Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Time to Laugh

Hello friends,

I'm starting to get those "before" birthday greetings again. I've been getting them ever since I began to reach fifty. You know how it goes. Anyone who has your birthdate can reach out and touch you with "a really great deal," such as whole life insurance policies, where you CAN'T BE TURNED DOWN!!! This always includes a lecture on how destitute my family would be, not without me, but without that cushion of cash to warm their hearts.

I love my newest missive, which comes via my Credit Union, which used to NEVER give out our information. But, what the heck, when you breathe your last, you're not going to need that credit line and Social Security Number!

Here's how the latest insurance come-on goes:

"As a valued member of such-and-such credit union, you've come to expect reasonable prices and good service." Yeah, like the time THEY made a mistake and then reported us to a credit agency, so that our information is now tagged (which gives us a guarantee that we will be assured of high interest loans, if we ever need one).

The invitation goes on to say: "Now, just before your next (really old) birthday (when you'll probably croak) you're invited to take advantage of another affordable value (Yeah, like the last time): the MEMBERS Whole Life Plan." They go on to say that I can get up to $10,000 worth of "whole life" insurance...without a physical exam! This means that they know I'm on a lot of medications, which will probably keep me above ground for another twenty years.

What they fail to say, with this "whole life plan," is that I will accrue somewhere around 5 dollars in savings, but for those twenty years, the insurance company can invest my money, along with everyone else's money, so that they can make more money for themselves. We're talking millions, while I am sending them nearly 50 dollars a month. Bye-bye to my house payment! I expect to receive a few more of these implied, and often pointed references to my impending death. Hurry! Hurry! Before you croak!

My favorite contact was from the local cemetery calling to try to sell me a valuable cemetery plot. Of course, she assured me, I wouldn't want to be buried alone, "so buy a family plot, at a substantial savings by the way, giving your family a place to rest, also." Now, I may be tottering on the edge of my grave, but I could swear that only the Vikings threw the whole family onto the funeral pyre!

My favorite story about "family plots" involves a one time friend of mine, whose father died, and it wasn't until he was about to be dropped into the cement lined hole, that the family discovered, there were five people underneath him, and to make matters worse, the coffin was too big for the hole! Imagine that, with everyone looking on, as they hauled in the wrecking crew to chip away at the concrete, until the poor soul's coffin was able to be stuffed into his awaiting tomb. Is it any wonder that everyone in my family has decided to be cremated?

So, when you feel yourself getting older, and you think that your life is over, and you're certain that you'll never have fun again, just think of the rest of us, after sixty, waiting for the wrecking crane, and go ahead...laugh until you cry. I know, I will!

With love and laughter,
Jaye Lewis

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Time to Rely on God

Hello friends,

I hope that you had a blessed Easter. Ours was quiet, spent at home, and we studied the Scripture Matthew, Chapter 24. We began our study of Matthew’s Gospel months ago. How significant that this Chapter presented itself at a time when we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As someone who relies on Jesus as my only Salvation, Matthew 24 is particularly appropriate for these times in which we live, where there are wars and rumors of wars; famines and earthquakes; false prophets and false Christs; tribulations beyond imaginings; lawlessness and deceit; and love growing cold.

Have we not all seen this? Isn’t it time to throw up our hands, run around the neighborhood, and fall into deep despair? What shall we do? How can we bear it? Well, in times like these, where hatred and discontent are shouted from the pulpit, and division and malcontent is all around us, we can and we must rely on God.

There are those who insist that Jesus was a revolutionary or protester of the government of His times. Yet, this Only Son of God said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” He also said, “Render onto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s,” showing Himself submissive to His Father, yet respectful of government.

There are many false gospels being preached today. There is the “prosperity gospel,” which challenges you to send your money for obscure ministries, preferably by bank card. It teaches that by sending your “seed gift,” somehow your empty bank account will fill, like magic.

Then there is the “word of faith” gospel, which goes hand in hand with the prosperity gospel, by telling you that your faith has personal power. According to “word of faith.” You can command riches to come and bad health to vanish. When this is unsuccessful, it then becomes your fault, because of your weak faith, your unworthy prayers, or that dad-burn sin you’re hiding (or don’t even know you’ve committed); therefore canceling your harvest of ― you guessed it ― money and health. Ya-da…ya-da…ya-da! One wonders how these false prophets sleep at night, knowing that they will face Jesus and have to explain themselves.

