I’m always amazed by how much light one candle or one nightlight produces. When I go into a dark room and turn on a little four- or-seven-watt lightbulb, the difference is stunning. Even that tiny bit of light pierces the darkness and makes it easier to see.
I don’t feel as though I have a lot of light, but I need to shine the light I have. That little bit of light from a nightlight can keep me from stumbling in the dark. The little bit of light I shine may be what helps someone to gather the courage to keep going, to not give up, not give in, at least for one more hour or one more day.
“No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:15 (NLT)
In Christianity, tithing, praying, reading, memorizing, and meditating on Scripture are known as spiritual disciplines. They are means to an end; the end is a closer relationship with the Lord. However, an ever-present danger is that without the end always being kept in view, and without a generous amount of humility, pride comes in. Pride which says, (for example) “I tithed X amount of dollars last year; I’m more spiritual than you.” This is the pride of the Pharisees whom Jesus criticized in blunt language.
As I considered this, I thought, What about these spiritual disciplines:
Forgiveness, as in, “Oh, I forgave so-and-so for what he did to me 40 years ago”. Or, “I had to go to the Lord seventeen times to forgive so-and-so.” Can you imagine somebody taking pride in these things and posting them on Facebook? Nope, I can’t either.
Mourning for sin, either mine or someone else’s
Praying for someone who is absolutely, positively, my enemy–and genuinely wanting God’s best for that person
Praying for someone who is not an enemy but who rubs me the wrong way
Exercising patience when I want to do anything but
Speaking gently when I’d rather scream
There are more, but I’m sure you get the picture. For me, the activities usually considered spiritual disciplines are easier to do than the ones I just listed. The ones listed are hard, really hard to do in life. They are so hard I cannot do them on my own; I need God’s help. Oh, and one more thing—I can’t take pride in them because I do need God’s help.
Since arthritis grabbed my attention a few years ago, I’ve been searching for materials which bring faith in God into the equation. I bought one booklet, but kept looking.
Recently I came across Chronic Illness—Walking By Faith. After reading an online excerpt, I realized this 31-day devotional by Esther Smith is more what I had in mind, so I ordered it. Esther Smith was diagnosed with lupus and hypermobility syndrome; she knows what it’s like to live with chronic illness. She knows how one day you can be fine, and the next day you can barely function, or are somewhere in between. She knows how people say you look fine, but you know you’re not. She knows how symptoms can vary from one day to the next, or even from one hour to the next hour.
Esther writes with compassion and empathy, tempered with a dose of reality. While you won’t find quick answers or guarantees of healing, you will find much encouragement.
Each two-page devotional begins with a Scripture verse, followed by a reading relating to the verse. The devotionals end with questions for reflection and an action prompt, whether to pray for renewed faith, or another suggestion.
I am a week into this devotional, and am glad I found it. I recommend it to anyone fighting a battle with chronic illness who wonders where God is, if He knows, or if He even cares.
I discovered another weapon in the war against COVID-19: humidity. In the summer I’m not a fan of humidity. Hot, humid summer days knock the stuffing out of me. That changes in the winter, though, as my nose and sinuses protest against the dry, furnace-heated air. We generally have a tea kettle filled with cinnamon water on the kitchen stove, and a vaporizer steaming in the living room.
An article in Scientific American online pointed out the importance of an indoor relative humidity of 40%-60%. The researcher wrote that COVID thrives in the dry air of well-insulated homes, but raising the humidity level to that range changes the indoor environment to one not suitable for the virus. Beyond that range, however, tips the scale to a too-moist environment, setting the stage for mold to grow.
Vitamin D3 not only regulates mood, it also helps with processes in the muscles and nerves. It is needed to absorb calcium, which makes it important for healthy bones.
Because vitamin D3 boosts the immune system, low levels of it can promote COVID-19 infections.
Sunshine is a well-known source of Vitamin D3, but if you live in the Northern Hemisphere in the winter, (as I do), it can be hard to get enough of it. Another deterrent to getting enough D is that vitamins you take may not be easily absorbed by the body and may simply be eliminated without the body getting benefit.
Your doctor can do a simple blood test to show whether you have a deficiency or an insufficiency in the vitamin, and he or she can tell you the amount you need to take.
This Christmas will be different from all other years for many people. If you are accustomed to having a lot of family or friends over, you may be re-thinking that tradition. People who can are opting for virtual get-togethers; people without computers or internet access will find other ways to keep in touch. As has been the case since March or so, flexibility is key. Maybe you can’t have it exactly the way you’d like, but if you keep an open mind, options may appear that you never saw before.
The way we celebrate and the traditions we have are changing before our eyes, that’s for sure.
What hasn’t changed??
Consider this: the reason for Christmas (the Mass of Christ) hasn’t changed at all. Christmas wasn’t thought up by Santa Claus or retailers; Christmas was God’s idea. Christmas is still the birth of the Baby Jesus, God Who came to Earth because He loved people so much. “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name, Immanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” (Matthew 1:21-23, KJV)
Maybe this is the year when we focus less on the way we celebrate and more on the why we celebrate.
These are days I need to keep mental “ammunition” close at hand. Here is some of the “ammunition” I use:
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8, KJV)
“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (I Peter 5:7, KJV)
“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” (Psalm 27:14, KJV)
“For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” (Isaiah 41:13, KJV)
“But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.” (Proverbs 1:33, KJV)
“Lo, I am with you alway, even until the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20)
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2nd Timothy 1:7, KJV)
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, KJV)
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.
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)
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”(Philippians 4:8, KJV)
Many times in the Old and New Testaments God urges (and sometimes commands, as in Joshua 4:5-7) us to remember His blessings and what He has done. King David had many low moments, but came out of them by remembering God’s mercies and blessings to him and Israel. Remembering how God acted in the past gave David renewed faith and courage for the challenges ahead.
Some years ago I began keeping a blessings journal. I bought a 4″x6″ notebook and recorded blessings—like the time I was driving and almost caused an accident (the “almost” is the blessing part), the time I was standing outside a local store, waiting to cross the road, when I felt something brush the back of my leg. I thought it was a bug. Instead, it was the tail fin of a 1960’s-era car! I could have been run over! But I wasn’t hurt at all. I wrote about other events that “almost” happened and would have been disastrous, but they didn’t happen—blessings to me.
I wrote about things that did happen, like getting together with friends. Just last fall two of my friends and I went to a nature reserve and walked on one of the trails. We meandered around, listening to the birds, watching the fish in the pond, and enjoying each other’s company. Then we went to a restaurant to eat. My friends didn’t realize it, but that day was the day before my birthday. I knew I’d be working on my birthday, so I hadn’t planned anything, but just being with my friends was celebration enough.
I keep my little journal in my purse. I look at it when I have a few spare moments—on break at work, or even right before I go to bed. It reminds me of the many times God has blessed me. Taking just a few minutes to reflect on God’s goodness to me helps me combat worry and anxiety. God does not change; He has helped me before, He can help me again.
Resources: Psalm 63 and Psalm 142, among the many psalms David wrote, are especially timely.
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