see my hurt?” Aaron asked again.

I knew what Aaron meant.  He wondered if Dr. Cole could see the dark area of infection that was visible on his other x-rays.  These looked different and Aaron was concerned that Dr. Cole couldn’t see his hurt. 

I explained to the doctor what Aaron meant and then he understood. 

But Aaron’s way of asking about his tooth…his hurt…was SO Aaron and so touching, somehow.

I’ve thought a lot about seeing hurt, not only as it relates to Aaron but to others all around us as well. 

One day last week when I picked him up at his day group, he had just had a seizure before I got there.  He was laying on a booth seat when he had the seizure and so he fell off the seat, onto the floor.  I went in and there he lay on the cement floor.  One of the very kind supervisors actually got on the floor with Aaron as we tried to wake him up.  It took awhile before Aaron was awake enough to get off the floor, but it took some doing to get out of that tight area.  Later that night, Aaron showed us a couple scuffed places on his back.  Thankfully that was the only evidence we saw of his seizure…that, and his bitten tongue.

That was a hurt I could see.  Him lying on the floor, having a difficult time communicating when he woke up, and then the areas on his back that hurt, were all visible to us.

But how many times does Aaron, or any of us, have hurts which others can’t see?

For me, I hurt when Aaron has seizures.  I hurt when he talks about wanting a girlfriend or wanting to get married. 

Or when his meds make him very sleepy, and I wish he wasn’t so drugged:

Yet those hurts are ones I don’t want Aaron to see and so I hide them as best I can from him, and even from others.

How about you?  Do you have hurts you hide from the world, or even from those closest to you?

I think we all do.  I know I do. 

Why do we hide our hurts?  Maybe we don’t want others to feel sorry for us.  Maybe we feel we must be strong in front of everyone.  Maybe we’re embarrassed.  Maybe we can’t bear to share the pain and hurt we feel so we try to bury it.

But there is One Who sees every hurt we carry…Who understands every pain we feel…Who is wanting us to turn to Him and let Him take and carry our burdens. 

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28)

Here is another way to say it:

“Come to Me, all who are beaten down and burdened down, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28)

 I think of the old hymn, Tell It To Jesus:

Are you weary, are you heavy hearted?

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.

Are you grieving over joys departed?

Tell it to Jesus alone.

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus,

He is a Friend that’s well known.

You’ve no other such a friend or brother,

Tell it to Jesus alone.

Do the tears flow down your cheeks unbidden?

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.

Have you sins that to men’s eyes are hidden?

Tell it to Jesus alone.

Do you fear the gathering clouds of sorrow?

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.

Are you anxious what shall be tomorrow?

Tell it to Jesus alone.

Are you troubled at the thought of dying?

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.

For Christ’s coming kingdom are you sighing?

Tell it to Jesus alone.

If we can’t share our hurt and burden with anyone else, we can still share it with Jesus.  But sharing our hurts with those we trust, those who will pray for and with us, is also a huge help in relieving our pain. 

There is way too much hurt today in this crazy world…way too many beaten and burdened down people.  I pray that I will look at everyone around me and wonder if they are saying, “Do you see my hurt?”

And even if I can’t see it, that I will be kind and loving to everyone, knowing that they may be carrying a huge hurt that I know nothing about.

May I see and love through the eyes of Jesus. 

And may I let that same Jesus carry my unseen hurts. 

Humbled and Hungry

Recently, Aaron and Gary had both been feeling puny.  In fact, they had each been tested for COVID.  Thankfully, both were negative. 

When a family member is sick, I slip into full-on caregiver mode – which means I usually hit the kitchen and start cooking.  I did this last Monday, making a huge pot of potato soup.  It was way more than the three of us needed but that’s the way I roll.

We sat down to eat that evening, where Aaron declared that he didn’t like potato soup and that he would not eat. 

“That’s fine,” I said.  “Suit yourself.”

