Maralyn's Updates

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Two Pots

In his book Come Thirsty Max Lucado paints an unforgettable word picture of worry:

“It works like this. Let’s say a stress stirrer comes your way. The doctor decides you need an operation. She detects a lump and thinks it best that you have it removed. So there you are, walking out of her office. You’ve just been handed this cup of anxiety. What are you going to do with it? You can place it in one of two pots.

You can dump your bad news in the vat of worry and pull out the spoon. Turn on the fire. Stew on it. Stir it. Mope for a while. Brood for a time. Won’t be long before you’ll have a pot of pessimism…

How about a different idea? The pot of prayer. Before the door of the doctor’s office closes, give the problem to God. ‘I receive your lordship. Nothing comes to me that hasn’t passed through you.’ In addition stir in a healthy helping of gratitude…you remember the tax refund, the timely counsel, or the sudden open seat on the overbooked flight. A glimpse into the past generates strength for the future.”

I believe this is an accurate picture of the message in Philippians 4:6-7. “Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Max Lucado concludes that our roles are clear: Our job is prayer and gratitude. God’s job is peace and protection.

Sometimes I stir the prayer pot, but this past week I chose to walk over to the worry pot and stir for a couple of days. My swallowing is harder, eating is harder, taking pills is harder, and sleeping is harder because my lip muscles won’t keep my mouth tightly closed anymore. So the air that comes in with every breath makes my tongue, lips, cheeks, and throat so dry I have to swish water about every hour. Not very restful!

So all of those “what-if’s” began zooming around in my mind, and soon I was drooping around the worry pot. But it didn’t take long to realize that worry drags me down. Everything felt hopeless!

On the other hand, I notice that prayer and gratitude lift me up because as I reflect on the ways God has helped me in the past, I remember that he can also take care of the present and the future.

God has intervened many times in my life…
--When I was five years old I was exposed to Spinal Meningitis. So when I began to have the symptoms of the disease, my parents called in their friends to pray for me. As they were praying, my fever broke and I started feeling better—immediately. All of the symptoms disappeared and I was completely healed.

--In the raising of our two boys there were two accidents in which the boys could have been seriously injured, but they escaped with only a scratch and a black eye.

--When Jim was in seminary I needed a job, and God provided a first grade teaching job in a spectacular way.

--The raising of our budget for missions carried several spectacular stories of God’s provision.

--Often I needed wisdom in dealing with the issues of students, and many times God gave me supernatural insight.

--In relation to my ALS, one of my biggest gushes of thankfulness comes when I think about the fact that I still have strong fingers. So, I can type on my ACD (speaking machine), I can instant message with former students on Facebook, I can write e-mails, and I can still write this blog!

And even in my current situation, God has already provided help:

--Grace sent me a book of tasty puree recipes, Karen cooked them up for me, and this new system is working well. Eating feels manageable again.

--Ruth helped me locate a chin strap to use at night to keep my mouth closed. I’ll be trying that for the first time this week.

--The medication that we thought couldn’t be crushed, could be. So I’m still taking my essential pills…just in a different form. Those pills go down easily in lemon pudding (smile).

Now, I want to tell you the sequence of steps in developing this blog, because through this process I’ve seen a mini version of how God provides help:

--First, almost two weeks ago, I was with my friend “F” because she was driving me to do my errands.

--As a matter of conversation she told me about her Bible study group, and their latest topic—worry. She shared about a worry in her own life and how God had showed her that hanging onto control was really lack of trust. I was in a peaceful place myself, so I received this as simply friend to friend conversation.

--Five days later when my issues surfaced and I began to worry, I remembered what F had said.

--I dug into scripture and was comforted by Philippians 4:6-7. I imagined two pots of stuff that I could stir, and I needed to choose not to stir the worrisome stuff, but give the control to God as F had.

--I e-mailed F and told her about my latest crisis, and asked for the scriptures her group had studied. I told her this would be my next blog topic.

--She answered with Philippians 4:6-7 (yeah!), and sent me the Lucado story, which was so similar to the image in my brain. (just amazing!)

--I just shook my head. Wow! What a confirmation! God obviously needed to teach me this, and he must have also wanted me to say it to you. (I love how God works!)

So do you ever worry? Of course you do. You’re human! (smile)

So here’s what I’m learning: When we’re tempted to worry, we need to ask ourselves: “Can I do anything about this situation?” If the answer is “Yes,” then we should take the necessary action. If the answer is “No,” then we must walk away from the worry pot and throw the thing into the prayer pot. And as we pray, we need to flashback, remembering God’s loving care in our lives.