Yes, I have been hood-winked by these false teachings. But, no more. I will rely on God and His word to teach me. The Bible is plain spoken, and the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 24, illustrates the concerns of our day. Just realizing that God knows how weary and perverse our world is, and believing Jesus’ reassurance, “See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass…” Then He tells us, “He (or she) who endures [it] (or, as my husband says “out-waits it”) to the end will be saved.”

So, as my eyes grow dim, I rely on Him. As this world becomes more unrecognizable, and hate and false doctrine are shouted from the pulpit, I will endure. As we live out the last days, foretold in Matthew 24, I will believe that God will keep me and my loved ones safe. There is no other choice for me. I cannot change the world. I can only change myself and welcome God’s presence in my heart.

He has sought me all my days. He has captured my heart. He has made Himself irresistible to me, and I hide myself in the shadow of His wings. Bless His name! Praise His holy word! I am His. Wicked, unlovable, whining, thankless me. I will never be worthy, but I accept His precious, priceless gift of Salvation and love.

Jesus, thank You for your sacrifice. Words cannot equal the awe and reverence I feel. With all my heart I thank You. May Your name be praised. May we hide beneath the shadow of Your saving grace, and may we endure this weary world until You come to take us home.

Abraham Lincoln once said, "If you want to know the measure of a man, give him power."

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Time to Hold On

Hello friends,

One of the most important lessons that I have learned from my small dog, is to hold on. You see, the word "dachshund" means badger hound. Dachshunds were used in Germany to hunt the fierce badger, a diabolical animal. These little dogs would leap into the air and grab the badger by its nose. Fierce and faithful, the dog would not let go, even unto death. At other times, the dachshund's long, low body was able to follow the badger down into its hole, and nine times out of ten, the dachshund was the victor, simply by holding on.

My Happy Dog has had four insecticide treatments that nearly killed him. He has had two spinal surgeries, within a month of each other. And last year, after minor surgery, he nearly bled to death. Yet, to see him today, you would see a bright, sturdy, fiercely unafraid, highly intelligent, clown of a dog, who never gives up. Happy Dog holds on! Always.

Many times in my life, I don't hold on. I go to pieces, even though God has stepped in again and again, to save the day. Even though Jesus went to the Cross willingly, just to save miserable old me. No, this is not false humility. When things get tough, I whine. When I don't understand what God is saying to me, I complain. I can grumble with the loudest of the Israelites on their worst day in the desert. Sure, God gave them water, but that was yesterday. Sure God healed me of many things, but that was not today. Often I get so busy being miserable, that I forget to wait for the blessing. I can't hear God, while I'm making so much noise.

So, today, I'm taking a page from Happy Dog's book. If I start to slip, I'll hold on. If I come to the end of my rope, and I can't tie a knot, I'll dig my nails in, and I won't let go.

Last night, I turned my head to look at my husband, and the vision in my right eye failed. His face was nothing but a blue haze. It broke my heart. One of the first things I remember about the first time I saw my husband, was his face: thoughtful, intelligent, and kind. His eyes are a forest green, and the light in them shines only for me. I love him. It's as simple as that.

Yesterday, our youngest daughter was seen at University Hospital, and we discovered that her pituitary tumor has responded to her medication, beautifully. The tumor has shrunk by a third. This sweet child of mine is full of courage. When things get tough, she holds on. She doesn't let go. And God, through the wonders of modern medicine, has not forgotten her courage. By His grace, the medicine is successful.

So, now, as we all rejoice in this good news, I must understand how important it is for me. Through darkness and light, I must hold on. Believe. Trust. Stubbornly placing one foot in front of the other, while reaching out for the only One who can rescue me. Hold on, Jaye. Hold on to Him.

Father in Heaven, when life seems dark and the ground shakes beneath my feet, grant me the grace to trust, to believe, and like my little Happy Dog, give me the strength to just hold on.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Time for Reason

Hello friends,

It has been a few days since I have written. I apologize for that. My eyesight changes from moment to moment. Sometimes everything blurs, as it is now; while other times that dad-burn spot is more noticeable than anything else.

Here are the medical facts on my eyes. My left eye, which I never thought to question has macular degeneration (MD). Macular degeneration is fairly common in those of us who are referred to as “elderly,” definitely not my favorite description. The MD in my left eye is small and unlikely to progress, unless you account for the problem in my right eye. My right eye, the one I’m having difficulty seeing through, has Central Serous Retinopathy (CSR). At the back of my right eyeball, to make things brief, is a bubble, which gives my vision a mostly orange spot, through which I struggle to see. We’re waiting to see if it will heal itself, before we consider surgery.

