Trust and Assurance

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Thank you once again for your many comments and encouragements. I will take one more blog to share things learned in this six-week ordeal. 

I had gone several days to be with mother in the hospital from breakfast to supper, then it was suddenly time to make a decision about rehab. The hospital lady gave us a list of places within reasonable proximity of our house.

With minimal time to check, I chose three possibilities. One had no bed available. Within half an hour, here came a representative from each of the other two places with brochure in hand. The brochures were turned over with the reps’ phone numbers on the back. I studied each, not really looking at the front.

I felt like I was at a crossroad, not knowing which way to turn.

Just then I got a text from the memory care director at the place where mom had been living. She strongly recommended one the the two places I held in my hands.

Just to be sure I got the message, the Lord had me turn over to the front of that brochure. There was the smiling face of Art Boone, a family friend from our days in Somerset. It was as though the Lord said, “This is the place!”

Fast forward another three weeks. Since this was another transition, I was going everyday to help mother adjust and do what I feared the aides weren’t doing for her. I began to wean myself away slowly as I tried to discern what might be next steps for her. Many of you offered advice and encouragement through prayer. 

One comment lingered with me. “Perhaps discernment is more about trust.”

On Oct. 1, the devotional book I’ve been using said (as though Jesus is speaking), “I want you to relax today. It’s easy for you to get so focused on your goals that you push yourself too hard—and neglect your need for rest.”

On Oct. 3, (stroke day) my devotion started out, “My judgments are unsearchable, and my paths are beyond searching out. This is why trusting me is your best response.

Oct. 5 began, “I want you to have no fear of bad news. The only way to accomplish this feat is to have steadfast trust in Me.”

Oct. 10, “A troublesome problem can become a idol in your mind. If you constantly think about something—pleasant or unpleasant—more than you think about me, you are practicing a subtle form of idolatry.”

…we take every thought and make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 

Ouch! Do you know how humbling it is for the queen of worry to come to grips with the idea that this worry is idolatry?

The Lord has given me so many lessons in trust through my life, but every now and then He has to give me refresher courses. Thankfully, He turns right around and gives assurances.

We had one more decision to make as rehab was coming to an end—where to go next. It was possible to stay in the place where she presently had rehab though it was 25 minutes from our house. Other places closer had no rooms available. But watch God work.

On a Saturday morning, we were on our way to gather box loads of things from where she had lived earlier to bring to the rehab place when a director called from a place eight minutes away from our house. They had a room open up! We had literally just pulled out of the driveway. So we drove first to the new facility. By Thursday, we moved all the furniture and Friday we moved mother.

We have more days of adjustment ahead in yet another new place, but God calls us to trust and to look for His assurances (and not to worry!)

~ Joyce ~

Act FAST!

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Thank you, dear friends, for your many words of encouragement, care, and prayer. (See Hospital) So much has happened that I haven’t been able to respond to all your comments, but know that I have read each one more than once and received great comfort in them.

So many have asked questions about how I knew the signs and what to do. I started to title this blog, “Public Service Announcement!” I will share with you my experience in the hope that should anything like this happen to you, you will have some thoughts in your head.

Last Wednesday morning, while making the bed, I suddenly felt something like a growing high frequency or pressure in my head. It built in volume for maybe 10 seconds. I walked around the bed and realized I could hardly walk; my right leg felt numb and floppy. Jim was in the bathroom and I called out to him, but realized I had trouble getting my words out; they were slurred. I managed to get on around the bed to lay on my pillow. As I went down, I was aware that I felt dizzy.

All of this transpired in a matter of about two minutes—bam, bam, bam!

As I lay there, I thought pressure in my head, numbness in my leg, slurred speech, dizziness—sounds like a stroke to me.

Jim thought the same. We decided that this was too many symptoms to think it would pass. Jim went straight to the internet. Isn’t that where we go to find answers? I said, “What did it say?” He said, “Take an aspirin and call 911.” So that’s exactly what he did.

Within ten minutes I was in a surreal world of four men clad in dark navy, asking many questions and checking vitals. They whisked me off to the hospital where more busy activity took place all around me. Not what I had planned for my Wednesday.

By that time, I was actually feeling okay. I was able to walk to the bathroom. From that point I had a series of tests. The MRI declared it a mini-stroke. I do think the fast action of my sweet husband was vital, thus my title, “Act FAST!”

So here’s my public service announcement; when you feel the signs act quickly. Take an aspirin and dial 911.

The word fast is self-explanatory, but it also helps with an acronym of many possible symptoms. 

F – face (Face drawn, can’t smile, vision gone?)

A – Arm (Arms or legs numb)

S – Speech (Slurred speech, unable to communicate, dizzy)

T – time (Time is of essence. Get help quickly. Make a mental note of the time it happened.)