This whole process leads to peace…God’s peace, and nothing is sweeter than that!

Now! When I forget and wander back over to the worry pot, would you please remind me to get back over to the prayer pot? Thank you! (smile)

To my American friends: Happy Thanksgiving--around your prayer pot! (smile)


P.S. Sunday morning our son Paul arrived with Elliana, who is almost 3. She is adorable! She’s always been below the charts for weight and height, so she is tiny, but powerful. She loves the story of “Snow White” so I picked up this little dress for her to play in while she was here. She likes pretending to be a princess. Her mommy and little sister will be here Wednesday. We’ll have Thanksgiving Thursday and Friday with Jim’s extended family, then we’ll have two days with just our two boys and their families—a little pre-Christmas gathering.

And that’s another way I’m blessed--with a wonderful family!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Good...The Bad...and The Ugly

Where did this phrase originate? Was it a movie? I think so. The three words are always in that order, but today I’m going to turn them around. I’m going to talk about the Ugly, the Bad, and then the Good.

THE UGLY: ALS is a thief. It’s always stealing something from me. Right now it’s stealing my muscle: the muscle in my legs, the muscle in my lips, the muscle in my feet, the muscle in my thumbs. Do you realize how many things you need your thumbs for!?

THE BAD: I know that using muscle is the only way to strengthen it, so I try to do my exercises every day. They’re not easy, so I try to make them fun. This week while exercising I’ve been listening to one of my favorite radio speakers—Charles Swindoll. He’s doing a study through the book of Daniel. One day he was talking about the unseen world. He said that if we could see the invisible battles that are always going on around us, we’d be shocked. Powers of darkness and light are always battling for our minds.

I had already been thinking about that, and an image came to my mind:

Life is a hill—a hill that takes a lifetime to climb. God had planned for our life to be a scenic, peaceful climb. However, because of Adam and Eve’s sin, our perfect world became corrupted with all kinds of brokenness. It’s like Satan released millions of boulders from the top of the hill. Big ones, small ones, and medium-sized ones. They are constantly rolling toward us, making our climb difficult. The boulders come in the form of disappointments, relational problems, accidents, abuse, disease, and many other things. Some come slowly, and some appear quickly out of nowhere, but they are relentless.

As we climb Satan is taunting us, telling us we’re never going to make it. He’s trying to get us to panic. He’s telling us to give up. He’s saying that God doesn’t care about us. He’s inciting us to be angry with God.

THE GOOD: God wouldn’t have planned for us to have a boulder-filled life, but since that’s what mankind chose, at least he wants us to let him bring something good from each one of them. As the boulders bombard us, God is there--coaching us, loving us, teaching us how to grow through each trial. Each time we wrestle with a boulder our muscle gets stronger, so we’re more ready for the next challenge. God is pleased when our hard times deepen our relationship with Him. You know? As human beings, we can become quite independent! But the boulders remind us that we need God.

I’ve heard lots of people’s woes during these 17 months since my diagnosis, but the most common phrase I’ve heard (without a doubt!) is that someone is mad at God. Even people who don’t believe there is a God are often angry with him. (smile)

I’m almost 60. So I’ve earned the right to give a little motherly advice, don’t you think? (smile) Here it comes:

Don’t be angry with God! He’s your best help in dealing with the boulders of this life. Let the hard things push you toward God…not away from him.

That’s GOOD stuff! (smile)


P.S. I have to tell you a couple of cute stories from one of the best parts of my life…the grandkids.

My four-year-old grandson Levi is fascinated by my ACD (talking machine). When I see him I type in, “Hi Levi.” When the machine speaks, he grins from ear to ear. Then he comes over to the machine, leans over it and says, “Hi!” The other day he told his mommy, “I’m going to go tell the machine something.” (smile)

Another story, this time about Reuben who is five (all set for his first day of kindergarten in this photo). A few months back when I still had a voice, albeit undependable, I began to read him a story. But after reading one page, my voice faded away so I suggested that he let Ukki (Jim) finish the story. Later that evening he told his mommy, “I had Ukki read to me today because Mummo doesn’t know how to read.” (smile)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

God's ACD's

Has God ever spoken to you audibly? Me neither. In fact, I only know one person who has had that experience. But God does have many “alternative” ways of communicating. He speaks through his Word…through sermons…through music…through circumstances...through other people...through his creation...and through many other means. He finds ways of making himself known, so if our hearts are open we’ll hear him.