To say the least, I was not expecting this. I eat lots of berries, the wonder fruit. I love broccoli, carrots, salads, spinach, oranges, tangerines, and all the other eye protecting foods. Surprisingly, my diabetes has nothing to do with my eye problems. Yet, here I am, with eye problems, as though I ate burgers and French fries every day of my life. I haven’t had sugar in four years, and my A1c (diabetic blood test, which measures glucose) has gone from 7.5 down to 6.2, which is nearly normal.

So, why? Why? I ask myself and God. What is God saying to me in all of this? Maybe I’m being punished for my sins? No, I’m certain not. For Jesus said, when asked this about a blind man, “This is for the glory of God the Father.” So, why? Does God dislike me? No. God is not full of human prejudices. He loves each of us, in a personal way. God is filled with loving-kindness, mercy, and goodness. So why? Why me?

What does the “faith movement say?” First it says, “Send me your money.” Then it says, “If you had faith, you would be healed.” Now, understand, I believe in faith. I believe that faith can move mountains. But I ask you, which is easier, moving mountains or moving the human heart? Of course, Jesus answered this, when he told the paralyzed man to “take up your bed and walk.” He made the comparison of His power. He said, which is greater, to forgive sins or to heal a person. Of course, the greater gift is to forgive sins.

I do not believe that I have any personal power. The belief in personal power permeates, not only the secular world, but also the Body of Christ. As a result of this, people with severe illness and also mental illness are written off as weak in faith. Worse yet, they are often told that they have sin in their life. Really! Well, welcome to the club. I have sin in my life. I’m impatient, often ungrateful, crabby, and whining. I’m sure I have other faults, too. However, the ones who accumulate wealth, at the expense of poor souls, who are misled by empty promises, they have sins, too. And the worst sin they commit, is to insist that they know the mind of God, and even worse, they pervert the Gospel of Christ.

So, I ask myself why? Why me? And, of course, I know the reason.

Jesus did not say, “Take up your bank-card and follow Me.”

He did not say, “Acquire wealth, and I will give you more.”

He did not say, “Think yourself rich, or well, or blessed.”

Jesus said, “Pick up your Cross, and follow me.”

To the man building a bigger barn to hold all his wealth, Jesus said, “Thou fool! Tonight thy soul will be required of thee.”

In the Old Testament, God said to His people, “Come let us reason together.”

God also said, “Obedience is greater than sacrifice.”

So, I really do know the answer to my present struggle. I am to be obedient. I am to pick up my Cross and follow Him. I am to be thankful for every breath I take. I am to look in every corner of my life, and know that God is responsible for every good thing. I am to reason with Him, and I am to listen with my heart, as He leads me from grace to grace. And should the darkness fall upon my eyes, so that I cannot see the beautiful things I love, such as, my husband’s deep green eyes so filled with love. Or the devotion of my daughters’ smiling encouragement. Or the wag of our puppies’ tails. Or the sunset. Or the sunrise. Or the fresh blooms of spring. I will remember and be thankful for each good thing.

Father in Heaven, I have let you down again and again. I have forgotten the humility of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who endured untold sufferings, so that I could whine and complain about what I lack. Thank You, Jesus, for loving me and saving me from myself. In the days ahead, no matter the path, may I walk with you, in trust, and may I carry my Cross with joy.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Time to See

Hello friends,

I’m writing this at 200%, because my vision is failing me. Each day it becomes more difficult, but I am beginning to accept whatever happens as God’s will. I’m very fortunate to be able to type without looking at the keys.

Yesterday, I met my Ophthalmologist ― for the life of me, I can’t spell that word without Spell-Check! Anyhow, he is young, very young, and he looks younger. He is so young that I had an incredible urge to reach out and burp him. He is so young, that I was sorry I didn’t bring him a coloring book and crayons. He was so young, that he forgot manners and respect. I can honestly say that his respect was reserved for himself, and his knowledge.

He could not tell me what is in my eye that is taking away my vision. To be fair, he actually said he wasn’t qualified; so tomorrow, Thursday, March 13, I will be seeing a Retina Specialist, who will give me a dye job (just in my veins, of course). This will enable him to see what is wrong. I’m praying for something that I can do to help myself, like a more restrictive diet.

I’ve done a lot of searching on the internet, avoiding those sites that are a little creepy…you know, the sites that tell you they have a cure-all for what ails you, like fruit juice and ground peach pits. No thanks. Still, the medical sites that I visited, did not give me comfort. Today is a much better day. I am not so afraid.