Gary and I proceeded to eat.  Finally, realizing that I was not offering another option to him, Aaron begrudgingly agreed to try a small amount.  Three bowls later, he left our table full and happy.

“I liked the potato soup, Mom,” he told me later.  I just smiled and thanked him, not telling him that I knew he would because he had eaten it before and loved it.

Sometimes Aaron needs to see that I am not going to give in to what he wants.  I will allow him to get hungry in order for him to learn that the food I have made is good and that he needs to eat what is offered. 

How amazing it was that the passage I read in Deuteronomy 8 happened right after this object lesson!

Moses was reminding the Israelites about the reasons God had told them to obey Him and to remember all the ways He had led them. 

And then in verse three:

            “He humbled you, and let you be hungry…”

God let them be hungry.

Why?

So that He could feed them with the manna that He provided.  There was nothing they could do in the desert to feed themselves.  He gave them what they needed, and in their hunger…a hunger he allowed…He showed them a great truth.

“…that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.” 

I didn’t enjoy seeing Aaron hungry.  It would have been easy for me to rush in and offer him something I knew he liked just so he would eat.  But if I did, then he would have missed an important lesson:  You eat what Mom has provided.

I can look at my life and see that there are many times when I don’t understand the way that God has led or the events that He has allowed. 

I ask why.  At the time, a decision seemed to be wise and right, but it led to situations that were hard.  Sometimes those ongoing situations are the very ones that roll around in my brain in the dark night hours.

But I have learned to push those circumstances aside and to look at God Who loves me without fail.  And I know…I KNOW…that the hard times – the times I am humbled and hungry…are by His design and His allowance.

God isn’t being mean when He allows me to experience hunger.  He knows that in my hunger I will be more aware of His provision, and I will learn that I do indeed live and eat and prosper only through His food that He provides.

His words to me are manna and life and strength.

And I will come to Him one day, hopefully, full of His Words that I have eaten, and I will thank Him for the hunger that brought me to the place of being satisfied with His goodness.

“How sweet are Your words to my taste!  Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”  (Psalm 119:103)

Tough Trust

Yesterday as I ate my lunch, I saw a picture on my computer that started my mind turning toward some issues that make me sad.  As I wrote in my last blog (Listening Carefully), I know better than to let my thoughts stay on certain matters that will pull me down.  I am consciously practicing, more and more, immediately turning my heart to God and affirming to Him…and to me…that I trust Him totally.

As I sat at my table, thinking on these things and praying, these words came to me.  I shared them right away on Facebook.

It was around 1:30, and soon I was to go pick Aaron up at his day group.  He had a seizure early that morning, around 4:30, but felt fine and so was able to go on and spend the day with his friends. 

When we got home, as we talked about many things…because with Aaron there are always many things that he wants to talk about…I mentioned to him that I saw his empty deodorant in his bathroom trash can. 

“Yes!” he said, “I put some on this one but not on this one!”

I turned to see him holding up one arm at a time as he showed me which arm pit had gotten deodorant and which one had not.  😊

I left him in his bathroom to remedy the arm pit situation.  I had just sat at my desk in my bedroom nearby when I heard the awful crash and the sounds of a big seizure. 

I yelled for Gary and ran in the bathroom to see Aaron laying in the tub.  He had fallen backward into the tub, taking with him the shower curtain and rod.  He was entangled in all that, plus in his shirt that he had been removing.  The first thing to do was to hold his head to keep him from continually banging it on the hard tub as he seized.  Gary had run upstairs, grabbing one of Aaron’s small pillows to put under Aaron’s head. 

These sudden and very dangerous seizures are just awful on many levels.  It’s a terrible feeling to hear that crash and then the seizure sounds…to run to him not knowing what you will find…to wonder how hard he hit his head or if there are other injuries.

We had untangled him from the shower curtain and from his twisted shirt that was all around both his arms and hands.  Gary put a sweater over him and then we just had to let him lay there in the tub until he was awake enough to be moved to his bed. 

