Sunday, May 24, 2015

My Mantra and My Man

Trail to Beech Mountain Summit
Acadia National Park, Maine
September 2013
I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. – Psalm 121:1–2
   
   
Both hubby and I love the outdoors. Especially mountains, forests, streams, waterfalls, and wildlife. So camping and hiking have become activities we enjoy together during these empty nest years, although DH has more experience in walking in the woods and is more conditioned and stronger than I.
   
Over the past two years, we’ve trekked in the Finger Lakes region of New York, the Adirondacks, Maine, and North Carolina, in addition to trails here on the Huey homestead.
   
The trails at Taughannock Falls State Park were easy and short. At Fort Ticonderoga we walked 853 steep feet up Mount Defiance, where the elevation rose a foot and a half with each step we took. We stopped 11 times so I could catch my breath, Dean waiting patiently beside me.
   
Rocks, roots, and boulders marked the trails in Acadia National Park, which were longer and more challenging than the trails at Taughannock. “I can do this” became my mantra when the trail was rough, rocky, or steep, and when my body, mind, and spirit screamed with fatigue.
   
My mantra served me well when we hiked in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trails there weren’t as rocky or as steep as those in Acadia, but they were long and steep enough to have me stopping to catch my breath every 50 steps, with Dean waiting beside me. I so appreciated his patience. He could have forged on ahead, at a much faster pace, but instead he waited until I was ready to move on and often took my backpack. He gave a whole new perspective to the term “long suffering.”
   
During the fourth mile of a 5-mile hike, my feet were dragging, my shoulders sagging, and my spirit flagging. “I can do this,” I muttered under my breath with every step. Dean slowed his pace to match mine and told me how well I’d done that day. I think he would have hauled me over his shoulder the rest of the way if I had asked.
   
This year we’re staying close to home. The Allegheny National Forest beckons us. The trails will still be challenging, but I’ll have my mantra and my man to see me through.
   
Hiking is a lot like life. You start out “slow and easy,” thinking you’re prepared, but you’re not. You meet with challenges, some so great you don’t think you can go on. You can’t plop down on the side of the trail and quit. Going back takes just as much as going forward. So after a brief rest stop, you push on. “I can do this,” you say.
   
Somewhere along the way, you realize you’re not alone. Someone stronger and wiser and more experienced is beside you. That’s when your mantra becomes “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
   
With hiking and with life, I know I’ll stay the course—with my mantra and my Man, who waits patiently until I’m ready for the next step, carries my burden when it gets too heavy, and whispers tender words of encouragement.
   
   
Thank you, Lord, for walking beside me in this hike called life. Someday I will say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). Amen.

More tea: Read Psalm 121


Dean and me
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Bryson, NC)
October 2014


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Sunday, May 17, 2015

The pages of my journal


Trust in Him at all times. Pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge. – Psalm 62:8 (NLT)
     
     
Do you keep a spiritual journal?
     
I do.
     
On the pages of my journal is where I’m honest with myself about myself – my feelings, foibles, and fears. It’s where I come face-to-face with my wants, my weaknesses, and my wrestlings. Where I record my struggles with life. Where I pour out my mind and my heart as I strive to hear and understand God’s direction. Where I try to make sense of things that just don’t seem to make sense.
     
Here’s one entry from January 13, 2011. I’d had carpel tunnel surgery a month earlier, which did little to relieve the numbness in my left arm and hand. In fact, my condition worsened. “Inflamed nerve endings” was the diagnosis and the Rx was Tylenol with codeine. I’d never experienced such debilitating pain, and I hope I never do again. An MRI eventually revealed three herniated neck disks, for which I had surgery six months later.
     
In the midst of the pain, I wrote, “I never thought to pray myself for God to take away the pain and heal me. I’ve asked others to pray – for the neck to heal – but in its time. I don’t expect a miracle. Why? Because I believe that God is in control of my life, and that He has allowed this for a reason. There is a purpose for the pain.”
     
Then I skipped a space and wrote, “I’m almost 60. My body is slowing down.”
     
Nine months later, on September 12, I wrote:
     
“Today I begin my retirement from teaching. I am sad. Teaching is my passion, and I loved teaching at PCS. But I know at this time it’s the right decision. I’m weary in body, mind, and spirit. I must tend to all areas to get my life back in balance and to find renewal, restoration, and healing.
     
“I’m spending the morning feeding my soul (with reading and prayer). This first week I’m making a personal retreat to have time alone with God, not necessarily seeking His will, but seeking HIM. I will rest my body, which is exhausted. . . . Yes, I have responsibilities and obligations, but my first priority is restoring health in my body, spirit, and mind.”
     
I confess: I’ve been neglecting my spiritual journal. I’ve let my life get out of balance again.
     
It’s time to get back to recording my spiritual journey. For I need to pour out my heart to God, let Him help me make sense of the senseless, and come face-to-face with not only myself, but the God who loves me and guides me and is present with me every moment of every day.
     
You have a journal, too, Lord. It’s called the Bible. May I read it every day because on its pages You pour out Your love for me. Amen. 