What if I do lose my sight? Will I still be able to “see?” I think I will.

Tears in a Bottle

I have memorized every sunset,
And I have collected the rosy dawn.
All of my tears are in His bottle
And in my heart, I behold His Son.

My husband’s eyes are green and smiling,
And his touch is soft on my skin.
Jesus’ love always surrounds me,
I can be proud of the body I’m in.

Oh how I miss the scent of my garden,
For that sense is gone from me too;
But I can see in my trembling spirit
Every petal, curve, and hue.

I kneel helpless, before my Savior
As my body betrays me now;
But I will trust He knows the answer,
With stubborn faith I can accept somehow.

I’m sure He’ll tell me why this happened,
Perhaps in just an eon or two;
Then He’ll reveal my tears in His bottle;
He’ll say, “Jaye, My garden is you.”

© Jaye Lewis, 2008

The great Christian writer, C.S. Lewis, said that perhaps we were not meant for happiness. He looked at suffering as a blow from God’s hammer and chisel, chipping away at the stone of our lives, and making something new of what is left. I could not disagree more.

While it is true that just as I get beyond one suffering, another seems to be waiting in the wings, there has been much happiness in my life, and there still is. What if suffering is a process that is difficult, but purposeful? What if my obedience and disappointment are the shovel and hoe of my heavenly garden? What if, when we suffer, we are actually creating something both beautiful and unseen? Perhaps if we are very still, we can hear God’s answer, as He creates in us His garden of love?

Just in case you are wondering if this message is from a holy person, let me reassure you. Yesterday, on the way home, I was very angry with God, and after four years without sugar, I was looking desperately for a donut shop. I didn’t find one, but I was hoping. God puts up with me, even then.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Time for Tender Mercy

Hello friends,

I'm writing to you from my living room on a new computer which is beginning to annoy me. Automatically it has become something that I can barely read. The background is too bright, and the print is too light. All in all, it is annoying to discover just how easy it is to change things right before my eyes. Yet, the computer can be fixed. My eyes, not necessarily.

Two days ago, I awoke to vision that had turned my right eye's view into a dull, orange pink. When I tried to read, my sight was distorted and rather dim. I immediately went to my eye doctor, who in turn sent me to an ophthalmologist, whom I will see tomorrow. Since then, my eyesight has improved; however the spot, while smaller, is still there.

What can this mean? I don't know, and I won't speculate. However, it has occurred to me that life is much like a computer. We get "bugs." We get too bright for our own good, and we are too small for the good of others.

Computers can be fixed, or traded in, or replaced. People, on the other hand, are not computers. Often they cannot be fixed, and would we want to trade them or replace them? All too often, the answer is yes. I have known people with catastrophic illness who have been abandoned by a spouse, laughed at by their children, and whispered about in church.

"She staggers all the time. Could she have a drinking problem?"

In every medical condition, I have heard and seen speculation first. I wonder why this is? Why do we believe things that we do not know? Where do we keep our tender mercy? Or have we lost it? This is personal for me, because I stagger often, just as though I were drunk. I don't drink.

What has happened to me is the result of several medical conditions. In spite of that my husband shows me every day that he loves me without condition. And every day, he loves me more than the day before. His love is more precious than gold. He loves me. Always. Without question. Without speculation. This is the miracle of my life. So, here is my testimony:

For the Time that God Has Given

For the time that God has given,
I will thank Him every day,
As the rosy glow of dawn
Seems to take my cares away.

And for the evening sunset
That sets the sky on fire
I will hold my breath and shout to God,
"You are my heart's desire!"

Then in the evening I will gaze
Into my husband's eyes,
And I will see reflected there
A love he can't disguise.

His devotion is so very like
A shooting star above,
A precious and a priceless gift
Sent from the God of love.

So, if I ever lose my sight
And cannot see his face,
My hands will then become my eyes,
And lovingly I'll trace

Every contour that I've always known
Has eyes for only me;
And then with gratitude to God,
My heart will truly see.

How can I not be grateful
For this one and perfect love?
No matter what the future brings,
I'll trust in God above.

© Jaye Lewis, 2008

So, my friends, while there is trepidation in my heart, there is also confidence. I know that God loves me. I know that my husband adores me. I have wonderful daughters, and I pray that God will truly give them long life and all good things. Life is always precious, and true love does not run when tribulations appear.