I am praising God that this all happened at home when Jim was there, that I was close to the bed, and that he called right away (better safe than sorry.) I’m thankful for first-responders, those working in ER, medicines and tests to aid us. I’m particularly grateful that I have no paralysis.

For I, the Lord, your God, will hold your right hand, saying unto you, “Fear not, I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13

 Thank you, Lord.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

Discernment

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

It is Sunday, the day I usually begin to write my blog. I’m sitting here, staring at my screen, trying to discern how to write about discernment. “Discernment in the Kingdom” happened to be the next lesson in our Sunday School study guide this morning and I was the teacher.

It’s easy to teach on things when they’re not too close to home, but I’ve been struggling for the past three weeks about being discerning when it comes to my mother’s health. I’ve been with her a week in the hospital and almost three weeks in rehab, nearly every day, all day until supper. 

My mother—a bright, energetic, creative woman—has 95 years under her belt. She is “Mimi” to her two grandchildren and seven great grandkids. Old age has been settling in the last few years. Imagine that! But, up until three weeks ago in her assisted living facility, she still enjoyed playing cards, Bingo, Corn Hole, WII Bowling, balloon games, and even playing the piano while the others sang hymns.

Mimi has had a few falls and this is her third time in the hospital in the last two years with pneumonia and congestive heart failure. She’s just not bouncing back this time. She is weak and seems to have lost her will to try, just wants to stay in bed. PT and OT are making great efforts to get her up and going. Reluctantly she tries, but not without a fuss.

My dilemma—when do you stop pushing? That’s why I’m praying for discernment. When is it encouragement and when is it time to let go?

And so, dear blog friends, I reach out to you for your prayers this week as we try to make decisions about where she needs to be and how much to push. To add to the mix, I’m the only child.

 Please be specific in your prayers as you feel led. Scripture verses are welcomed. Thank you, friends.

~ Joyce ~  

Feeding the 5000 – Why?

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We have come to the end of this series on feeding the 5000, but I want us to consider one last thought—why does Jesus do this particular miracle?

Of course, after a day of healing and teaching, it creates quite a spectacular ending. In fact, so spectacular that Jesus has to do some crowd control.

When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself. John 6:14-15

He had come to save them, but not as a king with an army to take on the Roman empire. No, he wants to save them spiritually, not politically.

Can it be that this great sign with the feeding is as much, if not more, for the twelve disciples?

Remember that they had just come from an experience of going out two by two to the villages bearing the name of Jesus, sharing what they had been taught so far. They had retreated to the sea in a boat with Jesus, only to be met with a growing crowd when they landed back on shore. They must learn endurance and continuous ministry.

Toward the end of the busy day, the disciples suggest that the people need to leave to find food. First lesson—think outside the box.

Jesus said, “You feed them.” Mark 6:37

Jesus prompts them to check things out, but they are still “in the box.”

Andrew spoke up, “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd? John 6:8

Jesus teaches them how to deal with a big crowd. Prepare! Organize! 

“Tell them to sit down in groups of about fifty each.” Luke 9:14b

They become close eye witnesses of the miracle when Jesus multiplies the bread. They participate in the disbursement of the food and come back for more and more. How delightful!

Then to top things off, they realize their cups, er, their baskets overfloweth. They collect exactly twelve baskets of leftovers. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that there are twelve—one for each disciple.

They have been immersed from beginning to end in this spectacular sign. However, Jesus doesn’t want them to get caught up in the “king-making” crowd.

Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and head across the lake to Bethsaida, while he sent the people home. John 6:45

After Jesus goes off by himself for a time of prayer, the disciples will get another big dose of who their master is when He walks on water!

How attentive are you to what the master is doing in your life? Is He telling you to think outside the box? Does He want you to check something out? Prepare? Organize? Disperse something? Gather the overflow of His miraculous work in your life? Is He grooming you for greater things? Deeper things? I hope so.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

Feeding the 5000 – The Miracle

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

The people sit on the grassy slope, organized into groups of 50. (See Feeding the 5000 – Let’s Get Organized)

Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven and blessed them. Mark 6:41a

I like to savor this line as I picture the Son of God lifting these meager offerings to the Father. He looks up to heaven, gives thanks, and gathers in God’s majestic power for what He is about to do. It is a high and holy moment. I imagine a hush falls over the people.

Then breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. Mark 6:41 b

Forgive me, but I tend to wonder about insignificant things and this is one of those times. Do we assume there were twelve baskets, one for each disciple? If so, where did the baskets come from? The disciples had previously been on the sea. Surely they didn’t have room for twelve baskets plus all the men in the boat.