I went back to my desk, still shaken, and cried.  I cried out of fear, yes, but mostly I cried because it makes me so incredibly sad to see my son go through all these physical hurts. 

But as I sat there, God softly spoke into my hurting heart…and He reminded me of those words that He had given me two hours earlier.  God gave me words I needed before I knew just how much I would soon need them.

Yes, my heart is so tender when I think of Aaron and all the years of his physical suffering.  But God really does take that mama hurt I feel and uses it to show me how to toughly trust in Him.

I have to be tough for Aaron, and really, I can only do that because of my trust in God.  Sometimes that sort of trust doesn’t come naturally.  It would be more natural for me to be mad at God for letting this happen to Aaron, over and over and over. 

But I know my heavenly Father, and I know that He has reasons far beyond what I will ever know on this earth for why He lets Aaron suffer. 

It’s a tough place for me to be and it calls for a tough trust.  If my life was only smooth and simple, no tough trust would be needed.  But then I would not know God as deeply.  I would not experience His peace and comfort.  My faith would stay simple and small. 

A verse also came to my mind as I sat there thinking of all these matters.  I want to leave that verse with you…that simple but profound word from God. 

There it is again…trust.  Even when it’s tough.

ESPECIALLY when it’s tough.

Smiles and Joy and Prayer

I ended my last blog by saying that we were taking Aaron to the zoo.  I wish you could have seen his excitement and joy at being there with me and Gary.  He has a way of jerking his leg when he’s excited, like a little kick, and he did that multiple times.  He laughed so loud that we had to tell him to tone it down several times.  But his joy gave us such joy, especially after the sadness of the day before. https://hesaidwhatks.blog/2021/04/27/the-autism-two-step/

This was my favorite picture of the day.  He and the gorilla had a moment, and how I wish I knew what that gorilla was thinking!

I sent the picture to our kids and told them that Aaron was the one in the white shirt.  Just kidding, just kidding!! 

Then Andrea said, “That gorilla looks a little miffed.”

“I think he’s been around Aaron,” I told her.  “I’ve seen that look on all our faces.” 😊 😊

On Wednesday, when I picked Aaron up from his day group, he came to the car carrying these.

His friend, Victoria, celebrated her birthday the day before when Aaron was at the zoo, so she saved some balloons for her buddy.  Now Gary has a balloon by his desk, and I have two in our bedroom.  Aaron does love to share.

Like today, after Meals on Wheels, he decided he would save this for Gary.

One French Fry. 

But that one French Fry was very important to Aaron, there among his chicken tenders he brought home.  He immediately gave it to Gary when we walked in the garage, to eat right away, want to or not! 

Aaron can bounce from one thing to another, and one mood to another.  Gary and I are along for the ride on most days.  I sure am thankful to know that God is our driver, though, in the long run. 

Aaron has an MRI of his brain in the morning, just to double check that nothing is going on.  It’s been a long time since he’s had one and his seizures have been a little weird lately, so it’s best to be safe.

I’m praying for no seizures tonight so we can go tomorrow.  Praying for good results.  I would really appreciate your prayers as well, for which I thank all of you VERY much! 

Like I said, how good it is to know that God is in the driver’s seat!

And Aaron is in the front seat, too, if he has his way because he is ALWAYS in the front seat and he must listen to his current music CD and if there is more than one of that group it must be played in the right yearly order and he must control when it comes on and when it goes off and keep track of which song is playing and what number it is and what the title is and……..

Set It Aside

One morning shortly before Christmas, Gary and I sat down to eat breakfast with Aaron.  We were enjoying our eggs, sausage, and biscuits while listening to Aaron talk…always Aaron is talking! 

Aaron pushed back his chair and got up to get something from the kitchen – probably more napkins or silverware since one napkin and one set of silverware is never adequate in Aaron’s book.  I looked up then to see that Aaron had put his biscuit off his plate.  He had set it aside in order to keep his plate from being crowded and to keep the food from touching. 

