The ability to communicate is one of those gifts I tend to take for granted. To keep in touch with friends and family near or far makes life richer and more interesting. Internet access allows me to receive information and to exchange views with people thousands of miles away.
Yet I forget that all this is not a foregone conclusion. Communication processes, whether by picking up a pen and writing words on paper or tapping buttons on a keyboard, are complicated. Everything along the way must work right and in order, whether it’s my physical processes beginning with my brain that tells my nerves and muscles what to do, or electrical connections all along the line, from my computer to the outside world. That’s what I take for granted, and I need to remind myself not to.
The ability to communicate with words is part of what separates human beings from animals. The loss of that ability, due to disease or accidents, can quickly demoralize people since they can no longer connect with other people. A cousin of mine was afflicted with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). When she could no longer speak, she learned to use a machine which allowed her to communicate. When the muscle and nerve strength in her hands and fingers was gone, she lost that precious ability to communicate. I think that was when she gave up. Not long after, she died.
Today, amidst all the discord in the world, true communication is more important, and threatened, than ever. To me, the word “communication” carries with it a notion of one person reaching out to relate in a respectful way to another person or group of people. If you can’t see eye to eye, you can agree to disagree–no harm done, respecting the right of the other person to have his or her own opinion. When done this way, communication enhances relationships between people, whether in person or online. Communication done in that manner is truly something to be thankful for.
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29 (KJV)
“And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:3-4)
Weary Christian ~ The Darkness Cannot Overcome You
Before time began, God spoke light into existence. He ordered light and dark ~ day and night, and He continues to do so. Darkness may not go where God says it may not, and even the tiniest pinprick of light can penetrate and push back the darkness, in nations, in families and in the battle-weary soul. Do you feel battle weary today? Do not forget who, and Who’s you are! You belong to the Light of the world, and as His, you are the light of the world. (See Matthew 5:14-16)
Reading through Isaiah, I came this morning to chapter 8, where I find a people who felt overwhelmed, blinded…
One thing I enjoyed doing (before COVID-19, that is) is eating out at restaurants. I didn’t do it often; if I ate out ten times a year, that was a lot. When I was growing up, eating out (at a restaurant where you sat down and were waited on) was considered a luxury, a rare treat. I still have that mindset and these days, that’s a bonus. I never got used to eating out regularly, so not being able to isn’t a big deal.
One reason I liked eating out is ordering a glass of ice tea with a slice of lemon. Somehow that seemed like a bit of “luxurious living”.
Some weeks ago the local grocery store offered lemons on sale, fifty cents each. I bought two, and sliced them to decorate my ice tea with their bright color and add tangy flavor to my beverage. Simple pleasure!
Another pleasure is spending time talking to a friend over the phone. Every now and then a friend I used to work with calls me, and we sit and talk for a half-hour or more, catching up with each other.
Occasionally that same friend and I have a “girls’ day” out. Our energy levels are about the same, so we can agree on how long to be out, and when it’s time to call it a day and go home. As an online friend commented, those times are “priceless”!
I admire the daisies and chicory which call our driveway home. The driveway has a thin layer of soil in some places, but most of it is gravel. The flowers thrive and add touches of beauty to an otherwise drab environment.
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 on Mental Illness–a support group for patients and their families, which also involves researchers and health-care providers. 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.
With this news, strengthen those who have weak knees. Say to those with fearful hearts, Be strong & do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” Isaiah 35:3-4