Perhaps we can assume they borrowed some from the crowd. Pardon my need to know all the details! It does help us, though, to immerse ourselves in the setting. 

Jesus busily breaks bread into the baskets. The disciples move through the crowd feeding this group of fifty and the next group. I imagine little paths of grass around each group so the disciples can get to everyone and see who has been fed and who hasn’t.

Once again, this all takes time.

What do we hear from those in the crowd? Maybe—”Where did all the bread come from?” “It seems like He is multiplying the pieces!”

And from the back of the crowd—”Will they run out before they get to us?”

“The disciples are running back to get more and more.”

“It is almost like his miracles of healing, but to feed this many, how can it be?”

He also divided the fish for everyone to share. They all ate as much as they wanted. Mark 6:41-42

How are the disciples themselves responding to all of this? Maybe they are wide-eyed with wonder as they watch the baskets filling again and again. They may be the only ones who know that Jesus started with just five loaves and two fish. Perhaps they look at each other in amazement and laugh out loud with delight.

After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted.” So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people. John 6:11-13

One day Jesus would say,

I am the bread of life.” John 6:48

Indeed He is the one who nourishes us, the one who sustains us and supplies our every need.

But, why did Jesus perform this miracle? Let’s explore that question next week.

~ Joyce ~

 

Feeding the 5000 – Let’s Get Organized

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Okay, now we have something to work with to feed 5000+ people—five barley loaves of bread and two fish. (See Feeding the 5000 – Time to Eat) Not a lot to go on, but then it wouldn’t be a miracle if the food was already plentiful, now would it?

Being an organized person, I love the next scene in this power-packed day. Jesus saw the need for getting things organized and he asked the disciples to help Him. We have hind sight. We know what’s going to take place, but they didn’t.

Jesus gives two instructions. Pretty simple.

Jesus replied, “Tell them to sit down in groups of about fifty each.” Luke 9:15

Sit on the grass (the” grassy slopes” John says)—in groups of 50. Easy breezy, you say? But look at the crowd! We discover they are 5000 strong.

I’m going to give you a little sneak preview of how I plan to construct this scene in my next book about Matthew.

Peter stood straight up, hands on hips. “He wants us to do what?”

Matthew turned to Peter, “He wants the people to sit in groups of 50 or so.”

Gesturing to the crowd of thousands, Peter complains, “You mean we have to count off to 50 that many times?” 

“Peter, can you usually get about ten men in a boat?”

“A big boat.”

“Just think five boatloads in each group.”

“Oh, I see.” So Peter shouts over to some of the other fishermen disciples and repeats the plan.

Matthew smiles and quickly sums up a group of ten men. “The master wants you to sit on the grass,” he tells them. As they sit, he motions another group of ten to join them. Then another ten, “Will you join this group, please?” And so forth for five tens—fifty!

Then he turns to another group of ten. “Please form a new group by sitting here.” To another ten, “Please join this new group.” And on and on.

Keep in mind that they’re going to need 100 groups of 50. That means each disciple must organize about eight groups of 50. As you can see, it’s a mammoth task, but with each disciple helping, it is do-able. It will take time, however. 

No doubt some in the back begin sitting when they see others sit. Then you have the problem of asking some to get up and move to form separate groups. Nothing is easy when you’re dealing with massive groups of people.

I imagine the disciples have been so busy with the “project” that they haven’t considered what’s coming next. They will eventually realize that all this preparation will serve them well. They will be able to move around the people and know who has been served and who hasn’t. Much more orderly! A great lesson for us in the value of planning ahead.

Next week is the big climax. How amazed the disciples and the people will be when Jesus feeds them all with just five loads of bread and two fish.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Feeding the 5000 – Time to Eat

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week, we saw that Jesus had mixed emotions. He was burdened with the news of John the Baptist’s death. At the same time, he rejoiced with the disciples who had returned from their successful ministry trips in Feeding the 5000 – Before the Feast.

Now they landed on shore and found a huge crowd ready to greet them. Jesus set his mixed emotions aside and had compassion for the people. As had been his pattern, He began healing the sick one by one.

I think about the temptation Jesus had in the wilderness. Remember when Satan wanted him to jump off the high pinnacle of the Temple and let the angels catch him? What a spectacular idea that was. It would dramatically show the people his great power.

But that was not the kind of Savior God had in mind. Instead, Jesus was to work in among the people, healing one by one, ministering to individuals, teaching small groups at a time. It’s unlikely that a crowd of 5000 could all hear him at once, no matter how strong a voice He had nor how much of an amphitheater the terrain provided. 

Eventually, the people would receive physical food, but first, He wanted to feed them the food of His words.