We just left it there, choosing not to make that action an issue on this pleasant morning.  Aaron has his particular ways.  And Gary and I have learned to choose our battles carefully because disrupting Aaron’s ways can leave a trail of anger and frustration for all of us…and many times, it’s just not worth it.

Such is our life with autism, this matter of what to set aside and what to put back on the plate.

I had a full plate of Aaron issues last week.  We had unaccounted money gone from Aaron’s wallet, which means he probably gave some away at his day group.  He knows better, but he has a very hard time resisting the urge to share his money with his friends.  Therefore, he has become quite adept at not telling the truth, which was another issue we had to handle with Aaron.

Aaron became so frustrated that on Wednesday, he erupted in anger and tears at his day group.  He called me on the phone several times…he threw his shoe and his glasses…he yelled…and all in all was just extremely unhappy. 

His coat also got torn on both sides.  Aaron said that was done in fun as he and another client chased each other.  Either way, Wednesday was a rough day in more ways than one.

On Friday night, shortly after midnight, Aaron had the first of four seizures…the last one being at 6:40 Saturday morning.  I was fixing his favorite salad that morning, hoping he could enjoy it for supper as I hauled his wet bedding down the stairs and then helped him get settled on the couch for more sleep…and hopefully no more seizures. 

Bless his heart.  He can’t help his behaviors any more than he can help his seizures.  Yet while his seizures touch my heart, sometimes his behaviors do quite the opposite.

I thought about his biscuit as I was processing all that happened last week.  What do I set aside, and what do I keep on my plate?

I need to set aside resentment and anger, which is not always easily done.  Living full time with Aaron can take a toll on me and on Gary.  But God has led us to this life, and we know that He will keep us where we need to be if we just focus our eyes on Him and not on our circumstances. 

I must set aside selfishness.  Mending Aaron’s coat…taking him to have his bent glasses adjusted…washing his bedding and clothes…listening to his explanations over and over and over…  All these are actions that take my time and energy.  As any caregiver knows…as any parent knows…selfishness and service do not mix.  One must go off the plate.

Fear is another thing that needs to go.  Aaron’s seizures make my heart leap with fright for an instant.  I don’t think one ever gets used to them.  His future, too, can cause my heart to fear.  But again, I know that this path we walk is not alone.  God is with us each step and He has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind. 

Now what do I keep on my plate?  I keep the reminder of God’s great faithfulness.  I keep His Word in my heart.  I am mindful of His grace for each day and each moment.

I keep humor nearby, always.  A cheerful heart is the best medicine, like God said, for me and for Aaron, even when Aaron gives me a blank look when I think I’m very funny.  😊 

 I also count my blessings!  My plate overflows with blessings if I but look around me.  For instance, on Saturday I was very thankful for the blessing of a washer and dryer instead of a bucket and a clothesline.  Thankful for a warm house, food to eat and to fix for Aaron, and thankful that Aaron could eat some bacon and eggs later that morning.   And Aaron, who loves using multiple napkins, decided that the grease on his fingers could not wait for his napkin.  His eyes shot over to me as he wondered if I saw what he just did. 

“I was wiping a grease of bacon on my pants,” he seriously informed me.”

There’s the humor!!  😊 

Thankfulness, too, for Aaron’s amazing way with words.  After all, that’s a big reason I started writing this blog and named it He Said WHAT?!

And there is yet another blessing!  All my readers mean more to me than I can express. 

See how it goes?  My plate is filling up with good stuff, none of which I want to set aside. 

Time to taste and see that the Lord is good!

What A Mess!

Aaron and I were in the middle of watching an episode of The Waltons last night when he pushed the pause button and got up from his chair.  He went to the kitchen and soon returned carrying a huge bag of popcorn.  We’re talking huge in the sense of Sam’s huge.  All I envisioned was Aaron putting his hand into our community bag of popcorn, grabbing a few pieces, and then putting his hand up to and partially into his mouth. 

