A desert is hot, dry, and extremely uncomfortable. Until I watched the DVD “Walking With God In The Desert” I didn’t realize how much a desert can be a teacher.
In “Walking With God In The Desert” Bible teacher and historian Ray Vander Laan walks in the Negev and other Middle Eastern deserts. He offers parallels between those deserts and our personal ones—those hard times of unemployment, disease, loss of loved ones, and crises of faith. Those parallels include:
solitude—in both the geographical and the personal desert, there is silence. Normal routine is shut down or greatly lessened. In that solitude there is a sense of only God and you, and without the distractions of normal activity you can be more receptive to hearing God speak. Ray says he went through a “desert” when he had a coronary bypass. He was very weak and couldn’t do anything. But during that time he had an awesome awareness of God’s closeness. It deepened his relationship with God.
help—in the Negev and other deserts, there are places where trees such as the acacia and broom tree grow. They provide welcome shade, wood, and even medicinal help. In the personal deserts, God provides help when you cry out–sometimes miraculously, sometimes not. But there is help.
God is here—in the geographical and the personal deserts. You are not alone, even when it feels like it. You can cry out to Him and be heard
I bought this DVD several years ago when I was part of a Bible study group. I watched it again earlier this year and thought how timely the lessons are. This DVD is definitely worth repeat viewing.
Divided into seven lessons. Running Time: 175 minutes.
Note: The back of the DVD case says it is designed for use with the Faith Lessons, Walkingwith God in the Desert Discovery Guide, which is sold separately. I gained a lot from just watching the DVD.
As an avid reader, I get excited about the great number of books out there to read, either for entertainment, education, inspiration or with some books, all three. The quantity available in print, audio, and e-books reminds me of the vast amount of life in the oceans, so I call these book reviews “Diving Into A Sea of Books”. As with diving into an ocean looking for interesting objects, diving into books means you come across mixed results: over here, a book you don’t bother to finish, over there, a “treasure”–one that you like so much you can’t wait to reread it, and over there, a book you read and think, “meh”.
Caution: Possible Triggers
Last Christmas Eve I drove the four miles to church in a fog so thick everything was a whitish-gray. Familiar landmarks disappeared, swallowed up in the enveloping fog. I went off the road once.
Reading Rambler, Linda K. Schmitmeyer’s memoir of her family’s struggle with her husband’s mental illness, reminded me of that scary experience. The landmarks of family routine and roles shifted like the images at a carnival fun-house and the bonds of love were tested as her husband’s mind grew unstable in the swirling, thickening fog of mental illness. As the illness manifested itself, Steve, who had a bachelor’s degree in engineering, couldn’t concentrate on his work enough to be the chief breadwinner. He couldn’t do things that formally he had no problem with. He acted in ways far out of character. At times, Steve drove hundreds of miles away from home without telling anyone. Other times, he threatened suicide. The illness thwarted his ability to be the husband and father he wanted to be.
Linda was thrust into the new role of head of the household, while working everyday, trying to understand her husband’s condition, helping the three children understand, and grieving the life that was slipping away. In the early days, she was frustrated by Steve’s behavior, believing that he could control it. Gradually she realized her husband was not in full control of his mind.
Eventually, through months and then years of treatment, doctors diagnosed Steve as schizoaffective, after an original diagnosis of manic-depression (as bi-polar was called in the 1990’s).
Told in topical format, rather than chronologically, Rambler gives a first-hand account of a family’s life in the midst of mental illness, of trying to hold it together when it feels as though the ground underneath is sliding away.
Because of the subject matter, Rambler can be a painful read at times. Ultimately, it is instructive and life-affirming.
It is instructive because the book points out a correct diagnosis takes time, as does finding the appropriate medication and dosage. Any medication has side effects, and those must be dealt with.
The bookshows the approach that doesn’t help: insisting that the person can beat this, if he tries. Mental illness doesn’t result from a lack of willpower. Nor is it a character flaw. More and more research proves it is the result of processes in the brain which go awry.
Rambler also illustrates the approach that does help the patient and the family: a listening, caring heart, one that does not judge the person or family. Linda found the support of several people, especially her sister, Nancy, absolutely essential to helping her and her family make it through those tough days.
The book is life-affirming because the family didn’t give up. Steve and Linda continued to support their children’s activities, even through the hard times. Steve committed himself to getting better: he went to weekly therapy, and participated in clinical studies. He and Linda became active in NAMI–the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill–a support group for patients and their families. They remain active today. Steve and Linda’s three children–John, Luke, and Elly–are grown and say the experience, hard as it was, deepened their compassion for people who are struggling in various ways.
Rambler shows that mental illness doesn’t have to define a person; the person is so much more than the illness. Steve’s life shows a person can go on, as the three hundred fifty-five mile bike trip Steve, Linda, and Nancy took proves.
Note: Discussion questions appear in the back of the book.
Duchess: “I’m going to hide by this table leg, and no one will find me!”
Duchess and Duke: “We’re NOT fighting! We’re playing!”