After a long day of healing and teaching, some of the disciples grew concerned about the people because they hadn’t eaten all day and they were in a rather remote place. They suggested that he—

“Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.” Matthew 14:15-16

John says that Jesus turned to Philip and asked,

“Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do. Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!” John 6:5-7

About that time, Andrew spoke up.

“There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” John 6:8-9

At least Andrew looked around for a solution, but he, too, was doubtful.

Isn’t that like us? Full of questions and doubts. We get so one-sided about what can or cannot be done in a certain situation. We don’t think outside the box. What are other possibilities? Are we going to limit God? Could He possibly have a miracle in the making for us? 

Next week, we’ll watch Jesus organize and go into action.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

Feeding the 5,000 – Before the Feast

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We’ve looked at “points of view” coming from the four gospel writers on several happenings in the life of Jesus. When we looked at the feeding of the 5,000, you may remember I said I might want to revisit that exciting day in more detail. That will be our focus for the next few weeks.

What was happening before the great feast? I think it’s always important to get the setting, set the stage so to speak.

At some point in the time line, Jesus heard about John the Baptist’s terrible death. Recall the story. Herod caved when his wife, Herodias, (through her daughter) asked that the head of John the Baptist be brought to her on a platter .

As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. Matthew 14:13

What do you do when you have received tragic news? You may want to have the love and support of close friends or family, but, at some point, you may just want to be alone to collect your thoughts and deal with your emotions in private.

My hunch is that Jesus wanted to be alone with God and gather the inner strength he needed from his heavenly Father. Very possibly, Jesus thought about how he, too, would one day come under the cruelty of those in high places.

Think of those times in your life when the weight of tragedy or trying experiences brought you to a low ebb. Perhaps frustrations with a job or the cruelty of unkind words struck the very core of your spirit. Somehow, with God’s help, you managed to continue to function. It is in this kind of human condition, we find Jesus.

Later, when He looks up toward the shore, He sees his disciples who have returned from their ministry tour of the villages of Galilee where he said:

“Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons.” Matthew 10:7-8

He shares in their excitement, glad to see their happy and hear their stories, then he tells them,

“Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” Luke 6:31

After more sharing, He looks at the shore where the crowds are gathering to meet him. I envision him sighing greatly and whispering, “Give me strength, Father.” Then we see his heart.

…as he stepped from the boat, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Mark 6:34

He welcomed them and taught them about the Kingdom of God, and he healed those who were sick. Luke 9:11

Jesus moved forward in the strength God gave him—an important lesson for us. For you see, that same power is available to us as we push out alone in out boats to receive healing and inner strength from our Lord. May it be so for us all this week.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Point of View – “One will betray me”

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

In our point of view this week, we step into the upper room where the disciples are celebrating the Passover meal with Jesus.  

At one point, Jesus tells them that one of them will betray him. This stirs up the group to question, “Am I the one?” Jesus says to them;

“It is one of you twelve who is eating from this bowl with me. For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!” Mark 14:20-21

Matthew would actually have been at the table and must have been sitting close to Judas. 

Judas, the one who would betray him, asked, “Rabbi, am I the one?” And Jesus told him, “You have said it.” Matthew 26:25

Luke, likely getting some of his information from Peter, reports some of the same things, but their attention takes a twisted turn.

The disciples began to ask each other which of them would ever do such a thing. (Moving right along…) Then they began to argue among themselves who would be the greatest among them. Luke 22:21-24

What a motley crew Jesus had. Here He has given this dreadful news, but shortly some are more consumed with their “place” rather than a betrayal of Jesus. And these are the ones who are to turn the world upside down! Once again, Jesus patiently reminds them that they are to have servant hearts.

John gives us quite the inside scoop as he becomes a particular part of the dialogue. Intuitive John tells that Jesus is “deeply troubled” and then shares about the betrayal.

The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom he could mean. The disciple whom Jesus loved (John) was sitting next to Jesus at the table. Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, “Who’s he talking about?” So John leaned over to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus responded, “It is the one to whom I have give the bread I dip in the bowl.” And when he had dipped it, he gave it to Judas. John 13:22-26

Each one hears, sees, or learns about a different part of the conversation or actions. We are like that at times. We become fixed on a driving force in our lives and only see that, like Luke’s version, where a few briefly wondered about the betrayal but were fixed on who would be greatest in Christ’s kingdom.

Today, I was about to pull out of my subdivision with my mind fixed on an oncoming car. I decided  I had plenty of time and started rolling out. I almost failed to see a bicyclist who was only a feet feet away from me. When I realized he was approaching, I quickly put on the breaks.

My lesson—don’t let your vision get so mesmerized by a distant thing that you fail to see what’s right in front of you.

~ Joyce ~