Germs!!  My mind could see all those little, microscopic germs being transferred into our huge bag of popcorn.  YUCK!

I stopped Aaron in his tracks, told him to pour some popcorn into a bowl, and over his grumbling he went back to the kitchen to do what I had said.  It wasn’t long, though, before I heard this:

“Mom, can you come here?  I need some help.”

Did he ever!  When I walked into the kitchen, there on the floor was a big mess.  Aaron had spilled lots of popcorn on the floor.  Mom to the rescue!  Aaron got the broom, and we were soon able to clean up the mess.

All around me today I see messes.  So much upheaval is in our country and the world today.  People are suffering and worried and angry.  I wish the messes we see were as easy to clean up as Aaron’s popcorn on the floor, but we all know that’s not the case. 

I read and studied Psalm 22 this morning.  I agree with Dale Davis, who says that David is speaking of his own suffering in this Psalm and yet goes “beyond his suffering and into the suffering of Another.”  David’s suffering also spoke of the suffering of Jesus still to come.

Certainly, the suffering of Christ for us is the greatest gift ever given.  Yet it’s also  in David’s earthly anguish that you and I as followers of Christ can find great comfort as we navigate this dangerous world in which we now live.

I, like David, can look behind me in my years of following the Lord and I can see His faithfulness to me.  I have no reason to doubt that He will remain faithful in the days yet ahead.

I look around me and I feel the chilling wind of change…change that is not good for believers.  I see how the world’s perception of Christians today has become warped…how we appear by liberal definition to be bigots and racists and haters.  How if we don’t jump on board with radical agendas and unbiblical lifestyles then we are not welcome to live in their world. 

The description that David gives of his persecutors sounds eerily similar to some of our accusers that I see on the news today.  He pictures his haters as bulls who encircle him and open their mouths wide at him; as lions who are tearing and roaring; mad wild dogs who have closed in on him; evildoers who surround him.

Remember the looks on the faces of the rioters when they hurled insults at those who attended White House events this past summer?  We’ve seen and heard that same spewed hatred over and over, aimed at pro-lifers and conservatives and Christians in various settings. 

I never thought I’d see the day when moral values are demeaned and blatant ungodliness is held up as the national standard.

But it is here, and it is now.

What jumped off the page to me this morning as I read Psalm 22 is this:

“But You, O Lord, be not far off; O You, my help, hasten to my assistance.  Deliver my soul from the sword, my only life from the power of the dog.  Save me from the lion’s mouth; FROM THE HORNS OF THE WILD OXEN YOU ANSWER ME.”   (Psalm 22:19-21)

David was already in the middle of great trouble.  The picture is of him being actively mauled.  But in the midst of being attacked, David asserted that God answered Him.

God doesn’t always remove my attackers, in whatever form they come, but He DOES hear me and answer me.

David learned that he may have felt forsaken but in reality, he was not.  God was there in every scary moment. 

And so He is with us and He WILL continue to be with us.  He will surround us while we figure out how to function as the minority in our culture today.  He will answer us from the horns of the wild oxen!

David knew that though he felt forsaken at times, God was there with him.  And God is with us as well. 

“For He has not despised and He has not detested the affliction of the afflicted, nor has He hidden His face from him, but when he cried to Him, He heard.”   (Psalm 22:24)

God knows.  God hears. 

I will praise Him and I will share Him with others. 

I will stand strong for truth.

And some day, in His timing, He will clean up all this mess. 

Just Trying to Care

Aaron has recently been fixated on planets and stars and space and seeing pictures of all the above.  And when I say fixated, I am not speaking of a casual interest on Aaron’s part.  Aaron latches on to his current fixation like a tick on a dog.  He does not let go easily, and nothing deters him from researching every little minute detail of said fixation. 