Duchess and Duke: “Do you think she’ll fill it for us?”
Author’s Note: Recently I discovered these pictures my friend sent me awhile back of the sibling kittens she adopted. Kittens can’t help being cute, so for those who like cats and cuteness, here’s some pictures.
Duchess–“Why did you shine that light in my eyes? I’m sleepy!”
Duke–“I’m so sleepy!”
Duchess–“I’m alert now!”
A friend adopted Duke and Duchess awhile back. They played vigorously with each other, toys, and the furnishings, fell asleep where they were, then woke up and were at again. They had fun; we had fun watching them. Nothing like watching kittens for stress relief!
Help me to guard my heart against the intrusion of the world.
Guard my mind to keep it focused on You.
Help me remember and act upon the fact that everything – everything – will fall into place as long as I recognize You as Lord and center of my life.
Protect me from the clutter of materialism, the rubbish of anxiety, the frenzy of busyness, the weight of bitterness, and the vanity of perceived control.
I commend this day and all the days of my life to You.
Jude 1:24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, 25 To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
For instance, one day I strolled through a room and saw the older human with her back paws in a tub of water. She said she was soaking her feet. Why would you want to deliberately keep your back paws in water for awhile?? You know, I’m a cat and I’m smart, but that’s beyond me.
Later, I walked into another room and saw her with her back paws propped up on a stand. She said she was trimming her toenails. Again, I was perplexed. I mean, to trim my claws I scratch something rough (like the couch—ssh, don’t tell the humans I live with!)
Sometimes the younger human calls me “The Big A”. That I don’t mind. But then she adds, “Wild and hairy”. “Hairy?” Well, yes, I am “hairy”, or as I prefer, “furry”. I have a medium-length coat, and I’m proud of it, too! I am NOT wild, though! It’s been a long time since I’ve been wild, and I don’t want to go back to those days. Now, I have shelter out of the rain, the wind, and whatever else. No dogs, raccoons, or coyotes live in the house. No cars come in the house, either. I have food, water, and two litter boxes available. I have toys to play with, two humans to answer my beck and meow, and plenty of places to sleep. (Just don’t mention to the younger human that one of those places is the printer beside the computer. It’ll be our secret, right?)
Oh, I digress. As I said, have you ever noticed humans do weird things? And humans think cats do weird things!
People have many different ideas about love. I used to think of it as a progression: you like someone, then you love someone. Other people think of “love at first sight”. Still others think love is weak, powerless, to be despised, a wimpy sort of emotion.
Check out this definition of love:
Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or rude. Love isn’t selfish or quick tempered.
It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do.
Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil.
Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting.
Love never fails!
(I Corinthians 13:4-8, Contemporary English Version of the Bible)
Something I need to think about along with the definition of love:
“…God is love”. (I John 4:8, NIV) NIV–New International Version
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (I John 4:10, NIV)
“We love because he first loved us.” (I John 4:19, NIV)
COVID-19 brought a lot of change to the world. As I read different headlines from around the world, I thought about the attention given to money and nations’ economies. I thought about the things money can’t do, because contrary to what the world in general thinks, money has its limits.
Money can’t automatically protect a person from getting sick. Many celebrities said they were diagnosed with COVID-19. Yes, money certainly helps pay the bills after a person gets sick, but money conveys no physical immunity to a person.
Money can’t buy security (related to #1). Money can pay security guards, but they can’t do anything to give a person inward security—that possession that lasts despite circumstances.
Money can’t buy patience. Patience is one virtue we all need in these days of waiting in longer lines, waiting on the phone or on a chat line for a technician, waiting to see family or friends, waiting for test results, waiting to get better or for a loved one to get better. Who can buy patience at a store? No one, not even the richest man on earth.
Money can’t buy kindness and caring. I have a friend who lives about 30 minutes away. She was willing to do shopping for my mother and I and leave the items on the porch. We didn’t need her to do that, but I was touched that she was willing to do so. Someone who prefers to remain anonymous sent me a $50 gift card. Money can’t buy kindness; it has to come from the heart.
Money can’t buy simple joys. By simple joys, I mean seeing a sunrise or sunset that takes your breath away, or looking up at the summer night-time sky and marveling at all the stars you can see. Nature’s delights didn’t come by money, so no matter how low your bank account is, or how much in debt you are, you can still enjoy them.
Money can’t buy overall health. It can buy doctors’ time, and supplies, and health insurance. For instance, I’ve been told I have arthritis in different places. I left the retail job I had because it was difficult to contend with health issues and work too. I was making more money per hour than I’d ever made. Even if I made twice that amount, if my knee, my wrist, or my back started to hurt, trust me—I’d feel it—no matter how much money I made.
Money can’t buy dependability. Dependability is in a person’s character. Money can’t buy the inner qualities of a person. The person either has it or not.
The next time I start thinking money is everything, I’ll read my list and remember money is a tool. It can do a lot, and provide for a lot, but there’s a lot it can’t do.