I hope for you, this day, a love without condition and faith to accept all the things in life that God has given to you, especially in those times of testing.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A Time for Trust in God

Hello friends,

Today is a time for me to be more self-disclosing than, perhaps, I'd like to be. You see, I have trust issues. Admittedly, I have found trustworthy people to be few and far between. It is different in writing to you, simply because those who want to be included in my journey, are often facing the same, or similar, things that I am. So, we know each other, probably better than we can even imagine, because I believe that God has brought us together.

In failing to trust others, even with good reason, I sometimes forget to trust God. My suggestions to Him are so brilliant and logical, in my own mind, that I often forget that He is God, and I am merely His child. Children do not always know what is wise or good. Take my diabetes, for instance. That wonderful pancake, smothered in butter and syrup couldn't possibly hurt me. Yum. Yum. How good it would taste and feel as it is going across my teeth and into my stomach. But in two hours, I would be so sorry. My blood sugar would spike, and God only knows how high. I could get very ill, possibly going into a coma. Over time, my kidneys could shut down, and we know all the other awful things that could happen. But I dream, and even lust after pancakes...real pancakes.

As a result, God laid on my heart, four years ago, the direction He would have me and exercise. My treadmill has seen a lot of miles. My diet has remained basically the same, but there are other medications that I am now on, that make a difference in my quality of life. And for me, quality of life means having all of my limbs, being able to walk, growing old with the one I love, and seeing my children (if God so wills) grow into their golden years.

So, what does this have to do with trust? Well, my diabetes is not going away, even if there is a cure through embryonic stem cell research. I will not become a part of that, because I trust in the God who says, "[I] wove [you] together in [your] mother's womb." What He has allowed in a petri- dish, is not my affair. My trust is in God's Word. He has shown me that I can control my diabetes with diet and exercise, so someone else will have to deal with the ethics of stem cell research. I already have.

It's slow going on the treadmill, since I have developed neuropathy from the diabetes, but studies have shown that 10 minutes, 3 times a day, is as effective as 30 minutes all at once. So that's what I will do, all day long, if I have to.

My internal struggle today is the Presidential primary election. I have prayed and prayed, begged and pleaded, and I'm still scared. I don't know what God wants, and I am having trouble with my trust. I find myself tempted to give God instructions, and I am afraid that His choice for President will make me unhappy. Never has it meant so much to me. So, my only option is to trust in God, especially if things turn out against my wishes.

Trusting in God, is not like trusting in oneself, especially for the very successful person. I'm not one of them. I don't push myself to get ahead, and I don't want to be famous. I don't want riches. I do wish that I could buy my favorite plants, and have enough for food, gasoline, and all the other necessities that living in a rural area requires. So, I guess you could say that all I ask is enough. According to the wisest of people, "Enough is as good as a feast."

We live in a world where riches are everything. Well, what if riches are not what God wants for me? What if He wants me to become free of that need? What if He wants me to be able to leave with my family, throw the keys in the door, and walk away, without regret? I cannot say if this is true, but it warms my heart to realize God's desire for my intimacy with Him.

I have been most intimate with God during serious illness, when I was certain that I would not wake in the morning. I've also been most intimate during a night of prayer, when some sweet soul comes to my mind, and I have no idea why I'm praying for them. I have also been very intimate with God on my treadmill. It has been hard for me, when pain has kept me off of it. So I welcome the new medications, and all the responsibility that goes with them, because they are giving me a quality of life, that was not possible even five years ago.

I guess what I'm saying to myself is "Jaye, look at your life. Who has given it to you? Who has taken away your pain, and Who has given you happiness? What worldly riches can compare to this?

So, when it comes to today's Presidential Primary, I think I can survive, no matter who wins. I've survived the last 62 years of my life. I think I can survive a painful President. Presidents have come and gone, and the electorate in this country have been pretty consistent. As soon as the dust clears, people will see that they are dealing with a human being, who has flaws and imperfections that will be magnified into low approval ratings by his or her second term.

To the very young electorate, impassioned by adoration, you will soon grow up (at least we hope so), and the rosy glasses of idealism with become eclipsed by reality. A president usually consults with advisers who have very different points of view. The time will come quickly when whoever is President will disappoint all of us. I've lived through this before.

I pray for this country, and every person who reads this message. God will take care of His people... of every faith, race, and political persuasion. We have our reasons, and God has His. I will trust in Him.

Father, forgive me for my fears and anxieties. I know that it is You who are in charge. Thank you for giving each of us enough. Help us to understand your ways, and to be obedient in all things.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

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