He loves to include us in his latest quest for information, which means two things.  First, we must often look up something on the internet with him that he just MUST share.  Google is our friend.

Second, we must listen to Aaron talk and talk and talk and talk some more about all the facts he has learned.  He just knows that we will be as dumbfounded as he is about his latest find.

He really, really wants us to care as much as he cares.

Yesterday evening, then, found Aaron and I sitting on the couch together listening to Louie Giglio’s famous video, Indescribable.  It wasn’t AS full of planets and stars as he wanted, but it did contain some sounds from outer space that Aaron loved.  Aaron was particularly interested in the sounds that planets and stars make, so he was very happy to hear that part of Giglio’s sermon. 

All in all, the video was a wonderful reminder of God’s astounding creation of the universe.  Aaron and I both loved all the breathtaking pictures of stars and galaxies. 

After we were finished, I was in the kitchen lowering the blinds when I hit my elbow on the back of a chair.  I didn’t just hit my elbow.  I whacked it good!  The pain shot down my arm as I grabbed my elbow and bent over.  Aaron, who was standing nearby talking, kept talking until he noticed my obvious pain.  Then he wanted to know what had happened, in detail.

I didn’t want to talk.  I wanted to be left alone until the pain stopped.  So I briefly answered Aaron’s question about my elbow and moved to another room. 

“Mom!!” Aaron exclaimed, “you act like you don’t want me to talk!  I’m just trying to care!”

Well, that stopped me in my tracks.  I removed the arrow from my heart as I walked back to Aaron and thanked him for caring.  I tried to explain how the pain made me not want to talk as I let him know that I appreciated his concern.

This morning I continued reading slowly through the Psalm I am studying…Psalm 8.    The verses I was to read today were these:

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained;

What is man that You take thought of Him, and the son of man that You care for him?   (Psalm 8:3-4)

These verses fit perfectly with all our talk here lately about space and planets and stars.  Well, Aaron’s talk about space and planets and stars.  Gary and I primarily listen.

Anyway, I just sat and looked at verse 4.  Who am I, God, that you care for me? 

And I thought of Aaron’s comment from the night before as I got irritated because of my pain. 

“I’m just trying to care!”

In my pain, I didn’t want to listen to Aaron…but he was trying to care.

It hurt him for me to not recognize that.

And I also thought of God and how much He cares.  God…Who created all the vast universe…cares about me? 

Yes, He does. 

I love that thought on most days, but when life isn’t going as I want…when I am in pain because of situations that hurt…I sometimes don’t exactly want to listen to God.

But then I hear God speak in verses like I read this morning and I am stopped in my tracks.  Humbled.  And so very thankful.

Like David, when I compare myself to the vastness of the far reaches of our universe, I am insignificant…a mere tiny speck.  But God cares…for me?

I love what Dale Davis says: “Only the condescension of God can hold together astronomical vastness and individual concern.”

God condescends in order to hold together His vast universe, but He also condescends to me out of His care for me.  God loves me.  ME!  I don’t know and can’t explain why He loves me, but I know that He does. 

Who am I that God would love me?   Why does God care?

Davis again says: “Why should a mere speck of dust on the light years of God’s calendar matter to Him?  David at least has no doubt that he does matter; he’s just baffled to bits over why.  When he says, ‘What is man?’, he is not asking a question but making an exclamation – he is really saying, ‘What a God!’  He is not posing a mental teaser; he is engaging in breathless praise.”

I didn’t want to talk to Aaron when I was in pain.  Likewise, I often don’t want to hear from or talk to God when my heart hurts, when life isn’t fair, when my world crumbles.

But He doesn’t quit caring.  And I know that He has a purpose for my pain…a purpose that is for my good in the long run. 

So may I, even through pain, give breathless praise to God for His thoughts of me and His care for me. 