More tea: Read Psalm 62

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Remembering Mom


Dad & Mom, June 1971
Her children rise up and call her blessed. – Proverbs 31:28 (ESV) 
     
     
My mother wasn’t the cuddly, “warm fuzzy” type. She was a strict disciplinarian who found joy in family, faith, hard work, and music.
     
She didn’t need an alarm clock to awaken her at 5 a.m. Her biological clock did it for her. She woke up wound up, kept wound up with pots of coffee, and finally wound down after the dinner dishes were done.
     
Back then, there were no dishwashers, automatic washers, and clothes dryers. Dishes, pots, and pans were washed and dried by hand, then put away as soon as the meal was done. Clothes were washed in a wringer washer and hung on a line to dry. When the weather was cooperative, they sashayed in the outside breeze (after a finger-wagging to heaven from my mom—“Now don’t You let it rain!”). When it wasn’t clothes-drying weather, they hung from wire lines strung through the basement.
     
Mom never left a job for the next day, unless it was a major project, like knocking old plaster off a wall with a crowbar to prepare it for new plaster. She could snore away on the sofa in peace every evening because her work for the day was done.
     
Paydays meant trips to the bank, the grocery store, the utility company, and wherever else money was owed or something needed — and she walked because she didn’t drive. Dad tried to teach her, but she ran the car into a telephone pole and refused to get behind the wheel again. We used no credit cards. If the store extended credit, the bill was paid on payday.
     
She was the family accountant and, because of her childhood poverty, knew how to stretch a dollar. So when Dad was laid off, she knew how to tightening our belts, with using toilet paper for facial tissues and serving meatless meals, such as bowties and cottage cheese or tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches — still two of my favorite meals today.
     
Technology was on the distant horizon. No one was tethered to an electronic device 24/7, so I had time to learn to play the piano, visit with Baba (our grandmother) across the street, go to the library, and read to my heart’s content.
     
Life was simpler. We were taught to obey and respect our parents and teachers. If we didn’t, there was a leather strap in a kitchen drawer that was to be avoided at all costs.
     
“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1) was one of the Maddock family mottos, as well as “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12).
     
I never realized how much my mother modeled the Proverbs 31 woman until I sat down to write this column.
     
I only wish Mom were alive today so I could tell her, “Many women do noble things, Mom, but you surpassed them all. I love you. Thank you for teaching me, by example, how to be a wife, a mother, and a woman of character. ”
     
     
Help me, Lord, to be a Proverbs 31 woman. Amen. 

More tea: Read Proverbs 31:1–31

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The grocery list


     
“Lord, teach us to pray.” – Luke 11:1 (NIV)
     
     
I grew up at a time when small, family-owned grocery stores perched on just about every corner in every neighborhood. My mother would call in her list, and they’d gather the items, pack them up in boxes, and deliver them by the end of the day. The stores extended credit, so when Dad got paid, they got paid.
     
I’m reminiscing those old grocery store days because I’ve been pondering prayer and our perspective of it.
     
Too often we approach prayer like writing up a grocery list and phoning it in to God, expecting Him to box up what we need and deliver it pronto.
     
It doesn’t work that way.
     
Like the disciples, we need to ask the Lord to teach us to pray.
     
So let’s look at Jesus’ response. “The Lord’s Prayer” is simple, but it contains all we need on our grocery list to the Heavenly storehouse.
     
First on the list is HONOR. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” Sometimes we’re so focused on the family relationship that we forget our Father’s holiness. We’re so busy crawling into Daddy’s lap that we neglect to bow down in worship to El Shaddai. Honor Him as your heavenly Father and honor Him as your God.
     
Second on the list is SUBMISSION. “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Submit to His will for you and surrender what you think you want. Father does know best. Too often we want what we want and nothing else, and get mad at God when we don’t get it.  “This wasn’t on my list,” we complain. “This isn’t the brand I ordered.” Submit to His best for you.
     
Third on the list is TRUST. “Give us this day our daily bread.” This isn’t a request only for food to sustain us physically. We also need bread for our minds, hearts, and spirits. And notice the words “this day.” Too often our lists contain more than what we need for one day. We feel better when we see caches stashed away for tomorrow (and tomorrow and tomorrow)—it’s much easier than trusting God (whom we can’t see) for today’s needs.
     
Fourth on the list is FORGIVENESS. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” I prefer the word “trespasses” rather than “debts,” but both convey the same meaning: If you want to be forgiven, you’ve got to forgive others who have hurt you. And we all need to forgive and be forgiven.
     
The final item on the list is DELIVERANCE. “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” God, being holy, will never lead us to do wrong. That’s our choice. I like the way the NIV Study Bible explains this verse: “Do not lead us into trials so deep that they would tempt us to be unfaithful to you. God does not tempt (in the sense of enticing us to sin).” Rather, we ask God to deliver us from the evil that surrounds us, so it won’t it affect us, inside or out.
     
Honor. Submission. Trust. Forgiveness. Deliverance.
     
And, remember, you have all the credit you need—Jesus' signature, written in His blood, is already on the check.
     
What’s on your grocery list?
     
Father, remind me to keep my prayers simple.  Amen.

More tea: Read Matthew 6:5–13