The Signature of God

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Psalm 19:1 ESV

One of my favorite reasons for going to the beach is to watch the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. Any sunset is beautiful but the most spectacular require some clouds on the horizon, for the sun to light up with amazing shades of red, orange and yellow below the canopy of a fading blue sky.  When my sister-in-law passed away recently, I was reminded of sunsets in our own lives. Our years of day trips into Chinatown, Christmases at the big house when all six brothers and sisters gathered and walks in Golden Gate Park reflected off the clouds of sorrow that came with the phone call telling us of Diane’s passing.

Though grief has settled on our horizon, God is painting the colors of sunset on our hearts with hope. Diane’s hope was not in the doing or possessing of anything here on this shore, but across the other side of the sea with Jesus Christ. The beauty of the hope we hold onto when the blue sky of our passing years fades is His signature which says, “This life is mine, and a new and happier one lies across the sea.”  There we will meet Diane again, where we will be able to run up heaven’s hills and together breathe deeply of its pure air. Our life here is just an unfinished canvas. If we put the paintbrush of our will into the Master’s hands, He will fill our days with His design and sign at the bottom when He is done. Just as every sunset tells us that God has finished another day, so a life that is His will receive His signature, declaring, “This is mine – and all that has passed is only the beginning of all the wonders that lie in store!”

Grace To Trust Him More

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Philippians 2:4 KJV

As some of you know, due to complications from a wisdom tooth extraction I became nearly incapable of singing for the last few weeks. Not being able to get notes out past the vocal chords, suddenly looked like Mount Everest had plopped right in the middle of my path. With nursing home meetings scheduled for Thursday through Sunday, I sent out an emergency plea for help and learned a lesson from friends who jumped in to help. The story of these last seven days is best summed up in three words – Immediately, unexpectedly and miraculously.

Immediately John and Barbara volunteered for the first meeting. John officiates once a month for our meetings at a retirement village and he and Barbara looked excited as they walked in with me to the memory care wing at Sunshine Christian Home. Like the Good Samaritan, they didn’t say they would pray about it, think about it or wait until they could work it into their schedule. They simply came both Thursday and Friday at another facility, sang their best and everyone loved them!

Saturday’s meeting was in the recreation building at John and Barb’s retirement village, but with John leading the meeting and Barbara helping out at an early Thanksgiving meal served to the community, I needed help with singing, but had no one lined up. After the opening scriptures reading and prayer, I came to the front. Then, unexpectedly just as I put the microphone in place, my friend Paula, walked to the front, opened the song book and with a smile began to help lead the singing. Paula didn’t wait to be asked, she simply saw the need and unexpectedly came to help.

Sunday morning as I stood next to my wife in church, lip-synching the songs, I wondered what to do about the service scheduled for 2 PM at an assisted living facility. Normally I would have worried through the message instead of listening, but after seeing God work over the last few days, I figured that God had something in mind, and I didn’t need to know about it! Church ended, we returned home, had lunch and played cards while we enjoyed tea and cookies. When it came time to leave, I wasn’t sure I could sing all the way through a single hymn, but God gave me peace that everything was okay. As I arrived, I got my temperature checked, got coded in and stepped through the doorway to see the nurse with a few of my friends waiting to sing. I began with a big smile telling everyone how glad I was to see them and started strumming a few chords, but no one was more amazed than me, that as I opened my lips to sing, that, miraculously, notes came out of my mouth! Looking back, I must say that God has been both faithful and patient to teach me again this week the lesson that how I needed to Louisa Stead taught us in her hymn

Jesus - Jesus how I trust Him
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus – Jesus precious Jesus
O for grace to trust Him more!

This Thanksgiving I have so much to be thankful to not only be able to sing again but that God has given me family and friends who have prayed with me, encouraged me and come along side to help. What lessons has God been teaching you this week? Why not share a note or two or you own?

Counting Blessings – 1-2-3

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. James 1:2-3 ESV

James tells us that we are to count trials as blessings. I am always reminded of the hymn, “Count your blessings, but if James means the trials that I have been through I sometimes wonder if our dear brother knows how to count! Can he really mean that when we meet trials of pain or a broken relationships that we should come away saying, “Yup – now that’s a blessing. I can’t wait for the next one!”?

My own recent testing began after having a wisdom tooth removed. Somehow in the process a nerve in the back of my throat was damaged. So for the last three weeks, singing has become a painful process and even speaking I must carefully shepherd both the quantity and volume used in order to communicate. Needless to say, for a big talker like me (Blame it on the Italian DNA) this has been a traumatic lifestyle change. But since James has commanded that I count trials as joy, here are a few,

A) I am reminded that words have value because it is an effort to say almost every one of them

B) I have had to ask for help while singing at nursing home and been delighted by the response

C) I get to listen while others sing around me in church because I cannot get a note out

D) My wife has taken over the bulk of our joint prayers and it is wonderful hearing her bring our family friends and church before the Lord.

Truthfully, I earnestly am hoping this will be temporary (My doctors think so) but in the meantime I know that this is one part of God’s work in my life to build up patience into my treasury of faith. Now that is something only God knows how to do!

Here are a few photos of my friends and helpers from Saturday’s meeting at Sunshine Christian Village. The weaker I have been, the more precious God’s help has become to me!