Looking Back

Twelve years ago, our daughter was getting ready to graduate from college with a health sciences degree.  She wasn’t sure of what she should do after graduation, so a friend who had already walked that path told her to get her EMT license and work in an emergency room in order to gain some experience and some insight into the medical field.  She got her EMT license during her senior year of college. 

Shortly before our daughter’s graduation, my friend and I were at Sam’s Club shopping for a big church dinner.  We were standing at the cooler choosing heads of lettuce when another shopper joined us.  This other shopper was a caterer, and soon the three of us were talking away.  We found out as we chatted that she had a grandson with autism.  I told her about our Aaron, and off we went sharing some similar concerns.  I had noticed that this woman was wearing a work shirt from one of our large local hospitals, and embroidered on the front were the words, “ER Services.” 

I told her how my daughter sure would love to work at that ER and that she planned to apply soon.  This woman took out some paper as she asked me what Andrea’s name was.  She then gave me a phone number for Andrea to call as well as the woman’s name that Andrea should speak to.  When Andrea was able to call some time later, this woman said, “Oh yes, Andrea.  I have your file here on my desk.”  Andrea was so surprised!  “What file?” she thought.  Seems the woman I had met talked to this person and they started a file before even talking to Andrea.  It was amazing!  Andrea interviewed and got the job right away.

As time went on and several years passed, Andrea had gained much experience at that job as well as two others before being accepted into grad school.  She was finally sure that molecular biology/genetics was where she wanted to focus.  But it was easy to wonder if all the time and energy devoted to the ER and a doctor’s office was a waste.  But since that time, she has seen over and over that her clinical experience gave her advantages and opened doors that she never realized would happen. 

As believers and followers of Christ, we know that if we are walking in obedience to the Lord then nothing is a waste.  We know in our head that “ALL things work together for good.”  But sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of that promise when the steps we’re taking are uncertain and even painful.  What we know in our head often doesn’t reach our hearts very easily. 

I liken it to looking ahead as we walk but seeing no clear path.  It reminds me of our walkway in our back yard.  In one direction there is no path.

But when I look behind me, I see how the bricks were carefully laid to make a clear walkway.

 We put one foot in front of the other as we launch out into the unknown.  Really, each new day is unknown to us.  We have no idea what will happen to us in any given day.  What is important is to walk in obedience to God as we trust Him to open and shut doors.

As the days and the years pass by, we too can look behind us and see how all things fit together in our life to make a beautiful pattern.  Each piece fits just where God meant it to fit.

But sometimes the beauty comes as a result of great pain.  God’s purposes are often more fully accomplished through suffering. 

In Acts 23, the Apostle Paul was arrested for preaching the gospel.  Through a series of events he was transferred from Jerusalem to Caesarea, and from there to Rome.  All along the journey, Paul was able to preach the gospel to the highest levels of government.  A normal missionary journey would probably not have opened those doors, but Paul’s suffering and imprisonment did provide the opening for sharing the gospel in ways unthought of and unplanned by Paul. 

D.L. Bock writes about how this incident in Paul’s life was rooted in God’s providence.  But he adds that providence does not always mean physical rescue.  “It is one of the mysteries of providence that many times we cannot see why things are happening as they are.  Yet God is surely at work in ways that we could not have planned for ourselves.”

May each of us, as we find ourselves at the end of our known and seen path…as we get ready to walk into the uncharted areas of life…fully trust that God knows best.

            If we could push ajar the gates of life,

            And stand within, and all God’s working see,

            We might interpret all this doubt and strife,

            And for each mystery could find a key.

            But not today.  Then be content poor heart;

            God’s plans, like lilies pure and white, unfold.

            We must not tear the close-shut leaves, apart –

            Time will reveal the calyxes of gold.

            And when, through patient toil, we reach the land

            Where tired feet, with sandals loosed, may rest,

            There we shall truly know and understand,

            And there shall gladly say, ‘Our God knows best.’  (Anon.)