Because of my own speaking challenges, I’ve been thinking about this. My voice doesn’t work hardly at all so I use gestures…paper and pencil…extreme facial expressions…I even write in the air sometimes.

My Alternative Communication Device (ACD) arrived. I type what I want to say and it speaks for me. It's a little hard to understand but it's better than nothing. This one is a rental but the updated model will be here soon. Hopefully it will have better vocal inflections. (smile)

God’s determination to make himself understood has been my inspiration!

In fact, God spoke to Jim and me in a very unusual way this week. Here’s how it happened:

One day we were looking at the statistics about this blog site and marveling that there were readers now in 49 countries of the world! We’ve had almost 2000 hits this month, averaging 62 per day. And in October alone there were 465 NEW readers. That shocked us! We were rejoicing at how God has taken a very negative thing like ALS and has used it to do positive things.

As we were looking at those site statistics Jim said, “Remember that prophecy about you?”

I did remember, but had discounted it when it didn’t come true.

“No, think about it,” he insisted, “remember when that man said that your ministry would expand to many new cities?”

Yes. (I had pictured traveling to all of those places!)

“It HAS, Honey! Look at how God is ministering through you to so many people! And you’re touching people in cities we've never heard of. Did you write down exactly what the man said?”

Yes somewhere, but I have no idea where it is.

“Why don’t you try to find it? Remember he was crying the whole time he was saying that?”

Yes and I had cried even into the next morning because I had felt like God had really spoken to me.

“Try to find it.”

So I began digging into my old papers to see if I could find where I had written it down. Finally, I found it! And when I read it my mouth dropped open and I sat there in stunned silence. Then came the tears. “God, you are amazing!”

It was a Finnish businessman and church elder, a man we didn’t know, who had given me this word, and it had happened almost four years ago at a pastors’ conference in Finland! Here’s what he said:

“Your work will expand to include many other cities. Your influence will grow significantly. You have some of the keys already—both of you—and new shoots of growth are coming. You are in a significant time of growth right now. He is preparing you for what’s coming. Something new and strong has begun. He is going to use you in new ways that you can’t imagine. God holds out a scepter to you. Don’t be afraid. Move ahead into what God invites you to do.”

I guess that man was one of God’s “Alternative Communication Devices," and in God’s perfect timing we figured out what God had spoken to us--just when we needed a lift.

Last week was one of our toughest yet! I had one whole day of Atrial Fibrillation, several bouts of heart arrhythmia, and increased difficulty eating and swallowing. My body continues to lose muscle mass (and weight) so I’m noticeably weaker. Sometimes it’s overwhelming for both of us…and last week was one of those times.

It was a wonderful time to hear so directly from God and it was an enormous encouragement to us!

I keep thinking about my 465 new readers. I wonder who you are. Who referred you to my site? Do you also have a life threatening illness? Do you need a personal relationship with Jesus? Are you searching for peace? If so, I encourage you to find a Bible and read the entire book of John. It’s one of the four Gospels. Before you begin, ask God to speak into your life. Then read John from beginning to end, noticing who Christ is and what he wants to be to you. I hope you’ll choose to give your life completely to him. That is the most important decision of your whole earthly existence. If this happens (and I pray that it does) then find a Bible believing church and get to know some other believers. God will show you how to grow in him and become all he has planned for you to be. Get used to listening to his voice. You'll find it in many places!

Is it possible that God could use me, a perfect stranger, to speak into your life? I hope so. By the way, if you and I don’t get to meet on this earth, come find me in heaven and tell me your story!

That’s a pretty creative God who can use a lady who needs an ACD to be an ACD. (smile)


P.S. One of the happiest spots of our week was Friday when Rhonda brought our three grandsons to go trick-or-treating.

We have a lovely neighborhood with many Christian families and it seemed like all of Nekoosa had brought their preschoolers to our street to go door to door for candy. It was like a big block party. Most adults don’t dress up, but our very creative daughter-in-law had created cute costumes for all six of us. We were dressed in pairs. Reuben and I were clowns…Jim and Levi were soldiers…Rhonda and Micah were frogs. It was lots of fun! And who could have dreamed that the temperature in Wisconsin on October 31 would be 66F (20C)?
If you'd like to see all of the photos from our fun afternoon, copy and paste this link into your browser: